Thou shalt not borrow money from a litigant if you’re a judge or face dismissal.
The Supreme Court, in an En Banc decision promulgated on February 4, 2020, dismissed a Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge for borrowing money from litigants in cases pending before his court.
The Court also forfeited the retirement benefits of Judge Bonifacio M. Macabaya of Cagayan de Oro City (CDO), Misamis Oriental RTC, Branch 20 for violating paragraph 7, Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, which also constitutes gross misconduct in violation of the New Code of Judicial Conduct. Judge Macabaya was also perpetually disqualified from reemployment in the public service.
The dismissal stemmed from the complaints of Leonaria Neri, spouses Abeto Salcedo, Jr. and Jocelyn Salcedo, Evangeline Camposano, and Hugo Amorillo, Jr. who all claimed that Judge Macabaya sought them outside the courtroom and borrowed a large sum of money from them while their respective cases were pending before his sala. The complainants executed their sworn statements before the CDO RTC Executive Judge who forwarded the same to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA). Subsequently, the OCA endorsed the administrative case to the SC which in turn referred the same to a Court of Appeals (CA) justice for investigation.
For his defense, Judge Macabaya denied the allegations and claimed that the complainants were only coerced to file a complaint against him as part of an alleged grand design by an OCA official and other judges to discredit him.
The SC held that Judge Macabaya’s general denial carries little weight. It stressed that judges must adhere to the highest standards of judicial conduct and public accountability lest his action erode the public faith in the Judiciary.
The SC Public Information Office will post a copy of the decision in the SC website once it receives the official copy of the ruling from the Office of the SC Clerk of Court En Banc.