SC sacks Baguio judge  on Golden Buddha case

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed a Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge who ruled that the controversial Golden Buddha was fake.

In a 13-page ruling, the SC En Banc dismissed Baguio City RTC Branch 3 Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan following the complaint filed by former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte (2nd district) Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

Pamintuan reversed the final and executory order of a co-equal court who ruled over the custody of the statuette.

In his decision, Pamintuan ruled that the Golden Buddha statuette under his custody was a fake or a mere replica of the original Golden Buddha which has a detachable head and which has been missing since 1971.

The Golden Buddha was found by locksmith-turned-treasure hunter Rogelio Roxas in 1971 near a Baguio hospital.

It was allegedly taken from him by the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

Nonetheless, the SC stressed that such issue was not part of the final and executory decision which was reversed by the other court.

“This may be his opinion or the litigants’ during the hearing…but Judge Pamintuan should have realized that the trial court did not rule on that point,” the SC said.

“Judge Pamintuan indeed made a serious error in making such a pronouncement in the challenged order…It is axiomatic that when a judgment is final and executory, it becomes immutable and unalterable. It may no longer be modified in any respect either by the court which rendered it or even by this Court,” the SC added.

“It is inexcusable for Judge Pamintuan to have overlooked such basic legal principle no matter how noble his objectives were at that time…competence is a mark of a good judge,” the SC ruled.
It noted that the case filed by Mrs. Marcos is not the first case against Pamintuan.

The SC said that Pamintuan has other administrative cases and has been suspended and fined.

“The Court doubts if he ever took seriously its previous warnings that a repetition of his offenses would merit a more severe sanction from this court…This Court should, therefore refrain from being lenient when doing so would give the public the impression that incompetence and repeated offenders are tolerated in the judiciary,” the SC added.

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