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BIO vs.

VALERA
A.M. No. MTJ-96-1074. June 20, 1996
PUNO, J.
The case at bar involves a sworn complaint fled by spouses ALFREDO and
FELINA IO char!in! respondent "#D$E REDENTOR %ALERA& presidin! 'ud!e
o( the )unicipal Trial *ourt o( an!ued& Abra& with violation o( R+A+ ,-./
0Anti1$ra(t and *orrupt 2ractices Act3 relative to *riminal *ase No+ 454,+
The records show that complainant1spouses were char!ed with 6ualifed
The(t in *riminal *ase No+ 454, which was fled in the sala o( respondent
'ud!e+ It appears that since ./7/& complainant1spouses have been a tenant
o( an a!ricultural land owned by Nenita %as8ue9+ In "une .//:& %ictorino
%alera& a second cousin o( respondent 'ud!e and a brother o( landowner
Nenita %as8ue9& sold portions o( the sub'ect land to ;ilvestre *astillo and
Nida Enrile+ *omplainant spouses 8uestioned the trans(er o( ownership o(
said land and fled a case at the A!rarian O<ce (or le!al redemption+
On ;eptember .=& .//:& while the a!rarian case was still pendin!& the new
landowner ;IL%E;TRE *A;TILLO e>ecuted an A<davit alle!in! that
complainant spouses and their .:1year old son& Fred io& cut trees and
shrubs on his land without his ?nowled!e or permission+ The trees and
shrubs& appro>imately worth 2@&---+--& were used by the io (amily (or their
personal consumption+ The A<davit supported *astilloAs complaint (or
6ualifed The(t a!ainst the io (amily+ It was subscribed be(ore respondent
'ud!e+
On ;eptember ./& .//:& a complaint was fled by *astillo be(ore the sala o(
respondent 'ud!e+ On ;eptember @@& .//:& respondent 'ud!e too? the
statement o( *astillo and e>amined his witness+ Respondent 'ud!e then
issued an Order fndin! probable cause to hold the io (amily liable (or
8ualifed the(t+ Be li?ewise issued a warrant o( arrest a!ainst the io spouses
and their son and f>ed their bail at 24&---+-- each+ They were arrested on
the same day& at @C,4 in the a(ternoon+
*omplainant1spouses char!e that respondent 'ud!e !ave undue beneft to
;ilvestre *astillo+ They alle!e that the complaint (or 8ualifed the(t was fled
by *astillo himsel( and not by a police o<cer& and that the order (or their
arrest was issued precipitately (or they were denied their ri!ht to fle their
*ounter1A<davit by the respondent 'ud!e+
On )ay .-& .//4& the O<ce o( the *ourt Administrator 0O*A3& this *ourt&
received the *omment o( respondent 'ud!e+ Respondent 'ud!e admits that
*riminal *ase No+ 454, (or 6ualifed The(t a!ainst the io spouses and their
son was fled in his sala+ Be conducted a preliminary investi!ation and
e>amined complainant *astillo and his witness+ Be (ound probable cause and
issued a warrant o( arrest pursuant to ;ection =& para!raph b o( the ./54
Rules o( *riminal 2rocedure+ Accused were (orthwith apprehended but fled
their bond+ They pleaded not !uilty upon arrai!nment+ At the trial& he
discovered that the acts o( accused (all under a more serious oDense& i+e+&
violation o( ;ection =5 o( 2+D+ 7-4+ Thus& he (orwarded the case to the O<ce
o( the 2rovincial 2rosecutor+ A(ter a preliminary investi!ation& the 2rovincial
2rosecutor fled a criminal case a!ainst the io (amily (or violation o( ;ection
=5 o( 2+D+ 7-4 be(ore the Re!ional Trial *ourt+
On February .:& .//=& Deputy *ourt Administrator Reynaldo L+ ;uare9
submitted his evaluation and recommendation+ Be (ound that respondent
'ud!e e>ceeded his 'urisdiction when he too? co!ni9ance o( the case (or
8ualifed the(t+ Be recommended that respondent 'ud!e be penali9ed (or
!ross i!norance o( the law and !rave abuse o( discretion+
Ee a<rm the fndin!s o( the Deputy *ourt Administrator+
;ection ,@ 0@3 o( +2+ .@/& as amended by R+A+ 7=/.& provides that )unicipal
Trial *ourts& inter alia& shall have 'urisdiction over criminal cases where the
oDense is punishable with imprisonment not e>ceedin! si> 0=3 years&
irrespective o( the amount o( the fne+
The penalty (or 8ualifed the(t& as provided under Article ,.-& in relation to
Article ,-/& o( the Revised 2enal *ode is the penalty ne>t hi!her by two 0@3
de!rees than prision correccional in its medium and ma>imum periods+
*learly then& respondent 'ud!e& as presidin! 'ud!e o( the )unicipal Trial
*ourt o( an!ued& Abra& has no 'urisdiction to try the complaint (or 8ualifed
the(t 0*riminal *ase No+ 454,3 fled by ;ilvestre *astillo in his sala+ Be should
have only conducted its preliminary investi!ation in accord with the
procedure provided in ;ection ,& Rule ..@ o( the ./54 Rules o( *riminal
2rocedure+ This procedure was not (ollowed by respondent 'ud!e+ Be merely
too? the statement o( complainant *astillo and his witness+ Be did not
subpoena the io (amily& attachin! thereto the complaint (or 8ualifed the(t
fled a!ainst them+ Be did not !ive them the opportunity to submit their
counter1a<davits and other supportin! documents+ They were not !iven the
chance to e>amine the complaint and evidence submitted by complainant
*astillo+ Indeed& on ;eptember @@& .//:& respondent 'ud!e issued a warrant
(or the arrest o( the io (amily& the same day the statement o( *astilloAs
witness was ta?en+ In the very same a(ternoon& the members o( the io
(amily were arrested and detained+ To cap it all& respondent 'ud!e did not
dra(t a resolution o( the preliminary investi!ation (or transmission to the
provincial fscal+ Instead& respondent 'ud!e assumed 'urisdiction over the
case and proceeded with the arrai!nment o( the three 0,3 accused+ The case
was re(erred to the provincial fscal only a(ter respondent discovered durin!
the trial that a more serious crime& i+e+& violation o( ;ection =5& 2+D+ 7-4& has
been committed+
These acts o( respondent 'ud!e betray his i!norance o( the law !overnin! the
scope o( his courtAs 'urisdiction and the proper procedure (or the conduct o(
preliminary investi!ation+ Bis precipitate acts and orders in conductin! the
preliminary investi!ation o( the io (amily also constitute a clear abuse o(
discretion+ "ustice )alcolm aptly described ideal 'ud!es as Fmen who have a
mastery o( the principles o( law& who dischar!e their duties in accordance
with law& who are permitted to per(orm the duties o( the o<ce undeterred by
outside inGuence& and who are independent and sel(1respectin! human units
in a 'udicial system e8ual and coordinate to the other two departments o(
!overnment+F Those who wield the 'udicial !avel have the duty to study our
laws and their latest wrin?les+ They owe it to the public to be le!ally
?nowled!eable (or i!norance o( the law is the mainsprin! o( in'ustice+
IN %IEE EBEREOF& respondent "#D$E REDENTOR + %ALERA& presidin!
'ud!e& )unicipal Trial *ourt o( an!ued& Abra is hereby (ound !uilty o( !ross
i!norance o( the law and !rave abuse o( discretion and is hereby meted a
fne o( ten thousand pesos 02.-&---+--3& with a stern warnin! that repetition
o( similar actsHomissions shall be dealt with more severely+
;O ORDERED+