Judge dips hand in cookie jar, loses all after 22 years of service
For taking liberties with the court’s funds and repeatedly violating the code of judicial conduct, a Nueva Vizcaya judge got the boot from the Supreme Court, losing all his benefits after 22 years of service.
The high court on Tuesday found Nueva Vizcaya Municipal Trial Court (MTC) acting Presiding Judge Alexander Balut guilty of gross misconduct, dismissing him from the service for borrowing money from court collections.
“Judge Balut’s conduct fell short of the standard required of judges, which is that they must adhere to the highest tenets of judicial conduct. Because of the sensitivity of his position, a judge is required to exhibit, at all times, the highest degree of honesty and integrity and to observe exacting standards of morality, decency and competence,” said the high court.
All 13 magistrates in the full-court session found Balut guilty of the administrative offense, with eight voting to remove him from the judiciary and five favoring a lighter penalty.
The dismissal order, which the high court said took immediate effect, came with the “forfeiture of all retirement benefits and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch of the government, including government-owned and -controlled corporations.”
After more than two decades of service, Balut is left with “the money value of accrued earned leave credits.”
“Judge Balut is hereby ordered to cease and desist immediately from rendering any order or decision, or from continuing any proceedings, in any case whatsoever, effective upon receipt of a copy of this resolution,” the Supreme Court said in the dispositive part of its ruling.
The high court has had enough of Balut’s infractions. Earlier, the judge was found guilty of committing “undue delay” in deciding cases within the prescribed period as acting presiding judge for MTCs in the towns of Bayombong and Solano.
The offense that cost Balut his job was his repeated withdrawals of cash from the courts’ collections, totaling P202,774.42 as of April 2002.
“Judge Balut knowingly and deliberately made his clerks of court violate circulars on proper administration of court funds; his act of misappropriating court funds constitutes dishonesty and grave misconduct punishable by dismissal from the service even on the first offense,” said the high court.
He paid back but …
Neither Balut’s settlement of the amount nor his tenure in the judiciary could save him from the penalty.
“That Judge Balut fully paid his cash liabilities does not free him from the consequences of his wrongdoing. His unwarranted interference in the court collections deserves sanction and not even his full payment of his accountabilities will exempt him from liability,” the Supreme Court said.
“Neither will his long tenure (22 years of service) mitigate his liability; his offense was not a single or isolated act but a series of acts committed in a span of several years. He was a repeat offender, perpetrating his misdeeds with impunity not once, not twice but several times in three different stations,” the tribunal said.
Originally posted as of 9:23 PM | Wednesday, June 17, 2015