Gacott


Eustaquio Gacott Jr was a Palawan RTC branch judge whose decision on a case* was not only reversed by the Court; he was reprimanded as well and fined PhP10,000 for gross ignorance of the law. He filed a motion for reconsideration and a supplemental motion for reconsideration, and in his petition questioned, one: why the initial decision was made by the Second Division of the Supreme Court when his pleadings were sent to the Third Division; and two: the competence of the Second Division to administratively discipline him given the Constitutional provisions on how judges were to be disciplined. Given the mention of “en banc” in the Constitution, Gacott said it was only the full Court and not a division that could administratively punish him.
The Court explained that the decision was issued by the Second Division because the ponente of the Third Division had moved to the Second. Such moves are not usually made public because it would reveal the identity of the ponente.
Sec 4(3), Article VIII of the Constitution also clarifies that divisions of the Supreme Court represent the Court itself, and are not smaller sub-divisions of the Supreme Court, and so the decision was valid.

Since Gacott had sent a copy of his petition to all the members of the Court not to mention the Judicial Bar Council and the Justice Secretary, the court said that since all members know of the case, they decided to take it up en banc. His petitions were denied.

* The case involved a Marcos-era law, P.D. No.1, LOI No. 2 and P.D. No. 1275, on the abolition of the Anti-Dummy Board. Gacott’s ruling was not mentioned, but the decision implied that Gacott thought the said laws had already been repealed or revoked. It appeared that he also blamed the prosecution for failing to inform him of the applicable laws, as the decision talks about Gacott’s “mistaken belief that the duty to inform the court on the applicable law to a particular case devolves solely upon the prosecution or whoever may be the advocate before the court.” He was reminded that “courts are duty bound to take judicial notice of all the laws of the land” and that judges are presumed “to be well-informed of existing laws, recent enactments and jurisprudence and to keep abreast of legal developments.”
**Bar Matter No. 209 (Feb 9, 1993, En Banc resolution): …
The following are considered en banc cases:
x x x
Cases where the penalty to be imposed is the dismissal of a judge, officer or employee of the Judiciary, disbarment of a lawyer, or either the suspension of any of them for a period of more than 1 year or a fine exceeding PhP10,000 or both.

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