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In 1998, two criminal cases were filed before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur, presided by Judge Salvador Occiano. The public prosecutor filed a motion for the issuance of a hold-departure order (HDO) against the accused in the criminal cases. Judge Occiano granted the motion. The Commission on Immigration and Deportation received a copy of the HDO but they referred it to the Department of Justice. The DOJ referred the HDO to the Office of the Court Administrator as the DOJ was aware that hold-departure orders may be issued only in criminal cases within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts.
ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Occiano is guilty of grave misconduct.
HELD: Yes. OCA Circular No. 39-97 clearly states that hold-departure orders may be issued only in criminal cases within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts. MTCs, MeTCs, MTCCs, and MCTCs are not authorized to issue HDOs. Judge Occiano knows this yet he chose to issue the HDO nonetheless. He is aware of OCA Circ. No. 39-97 yet he chose to ignore it. This was clear from his explanation that he believes that the issuance of a HDO is an inherent power of the court.
Judge Occiano cannot take refuge behind his alleged zeal for the early termination of the criminal cases in question. Against the demands of sheer speed in disposing of cases, judges should be reminded that their mission above all is to see that justice is done. Judge Occiano issued the hold-departure order without authority. It was a clear case of a violation of the accused’s right and liberty to travel. The very essence of Circular No. 39-97 is to avoid the indiscriminate issuance of hold-departure orders resulting in inconvenience to the parties affected which is tantamount to an infringement on their right and liberty to travel.