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Complainant charged respondent Judge with ignorance of the law and serious misco nduct relative to four criminal

cases for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22. R espondent Judge allegedly convicted complainant, who was the accused in said cas es, without conducting a trial on the merits. Complainant appealed the judgment to the Regional Trial Court. At the same time, complainant filed the present adm inistrative case against respondent Judge with the Office of the Court Administr ator (OCA). The Regional Trial Court ordered that the records of the case be rem anded to the court of origin for further proceedings on the merits of each of th e four cases. The OCA also recommended that respondent Judge be found guilty of gross ignorance of the law and grave misconduct. The Supreme Court ruled that a judge should observe the usual and traditional mode of adjudication requiring th at he should hear both sides with patience and understanding to keep the risk of reaching an unjust decision at a minimum. In this regard, he must neither sacri fice for expediency's sake the fundamental requirements of due process nor forge t that he must conscientiously endeavor each time to seek the truth, to know and aptly apply the law, and to dispose of the controversy objectively and impartia lly. The Court likewise ruled that when the ignorance of a judge is so gross, he is administratively liable even if he acted in good faith. In the case at bar, while there seemed to be no proof that respondent Judge acted maliciously in pre cipitately deciding the criminal cases against complainant, her lapses cannot si mply be ignored considering that the same pertained to an application of basic p rocedural rules which she is bound to know and observe. The mistake committed by respondent Judge is not a mere error of judgment that can be brushed aside for being minor or negligible. Rather it reflects an utter disregard of established rules which amounts to nothing less than gross ignorance of the law. Notwithstan ding the foregoing, however, the Court found no basis for the OCA's finding of g ross misconduct on the part of respondent Judge. Thus, she must only be discipli ned for her inexcusable ignorance of the law for which she was imposed a fine of P10,000.00. DSIaAE SYLLABUS 1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; TRIAL; REQUIRED BE FORE CONVICTION OF ACCUSED OF CRIME CHARGED; MODIFIED ORDER OF TRIAL, AUTHORIZED Any judge should kn WHENEVER ACCUSED ADMITS CHARGE BUT INTERPOSES LAWFUL DEFENSE. ow that before an accused can be convicted of a crime charged, it is essential t hat he be given the chance to refute the allegations against him in a proper tri al on the merits and not simply in a hearing on an incident of the case such as a motion to quash. The Rules of Court prescribe the procedure to be followed in criminal cases and respondent judge was not at liberty to disregard the rules on the flimsy excuse that the peculiarity of the criminal cases required the appli cation of any suitable proceeding in accordance with Section 6 of Rule 135. In t he first place, said provision applies only if the procedure to be followed is n ot specifically governed by law or the rules. This circumstance, however, did no t obtain in complainant's case because, assuming that she admitted the charges a s respondent judge asserts, Section 3 (e) of Rule 119 should have been applied, to wit: "SEC. 3. Order of Trial. . . . (e) However, when the accused admits the ac t or omission charged in the complaint or information but interposes a lawful de fense, the order of trial may be modified accordingly." Conformably, a modified order of trial is authorized whenever an accused admits the charge but interpose s a lawful defense. This does not mean, however, that in such a case, trial coul d be dispensed with altogether. A judge must nonetheless ascertain whether the d efense put up by the accused could withstand judicial scrutiny. In other words, while the burden of evidence is shifted to the accused to prove by clear and con vincing evidence that he is entitled to an extenuating circumstance, the trial c ourt is still duty-bound to establish that the accused, in fact, did not incur a ny liability relative to his admission. Needless to say, a regular trial on the merits is necessary for this purpose.