SC Penalizes Retired Judge

January 31, 2020

The long arm of the law caught up with an erring judge of the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) who had already retired and is facing several pending administrative cases.

The Supreme Court, in a per curiam decision promulgated on January 28, 2020, found Judge Joselito Villarosa of Makati RTC, Branch 66 guilty of four counts of gross ignorance of the law and for violation of A.M. No. 03-3-03-SC, a directive of the SC ordering him to transfer commercial cases to another RTC Branch. The Court fined him a total amount of P140,000 and ordered the forfeiture of all his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned and controlled corporations.

Judge Villarosa, who retired in August 2018, was among the subjects of a 2015 article in a daily broadsheet by columnist Ramon Tulfo. The article was about alleged irregularities by certain Makati RTC Judges who purportedly favored moneyed litigants in commercial cases even if their cases were not meritorious.

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), which conducted an investigation on the allegations, found Judge Villarosa guilty of violating an SC directive, and of four counts of gross ignorance of the law and recommended the forfeiture of all his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from public service. The SC adopted the recommendations of the OCA but modified the penalty.

The Court held Villarosa was liable for violating its directive in A.M. No. 03-3-03-SC issued on July 8, 2014 to transfer all commercial cases pending in his court which have not been tried or have been submitted for resolution. The records show that Villarosa deliberately failed to transfer eight commercial cases to Makati RTC, Branch 137 in violation of the said directive.

Likewise, it found that Villarosa committed gross ignorance of the law and procedure when he 1) transferred cases for Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) to Branch 149 without conducting the first stage of judicial proceedings in violation of the Revised Guidelines to Implement the Expanded Coverage of Court-Annexed Mediation and Judicial Dispute Resolution; 2) ordered the consolidation of a civil case pending in his court with a case pending in Branch 10 of Cebu City, RTC, in violation of Section 1, Rule 31 of the Rules of Court; 3) issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in a civil case that was effective beyond the 20-day period prescribed in Section 5, Rule 158 of the Rules of Court and Administrative Circular No. 20-95; and 4) issued a TRO against the Department of Transportation and Communication in violation of Section 3 of R.A. 8975.

The Court noted that Villarosa had also been previously found guilty in two other administrative cases ─ in A.M. No. RTJ-14-2410 where he was found guilty of gross ignorance of the law, gross inefficiency and serious misconduct and was fined P10,000 and in A.M. No. RTJ-16-2474 where he was found guilty of undue delay in resolving a motion in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct and fined P20,000 with a stern warning that a similar act in the future would be dealt with more severely. Moreover, Judge Villarosa still has other pending administrative cases.

The Court did not give weight to the reasons offered by Judge Villarosa as to the delay in the transfer of the subject commercial cases to Branch 137 since the former was well aware of the Court’s resolution which was duly received by his sala. It held that Judge Villarosa disregarded the Court’s directive based on his purported agreement with two other Judges that all commercial cases which have commenced trial shall remain with Branch 66. It stressed that resolutions of the Supreme Court cannot be overturned by mere agreement among judges. Judge Villarosa did not offer any valid explanation as to issuance of the questionable TRO.

The SC Public Information Office will be posting 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.

(A.M. No. 19-11-268-RTC, Re: Supplemental Report on the Probe Conducted on the Alleged Irregularities of Some Makati Judges as Reported by Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Columnist Ramon Tulfo, January 28, 2020)