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The tragic journey of former Cebu City judge (Part 3)

Former Cebu Judge Rosabella Mondragon-Tormis with her brother, Dominador Mondragon, and at Haru Sushi Bar & Restaurant.

Former Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Judge Rosabella Tormis of Cebu said what is special about her case is that a former chief justice has personal interest and made several follow-ups to hasten the proceedings of her disbarment.


“People may ask why a former chief justice would find my case interesting,” Tormis said in an in interview with this writer.


Tormis said that when she was new to the judiciary, the then chief justice invited her to a dinner he was hosting. There he personally introduced her to a city councilor at the time who owns the Arrastre and stevedoring firm operating in Cebu City.


She said this councilor informed her that he financed the dinner and that he is very close to the Chief Justice. He further told her that he had a case in her court.


“Imagine how much he could have offered me, especially with the influence of the chief justice if I just assured him a favorable outcome of the case instead of having been severely and unlawfully persecuted by the Supreme Court. But because my late father always reminded us (his children) that ‘a public office is a public trust and not a means of self-enrichment’ I rendered a fair and unselfish decision sometime in November 2000, finding the councilor guilty and sentenced him to a maximum of four years imprisonment,” Tormis revealed.


She added: “I wish I could just say sorry to that former chief justice if I insulted him that time. I understand how bad I must have made him feel when I convicted the councilor who financed that dinner. I know his case was not really significant, but it cost him his political career.”


Tormis said she did not mean to disrespect the interest of the former chief justice and she was sorry if she chose to live by the moral code set to her by her father. His father’s principles are the only things the Supreme Court or anybody cannot take away from her.


“I deserve to be disbarred because I have lost faith in our judicial system, more particularly the Supreme Court itself. Honestly, I felt relieved when I heard the news that my name will be stricken out from the roll of attorneys because I no longer want to be a part of the system that promotes injustice,” she said.


In her short stint of practice, Tormis said her clients were mostly economically deprived, she never raised their hopes that justice will be served.


Being a tool of all the anomalous and malicious cases against her, a suspended Cebu judge on said the High Court disregarded existing laws and procedures and fabricated facts just to accomplish her detractors’ intention to harass and destroy her.


Tormis said four MTCC judges were suspended by SC en banc on July 10, 2007. The court en banc, however, designated four judges assigned to the suspended judges’ respective courts on July 9, 2007, one day ahead of the suspension.


She said the audit was conducted on July 3-4, 2007 at the office of former Judge Geraldine Faith Econg against her and the other three MTCC judges and one Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Olegario Sarmiento.

Incidentally, she said the case against Judge Sarmiento was unceremoniously dropped for no reason. Econg informed her that she told the audit team to exclude Judge Sarmiento from the investigation because he solemnized Econg’s second marriage.


Tormis said the OCA (Office of the Court Administrator) did not furnish these judges any affidavits that were mentioned in their report, resolution and decision. When she requested copies of these affidavits they asserted that they are not available.


“Whatever evidence that were assumed in the Audit Report remained undisclosed to us in this case. Which, in fact, I only gained access to the copies of the documents during the disbarment proceedings before the OBC (Office of the Bar Confidant) when the hearing officer told the OCA that I am entitled to them,” the former judge lamented.


Tormis said the audit investigation was covered by the local media broadcasting updates of their proceeding to the public. In fact, she said, the respondent MTCC judges were notified by Rullyn Garcia of their indefinite preventive suspension through the local media on July 5, 2007.


She said the audit team, before they could finish their investigation, had prepared its memorandum dated 5 July 2007 for then Chief Justice Puno through Court Administrator Christopher Lock and the Deputy Court Administrator Elepaño, who both signed it on July 6, 2007 to be approved by Chief Justice Puno.


However, Chief Justice Puno signed the memorandum on July 5, 2007. His approval came before the recommendation of Lock and Elepano.


Few days after the suspension, Tormis said Puno may have realized that he does not have the power alone to authorize the order of suspension to cover-up his mistakes, so the Supreme Court en banc confirmed the suspension on its July 10, 2007 resolution.

“Former Judge Econg was also investigated in case A.M. No. RTJ-07-2097. But the SC’s decision of Econg’s case was misplaced and was stated in the dispositive portion in the decision against the four dismissed judges in A.M. No. MTJ-07-1691,” Tormis said.


When Judge Econg’s involvement in the alleged marriage scam was published in all local Cebu newspapers, she desperately tried to contact Tormis. In their several meetings, Econg often bragged that she had a copy of the 98-page audit report against the four dismissed judges in her laptop;


Associate Justice Velasco signed the decision, but made annotation below his signature “no part due to relation to party”, giving the hint that he had some personal interest in this case or that he was acting under influence/pressure of an unseen party probably a powerful figure, presumed Tormis.


The instant case was about the audit conducted by the SC Audit Team sometime on June 17, 2008, a day after Tormis had just been reinstated after serving almost one year of suspension. It was only her court in the Palace of Justice that was audited at that time.


In the presence of the audit team, Tormis asked her clerk of court, Reynaldo Teves, why he made some of the cases appear that they were not acted upon when, in fact, she had already resolved them many years back. He responded in the presence of the audit team by banging the old records that he kept hidden from her and said, “s’yaro ‘di paka ma-dismiss ani” (I believe this may lead to your dismissal).

One of the audit team members replied and told Teves that it would also affect him because it was his primary responsibility being the clerk of court.


“Maybe Teves felt threatened and immediately said that he acted only upon the instruction of former RTC Judge Geraldine Faith Econg,” Tormis surmised. 


She said Teves also mentioned this during the staff meeting which she requested to be conducted in the presence of our executive judge Andrino. Teves even stated further that “pasalamat gani ka judge wa ko nitoo tanan sugo ni Econg” (You should be thankful, Judge, that I did not obey all the demands of Econg). (To be concluded)

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