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JUDGE DIVINA LUZ A.M. No.

MTJ-05-1588
P. AQUINO-SIMBULAN, (Formerly No. 04-9-511-RTC)
Complainant,

- versus - Present:

PRESIDING JUDGE NICASIO BARTOLOME YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,


(retired), Chairperson,
ACTING CLERK OF COURT ROMANA C. CARPIO,*
PASCUAL, CORONA,**
CLERK OF COURT NACHURA, and
MILAGROS P. LEREY (retired), PERALTA, JJ.
and DOCKET CLERK
AMOR DELA CRUZ,
all of the Municipal Trial Court, Sta. Maria, Promulgated:
Bulacan,
Respondents. June 5, 2009

DECISION
Before this Court is a letter-complaint[1] dated April 27, 2004 filed by complainant Judge Divina Luz P. Aquino-
Simbulan with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), alleging that respondents Judge Nicasio V. Bartolome,
together with Romana Pascual, Milagros Lerey, and Amor dela Cruz, Acting Clerk of Court, retired Clerk of Court
and Docket Clerk, respectively, all of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Sta. Maria, Bulacan, committed grave
errors and discrepancies in processing the surety bond for the accused Rosalina Mercado in Criminal Case No. 13360,
entitled People of the Philippines v. Rosalina Mercado, et al.

In her complaint, Judge Simbulan alleged the following:

Criminal Case No. 13360 was originally raffled to the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 41, San Fernando,
Pampanga, where complainant Judge presides. On September 18, 2003, said branch of the RTC received an
Indorsement from Warrant/Subpoena Officer PO3 Edwin Villacentino of the Sasmuan Municipal Police Station
stating that the accused Mercado voluntarily surrendered before the MTC of Sta. Maria, Bulacan and posted her bail
bond through Summit Guaranty & Insurance Co., Inc., which was duly approved by respondent Judge Bartolome on
August 21, 2003. This prompted complainant to issue an Order [2] dated October 29, 2003, directing respondent Lerey,
then Clerk of Court of the MTC, to transmit to the RTC within twenty-four (24) hours from receipt of said Order, the
bond which the former court approved.

When the Clerk of Court failed to comply, complainant Judge issued an Order [3] dated January 12, 2004 directing the
former to explain in writing within three (3) days from receipt thereof why she should not be cited in contempt for
delaying the administration of justice.
On January 29, 2004, the RTC received a letter[4] from respondent Romana Pascual, then Acting Clerk of Court of the
MTC, explaining that the bail bond in Criminal Case No. 13360 was approved by respondent Judge during the tenure
of Lerey, and that the latter had retired on August 26, 2003.
On February 12, 2004, the RTC received a written explanation[5] from Lerey stating that she had misplaced and
overlooked the subject surety bond, which resulted in the delay of its transmission to the RTC. Attached to Lereys
letter were the following documents: (1) the Court Order dated August 21, 2003 signed by respondent Judge; (2) Bond
No. 46485 dated August 21, 2003 with attachments; (3) Undertaking dated November 22, 2003; (4) Certification from
the Office of the Court Administrator, dated October 29, 2003; and (5) Certification from Summit Guaranty and
Insurance Company, Inc., dated November 22, 2003.

Upon perusal of the documents, complainant Judge discovered that the subject surety bond bore some erasures, and
its attachments were highly anomalous. In view of these findings, the RTC issued a subpoena to respondents Pascual
and Lerey directing them to appear before it to explain the aforementioned errors.
During the hearing held on April 26, 2004, respondents Pascual and Lerey appeared before the RTC, Branch 41, San
Fernando, Pampanga, and the following facts were established therein:

1. That respondent Judge issued an Order of Release dated August 21, 2003 without a Certificate of
Detention and Warrant of Arrest attached to the documents presented to him;

2. That while the Order of Release was dated August 21, 2003, the Undertaking and Certification from the
bonding company were dated November 22, 2003 and October 29, 2003, respectively;

3. That it was Lerey who reviewed the documents before the surety bond was referred to respondent Judge
for the latters approval; and

4. That the delay in the transmission of the bond and its supporting documents was attributed to Amor dela
Cruz, Docket Clerk of the MTC of Sta. Maria, Bulacan.[6]

After the hearing, Public Prosecutor Otto Macabulos stated that he found the explanation too shallow and self-serving,
and that he would file an indirect contempt case under Rule 71, Section 3 (d) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure
against Lerey and Dela Cruz. He filed said complaint[7] on June 21, 2004. The RTC, Branch 41, San Fernando,
Pampanga then directed Lerey and Dela Cruz to explain in writing within fifteen (15) days why they should not be
cited in indirect contempt of court or improper conduct in the processing of the bail bond of accused Mercado. [8]

In her Manifestation/Compliance[9] dated October 25, 2004, Lerey admitted lapses and negligence in processing the
subject bail bond and was remorseful for what happened. On the other hand, Dela Cruz stated that there was no
wrongdoing on her part in the processing of the subject bail bond and that she merely followed instructions in mailing
the said bail bond to the RTC.[10]

In an Order[11] dated December 14, 2004, the RTC found Lerey guilty of indirect contempt and sentenced her to pay
a fine of P10,000.00, which she duly paid. However, it absolved Dela Cruz from any liability as it found her
explanation meritorious.

In the meantime, in his 1st Indorsement[12] dated February 26, 2004, Deputy Court Administrator (DCA) Jose P. Perez
referred to the Clerk of Court of the MTC of Sta. Maria, Bulacan the Orders issued by complainant Judge relative to
the surety bond for comment. However, there was nothing on record to show that said Clerk of Court complied with
the directive.
DCA Perez also issued a 1st Indorsement[13] dated June 22, 2004 to respondent Judge referring to the letter dated April
27, 2004 of complainant Judge, which discussed the errors and discrepancies regarding the approval of the bail bond
of the accused in Criminal Case No. 13360, with the instruction to the former to submit his comment thereto.

In compliance, respondent Judge submitted his 2nd Indorsement[14] dated July 13, 2004, wherein he denied any liability
concerning his approval of the subject surety bond.According to him, Lerey had expressly admitted her negligence
and lapses which caused the delay in transmitting the bond to the RTC. He stressed that just like any other judge, his
Clerk of Court (Lerey) enjoys his trust and confidence on matters pertaining to the affairs of the court, including the
review and approval of bail bonds. He added that he had no reason to doubt the official actions of Lerey as the latter
had been serving the court for around 37 years.

In a Memorandum[15] dated March 1, 2005, then Court Administrator, now Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco,
Jr., recommended that the letter dated April 27, 2004 (and the Orders attached thereto) of complainant Judge be treated
as a formal administrative complaint and redocketed as such against respondents Judge Bartolome, Pascual, Lerey,
and Dela Cruz, with the directive that the named respondents submit their respective Comments within ten (10) days
upon receipt of the Order from the Court. Said Order[16] was issued by the Court on April 13, 2005, and all the
respondents submitted their Comments on May 13, 2005.
Respondent Judge and Pascual both averred that in the case for indirect contempt, only Lerey was found guilty of
negligence in the performance of her duties, and no other indictment was made against them.[17]
On the other hand, Lerey stated in her Comment[18] that she has already been found guilty of indirect contempt for
failure to transmit the bail bond within the period directed by the court, and paid the fine therefor, while Dela Cruz
clarified that she has already been exonerated from any liability or participation in said incident.

In a Resolution[19] dated June 22, 2005, the Court referred the administrative matter to the Executive Judge of the RTC
of Malolos City, Bulacan for investigation, report and recommendation within 60 days from receipt of the record.

On April 7, 2006, 2nd Vice-Executive Judge Candido Belmonte submitted his Report,[20] which contained the
following findings:

The Investigating Court takes judicial notice that certain functions of court which are not directly
related to decision-making are delegated or reposed to court personnel. Under this category falls the
preparation and evaluation of documents for bail, for the final approval of the judge. However, to
rely solely on the representation made by the Clerk of Court without making even a perfunctory
perusal of the records is also a mark of neglect. As such, this court finds the explanation of the
respondent judge to be inadequate to exculpate him for the oversight he committed.

xxxx

With respect to court personnel Romana Pascual, it was established that, at the time of the
commission of the subject administrative offense, she was not yet discharging the functions of an
Officer-in-Charge. She had no hand in the approval of the bail. As a matter of fact, she immediately
informed respondent Milagros Lerey, the former Clerk of Court, of the Order coming from Judge
Simbulan of RTC-Branch 41, Pampanga requiring them to transmit the supporting documents for
bail. However, it was the inaction of Milagros Lerey on the matter which caused the delay in the
transmission. The Court notes that the Order of Judge Simbulan was received at the MTC-Sta.
Maria, Bulacan at a time when there was a transition between Milagros Lerey and the present Clerk
of Court. During that interregnum, it was Romana Pascual who was the OIC. As such, the letter-
explanation of Romana Pascual, dated February 11, 2004, addressed to Judge Simbulan is deemed
sufficient explanation by this Investigating Court. Hence, she is exonerated of the charges against
her.
Regarding the charge against court personnel Amor dela Cruz, it appears to this Court that although
she was the one who finally delivered the supporting bail documents to RTC-Branch 41,
Pamapanga, she has nothing to do with the act of delay. This seems to be the implication of the
admission of Milagros Lerey that at the time of the approval of the bail bond the supporting
documents were incomplete. She only put the documents in order after there was an Order from
RTC-Branch 41, Pampanga to transmit the same. The delay took place during this period. Once
Milagros Lerey handed the documents to Ms. Dela Cruz, she immediately transmitted them to RTC-
Branch 41, Pampanga. These facts borne out by her Comment submitted in the Indirect Contempt
Case before RTC-Branch 41, Pampanga dated July 19, 2004, which this Investigating Court finds
sufficient.[21]

Based on the foregoing, the Investigating Judge submitted the following recommendations:

1) For respondent Judge Nicasio Bartolome, he be found to be negligent of his duty to supervise
his court employees in the discharge of their respective functions. It is further recommended
that a fine of P5,000.00 be imposed on him.

2) For respondent Milagros Lerey, she be found to be grossly negligent of the discharge of her
functions as a Clerk of Court. It is further recommended that a fine of P5,000.00 be imposed
on her over and above the fine of P10,000.00 imposed on her in the Indirect Contempt Case.

3) For respondents Romana Pascual and Amor dela Cruz, there was no direct documentary or
testimonial evidence that shows they have handled the bail bonds. Furthermore, they are not
responsible for the delay in the transmission of the pertinent documents. As such, it is
recommended that they be exonerated of the charges against them.
City of Malolos, Bulacan, April 7, 2006.[22]

In a Resolution[23] dated October 11, 2006, the Court referred the Report of the Investigating Judge to the OCA for
evaluation, report and recommendation within thirty (30) days from receipt of records.
In his Memorandum[24] dated November 20, 2007, DCA Jose P. Perez observed that:

1. In approving the surety bond of the accused, respondent Judge violated Section 17, Rule 114
of the Rules of Court.[25] In the instant case, the accused Rosalina Mercado was not arrested.
That being the case, she should have filed her bail bond with the court where her case was
pending, i.e., the Regional Trial Court, Branch 41, San Fernando City, Pampanga. In the
absence of the judge thereof, it could be done at another branch of the same court within
the province of Pampanga or City of San Fernando. Instead, accused Mercado filed her bond in
the Municipal Trial Court of Sta. Maria, Bulacan, where respondent Judge presides, who
approved the same and ordered her release from custody.

2. Respondent Judge did not require the accused to submit the supporting documents pertinent
to the application for a bond. It appears that there was no Certificate of Detention presented to
him; hence, there was no legal justification for him to issue the Order of Release and process
the bond since the accused was not detained within his jurisdiction. Also, there was no Warrant
of Arrest attached to the documents presented to him. Moreover, all the supporting papers were
belatedly filed: (a) Undertaking was dated 22 November 2003; (b) Certification from the Office
of the Court Administrator was dated 29 October 2003; and (c) the Certification from Summit
Guaranty & Insurance Co., Inc. was dated 22 November 2003.

3. Respondent Judge failed to live up to the standards of a good magistrate. Not only did he
approve the bail bond of the accused without the requisite authority to do so, his manner of
doing so showed a flagrant disregard for the applicable procedural law he had sworn to uphold
and serve. He committed gross misconduct by blatantly disregarding the Rules and settled
jurisprudence.

These findings led DCA Perez to recommend the following:

Considering that Judge Bartolome has compulsorily retired from the service effective on 11 October
2006, we recommend that a fine in the amount of Forty Thousand Pesos (P40,000.00) be deducted
from his retirement benefits.
With respect to Clerk of Court Milagros Lerey, who already retired from the service on 26 August
2003, we also find her guilty of gross misconduct. As can be gleaned from the records, she admitted
her wrongdoing. Had she not retired, we could have meted her the extreme penalty of dismissal.
We, therefore, recommend that she be fined in the amount of Forty Thousand Pesos (P40,000.00).

With respect to respondents Romana Pascual and Amor dela Cruz, there being no evidence linking
them to the processing of the questioned bond, it is recommended that the charges against them be
dismissed.[26]

In a Resolution[27] dated April 2, 2008, the Court required the parties to manifest within ten (10) days from notice
whether they were willing to submit the case for decision on the basis of the pleadings/records already filed and
submitted. All respondents manifested their willingness to submit the case for decision: respondents Lerey, Pascual
and Dela Cruz having complied on May 13, 2008, and Judge Bartolome on May 23, 2008. The Court submitted the
administrative case for resolution on July 25, 2008.
After a careful evaluation of the records and the Reports of the Investigating Judge and the OCA, the Court holds that
there were indeed grave errors and discrepancies committed by respondents Judge Bartolome and Lerey in processing
the surety bond for the accused in Criminal Case No. 13360.

The following provisions of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure apply before an accused can be released on bail:
Sec. 14. Bail, where filed. (a) Bail in the amount fixed may be filed with the court where
the case is pending, or, in the absence or unavailability of the judge thereof, with another branch of
the same court within the province or city. If the accused is arrested in a province, city or
municipality other than where the case is pending, bail may be filed also with any regional trial court
of said place, or, if no judge thereof is available, with any metropolitan trial judge, municipal trial
judge or municipal circuit trial judge therein. x x x

Sec. 16. Release on bail. The accused must be discharged upon approval of the bail by the
judge with whom it was filed in accordance with Section 14 hereof.
Whenever bail is filed with a court other than where the case is pending, the judge accepting
the bail shall forward the bail, the order of release and other supporting papers to the court where
the case is pending, which may, for good reason, require a different one to be filed.

The OCAs Report revealed that the accused Rosalina Mercado was not arrested. The proper procedure, according to
the above-cited rules, would have been to file her bail bond with the RTC Branch 41, San Fernando, Pampanga where
her case was pending. Had complainant Judge been absent or was unavailable at that time, the accused could file for
bail with another branch of the RTC in Pampanga or in San Fernando City. However, the accused filed her surety
bond with the MTC of Sta. Maria, Bulacan, where it was approved by respondent Judge.

Not only did respondent Judge erroneously order the release of the accused, but he also failed to require submission
of the supporting documents needed in the application for a bond. There was no Certificate of Detention or Warrant
of Arrest attached to the bond transmitted by the MTC to the complainant Judge. Moreover, the other supporting
documents were belatedly filed. Records show that respondent Judge approved the bail bond on August 21, 2003, but
the Undertaking was dated November 22, 2003, the Certification from the OCA was dated October 29, 2003, and the
Certification from Summit Guaranty and Insurance Co., Inc. was dated November 22, 2003.

Respondent Judge contends that Lerey, who has been Clerk of Court for 37 years, was given the simple matter of
examining the documents attached to the application for a bail bond. For her part, Lerey admitted her negligence when
she misplaced and overlooked the surety bond policy, resulting in the delay in the transmission of said documents to
the RTC. Notably, she also failed to give an explanation for the erasures which complainant discovered on the surety
bond. By such acts, it is evident that Lerey did not measure up to the standards required by Section 1, Canon IV of the
Code of Conduct for Court Personnel[28] as quoted:

Section 1. Court personnel shall at all times perform official duties properly and with diligence.
They shall commit themselves exclusively to the business and responsibilities of their office during
working hours.

In addition, a clerk of court has a vital function in the prompt and sound administration of justice since his or her office
is the hub of adjudicative and administrative orders, processes, and concerns.[29] He or she also has the duty to ensure
an orderly and efficient record management system in the court and to supervise the personnel under her office to
function effectively. [30]

However, Lereys admission of negligence cannot excuse respondent Judge from liability in the irregular processing
of the bail bond. Pertinent provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct[31] state that:

Rule 3.08. A judge should diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain


professional competence in court management, and facilitate the performance of the administrative
functions of other judges and court personnel.

Rule 3.09. A judge should 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 finality.

In Bellena v. Judge Perello,[32] wherein respondent Judge attributed the delay in transmittal of records to her clerk of
court, the former was still found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine. The Court held that, although the clerk of court is
primarily responsible for the implementation of respondent judges orders, the fact remains that respondent judge is
tasked with administrative supervision over his or her personnel. It is the responsibility of the judge to always see to
it that his/her orders are properly and promptly enforced, and that case records are properly stored and kept. Thus, in
the present case, respondent Judge himself should have verified that the documents for bail were complete and correct
instead of relying on the representations of his clerk of court.

With regard to respondents Pascual and Dela Cruz, the Court observes that there is no evidence to show that they have
contributed to the irregularities or delay in transmittal of the bail bond. At the time of the commission of the
administrative offense, Pascual was not yet discharging the functions of an Acting Clerk of Court. Dela Cruz, on the
other hand, merely delivered the supporting documents to the RTC.

Having thus established the respondents liabilities, what remains for the Courts contention are their penalties.

Under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,[33] the acts of respondent Judge and
Lerey may be classified as gross neglect of duty, which is punishable by dismissal under Rule IV, Section 52 A(2)
thereof. Neglect of duty denotes the failure of an employee to give ones attention to a task expected of him. Gross
neglect is such neglect which, from the gravity of the case or the frequency of instances, becomes so serious in its
character as to endanger or threaten the public welfare.[34]

In Ulat-Marrero v. Torio, Jr.,[35] the Court has categorized as a grave offense of gross neglect of duty, the failure of a
court process server to serve summons which resulted in the delayed resolution of a case. As corollarily applied to the
present case, where respondents released the accused on temporary liberty despite the absence of the required
supporting documents for bail, the former are likewise liable for gross neglect of duty.

Were it not for the fact that both respondents, Judge Bartolome and Lerey, have retired on October 11,
2006 and August 26, 2003, respectively, the Court would have dismissed them from the service. Instead, it orders
respondents to pay a fine to be deducted from their retirement benefits, in accordance with its rulings in Moncada v.
Cervantes,[36] Office of the Court Administrator v. Paredes,[37] and Soria v. Oliveros.[38]

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds:

1. Presiding Judge Nicasio Bartolome (retired) GUILTY of GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY for which he is
meted a fine in the amount of Forty Thousand Pesos (P40,000.00), to be deducted from his retirement
benefits; and

2. Clerk of Court Milagros Lerey (retired) GUILTY of GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY for which she is
meted a fine in the amount of Forty Thousand Pesos (P40,000.00), to be deducted from her retirement
benefits.

SO ORDERED.

ATTY. REX G. RICO, A.M. No. RTJ-04-1822


Complainant,

Present:

-versus- PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,


SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CORONA,
AZCUNA, and
GARCIA, JJ.
JUDGE ANASTACIO C. RUFON
(RTC, Bacolod City, Branch 51),
Respondent. Promulgated:

June 25, 2007

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

DECISION

AZCUNA, J.:

This case involves a Complaint dated January 6, 2003, filed by Atty. Rex G. Rico charging respondent Judge Anastacio
C. Rufon, Acting Presiding Judge, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 51, Bacolod City with gross ignorance of the
law, incompetence and violations of the Code of the Judicial Conduct, particularly Canon 1, Rules 1.01 and 1.02;
Canon 2, Rule 2.01; and Canon 3, Rules 3.01 and 3.02.

The complainant alleged that:

1. He was the counsel for the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 32482 entitled Dos Amigos
Branch IV, Teodoro Ko and Carmelina B. Suplido vs. Rachel J. Akol pending before RTC,
Branch 155, Pasig City. In the decision dated April 26, 1983, the Pasig court decided in
favor of the plaintiffs. Defendant Rachel Akol appealed the case but the Court of Appeals
affirmed the decision. Some of the properties in the name of Claudio Akol as spouse of
Rachel Akol which were located in Bacolod City where thereafter levied in execution by
the Bacolod City Sheriff who annotated a Notice of Embargo dated May 16, 1989 on the
TCTs;

2. On June 7, 2000, as counsel for the plaintiffs, he filed a motion for the issuance of a
writ of execution with RTC, Branch 155, Pasig City. The motion was granted and the
Branch Sheriff of Bacolod City was directed to implement the writ of execution on the
properties of defendant Akol in Bacolod City;

3. On September 7, 2000, Claudio G. Akol, Jr., filed a petition for Cancellation of Notice
of Embargo (CAD Case No. 00-1204) at the RTC, Branch 51, Bacolod City, Negros
Occidental presided over by Judge Anastacio C. Rufon in an acting capacity. In an Order
dated October 27, 2000, Judge Rufon granted the petition and ordered the cancellation of
the Notice of Embargo on the ground of prescription;

4. On the other hand, the RTC, Branch 155, Pasig City issued an Order dated November
29, 2000 holding in abeyance the enforcement of the writ of execution. It was only
on January 2, 2001 that the said court directed the implementation of the writ;

5. Subsequently, Judge Rufon issued another Order dated March 21, 2001 directing the
Register of Deeds of Bacolod City to comply with his October 27, 2000 Order by canceling
the Notice of Embargo on the TCTs. On April 25, 2001, the Clerk of Court of RTC, Branch
51, Bacolod City issued a Certification that the court Order dated March 21, 2001 had
become the final and executory.

Complainant claimed that Judge Rufon exhibited gross ignorance of the law and incompetence when he (1)
violated the principle of judicial stability of taking cognizance of the Petition for Cancellation of Notice of Embargo
on Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) Nos. T-469321, Y-19969 and T-19968; (2) failed to notify plaintiffs Dos
Amigos Branch IV, Teodoro Ko and Carmelina Suplido on the October 27, 2000 hearing on the petition for
Cancellation of Notice of Embargo; and (3) issued an Order dated October 27, 2000 in the nature of a judgment
without adequate legal and factual basis.
On the first issue of violation of the principle of judicial stability, the following positions were taken by the
parties:

1. Complainant stated that the RTC, Branch 155, Pasig City issued the writ of execution
pursuant to which the Bacolod City Sheriff annotated a Notice of Embargo on the titles of
the conjugal properties of Claudio and Rachel Akol. Accordingly, any challenge on the
effectivity, enforceability or legal effects of the writ of execution upon the rights and
interests of the parties involved should be addressed exclusively to the court which issued
it. The complainant cited Pajarito v. Seeris, et al. (87 SCRA 275, 283[1978] ) which held
that, There is no question that the court which rendered the judgment has a general
supervisory control over its process of execution, and this power carries with it the right to
determine every question of fact and law which may be involved in the execution;

2. Judge Rufon, however, claimed that his court has special and limited jurisdiction as a
cadastral court to take cognizance of the petition pursuant to Section 112 of Act 496 (the
Land Registration Act) now found in Sec. 108 of P.D. No. 1529 (the Property Registration
Decree). He cited the last paragraph of Section 108 of P.D. No. 1529 which expressly
provides that, all petitions or motions filed under this Section as well as under any other
provision of this Decree after original registration, shall be filed and entitled in the original
case in which the decree or registration was entered. Moreover, Judge Rufon claimed that
he relied in good faith on the verification and certification on non-forum shopping in taking
cognizance of the case;

3. Complainant would refute Judge Rufons reliance on Section 112 of Act 496 by
explaining that the method for amendment or alteration outlined in this section is summary
or administrative in nature. He claimed that the power of correction is subject to the
limitation that there must be unanimity among the parties or there is no adverse interest
otherwise the case becomes controversial and must be threshed out in an ordinary case or
in the case wherein the incident belongs (Martinez vs. Evangelista, G.R. No. L-
26399, January 31, 1981).Complainant argued that the Petition for Cancellation of Notice
of Embargo is not cadastral in nature but an action to quiet title and/or remove clouds under
Articles 476, 478 and 481 of the new Civil Code. Hence, Section 112 of Act 496 is off-
tangent and, moreover, it has been repealed by Section 108 of P.D. No. 1529. Judge Rufons
claim of good faith would therefore fall. Ignorance of the law excuses no one from
compliance therewith.

On the second issue of failure to notify the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 32482, the following contentions
were put forward:

1. Complainant stated that the judgment creditors (plaintiffs Dos Amigos Branch IV,
Teodoro Ko and Carmelina Suplido in Civil Case No. 32482) were not given actual notice
of the 27 October 2000 hearing on the Petition of Cancellation despite the fact that they are
parties in interest as clearly indicated in the Notice of Embargo. Thus they were deprived
of their right to due process. He cited Southwestern University v. Laurente (26 SCRA 52,
55 [1968] ) which held that, The cancellation of the annotation of an encumbrance cannot
be ordered without giving notice to the parties annotated in the certificate of title itself.

2. Respondent judge asserted that the Petition for Cancellation of Notice of Embargo is a
proceeding in rem, hence it may be instituted and carried to judgment without need of
personal service upon the claimants. He states that the Sheriffs Return dated September 18,
2000 showing that the Order dated September 13, 2000 setting the date, time and place of
the hearing of the petition was duly posted in three (3) conspicuous public places for at
least three(3) weeks before the scheduled October 27, 2000 hearing and that this is a
constructive notice.
3. Complainant would refute this by stating that since the petition for the cancellation
challenges the notice of embargo issued in Civil Case No. 32482, this would nullify the
rights of the adverse party, namely Dos Amigos IV, Teodoro Ko and Carmelina
Suplido. Clearly, the Petition for Cancellation of Notice of Embargo is an action in
personam, not directed against the whole world, but only against the plaintiffs in Civil Case
No. 32482, although it concerns the right to a tangible thing (res).

On the third issue of granting an order in the nature of a judgment without basis:

1. Complainant alleged that the records of the petition show that respondent judge did not
require reception of evidence to prove that prescription had set in, which is a question of
fact.Judge Rufons Order dated October 27, 2000 granting the petition grounded on the
alleged prescription does not state the facts and the law upon which it is based. A perusal
of the Order shows that it is not interlocutory but one in the nature of a judgment hence it
is required by the Constitution and the Rules of the Court to state the facts and the law upon
which it is based.

2. Judge Rufon argued that considering that the time that has lapsed from the annotation
of the Notice of Embargo on May 16, 1989 until the filing of the petition on September 11,
2000was more than ten (10) years, the Notice of Embargo has become stale, void, and
ineffective by sheer lapse of time or by prescription. As such, cancellation of the entry of
the Notice of Embargo was in order, pursuant to Section 108 of P.D. No. 1529.

On July 18, 2003, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) required respondent judge to manifest in
writing whether he is willing to submit this case for resolution on the basis of the evidence at hand. In response,
respondent manifested in a letter dated July 30, 2003 that he is submitting the case for resolution.

After considering the Report of the OCA, the Court finds that the allegations of gross ignorance of the law
are substantiated by the evidence. As shown on the face of TCT Nos. T-469321, T-19968 and Y-19969, the titles were
issued in the name of Claudio G. Akol, Jr., married to Rachel J. Akol. Furthermore, at the back of the titles, Entry No.
159694 states that there is a Notice of Embargo in Civil Case No. 32482 issued by the Ex-Officio City Sheriff, entitled
Dos Amigos, et al. vs. Rachel J. Akol. The inscription is dated May 16, 1989.

Respondent judge should have caused actual service of notice to the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 32482. The
petition for the cancellation of notice of embargo is not cadastral in nature but is an action to quiet title and/or remove
cloud therefrom, under Articles 476, 478 and 481 of the Civil Code. The petition challenged the notice of embargo
issued in Civil Case No. 32482 and prayed that the annotations on the TCTs be cancelled. This would nullify the rights
of the adverse parties, specially the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 32482. Clearly, the petition for the cancellation of the
notice of embargo is an action in personam. It is not directed against the whole world but only against the plaintiffs
in Civil Case No. 32482 although it concerns their right to a specific property.

In Hernandez v. Rural Bank of Lucena, Inc.,[1] this Court clarified the concepts of a real action, a personal
action, a proceeding in rem and a proceeding in personam, thus:

A real action is not the same as an action in rem and a personal action is not the same as an
action in personam.

In a personal action, the plaintiff seeks the recovery of personal property, the enforcement
of a contract or the recovery of the damages. In a real action, the plaintiff seeks the recovery of real
property, or, as indicated in section 2 (a) of Rule 4, a real action is an action affecting title to real
property or for the recovery of possession, or for partition or condemnation of, or foreclosure of a
mortgage on, real property.

An action in personam is an action against a person on the basis of his personal liability,
while an action in rem is an action against the thing itself, instead of against the person (1 C.J.S.
943-4). Hence, a real action may at the same time be an action in personam and not necessarily
an action in rem.[2]

Following these concepts, Claudio Akol, Jr.s petition for cancellation of notice of embargo is a real action as it seeks
the recovery of real property; but it is also an action in personam because it is directed only against the plaintiffs in
Civil Case No. 32482. Thus, there is a need for personal service upon the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 32482 who
would be adversely affected by the cancellation of the notice of embargo on the TCTs.
In his Order dated September 13, 2000, respondent judge Rufon merely required posting in three (3)
conspicuous public places for three weeks prior to the scheduled hearing. This is not the notice required in an
action in personam. Since the plaintiffs Dos Amigos, et al. were not notified, they were deprived of the opportunity
to be heard during the hearing scheduled on October 27, 2000.

Respondent judge Rufon also exhibited gross ignorance of the law when he failed to require the parties to present
evidence to prove or disprove prescription as a defense at the October 27, 2000 hearing on the Petition for Cancellation
of Notice of Embargo. Instead, he immediately issued the Order of October 27, 2000, as follows:

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES


REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF NEGROS OCCIDENTAL
6TH Judicial Region
BRANCH 51, BACOLOD CITY
-o0o-

LOT 2, BLOCK 21 SUBD. PLAN


PSD-37776, BEING A PORTION
OF LOT NO. 1468-C-2; LOT NO.
249 AND 250, OF THE SUBD. PLAN
PSD-12396, BEING A PORTION OF CAD. CASE NO. 00-1204
LOT NO. 410-B ALL SITUATED IN FOR: CANCELLATION OF
BACOLOD CITY, G.L.R.O. NOTICE OF EMBARGO
CADASTRAL RECORD NO. 55,
CLAUDIO G. AKOL, JR,
Petitioner.
x-------------------------------------------------x
ORDER

There being no opposition to the petition filed by the petitioner, the petition is
GRANTED. ACCORDINGLY, cancellation of notice of embargo is hereby ordered.

SO ORDERED.
Bacolod City, Philippines, 27 October 2000.

(Sgd.) ANASTACIO C. RUFON


Pair Judge
Clearly, this Order not merely interlocutory but is in the nature of a final judgment or decision. As such, it
does not comply with the requirement under the Constitution to state the facts and the law upon which it is based. [3] It
also confirms that respondent judge did not require evidence to show that prescription had set in.

Respondent judges lack of familiarity with the rules undermines public confidence in the competence of the
court. His failure to follow basic legal commands embodied in the law and the rules constitutes gross ignorance of the
law for which he should be subjected to disciplinary action. [4]
Although a judge may not always be subjected to disciplinary action for every erroneous order or decision
he renders, that relative immunity is not a license to be negligent or abusive and arbitrary in performing his
adjudicatory prerogatives.[5]

In Villa Macasasa, et al. v. Judge Faustino H. Imbing,[6] this Court found the respondent judge guilty of
ignorance of the law and ordered him to pay a fine of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000) for issuing an Order which
gratuitously included the astronomical amount of One Million Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P1,200,000) as
incidental expenses.

Similarly, in Evelyn De Austria v. Judge Orlando D. Beltran,[7] the respondent judge was fined Ten Thousand
Pesos (P10,000) for gross ignorance of the law in failing to comply with Sec. 14, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of
Court, which requires submission of a certificate of cash deposit and a written undertaking before an accused may be
released on a cash bail.

Also, in German Agunday v. Judge Nieto T. Tresvalles,[8] this Court imposed a fine of Ten Thousand Pesos
(P10,000) on the respondent judge after finding that he had shown gross ignorance of the law when he failed to deny
outrightly a Motion to Quash despite the fact that it is a prohibited pleading under the Revised Rule on Summary
Procedure.

Considering the foregoing and the fact that this is respondent judge Rufons first infraction in his six (6) years
of service in the Judiciary, the Court deems the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000) as a reasonable fine.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Anastacio C. Rufon, Acting Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court,
Branch 51, Bacolod City, is hereby FOUND GUILTY of gross ignorance of the law and FINED in the amount of
Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000), with a stern WARNING that a repetition of the same will be dealt with more severely.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.