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The tragic journey of former Cebu City judge (Part 2)

Former Cebu Judge Rosabella Mondragon-Tormis


After admitting that she lost faith in the Philippine judicial system, former Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Judge Rosabella Mondragon Tormis said one might think that she’s suffering delusions of grandeur why she suspects that the Supreme Court (SC) is taking special interest in her case.


A lowly former MTCC judge with no political patrons or benefactors, Tormis said she hopes that the former Chief Justice, who made follow-ups on her disbarment case, is now satisfied.


“Anyway, I will not file any motion for reconsideration regarding my disbarment case because according to what Theodore Te said in his press conference last Aug 30, 2016, I have tainted my qualification to remain a lawyer is true. I find myself unfit to work for the Judiciary; I don’t have the qualification the SC requires – dishonest, corrupt, selfish, immoral, disgraceful, and unlike most of them, I know the meaning of due process and most of all I have a conscience and I am completely honest to myself,” Tormis told this writer.


One of the cases that led to the disbarment of this former judge stemmed from “Judge Navarro v. Judge Tormis (A.M. No. MTJ-00-1337. April 27, 2004).”

Tormis said Judge Navarro was the first instrument used by whoever was the brain behind the SC to destroy her.


“It is a fact that Judge Navarro is mentally ill, but the SC supported his illness and found me guilty of improper conduct for trying to influence the course of litigation in Criminal Case No. 99796-12,” Tormis said.


Tormis pointed out that she only acted as the Executive Judge and conducted an investigation on Evelyn Bacalla. In the process, she discovered “grave injustice committed against an urban poor family charged with “illegal squatting” in Criminal Case No. 99796-12-R (People vs. Garduque), so she called the attention of the MTCC 8 former Presiding Judge Ypil, in a letter dated January 5, 2000, regarding the legal and factual circumstances of the case which she believed justified the dismissal of the case since the act complained of had already been decriminalized by virtue of R.A. No. 7276.


“Former Judge Navarro’s intervention in said case was not only unethical, but oppressively unjust, he being the former private prosecutor of the case together with his mother, retired RTC Judge Exaltacion Navarro and that according to some of his staff, complainant was angry at those whom he perceived thwarted his entitlement to attorney’s fees of not less than P100,000.00 should he successfully eject the accused from the premises,” Tormis stressed.


She said one of the issues in this case was “Finding Criminal Case No. 106436-R, entitled, People vs. Comparativo, to be covered by the Rule on Summary Procedure, Judge Tormis removed the Order of Commitment issued by Judge Navarro from the records of the case and substituted it with her own order directing the release of the accused.”


Tormis said that sometime in May 2000, the Clerk of Court of MTC branch 4 referred to her the Comparativo case received from the Office of the Clerk of Court MTC Cebu City. Upon reviewing the case files, she discovered that the accused was a concessionaire of the Gaisano Country 


The security guard of Gaisano Country Mall apprehended him outside the supermarket with few articles of groceries admittedly bought and paid at the same supermarket. In the bag there was an Eskinol, which is not listed in the official receipt. The Eskinol was suspected stolen, thus was confiscated. The accused had been in jail for at least two (2) days. When his case was referred to her, she also discovered that the Commitment Order that sent the accused to jail was “not” signed by any Judge.


Finding that there was a violation of the accused’s constitutional right and the minimal cost of the alleged stolen article which was admittedly recovered, Tormis carefully examined the records of the case only to find out that the cost of the article was less than P50.00, rendering the case under summary procedure. Thus, in the highest interest of justice and equity, she ordered the accused released on his own recognizance.


Being the Executive Judge at that time, Tormis said she had sworn not only to render justice to the litigants, but also to uphold the integrity of the court. She investigated the circumstance of the detention of the accused and discovered that it was only the MTCC 6 Clerk of Court Prospero M. Sincero who signed the Commitment Order and not by any judge.


She inquired from Mr. Sincero why it was he and not Judge Navarro who signed the commitment order. Mr. Sincero said that very often, Judge Navarro was not around to conduct proceedings when it is their duty as bail court.


“I tried to keep the matter under wraps to protect Judge Navarro and Mr. Sincero from negative repercussions even as proper justice was dispensed with the accused and remedial actions were immediately undertaken to maintain the integrity of the judicial processes and avoid similar incidents in the future. However, Judge Navarro, in his obsession to compel me to relinquish my position as Executive Judge filed the instant complaint, which only reveals his misconduct and malice,” Tormis said.


She said this case was totally baseless. She never removed any order signed by any judge, much less a commitment order signed by Judge Navarro, since “none” existed.

In her comment, she cited the case of Dimatulac vs. Sesimundo which stated: 


“The courts of the land under (Supreme Court’s) aegis are court of law and justice and equity. They would have no reason to exist if they were allowed to be used as mere tools of injustice, deception and duplicity to subvert and suppress the truth, instead of repositories of judicial power whose judges are sworn and committed to render impartial justice to all alike who seek enforcement or protection of a right or the prevention or redress of a wrong without fear or favor removed from pressures of politics or prejudice.”


“Now it figures why this jurisprudence did not help me in this case and the court still reprimanded me. It is apparently because the SC does allow itself to be used as tools of injustice, deception and duplicity to subvert and suppress the truth,” Tormis said.

She added: “The Supreme Court acts on cases to render injustice swiftly, yet too relaxed on important cases where victims are crying out loud seeking for justice.”

Considering Navarro’s reputation, Tormis said the court should not have admonished her for his (Navarro’s) absurdity.


The SC further ruled in this case that “It is imperative that we call the attention of both complainant and respondent judges regarding their unbecoming conduct. It is very apparent that the rift between them transcended the professional level to a personal one. Worse, their fight was picked up by the local media and for a while they were an item in the local newspapers. This is very unfortunate for it puts the judiciary in a bad light. Certainly, when judges of the same court in the same place fight, the image of the judiciary is impaired rather than enhanced. Their positions as judges demand utmost caution and circumspection to avoid poor public impression on the Judiciary. 


Magistracy is after all about character. It is incumbent upon them to so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Being the dispensers of justice, judges should not act in a way that would cast suspicion in order to preserve faith in the administration of justice. They should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”


“I never picked any fight with Navarro, which in fact as I stated in my comment, I tried to keep the matter under wraps to protect Judge Navarro and the courts. But due to Navarro’s absurdity, I was only compelled to defend myself which the court, in one of their dumbest decision, described it as a fight and blamed me for Judge Navarro’s fault. The court should know that in order to tame a predator it must not reprimand the prey similarly,” Tormis said.


Evidently, Tormis said, she was not the one responsible if this was picked up by the local media, for it was part of Navarro’s scheme to destroy her in public. (To be continued)

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