Former Lanao del Sur judge banned for life
The Sandiganbayan has meted out a lifetime ban from public office on a resigned Lanao del Sur judge for ordering the release of a detainee without a lawful order.
In a 15-page decision dated Dec. 7, the court’s Second Division found former Marawi City Municipal Trial Court in Cities Presiding Judge Baguinda-Ali Ahmad Pacalna guilty of violating Presidential Decree No. 1829.
PD 1829 penalizes the obstruction of apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders.
Aside from perpetual disqualification, Pacalna was ordered to pay a P6,000 fine.
The judge was accused of “exerting undue influence” on the Marawi City jail warden to turn over to him Menor Saud on the sole basis of a handwritten acknowledgment receipt on Sept. 19, 2007.
Saud was detained for illegal possession of a .357 revolver and had a pending arrest warrant for car theft. His release from jail enabled him to escape.
The Sandiganbayan rejected Pacalna’s reasoning that he merely heeded Saud’s call for assistance because the arresting officers did not bring him to the hospital for fear of being indicted for police brutality.
The court noted that the judge’s handwritten note clearly stated that he received Saud “for custody” and did not merely intend to bring him to the hospital.
It said Pacalna’s action was “nonprocedural,” because Sec. 3, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure only allowed the release of a detainee “upon order of the court or when he is admitted to bail.”
“As a judge, accused cannot feign ignorance of correct procedures, or if such were indeed the case, bespeaks of grave ignorance of the law which demonstrates accused’s unsuitability to exercise his mandate as a judge,” read the decision.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Lorifel L. Pahimna.
Pacalna resigned from his position on Dec. 1, 2009, while under investigation for this issue.
The Supreme Court, on Aug. 17, 2011, found him guilty of grave misconduct and forfeited his six-month salary.
The Office of the Court Administrator, on Oct. 25, 2013, filed a criminal complaint before the Ombudsman.
In 2012, Pacalna tried to apply to become judge of the Marawi City Regional Trial Court Branch 9. But the high court rejected his petition for judicial clemency on Nov. 27, 2013.