‘Kissing’ judge, now a changed man, gets SC clemencyBy Philip C. Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The “Gods of Faura” are also merciful.
The Supreme Court (SC) has granted judicial clemency to a 71-year-old former Pampanga judge who was dismissed from government service after sexually harassing his clerk 16 years ago and writing her a “lascivious” poem.
He also supposedly appeared before another clerk clad only in his briefs.
In an eight-page resolution, the court en banc granted the petition for judicial clemency filed by former Judge Hermin Arceo and lifted the “perpetual ban” against his employment in any government office.
“Respondent has sufficiently shown his remorse and reformation after his dismissal from the service meriting the court’s liberality,” said the resolution penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
“While it may be conceded that respondent at 71 years old had already reached retirement age and can no longer be eligible for regular employment in public service, yet, considering his achievements and mental aptitude, it cannot be doubted that he could still be of service to the government in some other capacity,” it added.
The high court kicked out Arceo from the judiciary in 1996 after it was proven that he had sexually harassed his female clerk, Jocelyn Talens-Dabon.
“Whenever he had the opportunity he would make bodily contact with her and certain female employees. Twice as she was about to go out the door respondent would approach it in big strides so that his body would be in contact with hers and he would press the lower part of his body against her back,” the court said, quoting the report of an investigating justice.
“When complainant introduced her fiance to him, respondent asked her why she was playing with her forefinger, at the same time gesturing with his to signify sexual intercourse,” it added.
The court also noted that in November 1995, respondent kissed the complainant on the cheek, “a fact admitted by him in his testimony, and also admitted kissing witnesses Marilyn Leander, Ester Galicia and other female employees.”
Another employee, a court stenographer, testified that at one time, “respondent summoned her to his chamber and she found him clad only in briefs.”
“When she turned around to flee, respondent called after her saying ‘Why are you afraid? After all, this is for you,” the court added.
The last straw was when Arceo wrote the complainant a “lascivious” five-stanza poem that included the line: “Kapalaran ay malupit, di kita makatalik sa ngayon at bukas pagkat di mo ibig (Fate is cruel, I cannot have sex with you because you do not want it).”
“We need not repeat the narration of lewd and lustful acts committed by respondent judge in order to conclude that he is indeed unworthy to remain in office. The audacity under which the same were committed and the seeming impunity with which they were perpetrated shock our sense of morality,” the tribunal had said in its order sacking Arceo.
The court said that Arceo had failed to behave in a manner that will promote confidence in the judiciary. “His actuations, if condoned, would damage the integrity of the judiciary, fomenting distrust in the system,” it added.
But in its resolution dated Nov. 20, 2012, the high tribunal noted that since Arceo’s dismissal from the service in 1996, he had returned to private practice and most of his cases “involved poor litigants, neighbors and close friends.”
He also got commendations from the woman executive judge of the Malolos Regional Trial Court and the president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Bulacan. In August 2011, he was given the Gawad Bunying Abogadong Bulakenyo award.
“The court also notes the many years that had elapsed from the time of his dismissal and recognizes respondent’s dedication, citations and contributions to the legal profession and to the judiciary prior to his dismissal from the service,” the high court said.
The tribunal also noted that while the Sandiganbayan found Arceo guilty of violating the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law and the Revised Penal Code, the records “reveal that he was granted probation and finally discharged after having complied with all the conditions thereof.”
“Concommitantly, all his civil rights which he had lost as a result of his conviction, including his right to be employed in the public service, were restored,” the high court said.