SC slaps retired QC judge with P20,000 fine for letting accused go home while facing nonbailable case
The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered that a P20,000 fine be deducted from the retirement benefits of former Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 96 Judge Afable Cajigal for allowing a qualified theft suspect to walk free despite facing a nonbailable case.
In a recent 14-page decision, the SC 1st Division ruled Cajigal guilty of gross ignorance of the law and gross inefficiency.
However, it meted out a relatively light penalty out of “compassion and charity” towards the judge for having “spent the best years of his professional life in the Judiciary.”
The sanction arose from Cajigal’s failure to order the detention of Ike Katipunan—a former inventory control service assistant of Extra Excel International Philippines, Inc.—following his arraignment for qualified theft on June 9, 2014.
The SC said it was basic that an accused “must have either been in the custody of the law or out on bail” upon his arraignment.
It said Cajigal should not have waited for Katipunan to file first a motion for the judicial determination of probable cause, because judges were duty bound to evaluate if there was sufficient basis for the case even without a motion.
“The failure of respondent Judge to comply with this fundamental precept constituted gross ignorance of the law and procedure. His failure to heed this precept resulted in the said accused’s arraignment, without the accused in custody of the law,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.
At the same time, the SC also faulted Cajigal for failing to resolve the prosecution’s motion for the issuance of a hold departure order (HDO) within a 90-day period.
Although the judge had the discretion whether to issue the HDO or not, the SC said “this grant of considerable discretion in no wise or manner means that respondent Judge need not resolve at all the pending motion.”