By By Atty. Romulo P. Atencia
The Concept of “Becoming Modesty”
posted 30-Apr-2016  ·  
4,577 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

When applied to a girl, the traditional (perhaps now old-fashioned) concept of becoming modesty impels her to conduct herself in a ladylike manner, to dress herself attractively but not in a sexy come-on way that leaves nothing to the imagination -- no belly-buttons showing, no plunging necklines, no skin-tight jeans or skimpy skirts; no makeup an inch thick and no swearing and vulgar language. Judges of our courts of law are subject to a stricter code of conduct. Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the activities of a judge.  Additionally, the concept of “becoming modesty” demands more of judges. They have to follow jurisprudence or rulings of higher courts in deciding cases. To paraphrase the late US Justice Benjamin Cardozo, "the judge, even while he is free, is still not wholly free. He is not to innovate at pleasure. He is not a knight-errant, roaming at will in pursuit of his own ideal of beauty or of goodness. He is to draw his inspiration from consecrated principles. He is not to yield to spasmodic sentiment, to vague and unregulated benevolence. He is to exercise a discretion informed by tradition, methodized by analogy, disciplined by system, and subordinate to the primordial necessity of order in the social life."

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Indeed, not unlike priests with their vow of obedience, judges are expected to obey higher courts.  The Supreme Court explained why it has to be so: “…[J]udges are called to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural laws. They are not ‘common men and women, whose errors men and women forgive and time forgets. Judges sit as the embodiment of the people's sense of justice, their last recourse where all other institutions have failed. Most importantly, respondent Judge is required by Canon 3, Rule 3.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct to be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence. As we held in one case, there will be faith in the administration of justice only if there be a belief on the part of the litigant that the occupants of the bench cannot justly be accused of deficiency in their grasp of legal principles.’” It has been observed that the spirit, initiative and independence on the part of men of the robe may at times be commendable, but certainly not when the Supreme Court had repeatedly indicated what the rule should be. Tribunals in the lower rungs of the judiciary would at the very least, take notice and yield deference. Justice Laurel had indicated in terms too clear for misinterpretation what is expected of them. Thus: “A becoming modesty of inferior court[s] demands conscious realization of the position that they occupy in the interrelation and operation of the integrated judicial system of the nation.” 

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There is a wealth of jurisprudence on this matter many lawyers already know so well. As early as 1922, the Supreme Court pointed out that  “… if each and every Court of First Instance (now RTC) could enjoy the privilege of overruling decisions of the Supreme Court, there would be no end to litigation, and judicial chaos would result.” In a 1940 case, the Supreme Court en banc cited with approval the following pronouncements of the Court of Appeals when the latter upheld the conclusion of the lower court and declined to overrule the doctrine earlier pronounced by the Highest Court: "But the appellant impugns the soundness of the doctrine laid down in the foregoing decisions and urges us to overrule them. We do not think it necessary to enter upon a discussion of the alleged misapplication of the law or erroneous conclusions reached in the cases referred to. It is our understanding that the decisions criticized are conclusive and binding upon this Court and all other courts inferior to the Supreme Court as expressing the law on the subjects treated therein. The rule of stare decisis and ‘a becoming modesty’ which demands of inferior courts 'conscious realization of the position that they occupy in the interrelation and operation of the integrated judicial system of the nation, ‘compels us to respect and follow these decisions, while unreversed, regardless of the divergencies of opinion that are said to exist about their correctness xxx. This should be our norm of conduct at least where the decisions sought to be disregarded are not manifestly wrong, unjust or contrary to law, and where a departure therefrom might only result in 'going from one doubtful rule to another."

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In a case where a judge was dismissed from the service, the SC said: “As this Court stated in its Resolution dated June 27, 2000, respondent had no option but to obey the writ of mandamus issued by the CA and to issue the writ of execution, its refusal to obey being ‘a clear violation of the order of, and a manifest disrespect towards, a court of superior jurisdiction.’ This directive notwithstanding, up to now the respondent has obstinately refused to issue a writ of execution. xxx It is hardly necessary to remind respondent that judges should respect the orders and decisions of higher tribunals, much more the Highest Tribunal of the land from which all other courts should take their bearings. A resolution of the Supreme Court is not to be construed as a mere request, nor should it be complied with partially, inadequately or selectively. If at all, this omission not only betrays a recalcitrant flaw in respondent's character; it also underscores his disrespect of the Court's lawful orders and directives which is only too deserving of reproof. xxx We have often said that every officer or employee in the judiciary is duty-bound to obey the orders and processes of this Court without the least delay and to exercise at all times a high degree of professionalism. xxx Indifference or defiance to the Court's orders or resolutions may be punished with dismissal, suspension, or fine as warranted by the circumstances. Gross ignorance of the law is also punishable by: (1) dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government owned and controlled corporations; (2) suspension from office without pay and other benefits for more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months; or (3) a fine of more than P20,000 but not exceeding P40,000 under Section 11, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court.  xxx  Having been previously warned, respondent judge deserves the ultimate administrative penalty, i.e. dismissal from the service.”

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