By Rey Panaligan
A municipal circuit trial court (MCTC) judge who was cleared of alleged involvement in illegal drugs trade in 2016 was dismissed recently by the Supreme Court (SC) on charges of immorality and gross misconduct filed in 2015.
Dismissed and barred perpetually from re-employment in the government was Judge Exequil L. Dagala of MCTC in Dapa-Socorro towns in Surigao del Norte.
Dagala, whose retirement and other benefits except accrued leave credits were forfeited, was caught on video in 2015 wielding an M-16 armalite rifle. He had sired a child with a woman other than his wife.
The SC’s public information office (PIO) said that an anonymous letter-complaint was filed by a resident of San Isidro, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte. The complainant witnessed the altercation involving his neighbors and Judge Dagala over the ownership of his neighbor’s lot and the trees planted thereon.
The complaint stated that Dagala shouted invectives while brandishing an M-16 armalite rifle. The incident was caught on camera and tape by the other neighbors. He was also accused of involvement in alleged illegal activities.
The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of the SC conducted an investigation and found there was sufficient evidence to hold Judge Dagala accountable for gross misconduct in connection with the Sept. 29, 2015 incident.
OCA identified the man brandishing the armalite rifle in the video as Judge Dagala, who failed to deny or refute the allegations.
The investigation also noted a certification issued by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Firearms and Explosives Office that Dagala was not a licensed/registered firearm holder.
The SC said Dagala’s actuation as recorded in the video “are unacceptable for a member of the bench and should merit a finding of administrative liability. This is without prejudice to any criminal action that may also be filed against him.”
The SC also agreed with the OCA’s finding that Dagala was guilty of immorality for siring a child out of wedlock during the subsistence of his marriage.
It pointed out that Immorality is a recognized ground for the discipline of judges and justices under the Rules of Court.
“The record is clear as evidenced by the certificate of live birth, showing Judge Dagala was father of the child as shown by his signature in the affidavit of acknowledgement of paternity and the date of birth was during the subsistence of his marriage to his legal wife,” it said.
The SC said it does not “seek to interfere with a judge’s relationships” but nevertheless stressed that immorality is a valid ground for sanctioning members of the Judiciary because it challenges his or her capacity to dispense justice, erodes the faith and confidence of the public in the administration of justice, and impacts the judiciary’s legitimacy.
In December last year, the SC cleared Dagala of alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade in the country.
“Wherefore, the Court hereby declares that no evidence has been put forward to link Judges Exequil L. Dagala … to any involvement in the use, trade or proliferation of illegal drugs, and thereby this fact-finding investigation against them is hereby terminated,” the SC said.