Judge in parking spat unwelcome in Baguio
BAGUIO CITY—The city council on Monday declared Cabanatuan Municipal Trial Court Judge Nelson Largo persona non grata (unwanted person) after he compelled local traffic enforcers, who cited him for illegal parking, to appear in his courtroom in Nueva Ecija province.
The declaration came two days after Largo canceled the subpoena requiring the enforcers to appear at a Nov. 29 hearing in his court after he charged them with indirect contempt.
Stating that documents submitted to his court were “meritorious,” Largo, in a Nov. 18 order, said “the ends of justice [had been] sufficiently met,” and no longer required Bernard Batnag, a member of the city’s public order and safety division, and the traffic enforcement chief assigned to the Baguio City public market to appear in his sala in Cabanatuan City.
The Baguio council on Monday passed a resolution declaring Largo unwelcome, asserting that the judge committed an “inappropriate legal action” when he charged two Baguio traffic enforcers with indirect contempt in spite of his “glaring traffic violations.”
Misuse of contempt power
The council described Largo’s actions “as grave abuse and misuse of contempt power.”
“Moreover, such action constitutes conduct unbecoming of a judge and cannot be countenanced by the city government and its constituents,” according to the resolution sponsored by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan.
Largo’s Oct. 28 subpoena directed Batnag to explain why he and fellow traffic enforcers issued the judge a traffic citation ticket and confiscated his license plate for parking illegally inside the market complex.
Removing his license plate was a violation of due process, the judge said. But his actions drew the attention of the Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administrator.
Largo said he attended a security seminar in Baguio and was headed back to Cabanatuan City when he parked briefly at the market.
According to Largo’s order, settling the fine and recovering his license plates “evidently caused delay in the scheduled hearings” and “the administration of justice.”
“Due process is a basic right and enshrined and protected in our Constitution and it applies even in the cases of confiscation of license plates,” he said.
The Inquirer tried to reach Largo on Wednesday but his staff said the judge was on leave.
“Unless he (Largo) accepts what he did was wrong and be humble enough to come to apologize to the people of Baguio, he will remain unwelcome here,” Olowan said.
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