Judge Jorge Emmanuel Lorredo of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 26, of Manila is teetering on the brink of a disciplinary action by the Supreme Court and, possibly, being stripped of his robe for his continuing flagrant violation of the code of judicial conduct.
It all started with his issuance of a controversial May 4, 2009 order in connection with the perjury case filed against ZTE-NBN whistleblower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada, Jr. by former Malacañang chief of staff Mike Defensor. Then on Wednesday, Judge Lorredo gave a one-on-one interview with TV Patrol's Willard Cheng where he once again made statements that could only be characterized other than as improper for a man who should be more circumspect and responsible in his words and conduct, given the dignity of his position as a judge and dispenser of justice.
In Judge Lorredo's May 4 order, which has already been the subject of several criticisms by bloggers, newspaper opinion writers and legal observers, he strongly expressed his desire for Defensor to settle the case against Lozada and even alluded to the possibility of Defensor being stricken with illness as a punishment from God and suffering the same fate as First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, who has a heart ailment, should he not settle. Then he went on to warn Defensor of the disaster that awaits his political career in pursuing the case and the possibility of dragging the president and Mike Arroyo into the case, including the issuance of a warrant of arrest against no less than the president of the country and a possible constitutional crisis. More on this later.
While it is true that, to a certain extent, the Supreme Court encourages the settlement of cases, the unusual and extraordinary interest of Judge Lorredo in having Defensor rethink about pursuing the case against Lozada borders on bias and partiality. It shows propensity on his part to favor Lozada. Thus, in one administrative case involving a judge, the Supreme Court held that the active efforts of a judge to have a case before him settled even if one of the parties is not receptive - as in the case of Defensor - is improper and makes the judge susceptible to suspicions of partiality. Judge Lorredo may say he is unbiased, but he is certainly showing appearances of favoritism by his inappropriate statements. The code of judicial conduct requires every judge to not only be impartial, but to also avoid the mere appearance of partiality.
By including off the mark and totally irrelevant matters, not to mention the use of intemperate language in resolving a simple motion filed in his court, and by generating unnecessary publicity Judge Lorredo showed himself unworthy of the title of a judge. What has Mike Arroyo and his ailment got to do with the setting of Lozada's arraignment and the issue on his custody? or of Mike Defensor getting ill and suffering a political setback by pursuing charges against a man who is supported by the people and religious groups? Nothing at all, and yet Judge Lorredo harped on these matters like they were pivotal legal issues. Judge Lorredo is obviously catering to the public outcry against the ZTE-NBN controversy - which involves allegations of kickbacks running in millions of dollars by high government officials, possibly including the president and her husband, in the award of a national broadband network project to a Chinese company -and wants to draw attention to himself. There is a clear stricture against judges engaging in sensational and spectacular conduct in their courts.
As a judge bound by a strict ethical code, Judge Lorredo should know better that in resolving cases before him he should not be swayed by public opinion or be free from any extraneous influence or pressure. By suggesting public opinion is strong against the ZTE-NBN scandal and the filing of charges against Lozada, and that Defensor has the opportunity to cleanse himself and regain public sympathy by settling the case against Lozada, Judge Lorredo is clearly allowing extraneous matters and what he perceives to be a strong public sentiment to influence the disposition of the case before him.
Judge Lorredo shows his clear bias in favor of Lozada when he states in his controversial order that if Defensor pursues the case against Lozada, he will have no reason not to grant a motion by Lozada to subpoena the first couple. I find it difficult to see how he could be impartial in already making up his mind about ruling in a particular way on a motion that has not even been made yet. He is like a woman saying she will give her hand the moment a suitor asks for it. He does not even know yet under what circumstances and for what purpose will such a motion be sought, if at all. Will a possible subpoena of the first couple at the behest of Lozada likely produce relevant and competent evidence? Will there be constitutional impediments in issuing compulsory process to a sitting president? But Judge Lorredo seems to know the answers to these questions already even before hearing the arguments pro and con from the parties involved, as obviously he has already made up his mind to grant such a putative subpoena.
Not only has Judge Lorredo shown bias, but is even fomenting a constitutional crisis or even a bloody confrontation by hinting that should a subpoena to the president be ignored and not implemented by the police he would deputize senators or even Oakwood coup plotter, now Senator Antonio Trillanes with the help of his comrades (meaning fellow coup plotters), who mind you is presently in jail for coup and rebellion charges, to forcefully bring the president in court notwithstanding any opposition by her security detail, the Presidential Security Group. Unbelievable! Now, I am not exactly a fan of the president or her husband nor do I agree with the indictment and incarceration of Lozada, but such mindless rantings coming from a judge who is supposed to uphold the integrity of the institutions of government and respect for the rule of law is simply outrageous that should not be allowed to pass without sanctions by the Supreme Court.
Good thing the Supreme Court has already shut this magistrate's wild mouth and prevented him from doing further damage to the integrity of the judicial system. It is hoped though that the High Court's action should go beyond mere silencing him, and instead should extend to purging him from the ranks of honest, dedicated and respectable judges, who toil everyday in their courtrooms to dispense justice to the deserving, who are now in danger of being tainted by his gross impropriety and unbecoming conduct.