SC lambasts Surigao judge for unauthorized travel

THE Supreme Court (SC) warned a judge from Surigao del Norte province for proceeding with his travel abroad without the required travel authority from the Office of the Court Administration (OCA).
In a six-page decision promulgated on July 18 and posted on the SC website, Judge Ignacio B. Macarine of Municipal Trial Court in General Luna, Surigao del Norte, was admonished because "he acted irresponsibly when he opted not to immediately secure a travel authority and is saved only from the full force that his violation carries by the attendant mitigating circumstances."
"He is also warned that the commission of a similar violation in the future will merit a more severe penalty. The recommendation of the OCA that his absences, which were unauthorized, shall not be deducted from his leave credits but from his salary is hereby approved," the SC said in its decision.
The decision was concurred by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Roberto Abad, Bienvenido L. Reyes, and Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno.
Sereno filed a dissenting and concurring opinion expressing her opposition to penalize Macarine for his failure to request a travel authority.
"Macarine should not be held administratively liable for his failure to secure a permit to travel prior to his intended departure, as such action would amount to an unjustified restriction to his constitutional right to travel. However, on account of his failure to file (a) an application for leave and (b) a report on his case load prior to his travel abroad, I agree that he should be admonished," Sereno said in her dissenting and concurring opinion.
The decision stemmed from the administrative case filed by the OCA against Macarine for violation of OCA Circular No. 49-2003.
OCA Circular No. 49-2003 requires all foreign travels of judges and court personnel, regardless of the number of days, must be with prior permission from the Court that is by securing a travel authority from the OCA.
Macarine requested the OCA for authority to travel to Hong Kong with his family on September 10-14, 2009 for the celebration of his 65th birthday.
According to the decision, the judge stated that his travel abroad will be charged to his annual forced leave but failed to submit the corresponding application for leave, resulting to have his request for authority remained unacted.
However, Macarine still proceeded with his travel abroad.
The OCA informed him that his absences would be deducted from his salary on January 28, 2010 and required him to submit his explanation.
Macarine, in his letter-explanation, said "sensing time constraint and thinking of the futility of completing the requirements before their scheduled flight, he opted not to immediately complete the requirements" and left.
The judge acknowledged his mistake and promised not to commit the same infraction in the future.
"We consider the outlined circumstances as mitigating. Following judicial precedents, the respondent deserves some degree of leniency in imposing upon him the appropriate penalty," the SC said in its decision.
"OCA Circular No. 49-2003 does not restrict but merely regulates, by providing guidelines to be complied by judges and court personnel, before they can go on leave to travel abroad. To 'restrict' is to restrain or prohibit a person from doing something; to 'regulate' is to govern or direct according to rule," the SC' decision added. (sun-star)


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