You are on page 1of 23

[A.M. No. MTJ-00-1337.

April 27, 2004]

JUDGE DONATO SOTERO A. NAVARRO, petitioner, vs. JUDGE


ROSABELLA M. TORMIS, respondent.

RESOLUTION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Complainant Judge Donato Sotero A. Navarro of MTCC, Cebu City,


Branch 6, sent a letter dated September 15, 2000 to the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA), requesting for an opinion on the propriety of the alleged
conduct of respondent Executive Judge Rosabella M. Tormis, MTCC of Cebu
City in the following instances:
1. Finding Criminal Case No. 106436-R, entitled, People vs. Comparativo,
to be covered by the Rule on Summary Procedure, Judge Tormis removed
the Order of Commitment issued by Judge Navarro from the records of the
[1]

case and substituted it with her own order directing the release of the
accused;
2. Judge Tormis uttered derogatory remarks against Judge Navarro and
his court, to wit: for me, Branch 6 does not exist;
3. Judge Tormis rendered an opinion in a case pending before Judge
Grace Orma E. Ypil, MTCC of Cebu City, Branch 8, in violation of Rule 2.04 of
Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Ethics.
Upon recommendation of the OCA, the Court, in a Resolution dated
December 13, 2000, resolved to treat the letter as an administrative
[2]

complaint against Judge Tormis, directing Judge Navarro to have his letter
verified and Judge Tormis to comment thereon.
Meanwhile, in a Motion dated 24 April 2001, Judge Navarro informed the
Court that Judge Tormis personally posted on the door of her courtroom, a
copy of the Courts Resolution dated 14 February 2001 which reads:

Administrative Matter No. MTJ-00-1337 (Judge Donato Sotero A. Navarro vs.


Executive Judge Rosabella M. Tormis) The manifestation of compliance with the
resolution of December 13, 2000 filed by Judge Donato Sotero A. Navarro is
NOTED.

Very truly yours,

VIRGINIA ANCHETA-SORIANO
Clerk of Court
First Division

By: ENRIQUETA ESGUERRA-VIDAL


Asst. Clerk of Court
First Division
[3]
with a handwritten note Please Read, to call the attention of the lawyers and
the public. A similar notice was also posted at the door of the office of MTCC,
Branch 8, which some court personnel removed, but another copy was again
posted. For this reason, he asked the Acting Clerk of Court Evelyn Bacalla to
explain the matter but instead, the latter handed to him another copy of the
Resolution.
In a Resolution dated July 2001, the Court directed Evelyn Bacalla to
[4]

desist from committing further acts which may tend to unduly publicize the
instant case, to immediately remove copies of the notices posted on the
doors, and to explain within ten days how these notices came to be posted
thereat. In a Resolution dated September 10, 2001, the Court noted the
compliance/explanation of Evelyn Bacalla saying that she had no hand in or
knowledge about the posting of the papers.
In her Comment, respondent explains that:
[5]

1. Anent Criminal Case No. 106436-R (People vs. Comparativo) -

a) she never removed nor substituted any order of Judge Navarro from the records
since the latter had not issued any order at all. What was in the records was an order
issued by his Clerk of Court, Prospero M. Sincero;

b) the said criminal case was referred to her for raffle when the accused had already
been in jail for two days. She admitted having ordered the release of the accused
considering the value of the article stolen was even less than P52.45, and as such, fell
within the coverage of the Rule on Summary Procedure.

2. If ever she made the statement that MTCC, Branch 6, did not exist, this
should not be taken seriously as this can only be interpreted in the context of
light banter and did not at all place Branch 6 in disrepute.
3. As to the issue that she rendered an opinion on a criminal case raffled
to another sala -

a) as the Executive Judge, she immediately conducted an investigation on Evelyn


Bacalla. In the process, she discovered grave injustice committed against an urban
poor family charged with illegal squatting in Criminal Case No. 99796-12-R (People
vs. Garduque), so she called the attention of Presiding Judge Ypil, in a letter dated
January 5, 2000, regarding the legal and factual circumstances of the case which she
believed justified a dismissal of the case since the act complained of had already been
decriminalized by virtue of R.A. No. 7276.

b) Complainants intervention in said case is not only unethical but oppressively


unjust, he being the former private prosecutor of the case together with his mother,
retired Judge Exaltacion Navarro and that according to some of his staff, complainant
was angry at those whom he perceived thwarted his entitlement to attorneys fees of
not less that P100,000.00 should he successfully eject the accused from the premises.

c) this administrative complaint is part of complainants obsession to compel her to


relinquish her position as Executive Judge and to fulfill his ambition to replace her as
such.
In his Reply, complainant reiterated that respondent had been making
derogatory remarks about him both in print and on television which were not
only damaging to him and his family but also to the entire
Judiciary. Complainant asserts that the fact that the order of commitment
removed by respondent from the records of the case was signed by the Clerk
of Court is of no significance since it is likewise her practice that her
commitment orders are signed by her Clerk of Court Reynaldo S. Teves; that
he has not intervened in the case because his letter to Evelyn Bacalla was
dated 25 November 1999 when he was not yet a judge; and thereafter, he
refrained from pursuing the case to its conclusion.
As the matter involves members of the bench accusing each other and
finding that it cannot be resolved satisfactorily on the basis alone of the
documents submitted, the Court, upon recommendation of the OCA, issued a
Resolution dated December 9, 2002, referring the instant administrative
matter to Executive Judge Galicano C. Arriesgado, RTC, Cebu City for
investigation, report and recommendation. Upon retirement of Judge
Arriesgado, the case was inherited by Executive Judge Pampio A. Abarintos
who formed a panel, composed of three members, namely: himself, First Vice
Executive Judge Isaias P. Dicdican and Second Vice Executive Judge
Simeon K. Dumdum, Jr., to continue with the investigation.
In their Report dated August 25, 2003, the Investigating Panel submitted
the following findings, portions of which are reproduced hereunder:

FINDINGS:

The rift between the two judges started sometime immediately after January 5, 2000
when then Acting Executive Judge Tormis issued a letter to Judge Ypil (Annex I) in
reply to the 1stEndorsement (Annex H) of Judge Ypil (judge designate of MTCC 8
Cebu) on the letter-complaint of Atty. Donato Navarro (now Judge Navarro) against
Legal Researcher (then acting Branch Clerk of Court MTCC 8 Cebu City) Evelyn
Bacalla (now Branch Clerk of Court MTCC 8 Cebu City).

On (sic) November 1999, while Judge Donato Navarro was still a practicing lawyer,
he was the private prosecutor in the criminal case entitled Pp vs. Garduque, et
al. CBU-99796-R pending at MTCC Branch 8 Cebu City, involving the issue on
professional squatters. Atty. Navarro wrote a letter addressed to the Branch Clerk of
Court, MTCC Branch 8 Cebu City, asking for a written explanation from Evelyn
Bacalla why she set the Motion to Quash for hearing without the authority of the
Judge and when the accused had not yet been arrested. Acting on the letter-complaint
of Atty. Navarro, Judge Ypil endorsed the same to the Office of the Executive
Judge. The controversy now starts on the letter reply of Executive Judge Tormis, copy
furnished to Judge Navarro, as the latter was already appointed as Judge sometime on
(sic) December, 2000.

Executive Judge Tormis, in reply to the 1st Endorsement, stated that while there might
have been a transgression committed by Evelyn Bacalla with respect to some
procedural matter, the motion to quash for hearing without order from the judge, the
same is not of such grave nature as would necessitate such a drastic action. In
addition, however, Executive Judge Tormis made a comment that the case ought to be
dismissed as the act complained of had already been decriminalized under R.A. No.
8368.

This additional comment irked Judge Navarro. As a result, he came barging into the
office of Judge Tormis, bringing along certain books on the matter, splashing the
same to the latters staff, saying: Tell your Judge, she does not know her
law!. Naturally, upon learning of said incident, Judge Tormis flared up especially
because it was only a month or two that Judge Navarro was appointed as judge.

Judge Navarro complains that Judge Tormis had been downgrading him and his
Court, stating the words: For me, Branch 6 does not exist! Instead of patching things
up with the Executive Judge, who is supposed to be his superior, on September 15,
2000, he sent a letter to then Hon. Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo entitled
Request for an Opinion about the Propriety of Certain Acts of the Executive Judge. In
turn, Executive Judge Tormis filed a Complaint against Judge Sotero Navarro
docketed as Adm. Matter No. 01-6-188 MTCC accusing him of his alleged failure to
timely dispose of the cases pending before his court and of his wifes interference with
the judicial functions of her husband and with the duties of the court personnel. Judge
Navarro then accused Judge Tormis to have expressed derogatory remarks against
him both in television and in print.

On the first issue:

Acting in her capacity as Executive Judge, she carefully reviewed the case involving
theft of an Eskinol. After careful scrutiny, she discovered that the amount involved
was less then P50.00.Since the case falls under the Rules on Summary Procedure,
Executive Judge Tormis ordered for the release of the accused and had the case
raffled. . . .

On the second issue:

As testified by Executive Judge Tormis, she may have uttered those words but the
same were never meant to downgrade Branch 6, they were only made in a light banter
or in jest. The panel believes that while Executive Judge Tormis might have uttered
the words, FOR ME, BRANCH 6 DOES NOT EXIST! against Judge Navarros Court,
the same was only a result of the arrogance and demeaning words which Judge
Navarro uttered against her: TELL YOUR JUDGE, SHE DOES NOT KNOW HER
LAW! The panel finds it understandable to have uttered those words especially
because of the words previously uttered by complainant.

On the third issue:

Judge Navarro insists that Executive Judge Tormis may have committed acts of
impropriety. The panel finds that Judge Tormis was just acting within her duties as
Executive Judge when she made a letter reply to the 1st Endorsement issued by Judge
Ypil.

Based on the foregoing, the Investigating Panel recommends the


dismissal of the administrative complaint against Judge Tormis. Court
Administrator Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., in his Memorandum dated January
20, 2004, agrees with the findings and recommendation of the Investigating
Panel.
The Court does not fully agree.
As to the first issue Respondent reviewed Criminal Case No. 106436-R
when it was referred to her by the Clerk of Court of Branch 4, MTCC, Cebu
City. She testified that when the record was forwarded to her, there was no
previous order that was attached to it so she had the impression she was
acting on the case for the first time as Executive Judge; that she even
interviewed the representative of the complainant who said that it only
involves the amount of less than P52.45; and that in the exercise of her
discretion, the case should be covered by the Rules of Summary
Procedure. When asked further by the Investigating Panel if it is true that she
[6]

replaced the commitment order which is attached to the record with her order,
she answered that she was not aware of it which is consistent with her
[7]

assertion that she saw no previous order attached to the


records. Complainant failed to demonstrate that respondent had acted on this
matter in bad faith or with malice.
Anent the second issue Indeed, the Court agrees with the Investigating
Panel and Court Administrator that the alleged derogatory remarks uttered by
respondent against Branch 6, MTCC, Cebu City could have been uttered in a
sudden burst of emotion when complainant uttered demeaning words against
her and that her action was not intentional and in bad faith.
As to the third issue The act of respondent in giving an opinion in a
criminal case raffled to Judge Ypil was in response to an indorsement made
by the latter. Respondent claims that she rendered an opinion because the
case was referred to her in her capacity as executive judge. However, a
perusal of the said indorsement shows that Judge Ypil merely referred to
respondent the letter of complainant, filed when he was still a practicing
lawyer, seeking explanation why legal researcher Evelyn Bacalla set the
Motion to Quash for hearing despite the fact that the accused had not been
arrested and Judge Ypil had not issued a verbal or written order to set the
motion for hearing. Clearly, Judge Ypil did not seek the opinion of respondent
[8]

about the merits of the case, but the latter delved thereon and advised Judge
Ypil, as follows:

All the foregoing considered, the undersigned believes that it would be a better part of
your discretion if you order the dismissal of the case, as the act complained of has
been decriminalized under RA 8368. [9]

Respondent may not have any ulterior motive nor was there any showing that
she was after monetary consideration still it is beyond her authority to render
such an opinion.Wittingly or unwittingly, respondent violated Rule 2.04, Canon
2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which provides:

Rule 2.04 A judge shall refrain from influencing in any manner the outcome of
litigation or dispute pending before another court or administrative agency.

In the absence of any showing that respondents interference was in bad


faith or with malice and considering that this is the first time on record that he
committed such infraction of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a mere reprimand
is just and reasonable.
It is imperative that we call the attention of both complainant and
respondent judges regarding their unbecoming conduct. It is very apparent
that the rift between them transcended the professional level to a personal
one. Worse, their fight was picked up by the local media and for a while they
were an item in the local newspapers. This is very unfortunate for it puts the
[10]

judiciary in a bad light. Certainly, when judges of the same court in the same
place fight, the image of the judiciary is impaired rather than enhanced. Their
[11]

positions as judges demand utmost caution and circumspection to avoid poor


public impression on the Judiciary. Magistracy is after all about character. It
[12] [13]

is incumbent upon them to so behave at all times as to promote public


confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Being the
dispensers of justice, judges should not act in a way that would cast suspicion
in order to preserve faith in the administration of justice. They should avoid
impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.
[14]

Judge Navarro and Judge Tormis should bear in mind that no position is
more demanding than a seat in the Bench. Occupying as they do, an exalted
position in the administration of justice, as judges, they must pay a high price
for the honor bestowed upon them. A judge must comport himself at all times
[15]

in such a manner that his conduct, can bear the most searching scrutiny of the
public that looks up to him as the epitome of integrity and justice. Public
[16]

confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct of


judges. As the visible representation of law and justice, judges are expected
[17]

to conduct themselves in a manner that would enhance the respect and


confidence of our people in the judicial system. [18]

WHEREFORE, Judge Rosabelle M. Tormis is found guilty of improper


conduct for trying to influence the course of litigation in Criminal Case No.
99796-12. Accordingly, Judge Tormis is hereby REPRIMANDED with a stern
warning that a repetition of the same will be dealt with more severely.
Both Judge Rosabelle M. Tormis and Judge Donato Sotero A. Navarro
are ADMONISHED for their unbecoming conduct as dispensers of justice with
a stern warning that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
JUDGE JAIME L. DOJILLO, JR. , A.M. No. P-06-2245 [Formerly
Complainant, OCA IPI NO. 06-2373-P]

Present:
- versus -
QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,
CARPIO MORALES,
CONCEPCION Z. CHING, Clerk of CHICO-NAZARIO,*
Court, MTC, Manaoag, Pangasinan, LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,** and
Respondent. PERALTA,*** JJ.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
A.M. No. MTJ-09-1741
CONCEPCION A. CHING, [Formerly OCA IPI No. 06-1853-
Complainant, MTJ]

-versus-
Promulgated:
JUDGE JAIME L. DOJILLO, JR.,
MTC, Manaoag, Pangasinan, July 31, 2009
Respondent.
x--------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
By letter-complaint[1] of January 18, 2006, Judge Jaime L. Dojillo, Jr., (Judge
Dojillo), presiding judge of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Manaoag,
Pangasinan, charged Concepcion Z.[2] Ching (Concepcion), MTC Clerk of Court,
with gross misconduct, gross incompetence and inefficiency, violation of the
Supreme Court Circular which prohibits smoking inside the office, violation of the
Code of Ethics, conduct unbecoming of a public official, conduct prejudicial to the
interest of public service, and gross dishonesty.

By 1st Indorsement[3] of February 2, 2006, the Office of the Court Administrator


(OCA) directed Concepcion to comment on the letter-complaint within 10 days
from notice, with which she complied by Comment [4] of March 13, 2006 with a
prayer to consider it as a counter complaint/charge against Judge Dojillo.

Both complaints were referred to Executive Judge Rodrigo Nabor of


the Regional Trial Court of Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, for investigation, report
and recommendation. Instead of submitting their respective Comments pursuant to
Judge Nabors November 6, 2006 Order,[5] Judge Dojillo and Concepcion filed a
joint Manifestation and Motion[6] of June 5, 2007 stating that the charges and
counter-charges involved were filed out of pure misunderstanding and should thus
be dismissed.
By Resolution of October 1, 2007,[7] the Court referred the complaints to the OCA
for evaluation, report and recommendation.

By Memorandum of June 25, 2008,[8] the OCA synthesized Judge Dojillos


complaint as follows:

A. GROSS MISCONDUCT

Complainant judge alleged that respondent Ching is a lesbian who is a


well-known gossiper and troublemaker in the town of Manaoag,

Pangasinan. Even her officemates were not spared of her daily food of
venomous gossiping.

Sometime in the year 1999, respondent gossiped that Ramon Paster,


Court Stenographer, has an illicit relationship with Mrs. Erlinda L.
Marmolejo, the Court Interpreter. Subsequently, respondent allegedly
passed malicious information that the complainant judge and Mrs.
Marmolejo had an ongoing illicit affair.

On December 20, 2005, while complainant was having lunch together


with some of his staff, respondent banged the main door of the office,
showing lack of civility, disrespect, discourtesy, insult and belligerent
attitude towards the complainant as the presiding judge and towards
respondents officemates. Further, it was also alleged that respondent
threatened with death the complainant via typewritten death threats
purportedly using the typewriter belonging to respondents brother.

B. GROSS INCOMPETENCE AND INEFFICIENCY

Complainant judge averred that respondent was not personally doing


most of her assigned tasks. She always passed the job to other members
of the staff even if she was not doing anything. Further, she was always
out of the office. She also refused to learn to type well and to use the
computer issued to the court. These resulted in the delay in the
preparation and issuance of writs of execution ordered by the court.

C. VIOLATION OF THE SUPREME COURT CIRCULAR


BANNING SMOKING INSIDE THE OFFICE.

Respondent Ching, according to the complainant, is a well known chain


smoker. She smoked inside the office to the detriment of the health of
her officemates.

D. CONDUCT UNBECOMING OF A PUBLIC OFFICIAL AND


CONDUCT PREJUDICIAL TO THE INTEREST OF THE SERVICE.
Aside from being a well known gossiper and troublemaker, it was also
alleged that respondent was a bad-tempered, impatient, disrespectful and
discourteous public employee. Instead of devoting the office hours for
work, she was frequently seen loitering, wasting time and parading
downstairs as if she is the boss, creating an impression to the public that
she could do whatever she wants and pleases and thereby eroding the
trust and confidence of the people in the judiciary.

E. VIOLATION OF THE CODE OF ETHICAL STANDARDS

With her malicious motive in mind, she intimidated and harassed Mrs.
Erlinda Marmolejo by uttering unsavory and uncalled remarks in order
to force the latter to transfer or to resign from work. Certification of

entries of incidents in the police blotter were attached to the complaint to


prove that respondent indeed annoyed and harassed Marmolejo.

F. GROSS DISHONESTY

Respondent Ching was also charged for falsifying her Daily Time
Record for the month of November 2003 to make it appear that she was
present in the office on November 11, 2003 when in truth and in fact, she
was not as she went to Manila on that day as evidenced by her
application for leave. She also allegedly falsified her Daily Time Record
for the month of December 2005 by making it appear that December 12,
2005 was a local holiday in Manaoag, Pangasinan, to make her absence
on the aforesaid date excusable.[9]

The OCA summarized Concepcions Comment with counter-complaint as follows:

x x x She denied the accusations hurled against her. She averred that it
has been a long time time [sic] since she heard feedbacks relative to the
unusual closeness of Judge Dojillo and Mrs. Marmolejo. She, herself,
has witnessed their closeness. She stated that sometime on May 27,
2005, she saw Mrs. Marmolejo came out of the chambers of the
complainant looking like she just woke up from sleep. To her shock,
Judge Dojillo was also inside the chambers. Thus, she talked to
Marmolejo in order to silence the increasing discomfort of the people
around them. Marmolejo, however, denied her suspicions. Instead of
distancing from one another, Judge Dojillo and Marmolejo were
oftentimes seen arriving and leaving the office together. She further
advised Marmolejo that if the latter could not stop what was going on
between her and the judge, Marmolejo should save herself from
destruction by going abroad.

She further averred that sometime in December of 2005, at around 8 in


the morning, she went early in the office. She thought that she was all
alone but to her surprise, she saw Marmolejo come out of the chambers
of the complainant. When she peeked inside the chambers, Judge Dojillo
was also there. She thus sternly warned Marmolejo to avoid incidents
that would make their colleagues uncomfortable otherwise she will be
forced to make the necessary action against her and the judge.

As to the charge of gross misconduct, she argued that she was a very
warm person with strong convictions for propriety and decorum in
office. She averred that she made the court accessible to people by
immediately entertaining their concerns and advising them of the
procedures in court. She also denied being a rumor monger and claimed
that all the accusations of the witnesses for the complainant were
fabrications in order to malign her person. She, moreover, denied having
banged the door on December 20, 2005claiming that she had to
forcefully close the same since the door was bigger than the jamb.

Anent the charge of gross incompetence and inefficiency, she stated that
as a clerk of court, her duties were administrative and supervisory. She
made sure that all the cases were on file and calendared and that all the
pleadings were referred to the complainant for proper action. These
delicate tasks were performed by her and it was only the typing job that
she delegates. She justified this by saying that it was necessary for her to
delegate the typing to others who are faster than her.

As to the allegation that she was always out of the office, her defense
was that the nature of her job requires her to leave the office. These
include the monthly submission of reports to RTC and to the Prosecutors
Office in Urdaneta City, depositing in bank of the Judiciary
Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary and
withdrawing of bonds from the bank whenever necessary. She handles
these tasks herself as these are delicate tasks which could not be
delegated to others. As to the alleged delay in the issuance of writs of
execution, she attributes the delay to Judge Dojillo who fails to
immediately release signed orders.

With respect to her alleged violation of the circular regarding smoking


ban, she claimed that she is not a chain smoker and she was not the only
one smoking among the court employees. She thus could not fathom
why she was singled out by complainant. As to the charge of dishonesty,
she stood by her claim as to the truthfulness of her Daily Time Record.
The reason why her application for leave on November 11, 2003 was not
submitted for approval was because she decided not to proceed
to Manila and instead choose to stay at the office. As to her DTR for the
month of December 2005, she argued that December 12, 2005 was a rest
day and in fact the Municipal Hall was closed on that day. Further,
according to respondent, the court employees agreed to just state in their
DTRs that such was a local holiday due to Galicayo Festival. Moreover,
her DTRs were with the approval of the presiding judge. She thus prayed
that the complaint against her be dismissed and that her comment be
considered as a counter complaint against Judge Dojillo.[10]
The OCA, passing on the Manifestation and Motion of the parties for the
dismissal of their respective charges, states that the withdrawal of an
administrative complaint or subsequent desistance of the complainant does not free
the respondent from liability as the purpose of an administrative proceeding is to
protect the public service, based on the time-honored principle that a public office
i[s] a public trust.

The OCA goes on to state:

The withdrawal of the complaint or the execution of an affidavit of


desistance does not automatically result in the dismissal of the
administrative case. x x x It will not divest the Supreme Court of its
jurisdiction to investigate the matters alleged in the complaint. Thus, the
manifestation and motion filed by the parties praying that the charges
and counter-charges be dismissed should be denied.

Evaluating the charges and counter charges, the OCA reports as follows:

Anent the complaint against Judge Dojillo, it bears stressing that in


administrative cases, the burden devolves upon the complainant for him
to prove by substantial evidence the allegations in the complaint. In the
instant case, records are bereft of any evidence which would render
Judge Dojillo guilty of immorality. Complainant Ching miserably failed
to present any substantial evidence which will prove that Judge Dojillo is
having an illicit affair with Ms. Marmolejo. It was also revealed that it
was not only Ms. Marmolejo who enters the chambers of the judge. Even
granting that it was only Ms. Marmolejo who enters the chambers of the
judge, the same is purely due to work-related reasons since the computer
is inside his chambers. It would thus be hasty to conclude that they were
having an illicit affair. Moreover, the allegation that Ms. Marmolejo and
Judge Dojillo were unusually early in the office deserves scant
consideration. It was complainant Ching, herself, who admitted that she
saw Marmolejo and Judge Dojillo at around 8 oclock in the morning. It
bears stressing that eight in the morning is no longer unusually early. In
fact[,] it is already the start of the official office hours for all the
personnel of the court. This Office also sees nothing wrong and
unsuitable in the actuation of the judge in giving Marmolejo and her
family a free ride in his car since the residence of Marmolejo is on the
way to the judges own residence. We find nothing immoral with that.
Time and again, the Court will not hesitate to impose penalty to those
who are guilty of any wrongdoing but it will likewise not hesitate to
exonerate those charged of baseless and unfounded complaints.

Anent the complaint against Ching, the latter should be penalized for her
acts. Misconduct is defined as any unlawful conduct on the part of a
person concerned in the administration of justice prejudicial to the rights
of the parties or to the right determination of the cause. It generally
means wrongful, improper or unlawful conduct motivated by a
premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose. Her actuations in
maliciously accusing her officemate of having an illicit affair with Judge
Dojillo should not be countenanced especially in the instant case where
it appears that the accusations made by her are baseless and unfounded.
What is more alarming is the fact that she falsified the entries in her
DTR in making it appear that December 12, 2005 was a local holiday
when in fact it was not. Her claim that the aforesaid date was a local
holiday was not corroborated by any other evidence. In fact, her co-
employees attested to the fact that such day was a regular working
day. In making it appear in her DTR that such day was a holiday only
highlights her dishonesty x x x.

xxxx

There is no denying that respondent Ching committed misrepresentation


when she made it appear in her DTR that she was present in the office
while in fact she was not. Falsification of DTR is patent dishonesty.
Dishonesty, being a grave offense, carries the extreme penalty of
dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits except
accrued leave credits, and with perpetual disqualification from re-
employment in government service. Indeed, dishonesty is a malevolent
act that has no place in the Judiciary. x x x
xxxx

Rule IV, Section 52 of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the


Civil Service Commission provides that dishonesty and falsification are
grave offenses which carries with it the penalty of dismissal even on the
first offense. However, such an extreme penalty is not hastily inflicted
upon an erring employee especially in cases where there exist mitigating
circumstances that could alleviate the culpability. Inasmuch as this is
respondent Chings first offense, it is considered a mitigating
circumstance in h[er] favor. Even if the law specifically states that the
appreciation of the mitigating circumstance must first be invoked or
pleaded by the proper party, the same may be considered even if not
raised by the respondent in the interest of substantial justice.

In Re: Failure of Jose Dante E. Guerrero to Register His Time In and


Out in Chronolog Time Recorder Machine on Several Dates, the Court
imposed the penalty of six months suspension to an employee found
guilty of dishonesty for falsifying his time records. [11] (Italics in the
original; underscoring supplied)

Thus, the OCA recommends that

x x x respondent Concepcion Ching, Clerk of Court, MTC, Manaoag,


Pangasinan, be found guilty of falsification and dishonesty and
be SUSPENDED for six (6) months with a STERN WARNING that a
repetition of the same or similar acts x x x shall be dealt with more
severely; [and]

x x x the counter-charge against Judge Jaime L. Dojillo, Jr., MTC,


Manaoag, Pangasinan x x x be DISMISSED for being barren of
merit.[12] (Capitalization and emphasis in the original; underscoring
supplied)

By Resolution of August 13, 2008,[13] the Court required the parties to manifest
whether they were willing to submit the cases for resolution based on the pleadings
filed, within 10 days from notice. By Joint Manifestation of September 29,
2008,[14] the parties answered in the affirmative and prayed that the cases be
resolved soonest.

In her Affidavit, Jenelyn Sernadilla (Jenelyn) of the Office of the Human Resource
Management of Manaoag, Pangasinan stated that December 12, 2005 was a regular
working day.[15] On the other hand, in his Affidavit, Municipal Consultant Sofronio
L. Mangonon (Mangonon)[16] stated that on December 12, 2005, a Monday, the
municipal hall where the court holds office was closed, for it was a rest day after
the Galicayo Festival which ended on the preceding Sunday.

Between the two affidavits, that of Jenelyns appears to be more credible, she being
the officer in charge of the attendance of the employees. As Judge Dojillo pointed
out, Mangonon, being a consultant, was not required to report to office daily as he,
in fact, only reports during paydays. Parenthetically, Concepcion could have
submitted the affidavits of employees or the photocopies of their Daily Time
Record (DTR) to support her claim that December 12, 2005 was a local holiday.

Dishonesty is a serious offense which has no place in the judiciary. [17] Each false
entry in the DTR constitutes falsification and dishonesty.[18] The falsification of a
DTR constitutes fraud involving government funds. It bears stressing that the DTR
is used to determine the salary and leave credits accruable for the period covered
thereby. Falsifying ones DTR to cover up absences or tardiness automatically
results in financial losses to the government because it enables an employee to
receive salary and earn leave credits for services which were never rendered.[19]

Under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, dishonesty
and falsification of official document are punishable with dismissal even for the
first offense.[20] However, the Court, in certain instances, has not imposed the
penalty of dismissal due to the presence of mitigating factors such as the length of
service, acknowledgment of the infractions, and remorse by the respondent.[21]

Considering that this is the first administrative charge against Concepcion since
she entered the government service in 1996 as a court interpreter, the
recommended penalty of suspension for a period of six months is in order.
In the case of Judge Dojillo, he should be admonished to be more circumspect in
his choice of words and use of gender-fair language.[22] There was no reason for
him to emphatically describe Concepcion as a lesbian[23] because the complained
acts could be committed by anyone regardless of gender orientation. His
statements like I am a true man not a gay to challenge a girl and a lesbian like
her,[24] the handiwork and satanic belief of dirty gossiper,[25] and the product of the
dirty and earthly imagination of a lesbian and gossiper[26] were uncalled for.

Being called to dispense justice, Judge Dojillo must demonstrate finesse in his
choice of words as normally expected of men of his stature.[27] His language, both
written and spoken, must be guarded and measured lest the best of intentions be
misconstrued.[28]

WHEREFORE, Concepcion Ching, Clerk of Court of the Municipal Trial Court


of Manaoag, Pangasinan, is found GUILTY of dishonesty and falsification of
official document, and is SUSPENDED for six months without salary and other
benefits, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts
shall be dealt with more severely.

The complaint against Judge Jaime L. Dojillo, Jr. is DISMISSED, but he


is ADMONISHED to be more circumspect in his choice of words and use of
gender-fair language.
A.M. OCA-IPI No. 07-2618-RTJ February 12, 2013
EDUARDO PANES, JR., JOSEPHINE J. COSEP, ROGER M. ROSAL, LOURDES G.
SOLATORIO, AMY P. AGUIRRE, JUANCHO B. HOLGADO, Complainants,
vs.
JUDGE OSCAR E. DINOPOL, RTC, Branch 24, Koronadal City, Respondent.
X---------------------------X

A.M. OCA-IPI No. 07-2619-RTJ


JOEWE PALAD, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE OSCAR E. DINOPOL, RTC, Branch 24, Koronadal City, Respondent.
X---------------------------X
A.M. OCA-IPI No. 07-2652-RTJ
ROQUE C. FACURA, DANIEL I. LANDINGIN, ALFREDO B. ESPINO, VENUS M.
POZON, FRED F. FABELLON,Complainants,
vs.
JUDGE OSCAR E. DINOPOL, RTC, Branch 24, Koronadal City,, Respondent.
X---------------------------X
A.M. OCA-IPI No. 07-2720-RTJ
EDEN V. CASTRO, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE OSCAR E. DINOPOL, RTC, Branch 24, Koronadal City, Respondent.
X---------------------------X
A.M. OCA-IPI No. 07-2721-RTJ
ROSALINDA G. FAROFALDANE, BARBIE GAIL LUANNE MANANES, ALVIN
TROJILLO, REXES CAILAN, ARIEL RENDON, EDUARDO PANES, JR., ROGER
ROSAL, ELENITA JOQUINO, MELODY JOY COSEP, AMY P.
AGUIRRE, Complainants,
vs.
JUDGE OSCAR E. DINOPOL, RTC, Branch 24, Koronadal City, Respondent.
X---------------------------X
A.M. OCA-IPI No. 08-2808-RTJ
ENGR. ROQUE C. FACURA, JOSEPHINE J. COSEP, EDUARDO A. PANES, JR.,
REV J. VARGAS, NONITO R. PALMA, MA. LOURDES G. SOLATORTO, AMY P.
AGUIRRE, JUANCHO B. HOLGADO, JOSE AMORMIO T. REYES, REXES S.
CAILAN, JERRY M. GAY ANILO, ARIEL V. U.ENDON, BARBY GAIL LUANNE S.
MANANES, RIC DAGOHONG, ASER G. SADAVA, ROGER M.
ROSAL, Complainants,
vs.
JUDGE OSCAR E. DINOPOL, RTC, Branch 24, Koronadal City, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Before us are six (6) administrative cases that have been consolidated, as they arose
from the same set of circumstances.
The facts, as reported by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), are as follows:1
Respondent was the presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 24,
Koronadal City.
On 16 November 2006, then Mayor Fernando Q. Miguel appointed Engineer Joselito T.
Reyes and Carlito Y. Uy to the board of directors (BOD) of the Koronadal Water District
(KWD), and the appointees were to serve from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2012.
Their appointments were subsequently confirmed by the Local Water Utilities
Administration (LWUA). Other board members who were appointed were Andres O.
Magallanes, Jr., Evangeline A. Ang (Ang), and Engineer Allan D. Yaphockun
(Yaphockun). These appointments were communicated by LWUA to Eleanor P. Gomba
(Gomba), the general manager of KWD, through a letter2 dated 12 December 2006.
Gomba, however, refused to recognize the new BOD, prompting LWUA to replace her
and to appoint Rey Vargas (Vargas) as officer-in-charge of the office of the general
manager.
On 14 February 2007, Gomba transferred her office to Arellano St. Kidapawan City.
She, in the name of KWD, then filed a Complaint3 against Vargas for injunction and
damages with application for the exparte issuance of a temporary restraining order
(TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction.
On 20 February 2007, Executive Judge Laureano T. Alzate issued a 72-hour TRO.
The case was thereafter docketed as Civil Case No. 1799-24 and raffled to respondent
as presiding judge of Branch 24.
On 23 February 2007, respondent issued an Order for a writ of preliminary injunction
against Vargas,4 enjoining the latter from doing any of the following: exercising control
and supervision over KWD; collecting and receiving payments from KWD
concessionaires; exercising control and supervision over all KWD employees; or
exercising authority to deal with business transactions relating to KWD.
Gomba, however, alleged that Vargas continued to receive payments in violation of the
injunction order. Thus, on 9 March 2007, respondent issued a 20-day TRO enjoining
Yaphockun, Ang, and their agents from exercising powers as members of the BOD, and
from establishing a separate office on G.H. Del Pilar Street.
In the meantime, the LWUA issued Resolution No. 415 taking over KWD for a period of
six (6) months effective 6 March 2007. By virtue of the Resolution, which was
implemented on 24 March 2007, properties were taken from the KWD Arellano office.
Acting on Gomba’s Very Urgent Ex Parte Omnibus Motion, respondent issued on 24
March 2007, a Saturday, at 8:15 p.m. one of the assailed Orders, the dispositive portion
of which reads:6
ACCORDINGLY, and to obviate possible loss of government property and in order to
preserve the Orders of this Court, all the defendants in this case, to wit: Rey J. Vargas,
Allan Yaphockun, Evangeline Ang, John Doe’s and Jane Doe’s, including all LWUA
personnel and officers, specifically Daniel Landingin, Antonio Magtibay, Alfredo Espino,
Venus Pozon, Fred Fabellon, Roque Facura, including all of their representatives and
agents, and successors, assigns, representatives, supporters, and agents of the
Defendants are hereby ordered to obey, uphold and preserve the Orders of this Court
dated February 23, 2007 and March 9, 2007, respectively.
Further, the LWUA officers are ordered to maintain the Status Quo Ante, and to return
all KWD properties to its office at Arellano St, City of Koronadal immediately upon
receipt of this Order. The above named officers and personnel of LWUA are directed to
explain within twelve (12) hours why they should not be cited in contempt of Court for
violating the aforesaid Orders.
After an hour, at 9:15 p.m., respondent judge issued the second assailed
Order7 ordering the arrest of Eduardo Panes, Jr., security guards of the Supreme
Investigative and Security Agency, Juancho Holgado, and all persons inside No. 79
G.H. Del Pilar Street, Koronadal City (KWD Del Pilar office) for resisting the
implementation of the earlier 24 March 2007 Order.
On 13 April 2007, respondent issued still another Order, 8 this time directing police
forces to augment two Philippine National Police (PNP) teams at the KWD Arellano
office, its pumping stations and reservoir; ordering the LWUA personnel, Mayor
Fernando Miguel, Jesus Pring, Jr. and those giving them aid and comfort to desist and
refrain from forcibly, and without court order, taking over the operation and management
of the KWD Arellano office; and directing the PNP to arrest and detain the mayor and all
his allies in the event of their defiance of the Order.
On the same day, respondent issued another Order9 directing Daniel Landingan,
Antonio Matibay, Alfredo Espino, Venus Pozon, Fredo Fabellon and Roque Facura to
return certain properties to the KWD Arellano office. Otherwise, they would be held
guilty of indirect contempt, and their arrest and detention ordered until compliance
thereof.
We now take up the individual cases filed against respondent judge.
A.M. OCA-IPI No. 07-2618-RTJ
Complainants, all employees of KWD, alleged that the manner of service of the assailed
24 March 2007 twin Orders was violent, and that the disturbance that ensued caused all
KWD personnel in the Del Pilar office to scamper and hide for fear of arrest. The office
was then ransacked by the allies of Gomba who took the things from the Del Pilar and
the Arellano offices, as well as the motor vehicles owned by KWD. The windows and
doors were also destroyed.
Complainants further alleged that the Orders were patently illegal and void and were
issued with abuse of authority and gross ignorance of law, jurisprudence and the Rules
of Court, for the following reasons:
1. These Orders were issued past working hours, on a Saturday, a nonworking
day, and without the benefit of a hearing or a notice to concerned parties.
2. Resistance to a lawful court order, while a ground for indirect contempt, still
requires the filing of a charge and the opportunity to be heard.
3. Complainants were not parties to the cases filed before respondent judge on
the legitimacy of either faction.
4. The proceedings in Civil Case No. 1799-24 are null and void because the
lawyers representing KWD, a government-owned and –controlled corporation,
were not authorized by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC)
and the Commission on Audit (COA).10
In response, respondent judge alleged that complainants were not employees of KWD.
He further insisted that the Complaint should be dismissed by virtue of a Petition for
Review questioning the twin Orders of 24 March 2007 then pending with the CA.
Moreover, he claimed that he issued the assailed Orders because he was convinced
that the very survival of KWD was seriously threatened, after granting an audience at
4:00 p.m. to the lawyers of the Gomba group when they filed an Ex Parte Omnibus
Motion. Thus, he thought that the three-day notice rule under the Rules of Court was
"totally insignificant and ridiculous,"11 when what seemed more urgent to him was the
speedy delivery of justice.
A.M. OCA-IPI No. 07-2619-RTJ
Complainant Joewe Palad is a security guard of Supreme Investigative and Security
Agency detailed to secure the premises of the Del Pilar office. On 24 March 2007, at
around 10:00 p.m., he was arrested by elements of the PNP and was brought to the
PNP Jail of Koronadal City for allegedly defying the assailed Orders of respondent, but
with no bail recommended.12 He was, however, not aware of these Orders, and only
came to know of them on 28 March 2007 when he was brought to court to attend a
hearing on his arrest. At 5:00 p.m. of the same day, he was released on respondent’s
finding that he did not show an act of defiance to the Orders.
In his Comment,13 respondent alleged that complainant Palad defied the orders of
Sheriff Ricardo Publico to open the gate of the KWD Del Pilar office. Respondent also
alleged that Palad acted in bad faith in filing the present Complaint, with the intention to
harass the former.
A.M. OCA IPI No. 07-2652-RTJ
Complainants Roque C. Facura, Daniel I. Landingin, Alfredo B. Espino, Venus M.
Pozon and Fred F. Fabellon are employees of the LWUA. They alleged that on 28
February 2007, to alleviate the conflict between the Gomba and the Reyes factions, the
LWUA Administrator designated complainant Facura as KWD interim general manager.
On 24 March 2007, the appointed interim BOD allegedly served a notice of takeover on
the KWD’s BOD. After that, they proceeded to the KWD Arellano office, where Gomba
was holding office, to also serve the notice to her.
Upon serving the notice, however, several unknown persons allegedly barged into the
Arellano office and took away the records, equipment and other items found.
Complainants alleged that the 24 March 2007 twin Orders of respondent were highly
irregular and illegal, having been issued on a Saturday evening without notice and
hearing. Complainants likewise alleged that the 13 April 2007 twin Orders are highly
irregular and were issued without notice and hearing. They additionally alleged that
respondent had shown an unwarranted bias for Gomba, who identified respondent as
one of her personal references in her Personal Data Sheet.
Complainants maintained that respondent allowed the private lawyers of Gomba to
appear before the court without the necessary authority from the OGCC contrary to
pertinent rules and regulation.
Finally, they pointed out that respondent had already been the subject of numerous
disciplinary actions as a lawyer and as a judge.
In his Comment,14 respondent claimed that the issues raised were matters cognizable
before appropriate judicial proceedings. His exercise of discretion could not be
questioned through an administrative proceeding. He alleged that complainants
conspired with the other complainants in the other cases and with the mayor and his
allies. He maintained that while complainants were not parties to the case, they
disturbed the status quo promoted by the injunctive Orders he issued and committed
robbery when they went to the KWD Arellano office.
A.M. OCA IPI No. 07-02720-RTJ
On 13 August 2007, Eden V. Castro filed a Complaint15 alleging that she was the owner
and administrator of the two-storey building where the KWD Del Pilar office is located.
The building has been leased to and occupied by KWD from 2000 until 2007.
On the evening of 24 March 2007, the use of the building was disrupted when Sheriff
Publico implemented the Orders issued by respondent. The KWD office was forcibly
opened. The gate, doors, windows and other parts of the building were damaged as
elements of the PNP entered the building and ordered the arrest of all persons inside.
Other items and equipment within the premises of the building were also taken and
were brought to court although these are personal properties.
Security guards were also positioned inside the building after the altercation to prevent
persons, including complainant, from entering the premises.
Thus, complainant alleged that because of the Orders issued by respondent, she had
been deprived of the use of the building and had lost a considerable amount of income
from the lease of the property. She thus demanded the payment of damages from
respondent.
For his part, respondent alleged that it was unfair for him to be confronted with damages
through the present Complaint, allegedly brought about by the implementation of the 24
March 2007 twin Orders. He maintained that he was not aware of any contractual
relationship between complainant Castro and the KWD administration, nor was he
aware of the extent of the damage caused to the property. Instead, he alleged that he
was informed that no owner claimed the building for almost five months, and that
complainant in any case was already in possession by August 2007. 16
A.M. OCA IPI No. 07-2721-RTJ
Complainants are owners of the several various personal properties such as 3 scooters,
2 motorcycles, 2 tricycles, office tables, kitchen and cooking utensils, and other
perishable goods, found within the KWD Del Pilar office. Pursuant to the 24 March 2007
twin Orders, these properties were confiscated by Sheriff Publico and other elements of
the PNP.
Respondent judge refused to release these personal properties despite several
entreaties for him to do so. Complainants alleged that as a consequence of the
confiscation of these personal properties – some of which were their sources of income
– they lost a considerable amount of income and could no longer earn a decent living.
Respondent alleged that he belatedly discovered that some of the confiscated
properties belonged to complainants herein. After preparing an inventory thereof, the
personal properties were turned over and deposited in court for safekeeping. He claims
that had the police left the personal belongings unattended, they would have been
responsible in case of loss. Respondent further stated that the belongings were already
returned to complainants on 8 August 2007. Thus, he prayed that the Complaint be
dismissed for being moot and academic.
A.M. OCA IPI No. 08-2808-RTJ
On 18 February 2008, employees of KWD including complainants in A.M. OCA IPI No.
07-2618-RTJ, filed a Complaint17 alleging that respondent judge took cognizance of two
other related cases involving KWD. The first case is Civil Case No. 1818-24 for
Injunction with Application for Ex Parte Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order and/or
Writ of Preliminary Injunction. The assigned presiding judge is Judge Oscar P. Noel, Jr.
per this Court’s Resolution dated 10 December 2007. However, respondent refused to
turn over the records of the case to Judge Noel, Jr. and only did so when the OCA,
through a long distance call, prohibited the former from hearing the case.
After Judge Noel, Jr. denied the prayer for a TRO, the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 1818-
24 file a second case, docketed as Civil Case No. 1839- 24, also for Injunction with
Application for Ex Parte Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of
Preliminary Injunction. This case was raffled to respondent judge, who subsequently
issued an Order granting the 72-hour TRO prayed for by plaintiffs therein.
It appears that when respondent filed his third Motion for Reconsideration of the Order
putting him under preventive suspension, he promised that he would not interfere in the
disposition of the cases involving KWD. Complainants alleged that the two cases were
evidently similar and the reliefs prayed for were identical. Despite the fact that the
prayer for the issuance of a TRO in Civil Case No. 1818-24 was already denied twice,
respondent still granted a TRO in Civil Case No. 1839-24. Furthermore, they aver that
respondent judge took cognizance of the case with apparent bias, when Marlon Cabel
(Cabel), one of the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 1839-24, is the nephew of his wife.
On the other hand, in his Comment,18 respondent denied the allegations and posited
that his undertaking not to hear KWD cases was inconsequential to his preventive
suspension. He further alleged that the issue of inhibition was not contained in the
Order lifting his preventive suspension. Thus, he contends that he took cognizance of
the cases in good faith.
Respondent also averred that when Civil Case No. 1839-24 was raffled to his court, he
believed that there was an urgent need to issue a 72- hour TRO. He further claimed that
he was unaware of the Orders of Judge Noel, Jr., which were issued during his
preventive suspension.
While respondent admits that Marlon Cabel was his wife’s nephew, however, he was
under the belief that the Cabel was already looking for different employment outside of
KWD. Thus, when Civil Case No. 1839-24 was raffled to his sala, he quickly went
through the names of the parties and did not expect to see Cabel’s name included.
Respondent thereafter confronted him and was informed by Cabel that he was told to
affix his signature on the assumption that it was necessary to relieve him from any
liability to KWD. Subsequently, on 22 February 2008, Cabel filed a Manifestation of
Withdrawal from the case.
JUDICIAL REMEDIES SOUGHT DURING THE PENDENCY OF THE
ADMINISTRATIVE CASES
While the foregoing administrative complaints were being investigated by the Court of
Appeals (CA), complainants Eduardo Panes, Jr. and Juancho B. Holgado filed a
Petition for Certiorari19 before the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 01676, against
respondent judge and Gomba. This Petition assailed the 24 March 2007 twin Orders.
Another Petition for Certiorari was filed with the CA by Roque C. Facura, Daniel I.
Landingin, Antonio B. Magtibay, Alfredo B. Espino, Venus M. Pozon, and Fred. F.
Fabellon also against respondent judge and Gomba. This case was docketed as CA-
G.R. SP No. 01765, which in turn questioned the first 24 March 2007 Order and the 13
April 2007 twin Orders.
Both Petitions alleged that respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion
amount to lack or in excess of discretion in issuing the 24 March 2007 and 13 April 2007
Orders. Petitioners maintained that respondent judge violated their constitutional right to
due process and the applicable provisions of the rules of procedure, pertinent laws and
jurisprudence.
These two cases were eventually consolidated.
On 31 January 2008, the CA promulgated its Decision granting the Petitions, the
dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. the assailed Orders dated March 24, 2007
issued at 8:15 o’clock and 9:15 o’clock in the evening, and the two Orders issued on
April 13, 2007 are hereby declared null and void. The Regional Trial Court of Koronadal
City, South Cotabato, Branch 24 is hereby ORDERED to proceed with the main case
with dispatch.
SO ORDERED.20
In granting the Petitions, the CA found that the Very Urgent Ex Parte Omnibus Motion
filed by Gomba did not contain a notice of hearing. Further, respondent judge granted
the Motion without the benefit of a hearing through the 24 March 2007 Orders, violating
Section 4, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court. This provision mandates that all written
motions shall be set for hearing by the movant to give the other party the opportunity to
oppose the prayer of the movant.
The CA likewise held that the LWUA takeover was a right claimed by complainants in
A.M. OCA-IPI No. 07-2652-RTJ by virtue of LWUA Resolution No. 41. It further stated
that there was not even any urgency for respondent to issue the 24 March 2007 Orders
as there were already police officers in the premises who would have prevented the
looting.
Moreover, the CA found that petitioners therein were not parties to Civil Case No. 1799-
24, which was the main case filed by Gomba against Vargas, Yaphockun, Ang and their
agents. It held that petitioners could not be considered agents of the defendants in Civil
Case No. 1799-24 because they were representatives of the LWUA, an independent
administrative body.
The CA pointed out that the taking over of LWUA over KWD was also not put in issue in
Civil Case No. 1799-24, thus, respondent had no jurisdiction whatsoever over that
issue.
As to the second 24 March 2007 Order, the CA held that order of arrest for indirect
contempt against complainants Panes and Holgado was void for lack of due process,
violating Section 3 of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court. This provision reads:
Sec. 3. Indirect contempt to be punished after charge and hearing. - After a charge in
writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the respondent to comment thereon
within such period as may be fixed by the court and to be heard by himself or counsel, a
person guilty of any of the following acts may be punished for indirect contempt: x x x.
Thus, in order for a person to be held in indirect contempt, respondent judge should
have given the accused an opportunity to comment and to be heard by himself or
counsel. This he did not do.
Gomba subsequently filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but this was likewise
denied.21 She then brought the case to this Court under Rule 45, docketed as G.R. No.
184541. In a Minute Resolution22 dated 19 November 2008, this Petition was denied,
and 23 March 2009, it was denied with finality.
ISSUES
The issues are as follows:
I. Whether the issuance by respondent Judge Dinopol of the 24 March 2007 twin
Orders constitutes gross ignorance of the law
II. Whether respondent Judge Dinopol is civilly liable for the personal damages
suffered by complainants
III. Whether Judge Dinopol, in taking cognizance of cases involving KWD violated
the condition for the lifting of his suspension
IV. Whether respondent judge should have inhibited himself from a case to which
one of the parties was his wife’s nephew is party thereto.
The Court’s Ruling
A judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence. 23 He
should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary.24 He shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional
competence.25
At the outset, respondent failed to provide any legitimate reason for the issuance of the
Orders on a Saturday evening when the courts were already closed. As pointed out by
the CA, if indeed there was robbery or looting happening in the premises, arrests could
be effected by the police officers who were already in the vicinity of the KWD office.
We agree with the findings of the OCA that respondent’s defenses neither justify his
failure to comply with due process requirements nor do they demonstrate good faith on
his part that would exculpate him from administrative liability. Respondent violated the
most basic requirements for the proper observance of due process, resulting in the
unwarranted arrest and incarceration of powerless individuals.
As the OCA pointed out, when respondent issued the first 24 March 2007 Order, he was
obviously aware that there is a need to give the parties involved the opportunity to be
heard before he cited them for contempt. In that Order he said:
Further, the LWUA officers are ordered to maintain the Status Quo Ante, and to return
all KWD properties to its office at Arellano St., City of Koronadal immediately upon
receipt of this Order. The above named officers and personnel of LWUA are directed to
explain within twelve (12) hours why they should not be cited in contempt of Court for
violating the aforesaid Orders.
However, an hour after, acting not on personal knowledge but merely on the narration of
Sheriff Publico, he issued the second Order in which he directed all government law
enforcement agencies to arrest Eduardo Panes Jr., the security guards of the Supreme
Investigative and Security Agency, Juancho Holgado and all persons inside the KWD
Del Pilar office, when clearly, none of them was a party to Civil Case No. 1799-24.
Still displaying his overreaching powers of adjudication, he again issued the 13 April
2007 twin Orders. The first one directing the city mayor to desist and refrain from taking
over the operation and management of the KWD Arellano office; otherwise his arrest
would be effected. The second Order meanwhile directed the LWUA personnel to return
properties to the KWD Arellano office, also under pain of arrest.
We find that the issuance of these Orders was in total disregard of the Rules of Court
and with grave abuse of authority. Undoubtedly, respondent is guilty of gross ignorance
of the law.
To be held administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law, the acts complained of
must not only be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence, but must have also been
motivated by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty, and corruption. 26Gross ignorance of the law is
considered as a serious offense under Rule 140, Section 8, and is punishable as
follows:
SEC. 11. Sanctions. – A. If the respondent is guilty of a serious charge, any of the
following sanctions may be imposed:
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 governmentowned 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 than ₱20,000.00 but not exceeding ₱40,000.00.
On the issue of whether respondent may be held liable for damages, we rule in the
negative.
In Alzua v. Johnson,27 we explained that in civil actions for damages, judges of superior
and general jurisdiction are not liable to answer for what they do in the exercise of their
judicial functions, provided they are acting within their legal powers and jurisdiction. We
said:
The exemption of judges of courts of superior or general authority from liability in a civil
action for acts done by them in the exercise of their judicial functions is a principle
essentially inherent in the various judicial systems upon which the system organized
under Act No. 136 is modeled. The grounds of public policy and the reasoning upon
which the doctrine is based are not less forceful and imperative in these Islands than in
the countries from which the new judicial system was borrowed; and an examination of
the reasons assigned by the Supreme Court of the United States and by Mr. Cooley in
his work on Torts for the universal recognition of the rule in the United States, as set out
in the margin (Notes C and D) leaves no room for doubt that a failure to recognize it as
an incident to the new judicial system would materially impair its usefulness, and tend
very strongly to defeat the ends for which it was established. Indeed, upon the authority
of the reasoning in the case of Bradley vs. Fisher, it may safely be asserted that an
attempt to enforce any rule of law in conflict with this doctrine would be utterly
subversive of the system of jurisprudence established in these Islands under and by
virtue of the authority of the Congress of the United States:
"For it is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of
justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act
upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.
Liability to answer to everyone who might feel himself aggrieved by the action of the
judge would be inconsistent with the possession of this freedom, and would destroy that
independence without which no judiciary can be either respectable or useful. As
observed by a distinguished English judge, it would establish the weakness of judicial
authority in a degrading responsibility.
"The principle, therefore, which exempts judges of courts of superior or general
authority from liability in a civil action for acts done by them in the exercise of their
judicial functions, obtains in all countries where there is any well-ordered system of
jurisprudence. It has been the settled doctrine of the English courts for many centuries,
and has never been denied, that we are aware of, in the courts of this country." (Bradley
vs. Fisher, supra)
xxxx
Perhaps we should not conclude this discussion of the doctrine of immunity of judicial
officers from civil liability in certain cases without expressly directing attention to the fact
that nothing therein is to be understood as giving to them the power to act with partiality,
or maliciously, or corruptly, or arbitrarily, or oppressively without fear that they may be
called to account for such conduct. No judge, however high his rank may be, is above or
beyond the law which it is his high office to administer. Indeed, we would deem it our
duty to be the first to take the necessary preliminary steps looking to the suspension
and removal from office of the defendant, by impeachment or otherwise, if we were of
opinion that the charges of misconduct in office preferred against him had any
foundation in fact; and we would not allow the sun to set upon this day's session of the
court without having issued the necessary orders for the institution of criminal
proceedings against him if we had reason to believe that there are any grounds for the
criminal charges set forth in the complaint.28
Anent the third and fourth issues, respondent judge should have inhibited himself from
taking cognizance of the two other cases involving the leadership and management of
KWD.
As earlier mentioned, respondent judge filed his 12 November 2007 Motion for
Reconsideration of this Court’s Resolution putting him under preventive suspension. He
made an undertaking therein that in the event of the lifting of the suspension, he would
not interfere in the disposition of the cases involving KWD. Thus, when he took
cognizance of Civil Case Nos. 1818-24 and 1839-24 – both of which involved issues on
the management of KWD – he violated the assurances he had made to this Court.
Furthermore, Cabel, one of the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 1839-24, is the nephew of the
wife of respondent. Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules of Court, provides for the following
instances of mandatory inhibition:
Section 1. Disqualification of judges. — No judge or judicial officers shall sit in any case
in which he, or his wife or child, is pecuniarily interested as heir, legatee, creditor or
otherwise, or in which he is related to either party within the sixth degree of
consanguinity or affinity, or to counsel within the fourth degree, computed according to
the rules of the civil law, or in which he has been executor, administrator, guardian,
trustee or counsel, or in which he has presided in any inferior court when his ruling or
decision is the subject of review, without the written consent of all parties in interest,
signed by them and entered upon the record.
A judge may, in the exercise of his sound discretion, disqualify himself from sitting in a
case, for just or valid reasons other than those mentioned above.
Considering that Cabel is a relative by affinity within the sixth degree, respondent
should have inhibited himself from taking cognizance of the case.
It appears that this is not the first time respondent has been the subject of an
administrative complaint. In Sy v. Judge Dinopol,29 we held him liable for gross
misconduct in office and ordered his dismissal from service with forfeiture of all benefits,
except accrued leave credits, if any, with prejudice to his reemployment in any branch
or service of the government, including government-owned and controlled
corporations.1âwphi1 We also enumerated her previous numerous administrative
infractions, to wit:
First, in A.M. No. RTJ-06-1969 decided on June 15, 2006, Judge Dinopol was
found guilty of gross ignorance of the law and was fined P20,000.00.
Second, in A.M. No. RTJ-06-2020 decided on September 20, 2006, he was
found guilty of gross ignorance of the law and abuse of authority, and was fined
P20,000.00.
Third, in A.M. No. RTJ-06-2003 decided on August 23, 2007, he was found liable
for undue delay in rendering a decision or order and for violating the clear
provisions of A.M. No. 01-1-07-SC, and was fined P11,000.00.
Fourth, in A.M. OCA IPI No. 05-2173-RTJ decided on August 28, 2006, he was
strongly admonished, even as the complainant desisted from pursuing the
complaint against the judge for gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of
authority and discretion.
And more recently, in A.M. No. RTJ-07-2052 decided on March 30, 2009, Judge
Dinopol had been reminded and warned against entertaining litigants outside court
premises.30
As the OCA points out, respondent’s previous dismissal from service does not render
the present case moot and academic. In Perez v. Abiera31 we said:
In other words, 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 public official
had ceased to be in office during the pendency of his case. The Court retains its
jurisdiction either to pronounce the respondent official innocent of the charges or
declare him guilty thereof. A contrary rule would be fraught with injustices and pregnant
with dreadful and dangerous implications. For what remedy would the people have
against a judge or any other public official who resorts to wrongful and illegal conduct
during his last days in office? What would prevent some corrupt and unscrupulous
magistrate from committing abuses and other condemnable acts knowing fully well that
he would soon be beyond the pale of the law and immune to all administrative
penalties? If only for reasons of public policy, this Court must assert and maintain its
jurisdiction over members of the judiciary and other officials under its supervision and
control for acts performed in office which are inimical to the service and prejudicial to
the interests of litigants and the general public. If innocent, respondent official merits
vindication of his name and integrity as he leaves the government which he served well
and faithfully, if guilty, he deserves to receive the corresponding censure and a penalty
proper and imposable under the situation.32
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, Judge Oscar E. Dinopol formerly of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 24, Koronadal City, is hereby found GUILTY of gross
ignorance of the law. His offense would have warranted his dismissal from the service
with forfeiture of all benefits – except leave credits, if any – and disqualification from
holding office in the government, including government-owned and –controlled
corporations, had he not already been previously dismissed in Sy v. Judge
Dinopol (A.M. No. RTJ-09-2189).

SO ORDERED.