SC fines Negros Oriental Judge For Sitting On Annulment Case

Monday, August 16, 2010

he Supreme Court has castigated a Negros Oriental judge for his failure to resolve an annulment case filed seven years ago.

In a decision promulgated last August 12, the court's Third Division also imposed a P15,000 penalty on Winston Villegas, presiding judge of Tanjay City Regional Trial Court Branch 43.

"Wherefore, premises considered, Judge Winston M. Villegas is found guilty of undue delay in rendering a decision on Civil Case No. 192. Accordingly, he is fined P15,000.00, with a stern warning against the commission of a similar offense," said the court's ruling penned by Associate Justice Arturo Brion.

The court's decision was in response to the November 2007 complaint filed by Evangeline Vera Cruz, who accused Villegas of sitting on the case.

In March 2006, Vera Cruz filed an annulment of marriage case, which was assigned to Villegas' sala. However, the case's hearing was last held in July 2006. By 2008, it was still on pre-trial stage.

No connivance with litigant Vera Cruz also filed an administrative complaint against Villegas for supposedly "fraternizing" with Carmelita Vera Cruz, one of the respondents in the annulment case, saying this was in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Evangeline Vera Cruz alleged that Villegas sat on the case because he and Carmelita were neighbors, whose houses were only 250 meters apart.

However, the Supreme Court, through the recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), dismissed the administrative complaint against the judge for lack of evidence.

"The charges of violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct and fraternizing with litigants must fail. As the OCA correctly concluded, Evangeline failed to adduce substantial evidence to support Judge Villegas’ guilt. Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation cannot be given credence," said the SC




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