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THIRD DIVISION

Eugenio Juan R. Gonzalez,


Complainant,

A.M. No. MTJ-06-1653


(Formerly OCA IPI No. 03-1498-MTJ)

Present:

- versus -

YNARES-SANTIAGO, C.J.
Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO, and
NACHURA, JJ.

Judge Lizabeth G. Torres,


Promulgated:
Metropolitan
Trial
Court,
Branch 60, Mandaluyong City,
July 30, 2007
Respondent.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

RESOLUTION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
This is an Administrative Complaint[1] filed by Eugenio Juan R. Gonzalez
(Gonzalez) against Judge Lizabeth G. Torres (Judge Torres), Presiding Judge of
the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Branch 60, Mandaluyong City, for the
Violations of Section 15, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution and Rules 3.08 and
3.09, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, relative to Criminal Case No.
71984 entitled, People of the Philippines v. Revelina R. Limson pending before
said court.
It stemmed from an earlier complaint for perjury filed by Gonzalez against
Revelina R. Limson (Limson) with the Mandaluyong Prosecutors Office. After

the submission of the necessary pleadings by the respective parties, the


Mandaluyong Prosecutors Office recommended the filing of an information for
perjury against Limson. Accordingly, the appropriate information was filed with
the MeTC of Mandaluyong City and was raffled to Branch 60, where it was
docketed as Criminal Case No. 71984. Thereafter, trial ensued.
After Gonzalez rested his case, the defendant Limson, instead of presenting
evidence, filed a Manifestation/Motion to Admit Attached Demurrer to Evidence,
which was granted by the court in an Order dated 18 May 2002. The order also
gave Gonzalez ten days within which to file his comment, which the latter
submitted on 14 June 2002. Gonzalez averred that the Demurrer to Evidence
was first considered submitted for resolution on 20 June 2002. However, on 26
August 2002, a hearing was set but the said issue was not resolved. Judge Torres
again considered the said matter submitted for resolution.
In his complaint dated 23 October 2003, Gonzalez charged Judge Torres
with delay in resolving Limsons Demurrer to Evidence. Gonzalez called the
attention of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to the fact that, per the
certification dated 21 October 2003 of the Branch Clerk of Court of MeTC, Branch
60, the issue relating to the Demurrer to Prosecution Evidence in Criminal Case
No. 71984 remains unresolved. He prayed that Judge Torres be ordered to inhibit
herself from further taking cognizance of the pending issue and of other matters in
connection with Criminal Case No. 71984.
Through an Indorsement dated 7 November 2003, OCA required Judge
Torres to submit her comment on Gonzalezs complaint within ten days from
receipt of said indorsement. On 3 December 2003, Judge Torres requested for an
extension of 20 days within which to file the required comment which the OCA
granted on 15 January 2004.
On 11 March 2004, the OCA sent a 1st Tracer to Judge Torres reminding her
of its directive for her to comment on the allegations in Gonzalezs administrative
complaint. Judge Torres was also warned that, should she fail to comply within
five days from receipt of the 1st Tracer, the matter shall be submitted to the Court
without her comment.

Subsequently, the OCA received a letter dated 5 April 2004 from Judge
Torres wherein she requested a further extension of 20 days from 5 April 2004 to
submit her comment, which the OCA again granted on 21 April 2004. Judge
Torres was thus given until 26 April 2004 within which to submit her comment.
However, on 21 January 2005, the OCA once more received a letter from
Judge Torres, requesting for another extension of 20 days within which to submit
her comment on Gonzalezs administrative complaint against her. Her request for
extension was granted for the third time by the OCA on 26 January 2005.
Judge Torres finally submitted her Comment dated 20 February 2006. In her
Comment, she averred that the record of Criminal Case No. 71984 was rigged and
that Gonzalez cited orders that she did not issue. The hearing dates Gonzalez
referred to were without minutes; and those with minutes, were not signed by legal
stenographers, or if they were signed, the signatures were unidentifiable or were
not of the legal stenographers signatures on record. Proof of service of the alleged
orders she issued to the adversarial parties was either missing or dubious.
Judge Torres added that the pleadings in Criminal Case No. 71984 were
being filed inconsistently. Some were filed directly at Branch 60, while others
were filed at the Office of the Clerk of Court without record of when the same
were purportedly forwarded to her branch. She could not review the records of
Criminal Case No. 71984 as fast as she wanted to because said records were
merely fastened, and the pleadings were not filed chronologically.
She further countered that since 18 May 2002, she had no official
intervention in Criminal Case No. 71984. She was constrained to inhibit herself
from acting on Limsons Demurrer to Evidence to protect the MeTC of
Mandaluyong City from being drawn into the real controversy between the
Gonzalezes and their adversaries over the Wack-Wack Apartments.
She expressed offense that the acts alleged by Gonzalez in his
administrative complaint made her appear remiss in her duties. Respondent
reasoned that she was acting on inherited cases as inventoried by the court staff
and the records were disorganized. In fact, she claimed that she had already
personally gone to the OCA Legal Staff to explain her predicament.

While admitting that she was not able to quickly comment on the present
administrative case, she invoked her case load and added duties as Executive Judge
of MeTCMandaluyong City, as well as the four vacancies in her branch (i.e.,
branch clerk of court, sheriff, legal researcher and stenographer) as her reasons for
the delay.
On 6 July 2006, the OCA submitted its report[2] on Gonzalezs
administrative complaint against Judge Torres, with the following recommendation

Respectfully submitted for the consideration of the Honorable Court are


our recommendations that the instant case be RE-DOCKETED as a regular
administrative matter and respondent Judge Torres be FINED Twenty Thousand
Pesos (P20,000.00) and WARNED that further infraction of the Rules of Court
shall be dealt with more severely.

On 23 August 2006, we required[3] the parties to manifest within 10 days


from notice if they were willing to submit the matter for resolution based on the
pleadings
filed. On 26
October
2006,
Gonzalez
submitted
his
[4]
Manifestation stating that he was submitting the case for resolution based on the
pleadings filed. Judge Torres, on the other hand, asked for an extension[5] of 20
days from 30 October 2006 within which to submit her manifestation, which we
granted on 22 November 2006.[6] Judge Torres, however, still failed to file her
manifestation within the extended period despite the notice sent to and received by
her. Thus, we deemed that Judge Torres had already waived[7] her right to submit
supplemental comment/pleadings herein.
Resultantly, the case is submitted for decision based on the pleadings filed,
after a review of which, we find ourselves agreeing in the recommendation of the
OCA.
As a general principle, rules prescribing the time within which certain acts
must be done, or certain proceedings taken, are considered absolutely
indispensable to the prevention of needless delays and to the orderly and speedy

discharge of judicial business. By their very nature, these rules are regarded as
mandatory.[8]
The office of the judge exacts nothing less than faithful observance of the
Constitution and the law in the discharge of official duties. [9] Section 15(1),
Article VIII of the Constitution, mandates that cases or matters filed with the lower
courts must be decided or resolved within three months from the date they are
submitted for decision or resolution. Moreover, Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the Code of
Judicial Conduct, directs judges to dispose of the courts business promptly and
decide cases within the required periods. Judges must closely adhere to the Code
of Judicial Conduct in order to preserve the integrity, competence and
independence of the judiciary and make the administration of justice more
efficient.[10] Time and again, we have stressed the need to strictly observe this duty
so as not to negate our efforts to minimize, if not totally eradicate, the twin
problems of congestion and delay that have long plagued our courts. Finally,
Canons 6 and 7 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics exhort judges to be prompt and
punctual in the disposition and resolution of cases and matters pending before their
courts, to wit:
6. PROMPTNESS
He should be prompt in disposing of all matters submitted to him, remembering
that justice delayed is often justice denied.
7. PUNCTUALITY
He should be punctual in the performance of his judicial duties, recognizing that
the time of litigants, witnesses, and attorneys is of value and that if the judge is
unpunctual in his habits, he sets a bad example to the bar and tends to create
dissatisfaction with the administration of justice.[11]

Also relevant herein is Administrative Circular No. 1, dated 28 January


1988, which requires all magistrates to observe scrupulously the periods prescribed
in Article VIII, Section 15 of the Constitution, and to act promptly on all motions
and interlocutory matters pending before their courts.

In the case at bar, Limsons Demurrer to Evidence in Criminal Case


No. 71984 was submitted for resolution on 20 June 2002. The same was still
pending even after Gonzales had filed this administrative case on 23 October 2003.
Respondent Judge Torres presented several excuses for her delay in
resolving the Demurrer to Evidence in Criminal Case No. 71984 and in filing her
comment to the present administrative case, among which were her heavy case
load, additional duties as Executive Judge of the MeTC of Mandaluyong City, the
vacancies in her branch, and the disorganized record-keeping. These will not
exonerate her.
Prompt disposition of cases is attained basically through the efficiency and
dedication to duty of judges. If they do not possess those traits, delay in the
disposition of cases is inevitable, to the prejudice of litigants. Accordingly, judges
should be imbued with a high sense of duty and responsibility in the discharge of
their obligation to promptly administer justice.[12]
The administrative responsibility for the prompt and speedy disposition of
cases rests on the judges shoulders. The Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges
to organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient
dispatch of business, and require at all times the observance of high standards of
public service and fidelity. The same Code charges him with the duty of diligently
discharging administrative responsibilities, maintaining professional competence in
court management, and facilitating the performance of the administrative functions
of other judges and court personnel.[13]
The absence of an efficient record system in her court may not be used by
Judge Torres in failing to resolve the Demurrer to Evidence in Criminal Case No.
71984. It is incumbent upon her to devise an efficient recording and filing system
in her court so that no disorderliness can affect the flow of cases and their speedy
disposition. A judge cannot take refuge behind the inefficiency or mismanagement
of his court personnel since proper and efficient court management is her
responsibility. Court personnel are not the guardians of a judges responsibilities.
The efficient administration of justice cannot accept as an excuse the shifting of the
blame from one court personnel to another. A judge should be the master of his
own domain and take responsibility for the mistakes of his subjects.[14] He is the

one directly responsible for the proper discharge of his official functions. Judges
cannot escape administrative liability by pointing to lapses, absences or negligence
of court personnel under them.[15]
It must be stressed that the primordial and most important duty of every
member of the bench is decision-making. Furthermore, as administrators of their
respective courts, judges have the primary responsibility of maintaining the
professional competences of their staff. Prompt disposition of the courts business
is attained through proper and efficient court management, and a judge is remiss in
his duty and responsibility as court manager if he fails to adopt a system of record
management.[16]
As frontline officials of the judiciary, judges should, at all times, act with
efficiency and with probity. They are duty-bound not only to be faithful to the law,
but likewise to maintain professional competence. The pursuit of excellence must
be their guiding principle. This is the least that judges can do to sustain the trust
and confidence which the public reposed in them and the institution they
represent.[17]
Her failure to decide the case on time cannot be ignored. As we ruled
in Espaola v. Panay,[18] if the case load of the judge prevents the disposition of
cases within the reglementary period, again, he should ask this Court for a
reasonable extension of time to dispose of the cases involved. This is to avoid or
dispel any suspicion that something sinister or corrupt is going on. The Court,
cognizant of the heavy case load of some judges and mindful of the difficulties
encountered by them in the disposition thereof, is almost always disposed to grant
such requests on meritorious grounds.[19]
If it was indeed true that Judge Torres was prevented from the timely
disposition of her pending cases, including Criminal Case No. 71984, by her case
load, additional assignments or designations, lack of personnel, and any other
reason, all she had to do was to simply ask this Court for a reasonable extension of
time to dispose of her cases. The records of this administrative matter do not show
that Judge Torres made any attempt to report and request extension of time to
resolve the cases pending before her court. Instead, she preferred to remain silent,
kept the cases pending, and thus clothed the same with suspicion. Obviously, she

forgot the character of her office as a public trust, imposing upon her the highest
degree of responsibility, efficiency, as well as transparency.
Judge Torres even stated that she was constrained to inhibit herself from
acting on Limsons Demurrer to Evidence to protect the MeTC of Mandaluyong
City from being drawn into the controversy between the Gonzalezes and their
adversaries over the Wack-Wack Apartments. Such an excuse is feeble and
unacceptable, hardly expected from a judge. First and foremost, it is precisely
Judge Torres duty to settle controversies between adversarial parties. Judge
Torres cannot shirk from the responsibility of resolving a case pending before her
court because she is afraid that her court will be dragged into a
controversy. Second, her fear that her court will be dragged into an even bigger
controversy between Gonzalez and other parties involving the Wack-Wack
Apartments is unfounded considering that the MeTC can only take cognizance of
the issues pending before it and over which it has jurisdiction. Third, Judge
Torres course of action is totally baseless and irrational. She cannot keep
Criminal Case No. 71984 pending before her court, neither proceeding with it nor
dismissing it, for an undetermined period of time or hopefully, perhaps, until the
Wack-Wack Apartments controversy has blown over. And fourth, Judge Torres
actions, instead of protecting her court, has actually done more damage to it,
raising doubts and suspicions as to its credibility, impartiality, and
independence.
We note that the case left unresolved by Judge Torres is a criminal case. As
we previously stressed, the unjustified delay in the dispensation of justice cuts both
ways. On the part of the accused, since his liberty is at stake, his suffering is
unduly prolonged on account of the judges failure to promptly render the
judgment of acquittal. On the part of the offended party, the excruciating pain of
waiting for the sentencing of the accused gives the offended party the impression
of impropriety that could diminish his trust in the judicial system.[20]
Indeed, we have consistently impressed upon judges the need to decide cases
promptly and expeditiously on the principle that justice delayed is justice
denied. This oft-repeated adage requires the expeditious resolution of disputes,
much more so in criminal cases where an accused is constitutionally guaranteed
the right to a speedy trial, which, as defined, is one [c]onducted according to the

law of criminal procedure and the rules and regulations, free from vexatious,
capricious and oppressive delays. The primordial purpose of this constitutional
right is to prevent the oppression of the accused by delaying criminal prosecution
for an indefinite period of time. It is likewise intended to prevent delays in the
administration of justice by requiring judicial tribunals to proceed with reasonable
dispatch in the trial of criminal prosecutions.[21]
Failure to resolve cases submitted for decision within the period fixed by
law constitutes a serious violation of the constitutional right of the parties to a
speedy disposition of their cases.[22]
We cannot overstress this policy on prompt disposition or resolution of
cases. Delay in case disposition is a major culprit in the erosion of public faith and
confidence in the judiciary and the lowering of its standards.[23] Failure to decide
cases within the reglementary period, without strong and justifiable reason,
constitutes gross inefficiency warranting the imposition of administrative sanction
on the defaulting judge.[24]
Finally, this Court takes notice of the fact that respondent judge filed her
comment on the present complaint more than one year from the time the OCA
issued a directive[25] for her to do so. As a judge, Judge Torres ought to know that
all directives coming from the Court Administrator and his deputies are issued in
the exercise of this Courts administrative supervision of trial courts and their
personnel, hence, said directives should be respected. Directives issued by the
OCA should not be construed as mere requests, and should be complied with
promptly and completely. Failure to comply accordingly betrays not only a
recalcitrant streak in character, but also disrespect for a lawful order and
directive. Judge Torres reasoning that she needed more time to be able to make a
detailed comment is not sufficient for her to just ignore the deadline set by
OCA. It took resolutions issued by this Court for Judge Torres to finally file her
comment. Even then, Judge Torres had asked for several more extensions (on 3
December 2003, 5 April 2004 and on 21 January 2005) before actually filing her
comment on 20 February 2005.
On the matter of Gonzalezs prayer that Judge Torres be ordered to inhibit
herself from Criminal Case No. 719841 on grounds of bias and partiality, be it

noted that Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. (then Court Administrator)
already issued an Order[26] that the motion for inhibition should be filed with the
judge sought to be inhibited. Pertinent portions of said Order read:
Please be advised that under Administrative Circular No. 1 dated 28 January
1998, inhibitions are :judicial actions which do not require prior administrative
approval. Under Circular No. 7 dated 10 November 1980, orders arising from
motions for inhibitions should not be treated as administrative in character but
should be considered as judicial. The party who alleges to be aggrieved may apply
for the appropriate legal remedy.
In the situation at hand, a motion for inhibition should be filed with the judge
involved. And, pursuant to the aforecited provisions, should the party who seeks
the inhibition of the judge feel aggrieved by the action taken by the judge
involved, then he should take the appropriate legal remedies.

All told, we find Judge Torres guilty of undue delay in resolving Limsons
Demurrer to Evidence in Criminal Case No. 71984 which, under Section 9(1), Rule
140 of the Revised Rules of Court, is classified as a less serious charge. Under
Section 11(B) of the same Rule, the penalty for such charge is suspension from
office without salary and other benefits for not less than one nor more than three
months, or a fine of more than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00.
It must be noted also that Judge Torres was already penalized and was
fined P20,000.00 for her inefficiency and Violation of Judicial Conduct in A.M.
No. MTJ-05-1611 entitled, Antonio del Mundo v. Judge Lilibeth G. Torres. She
should have known better than to simply let the reglementary period pass by again
in another case.
There are also pending cases against Judge Torres in which she is charged
with the following: (1) Inefficiency, Gross Negligence, Grave Abuse of Discretion
and Violation of Code of Judicial Conduct, docketed as OCA IPI No. 03-1464MTJ, in which she was ordered to pay a fine of P1,000.00 for failure to file her
comment therein; (2) Violation of Section 15, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution,
and Rules 3.08 and 3.09, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Grave
Prejudice, docketed as OCA IPI No. 03-1496-MTJ; (3) Culpable violation of the
Constitution, Gross Ignorance of the law and Violation of the New Code of
Judicial Conduct, docketed as OCA-IPI-1806-MTJ; and (4) Unreasonable Delay in

Resolving Criminal Case and Gross Inefficiency, docketed as OCA IPI No. 041606-MTJ.
Given the foregoing premises, we find that the imposition of the maximum
amount of fine, P20,000.00, reasonable.
WHEREFORE, Judge Lizabeth G. Torres, Presiding Judge of the
Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 60, Mandaluyong City, is found guilty of undue
delay in resolving the Demurrer to Evidence in Criminal Case No. 71984 and is
hereby ordered to pay a FINE of TWENTY THOUSAND (P20,000.00) PESOS.
She is warned that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more
severely. Let a copy of this decision be attached to her personal records. The
Court Administrator is directed to furnish all concerned copies of this Resolution.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MA.
ALICIA AUSTRIA-

Associate Justice

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]
[8]

[9]

[10]

438
[11]

[12]

[13]
[14]

[15]
[16]

[17]
[18]

[19]
[20]

[21]
[22]

[23]

[24]
[25]
[26]

MARTINEZ ANTONIO
EDUARDO B. NACHURA
Associate Justice

Rollo, pp. 1-6.


Id. at 53-56.
Id. at 57-58.
Id. at 61-62.
Id. at 59.
Id. at 63.
Id. at 65.
Gachon v. Devera, Jr., G.R. No. 116695, 20 June 1997, 274 SCRA 540, 548-549, citing Valdez v.
Ocumen, 106 Phil. 929, 933 (1960) and Alvero v. De la Rosa, 76 Phil. 428, 434 (1946).
Re: Report of Deputy Court Administrator Bernardo T. Ponferada Re: Judicial Audit Conducted in the
RTC, Branch 26, Argao, Cebu, A.M. No. 00-4-09-SC, 23 February 2005, 452 SCRA 125, 132.
Office of the Court Administrator v. Javellana, A.M. No. RTJ-02-1737, 9 September 2004,
SCRA 1, 14.
Office of the Court Administrator v. Alumbres, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1965, 23 January 2006, 479 SCRA 375,
386.
Re: Report on the Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of Cases in the Regional
Trial Court, Br. 54, Bacolod City, A.M. No. 06-4-219-RTC, 2 November 2006, 506 SCRA 505, 520.
Bajet v. Baclig, 434 Phil. 564, 574 (2002).
Re: Cases Left Undecided by Retired Judge Antonio E. Arbis, Regional Trial Court, Branch
48, Bacolod City, 443 Phil. 496, 502 (2003).
Office of the Court Administrator v. Alumbres, supra note 11 at 388.
Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 22, Manila, A.M. No.
00-1-10-RTC, 10 September 2004, 438 SCRA 111, 125.
Id. at 125-126.
A.M. No. RTJ-95-1325, 4 October 1995, 248 SCRA 684, 687, citing Cruz v. Basa, A.M. No. MTJ-91598, 9 February 1993, 218 SCRA 551, 557.
Judge Gonzales-Decano v. Judge Siapno, 405 Phil. 752, 763 (2001).
Report on Judicial Audit conducted in Regional Trial Court, Branches 29 and 59, Toledo City, 354 Phil.
8, 21 (1998).
Guerrero v. Judge Deray, 442 Phil. 85, 91-92 (2002).
Re: Judicial Audit of the Regional Trial Court, Br. 14, Zamboanga City, Presided over by Hon. Ernesto
R. Gutierrez, 482 Phil. 310, 320 (2006).
Re: Report of Deputy Court Administrator Bernardo T. Ponferada, Re: Judicial Audit Conducted in the
RTC, Branch 26, Argao, Cebu, A.M. No. 00-4-09-SC, 23 February 2005, 452 SCRA 125, 133.
Celino v. Judge Abrogar, 315 Phil. 305, 312 (1995).
Issued on 7 November 2003; rollo, p. 13.
Id. at 35.

SECOND DIVISION
LEA P. PAYOD,

A.C. No. 3944


Petitioner,
Present:
QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,
CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
TINGA, and
VELASCO, JR., JJ.

- versus -

ATTY.
METILA,

ROMEO

P.

Promulgated:

Respondent.

July 27,
2007

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
RESOLUTION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Lea P. Payod (Lea) charges Atty. Romeo P. Metila (respondent) with
willful neglect and gross misconduct in connection with this Courts dismissal of
her petition in G.R. No. 102764, Lea P. Payod v. Court of Appeals, by
Resolution dated February 3, 1992, reading:
Acting on the pleadings filed in this case, the Court resolved: to DENY:
(a) petitioners second motion for extension of time to file petition for review on
certiorari, as petitioners first motion for extension was denied in the resolution of
December 16, 1991 for failure to comply with the requirement of No. two (2) of
Revised Circular 1-88. Moreover, the said second motion for extension still fails
to comply with the same requirement of Revised Circular 1-88, and (b) the
petition itself, for having been filed late and for failure to comply with

requirement No. four (4) of Revised Circular 1-88, and for failure to submit the
certification required under Circular 28-91 on forum shopping.[1]

Petitioner submits that:


It is difficult to believe that practicing lawyers cannot submit very
important documents considered regular pieces of information in their practice of
law leading to default with serious consequences prejudicial to the client if the
said counsel is not ill motivated or not due to gross misconduct and willful
negligence inimical to the best interest of the client.
Together with my mother Mrs. Restituta Pelio and my sister Mrs. Portia
P. Velasco, I have found difficulty making follow-up with Atty. Romeo
P. Metila for him to comply with the submission of required documents to the
Supreme Court because of his unreasonable excuses for non-performance despite
our persistent follow-ups, payments of expenses and attorneys fees, and
willingness to supply him with materials and needed facts. More often, we got
lame excuse[s] and had his no-shows in appointed meetings at the Supreme
Court.[2]

Respondent denies the charges and gives his side of the case as follows:
The case was referred to him by Leas mother on November 29, 1991, six
days before the period to perfect an appeal to this Court expired, without supplying
him with any document bearing on the case other than the Court of Appeals
resolution denying Leas motion for reconsideration.[3]
He thus told Leas mother that he would only file a motion to stay the
running of the prescriptive period of appeal and advised her to look for another
lawyer who could assist her in getting the complete certified records of the case
from the Court of Appeals and in filing a petition for review with this Court.
Neither Lea nor her mother communicated with him, however, until January
21, 1992, forcing him to finance and defray all the expenses for the initiation of the
appeal.
He concludes there was no attorney-client relationship between him and Lea,
there being no Special Power of Attorney authorizing her mother to hire him as a
lawyer in her behalf.[4]

After investigation, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Committee on


Bar Discipline, to which the complaint was referred, found respondent guilty of
simple negligence and recommended that he be seriously admonished and required
to undergo three units of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education in Remedial law
for his failure to update himself with the developments in the legal profession and
for the cavalier manner by which he denied the existence of an attorney-client
relationship when one in fact existed.[5]
The IBP Board of Directors adopted the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner that respondent be seriously admonished.
This Court upholds the finding and recommendation of the IBP.
In failing to comply with the requirements in initiating complainants appeal
before this Court in G.R. No. 102764 even after his attention to it was called by this
Court, respondent fell short of the standards required in the Canon of Professional
Responsibility for a lawyer to keep abreast of legal developments[6] and serve
his client with competence and diligence.[7]
That Leas mother did not have a Special Power of Attorney to hire
respondent on Leas behalf is immaterial, given that he actually initiated the appeal,
albeit unsuccessfully.
It need not be underlined that a lawyer who accepts a case must give it his
full attention, diligence, skill, and competence,[8] and his negligence in connection
therewith renders him liable.[9]
The circumstances attendant to respondents initial handle of Leas case
do not warrant a finding of gross negligence, or sheer absence of real effort on his
part to defend her cause.[10]
Respondent accepted Leas case upon her mothers insistence, with only six
days for him to file a petition for review before this Court, and without her
furnishing him with complete records, not to mention money, for the reproduction
of the needed documents. Despite these constraints, respondent exerted efforts,
albeit lacking in care, to defend his clients cause by filing two motions for

extension of time to file petition. And he in fact filed the petition within the time he
requested,[11] thus complying with the guideline of this Court that lawyers should at
least file their pleadings within the extended period requested should their motions
for extension of time to file a pleading be unacted upon.[12]
Neither do the circumstances warrant a finding that respondent was
motivated by ill-will. In the absence of proof to the contrary, a lawyer enjoys a
presumption of good faith in his favor.[13]

WHEREFORE, respondent, Atty. Romeo Metila, is SERIOUSLY


ADMONISHED with WARNING that similar charges will be severely dealt with.
SO ORDERED.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]
[10]
[11]

[12]

[13]

Rollo Vol. 1, p. 15.


Id. at 2.
Id. at 67.
Id. at 66.
Id. at 488-489.
Canon 5, Code of Professional Responsibility.
Canon 18, Code of Professional Responsibility.
Vide Santiago v. Fojas, Adm. Case No. 4103, September 7, 1995, 248 SCRA 68, 75.
Canon 18, Rule 18.03, Code of Professional Responsibility.
Vide Salonga v. Court of Appeals, 336 Phil. 514, 527 (1997).
In his Second Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition, Atty. Metila prayed for an extension of 15 days
from January 4, 1992 or up to January 19, 1992 within which to file [the] petition, and the petition was filed on
January 17, 1992. Rollo, pp. 215-216.
Vide Roxas v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-76549, December 10, 1987, 156 SCRA 252, 256-257; Antonio v.
Jacinto, 121 Phil. 1128, 1131 (1965).
Vide Maligaya v. Doronila, Jr., A.C. No. 6198, September 15, 2006, 502 SCRA 1, 8.

EN BANC

CARMEN P. EDAO,
1974 Complainant,

A.M. No. RTJ-06(formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 05-2226-RTJ)

Present:

- versus -

JUDGE FATIMA G. ASDALA,


RTC Br. 87, Quezon City, and
STENOGRAPHER MYRLA DEL
PILAR NICANDRO, RTC Br. 217,
Quezon City,
Respondents.

PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
GARCIA,
VELASCO, JR., and
NACHURA, JJ.
Promulgated:

July 26, 2007


x--------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
This administrative complaint was initiated by a handwritten complaint to
the Supreme Court, through Assistant Court Administrator Antonio H. Dujua

dated March 28, 2005, by the complainant Carmen P. Edao charging Judge
Fatima G. Asdala, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 87, of
grave abuse of discretion and authority, and of conduct unbecoming of a judge. A
complaint was also lodged against Myrla Nicandro, a stenographer detailed in the
same RTC branch, for usurpation of authority, grave misconduct and unauthorized
solicitations. Upon receipt of the complaint, we referred it to Court of Appeals
(CA) Associate Justice Mariano C. del Castillo for investigation in order to
ascertain the veracity of the complainants accusations and grievances.[1]
The complaint stemmed from a civil case for Support with a prayer for
Support Pendente Lite[2] filed by the complainant on behalf of her two minor
children, Carlo and Jay-ar, against George Butler, who denies paternity of the
children. Then pairing judge, Teodoro A. Bay, issued an Order dated November
12, 1999, directing defendant Butler to provide support pendente lite in the amount
of P5,000 per month to be delivered to the mother (the complainant herein) within
the first five (5) days of each month.[3] A writ of execution was subsequently
issued which included the garnishing of rental payments for the apartments in
Cubao, Quezon City, which are being managed by defendantButler. It was at this
juncture that respondent Judge Asdala took cognizance of the case.
Due to the failure of defendant Butler to comply with the November 12,
1999 Order of the trial court, despite several reprimands and orders to implement,
complainant Edao moved to cite defendant Butler in contempt. On November 23,
2004, respondent Judge Asdala found defendant Butler guilty of indirect contempt
and sentenced him to four (4) months imprisonment and a P30,000.00
fine. Subsequently a Bench Warrant was issued against defendant Butler.[4]

On January 25, 2005, after privately meeting with defendant Butler in her
chambers, respondent Judge Asdala issued the following ex-parte Order:
Following his knowledge of Bench Warrant against him, defendant
George Butler, personally appeared before the Presiding Judge and pleaded that
the contempt fine imposed against him be reduced to P5,000.00 and that the
Bench Warrant be recalled.
The matter will be taken under advisement.
SO ORDERED.[5]

The following ex-parte Order was also issued by respondent Judge Asdala:
In the highest interest of justice, the October 7, 2004 and November 26,
2004[6] Order finding the defendant guilty of indirect contempt is hereby
reconsidered. As such, the fine is reduced to P5,000.00 and the corresponding
order of imprisonment is set aside.
SO ORDERED.[7]

On February 1, 2005, defendant Butler paid the P5,000.00 fine.[8] On March


22, 2005, respondent Judge Asdala dismissed complainant Edaos suit on the
ground of insufficiency of evidence.[9] The case is now pending before the CA
after the appellate court ordered the trial court to give due course to the
complainants notice of appeal.
In the complainants letter-complaint, she laments the fact that without
notice, much less consent, respondent Judge Asdala met privately with defendant
Butler in her chambers to discuss the finding of indirect contempt against the latter
without any hearing or minutes of the proceedings and without her or her counsels
participation. As a result of the said private meeting, the fine was reduced
from P30,000 to P5,000, the order of imprisonment was deleted, and the Bench
Warrant was recalled. The complainant likewise alleges that respondent Judge
Asdala forced her to file a complaint for neglect of duty against her own counsel,
Atty. Rowena Alejandria, with the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), as respondent
Judge Asdala had a grudge against Atty. Alejandria. She likewise claims that she
was given P1,000 by respondent Judge Asdala for her silence. The complainant

also faults respondent Judge Asdala for ordering the support pendente lite to be
deposited with the Office of the Clerk of Court instead of being directly given to
the complainant and for applying the money thus deposited to the payment of
the P5,000 fine instead of being given to the complainant. Further, she questions
the dismissal of the civil case for support on the ground of insufficiency of
evidence, alleging that the basis of the findings is the testimony of Butler which
was already stricken off the record as ofJanuary 28, 2001.
As against respondent Myrla Nicandro, the complainant alleges that the
former subtracted certain amounts from the P10,000 deposited by
defendant Butlers daughter, Cristy, before turning over the money to
her. Allegedly, the amounts subtracted were given to the respondents. The
complainant likewise questions respondent Nicandros discharge of the functions
of Officer-in-Charge (OIC)/ Acting Branch Clerk of Court when the Supreme
Court, through the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), did not approve her
designation as such.
In her defense, respondent Judge Asdala avers that the recall of the bench
warrant and the reduction of the fine are matters of judicial discretion. She insists
that, after the representation of Mr. Butler of his financial inability to pay the
original fine, the amendment to her previous orders was more in keeping with
justice and fairness. Respondent Judge Asdala likewise denies the charges that she
instigated a complaint against Atty. Alejandria. She points to the fact that the
complainant herself wrote a letter of apology dated November 19, 2004 to Atty.
Alejandria withdrawing her complaint and retracting the statements made
therein. As for the designation of respondent Nicandro as OIC for administrative
services in Branch 87, respondent Judge Asdala avers that the same was with the
knowledge of the Executive Judge of Quezon City; and that as presiding judge of
Branch 87, she has the discretion and the authority to appoint whoever has her trust
and confidence. With regard to the decision to dismiss the civil case for support,
respondent Judge Asdala maintains that the proper remedy is to elevate the matter
to the appellate court and not to file an administrative case against her.
Respondent Nicandro, for her part, denies misrepresenting herself as
OIC. She avers that she was acting under the designation made by respondent
Judge Asdala, with the knowledge of the Executive Judge. As for the other
accusations made by the complainant, respondent Nicandro insists that the same

are blatant lies. She denies soliciting money from the complainant, and avers that
it was in fact the complainant who would frequently go to Branch 87 and borrow
money from the court personnel who, out of pity, would oblige to lend her small
amounts from time to time. She maintains that at the time the complainant claimed
the P10,000 deposited by Butler, respondent Nicandro reminded her of her debts to
a number of court personnel P400 to process server Lito de la Cruz, P100 to
Sheriff Victor Yaneza, and P100 to court stenographer Elenita
Ribaya. Respondent Nicandro allegedly reminded the complainant that she owed
respondent Judge Asdala P500 which the latter gave as payment for Sheriffs
fee. The payment, however, was no longer accepted by the respondent judge who,
instead, directed respondent Nicandro to use the same to buy snacks for the court
staff. The same was corroborated by respondent Judge Asdala.
As stated in the Investigation Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Justice, the act of a judge done within his judicial discretion, such as
the reduction of fine for indirect contempt, should not be subject to disciplinary
action. In the instant complaint, however, the exercise of discretion by the
respondent is not impugned. Rather, it is the conduct of respondent Judge Asdala
in meeting with defendant Butler without notice or knowledge, much less the
presence, of the complainant or her representative that is assailed. The meeting
was not an innocuous one for it resulted in the cancellation of the bench warrant,
the revocation of the order of imprisonment and the significant reduction in the
amount of fine from P30,000.00 to P5,000.00. Respondent Judge Asdala does not
deny the private meeting, much less explain its circumstances. As rightly observed
by the Investigating Justice, the private meeting was improper, to say the least. It
deprived the complainant of her right to be heard on matters affecting her vital
interests. The secret meeting cannot but invite suspicion, for no minutes or
stenographic notes of the meeting have been presented, if any existed. Respondent
judge cannot feign ignorance of the fact that our courts are courts of record.
As the visible representation of the law and justice, judges, such as the
respondent, are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that would enhance
the respect and confidence of the people in the judicial system. [10] The New Code
of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary[11] mandates that judges must not
only maintain their independence, integrity and impartiality; but they must also
avoid any appearance of impropriety or partiality, which may erode the peoples

faith in the judiciary. Integrity and impartiality, as well as the appearance thereof,
are deemed essential not just in the proper discharge of judicial office, but also to
the personal demeanor of judges.[12] This standard applies not only to the decision
itself, but also to the process by which the decision is made. Section 1, Canon 2,
specifically mandates judges to ensure that not only is their conduct above
reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of reasonable
observers. Clearly, it is of vital importance not only that independence, integrity
and impartiality have been observed by judges and reflected in their decisions, but
that these must also appear to have been so observed in the eyes of the people, so
as to avoid any erosion of faith in the justice system.[13] Thus, judges must be
circumspect in their actions in order to avoid doubt and suspicion in the
dispensation of justice. To further emphasize its importance, Section 2, Canon 2
states:
Sec. 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the peoples
faith in the integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not merely be done but must
also be seen to be done.

As early as June 6, 2003, OCA Circular No. 70-2003 has directed judges as
follows:
In view of the increasing number of reports reaching the Office of the
Court Administrator that judges have been meeting with party litigants inside
their chambers, judges are hereby cautioned to avoid in-chambers sessions
without the other party and his counsel present, and to observe prudence at
all times in their conduct to the end that they only act impartially and with
propriety but are also perceived to be impartial and proper.[14]

Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial office. It


applies not only to the decision itself but also to the process by which the decision
is made.[15] As such, judges must ensure that their conduct, both in and out of the
court, maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal profession
and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of the judiciary. [16] In the same
vein, the Code of Judicial Conduct behooves all judges to avoid impropriety and
the appearance of impropriety in all their activities, as such is essential to the
performance of all the activities of a judge in order to maintain the trust and respect
of the people in the judiciary.[17]

In the case at bar, respondent Judge Asdalas actions as above discussed put
into question the impartiality, independence, and integrity of the process by which
the questioned amended orders were reached. Her actions miserably fell short in
the discharge of her duty as an officer of the court and as a living embodiment of
law and justice.
Further, respondent Judge Asdala, in insisting on the designation of
respondent Nicandro as OIC, blithely and willfully disregarded the Memorandum
of this Court, through the OCA, which approved the designation of Amy Soneja
alone -- and not in conjunction with respondent Nicandro -- as OIC.[18] While the
presiding judge, such as respondent Judge Asdala, can recommend and endorse
persons to a particular position, this recommendation has to be approved by this
Court. Again, the respondent judge ought to know that the Constitution grants this
Court administrative supervision over all the courts and personnel thereof. In the
case at bar, despite the Courts approval of Amy Sonejas designation, the
respondent judge allowed, if not insisted on, the continued discharge of the duties
of OIC by respondent Nicandro. Respondent Judge Asdala even had the gall to
insist that as presiding judge she has the authority and discretion to designate
anyone who works under her, as long as that person enjoys her trust and
confidence.[19] Coming from a judge, such arrogance, if not ignorance, is
inexcusable. The memorandum from the OCA regarding the designation of court
personnel is no less an order from this Court. Court officials and personnel,
particularly judges, are expected to comply with the same. Respondent judges
gross insubordination cannot be countenanced.
This is not the first time that respondent Judge Asdala has been disciplined
and penalized by this Court. She has been found guilty of various administrative
complaints in at least four (4) other occasions.[20] In 1999, in Dumlao, Jr. v.
Asdala,[21] respondent Judge Asdala was admonished for partiality. A year later,
in Bowman v. Asdala,[22]she was fined P2,000.00 for grave abuse of discretion in
nine (9) cases when she deliberately withheld and did not attach a copy of her
order of inhibition which resulted in the non-transmittal of the records of the
criminal cases. In 2005, in Manansala III v. Asdala,[23] she was likewise ordered
to pay a fine of P40,000.00, the highest fine that may be imposed for serious
offenses committed by judges and justices,[24] for gross misconduct after she
interfered with a case of a German national who was then detained at the police

station awaiting inquest investigation. In the said case, respondent Judge Asdala
requested the German nationals release from custody and asked for the amicable
settlement of the case against the latter. Compounding her transgressions,
respondent Judge Asdala likewise ordered her courts sheriff to engage the
assistance of policemen in order to retrieve the German nationals car so that it
may be turned over to her custody. Just last year, in 2006, in Request of Judge
Fatima Gonzales-Asdala, RTC-Branch 87, Quezon City, for Extension of the
Period
to
Decide
Civil
Case
No. Q-02-

46950 & 14 Others,[25] this Court once again imposed a fine of P11,000.00 on
respondent judge for her repeated and unjustifiable failure to render decisions
within the prescribed period. Each penalty imposed on her in the said cases came
with a stern warning that the subsequent commission of the same or similar offense
shall be dealt with more severely. Respondent Judge Asdala has time and time
again blatantly disregarded this stream of warnings. Such repeated infractions and
heedless transgressions can no longer be countenanced by this Court. As we have
repeatedly stressed, there is no place in the judiciary for those who cannot meet
the exacting standards of judicial conduct and integrity.[26]
Be that as it may, the accusation that respondent Judge Asdala instigated the
complainant to file a complaint against Atty. Alejandria must be dismissed for lack
of sufficient evidence. Similarly, we agree with the Investigating Justice that the
dismissal of the civil case for support cannot be a ground for administrative
complaint as the matter is on appeal with the CA and appeal is the appropriate
remedy of the aggrieved party.
Respondent Nicandro, on her part, has been accused of usurping the
functions of OIC. While she acted on the strength of the memorandum of
respondent Judge Asdala designating her as such, it is undeniable that she is aware
of the memorandum of this Court, through the OCA, approving Amy Sonejas
designation as OIC/Branch Clerk of Court. Respondent Nicandros continued
exercise of the functions of OIC after the disapproval of her designation is a clear
defiance of the instruction of this Court.
As to the charge of unauthorized solicitation, it is clear that respondent
Nicandro, at the very least, acted as collection agent of the

office staff with regard to the alleged amounts owed by complainant. Such action
on the part of respondent Nicandro lacks the propriety and proper decorum
expected of a court personnel. This is not the first time that this Court had
censured respondent Nicandros behavior in dealing with party litigants. Early this
year, on February 12, 2007, she was fined for gross insubordination for her willful
failure and indifference to the orders of this Court despite having been found in
contempt for her refusal to comply with the said orders. She was also reprimanded
for willful failure to pay a just debt despite repeated demands from the complainant
therein.[27] Such infractions are conduct highly prejudicial to the best interest of
the service.
This Court has repeatedly stressed its unbending policy not to tolerate or
condone any act or omission that falls short of the exacting norms of public office,
especially on those expected to preserve the image of the judiciary. Again, this
Court will not shirk from its responsibility of weeding out those who stain the
integrity and dignity of the judiciary.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, judgment is hereby rendered:
1.
Respondent Judge Fatima G. Asdala is found GUILTY of gross
insubordination and gross misconduct unbefitting a member of the judiciary and is
accordingly DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all salaries, benefits
and leave credits to which she may be entitled.
2.
Respondent Myrla Nicandro is found GUILTY of insubordination in
assuming the position and discharging the functions of OIC/ Branch Clerk of Court
without and in defiance of proper authority and is accordingly SUSPENDED from
the service for a period of sixty (60) days, without pay, commencing on the day
immediately following her receipt of a copy of this Decision, with a warning that a
repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely. The period
of suspension shall not be chargeable against her leave credits. Respondent
Nicandro is likewise ordered to immediately cease and desist from discharging the
functions of OIC/Branch Clerk of Court and from representing herself as such.
Respondent Nicandro is likewise REPRIMANDED for conduct prejudicial
to the best interest of the service and ordered to abstain from transacting with party
litigants other than for official purposes.

SO ORDERED.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate
Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Justice
Associate

DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]
[10]

[11]
[12]

[13]
[14]
[15]
[16]
[17]
[18]
[19]
[20]

[21]
[22]

Rollo, pp. 1-6.


Docketed as Civil Case No. Q-97-30576.
Exhibit A.
Exhibit P, Exhibit 5-Asdala.
Rollo, p. 35.
Id., p. 35; the Order referred to is actually dated November 23, 2004; rollo, pp. 9-10.
Investigation Report and Recommendation, p. 3, citing Exhibit V, Exhibit 4-Asdala.
Rollo, p. 36.
Id., pp. 38-45.
Investigation Report and Recommendation, June 19, 2006, p.10, citing Capuno v. Jaramillo, Jr., A.M.
No. RTJ-94-944.
A.M. No. 03-05-01-SC, June 1, 2004.
Office of the Court Administrator v. Barron, A.M. No. RTJ-98-420, October 8, 998, 297 SCRA 376,
392; Yuson v. Noel, A.M. No. RTJ-91-762, October 1, 1993, 227 SCRA 1, 7.
Capuno v. Jaramillo, Jr., A.M. No. RTJ-93-944, July 20, 1994, 234 SCRA 212, 232.
OCA Circular No. 70-2003, June 6, 2003; emphasis supplied.
Canon 3, Code of Judicial Conduct.
Id. at Canon 3, Section 2.
Id. at Canon 4, Section 1.
Rollo, p. 15.
Rollo, p. 178.
Dumlao, Jr. v. Asdala, A.M. No. RTJ-99-00-1428 (February 8, 1999); Bowman v. Asdala, A.M.
No. RTJ-00-1546 (March 6, 2000); Manansala III v. Asdala, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1916 (May 10, 2005);
Request of Judge Fatima Gonzales-Asdala, RTC-Branch 87, Quezon City, for Extension of the Period to
Decide Civil Case No. Q-02-46950 & 14 Others, A.M. No. 05-10-618-RTC (July 11, 2006).
A.M. No. RTJ-99-00-1428, (February 8, 1999).
A.M. No. RTJ-00-1546 (March 6, 2000).

[23]
[24]
[25]
[26]
[27]

A.M. No. RTJ-05-1916 (May 10, 2005).


Section 11 of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court.
A.M. No. 05-10-618-RTC (July 11, 2006).
Capuno, note at 13; Vistan v. Nicolas, A.M. No. MTJ-87-79 and A.C. No. 3040, September 13, 1991.
Macrina M. Bisnar v. Myrla P. Nicandro, A.M. No. P-00-1427, February 14, 2007.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION
ANG KEK CHEN,
Petitioner,

G.R. No. 161685


Present:

- versus -

QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,


CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
TINGA, and
VELASCO, JR., JJ.

SPOUSES ATTY. ELEAZAR S.


CALASAN and LETICIA B.
Promulgated:
CALASAN,
Respondents.
July 24, 2007
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:
In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Revised
Rules of Court, the distinction between actual residence and domicile comes
once again under review.
The Facts
Petitioner Ang Kek Chen resides at 1287-1291 Jose Abad Santos
Avenue corner Padre Algue Street, Tondo, 1012 Manila.[1] He is not a lawyer, and
has filed pleadings with this Court on his own behalf.

Respondent Atty. Eleazar S. Calasan was born in Aparri, Cagayan


on September 8, 1947. He has been a registered voter in Aparri, Cagayan since
1969. He owns real property, his ancestral home, which was donated to him by his
mother, situated on Quirino Street, Aparri, Cagayan.[2] However, respondent Atty.
Calasan also has a house and lot in Las Pias, Metro Manila, which he and his
family live in; has a business address at 10/F Manufacturers Building, Plaza Sta.
Cruz, 1003 Manila; applied for and received a commission as notary public from
the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC); and secured a Community Tax Certificate
in Las Pias City, Metro Manila.
Respondent Atty. Calasan was the counsel of one Jaime U. Lim, an opponent
of petitioner. Petitioner alleged that his residence had been damaged by the
corporation of which Jaime U. Lim was president.
While Atty. Calasan was acting as counsel for Jaime Lim, petitioner wrote a
letter and filed a counter-affidavit which respondent Atty. Calasan believed
maligned him, with copies furnished various people, among them high officials of
the Philippine government. Atty. Calasan then filed criminal cases for libel against
petitioner in Aparri, Cagayan, among them Crim. Case Nos. 07-1168 and VI-1094,
which were dismissed.
Petitioner responded by filing his own administrative cases against
respondent Atty. Calasan, among them Administrative Case Nos. 5444 and 6233,
alleging serious gross misconduct on the part of Atty. Calasan and praying for his
disbarment. It is noted that even among his pleadings in this particular case, even
in his final memorandum, he made references to what he believed were betrayals
of the attorneys oath by Atty. Calasan, and with repeated calls for Atty. Calasans
disbarment.
On December 4, 2001, respondents spouses Atty. Eleazar S. Calasan and
Leticia B. Calasan filed a complaint for damages with the Aparri, Cagayan RTC
against petitioner and his spouse for alleged malicious imputations against Atty.
Calasan made by petitioner, and it was docketed as Civil Case No. 08-418.[3]
On January 8, 2002, petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss on the following
grounds: (1) that the court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the claim;

(2) that the venue was improperly laid; (3) that the pleading asserting the claim
stated no cause of action; (4) that a condition precedent for filing claim had not
been complied with; (5) that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations; and
(6) that the claim or demand set forth in plaintiffs pleadings had been abandoned
or otherwise extinguished.[4]
In the February 26, 2002 Order, the Aparri, Cagayan RTC, Branch 8
dismissed the complaint on the ground that the venue had been improperly
laid.[5] Respondents fared no better in their Motion for Reconsideration of that
dismissal, as the motion was denied in the March 20, 2002 Order.[6]
The Case in the Court of Appeals
Respondents brought the matter to the Court of Appeals (CA) via a Petition
for Certiorari under Rule 65, dated April 5, 2002.[7] This was docketed as CA-G.R.
SP No. 70335.
Respondents raised one issue in their petition, thus:
RESPONDENT JUDGE ACTED WITHOUT OR IN EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION AND IN DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT FOR
ALLEGED IMPROPER VENUE AND THERE IS NO OTHER
ADEQUATE, PLAIN AND SPEEDY REMEDY IN THE ORDINARY
COURSE OF LAW OTHER THAN THIS PETITION.[8]

In a Decision promulgated on August 12, 2002, the Special Fifth Division of


the CA dismissed the petition for lack of merit.[9]
On August 26, 2002, respondents filed their Motion for
Reconsideration[10] of the CA Decision, which was granted by the CA in
its November 21, 2002 Resolution, the dispositive portion of which reads as
follows:
WHEREFORE, the
motion
for
reconsideration
is
hereby GRANTED. Our decision dated August 12, 2002 is SET
ASIDE and a new one entered SETTING ASIDE the trial courts order
dated February 26, 2002 and March 20, 2002. The trial Judge is

hereby ORDERED to proceed with the trial of Civil Case no. 08-418 with
utmost dispatch.
SO ORDERED.[11]

Dissatisfied with the result, Ang Kek Chen filed the present petition
on March 5, 2004.
The Issues
Petitioner, who is not represented by counsel, presents the issues in the case
as follows:
(A) WHETHER OR NOT, the Petition for Certiorari was
CORRECTLY
DISMISSED by the Honorable Court of Appeals in CA G.R. SP No. 70335
in its decision promulgated
on August 12, 2002, ANNEX C of this
Petition, thereby
upholding the correct Decision of the respondent Judge
that the venue of the out-of-town complaint for libel is improperly laid.
(B) CONSEQUENTLY, WHETHER OR NOT, the decision
ANNEX
C of this Petition, was ERRONEOUSLY
REVERSED by the
Honorable Court of Appeals in its
resolutions dated November 21, 2004
and January 21, 2004.
(C)

WHETHER OR NOT, the Petition for Certiorari filed by the


respondents (then petitioners) can substitute for their LOST
APPEAL.[12]

The petition has merit.


This case will be resolved on the core issuethe interpretation and
application of the third paragraph of Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, the
portion of which reads:
The criminal and civil action for damages in cases of written
defamations as provided for in this chapter, shall be filed simultaneously or
separately with the Court of First Instance of the province or city where the
libelous article is printed and first published or where any of the offended

parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense x x x


(emphasis supplied).

Respondents claim that their actual residence is in Aparri, Cagayan. The


trial court made the following findings on the matter:
True, plaintiffs are residents and domiciled in Aparri, Cagayan. In fact,
they are registered voters of Aparri, Cagayan. However, they also admit
that they have a residential house in Las Pias and it is in Las Pias where
they stay most of the time due to their profession and occupation. In short,
plaintiffs are habitual residents of Las Pias and not in Aparri,
Cagayan. Aparri is plaintiffs legal residence and place of
domicile. However, to the Courts opinion, plaintiffs actual residence is in
Las Pias, Metro-Manila [sic] as they are habitually residing thereat due to
their profession and occupation.[13]

When respondents raised this matter to the CA via a petition for certiorari,
the findings of the trial court were upheld by the appellate court in its August 12,
2002 Decision, when it said:

Petitioners thus appear to have misread the provisions of Article 360 of


the Revised Penal Code, as amended, when they filed their criminal and
civil complaints in Aparri, Cagayan. Clearly, the civil and criminal
complaint should be filed in the Regional Trial Court of Manila, where
petitioners reside or where the article was first printed or published. But
since petitioners opted to choose place of residence, we shall now discussed
[sic] where petitioners properly resides [sic]. In procedural law, specifically
for purposes of venue it has been held that the residence of a person is his
personal, actual or physical habitation or his actual residence or place of
abode, which may not necessarily be his legal residence or domicile
provided he resides therein with continuity and consistency. Applying this,
petitioners clearly were residents of Manila for they have a residential house
in Las Pias where they stay thereat due to their profession and
occupation.[14]

The CA noted the findings of the other Aparri RTC branches in the
dismissals of criminal cases for libel filed by respondents against petitioner to
conclude that respondents had their actual residence in Las Pias.
In Criminal Case No. 07-1168 decided by the Aparri Cagayan RTC, Branch
7, the trial court, despite finding that Atty. Calasans domicile was in Aparri,
Cagayan, dismissed the criminal information against petitioner, stating, thus:
Under the circumstances, therefore, the situation of private complainant
does not fall within the conceptual meaning of the term residence as
explained in the cases mentioned above. His situation is that he owns a
house in Aparri and comes home at least once a month. However, his
presence in the place of his residence, although consistent, is admittedly not
continuous. For this reason, the complainants stay at his house in Aparri
may only be considered as occasional or intermittent. The requirement is
that his stay in his place of abode must not only be consistent but also
continuous. Therefore, his stay in Aparri is not residence for purposes of
determining venue in libel cases.[15]

In Criminal Case No. VI-1094 decided by the Aparri, Cagayan RTC, Branch
6, the trial court likewise dismissed the information against petitioner, holding that:
The Court does not believe that the offended party is only temporarily
residing in Manila for the following reasons: Seventy percent of his cases
are cases in Metro Manila; he has his law office in Metro Manila but he has
none in Aparri, Cagayan; he and his family reside in Las Pinas [sic] though
he has an ancestral house in Aparri, Cagayan. His presence in Aparri is
seldom, while he is most of the time in Metro Manila. The offended party,
therefore, is actually residing in Las Pinas [sic] and he should have filed the
libel case in Las Pinas [sic], Metro Manila.[16]

Considering the foregoing findings of these trial courts, as well as the


findings of the Aparri, Cagayan RTC, Branch 8 in Civil Case No. 08-418, the CA
found that respondents were residents of Las Pias.
However, upon a Motion for Reconsideration from respondents, the CA set
aside its earlier Decision, its findings reading as follows:

We have closely examined the records and we find that petitioners


residence is in Aparri, Cagayan.
As stated, an individual does not lose the domicile even if he has lived
and maintained residences in different places. Residence, it bears repeating,
implies a factual relationship to a given place for various purposes. The
absence from legal residence or domicile to pursue a profession, to study or
to do other things of a temporary or semi permanent nature does no [sic]
constituent loss of residence. Thus, the assertion by the trial court that they
could not have been a resident [sic] of Aparri, Cagayan is misplaced.[17]

The CA erred in its findings.


The trial court did not find that respondents were not residents of Aparri,
Cagayan. It specifically stated that they were in fact residents and domiciled in
Aparri, Cagayan.[18]
The crucial distinction that must be made is between actual residence and
domicile. The case of Garcia Fule v. Court of Appeals had already made the
distinction in 1976. The pertinent portion of the case reads as follows:
But, the far-ranging question is this: What does the term resides
mean? x x x We lay down the doctrinal rule that the term resides
connotes ex vi termini actual residence as distinguished from legal
residence or domicile. This term resides, like the terms residing and
residence, is elastic and should be interpreted in the light of the object or
purpose of the statute or rule in which it is employed. In the application of
venue statutes and rulesx x x residence rather than domicile is the
significant factor. Even where the statute uses the word domicile still it is
construed as meaning residence and not domicile in the technical
sense. Some cases make a distinction between the terms residence and
domicile but as generally used in statutes fixing venue, the terms are
synonymous, and convey the same meaning as the term inhabitant. In
other words, resides should be viewed or understood in its popular sense,
meaning the personal, actual or physical habitation of a person, actual
residence or place of abode. It signifies physical presence in a place and
actual stay thereat. In this popular sense, the term means merely residence,
that is personal residence, not legal residence or domicile. Residence
simply requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given place, while
domicile requires bodily presence in that place and also an intention to
make it ones domicile. No particular length of time of residence is
required though; however, the residence must be more than temporary.[19]

It is clear that in granting respondents Motion for Reconsideration, the CA


accepted the argument of respondent Atty. Calasan that residence is synonymous
with domicile.
In Saludo, Jr. v. American Express International, Inc., the term residence
was equated with domicile as far as election law was concerned. However the
case also stated that:
for purposes of venue, the less technical definition of residence is
adopted. Thus, it is understood to mean as the personal, actual or physical
habitation of a person, actual residence or place of abode. It signifies
physical presence in a place and actual stay thereat. In this popular sense,
the term means merely residence, that is, personal residence, not legal
residence or domicile. Residence simply requires bodily presence as
an inhabitant in a given place, while domicile requires bodily presence in
that place and also an intention to make it ones domicile.[20]

There is clearly a distinction between the two terms, residence and


domicile, which shall be applied in this civil action for damages.
Art. 360 of the Revised Penal Code does not use the term domicile in
providing for venue in the filing of the criminal case and the civil action for
damages. The applicable clause of Art. 360 in this case states that where any of
the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense x
x x (emphasis supplied). It is thus essential to determine where the offended
parties, the respondents in this case, actually resided during the year 2000, the time
of the commission of the offense.
The published matters, subjects of this civil action, are a counter affidavit
dated June 9, 2000 and a letter dated June 19, 2000, both from petitioner, neither of
which was submitted to persons in Aparri, Cagayan. To prove respondent Atty.
Calasans residence at the time, which petitioner alleged was No. 8 Galaxy
Avenue, Mapayapa Village, Las Pias City, Metro Manila, Atty. Calasans
Community Tax Certificates (CTCs) for the years 2000 and 2001 were
presented.[21] Respondent Atty. Calasan did not deny that he had such an address

in Las Pias, which is only the import of the CTCs. He claimed that the Las Pias
residential unit was constructed out of convenience and necessity for his family
and his profession. There is no denial that he and his family lived at that particular
address during the time of the publication of petitioners documents. That is
actually enough to qualify it as a residence, even without the intention to maintain
it as legal residence.
Respondents legal residence or domicile has been established as being in
Aparri, Cagayan. The finding of the trial court that the actual residence of
respondents was in Las Pias is not inconsistent with the establishment of
respondents domicile in Aparri. To state that respondents actual residence was in
Las Pias does not mean that they have abandoned their legal residence. The case
of Koh v. Court of Appeals stated:
This Court held in the case of Uytengsu vs. Republic, 50 O.G. 4781,
October 1954, reversing its previous stand in Larena v. Ferrer, 61 Phil. 36 and
Nuval v. Guray 52 Phil 645, that
There
is
a
difference
between
domicile
and
residence. Residence is used to indicate a place of abode, whether
permanent or temporary; domicile denotes a fixed permanent
residence to which when absent, one has the intention of
returning. A man may have a residence in one place and a
domicile in another. Residence is not domicile, but domicile is
residence coupled with the intention to remain for an unlimited
time. A man can have but one domicile for one and the same
purpose at any time, but he may have numerous places of
residence. His place of residence generally is his place of
domicile, but is not by any means, necessarily so since no length of
residence without any intention of remaining will constitute
[22]
domicile.
(Italics supplied.)

In respondents case, they maintained a residence in Las Pias in the year


2000, and their domicile in Aparri, Cagayan which was maintained year after
year. As mentioned in Koh, one may have both a residence and a domicile. One
need not abandon ones domicile to acquire a separate residence, if this separate
residence is not intended to be legal residence as well. The ideas of domicile
and actual residence may even at times refer to one and the same place, but not

so in this particular case, where there are two particular and distinct places referred
to.
Thus, the trial court was correct in dismissing the complaint because it found
that the offended parties actually resided for the greater part of the year 2000 in
Las Pias, even if their legal residence was in Aparri, Cagayan. To reiterate, for
purposes of determining venue, residence is not synonymous with
domicile. One may reside in a place apart from ones legal residence, without
changing domicile, and that residence would constitute actual residence for
purposes of determining venue.
In passing, it must be noted that petitioner is not a lawyer, and it may be
instructive for him to consult counsel before filing pleadings or praying for results
that have no legal basis, if for purposes of clarity alone. As for his prayer that
respondent Atty. Calasan be disbarred, this petition is not the proper remedy for
such. Should he still wish to pursue such an action, he must follow the proper
procedure, which would grant respondent Atty. Calasan due process. The fact that
petitioner, who is not an attorney, was allowed to plead his case before this Court
does not exempt him from proper procedure, which would put opposing lawyers at
an unfair disadvantage.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the questioned November 21, 2002
Resolution of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 70335 is hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE and
its August
12,
2002 Decision
is REINSTATED and AFFIRMED. Consequently, the February 26, 2002 Order
of the Aparri, Cagayan RTC, Branch 8, dismissing the complaint in Civil Case No.
08-418, is likewise hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against respondents.
SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate
Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice
Chairperson

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division
Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had
been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the
opinion of the Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

[1]

Rollo, p. 10.
Id. at 53-54.
[3]
CA rollo, p. 21.
[4]
Id. at 69-70.
[5]
Id. at 13-14. The Order was penned by Judge Conrado F. Manauis.
[6]
Id. at 15-16.
[7]
Id. at 2-20.
[8]
Id. at 5.
[9]
Rollo, pp. 72-77. The Decision was penned by Associate Justice Eugenio S. Labitoria and concurred in
by Associate Justices Teodoro P. Regino and Mariano C. Del Castillo.
[10]
Id. at 78-81.
[11]
Id. at 95.
[12]
Id. at 18.
[13]
Id. at 46-47.
[14]
Id. at 75.
[15]
Id. at 59.
[16]
Id. at 68.
[17]
Id. at 94.
[18]
Id. at 46.
[19]
G.R. No. L-40502, November 29, 1976, 74 SCRA 189, 199-200.
[20]
G.R. No. 159507, April 19, 2006, 487 SCRA 462, 480-481.
[21]
Records, p. 61.
[22]
No. L-40428, December 17, 1975, 70 SCRA 298, 305.
[2]

EN BANC
OFFICE
OF
THE
ADMINISTRATOR,

COURT

A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460

Petitioner,
- versus JUDGE FLORENTINO V. FLORO,
JR.,
Respondent.
x------------------------x
Re: RESOLUTION
DATED 11
MAY
1999 OF
JUDGE
FLORENTINO V. FLORO, JR.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x
LUZ ARRIEGO,
Petitioner,
-versusJUDGE FLORENTINO V. FLORO,
JR.,
Respondent.

A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC

A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988

Present:
PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,*
CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
GARCIA,
VELASCO, JR. and
NACHURA, JJ.

Promulgated:

July 12, 2007


x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

RESOLUTION

Per Curiam:

On 31 March 2006, the Court En Banc promulgated its Decision in the


above-entitled case, the dispositive of which reads

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court resolves to:

1)

FINE Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr., in the total amount of FORTY


THOUSAND (P40,000.00) PESOS for seven of the 13 charges against him
in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460;

2)

RELIEVE Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr., of his functions as Judge of the


Regional Trial Court, Branch 73, Malabon City and consider him
SEPARATED from the service due to a medically disabling condition of
the mind that renders him unfit to discharge the functions of his office,
effective immediately;

3)

As a matter of equity, AWARD Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr., back


salaries, allowances and other economic benefits corresponding to
three (3) years;

4)

DISMISS the charge in A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988 (Luz Arriego v.


Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.) for LACK OF MERIT; and

5)

DISMISS the charge in A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC (Re: Resolution Dated 11


May 1999 of Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.) for MOOTNESS.

Subsequent thereto, on three separate dates,[1] Judge Floro filed three


Partial Motions for Reconsideration as well as supplements thereto.

In a signed Resolution dated 11 August 2006 by the Court En Banc, the


foregoing motions and supplements were denied for lack of merit. It was also
stated therein that from then on, no other pleadings will be entertained by the
Court.[2]

In obvious disregard of the aforementioned directive, Judge Floro filed


several more pleadings, i.e., Verified Letter/Omnibus Motion for Leave of Court
to Admit and Grant the (a) Second Motion for Partial Reconsideration of the
Courts Decision dated 31 March 2006 and (b) Conjunctive Omnibus Motion;
Verified Complaint/Letter-Affidavit with Memorandum of Law/Authorities, and
Urgent Prayer for Immediate Docketing and Early Resolution dated 25 August
2006; and Verified Another/Supplemental Complaint/Letter-Affidavit with
Memorandum of Law/Authorities, and Urgent Prayer for Immediate Docketing
and Early Resolution dated 1 September 2006.

In a Resolution dated 26 September 2006, the Court En Banc resolved to


treat the Verified Complain/Letter Affidavit and Verified Another/Supplemental
Complaint/Letter-Affidavit as separate matters from the subject case.

In another Resolution, this time an extended one, dated 10 October 2007,


the Court En Banc resolved to NOTE WITHOUT ACTION the aforequoted Verified
Letter/Omnibus Motion for Leave of Court to Admit and Grant the (a) Second
Motion for Partial Reconsideration of the Courts Decision dated 31 March 2006
and (b)Conjunctive Omnibus Motion filed by Judge Floro. In the same resolution,
the Court further considered the present case closed and terminated and
accordingly ordered theissuance of an entry of judgment in due course.[3]

Yet again, in obvious disdain of the Courts prior Resolutions,


Judge Floro incessantly filed pleading after pleading, viz:

1.

MOTION FOR LEAVE OF COURT TO ADMIT AND GRANT a) this Third Motion for
Partial Reconsideration [of par. 2], page 74, of the Decision (in this case) to
Reinstate JudgeFloro [under Sonia vs. Villegas, allowing 2nd/3rd Motions for
Reconsideration of Dismissal of Judges, 11-18, 2004 A.M. No. RTJ-3-1812); and
b) Alternative Motion to Expunge from the Rollo this Pleading/Paper if
Judge Floro will not be reinstated, and to mail the expunged copy to
Judge Floro in accordance with Truth and his religion Prayer and ImprecationPsalm 109;[4]

2.

VERIFIED MOTIONS/LETTER WITH ALTERNATIVE OMNIBUS MOTION TO


DECLARE NULL AND VOID AB INITIO a) The August 11, 2006 and March 31,
2006Decision and Resolution (in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460) Separating
Judge Floro from Service; b) The December 12, 2006 JBC published
Announcement (P.D. Inquirer, 12-14-2006), opening Branch 73,
RTC, Malabon for Application; and c) To Re-Open, Re-Investigate it and
Reinstate Judge Floro with Motion for Leave of Court to Admit/Grant these
Extraordinary, Omnibus Motions;[5]

3.

LETTER asking the Court to reinstate him based on Soria vs. Villegas, November
2004 Chief Justice Davide decision permitting 3 or more appeals, and stating
that he is willing to be detailed as Judge and to work under the Offices of Justice
Gutierrez, Justice Nazario and/or the Office of the Chief Justice, by way of
reconciliation;[6]

4.

2ND MOTION/LETTER WITH LEAVE OF COURT [For Reconsideration of the Denial


Resolution Dated December 11, 2006] with alternative Omnibus
Motions;[7] and OMNIBUS MOTION/LETTER praying to declare null and
void ab initio the December 12, 2006 JBC published Announcement (P.D.
Inquirer 12-14-2006) opening Branch 73, RTC, Malabon for application;[8]

which the Court En Banc, in essence, expunged[9] from the records of the case at
bar in view of its signed Resolution dated 11 August 2006 wherein it already
resolved to deny with finality Judge Floros Partial Motions for Reconsideration as
well as the Supplements thereto, for lack of merits.

Despite the resolute denunciation of his attempts to evade the


interdictions issued by the Court En Banc, Judge Floro once more filed the
following:

1.

ORIGINAL PETITION/LETTER WITH LEAVE OF COURT [For Re-Opening of


Judge Floros Separation Case based on G.R. No. 72670 September 12, 1986Saturnina Galman vs.Sandiganbayan] with Conjunctive Omnibus Motions;[10]

2.

VERIFIED SUPPLEMENT TO THE ORIGINAL PETITION/LETTER, WITH LEAVE OF


COURT [For Re-Opening of Judge Floros Separation case based on G.R. No.
72670 September 12, 1986 Saturnina Galman vs. Sandiganbayan] with
Alternative Urgent Petition to assign i) a New Docket Number to this Original
Petition, and ii) to Designate Acting Chief Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing or S.C.
Associate Justice Gregory S. Ong, as New Ponente of this New Case.[11]

The Court had already thoroughly studied the present case. Likewise, it had
meticulously reviewed each and every evidence on record when it rendered its 31
March 2006Decision and 11 August 2006 Resolution. Seeing that
Judge Floro failed to present, and continuously fails to present, any meritorious
argument or substantial evidence in support of the various pleadings he has filed
thereafter, We were constrained to deny them.

In this Resolution, We wish to remind Judge Floro that the Court cannot be
swayed to modify or reverse its Decision and various Resolutions by inundating
the ponentewith numerous pleadings avowing ungodly reprisal as well as personal
letters/telephone calls seeking audience with the latter, if, as in this case, they are
only in furtherance of repeating issues and arguments already passed upon by the
Court En Bancs earlier Decision and Resolution. Otherwise stated, only
meritorious arguments and substantial evidence can convince Us to modify or
reverse our previous ruling.

Basic is the rule in our judicial system that litigations must end and
terminate at some point, and in the oft-quoted case of Li Kim Tho v.
Sanchez,[12] this Court had explained that
Litigation must end and terminate sometime and somewhere, and it is essential
to an effective and efficient administration of justice that once a judgment has become
final, the winning party be not, through a mere subterfuge, deprived of the fruits of the
verdict. Courts must therefore guard against any scheme calculated to bring about that
result. Constituted as they are to put an end to controversies, courts should frown upon
any attempt to prolong them.

In Ortigas and Company Limited Partnership v. Judge Velasco,[13] this Court


expounded on the interpretation of the following phrases, used by the courts in

their judgments or resolutions, and explicitly found in this Courts Resolution,


dated 11 August 2006 concerning respondents Motion for Reconsideration

Denial With Finality

While the denial of a motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final order is normally accompanied by the
modifier, final, or with finality, there may be a denial not so qualified. That is of no consequence. By no means may it
be taken as indicating any uncertainty or indecisiveness on the part of the Court regarding its denial of reconsideration,
or an encouragement or expectation of a second motion for reconsideration. The modifier serves simply to emphasize
the import and effect of the denial of the motion for reconsideration, i.e., that the Court will entertain and consider no
further arguments or submissions from the parties respecting its correctness; that in the Courts considered view, nothing
more is left to be discussed, clarified or done in the case, all issues raised having been passed upon and definitely
resolved, and any other which could have been raised having been waived and no longer being available as ground for a
second motion. A denial with finality stresses that the case is considered closed.

xxxx

Prohibition to File Further Pleadings

Apart from the original directive in its Resolution of March 1, 1995, the Court twice reiterated the admonition
that no further pleadings, motions or papers should be filed in these cases, except only as regards issues directly involved
in the Motion for Reconsideration (Re: Dismissal of Respondent Judge). This it did in its Resolutions dated July 24
and October 25, 1995, respectively.

Evidently, an order of this character is directed to parties who obstinately refuse to accept the Courts final
verdict and who, despite such verdict and in defiance of established procedural rules, mulishly persist in still arguing the
merits of their cause. They continue to take up the time of the Court needlessly, by filing unauthorized, forbidden, even
worthless pleadings, motions and papers, serving no real purpose other than to delay termination of the case.

Evidently, too, the directive against the filing of any further pleadings, motions or papers is one that exacts
observance by all parties concerned, such that willful and unjustifiable disregard or disobedience thereof constitutes
constructive contempt under Section 3(b), Rule 71 of the Rules of Court. x x x.[14]

Judge Floro should


be
the aforequoted jurisprudence.

guided

accordingly

by

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, as it is hereby Resolved,


Judge Floros ORIGINAL PETITION/LETTER WITH LEAVE OF COURT [For ReOpening of Judge Floros Separation Case based on G.R. No. 72670, 12

September 1986 - Saturnina Galman v. Sandiganbayan] with Conjunctive


Omnibus Motions[15] and his VERIFIED SUPPLEMENT TO THE ORIGINAL
PETITION/LETTER, WITH LEAVE OF COURT [For Re-Opening of
Judge Floros Separation case based on G.R. No. 72670, 12 September
1986, Saturnina Galman v. Sandiganbayan] with Alternative Urgent Petition to
assign i) a New Docket Number to this Original Petition, and ii) to Designate
Acting Chief Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing or S.C. Associate Justice Gregory
S. Ong, as New Ponente of this New Case,[16] are hereby NOTED WITHOUT
ACTION and are ordered EXPUNGED from the records. It is hereby firmly
reiterated that NO FURTHER PLEADING/S WILL BE ENTERTAINED in this
case. JudgeFloro is hereby given a WARNING that he can be held liable for
indirect contempt should he persist in disregarding lawful orders of this Court and
committing acts which tend to abuse, obstruct, impede, and degrade the
administration of justice.

SO ORDERED.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice

On leave

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

*
[1]
[2]

[3]

[4]
[5]
[6]

[7]
[8]
[9]

[10]
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]
[15]

On leave.
21 April 2006, 28 April 2006 and 5 May 2006.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, Judge Floros Partial Motions for Reconsideration as well as the
Supplements thereto are hereby DENIED WITH FINALITY there being no merits. No other pleading,
however denominated, shall henceforth be entertained by the Court.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court NOTES WITHOUT ACTION the Verified
Letter/Omnibus Motion for Leave of Court to Admit and Grant the (a) Second Motion for Partial
Reconsideration of the Courts Decision dated 31 March 2006; and (b) Conjunctive Omnibus Motion filed
by Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.
Dated 3 November 2006.
Dated 27 December 2006.
Addressed to Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno and Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez,
dated 16 January 2007.
Dated 2 February 2007.
Addressed to the JBC and the Supreme Court En Banc, dated 2 February 2007.
In several Resolutions dated 28 November 2006, 30 January 2007, 6 February 2007, and 20 February
2007, respectively.
Dated 4 May 2007.
Dated 1 June 2007.
82 Phil. 776, 778 (1949).
324 Phil. 483, 492-493 (1996).
Id. at 495.
Dated 4 May 2007.

[16]

Dated 1 June 2007.

EN BANC
OFFICE OF THE COURT

A.M. No. RTJ-04-1870

ADMINISTRATOR (OCA),

[Formerly A.M. No. 04-7-388-RTC]

Complainant,
Present:

PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,*
- versus -

CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO-MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,

JUDGE CRISPIN C. LARON,


Regional Trial Court, Branch 44,
Dagupan City,

CHICO-NAZARIO,
GARCIA,
VELASCO, JR., and

Respondent.

NACHURA, JJ.

Promulgated:

July 9, 2007
x----------------------------------------------------------------------------x

RESOLUTION

TINGA, J.:

This administrative matter arose from several judicial audits and physical
inventories of cases conducted by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) in
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 44, Dagupan City, presided over by
respondent Judge Crispin Laron.

The first judicial audit was conducted in 1996 by a team headed by then
Senior Deputy Court Administrator Reynaldo L. Suarez. The 1996 Audit
Report[1] showed that 369 cases, comprising 147 criminal and 222 civil, were
audited. Of the records actually examined, 37 were deemed submitted for
decision, 17 of which were beyond the 90-day reglementary period within which a
judge must decide a case. There were also 26 cases submitted for resolution, 19
of which were beyond the prescribed period within which they must be

resolved. Likewise, 14 cases with motions unresolved beyond the 90-day


prescribed period were noted and 15 cases have had no further proceedings for a
considerable length of time. Meanwhile, 188 cases which were included in the
branchs Docket Inventory were not presented to the team.[2]

On 21 January 1997, the Court en banc issued a Resolution directing


respondent to:

(a) resolve the pending Motions/Incidents that will determine final disposition
of cases which are likewise beyond the 90-day reglementary period; (b) resolve, if he
has not yet done so, the pending Motions in the following cases which are already
beyond the 15-day period, to wit: Criminal Cases Nos. 96-01310, 96-013311, 96-01348,
94-00263, 94-00264, 96-01308 and Civil Cases Nos. 00376, and D-9895; (c) inform this
Court whether or not Decisions in Criminal Cases Nos. D-8335, D-8336, x x x D-10606,
D-10607 and D-10611 were promulgated as scheduled and to submit proof of such
compliance; and (d) explain in writing also within the same period why no disciplinary
action should be taken against him for his failure to decide/resolve cases/motions
within the prescribed period. [3]

A second judicial audit, this time headed by the Hon. Narciso T. Atienza,
was conducted in the same branch sometime in 2000 at the request of Mr.
Restituto Basa, author-publisher of The Pangasinan Leaders, in view of the
complaints of some legal practitioners on the unreasonable delay in the
resolution of cases in said court.[4]
The 2000 Audit Report[5] revealed that 1,045 cases were audited. Of
these cases, 70 were considered submitted for decision, 54 of which were
beyond the 90-day reglementary period. There were also 123 cases with
pending matters or incidents for resolution, and 101 cases had not been
resolved despite the lapse of the reglementary period. In addition, 52 cases
had no further action or setting in the court calendar despite the lapse of a

considerable period of time and 22 cases were noted to have not been acted
upon since the time of filing.[6]
A third audit was conducted in 2003, per request of a certain Claveria
family in a letter to then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. for an investigation
of the sala of Judge Laron that allegedly had cases pending for three or more
years and which remained unresolved.
The 2003 Audit Report[7] showed that 911 cases were audited consisting
of 394 criminal cases and 517 civil cases. It was found that 110 cases were
decided beyond the reglementary period and pending motions or incidents in
74 cases were likewise resolved beyond the period prescribed, 39 cases with
pending motions or incidents for resolution remained unacted upon as of the
time of the audit, 42 cases were acted upon after having been dormant for a
considerable period of time, and there were a number of cases that had not
been acted upon from the time of filing. Several cases that were included in
the Docket Inventory were not presented to the audit team. The team also
observed that respondent had been very lenient in granting
postponements. It likewise observed that records were not kept orderly and
the court did not submit the required monthly reports on time. The team then
recommended that respondent be directed to:
(a)

to EXPLAIN within fifteen (15) days from receipt why no administrative sanction
be taken against him for deciding the following cases beyond the 90-day
reglementary period: Criminal Cases Nos. D-6519, 97-01970, 01-0175, 01-0177,
00-0231, 00-0305, 00-0312, 00-0316, 10739, 02-0193, 02-0194, 02-0195, 00-0144,
00-0076, 01-0651, 01-0652, 01-0653, 02-0452, 94-00218, 04-0574, 01-0244, 000405, 00-0577, 01-0278, 01-0277, 94-00732, 02-0019, 02-0020, 02-0021, 02-0022,
02-0023, 02-0024, 02-0025, 02-0026, 02-0027, 02-0028, 02-0029, 02-0030, 020031, 02-0032, 02-0034, 02-0036, 02-0037, 02-0038, 02-0040, 02-0042, 02-0043,
02-0045, 02-0046, 00-234, 12225, 8686, 8687, D-6519, 00-0231, 00-0305 and 9501025 and Civil Cases Nos. 98-012333, 0097, 01-0116, SP 02-0037, SP 00-0123, SP
00-136, SP 99-01603, SP 99-1065, SCA 98-02686, 98-02731, 98-02444, 99-02904,
01-0149, 86-8295, D-10809, 91-01005, 86-8131, 86-8118, SP 01-0104, 02-0003,

01-0070, LRC 00-2107, 10785, 00-0329, 82-6539, 6890, 96-01264, 98-02372,


10792, 98-02573, 00-0040, 99-02847, 98-02530, 94-00113, 92-10383, D-10190,
00-0294, D-10665, SCA 01-0011, 01-0031, 94-00238, D-6944, 83-7099, 98-00718,
94-00153, 95-00678, 96-00888, 99-3233, 98-2515, 96-1081, D-7095, 96-1041 and
95-548.
(b)

to EXPLAIN within fifteen (15) days from receipt why no administrative sanction
be taken against him for resolving the pending incidents/motions in the following
cases beyond the 90-day reglementary period: Criminal Cases Nos. 99-01771, 9400726, 00-0133, 00-0479, 00-0440, 9763, 9764, 01-0016, 02-0101, 99-03002, 000536, 97-01951, 99-03207, 96-01237, 00-0359, 99-02739, 99-02498, 99-02497
and 01-0265, Civil Cases Nos. 99-03068, 99-03237, 0084, 01-0320, 01-0201, 950059, D-3040, 99-02974, 98-02832, 98-02454, 00-0239, 01-0166, 01-0091, D10764, 97-01622, x x x D-9056, 00-0036, 96-01253, 98-02075, 97-01842, 9601045, 9752, 98-02510, 99-03115, 99-02922, 95-00687, 02-0316, 97-01450, 000032, 99-02935, 10439, 10744, 97-01722, 96-00978, 98-02124, 95-00710, 9902806, 98-02720, 98-02410, 98-02533, 00-0006, 00-0038, 98-00716, 97-00529,
94-00233, 97-01834, 99-03179, 99-03170, LRC D-2081, 96-00827, 98-02733, 993085, 96-1007, 99-3257 and 99-3131.

(c)

to EXPLAIN within fifteen (15) days from receipt why no administrative sanction
be taken against him (sic) for failure to DECIDE the following despite the lapse of
the 90-day reglementary period: Criminal Cases Nos. 00-0140, 00-0475, 00-0476,
7020, 97-02019, and Civil Cases Nos. 0148, 00-0254, 01-0186, 02-0026, 95-00482,
02-0156, CAD 00-0060, CAD 02-0071, CAD 02-0062, 96-01163, D-10777 and to
RESOLVE the motion or pending incidents in the following cases: Criminal Cases
Nos. 01-0147, 02-0424, 00-0480, 02-0463, 02-0621, 02-0629, 02-0493, 00-0084
and 00-0085; and Civil Cases Nos. 01-0177, 01-0269, 00-0151, 01-0276, 02-0198,
02-0169, 02-0277, D-10027, 00-279, 01-0287, 00-0349, 02-0161, 02-0365, 9600975, 99-03254, 99-03037, 98-02246, 99-8814, 02-0254, 01-0376, SP 1723, SP
97-00541, 01-23, 02-0313, 94-00271, 02-0208, 01-168, 02-103, 02-263 and 94-80.

(d)

to DECIDE within thirty (30) days from receipt the following cases which remain
undecided despite the lapse of the 90-day reglementary period: Criminal Cases
Nos. 00-0140, 00-0475, 00-0476, 7020[,] 97-02019, and Civil Cases Nos. 0148, 000254, 01-0186, 02-0026, 95-00482, 02-0156, CAD 00-0060, CA 02-0071, CAD 020062, 96-01163, D-10777 and to FURNISH the Court of the copies of the said
decision.

(e)

to RESOLVE within thirty (30) days from receipt the motion or pending incidents
in the following cases, which remain unresolved despite the lapse of the
reglementary period: Criminal Cases Nos. 01-0147, 02-0424, 00-0480, 02-0463,
02-0621, 02-0629, 02-0493, 00-0084 and 00-0085; and Civil Cases Nos. 01-0177,
01-0269, 00-0151, 01-0276, 02-0198, 02-0169, 02-0277, D-10027, 00-0279, 010287, 00-0349, 02-0161, 02-365, 96-00975, 99-03254, 99-03037, 98-02246, 998814, 02-0254, 01-0376, SP 1723, SP 97-00541, 01-23, 02-0313, 94-00271, 020208, 01-168, 02-103, 02-263 and 94-80 and to FURNISH the Court of the copies
of the said decision.

(f)

to EXPLAIN within fifteen (15) days from receipt why no administrative sanction
be taken against him for failure to act on the following cases which have no
further action despite the lapse of a considerable length of time, to wit: Civil
Cases Nos. 97-01627, 02-0048, 01-0129, 02-0279, 01-0107, 02-0079, 96-00993,
02-0135, 02-0006, 02-0132, 02-0005, 02-0130, 02-0130, 01-0001, 00-0015, 000067, 99-00616, 99-03270, 97-01569, SP 02-0091, 97-1526, 95-00445, 01-0074,
SP 02-71, CAD 02-53 and CAD 02-30.[8]

The OCA then directed respondent to comply with the above-quoted


recommendations in a Memorandum dated 10 November 2003.[9] In
compliance, respondent submitted his explanations in two letters[10] dated 23
January 2004 and 9 February 2004 to which he appended copies of the
decisions and orders in all the cases subject of the Memorandum of 10
November 2003.
Respondent primarily attributed the delay in deciding cases submitted
for decision and in resolving motions to various medical ailments. He claimed
that he was hospitalized from 26 February 2001 to 13 March 2001 for
acute tonsillo-pharyngitis with severe hoarseness, esophagitis with partial
obstruction, osteoarthritis lower extremities and lumbar area, severe migraine
with dizziness and R/O diabetes mellitus.[11] Due to his medical condition that
made walking and standing very difficult, he went on sick leave from 14 March
2001 to 29 April 2001, on 30 April 2001 and from 2 May 2001 to 4 May

2001.[12] He argued however that he had already decided the subject cases,
albeit beyond the reglementary period, and so there had been substantial
compliance with the law.
Respondent also pointed to the frequent changes of branch clerks as a
contributing factor to the delay in the disposition of cases. He averred that the
court had had no branch clerk of court for several years since
Atty. Juvy Fuentes, the former clerk of court, transferred to the Public
Attorneys Office. Considering that he had been in the service for twenty-one
(21) years, respondent prayed that he be allowed to continue in office for the
remaining period of nine (9) months until his retirement on 19 November
2004.
In the Final Audit Report[13] dated 2 July 2004, the OCA observed that
respondent had been remiss in the performance of his duties as a presiding
judge. Although he had substantially complied with what was incumbent upon
him, by deciding all the cases submitted to him for decision and resolving
pending motions, he did so beyond the period mandated by the
Constitution. He likewise failed to ask the Court for an extension of time to
decide said cases. The OCA also considered respondents excuses as flimsy
and insufficient to justify the delay. It then made the following
recommendations, to wit:
In view of the foregoing, it is respectfully recommended that:
(a) this report be docketed as a regular administrative matter against Judge Laron for
gross inefficiency; and
(b) Judge Crispin Laron, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch
44, Dagupan City be FINED in the amount of P50,000.00 for his failure to decide 131
cases, resolve 105 pending motions and act on 67 cases which have been dormant
for a long period of time payable directly to the court.[14]

On 30 August 2004, the Court resolved to refer this administrative


matter to Excutive Judge Silverio Q. Castillo of the RTC, Dagupan City for
investigation, report and recommendation.[15] Judge Castillo, however,
voluntarily inhibited himself from the investigation to avoid any suspicion of
bias and prejudice since he was a Pairing Judge of respondent and the latter
was also the godfather of his youngest son.[16]
In its Agenda Report[17] in the matter of the Order of Inhibition of Judge
Castillo, the OCA observed that an investigation of the delay of several cases
pending before respondent may no longer be needed considering that
respondent had already retired from the service. It recommended that Judge
Castillos Order of Inhibition be noted and that respondent be immediately
sanctioned with a fine of twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) for the delay
already committed.
Upon this Courts directive[18] for the parties to manifest their
willingness to submit the case for decision based on the pleadings filed,
respondent filed a Manifestation and Motion[19] dated 22 March 2005 praying
that he be first informed if his letters dated 23 January 2004 and 9 February
2004 were already attached to the records of the case. Respondent filed
another Manifestation and Motion[20] on 20 June 2005 praying that he be
furnished copies of the charge, resolution, recommendation, pleadings and
documents relative to the case and that he be granted a period of ten (10)
days within which to file the required manifestation.
Finding that his letters were not attached to the records, this Court
resolved to require the OCA to comment on respondents manifestation and
motion.[21]

In its comment,[22] the OCA explained that respondents letters were not
included in the records due to inadvertence when the same was forwarded to
the Office of the Chief Justice on 3 January 2005. They are now attached to
the records of this case. It reiterated its previous findings and
recommendations and submitted the case for decision based on the pleadings.
We adopt the OCAs findings.
It bears stressing that the publics faith and confidence in the judicial
system depends largely on the judicious and prompt disposition of cases and
other matters pending before the courts.[23] No less than the Constitution
mandates all lower courts to decide or resolve cases or matters within three
(3) months from their date of submission.[24] Consequently, Rule 3.05, Canon 3
of the Code of Judicial Conduct, directs judges to "dispose of the court's
business promptly and decide cases within the required periods."[25] However,
if a judge finds himself unable to comply with this 90-day requirement for
deciding cases or matters, he can, for good reasons, ask for an extension and
such request is generally granted.[26]
Be that as it may, valid reasons that a judge may have for such delay like
poor health, old age, heavy caseload, among others, do not totally absolve him
from liability but only serve to mitigate the penalty.[27]
In the instant case, respondent was obviously remiss in his duties as
presiding judge. He admitted to failing to decide, resolve or act upon the cases
mentioned in the Memorandum of 10 November 2003. The explanations he
set forth do not sufficiently justify the enormous delay in the disposition of the
courts business. The OCA correctly observed, thus:
It is undisputable that Judge Laron had not been deciding and resolving cases
expeditiously. The 131 cases which he failed to decide within the reglementary period,

the 105 cases with pending motions which he failed to resolve on time and the 67 cases
which he has not acted upon for a considerable length of time, undeniably reflects on
Judge Larons lack of dedication to the office he had sworn to serve with utmost
competence, integrity, honesty and diligence. His failure to decide/resolve cases
promptly is the same observation of the two teams who earlier conducted an audit in
his court. The 1996 audit revealed that out of the 37 cases submitted for decision, 17
were beyond the reglementary period and 19 of the 26 cases submitted for resolution
had not been resolved within the period. Also, 15 cases were noted to have no further
action for a considerable length of time. In the 2000 audit, the team reported 54 cases
which were not decided within the period, 101 cases with pending motions had not
been resolved on time and 52 cases had no further action despite the lapse of a period
of time.
While Judge Laron has decided all the cases submitted to him for decision,
resolved pending motions and acted on dormant cases, the fact remains that he did so
beyond
the
period
mandated
by
the
Constitution. Contra factorum n
on habet argumentum.
The explanations proferred by him is [sic] not sufficient to justify the delay. If he
thinks that his health problems severely impaired his ability to decide and resolve cases
promptly, he should have requested the Court extension of time to decide, which is,
almost invariably granted.
Nonetheless, his health problems could not excuse his delay in deciding and
resolving cases which were submitted for decision before his ailment in 2001. Judge
Laron never mentioned he was suffering from any of these ailments at that time. Note
Criminal Cases Nos. 8686 and 8687 entitled People vs. Lorenzo Gonzales for slight
physical injuries and trespass to dwelling. The case was submitted for decision
on August 12, 1988 when accused filed his Memorandum. The case was decided
acquitting the accused only on December 16, 2202 (sic) or fourteen (14) years after. It
must be stressed that slight physical injuries and trespass to dwelling falls under the
Rules on Summary Procedure. Section 10 of the Rules directs a judge to decide the case
within thirty (30) days from date after receipt of the last affidavits and position papers,
or the expiration of the period for filing the same. The Revised Rules on Summary
Procedure was precisely enacted to achieve an expeditious and inexpensive
determination of cases. It is, therefore, not encouraging when it is the judge himself
who occasions the delay sought to be prevented by the rule. Certainly, deciding the
case after 14 years is not an expeditious determination of the case.
Similarly, Civil Case No. 86-8131 was submitted for decision on 20 October
1986. The case was decided on October 21, 2001, or after sixteen (16) years. Likewise,
Civil Case No. 86-8118 was submitted for decision on November 4, 1986. The case was

decided on October 21, 2002 or after almost 11 years. These two cases were not
audited by the two other teams who conducted an audit on the court, giving us the
impression that the case records were purposely kept from the two audit teams.[28]

Furthermore, proper and efficient court management is the


responsibility of the judge.[29] Hence, the absence of a branch clerk of court
should not affect the prompt disposition of cases as judges are responsible not
only for dispensing justice but also for managing their dockets in order to
accomplish their work with reasonable dispatch. It is also his duty to
recommend to this Court the immediate appointment of a branch clerk of
court. In the meantime, the court had adequate personnel who performed
their assigned tasks and who only needed to be utilized and supervised by
respondent.

Another indication of respondents poor court management is the lack


of an orderly system of filing and docket inventory. As found by the OCA, to
wit:
The audit team has witnessed the court personnels quandary with regard to the
courts affairs. During the meeting with them, the personnel expressed their
frustration, exasperation and dissatisfaction over Judge Larons management style and
utter lack of sensitivity.
Regrettably, the two audits conducted on the court had no effect on the
court. No improvement or changes were noticed. As pending cases were still kept in
the judges chamber. Some of the records are being brought out on a piecemeal basis
for examination. In fact[,] 110 cases which were included in the docket inventory were
not presented to the team. Moreover, the court has not adopted an efficient recording
and filing system. Records of active cases are on the tables of the stenographers or
scattered on the floor. Also record of cases which have long been closed and
terminated fifteen (15) years ago are still on file in the storage room. Proper disposal

and destruction of the said records pursuant to existing Rules could have been made to
give room to the records of active cases.[30]

It is noteworthy that despite two previous audits, respondent remained


unperturbed. It was only in the last quarter of 2002 until he retired in 2004
that he began expediting the disposition of cases before him.[31] Undeniably,
respondent should be sanctioned for gross inefficiency for his undue delay in
rendering decisions and orders.

Under A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC[32] dated 11 September 2001 which amended


Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, undue delay in rendering a decision or order is a
less serious charge punishable by a fine of not less than P10,000.00 but not more
than P20,000.00, or suspension from office without salary and other benefits for
not less than one month but not more than three months. The fines imposed vary
in each case, depending chiefly on the number of cases or matters undecided or
unresolved, respectively, within the reglementary period and the presence of
aggravating or mitigating circumstances.[33] In some cases, fines more than the
maximum amount were imposed when the undue delay was coupled with other
offenses. In Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Aniceto L. Madronio,
Sr.,[34] we held:
x x x Thus, in a number of cases, the fines were set at ten thousand pesos
(P10,000.00), for the judge failed to decide one (1) case within the reglementary
period, without offering an explanation for such delay; for one (1) motion left
unresolved within the prescriptive period; and for eight (8) cases left unresolved
beyond the extended period of time granted to the judge, taking into consideration
that the judge was understaffed, burdened with heavy caseload, and hospitalized
for more than a month. In another case, the judge was fined ten thousand one
hundred pesos (P10,100.00) for failing to act on one (1) motion. In other cases,
the fine was set at eleven thousand pesos (P11,000.00) for the judge failed to
resolve a motion for reconsideration and other pending incidents relative thereto,
alleging lack of manpower in his sala as an excuse; decided a case for forcible
entry only after one year (1) and more than seven (7) months from the time it
was

submitted for resolution, considering that respondent judge was grieving due to
the untimely demise of his daughter; resolved one (1) motion only after an
undue delay of almost eight (8) months in one case or 231 days in another case;
failed to resolve three (3) cases within the reglementary period; and failed to
resolve a motion to cite a defendant for contempt, mitigated by the judge's
immediate action to determine whether the charge had basis. In another case, the
judge was fined twelve thousand pesos (P12,000.00) for his failure to decide one
(1) criminal case on time, without explaining the reason for the delay. Still in
other cases, the maximum fine of twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) was
imposed on the judges for delay in rendering decisions in nine (9) criminal cases
and failing altogether to render decisions in eighteen (18) cases, taking note that
the judge also promulgated his decisions in seventeen (17) cases even after he
already retired; failure to decide forty-eight (48) cases on time and failing to
resolve pending incidents in forty-nine (49) cases despite the lapse of
considerable length of time; undue delay in deciding twenty-six (26) cases, even
considering the judge's poor health; and failing to decide fifty-six (56) cases
despite the judge's explanation of heavy caseload, intermittent electrical
brownouts, old age and operation of both his eyes, considering that the same was
his second offense. There were other cases in which the Court did not strictly
apply the Rules as when it only imposed a fine of one thousand pesos (P1,000.00)
for a delay of nine (9) months in resolving complainant's Amended Formal Offer
of Exhibits, after finding that there was no malice in the delay and that the delay
was caused by the complainant himself. In two cases, we imposed a fine of five
thousand pesos (P5,000.00) on a judge who was suffering from cancer, for failing
to decide five (5) cases within the reglementary period and failing to decide
pending incidents in nine (9) cases; and on a judge who suffered from a serious
illness diagnosed as "end stage renal disease secondary tonephrosclerosis," who in
fact died barely a year after his retirement, for his failure to decide several
criminal and civil cases submitted for decision or resolution and to act upon over
a hundred criminal and civil cases assigned to the two branches in which he
was presiding. In other cases, the fines were variably set at more than the
maximum amount when the undue delay was coupled with other offenses. In one
case, the judge was fined twenty-five thousand pesos (P25,000.00) for undue
delay in rendering a ruling and for making a grossly and patently erroneous
decision. In another case, the judge was fined forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00)
for deciding a case only after an undue delay of one (1) year and six (6) months
and for simple misconduct and gross ignorance of the law, considering also
that said undue delay was

his second offense. Finally, the fine of forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00) was also
imposed in a case for the judge's failure to resolve one (1) motion, considering
that he was already previously penalized in two cases for violating the Code of
Judicial Conduct and for Gross Ignorance of Procedural Law and Unreasonable
Delay.[35]

In sum, respondent failed to decide 131 cases within the reglementary


period, failed to resolve the motions in 105 cases within the required period,
and failed to act upon 67 cases for a considerable length of time. In view of
the peculiar circumstances of the instant case namely, the unusually huge
number of cases or matters undecided or unresolved within the prescribed
period and the unreasonable delay in their disposition coupled with the fact
that most of these cases were subject of two previous audits, the imposition of
a fine of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) is in order.
As aptly observed by the OCA, the snail pace movement of cases in this
court is a classic example of justice delayed, justice denied. It is unfortunate
that the court, the temple of justice, has violated the party litigants right to
speedy trial as mandated by no less tha[n] the Constitution. We only have
sympathies for the litigants.[36]
WHEREFORE, we hold retired Judge Crispin C. Laron administratively
liable
for
gross
inefficiency
for
his
undue
delay
in
rendering decisions and orders and he is ordered to pay a FINE of

Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00), to be deducted from the retirement


benefits due him. The remainder of the withheld amount is ordered released
to him.
SO ORDERED.

DANTE
TINGA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

O.

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO,

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

JR.
Associate Justice

*On

Associate Justice

leave.

[1]

A report on the audit was submitted to the Court on 18 November 1996 and docketed as Administrative
Matter No. 96-12-926-RTC. A copy of said report is not included in the records.
[2]

Rollo, Vol. I, p. 62.

[3]

Id. at 62-63.

[4]

Id. at 63.

[5]

A copy of said report is not included in the records.

[6]

Rollo, Vol. I, p. 63.

[7]

Id. at 8-30.

[8]

Id. at 27-29.

[9]

Id. at 31-33.

[10]

Rollo, Vol. III, pp. 1-2 and 259-262.

[11]

Per the medical certificate issued by Lorma Medical Center; id. at 264.

[12]

Annexes C, D, and E; id. at 265-267.

[13]

Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 29-35.

[14]

Id. at 34-35.

[15]

Rollo, Vol. I, p. 41.

[16]

Per Order of Inhibition dated 25 October 2004 issued by Judge Castillo; id. at 44.

[17]

Id. at 47-49.

[18]

Per Resolution dated 21 February 2005; id. at 50.

[19]

Id. at 52.

[20]

Id. at 58-59.

[21]

Per Resolution dated 27 July 2005; id. at 61.

[22]

Id. at 62-73.

[23]

Vda. De Castro v. Cawaling, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1465. 6 February 2006, 481 SCRA 535, 538.

[24]

Art. VIII, Sec. 15(1).

[25]

Sec. 5, Canon 6 of the "New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary" (A.M. No. 03-05-01SC) which took effect on 1 June 2004, similarly directs judges to "perform all judicial duties, including the delivery
of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness."
[26]

Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Aniceto L. Madronio, Sr., A.M. No. MTJ-04-1571, 14 February
2005, 451 SCRA 206, 211.
[27]

Ibid.

[28]

Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 65-66.

[29]

Report on the On-the-Spot Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branches 45 and

53, Bacolod City, A.M. No. 00-2-65-RTC, 15 February 2005, 451 SCRA 303, 316.

[30]

Rollo, Vol. I, p. 67.

[31]

Id.

[32]

Sec. 9(1) in relation to Sec. 11(B); En Banc Resolution in A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC dated 11 September
2001 (Re: Proposed Amendment to Rule 140 of the Rules of Court Regarding the Discipline of Justices and Judges).
[33]

Office of the Court Administrator v. Madronio, Sr, supra note 26.

[34]

Id.

[35]

Id. at 212-215; citations omitted.

[36]

Rollo, Vol. I, p. 65.

FIRST DIVISION
CAPT. SALVADOR
BERNALDEZ (ret.),
Complainant,

A.M. No. MTJ-07-1672


(Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 04-1600-MTJ)

Present:

- v e r s u s -

PUNO, C.J., Chairperson


SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,*
CORONA,
AZCUNA and
GARCIA, JJ.

Judge HENRY B. AVELINO and


Clerk of Court GUILLERMO E.
ACOLOLA, Municipal Circuit
Trial Court of Panay-Pontevedra,
Pontevedra, Capiz,
Respondents.
Promulgated:
July 9, 2007
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x
R E S O L U T I O N
CORONA, J.:
This is an administrative complaint[1] for abuse of authority
against respondents Judge Henry B. Avelino and clerk of court
Guillermo E. Acolola, both of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of
Panay-Pontevedra in Pontevedra, Capiz (MCTC-Pontevedra).

On December 2, 1997, complainant Capt. Salvador Bernaldez


(ret.)[2] filed a case for unlawful detainer, docketed as Civil Case No.
371, against Castor Calinao, Jr. in the MCTC-Pontevedra.[3] On
January

2, 1998, Calinao

asked

for

the

dismissal

of

the

action,[4] contending that the MCTC lacked jurisdiction over the


subject matter.[5]
A

preliminary

conference

was

held

on

January

27,

1998.[6] Respondent judge, finding a semblance of an agrarian


dispute, referred the matter to the Department of Agrarian Reform
(DAR)[7] for it to determine whether the case was appropriate for
trial or not.[8]
On April 21, 1998, the provincial agrarian reform officer
advised respondent judge that pursuant to Section 76 of the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law:[9]
[T]he court can take cognizance of the case for the purpose of determining
whether or not it has jurisdiction to try [this] case because of the defense
of tenancy interposed by the defendant.[10]

Certain that the MCTC had jurisdiction over the subject


matter,

respondent

clerk

of

court

scheduled

preliminary

conference[11] on June 19, 1998. The complainant filed an urgent


motion for postponement due to unavailability of counsel.[12] The
motion was granted and the preliminary conference was moved to
August 28, 1998.[13] But on that date, the complainant moved for
another

postponement

because

of

the

unavailability

of

counsel.[14] The motion was again granted and respondent clerk of

court rescheduled the preliminary conference on October 9,


1998,[15] and again on November 13, 1998.[16] Complainant filed an
urgent motion to postpone it because his attorney-in-fact had to go
to Manila.[17] The motion was again granted, for the third time.
The preliminary conference was repeatedly postponed and
rescheduled several more times in the following years.[18]
On July 3, 2000, respondent judge denied Calinaos motion to
dismiss.[19] The case was once more set for preliminary conference
on August 21, 2000 and April 24, 2001 but both (scheduled)
preliminary conferences did not push through.[20] Thereafter, no
further proceedings took place and the case remained dormant for
almost two years.
On January 28, 2003, the complainant moved to set the case
for preliminary conference.[21] Acting on the motion, respondent
clerk of court scheduled one on March 4, 2003[22] but respondent
judge postponed it due to an illness.[23] No subsequent preliminary
conference was scheduled and the case again remained idle.
On July 5, 2004, the complainant filed this complaint in the
Office

of

the

Court

Administrator

(OCA). He

alleged

that

respondents abused their authority in inordinately delaying the


resolution of Civil Case No. 371[24] which was governed by the Rule
on Summary Procedure (the rule). Despite the specific mandate of
the rule to dispense with cases falling under its scope [25] within a

specified period,[26] Civil Case No. 371 remained unresolved for


almost 10 years.
Respondents denied the complainants allegation.
According to respondent judge, the delay in resolving Civil
Case No. 371 was not his fault. He claimed that the complainant
filed numerous motions for postponement (of the scheduled
preliminary conferences) which delayed the case.[27] He, on the other
hand, cancelled only one preliminary conference (due to an illness)
and ordered the respondent clerk of court to inform the parties
beforehand of its postponement.[28]Hence, the delay was attributable
to the complainant. Moreover, aside from being the presiding judge
of MCTC-Pontevedra, respondent judge was assigned to other
courts

due

to

vacancies

and/or

the

inhibition

of

other

judges.[29] These additional assignments made it difficult for him to


decide his cases within the prescribed period.[30]
Respondent clerk of court reiterated the arguments of
respondent judge and added that the complainant should have
simply called his attention (and informed him that he wanted to
present evidence) instead of filing this case.[31]
After

considering

the

respective

contentions

of

the

complainant and respondents, the OCA concluded that, because


the complainant asked for the postponements, the delay could not
solely be due to respondents. Respondent judges leniency in
granting postponements did not amount to patent and gross abuse

of power since he neither evaded nor refused to perform his legal


duty. Nevertheless, respondent judge still could not evade liability
since the case had been pending for almost a decade despite the
fact that it involved relatively simple summary proceedings. Hence,
according to the OCA, he was liable for undue delay in disposing of
his cases.[32]
Undue delay in the disposition of cases is a less serious
charge.[33] Section 11(B) of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court provides:
B. If the respondent is guilty of a less serious charge, any of the following
sanctions shall be imposed:
1. Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not
less than one (1) nor more than three (3) months; or,
2. A fine of more than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.

The records of OCA reveal that, in 2005, respondent judge was


administratively sanctioned for his failure to decide cases within the
reglementary period.[34] Since this complaint involved a similar
offense, the OCA recommended that the maximum fine of P20,000
be imposed and that respondent judge be directed to immediately
decide the case.[35]
With regard to the respondent clerk of court, the OCA found
that he faithfully performed his administrative duty as clerk of
court by scheduling preliminary conferences in Civil Case No.
371.[36] For this reason, the OCA recommended that respondent
clerk of court be exonerated.[37]

We adopt the findings of the OCA with modifications.


RESPONDENT JUDGE DESERVES A
MORE SEVERE SANCTION

Delay in the disposition of cases erodes the faith and


confidence of our people in the judiciary, lowers its standards and
brings it into disrepute.[38] Article III, Section 16 of the 1987
Constitution provides that:
All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases
before all judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative bodies.

Pursuant to this mandate, Section 5, Canon 6 of the Code of


Judicial Conduct instructs judges to perform all judicial duties,
including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and
with reasonable promptness.[39] Similarly, the Code of Judicial
Ethics holds that a judge should be prompt in disposing of all
matters submitted to him, remembering that justice delayed is often
justice denied.[40]
Civil Case No. 371 was an unlawful detainer case. Its prompt
resolution was a matter of public policy as unlawful detainer
cases[41] are subject to summary procedure. The rule was adopted to
enforce

the

constitutional rights of litigants to

the

speedy

disposition of cases.[42] Hence, it is disappointing when it is the


judge himself who causes the delay.[43]

Respondent

judge

could

have

facilitated

the

prompt

disposition of Civil Case No. 371. He could have denied the motions
for postponement since he had full control of the proceedings. He
could

have

even

dismissed

the

action

for

failure

to

prosecute.[44] Instead, he allowed the case to remain pending for


years.
Moreover, his additional assignments were no excuse for the
delay in resolving the case. We have held that the designation of a
judge to preside over another sala is an insufficient reason to justify
delay in deciding a case.[45]
As noted by the OCA, this was not the first time respondent
judge failed to act promptly on matters pending in his court. He was
sanctioned for gross inefficiency in 2005.[46] For this reason, we find
that the recommended fine of P20,000 is not sufficient. He should
also be suspended from office for three months without pay.
RESPONDENT CLERK OF COURT
IS LIABLE FOR SIMPLE NEGLECT
OF DUTY

Branch clerks of court are administrative assistants of


presiding judges. Their duty is to assist in the management of the
calendar of the court and all other matters not involving the
exercise of discretion or judgment of judges. Clerks of court must
diligently supervise and manage court dockets and records.[47] The
2002 Manual of Clerks of Court provides:

1. CLERK OF COURT[48]
1.1.
Office of the Clerk of Court
xxx
1.1.1. Adjudicative Functions
xxx
c. Prepares and signs monthly report of cases.[49]
1.1.2. Non-Adjudicative Functions
xxx
i. Studies and recommends to the Executive Judge
ways and means to improve both adjudicative and
administrative support;
xxx[50]

Indeed, clerks of first level courts share in the duty to efficiently


manage the court system. For this reason, they are expected to act
promptly on their assigned tasks to prevent the clogging of cases in
court and to assist in the administration of justice without delay.[51]
While clerks of court are not guardians of a judges
responsibility, they are expected to assist in the speedy disposition
of justice.[52] Thus, as an administrative assistant, respondent clerk
of court should have reminded respondent judge that Civil Case No.
371 had been pending for almost 10 years and that it called for
immediate action, being summary in nature. He should have noted
these on the monthly reports[53] he submitted to respondent
judge.[54] Moreover, he should have adopted a system whereby longstanding cases could be given priority over more recent ones.
Because

Civil

Case

No.

371

remained

undecided

for

an

unreasonable length of time, respondent clerk of court obviously


failed to perform what was expected of him.

We thus find him liable for simple neglect of duty. But since
this is his first offense, he deserves some leniency.
WHEREFORE, Judge

Henry

B.

Avelino

is

hereby

found GUILTY of violating Section 9(1), Rule 140 of the Rules of


Court, Section 5, Canon 6 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and the
provision on promptness (no. 6) of the Code of Judicial Ethics.
Accordingly, he is SUSPENDED from office without salary and
benefits for three months[55] effective upon notice hereof and
ordered to pay a fine of P20,000.00. He is warned that a repetition
of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely. He
is also directed to promptly dispose of Civil Case No. 371.
Clerk of court Guillermo E. Acolola is found GUILTY of simple
neglect of duty and is hereby SUSPENDED from office without
salary and benefits for three months.[56] He is warned that a
repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more
severely.
Let a copy of this resolution be attached to the personal
records of respondents in the Office of Administrative Services,
Office of the Court Administrator.
SO ORDERED.

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice
Chairperson

(On leave)
ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

*
[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]

[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]

On leave.
Dated July 5, 2004.
Complainant appointed his sister, Elda Vigo, as his attorney-in-fact.
Rollo, pp. 2-4.
Id.
Id., p. 26. The first page of the paper Calinao filed is missing. It is not known if the paper he filed was an
answer or a motion to dismiss. Based on the records, respondent judge did not issue an order resolving the
matter.
Notice dated January 12, 1998, id., p. 24.
Reply of Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer, id., p. 22.
Respondent judges comment, id., p. 94.
RA 6657, Sec. 76. The provision states that:
Section 76. Repealing Clause. Section 35 of Republic Act Number 3844, Presidential Decree
Number 316, the last two paragraphs of Section 12, Presidential Decree Number 1038 and all other laws,

[10]
[11]
[12]

[13]
[14]

[15]

[16]
[17]
[18]

[19]

[20]

[21]
[22]
[23]
[24]
[25]

[26]

decrees, executive orders, rules, regulations, issuances or parts thereof inconsistent with this act are hereby
repealed or amended according.
The quoted provision modified the jurisdiction of the DAR over tenancy disputes.
Rollo, p. 22.
Id., p. 41. This notice and all subsequent ones used pre-trial conference instead of preliminary conference.
Motion dated June 9, 1998, id., p. 40. Complainants counsel had a hearing with Regional Trial Court
(RTC) Kalibo, Aklan for a hearing in Civil Case No. 5326, Cahilig v. de Jesus.
Id. p. 23
Motion dated August 24, 1998, id., pp. 28-29. Complainants counsel had a hearing with RTC-Cebu City
for a hearing in Civil Case No. CEB-21208, Sezian v. Alyssa Resort.
Notice dated September 1, 1997, id., p. 47. According to respondent clerk of courts answer, this
preliminary conference was postponed upon the complainants motion.
Notice dated October 7, 1998, id., p. 39.
Motion dated November 10, 1998, id., p. 30.
Id., pp. 27, 52, 68, 74. The records show that pre-trial conferences were scheduled (but not held due to
unknown reasons) on January 5, 1999, February 4, 1999, May 9, 2000 and June 20, 2000.
Id., pp. 66-67. This order pertains to Calinaos motion (to dismiss) dated February 10, 1999 and
opposition dated March 1, 1999.
The records do not show what transpired during the August 21, 2000 preliminary conference. According
to respondent clerk of courts comment, the complainant moved for the postponement of the April 24, 2001
preliminary conference. (The complainant did not file a written for postponement.)
Motion dated January 28, 2003, rollo, p. 90.
Notice dated January 29, 2003, id., p. 91.
Respondent judges answer, id., p. 95.
Complaint, id., pp. 2-3.
See, THE 1991 REVISED RULES ON SUMMARY PROCEDURE, Sec. 1. The section provides the
scope of the Rules.
THE 1991 REVISED RULES ON SUMMARY PROCEDURE. The pertinent sections provide:
Sec. 7. Preliminary conference; appearance of parties. Not later than thirty (30) days after the
last answer is filed, a preliminary conference shall be held. xxx
Sec. 8. Record of the preliminary conference.Within five (5) days after the termination of the
preliminary conference, the court shall issue an order stating the matters taken up therein,
including but not limited to:
xxx
c)

Whether, on the basis of the pleadings and the stipulations and admissions made by the
parties, judgment may be rendered without the need of further proceedings, in which event
the judgment shall be rendered within thirty (30) days from the issuance of the order; xxx

Sec. 9. Submission of affidavits and position papers. Within ten (10) days from receipt of the
order mentioned in the next preceding section, the parties shall submit the affidavits of their
witnesses and other evidence on the factual issues defined in the order, together with their position
papers setting forth the law and facts relied upon by them.
Sec. 10. Rendition of judgment. Within thirty (30) days after receipt of the last affidavits and
position papers, or the expiration of the period for filing the same, the court shall render judgment.
However, should the court find it necessary to clarify certain material facts, it may,
during the said period, issue an order specifying the matters to be clarified, and require the parties
to submit affidavits or other evidence on the said matters within ten (10) days from receipt of the
said order. Judgment shall be rendered within fifteen (15) days after the receipt of the last
clarificatory affidavits or the expiration of the period for filing the same.

[27]
[28]

The court shall not resort to the clarificatory procedure to gain time for the rendition of
judgment.
Respondent judges answer, rollo, pp. 95-96.
Id.

[29]
[30]
[31]
[32]
[33]
[34]

[35]
[36]
[37]
[38]

[39]

[40]
[41]
[42]
[43]
[44]

[45]
[46]
[47]

[48]
[49]
[50]
[51]

[52]
[53]
[54]

[55]
[56]

Id.
Id.
Respondent clerk of courts answer, id., pp. 107-108.
Id., p. 124.
RULES OF COURT, Rule 140, Sec. 9 (1).
Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Avelino, MTJ No. 05-1606, 9 December 2005, 477 SCRA 1, 9.
A 2004 audit conducted by the Court Management Office of the OCA revealed that Judge Avelino had
numerous unresolved cases in his dockets. He excused himself by saying that his court had inadequate
facilities as they did not have computers. This Court pointed out that the Constitution mandates the speedy
disposition of cases and prescribes periods within which cases must be resolved. Lack of computers did not
excuse his delay in the disposition of cases. Judge Avelino was found administratively liable for his gross
inefficiency. The dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Henry B. Avelino administratively liable for gross
inefficiency and is hereby meted the penalty of FINE of TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS (P20,000.00),
payable within thirty (30) days. He is further ADMONISHED to be more diligent in the performance of his
sworn duty as a dispenser of justice.
Rollo, p. 125.
Id.
Id. The OCA did not provide any legal basis for the exoneration of respondent clerk of court.
Bank of the Philippine Islands v. Generoso, A.M. No. MTJ-94-407, 25 October 1995, 249 SCRA 477,
480-481.
CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT, Canon 6, Sec. 5. See also CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT (1989),
Canon III, Rule 3.05.
CODE OF JUDICIAL ETHICS, no. 6.
Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Henry B. Avelino, supra note 34 at 480.
Tugot v. Coliflores, AM No. MTJ-00-1332, 16 February 2004, 423 SCRA 1, 9.
Bank of the Philippine Islands v. Generoso, supra note 38, at 15.
THE 1991 REVISED RULES ON SUMMARY PROCEDURE, Sec. 7. The section provides that:
Sec. 7. Preliminary conference, appearance of parties. xxx The failure of the plaintiff to appear in the
preliminary conference shall be a cause for the dismissal of his complaint. xxx
In this case, the complainant repeatedly moved for the cancellation of scheduled preliminary conferences.
These cancellations are tantamount to failure to prosecute. See also RULES OF COURT, Rule 17, Sec. 3.
Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Henry B. Avelino, supra note 34 at 16.
Id.
RE: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court Branches 61, 134 and 147,
Makati, Metro Manila, A.M. P-93-944, 5 September 1993, 248 SCRA 5, 25. See also Nones v.
Ormita, A.M. No. P-01-1532, 9 October 2002, 390 SCRA 519.
This provision pertains to clerks of first level courts.
2002 MANUAL OF CLERKS OF COURT, Chapter VII, D.1.1.1.1.c.
Id., Chapter VII, D.1.1.1.2.i.
RE: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court Branches 61, 134 and 147,
Makati, Metro Manila, supra note 47, at 25.
Id.
2002 MANUAL OF CLERKS OF COURT, Chapter VII, D.1.1.1.1.c.
RE: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court Branches 61, 134 and 147,
Makati, Metro Manila, supra note 46 at 24. The monthly report which shows the status of each case is
submitted to the judge.
RULES OF COURT, Rule 140, Sec. 11(B).
CSC Resolution No. 91-1631, Sec. 23(2)(a). The section provides:
Sec. 23. Administrative offences with its (sic) corresponding penalties are classified into grave, less grave,
and, light depending on the gravity of its (sic) nature and effects of said acts in government service.
xxx
The following are less grave offenses with their corresponding penalties:
(a) Simple Neglect of Duty
1st Offense - Suspension for one (1) month and one (1) day to six (6) months

2nd Offense- Dismissal


xxx

EN BANC
IGNACIO J. SALMINGO,
Complainant,

A.C. No. 6573


Present:

versus

ATTY. RODNEY K. RUBICA,


Respondent.

PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,*
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,*
CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
GARCIA,
VELASCO, JR., and
NACHURA, JJ.
Promulgated:
July 9, 2007

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
The following facts spawned the filing of the administrative complaint at
bar, for disbarment against Atty. Rodney K. Rubica (respondent), by herein
complainant Ignacio J. Salmingo which he transmitted to the Chief Justice by letter
of September 27, 2004.

Respondent filed on January 9, 2003 before the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Negros Occidental a complaint for declaration of nullity of his marriage with
Liza Jane Estao[1] (Liza Jane).
The complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. 2243-40.
The summons for Liza Jane at her given address at Blk. 25, Lot 36
Josefina St., Eroreco Subdivision, Bacolod City[2] was returned unserved as
allegedly no one could be found there.[3] Respondent thereupon filed a Motion for
Leave of Court to Effect Service of Summons by Publication,[4] which was
granted.[5]
Summons was thus published in the Visayan Post, a weekly newspaper of
general circulation in Negros Occidental.[6]
Nothing was heard from Liza Jane, however; hence, respondent presented
evidence ex parte[7] before Branch 40 of the Silay RTC, without the participation
of the City Prosecutor.[8]
By Decision[9] dated May 23, 2003, the trial court declared the marriage
between respondent and Liza Jane null and void, as the evidence showed that there
was a previous valid and existing marriage between Liza Jane and one Rene Jose
T. Mojica.[10] The judgment was entered as final on July 17, 2003.[11]
In his present complaint,[12] the complainant alleges that in prosecuting the
annulment case, respondent deliberately concealed Liza Janes address so that she
could not be served with summons, thus enabling him to present evidence ex
parte;[13] that respondent caused the publication of summons only in a newspaper
of local circulation;[14]that respondent did not serve a copy of his petition on the
Office of the Solicitor General and the Office of the City or Provincial
Prosecutor;[15] and that he did not cause the registration of the decree of nullity in
the Civil Registry.[16]
Complainant thus prayed:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully prayed


of this Court that:
1. An order be issued directing:
a. The setting aside [of] the Decision in Civil Case No. 225340;
b. The reopening of the case in a separate sala where the City
Prosecutor shall represent the State;
c. Deleting the name of Rodney K. Rubica from the Roll of
Attorneys and ordering him to pay for the Cost of Retrial.
2. For other relief and remedies just and equitable under the
premises.[17] (Underscoring supplied)

Respondent denied knowing Liza Janes real address.[18] He denied too


having failed to comply with the procedural requirements in the declaration of
nullity case.[19] He in fact questioned complainants standing to contest the decision
of the trial court in the said case.[20]
This Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report, and recommendation.[21]
The IBP investigating commissioner recommended that respondent be
suspended for three months for gross misconduct.[22] The IBP Board of Governors
resolved to dismiss the case, however, for lack of sufficient evidence.[23]
This Court upholds the resolution of the IBP Board of Governors.
It is settled that:
x x x In view of the nature and consequences of a disciplinary
proceeding, observance of due process, as in other JUDICIAL determinations,
is imperative along with a presumption of innocence in favor of the
lawyer. Consequently, the burden of proof is on the complainant to overcome
such presumption and establish his charges by clear preponderance of
evidence.[24] (Underscoring supplied)

To prove that respondent knew Liza Janes true whereabouts all along,
complainant alleged that respondent had been sending allowances to Liza Jane and
their children at her residence.[25] Respondent countered, however, that he had

been sending allowances by depositing the same in a bank in Bacolod City through
an automated teller machine (ATM) account, which deposit could be withdrawn at
any ATM machine within the Philippines.[26] This complainant failed to
controvert.
On respondents alleged non-compliance with the following provisions of
the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of
Voidable Marriages which took effect on March 15, 2003:[27]
xxxx
Sec. 5. Contents and form of petition. x x x
(4) It shall be filed in six copies. The petitioner shall serve a copy of
the petition on the Office of the Solicitor General and the Office of the City or
Provincial Prosecutor, within five days from the date of its filing and submit to
the court proof of such service within the same period.
Failure to comply with any of the preceding requirements may be a
ground for immediate dismissal of the petition.
xxxx
Sec. 6. Summons.The service of summons shall be governed by Rule
14 of the Rules of Court and by the following rules:
(1) Where the respondent cannot be located at his given address or his
whereabouts are unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent inquiry,
service of summons may, by leave of court, be effected upon him by
publication once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general
circulation in the Philippines and in such places as the court may order. In
addition, a copy of the summons shall be served on the respondent at his last
known address by registered mail or any other means the court may deem
sufficient.

Sec. 8. Answer. x x x
(3) Where no answer is filed or if the answer does not tender an
issue, the court shall order the public prosecutor to investigate whether
collusion exists between the parties.
x x x Sec. 19. Decision
xxxx

(2) The parties, including the Solicitor General and the public
prosecutor, shall be served with copies of the decision personally or by
registered mail. If the respondent summoned by publication failed to appear in
the action, the dispositive part of the decision shall be published once in a
newspaper of general circulation.
xxxx
Sec. 23. Registration and publication of the decree; decree as best
evidence. (a) The prevailing party shall cause the registration of the Decree
in the Civil Registry where the marriage was registered, the Civil Registry of
the place where the Family Court is situated, and in the National Census and
Statistics Office. He shall report to the court compliance with this requirement
within thirty days from receipt of the copy of the Decree.
(b) In case service of summons was made by publication, the parties
shall cause the publication of the Decree once in a newspaper of general
circulation.
(c) The registered Decree shall be the best evidence to prove the
declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of marriage and shall serve as
notice to third persons concerning the properties of petitioner and respondent
as well as the properties or presumptive legitimes delivered to their common
children. (Emphasis supplied; italics in the original)

The requirements in the above-cited Rule that the petitioner should serve
copies of the petition on the Office of the Solicitor General and that of the Public
Prosecutor; that service of summons by publication on a respondent whose
whereabouts are unknown be in a newspaper of general circulation in the
Philippines; and that the prevailing party cause the registration and publication of
the decree took effect only May 15, 2003, after respondent filed the declaration of
nullity case on January 9, 2003.
At the time respondent filed his petition for declaration of the nullity of
marriage, what applied was the Rules of Court under which he was not required to
file his petition in six copies and to serve copies on the Office of the Solicitor
General and that of the City or Provincial Prosecutor. Neither was he required to
cause the registration and publication of the decree of nullity.
Respondent did comply with the procedure in the Rules of Court on service
by publication on a respondent whose whereabouts are unknown, which procedure
requires only publication in a newspaper of general circulation and in such places

and for such time as the court may order,[28] as opposed to a newspaper of
general circulation in the Philippines and in such places as the court may order
required by the above-quoted Section 6 (1) of the Rule On Declaration Of Absolute
Nullity Of Void Marriages And Annulment Of Voidable Marriages.
The requirement that the trial court order the prosecutor to investigate
whether collusion exists in case the defendant in the declaration of nullity case files
no answer is addressed to the said court, not to the parties to the case nor to their
counsel, absent any showing of respondents involvement in the lapse in the
prescribed procedure, he cannot be faulted therefor.
Respecting complainants claim that respondent did not cause the registration
of the decree of nullity of the marriage, he offered no proof, in accordance with
Section 28, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, which states:
SEC. 28. Proof of lack of record. A written statement signed by an
officer having custody of an official record or by his deputy that after diligent
search no record or entry of a specified tenor is found to exist in the records of
his office, accompanied by a certificate as above provided, is admissible as
evidence that the records of his office contain no such record or
entry. (Underscoring supplied),

in support thereof.
As for complainants prayer for the setting aside of the decision in Civil
Case No. 2243-40 and the reopening of the case, the same may not be considered,
not in the present case anyway. He is, parenthetically, not even a real party in
interest to the said case. His invocation of the States interest in protecting the
sanctity of marriage[29] does not give him the standing to question the decision. By
law, it is the prosecuting attorney or fiscal or the Solicitor General who represents
the interest of the State in proceedings for the annulment or declaration of nullity
of marriage.[30]
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The dismissal of the complaint
by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is upheld.

SO ORDERED.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

(ON OFFICIAL LEAVE)


LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES- SANTIAGO


Associate Justice

(ON OFFICIAL LEAVE)


ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]
[10]
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]
[15]
[16]
[17]
[18]
[19]

On Official Leave.
Sometimes spelled Estano. Rollo pp. 5, 8-10.
Id. at 8, 14.
Id. at 15.
Id. at 16-17.
Id. at 18.
Id. at 19-27, 327.
Id. at 30-33.
Id. at 37.
Id. at 30-35.
Id. at 33.
Id. at 36.
Id. at 5-7.
Id. at 6-7.
Id. at 156.
Id. at 7, 61.
Id. at 156.
Id. at 7.
Id. at 100-102.
Id. at 100-102, 167-171.

[20]
[21]
[22]
[23]
[24]
[25]
[26]
[27]
[28]
[29]
[30]

Id. at 103, 167.


Id. at 106.
Id. at 393.
Id. at 386.
Marcelo v. Javier, Sr., Adm. Case No. 3248, September 18, 1992, 214 SCRA 1, 15.
Rollo, p. 60.
Id. at 114.
A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC. Salmingos allegations are in rollo, pp. 152-153, 156, 158.
RULES OF COURT, Rule 14, Section 14. Vide rollo, p. 327.
Rollo, pp. 7, 60, 157-158.
Vide ADMINISTRATIVE CODE of 1987, Book IV, Title III, Chapter 12, Section 35; FAMILY CODE,
Article 48; A.M. No. 02-11-20-SC, Sections 5(4), 5(18), 8(3), 9(1)-(3), 13(b), 18, 19 (2)-(3), 20
(2); Republic v. Iyoy, G.R. No. 152577, September 21, 2005, 470 SCRA 508, 528-531.

THIRD DIVISION

RUSSEL ESTEVA CORONADO,

A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047


(Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 03-1786-RTJ)

Complainant,

- versus -

JUDGE EDDIE R. ROJAS, Regional


Trial Court, Branch
37,General Santos City,
Respondent.

A.M. No. RTJ-07-2048


(Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 03-1798-RTJ)

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
Present:
ALFREDO S. CAPISIN, HERMELO O.
LATOJA, JAMES D. CATALAN,
ANECITO TAN, JR., ARNEL CALVO,
RICARDO PEPITO, and EVELYN
ROSALES,
Complainants,

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO, and
NACHURA, JJ.

- versus

Promulgated:
JUDGE EDDIE R. ROJAS, Regional
Trial Court, Branch
37,General Santos City,

July 3, 2007

Respondent.
x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

These administrative cases against respondent Judge Eddie R. Rojas of the


Regional Trial Court, Branch 37, General Santos City, arose from the complaint
filed by the Gensanville Homeowners Association against E.B. Villarosa and
Partners Co., Ltd. (E.B. Villarosa) and Engr. Patrick Nicholas Corpus before the
Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) in HLURB Case No. LSG-REM021098-0132 for specific performance and damages. The homeowners
association prayed that respondents (1) undertake the construction, repair, and
completion of the development of Gensanville Subdivision (Phase I) per the
approved plans and specifications; and (2) pay the complainants damages
inclusive of attorney's fees and the costs of litigation.[1]

The complainants prevailed before the HLURB,[2] which later issued a Writ
of Execution[3] against E.B. Villarosa. Consequently, Atty. Elmer D. Lastimosa and
Ramon A. Castillo, Clerk of Court VI and Sheriff IV, respectively, of the Regional
Trial
Court
(RTC)
of General Santos City, garnished
all
money,

deposits, and interests, including all monthly payments owed by the residents of
Gensanville Subdivision to E.B. Villarosa, in satisfaction of the writ of
execution. The Notice of Garnishment[4] specifically enjoined all concerned
parties to pay their water bills to the trial court until full satisfaction of the writ.

E.B. Villarosa later filed a Complaint[5] for injunction with prayer for a
temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Clerk of Court and the Sheriff of the
RTC of General Santos City. It averred that the monthly water bills owed by the
homeowners of Gensanville Subdivision do not wholly accrue to the benefit of
E.B. Villarosa, but part thereof also belongs to the employees of the latter, the
suppliers of electricity necessary to operate the water system, the unpaid sellers
of machineries, materials, and supplies for the operations, and to the government
in the form of taxes. Allegedly, if the payments were garnished, E.B. Villarosa
would be deprived of important resources to operate the water system in the
subdivision that would eventually lead to cessation of operations. E.B. Villarosa
would then lose its contractual right to operate the water system and supply the
homeowners the water they need.

In an Order[6] dated May 12, 2003, Vice-Executive Judge Antonio C. Lubao


noted without action the motion for issuance of a 72-hour TRO since the HLURB is
a co-ordinate body of the court and advised E.B. Villarosa to seek the injunctive
order from the appellate courts.

Civil Case No. 7234 was eventually raffled to Judge Rojas, who,
on May 15, 2003, conducted a hearing and, on the basis thereof, issued a twentyday TRO and required the parties to simultaneously submit their
memoranda.[7] On June 12, 2003,
Judge
Rojas
issued
a Writ
[8]
of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction.

These acts of Judge Rojas spawned these two administrative cases.

In A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047, the complainant, Vice-President of the Gensanville


Homeowners Association, claims that the association was denied its right to due
process by Judge Rojas when it was not impleaded as party defendant in Civil
Case No. 7234.[9]

In A.M. No. RTJ-07-2048, the complainants are members of the same


association. They aver that the TRO issued by Judge Rojas interfered with the
previous Order of Vice-Executive Judge Lubao and question the authority of the
former in issuing the assailed order. They, likewise, question their not being
impleaded as defendants in the injunction case.[10]

In his Comment[11] on the two complaints, Judge Rojas contends that the
TRO and the writ of preliminary injunction were regularly issued after a judicious
examination of the complaint. He claims that what was restrained was neither
the writ of execution nor the notice of garnishment themselves but merely the
manner by which the HLURB decisions were being executed. Agreeing with the
arguments raised by E.B. Villarosa, Judge Rojas believes that, without the
injunction, E.B. Villarosa will suffer irreparable injury before the claims of the
parties can be thoroughly investigated and adjudicated, and thus, he did not
interfere with the Order of Vice-Executive Judge Lubao. He further says that
granting injunctive relief to E.B. Villarosa neither shows his bias nor his abuse of
authority in favor of the latter, absent any proof of bad faith, malice, or corrupt
purpose. Lastly, he alleges that the remedy of the complainants is not an
administrative complaint but other judicial remedies.

On November 26, 2004, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) issued a
Report[12] finding Judge Rojas administratively liable for gross ignorance of the
law, grave abuse of authority, misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the proper
administration of justice.

The OCA held that the HLURB retained its jurisdiction over the
case, and if irregularities attended the manner in which the writ of execution was
implemented, they should be referred to the same agency. It said that Judge
Rojas gravely abused his authority when he took cognizance of Civil Case No. 7234
and issued the TRO and the injunctive writ, especially because HLURB exercises
quasi-judicial functions and is co-equal with the RTC.

Further, the complainants, being the prevailing party before the HLURB,
should have been given their day in court before the TRO and the injunction were
issued. The OCA noted that Judge Rojas even advised the counsel of E.B. Villarosa
during the hearing of May 15, 2003 to implead the real parties-in-interest. The
OCA found this failure on the part of Judge Rojas violative of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and of the right of the complainants to due process.

Thus, the OCA recommended that Judge Rojas be fined P10,000.00, with a
stern warning of a more severe penalty should he commit a similar offense in the
future.

We agree with the findings of the OCA with respect to Judge Rojas
administrative liability, but hold that the recommended fine is too light a penalty
in light of his previous infraction as a member of the Judiciary.

In this case, Judge Rojas knew very well that the complainants, being the
real parties-in-interest who prevailed in the HLURB decision subject of execution,
should have been impleaded as party-defendants in the injunction case before
him. This is clear from a reading of Sections 2 and 7, Rule 3 of the Rules of
Court.[13] In fact, he pointed this out in the hearing for the TRO on May 15, 2003,
as shown in the transcript of stenographic notes, to wit:

COURT:

You did not implead the prevailing party?

ATTY. ALCONERA:

We only assail the very account of the Sheriff.

COURT:

But you should implead the prevailing party. The court is


inclined to give 72 hours TRO but you should implead
the prevailing party because usually court personnel
acted as ministerial duty only.

ATTY. LASTIMOSA:

Your Honor, there was an Order for an application for 72


hours TRO?

COURT:

Because Judge Lubao did not take action because according


to him, the decision that should not be subject for a
TRO. Perhaps not for the court to stop the
implementation but only the garnishment must be done
belonging to the losing party but only mentioned as
borne out and alleged in the complaint that the fund is
not solely owned by the Villarosa.

ATTY. LASTIMOSA:

COURT:

ATTY. ALCONERA:

COURT:

But these are credits which might belong to the developer and
this can be subjected to the garnishment.

But according to the plaintiff, some of the payment of the


employees and payment for the electricity.

In fact, the claims of the workers are superior to those of the


judgment creditors. The listing of the unpaid sellers,
the workers below, they are the judgment creditors.

I will issue a 72-hours (sic) TRO then I will require the


defendants to show cause why the 72 hours will not be

extended and perhaps, to enlighten the court by


submitting to a simultaneous memorandum.

ATTY. ALCONERA:

COURT:

Since we will still implead

This is proper I think so that we can avoid duplicity of suit,


you implead the prevailing party because it is not a job
of the court personnel to be appearing. But in fairness
to the plaintiff, I will issue a TRO of 72 hours and then
scheduled (sic) hearing on the show cause why the 72
hours TRO will not be extended.[14]

Despite this, not only did he grant a twenty-day TRO,[15] instead of the 72-hour
TRO prayed for, but also denied the motion to dismiss filed by the named
defendants and issued a writ of injunction in favor of E.B. Villarosa.[16]

The complainants not having been joined as party-defendants, it was error


on the part of Judge Rojas to have denied the motion to dismiss. Indeed,
complainants were indispensable parties with such interest in the controversy
that a final decree would necessarily affect their rights so that the court could not
proceed without their presence[17]and all its subsequent actuations were
rendered null and void.[18] Judge Rojas had forgotten the rule that if the suit is not
brought in the name of or against the real party-in-interest, a motion to dismiss
may be filed on the ground that the complaint states no cause of action.[19]

Also, Judge Rojas encroached upon complainants right to due process of


law, as enshrined in the Constitution, as they were not given an opportunity to be
heard.[20] Denial of due process suffices to cast on the official act taken by
whatever branch of the government the impress of nullity.[21]

Finally, Judge Rojas disregarded the fact that the HLURB is a quasi-judicial
agency, co-equal with the RTC. The Order dated May 12, 2003 of Vice-Executive
Judge Lubao advising E.B. Villarosa to seek injunctive relief from the appellate
courts should have placed Judge Rojas on notice.

Under Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 957, as amended by P.D. No. 1344, the
HLURB (then National Housing Authority) has exclusive original jurisdiction on the
following: (a) unsound real estate business practices; (b) claims involving refund
and any other claims filed by a subdivision lot or condominium unit buyer against
the project owner, developer, dealer, broker, or salesman; and (c) cases involving
specific performance of contractual and statutory obligations filed by buyers of
subdivision lots or condominium units against the owner, developer, dealer,
broker, or salesman.[22] The decision of the HLURB is appealable within 15 days to
the Office of the President (OP), and, if after 30 days the appealed decision is not
reversed or amended by the OP, then it is deemed affirmed.[23] Thereafter, the
case may be elevated via a petition for review to the Court of Appeals, and then
to this Court.[24]

Truly, Judge Rojas acted beyond his judicial authority when he proceeded
to enjoin the final and executory decision of the HLURB. His proffered excuse that
the TRO and the writ of injunction he issued were not directed against the
HLURBs writ of execution but only against the manner of its execution, is too
shallow and facetious. He cannot feign ignorance that the effect of the injunctive
writ was to freeze the enforcement of the writ of execution, thus frustrating the
lawful order of the HLURB, a co-equal body.

This Court also notes that in Re: Inhibition of Judge Eddie R. Rojas, RTC,
Branch 39, Polomolok, South Cotabato in Crim. Case No. 09-5668,[25] Judge Rojas
was already fined P10,000.00 for failure to inhibit himself for a period of almost
one-and-a-half years in a criminal case where he previously appeared as public
prosecutor, contrary to the mandatory norm of impartiality. He presided in the
said case without the written consent of all parties in interest, in violation of

Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules of Court. In that case, he was also sternly warned
that the commission of the same or a similar breach would merit a higher penalty.

Generally, for a judge to be found guilty of gross ignorance of the law, the
assailed order, decision, or actuation of the judge in the performance of official
duties must not only be found erroneous but actuated by bad faith, dishonesty,
hatred, or some other like motive.[26] However, if the law, rule, or principle is so
elementary, not to know it or to act as if one does not know it already constitutes
gross ignorance of the law, without the complainant having to prove malice or
bad faith on the part of the erring judge, as the same can clearly be inferred from
the error committed.[27]

A magistrate like Judge Rojas owes to the public and to this Court the duty
to be proficient in the law. He is expected to keep abreast of laws and prevailing
jurisprudence.[28] Judges must not only render just, correct, and impartial
decisions, resolutions, and orders, but must do so in a manner free of any
suspicion as to their fairness, impartiality, and integrity, for good judges are men
who have a mastery of the principles of law and who discharge their duties in
accordance with law.[29] In this regard, Judge Rojas has twice failed.

Under Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No.
01-8-10-SC, gross ignorance of the law is classified as a serious charge. The
imposable penalties, as provided by Section 11 of the same Rule, are: (1) dismissal
from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may
determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public
office, including government-owned or controlled corporations: provided,
however, that the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave
credits; (2) suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more
than three (3), but not exceeding six (6) months; or (3) a fine of more
thanP20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00.[30]

Inasmuch as this case constitutes Judge Rojas' second infraction, a


suspension of three (3) months without salary and benefits is warranted.

WHEREFORE, Judge Rojas of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 37, General
Santos City, for gross ignorance of the law, is hereby imposed the penalty
of SUSPENSIONwithout salaries and other benefits for a period of three (3)
months, with a STERN WARNING that the commission in the future of the same
or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]

[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]
[10]
[11]
[12]

[13]

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

Decision dated June 24, 1998; rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047), pp. 11-23.
Decision dated September 16, 2002; id. at 25-28.
Writ of Execution dated April 2, 2003; id. at 9-10; rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2048), pp. 7-8.
Notice of Garnishment dated April 25, 2003; rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047), p. 8.
Rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047), pp. 29-35.
Id. at 59; rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2048), p. 9.
Id. at 6-7; id. at 10-11.
Id. at 62-64; id. at 27-29.
Rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047), pp. 2-5.
Rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2048), pp. 1-6.
Rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047), pp. 45-51.
Id. at 80-82.

SEC. 2. Parties-in-interest. A real party-in-interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by
the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. Unless otherwise authorized by law or these
Rules, every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party-in-interest.
SEC. 7. Compulsory joinder of indispensable parties. Parties-in-interest without whom no final
determination can be had of an action shall be joined either as plaintiffs or defendants.
[14]
TSN, May 15, 2003, pp. 6-10; rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2048), pp. 17-21.
[15]
Order dated May 15, 2003, rollo (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2047), pp. 6-7.
[16]
Order dated June 12, 2003, id. at 62-64.
[17]
Aron v. Realon, G.R. No. 159156, January 31, 2005, 450 SCRA 372, 389 (2005); Quiombing v. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 93010, August 30, 1990, 189 SCRA 325, 330; Seno v. Mangubat, No. L-44339, December 2,
1987, 156 SCRA 113, 119; see also Kho v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 53630, September 30, 1992, 214 SCRA 329,
336-337; Lozano v. Ballesteros, G.R. No. 49470, April 8, 1991, 195 SCRA 681, 690.
[18]
Aron v. Realon, id.; Tanhu v. Ramolete, 160 Phil. 1101, 1121 (1975); see also Alabang Development
Corp. v. Valenzuela, 201 Phil. 727, 737 (1982); Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L45168, September 25, 1979, 93 SCRA 238, 247.
[19]
Rules of Court, Rule 16, Section 1(g).
[20]
1987 Constitution, Article III, Section 1; Bacelonia v. Court of Appeals, 445 Phil. 300, 310 (2003).
[21]
Macias v. Macias, 457 Phil. 463, 471 (2003).
[22]
P.D. No. 1344, Section 1.
[23]
P.D. No. 1344, Section 2.
[24]
Realty Exchange Venture Corporation v. Sendino, G.R. No. 109703, July 5, 1994, 233 SCRA 665.
[25]
A.M. No. 98-6-185-RTC, October 30, 1998, 298 SCRA 306.
[26]
Sevilla v. Quintin, A.M. No. MTJ-05-1603, October 25, 2005, 474 SCRA 10, 20; Inoturan v. Limsiaco,
Jr., A.M. No. MTJ-01-1362, May 6, 2005, 458 SCRA 48, 56; Barredo-Fuentes v. Albarracin, A.M. No. MTJ-051587, April 15, 2005, 456 SCRA 120, 128; Sesbreo v. Aglugub, A.M. No. MTJ-05-1581, February 28, 2005, 452
SCRA 365, 376; Tan v. Adre, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1898, January 31, 2005, 450 SCRA 145, 152.

[27]

Officers and Members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Baguio-Benguet Chapter v.
Pamintuan, A.M. No. RTJ-02-1691, November 19, 2004, 443 SCRA 87, 101; Uy v. Dizon-Capulong, A.M. No. RTJ-91766, April 7, 1993, 221 SCRA 87, 95.
[28]

Alconera v. Majaducon, A.M. No. MTJ-00-1313, April 27, 2005, 457 SCRA 378, 387; Lim v. Dumlao,
A.M. No. MTJ-04-1556, March 31, 2005, 454 SCRA 196, 203.
[29]
Canon 3, Sections 1 & 2, Code of Judicial Conduct, A.M. No. 03-05-01-SC; Heirs of the Late Justice
Jose B.L. Reyes v. Demetria, 425 Phil. 1, 18 (2002).
[30]
Lumabas v. Banzon, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1421, August 18, 2005, 467 SCRA 257, 271; Dantes v. Caguioa,
A.M. No. RTJ-05-1919, June 27, 2005, 461 SCRA 236, 246-247.

E N B A NC

ATTY. CESAR A. ENRIQUEZ,

A.M. No. P-04-1833

Complainant,
Present:

PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
- versus -

CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
GARCIA,
VELASCO, JR., and
NACHURA, JJ.

LUCILA M. DE CASTRO,

Promulgated:

Court Interpreter II, Municipal Trial Court


in Cities, Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro,
Respondent.

July 3, 2007

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

In a Sworn Statement[1] dated 8 April 2003, Atty. Cesar A. Enriquez


(complainant) charged Lucila De Castro (respondent), Court Interpreter II of the
Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro (trial court), with
grave misconduct and extortion.
According to complainant, respondent extorted money from persons who
have cases with the trial court on the pretext that she would give complainant the
money as attorneys fees. Complainant stated that one such person was Ernesto
De Ala (De Ala), the accused in Criminal Case No. 13006. Complainant stated that
De Ala was charged with violation of Republic Act No. 6425 before the trial court
on 21 March 2002.

Complainant stated that in De Alas Sworn Statement dated 26 March


2003, De Ala asserted that:

1. Respondent solicited and received P15,000 from his wife,


Sonia De Ala, on the pretext that the money would be given to
complainant as attorneys fees and that complainant would
be De Alas defense counsel in the criminal case.
2. During De Alas arraignment in the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 40, De Ala learned that respondent did not give
the P15,000 to complainant but pocketed it for her own
personal use.

Complainant asserted that respondent personally admitted to him that she


received the P15,000. Complainant asserted that respondent asked for his
indulgence and assured him that she would give him the money in staggered
amount. Complainant stated that he did not authorize respondent to solicit
cases for him and to collect money for his attorneys fees.

On 8 April 2003, Judge Manolo A. Brotonel (Judge Brotonel) issued a


Memorandum to respondent informing her of the complaint for grave
misconduct and extortion that complainant had filed against her.
Judge Brotonel directed her to file her answer and comment on the complaint
within five days from notice.[2]

In his 1st Indorsement dated 13 May 2003, Judge Brotonel forwarded


to Executive Judge Manuel
C.
Luna,
Jr.
(Judge
Luna)
of
the Regional Trial Court of Calapan City, Branch 39 the Memorandum on the
complaint which complainant filed against respondent. Judge Brotonel stated

that despite the long period of time afforded respondent, she failed to controvert
the charges against her.[3]

In his 2nd Indorsement dated 23 June 2003, Judge Luna forwarded to the
Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) the Memorandum issued to respondent
for appropriate action.[4]

The OCA, in its 1st Indorsement dated 2 July 2003, required respondent to
file her Comment within 10 days from notice.[5] However, since respondent still
failed to file her comment, the OCA sent her its 1st Tracer on 7 November 2003
reiterating its directive for her to submit her comment within five days from
receipt of the 1st Tracer; otherwise, it would submit the case to the Court without
her comment.[6]

On 1 March 2004, the OCA submitted its Evaluation Report. The OCA stated:

The essence of due process is simply to afford the respondent the opportunity to
be heard or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain ones
side or an opportunity to seek reconsideration of the action or ruling taken. A formal
trial or hearing is not always the earmark of due process. The requirements of due
process are satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to
explain and air their side (Villareal vs. CA, 219 SCRA 293).
Respondents failure to file comment despite her being given the
opportunity twice, indicates her waiver of her right to be heard. The records show that
besides the two opportunities given her by the OCA, she received the Memorandum of
Judge Manolo Brotonel dated 3 April 2003, directing her to submit her formal answer
within five (5) days. Respondent likewise failed to do so.

RECOMMENDATION: Respectfully submitted for the consideration of the


Honorable Court is our recommendation that this case be REDOCKETED as a regular
administrative matter and that respondent be SUSPENDED for six (6) months without

benefits and SEVERELY WARNED that commission of any infraction will be dealt with
most severely.[7]

On 14 June 2006, the Court issued a resolution requiring the parties to


manifest within 10 days from notice whether they were willing to submit the case
for decision on the basis of the pleadings submitted.[8]

In its resolution dated 15 January 2007, the Court resolved to consider the
parties to have waived their compliance with the resolution dated 14 June
2006 because of their failure to manifest their willingness to submit the case for
decision based on the pleadings filed.[9]

The findings and recommendations of the OCA are well-taken, except for the
penalty.

The charges against respondent relate to her act of soliciting


from De Alas wife the sum of P15,000 on the pretext that the money would be
given to complainant as attorneys fees and that complainant would
be De Alas counsel in a criminal case.

The Court notes respondents failure to file her comment despite the
opportunities given her. She received on 9 April 2003 the Memorandum issued to
her on 8 April 2003, directing her to submit her answer to the complaint filed
against
her.[10] On
30
July
2003,
respondent
received
st
the OCAs 1 Indorsement dated 2 July 2003 directing her to submit her comment
within 10 days from receipt of the order.[11] Respondent received
the OCAs 1st Tracer dated 7 November 2003 on 25 November 2003. The OCA

reiterated its directive for respondent to submit her comment within five days
from notice.[12]

Respondent gave the impression that she waived her right to be heard and
to present evidence. While respondent may have lost such right, the Court is
convinced that she was not denied her day in court.

The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard,[13] the


requirements of which are satisfied where the parties are afforded fair and
reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy.[14] Here, it cannot
be said that there was a denial of due process on the part of respondent because
she was given the opportunities to refute the allegations of complainant.

Respondents actuation undermines the peoples faith in the judiciary. The


image of a court of justice is necessarily mirrored in the conduct, official or
otherwise, of the men and women who work in the judiciary, from the judge to
the employee holding the lowest position. It becomes the imperative and sacred
duty of each and every one in the court to maintain its good name and standing
as a true temple of justice. Thus, every employee of the court should be an
exemplar of integrity, uprightness, and honesty.[15] Respondent failed in this duty.
No other office in the government service exacts a greater demand for moral
righteousness and uprightness from an employee than the judiciary.[16] The Court
will not tolerate or condone any conduct of judicial employees which tends to or
actually diminishes the faith of the people in the judiciary.

We find respondent guilty of grave misconduct. Under Section 52,


paragraph A(3), Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil
Service, grave misconduct is a grave offense punishable by dismissal for the first
offense.

WHEREFORE, we find Lucila M. De Castro, Court Interpreter II, Municipal


Trial Court in Cities, Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, GUILTY of grave misconduct
and accordingly DISMISS her from the service, with forfeiture of all benefits,
except accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch
or instrumentality of the government including government-owned or controlled
corporations.

SO ORDERED.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

(On official leave)


LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVALGUTIERREZ
Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]
[8]

Rollo, p. 8-A.
Id. at 7.
Id. at 6.
Id. at 5.
Id. at 4.
Id. at 11.
Id. at 13-14.
Id. at 16.

Id. at 17.
Id. at 7.
[11]
Id. at 4.
[12]
Id. at 11.
[13]
Palanca v. Guides, G.R. No. 146365, 28 February 2005, 452 SCRA 461; Verceles v. Bureau
of
Labor Relations-DOLE-NCR, G.R. No. 152322, 15 February 2005, 451 SCRA 338.
[14]
Nueva Ecija Electric Cooperative (NEECO) II v. NLRC, G.R. No. 157603, 23 June 2005,
461
SCRA 169.
[15]
Chiong v. Baloloy, A.M. No. P-01-1523, 27 October 2006, 505 SCRA 528.
[16]
Imperial v. Santiago, Jr., 446 Phil. 104 (2003).
[9]

[10]

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

MIGUEL E. COLORADO,
Complainant,

A.M. No. MTJ-06-1658


[Formerly OCA IPI No. 01-1014-MTJ]

Present:

- versus -

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO, and

JUDGE RICARDO M. AGAPITO,

NACHURA, JJ.

Municipal Circuit Trial Court,


Laur, Nueva Ecija,

Promulgated:
Respondent.

July 3, 2007

x--------------------------------------------------x

RESOLUTION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.

Before us is a sworn letter-complaint[1] dated January 31, 2001 of Miguel E.


Colorado (complainant) charging Judge Ricardo M. Agapito (respondent),
Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC), Laur, Nueva Ecija, with Gross Ignorance
of the Law and Grave Abuse of Authority relative to Criminal Case Nos. 3461-G
and 3462-G, entitled People v. Miguel Colorado, with Grave Slander and Grave
Threats.
Complainant alleges: He is the accused in the aforementioned criminal
cases. The cases were directly filed with the court without first passing the Office
of the BarangayChairman, although he and private complainants are permanent
residents of Barangay Bagong Sikat, Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija. Respondent ignored
the glaring deficiency in private complainants filing of the cases without attaching
the requisite certifications to file action from the barangay. On the date the two
cases were filed, respondent immediately issued two warrants for his arrest. He
was arrested on a Friday and languished in the municipal jail for two days and two
nights. He posted bail and filed a motion to inhibit respondent from hearing the

case, but the same was not acted upon. He received an envelope from the court
with nothing inside and found out later that the same was supposed to be a notice
of hearing; thus, he was ordered arrested in view of his non-appearance in court.
On February 22, 2001, respondent compulsorily retired from the judiciary.
In a 1st Indorsement dated June 8, 2001, respondent was directed to file his
comment on the complaint. A 1st Tracer dated October 17, 2001 was sent to
respondent giving him a non-extendible period of five days to file his
comment. However, the said tracer was returned unserved due to respondents
retirement from the judiciary. Another Tracer dated July 30, 2002 was sent to
respondent in his residential address giving him a chance to file his comment, but
none was filed.
Acting on the complaint, the Court, in its Resolution of March 24, 2003,
required respondent to manifest whether he was willing to submit the
administrative matter against him for resolution without his comment. Respondent
failed to comply with the Court Resolution. Thus, in the Resolution of January 26,
2005, the Court ordered respondent to show cause why he should not be
disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for failure to manifest and to comply
with the Resolution of March 24, 2003. Still, respondent failed to comply with the
Resolution of January 26, 2005. In the Resolution of August 24, 2005, the Court
imposed upon respondent a fine of P1,000.00 and deemed respondent to have
waived the filing of a comment on the complaint.
In the Agenda Report[2] dated October 12, 2005, the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA) found respondent guilty as charged and recommended that
he be fined in the amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) to be deducted
from his retirement benefits.

On November 8, 2005, respondent paid the fine of P1,000.00 imposed on


him in the Resolution of August 24, 2005 and submitted his Comment on the
complaint.
In his Comment[3] dated October 31, 2005, respondent denied the allegations
contained in the complaint reasoning that he acted in good faith and within the
scope of his duties. He further contends: Based on Administrative Circular No.
140-93, the crimes committed by the accused are not within
the Katarungan Pambarangay Law because the imposable penalty exceeds one
year. Both cases are within the original jurisdiction of the court and, finding a
probable cause against the accused, the court issued the warrant of arrest. There is
no law or circular issued by this Court that a court cannot issue a warrant of arrest
on Friday. If the accused was not able to post bail on time, it is not his fault or of
the court. The motion for inhibition filed by complainant must be set for
hearing. But in spite of several settings to hear the motion, complainant failed to
appear. In the hearing of both cases, complainant failed to appear in court; thus,
the assistant provincial prosecutor moved for the arrest of the complainant. At the
hearing of November 17, 2000 and January 5, 2001, complainant failed to appear
in court, and orders of arrest were issued against him, but said orders were
reconsidered by the court. In spite of all the orders of the court for the arrest of
complainant, none of the orders were implemented. Neither was the accused
arrested and detained in jail. And if the complainant received an envelope from the
MCTC of Laur without content, complainant should have immediately informed
the court of the said circumstance so that proper action may be done on the
employee in charge of the mailing of notices.
In the Resolution of March 29, 2006, the Court referred back the instant
administrative matter to the OCA for evaluation, report and recommendation.

In a letter[4] dated November 21, 2005, respondent requested the Court that
his retirement benefits be released subject to the withholding
of P20,000.00 pending resolution of the present complaint.
In the Resolution[5] of June 28, 2006, the Court granted the partial release of
respondent's compulsory retirement benefits and withheld therefrom the amount
ofP20,000.00 to answer for whatever liability respondent may incur in the present
administrative case.
In the Agenda Report dated August 30, 2006, the OCA submitted its
evaluation and recommendation, to wit:
The charges against respondent judge are summarized as follows:

1. Gross Ignorance of the law for his failure to remand or dismiss the case
in view of the absence of the requisite certificate to file action issued by
the Barangay as

mandatory

requirement

of

the Katarungan Pambarangay Law and the Local Government Code.

2. Grave abuse of authority for the issuance of a warrant of arrest on a


Friday to ensure complainants incarceration for two days.

3. Grave abuse of authority and bias in continuing the hearing of the cases
and for failure to act on the motion for inhibition.
4. An intention on the part of respondent to prevent complainants
appearance in court by sending an envelope, with a supposed notice of
hearing but with nothing inside.

xxxx

Respondent judge argued that under Administrative Circular No. 14-93


dated August 3, 1993 issued by this Court as Guidelines for the Implementation of
the Barangay Conciliation Procedure, based on the Local Government Code of
1991, R.A. 7160, which took effect on January 1, 1992, one of the exceptions to
the coverage of the circular is Offense[s] for which the law prescribes a
maximum penalty of imprisonment exceeding one (1) year or a fine over five
thousand pesos (P5,000.00). Considering that the offenses for which accused
was charged have corresponding penalties of more than one year there is no need
for a certification to file action from the Barangay.

There was likewise no grave abuse of discretion in the issuance of warrant


of arrest. The subject criminal cases were within the original jurisdiction of the
MTC and after finding probable cause against the accused, respondent issued the
questioned warrant of arrest. Respondent pointed out that there is no law or
circular issued by the Honorable Court prohibiting the issuance of a warrant of
arrest on Friday.

With regard to the charge of grave abuse of discretion relative to the


motion for inhibition, respondent submitted that there should be a hearing on the
motion before it could be acted upon. But in spite of the several settings of said
motion the complainant as accused failed to appear.

Respondent contended that if it were true that complainant received an


envelope from the MCTC of Laur, Nueva Ecija, without any contents, he should
have immediately informed the court about it so that the proper action could have
been done.
Lastly, respondent invited the Courts attention to the fact that
complainant

was

also

accused

of

Grave

Slander

by Darlito Urbano and Violeta Urbano which case were docketed as Criminal

Case No. 3648-G and 3649-G, MCTC Laur-Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija. It is argued
that this shows the character of Miguel Colorado.

After careful evaluation of the record of the case, the undersigned finds
merit in the neglect of respondent judge to resolve the pending issue of the motion
for inhibition which was not acted upon up to the time of his compulsory
retirement from the service.

It should be noted that respondent never gave any valid


justification for the delay in the filing of his comment. It seems that he believed
that the mere payment of the fine obliterated the charge of contumacious refusal
to obey the order of this Court. Respondent's conduct cannot be left unnoticed by
the Court. Judges are the visible representations of law and justice, from whom
the people draw the will and inclination to obey the law (Moroo v. Lomeda, 316
Phil. 103, July 14, 1995) How can the respondent judge expect others to respect
the law when he himself cannot obey orders as simple as the show-cause
resolution? {Longboan v. Hon. Polig (A.M. No. R-704-RTJ, June 14, 1990, 186
SCRA 557) cited in the case of BonifacioGuintu v. Judge Aunario L. Lucero,
A.M. No. MTJ-93-794, August 23, 1996}.

In a catena of cases this Court has unhesitatingly imposed the


penalty of dismissal on those who have persistently failed to comply with orders
requiring them either to file comment or to show cause and comply. Respondent's
belated filing of his comment cannot cure or obliterate[d] his shortcomings with
this Court. The fact remains that he ignored the lawful directive of the Court and
in fact offered no valid justification or excuse for it. This Court could have
imposed the penalty of dismissal and forfeiture of all of respondent's retirement
benefit had it not been for this Courts compassion in allowing him to retire with
the mere retention of P20,000.00. Respondents comment should not have been

received in the first place as the same was already considered waived pursuant to
the Resolution of the Honorable Court dated 24 August 2005.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the undersigned respectfully


recommends to the Honorable Court that:

1. Judge

Ricardo

M. Agapito,

former

judge

of

MCTC, Laur, Nueva Ecija be found guilty of gross neglect for failure
to act on the motion for inhibition filed by accused-complainant and
for his failure to promptly comply with the lawful order of Court and
not offering a valid excuse therefor and should be FINED in the
amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000); and

2. The withheld amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000) shall be


considered the payment of the fine.

[6]

We agree in toto with the findings and recommendations of the OCA.


First of all, we deem it necessary to determine the applicability of A.M. No.
03-10-01-SC, a Resolution Prescribing Measures to Protect Members of the
Judiciary fromBaseless and Unfounded Administrative Complaints, which took
effect on November 3, 2003.

Recognizing the proliferation of unfounded or malicious administrative or


criminal cases against members of the judiciary for purposes of harassment, we
issued said Resolution, which provides:

2. If the complaint is (a) filed within six months before the compulsory retirement
of a Justice or Judge; (b) for an alleged cause of action that occurred at least a year before
such filing; and (c) shown prima facie that it is intended to harass the respondent, it must
forthwith be recommended for dismissal. If such is not the case, the Office of the Court

Administrator must require the respondent to file a comment within ten (10) days from
receipt of the complaint, and submit to the Court a report and recommendation not later
than thirty (30) days from receipt of the comment. The Court shall act on the
recommendation before the date of compulsory retirement of the respondent, or if it is
not possible to do so, within six (6) months from such date without prejudice to the
release of the retirement benefits less such amount as the Court may order to be
withheld, taking into account the gravity of the cause of action alleged in the complaint.

Thus, in order for an administrative complaint against a retiring judge or justice to


be dismissed outright, the following requisites must concur: (1) the complaint
must have been filed within six months from the compulsory retirement of the
judge or justice; (2) the cause of action must have occurred at least a year before
such filing; and (3) it is shown that the complaint was intended to harass the
respondent.

In the present case, the first two requisites are present. The sworn lettercomplaint was received by the Office of the Court Administrator on January 31,
2001. The respondent retired compulsorily from the service barely three
weeks after or on February 22, 2001; and the ground for disciplinary action
alleged to have been committed by the respondent occurred five months before
the respondents separation from the service.

As to the third requirement, although the first and second charges against
respondent are outrightly without merit as aptly found by the OCA, the complaint
that respondent failed to act on his motion for inhibition and intentionally
prevented complainant from appearing in a scheduled hearing was not prima
facie shown to be without merit; nor wasthe filing thereof shown to be intended
merely to harass the respondent.[7] Thus, the OCA correctly proceeded with the
administrative case against respondent.

Moreover, the fact that a judge has retired or has otherwise been separated
from the service does not necessarily divest the Court of its jurisdiction to
determine the veracity of the allegations of the complaint, pursuant to its

disciplinary authority over members of the bench. As we held in Gallo v.


Cordero,[8] citing Zarate v. Judge Romanillos:[9]

The jurisdiction that was ours at the time of the filing of the administrative
complaint was not lost by the mere fact that the respondent had ceased in office during
the pendency of his case. The Court retains jurisdiction either to pronounce the
respondent public official innocent of the charges or declare him guilty thereof. A
contrary rule would be fraught with injustice and pregnant with dreadful and dangerous
implications... If innocent, respondent public official merits vindication of his name and
integrity as he leaves the government which he has served well and faithfully; if guilty,
he deserves to receive the corresponding censure and a penalty proper and imposable
under the situation.

We now go to the four charges against respondent.

1. Gross Ignorance of the law for his failure to remand or dismiss the case
in view of the absence of the requisite certificate to file action issued by
the barangay as a mandatory requirement of the Katarungan Pambarangay Law
and the Local Government Code.
As we earlier stated, the Court finds that the OCA is correct in not finding
respondent
administratively
liable therefor. Complainant
is
charged
with grave slander, the maximum penalty for which is 2 years and 4 months
under Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code. Thus, respondent is not guilty of
gross ignorance of the law in taking jurisdiction over said criminal
case, considering that prior recourse to barangay conciliation is not required
where the law provides a maximum penalty of imprisonmentexceeding one year.

2. Grave abuse of authority for the issuance of a warrant of arrest on a


Friday to ensure complainants incarceration for two days.

Complainant faults respondent for having been arrested on a Friday,


causing him to languish in jail for two days and two nights. Respondent cannot be
held administratively liable for this particular matter.

Section 6, Rule 113 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that
an arrest may be made on any day and at any time of the day or night.

It is of no moment that the warrant of arrest was issued by respondent on a


Friday, because it is clear from the foregoing that an arrest may be made on any
day regardless of what day the warrant of arrest was issued. Nowhere in the Rules
or in our jurisprudence can we find that a warrant of arrest issued on a Friday
is prohibited.
Granting that complainant was arrested on a Friday, he was not without
recourse, as he could have posted bail for his temporary liberty in view of Supreme
Court Circular No. 95-96[10] dated December 5, 1996, providing for a skeletal force
on a Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. primarily to act on petitions for bail and
other urgent matters. And on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and non-working
holidays, any judge may act on bailable offenses. Thus, we agree with the OCA
that respondent did not commit grave abuse of authority for issuing the warrant of
arrest on a Friday, the same not being prohibited by law.
3. Grave abuse of authority and bias in continuing the hearing of the cases
and for failure to act on the motion for inhibition.
While there is no evidence in support of the claim that respondent
committed grave abuse of authority and bias in continuing the hearing of cases, we
find respondent liable for failure to act upon complainants motion for inhibition.

As borne by the records, complainant filed his motion for respondent's


inhibition sometime in September 2000 but up to the time of respondents
compulsory retirement from the judiciary on February 22, 2001, the same
remained unacted upon. Verily, the undue delay of respondent by five months in
resolving the pending incident before his court erodes the peoples faith in the
judiciary and the same is tantamount to gross inefficiency. Respondents
explanation that despite the fact that the motion was set for hearing several times,
complainant repeatedly failed to appear thereat, is untenable. Respondent must
know that he may act motu proprio on the motion for inhibition without requiring
the attendance of complainant. A judge, in the exercise of his sound discretion,
may disqualify himself from sitting on a case for just or valid reasons.[11]
Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine
Judiciary,[12] mandates judges to perform all judicial duties, including the delivery
of
reserved
decisions,
efficiently,
fairly
and
with
reasonable
promptness. Similarly, Supreme Court Circular No. 13 dated July 1, 1987 directs
judges to observe unscrupulously the periods prescribed by the Constitution in the
adjudication and resolution of all cases or matters submitted to their court.
In Visbal v. Buban,[13] the Court held that failure to decide cases and other
matters within the reglementary period constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants
the imposition of administrative sanction against the erring magistrate. [14] Delay in
resolving motions and incidents pending before a judge within
the reglementary period of ninety (90) days fixed by the Constitution and the law
is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency.[15] Further, such delay
constitutes a violation of Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct,
which mandates that a judge should dispose of the courts business promptly and
decide cases within the required periods. As a trial judge, respondent is a frontline
official of the judiciary and should at all times act with efficiency and with
probity.[16] Undue delay in the disposition of cases and motions erodes the faith

and confidence of the people in the judiciary and unnecessarily blemishes its
stature.[17]
4. An intention on the part of respondent to prevent complainants

appearance in court by sending an envelope, with a supposed notice of hearing but


with nothing inside.
Suffice it to be stated that in the absence of evidence to show that the
sending of an empty envelope to complainant was malicious on the part of
respondent, he cannot be held liable therefor.
Section 9 (1) and 11 (B), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by
A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, classifies gross neglect or undue delay in rendering a
decision or order as a less serious charge which carries any of the following
sanctions: suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less
than one (1) nor more than three (3) months or a fine of more than P10,000.00 but
not exceeding P20,000.00. We adopt the recommendation of the OCA that
respondent should be imposed a fine in the amount ofP20,000.00.[18]
WHEREFORE, the
Court
finds
respondent
Judge
Ricardo
M. Agapito guilty of gross neglect and is FINED in the amount of Twenty
Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00). The withheld amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos
(P20,000.0) from respondents retirement benefits is considered as payment of the
fine.
SO ORDERED.

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]
[10]

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

Rollo, pp. 1-3.


Id. at 46-48.
Id. at 50-53.
Id. at 62.
id. at 67.
Id. at 71-73.
See Heck v. Santos, A.M. No. RTJ-01-1657, February 27, 2004; 423 SCRA 219, 345.
315 Phil. 210, 220 (1995).
312 Phil. 679 (1995).
6. Duty during weekends and holidays. - All Executive Judges, whether in single sala courts or
multiple sala stations shall assign, by rotation, Metropolitan Trial Judges, Municipal Trial Judges and

[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]
[15]
[16]
[17]
[18]

Municipal Circuit Judges within their respective territorial areas to be on duty on Saturday from 8:00 a.m.
to 1:00 p.m. assisted by a skeletal force, also on rotation, primarily to act on petitions for bail and other
urgent matters.
On Saturday afternoons, Sundays and non-working holidays, any Judge may act
on bailable offenses conformably with the provisions of Section 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court.
All Executive Judges, whether in single sala or multiple sala shall remain on duty on
Saturday mornings.
RULES OF COURT, Rule 137, Sec. 1(b).
A.M. No. 03-05-01-SC, June 1, 2004.
443 Phil. 705 (2003).
Id. at 708.
Id. at 708.
Id. at 709.
Gonzales v. Hidalgo, 449 Phil. 336, 340 (2003).
Imbang v. Del Rosario, A.M. No. MTJ-03-1515, November 19, 2004; 443 SCRA 79, 85; Re: Report on
the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branches 3, 5, 7, 60 and 61, Baguio City, 467
Phil. 18, 19 (2004).

FIRST DIVISION
MA. LUISA HADJULA,

A.C. No. 6711

Complainant,
Present:

PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,


*

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CORONA,
- versus -

AZCUNA, and
GARCIA, JJ.

Promulgated:
ATTY. ROCELES F. MADIANDA,

July 3, 2007

Respondent.

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

GARCIA, J.:

Under consideration is Resolution No. XVI-2004-472 of the Board of


Governors, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), relative to the complaint for
disbarment filed by herein complainant Ma. Luisa Hadjula against respondent
Atty. Roceles F. Madianda.

The case started when, in an AFFIDAVIT-COMPLAINT[1] bearing


date September 7, 2002 and filed with the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline,
complainant charged Atty. Roceles F. Madianda with violation of Article 209[2] of
the Revised Penal Code and Canon Nos. 15.02 and 21.02 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.

In said affidavit-complaint, complainant alleged that she and respondent


used to be friends as they both worked at the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)
whereat respondent was the Chief Legal Officer while she was the Chief Nurse of
the Medical, Dental and Nursing Services. Complainant claimed that, sometime in
1998, she approached respondent for some legal advice. Complainant further
alleged that, in the course of their conversation which was supposed to be kept
confidential, she disclosed personal secrets and produced copies of a marriage
contract, a birth certificate and a baptismal certificate, only to be informed later
by the respondent that she (respondent) would refer the matter to a lawyer

friend. It was malicious, so complainant states, of respondent to have refused


handling her case only after she had already heard her secrets.

Continuing, complainant averred that her friendship with respondent


soured after her filing, in the later part of 2000, of criminal and disciplinary
actions against the latter. What, per complainants account, precipitated the filing
was when respondent, then a member of the BFP promotion board, demanded a
cellular phone in exchange for the complainants promotion.

According to complainant, respondent, in retaliation to the filing of the


aforesaid actions, filed a COUNTER COMPLAINT[3] with the Ombudsman charging
her (complainant) with violation of Section 3(a) of Republic Act No.
3019,[4] falsification of public documents and immorality, the last two charges
being based on the disclosures complainant earlier made to respondent. And also
on the basis of the same disclosures, complainant further stated, a disciplinary
case was also instituted against her before the Professional Regulation
Commission.

Complainant seeks the suspension and/or disbarment of respondent for the


latters act of disclosing personal secrets and confidential information she
revealed in the course of seeking respondents legal advice.

In an order dated October 2, 2002, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline


required respondent to file her answer to the complaint.

In her answer, styled as COUNTER-AFFIDAVIT,[5] respondent denied giving


legal advice to the complainant and dismissed any suggestion about the existence
of a lawyer-client relationship between them. Respondent also stated the
observation that the supposed confidential data and sensitive documents
adverted to are in fact matters of common knowledge in the BFP. The relevant
portions of the answer read:

5.

I specifically deny the allegation of F/SUPT. MA. LUISA C. HADJULA in

paragraph 4 of her AFFIDAVIT-COMPLAINT for reason that she never WAS MY CLIENT
nor we ever had any LAWYER-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP that ever existed ever since and
that never obtained any legal advice from me regarding her PERSONAL PROBLEMS or
PERSONAL SECRETS. She likewise never delivered to me legal documents much more
told me some confidential information or secrets. That is because I never entertain
LEGAL QUERIES or CONSULTATION regarding PERSONAL MATTERS since I know as a
LAWYER of the Bureau of Fire Protection that I am not allowed to privately practice law
and it might also result to CONFLICT OF INTEREST. As a matter of fact, whenever there
will be PERSONAL MATTERS referred to me, I just referred them to private law
practitioners and never entertain the same, NOR listen to their stories or examine or
accept any document.

9.

I specifically deny the allegation of F/SUPT. MA. LUISA C. HADJULA in

paragraph 8 of her AFFIDAVIT-COMPLAINT, the truth of the matter is that her ILLICIT
RELATIONSHIP and her illegal and unlawful activities are known in the Bureau of Fire
Protection since she also filed CHILD SUPPORT case against her lover where she has a
child .

Moreover, the alleged DOCUMENTS she purportedly have shown to me


sometime in 1998, are all part of public records .

Furthermore, F/SUPT. MA. LUISA C. HADJULA, is filing the instant case just to get
even with me or to force me to settle and withdraw the CASES I FILED AGAINST HER
since she knows that she will certainly be DISMISSED FROM SERVICE, REMOVED FROM
THE PRC ROLL and CRIMINALLY CONVICTED of her ILLICIT, IMMORAL, ILLEGAL and
UNLAWFUL ACTS.

On October 7, 2004, the Investigating Commissioner of the IBP Commission


on Bar Discipline came out with a Report and Recommendation, stating that the
information related by complainant to the respondent is protected under the
attorney-client privilege communication. Prescinding from this postulate, the
Investigating Commissioner found the respondent to have violated legal ethics
when she [revealed] information given to her during a legal consultation, and
accordingly recommended that respondent be reprimanded therefor, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that


respondent Atty. Roceles Madianda be reprimanded for revealing the secrets of the
complainant.

On November 4, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No.


XVI-2004-472 reading as follows:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED,
the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the aboveentitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex A; and , finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and
rules, and considering the actuation of revealing information given to respondent during
a legal consultation, Atty. Roceles Madianda is hereby REPRIMANDED.

We AGREE with the recommendation and the premises holding it together.

As it were, complainant went to respondent, a lawyer who incidentally was


also then a friend, to bare what she considered personal secrets and sensitive
documents for the purpose of obtaining legal advice and assistance. The moment
complainant approached the then receptive respondent to seek legal advice, a
veritable lawyer-client relationship evolved between the two. Such relationship
imposes upon the lawyer certain restrictions circumscribed by the ethics of the
profession. Among the burdens of the relationship is that which enjoins the
lawyer, respondent in this instance, to keep inviolate confidential information
acquired or revealed during legal consultations. The fact that one is, at the end of
the day, not inclined to handle the clients case is hardly of consequence. Of little
moment, too, is the fact that no formal professional engagement follows the
consultation. Nor will it make any difference that no contract whatsoever was

executed by the parties to memorialize the relationship. As we said in Burbe v.


Magulta,[6] A lawyer-client relationship was established from the very first moment
complainant asked respondent for legal advise regarding the formers business. To
constitute professional employment, it is not essential that the client employed the
attorney professionally on any previous occasion.

It is not necessary that any retainer be paid, promised, or charged; neither is it


material that the attorney consulted did not afterward handle the case for which his
service had been sought.

It a person, in respect to business affairs or troubles of any kind, consults a


lawyer with a view to obtaining professional advice or assistance, and the attorney
voluntarily permits or acquiesces with the consultation, then the professional
employments is established.

Likewise, a lawyer-client relationship exists notwithstanding the close personal


relationship between the lawyer and the complainant or the non-payment of the
formers fees.

Dean Wigmore lists the essential factors to establish the existence of the
attorney-client privilege communication, viz:

(1) Where legal advice of any kind is sought (2) from a professional legal adviser
in his capacity as such, (3) the communications relating to that purpose, (4) made in
confidence (5) by the client, (6) are at his instance permanently protected (7) from
disclosure by himself or by the legal advisor, (8) except the protection be waived.[7]

With the view we take of this case, respondent indeed breached his duty of
preserving the confidence of a client. As found by the IBP Investigating
Commissioner, the documents shown and the information revealed in confidence
to the respondent in the course of the legal consultation in question, were used
as bases in the criminal and administrative complaints lodged against the
complainant.

The purpose of the rule of confidentiality is actually to protect the client


from possible breach of confidence as a result of a consultation with a lawyer.
The seriousness of the respondents offense notwithstanding, the Court
feels that there is room for compassion, absent compelling evidence that the
respondent acted with ill-will. Without meaning to condone the error of
respondents ways, what at bottom is before the Court is two former friends
becoming bitter enemies and filing charges and counter-charges against each
other using whatever convenient tools and data were readily available.
Unfortunately, the personal information respondent gathered from her
conversation with complainant became handy in her quest to even the score. At
the end of the day, it appears clear to us that respondent was actuated by the
urge to retaliate without perhaps realizing that, in the process of giving vent to a
negative sentiment, she was violating the rule on confidentiality.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, respondent Atty. Roceles F. Madianda is


hereby REPRIMANDED and admonished to be circumspect in her handling of
information acquired as a result of a lawyer-client relationship. She is
also STERNLY WARNED against a repetition of the same or similar act complained
of.
SO ORDERED.

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice
Chairperson

(On leave)
ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Associate Justice

*
[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]

On leave.
Rollo, pp. 1-3.
Betrayal of Trust by an Attorney/Revelation of Secrets.
Rollo, pp. 22-24.
Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Rollo, pp. 54-60.
432 Phil. 840 (2002).
8 J. Wigmore, Evidence 2292 (McNaughton rev. 1961).