Sunteți pe pagina 1din 1

A PUBLIC PROSECUTOR WHO HAS BEEN ASSIGNED TO PROSECUTE A CASE AND WAS

LATER APPOINTED AS JUDGE MAY NOT HEAR AND DECIDE ON THE SAME, EVEN IF THE
ASSIGNMENT AS PROSECUTOR OCCURRED AFTER THE PROSECUTION HAS ALREADY
RESTED ITS CASE. TO DO SO WOULD VIOLATE DUE PROCESS.

Nelson Lai Y Bilbao v People


G.R. No. 175999, July 1, 2015
Bersamin, J:

Nelson Lai Y Bilbao was convicted of the crime of Homicide under Article 249 of the Revised
Penal Code, for allegedly killing Enrico Villanueva Jr. during a benefit dance that was being held
in Purok Azucena, Barangay 6, Bacolod City. Judge Fernando Elumbra heard and decided on
the case.

However, on Motion for Reconsideration, the defense argued that Elumbra should be disqualified
from hearing and deciding on the case, because he had prosecuted the same case prior to his
appointment as Judge. The Motion for Reconsideration having been denied, the issue, among
others, was raised before the Court of Appeals.

CA affirmed the judgement of the RTC, and ruled against the disqualification case on the ground
that 1) Judge Elumbra was only assigned as public prosecutor after the prosecution has already
rested its case, and 2) a petition to disqualify a judge should have been filed before the rendition
of judgement. The accused asks for relief before the Supreme Court, arguing that his right to due
process has been violated because the case was not decided by an impartial judge.

Issue:

Is a decision rendered by a trial court judge who previously prosecuted the same invalid for
violating the due process clause of the Constitution?

Held:

Yes, a judge cannot claim impartiality when he, regardless of extent of participation, had
previously prosecuted the case. “To be clear, that Judge Elumba's prior participation as the public
prosecutor was passive, or that he entered his appearance as the public prosecutor long after the
Prosecution had rested its case against the petitioner did not really matter.”

Section 5 of Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary requires
judges who had served as counsel in a case to inhibit themselves. “As such, the mere appearance
of his name as the public prosecutor in the records of Criminal Case No. 17446 sufficed to
disqualify Judge Elumba from sitting on and deciding the case.” The Constitutional right to due
process assures parties a decision of a cold, neutral judge. Such is absent in the case at bar.

Furthermore, the rule that a petition to disqualify a judge must be filed before rendition of
judgement applies only when the supposed disqualification of the judge is premised on bias as
perceived by a party. It does not apply in cases where there is a mandatory basis for
disqualification, such as what happened in the case at bar.

The decision must be set aside and is remanded to the lower court.