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Oriental Mindoro judge sacked by SC for soliciting bribes

The Supreme Court has dismissed a judge in Oriental Mindoro for soliciting bribes

The Supreme Court has dismissed a judge in Oriental Mindoro for soliciting bribes from lawyers, litigants, and local elective officials in exchange for favorable actions.

In a 44-page decision promulgated in October 2023, the SC En Banc found Judge Edralin Reyes, the presiding judge of a Roxas City Regional Trial Court, guilty of gross misconduct and ordered his dismissal from service.

The Court also ordered the forfeiture of Reyes’ retirement benefits and other benefits, except accrued leave credits, as well as a P17,500 fine.

He has also been perpetually disqualified from re-employment in any branch or agency of government, including government-owned or controlled corporations. 

According to the court, it assigned a laptop to Reyes in August 2018.

After the judge returned the laptop in December 2019, the Management Information Systems Office (MISO) examined the laptop and found a backup of iPhone messages, some of which showed that Reyes was engaged in corrupt practice.

The MISO then reported the same to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA). 

The OCA Investigating Team found that Reyes was the user of the laptop and the owner of the iPhone.

The court said that he used the phone to communicate and ask for bribes from several lawyers and private individuals in exchange for favorable action on cases pending before him. 

“The audit confirmed that Reyes demanded and asked for bribes in exchange for orders or resolutions granting bail or its reduction, decisions of acquittal, orders granting motion to travel abroad, and orders allowing plea to a lesser offense,” it said.

In his comment, Reyes said that the retrieval of his private phone data from the laptop was a “brazen violation of his constitutional right to privacy of correspondence.”  

However, the SC said that a government-issued computer, even if privately controlled, is subject to regulation and monitoring by the government employer.

“Reyes had no expectation of privacy for electronic communications stored in the subject laptop. The Court stressed that for judges and court employees, laptops and computers are provided to facilitate the courts’ function of adjudicating cases, and are not meant for private purposes,” it said.

The SC held that there is no violation of his right to privacy. —Joahna Lei Casilao/ VAL, GMA Integrated News