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IN THE MATTER OF PROCEEDINGS FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST ATTY.

WENCESLAO LAURETA, AND OF CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST EVA


MARAVILLA-ILUSTRE in G.R. NO. 68635, entitled "EVA MARAVILLA-ILUSTRE, vs.
HON. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, ET AL."

1987-03-12 | G.R. No. 68635

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM, J p:

In almost identical letters dated 20 October 1986, personally sent to Justices Andres R. Narvasa, Ameurfina
M. Herrera, and Isagani A. Cruz, and a fourth letter, dated 22 October 1986 addressed to Justice Florentino P.
Feliciano, all members of the First Division of this Court, (incorporated herein by reference), and in feigned
ignorance of the Constitutional requirement that the Court's Divisions are composed of, and must act through,
at least five (5) members, and in a stance of dangling threats to effect a change of the Court's adverse
resolution, petitioner Eva Maravilla Ilustre wrote in part:

"Please forgive us for taking the liberty of addressing you this letter which we do hope you will read
very carefully.
"It is important to call your attention to the dismissal of Case No. G.R. 68635 entitled 'Eva Maravilla
Ilustre vs. Hon. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al.,' by an untenable minute-resolution although an
extended one, dated 14 May 1986 which we consider as an unjust resolution deliberately and
knowingly promulgated by the First Division of the Supreme Court of which you are a member.
xxx xxx xxx
"We consider the three minute-resolution: the first dated 14 May 1986; the second, dated 9 July 1986;
and the third, 3 September 1986, railroaded with such hurry/promptitude unequalled in the entire
history of the Supreme Court under circumstances that have gone beyond the limits of legal and
judicial ethics.

xxx xxx xxx


"Your attention is called to minute-resolution of 9 July 1986 which writes finish to our case before the
Supreme Court (. . . THIS IS FINAL') There is nothing final in this world. We assure you that this case is
far from finished by a long shot. For at the proper time we shall so act and bring this case before
another forum where the members of the Court can no longer deny our action with minute resolutions
that are not only unjust but are knowingly and deliberately promulgated. The people deserve to know
how the members of the highest tribunal of the land perform in the task of decision making by affixing
their respective signatures on judgments that they render on petitions that they themselves give due
course.
"Please understand that we are pursuing further remedies in our quest for justice under the law. We
intend to hold responsible members of the First Division who participated in the promulgation of these
three minute-resolutions in question. For the members thereof cannot claim immunity when their action
runs afoul with penal sanctions, even in the performance of official functions; like others, none of the
division members are above the law.
"In our quest for justice, we wish to avoid doing injustice to anyone, particularly the members of the
First Division, providing that they had no hand in the promulgation of the resolution in question. That is
why we are requesting you to inform us your participation in the promulgation of these resolutions in
question. Even we who are poor are also capable of playing fair even to those who take advantage of
our poverty by sheer power and influence. We shall then wait for your reply. If, however, we do not
hear from you after a week, then we will consider your silence that you supported the dismissal of our

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petition. We will then be guided accordingly. (Emphasis supplied).

The letter also attacked the participation in the case of Justice Pedro L. Yap, Chairman of the First Division in
this wise:

"As Division Chairman, Associate Justice Pedro Yap, as a copy of Resolution dated 14 May 1986 we
received indicate, did not even have the elementary courtesy of putting on record that he voluntarily
inhibited himself from participating in the promulgation of this minute-resolution, although an extended
one, which he should have done consistent with judicial decorum and the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
After all he is the law partner of 'Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez, counsel for respondents, now the
distinguished Solicitor General . . . indicative that even at this stage of the proceeding in point of time,
the Supreme Court still recognizes Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez as counsel for respondents, even as he is
already the Solicitor General. For not withdrawing from the case formally Atty. Ordoñez has manifested
his unmitigated arrogance that he does not respect the Canons of Professional Ethics, similar to the
actuation of his law partner, Associate Justice Pedro Yap, Chairman of the First Division of the
Supreme Court, an act that further aggravates the growing wrinkles in the domain of judicial
statesmanship, impressed as it is, with very serious and dangerous implications.

"(9) By 11 April 1986, date of the reorganization of the First Division, Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez already
became the Solicitor General. With such amazingly magical coincidence, Dr. Pedro Yap, law partner of
Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez in the law firm Salonga, Ordoñez, Yap, Padlan became the Chairman of the
Division.
xxx xxx xxx

"(11) So we see that on 11 August 1986 to 14 May 1986 when some members of the Division were still
busy putting their respective offices in order and had possibly have no idea about the Maravilla case.
Was it possible for Chairman Yap to have convinced the Division members that Maravilla petition is
without merit, and since the members the new ones knew nothing about the case, readily agreed to the
dismissal of the petition by a minute-resolution extended one. After all this was the case of the Solicitor
General. If this is what happened, then we are sorry to say that you were deliberately 'had.'
After all, the 14 May 1986 untenable minute resolution although an extended one, does not bear the
signatures of the Division members. The members should have signed the resolution, after all, the
Supreme Court had given the petition due course, indicating whether they concur, dissent or otherwise
abstain from voting."

The letter to Justice Herrera went on to state.

"We assume, of course, that you had studied the case thoroughly since you were with the original
7-man First Division under the chairmanship of then Justice Claudio Teehankee. We assure you that
we will bring this case before another forum to hold responsible the members of the Division who
participated in the dismissal of the case by the unjust minute-resolutions, knowingly rendered for
intended objective that your conscience you are aware.
xxx xxx xxx
"We leave the next move to you by informing us your participation in the promulgation of the
minute-resolutions in question. Please do not take this matter lightly for we know justice in the end will
prevail. For if we do not hear from you within a week, we will consider your silence as your admission
that you supported the dismissal of the petition. In this way, we shall then be guided accordingly. The
moment we take action in the plans we are completing, we will then call a press conference with TV
and radio coverage Arrangements in this regard are being done. The people should or ought to know
why we were thwarted in our quest for plain justice.
xxx xxx xxx
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"Finally, in view of action that we are prepared to take in this case, that will no doubt cause nationwide
attention, and there should be anyone that will cause me harm personally, may we request you to show
this letter to the authorities concerned so that they will know where to look, when it becomes
necessary." (Emphasis supplied)

The aforesaid letters were included in the Agenda of the First Division of 22 October 1986, were "Noted," and
referred en consulta to the Court en banc.

On 28 October 1986, the Court en banc took up the background and history of the case, found no reason to
take any further action, and referred the case back to the First Division "as set forth in the latter's resolution of
October 27, 1986." In this Resolution, the First Division traced the history of the case, clarified that Justice
Yap assumed his position in this Court only on 2 May 1986; that when the resolution of dismissal was issued
on 14 May 1986, Justice Abad Santos was the incumbent Chairman of the First Division, and that Justice Yap
was unaware that Atty. Ordoñez was private respondents' counsel; that upon realization thereof, Justice Yap
inhibited himself from further participation in the case; and that Justice Yap was designated Chairman of the
First Division only on 14 July 1986, after the compulsory retirement of Justice Vicente Abad Santos on 12 July
1986. The Resolution of the First Division (incorporated herein by reference) concluded thus:

"The dispositions in this case were arrived at after careful study. Because a case is resolved against
the interests of a party, does not mean that it is an 'unjust decision' or that it has been 'railroaded.'
"This Division declares without hesitation that it has consistently rendered justice without fear or favor.
YAP, J., took no part."

On 3 November 1986, petitioner again addressed similar letters to Justices Narvasa, Herrera, and Cruz,
(incorporated herein by reference), excerpts from which follow:

"It is rather amazing that when we wrote you our previous letter, we never dreamed that you would rush,
as you did rush for assistance en consulta with the Honorable Court en banc. The unfortunate part of it
all is the fact that the Court en banc had to promulgate its resolution dated 28 October 1986 which to
us when considered in its entirety, is just as untenable as the First Division extended and unsigned
minute-resolution of 14 May 1986.
"Evidently you misunderstood our point of inquiry, to wit: 'Did you or did you not approve the dismissal
of our petition under
"1) The 14 May 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No.
"2) The 9 July 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No.
"3) The 3 Sept. 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No.
"That was all we asked. The other matters contained in our letter were intended merely to give you the
highlights of our case. This is what we wanted to know to properly guide us when we finally bring our
case to the other forum of justice.

"Did it ever occur to you that when you and the other members of the First Division referred our letters
to the Honorable Court en banc en consulta it was all your fault that the Court en banc had to
promulgate its unsigned extended minute-resolution that unfortunately exposed the distinguished
members of the newly reorganized Supreme Court and, at the same time, convicted themselves as
guilty of distorting facts involved in our petition?
"This, we are sure, will come as a shock to you. We will show you why
xxx xxx xxx
"This is just a sample of what we will expose to the nation before the other forum of justice where we
will soon bring this case beyond the reach of the newly reorganized Supreme Court. We are prepared
to expose many more of this kind of judicial performance readily constituting travesty of justice. Ponder
upon this well because it is our very firm conviction that the people deserve to know how the
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distinguished members of the highest tribunal of the land perform their duties in this most sensitive
area of decision making.
"Anyhow, whether you referred our letter to the Court en banc (en consulta) or not, the situation
remains the same. At the proper time, as we said, we will bring this case before another forum of
justice where the members of the First Division, in fact the Honorable Court en banc may no longer
deny our action by mere untenable and unjust minute resolutions. Better believe it that we intend to
hold responsible members of the First Division who took part in the promulgation of the untenable and
unjust extended minute-resolution that is not even signed by any of those who promulgated it; therefore,
to us, is clearly bereft of judicial integrity from its very inception on 14 May 1986.
xxx xxx xxx
"Thus, we will bring this case before another forum of justice as Eva Maravilla Ilustre against the
distinguished members of the First Division, in fact against the entire membership of the newly
organized Supreme Court (because of its en banc unsigned extended minute-resolution that is without
judicial integrity, dated 28 October 1986). But do not be mislead (sic) for we are not alone in this fight.
Other lawyers, not just by their mere sympathy for me personally and my case, but by their firm
conviction that judicial statesmanship must be maintained at all times in the highest tribunal of justice in
the land, that they have offered their free legal services when the legal confrontation begins.
xxx xxx xxx
"Paragraph 4, found on page 3 of the en banc resolution projects the most fantastic, most unbelievable
picture of Division Chairman Justice Yap. It states
"'. . . When the resolution of dismissal on May 14, 1986, Justice Yap was unaware that Atty. Sedfrey A.
Ordoñez was private respondent's counsel.
"The Honorable Court en banc must think everybody stupid to swallow this statement hook, line and
sinker. For Justice Yap we say: Tell that to the marines. But more than this, we leave this matter to the
conscience of Justice Yap.
"Ignoramus that we are, unschooled in the domain of law and procedure, but we are learning a few as
we prosecute our case within legitimate limits, we state here that both resolutions that promulgated by
the Court en banc of 28 October 1986 and that promulgated by the First Division dated 27 October
1986, are nothing but a desperate attempt, when both are considered in their respective entirety, to
maneuver without success, some semblance of justification on the untenable and unjust 14 May 1986
extended and unsigned minute-resolution that is bereft of judicial integrity.

xxx xxx xxx


"Thus, if the members of the First Division and those of the Honorable Court en banc think for one
minute that because of their respective 4-page minute but extended resolutions apparently impressive
for their lack of merit, deliberately unsigned that exposed their lack of judicial integrity, that we will now
give up the fight, just forget it. Ignoramus that we are, better believe it when we say we are prepared to
carry the fight before another forum of justice. When we do, we shall call for a press conference with
TV and radio coverage, so that we can present to the entire nation our quest for justice against the
steam-roller of power and influence and, at the same time, to call the attention of the people to the
manner in which the members of the highest tribunal of the land perform their respective individual and
collective functions in the domain of this most sensitive area of decision making.
"Allow us to restate our previous and now, our present inquiry, to wit:.
"Did you or did you not approve the dismissal of our petition under
"a) The 14 May 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No.
b) The 9 July 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No.
c) The 3 Sept. 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No.'" (Emphasis supplied).

True to her threats, after having lost her case before this Court, petitioner filed on 16 December 1986 an
Affidavit-Complaint before the Tanodbayan, totally disregarding the facts and circumstances and legal
considerations set forth in this Court's aforecited Resolutions of the First Division and en banc. Some
Members of this Court were maliciously charged with having knowingly and deliberately rendered, with bad
faith, an unjust, extended Minute Resolution "making" her opponents the "illegal owners" of vast estates.

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Some Justices of the Court of Appeals were similarly maliciously charged with knowingly rendering their
"unjust resolution" of 20 January 1984 "through manifest and evident bad faith," when their Resolution had in
fact and law been upheld by this Court. Additionally, Solicitor General Sedfrey A. Ordoñez and Justice Pedro
Yap of this Court were also maliciously charged with having used their power and influence in persuading and
inducing the members of the First Division of this Court into promulgating their "unjust extended Minute
Resolution of 14 May 1986."

All the foregoing, in complete disregard of the Resolutions of this Court, as the tribunal of last resort, 1)
upholding the challenged judgment of the Court of Appeals; 2) dismissing the Petition on the ground that the
doctrine of res judicata was clearly applicable not only as to the probate of the Will of the decedent but also as
to the heirship of petitioner, among others, and their right to intervene and participate in the proceedings; and
3) finding that there was no attempt whatsoever on the part of Justice Yap nor Solicitor General Ordoñez to
unduly influence the members of the First Division.

The Complaint before the Tanodbayan (incorporated herein by reference) was allegedly filed "in my quest for
justice, something that has been closed to me by the Supreme Court forever" and specifically charged:.

"CHARGE NO. ONE


Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez and Justice Pedro Yap of 1) 'persuading, inducing, influencing the members
of the newly organized First Division . . . into promulgating their unjust, extended minute RESOLUTION
of 14 May 1986, knowingly with deliberate intent with such unusual hurry/promptitude unequalled in the
entire history of the Supreme Court based on insignificant issues and deliberately evading/prevaricating
the more important substantial ones raised in my petition, in violation of Section 3, sub-letter (a) of
Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, . . .; and.
"(2) Under the same Section 3, subletter (e) of the same Republic Act . . . for causing me and the other
heirs of Ponciano Maravilla undue injury by using their power and influence as Solicitor General and
Associate Justice, respectively. . . .
"CHARGE NO. TWO
"Associate Justices Luis Javellana, Vicente Mendoza and Serafin Cuevas, members of the then
FOURTH SPECIAL CASES DIVISION, Intermediate Appellate Court

1) For knowingly rendering their unjust RESOLUTION dated 20 January 1984 in the exercise of their
functions through manifest and evident bad faith in CA-G.R. No. SP-13680, entitled 'Francisco Q.
Maravilla, et al. v. Hon. Antonia Corpus Macandog, et al. 'in violation of Article 204 of the Revised
Penal Code;"
2) For causing me and the other heirs such 'undue injury' by deliberately, knowingly rendering their
unjust RESOLUTION dated 20 January 1984 . . . in violation of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended,
Section 3 (e) thereof.
"CHARGE NO. THREE
"Associate Justice Vicente Abad Santos (retired) then Chairman of the First Division of the Supreme
Court as of 14 May 1986, and Associate Justice Isagani Cruz, Andres Narvasa, Ameurfina M. Herrera
and Pedro Yap, . . .
1) For knowingly and deliberately rendering their unjust, extended MINUTE RESOLUTION of 14 May
1986 dismissing my petition in G.R. No. 68635, . . . with manifest and evident bad faith to make the
clients of Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez, now the distinguished Solicitor General, the 'illegal owners' of the
vast estates of my aunt Digna Maravilla . . .;
"2) Under Section 3, sub-letter (e) Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, . . . for deliberately causing us
heirs of Ponciano Maravilla undue injury by depriving us of our rights over my aunt's vast estates
because of their manifest and evident bad faith in knowingly promulgating their unjust, extended minute
RESOLUTION of 14 May 1986, deliberately intended to make the clients of Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez,
now the Solicitor General, the 'illegal owners' of my aunt Digna Maravilla's estates when, under the law,
these Ordoñez clients are not entitled to own these vast properties whether under testate or intestate
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succession or mixed succession." (Emphasis supplied).

Atty. Laureta himself reportedly circulated copies of the Complaint to the press, which was widely publicized
in almost all dailies on 23 December 1986, without any copy furnished this Court nor the members who were
charged. The issue of the Daily Express of 23 December 1986 published a banner headline reading:

"ORDONEZ, 8 JUSTICES FACE GRAFT CHARGES"

thereby making it unjustly appear that the Justices of this Court and the other respondents were charged with
"graft and corruption" when the Complaint was actually filed by a disgruntled litigant and her counsel after
having lost her case thrice in this Court.

On 26 December 1986, the Tanodbayan (Ombudsman) dismissed petitioner's Complaint and decreed in the
dispositive portion of his Resolution (herein incorporated by reference) that:

"WHEREFORE, all the premises considered, this Office resolves to dismiss the complaint against
Justices Pedro Yap, Isagani Cruz, Andres Narvasa, Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, Vicente Abad Santos,
and will continue evaluating the complaint against Justices Serafin Cuevas, Luis Javellana and Vicente
Mendoza, Solicitor General Sedfrey Ordoñez, and the private respondents."

The aforestated Resolution indicated at the bottom of the last page:

"Copy Furnished:
DEAN WENCESLAO LAURETA
Counsel for the Complainant
919 Prudencio Street
Sampaloc, Manila.

In the Resolution of this Court en banc, dated January 29, 1986, it required:

"(1) Petitioner Eva Maravilla Ilustre to show cause, within ten (10) days from notice, why she should not
be held in contempt for her aforecited statements, conduct, acts and charges against the Supreme
Court and/or official actions of the Justices concerned, which statements, unless satisfactorily
explained, transcend the permissible bounds of propriety and undermine and degrade the
administration of justice; and
"(2) Atty. Wenceslao Laureta, as an officer of the Court, to show cause, within ten (10) days from notice,
why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for the aforecited statements, conduct, acts and
charges against the Supreme Court and the official actions of the Justices concerned, and for hiding
therefrom in anonymity behind his client's name, in an alleged quest for justice but with the manifest
intent to bring the Justices into disrepute and to subvert public confidence in the Courts and the orderly
administration of justice." (pp. 383-384, Rollo).
(1)

In her Compliance-Answer filed on February 9, 1987, wherein Eva Maravilla Ilustre prays that the contempt
proceedings against her be dismissed, she contends, in essence, that: (1) "there was no intention to affront
the honor and dignity" of the Court; (2) the letters addressed to the individual Justices were private in
character and were never meant for anybody, much less the Supreme Court en banc, "there (being) a
constitutional mandate affording protection to privacy of communications;" (3) if her statements in those
letters were really contemptuous, the Court "should have immediately taken disciplinary proceedings" against
her, and not having done so, the Court has "forfeited" that right and is now "estopped" from doing so; this
citation for contempt is a "vindictive reprisal" for her having filed the complaint before the Tanodbayan, "an
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action that lacks sincerity, taken not in the spirit of judicial statemanship;" (4) she instituted the complaint
before the Tanodbayan "in my honest belief that I lost my case before the Supreme Court not because of lack
of merit or of its own merits, assisted by attorneys who offered their services in the prosecution of my case;"
(5) the newspaper publicity of this case "was no fault of mine; neither is it the fault of my former counsel Dean
Wenceslao Laureta," who prevailed upon her to call off the press conference with TV and radio coverage; that
she is not a "disgruntled litigant" who thrice lost before the Court, rather, she has challenged the validity of the
resolutions of the Court "containing distortion of facts, conjectures and mistaken inferences" particularly, in
that (a) there is no res judicata (b) the Court of Appeals in its decision declared that the judgment of the trial
Court had long attained finality, so that it can no longer be set aside, (c) her "opponents," clients of Atty.
Ordoñez, are not entitled to own her aunt's "vast properties" whether under the law of testate or intestate
succession or mixed succession," (d) that the statement in this Court's Resolution that the Court of Appeals
had denied intervention is an "unadulterated distortion of the facts;" (b) the statement in the en banc
Resolution that some Justices of the Court of Appeals were similarly maliciously charged with knowingly
rendering their "unjust resolution" of 20 January 1984 is a bit "premature, a prejudgment over a case over
which this Court does not have jurisdiction;" (7) Atty. Laureta is not her counsel in the case before the
Tanodbayan; (8) before the latter body, she has "established not only probable cause but has also proved the
collective culpability (of the Justices concerned) as charged;" (9) and that her 53-page Motion for
Reconsideration before the Tanodbayan is made an integral part of her Answer.

(2)

In his own Answer, Atty. Laureta maintains substantially that: (1) he is not respondent Ilustre's counsel before
the Tanodbayan and that she has consulted and/or engaged the services of other attorneys in the course of
the prosecution of her case, like Atty. Edgardo M. Salandanan and Atty. Vedastro B. Gesmundo; that he just
learned from other sources that respondent Ilustre was planning to bring her case to the Tanodbayan with the
assistance of other lawyers who offered her their legal services; (2) it was he who dissuaded her from calling
her intended press conference and from circulating copies of her complaint "not only in the performance of
duty as an officer of the court, but also as a former president of Manila III Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and as a professional lecturer in Legal and Judicial Ethics in some Manila law schools in his
desire to protect and uphold the honor and dignity of the Supreme Court as the highest tribunal of the land."
He should, therefore, be given "a little bit of credit for what he did" instead of taking this disciplinary
proceeding against him; that Ms. Ilustre is not a "disgruntled litigant" who "lost her case thrice in this Court;" (3)
he did not prepare respondent Ilustre's letters to the individual Justices, "appearances to the contrary
notwithstanding;" that these letters were "never, at any time, considered as constituting contempt of court" in
the resolutions of this Court, otherwise, "it would have taken immediate disciplinary action as it is doing now;"
the Court has lost its right to consider the statements in the letters as constituting contempt and it is now
"estopped" from proceeding with this disciplinary action; (4) by doing so, this Court has "unmistakably
revealed the intent and character that underlie its present action as a vindictive judicial vengeance,
inconsistent with the spirit of judicial statesmanship by hiding behind the well-recognized fact that the
Supreme Court is supreme in the domain of the administration of justice;" (5) "there was no disregard
intended to the Resolution of the Honorable Court, as the tribunal of last resort, relative to its upholding the
judgment of the Court of Appeals;" he is just doing "his duty as an officer of the court to put the records in this
regard in their proper light;" particularly (a) that the judgment of the trial court had attained its finality long ago,
(b) the doctrine of res judicata is inapplicable, otherwise, this Court would not have remanded the case to the
Court of Appeals for review, (c) the observation in the First Division's extended Resolution of 14 July 1986
that Justice Yap was unaware that Atty. Ordoñez was private respondents' counsel "defies every vestige of
human understanding;" that Justice Yap had forthwith inhibited himself from participating in the case is not
borne out by the record of this case. Justice Yap had "never voluntarily entered on the record his inhibition"
when he should have done so when respondent Ilustre's petition was taken up; Justice Yap's partner, Atty.
Ordoñez, continued to be recognized by this Court as counsel for private respondents even as he was
already the Solicitor General; (b) finally, "appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, he has not committed
acts unworthy of his profession. The truth of the matter is, he should at least be credited in whatever small
way for his acts and efforts taken by him to protect and uphold the honor and dignity of the Honorable Court."

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We find the explanations of both Ms. Ilustre and Atty. Laureta unsatisfactory. Their claims that they had done
nothing that could constitute an affront to the honor and dignity of this Court dissipate in the face of attendant
facts and circumstances and "defy every vestige of human understanding," to use their own language. Indeed,
they should not "think that they will win a hearing by the sheer multiplication of words." (Mathew 6:7).

Respondents' reliance on the "privacy of communication" is misplaced. Letters addressed to individual


Justices, in connection with the performance of their judicial functions become part of the judicial record and
are a matter of concern for the entire Court. The contumacious character of those letters constrained the First
Division to refer the same to the Court en banc, en consulta and so that the Court en banc could pass upon
the judicial acts of the Division. It was only in the exercise of forbearance by the Court that it refrained from
issuing immediately a show cause order in the expectancy that after having read the Resolution of the Court
en banc of October 28, 1986, respondents would realize the unjustness and unfairness of their accusations.

The Court is far from "estopped" in initiating these proceedings. The Chief Justice had promptly announced
his Statement, dated December 23, 1986, that "the Supreme Court will take appropriate steps on the matter
upon its resumption of sessions on the first working day of the year."

There is no vindictive reprisal involved. The Court's authority and duty under the premises is unmistakable. It
must act to preserve its honor and dignity from the scurrilous attacks of an irate lawyer, mouthed by his client,
and to safeguard the morals and ethics of the legal profession.

We are not convinced that Atty. Laureta had nothing to do with respondent Ilustre's letters to the individual
Justices, nor with the complaint filed before the Tanodbayan. In the Motion for Reconsideration, dated June
11, 1986, filed by Atty. Laureta in the main petition, he stressed:

"10. The composition of the First Division was reduced to five members. Strangely enough, about one
month later, the Honorable Court promulgated its extended resolution with such promptitude in the
entire history of the Supreme Court unequalled in a manner of speaking. . . ."

In the Manifestation and Motion, dated June 25, 1986, filed by Atty. Laureta (p. 311, Rollo), the same phrases
were incarnated:

"the promptitude with which the Resolution of 14 May 1986 was promulgated (par. 9, Motion for
Reconsideration, p. 5) unequalled in the entire history of the Supreme Court in so far as petitions given
due course is concerned . . ." (Emphasis given).

Those same terms are reproduced verbatim in the letters ostensibly authored by respondent Ilustre
addressed to the individual Justices whom respondents have charged. Thus:

"We consider the three minute resolutions . . . railroaded with such hurry/promptitude unequalled in the
entire history of the Supreme Court under circumstances that have gone beyond the limits of legal and
judicial ethics" (Ltr. to Justice Narvasa, p. 2; ltr. to Justice Herrera, p. 2; ltr. to Justice Cruz, p. 2).
xxx xxx xxx
"with such unusual hurry/promptitude unequalled in the entire history of the Supreme Court" (Ltr. to
Justice Narvasa, p. 5; ltr. to Justice Herrera, p. 5; ltr. to Justice Cruz, p. 5)."

The same terminologies are reiterated in the Complaint and in the Motion for Reconsideration filed before the
Tanodbayan (p. 2).

Further, in his Manifestation & Motion, dated June 25, 1986, Atty. Laureta stated:

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"counsel for petitioner personally inquired from Division Clerk of Court Corazon Serevo the following:

(1) When was the above-entitled case deliberated by the First Division?
(2) Are there recorded minutes of such deliberation?
(3) Who among the members of the Division voted for dismissal of the petition to be promulgated by
resolution and who did not, if any?
(4) Who prepared the Resolution?" (p. 312, Rollo).

Atty. Laureta's obsession to receive the answer to his queries surfaces again in the second letters dated
November 3, 1986 to the individual Justices under the supposed signatures of respondent Ilustre, thus:

"Evidently you misunderstood our point of inquiry in our first letter. It is a very simple inquiry, to wit Did
you or did you not approve the dismissal of our petition under.
1) The 14 May 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No
2) The 9 July 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No
3) The 3 Sept. 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No."
(Emphasis original) (Ltr. to Justice Narvasa, p. 1; to Justice Herrera, p. 1; to Justice Cruz, p. 1).

Additionally, the disparaging remarks like: exertion of "undue" and "powerful influence" by Atty. Ordoñez and
Justice Yap; "distortion of facts, conjectures and mistaken references"; "untenable minute resolution although
extended"; "unjust minute resolution" repeated by Atty. Laureta in his several pleadings, echoed and
re-echoed in the individual letters to the Justices, as well as in the Complaint and the Motion for
Reconsideration before the Tanodbayan, reveal the not-too-hidden hand of Atty. Laureta.

The foregoing is bolstered by the reports received by the members of the Court that copies of the complaint
filed with the Tanodbayan were distributed to the editors of the metropolitan newspapers in envelopes bearing
the name of respondent Laureta, who was heard over the radio speaking on the same complaint, and that he
was following up the complaint and the motion for reconsideration of the order of dismissal of the Tanodbayan.

Furthermore, respondent Laureta as his co-respondent Ilustre's lawyer had control of the proceedings. As
stressed by this Court in an early case, as such lawyer, "Whatever steps his client takes should be within his
knowledge and responsibility. Indeed, Canon 16 of the Canons of Legal Ethics should be reminded him that
'(a) lawyer should use his best efforts to restrain and to prevent his clients from doing those things which the
lawyer himself ought not to do, particularly with reference to their conduct towards courts, judicial officers,
jurors, witnesses and suitors. If a client persists in such wrongdoing the lawyer should terminate their relation.'"
(In Re: Contempt Proceedings in Surigao Mineral Reservation Board vs. Cloribel, 31 SCRA 1, 23)
Respondent Laureta manifestly failed to discharge such responsibility. For all intents and purposes, he
appears to have encouraged and abetted his client in denigrating the members of the First Division of this
Court, by baselessly charging them with rendering an "unjust" resolution with "deliberate bad faith," because
of his stubborn insistence on his untenable arguments which had been rejected as without merit by the
Court's First Division, whose Resolution was upheld by the Court en banc. Worse, the dissemination in the
print and broadcast media in bold captions falsely depicting the Justices as "FAC(ING) GRAFT CHARGES"
instead of the baseless rantings of a disgruntled litigant appear to have been timed to place them in a bad
light at the height of the Christmas season.

We come now to the specific accusations of respondents.

They charge Associate Justices Vicente Abad Santos (retired) then Chairman of the First Division of the
Supreme Court as of May 14, 1986, Andres Narvasa, Ameurfina M. Herrera, and Pedro Yap for knowingly
and deliberately rendering their "unjust, extended Resolution of May 14, 1986" dismissing their petition in this
case with manifest and evident bad faith to make the clients of Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez (now the Solicitor
| Page 9 of 19
General) the "illegal owners" of the estates of Digna Maravilla, thereby causing the heirs of Ponciano
Maravilla (Digna's eldest brother) undue injury by depriving them of their rights over the estates of Digna
Maravilla (Charge No. Three before the Tanodbayan). They further charge Justice Yap (and Atty. Sedfrey
Ordoñez) of having "persuad(ed), induc(ed) and influenc(ed) the members of the newly organized First
Division into promulgating their "unjust, extended minute Resolution of 14 May 1986" (Charge No. One before
the Tanodbayan), which Resolution, (the "Division Resolution," for short) is herewith attached as Annex "A".

Preliminarily, respondents deny that respondent Ilustre lost three times in this Court. It cannot be denied,
however, that, as stated in the Resolution of October 28, 1986 of the Court en banc, this is the third time (in
fact, the fourth, if we include Fernandez, et al. vs. Maravilla, L-18799, 10 SCRA 589 [1964]) that a controversy
involving the estate of the late Digna Maravilla is elevated to this Court. The first was in G.R. No. L-23225 (37
SCRA 672 [1971], where this Court ruled:

"IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the decree of the court below denying probate of the 1944 will of
Digna Maravilla (Exhibit 'A') is reversed and the said testament is hereby ordered probated. Let the
records be returned to the Court of origin for further proceedings conformable to law. . . ."

As stated in the en banc Resolution of October 28, 1986 (hereto attached as Annex "B", and hereinafter
referred to as the "Banc Decision") while respondent Ilustre was not a party in that case, upon remand of the
case to the probate Court, she and other children of the deceased brothers and sisters of the testatrix filed
two Motions for Intervention. Respondent Ilustre's participation in the estate involved, therefore, harks back to
that first case.

The Court of Appeals resolved the issue of intervention in CA-G.R. No. 05394, entitled "Heirs of Pastor
Maravilla, et al. vs. Hon. Ernesto S. Tengco, et al." in a Decision penned by Justice Venicio Escolin
(hereinafter referred to as the "Escolin Decision") wherein it was categorically ruled that there was no point to
allowing intervention on the part of respondent Ilustre, et als., "for failure to show any right or interest in the
estate in question." Thus:

"(2) As heretofore stated, private respondents, in their counter-petition for mandamus, seek this Court's
resolution on the petitioners' motion for intervention in Sp. Proc. No. 4977. In their respective pleadings
and memoranda, the parties have lengthily discussed the issue of whether or not petitioners may be
allowed to intervene; and the same may as well be determined in the present case, if only 'to avoid or,
at least, minimize further protracted controversy' between the parties (PCIB vs. Hon. Escolin, 56 SCRA
2661. A resolution of this issue should render moot and academic the question anent the
disqualification of respondent Judge.

We agree with private respondents that petitioners' motions for intervention are devoid of merit, for
failure on their part to show any right or interest in the estate in question. There is no dispute that the
last will and testament of the late Digna Maravilla had already been admitted to probate in a final
judgment which the Supreme Court promulgated on March 2, 1971 (G.R. No. L-23225). In the said will,
Digna instituted her husband Herminio Maravilla as
xxx xxx xxx
The above testamentary provision for the universal heirship of Herminio Maravilla over the residue of
the decedent's present and future property legally and completely excluded the petitioners, as collateral
relatives of the testatrix, from inheriting any part of the latter's estate through intestate succession or
mixed succession. Having no forced or compulsory heirs, except her husband, the testatrix had the
absolute freedom to institute the latter as her sole, universal heir, and such freedom is recognized by
Article 842 of the Civil Code, which provides:

'ART. 842. One who has no compulsory heirs may dispose by will of all his estate or any part of it
in favor of any person having capacity to succeed.
One who has compulsory heirs may dispose of his estate provided he does not contravene the
| Page 10 of 19
provisions of this Code with regard to the legitime of said heirs."

There is therefore no point in allowing the petitioners, who clearly appear to have no interest in the
estate, to intervene in the proceedings involving the settlement thereof.
xxx xxx xxx"

The aforesaid Decision was affirmed by this Court in G.R. No. L-46155 on November 9, 1977 and has
become final. That was the second case involving the estate filed before this Court.

Respondents' contention, therefore, that the statement in the Banc Resolution "that the Court of Appeals had
denied intervention" is an "unadulterated distortion of the facts" is obviously erroneous and intended to
mislead.

The "Escolin Decision" (in CA-G.R. No. 05394-R), which had become final, also finally foreclosed any claim
that respondent Ilustre, and those who sought to intervene with her, may have had on the estate of Digna
Maravilla. In unmistakable terms, what the Court of Appeals held in that Decision, affirmed by this Court,
bears repeating:

"The above testamentary provision for the universal heirship of Herminio Maravilla over the residue of
the decedent's present and future property legally and completely excluded the petitioners, as collateral
relatives of the testatrix, from inheriting any part of the latter's estate through intestate succession or
mixed succession. . . ."

To circumvent that judgment, however, two years later, or on February 29, 1979, respondent Ilustre, with
respondent Laureta as counsel, filed a complaint for partition of Digna Maravilla's estate and for damages
against the heirs of Digna Maravilla's husband, who had then passed away (docketed as Civil Case No.
X-404), before the Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental, San Carlos City, Branch X, presided over by
Judge Antonia Corpuz Macandog. That Court, after declaring defendants therein (private respondents in the
petition under review) in default, ordered "all properties of Digna Maravilla mentioned in this case to go back
to their trunk of origin, the plaintiffs herein who are represented by Eva Maravilla Ilustre and Eva Maravilla
Ilustre herself" (hereinafter referred to as the "Macandog Decision"). In addition, the judgment awarded
damages to the respondent Ilustre, et als., (the plaintiffs therein), and the sum of P100,000.00 to their counsel,
respondent Laureta.

A special civil action for certiorari was filed by the defeated parties (private respondents in the petition under
review) before this Court, docketed as G.R. No. L-58014, praying that the lower Court's declaration of default
in Civil Case No. X-404 and all other actions or decisions taken thereafter be declared null and void and that
the dismissal of the complaint be ordered. on January 21, 1982, this Court resolved to refer the case to the
Court of Appeals in aid of its appellate jurisdiction, questions of fact being involved.

In a Decision dated January 14, 1983, the Court of Appeals (Fourth Division), 1 in AC-G.R. SP No. 13680
(hereafter called the "Busran Decision"), dismissed the petition and denied certiorari slating in one breath that
"the judgment subject of assail had long become final" (at p. 13), and in another "for all we know, the
judgment below had already attained finality long ago." The reason relied upon was that petitioners therein
had the remedy of appeal but instead availed of Certiorari, which is not a substitute therefor.

On motion for reconsideration, however, filed by petitioners (private respondents in the petition under review),
in that appealed case (AC-G.R. SP No. 13680), the same Court of Appeals (Fourth Special Cases Division) 2
in its Resolution of January 20, 1984 (the "Javellana Resolution"), reconsidered and set aside the "Busran
Decision" and entered another one:

"1. Annulling the order of default of the Hon. respondent Court dated 29 April 1980 and its decision
dated 11 August 1981; and
| Page 11 of 19
2. Dismissing private respondents' complaint in Civil Case No. X-404 and ordering the Hon. respondent
Court not to take further action therein."

Respondent Ilustre challenged that reversal in the present Petition for Review filed on October 22, 1984. This
is the third case brought before this Court involving the same estate. Review was denied in an extended
minute Resolution by the First Division of this Court in the challenged Resolution of May 14, 1986, for the
following reasons:

"The appealed Decision stands on firm legal grounds.

(1) The Order of Default of the Trial Court was issued in grave abuse of discretion. The Answer
was filed only one day late besides the fact that when so filed, the Order of default had not yet
been issued by the Trial Court.
(2) While appeal is, indeed, the remedy from a judgment by default, Certiorari may be resorted to
when a party has been illegally declared in default (Omico Mining & Industrial Corporation vs.
Vallejos, 63 SCRA 300-301 [1975]),or where it is necessary to restore order to proceedings in
the Court below (Lim Tanhu vs. Ramolete, 66 SCRA 462-463 [1975]).
(3) More importantly, the judgment of the Trial Court, in Civil Case No. X-404 declaring that the
Testatrix's collateral relatives have a rightful claim to her estate to the exclusion of the husband
who was designated her sole and universal heir, nullifies the Will already probated by final
judgment and overturns the pronouncements of both the Appellate Court and this Court on the
case.
There being former judgments on the issues which have become final, rendered by Courts having
jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties, the said judgments having been rendered on the
merits, and there being between the prior and subsequent action identity of parties, subject matter and
substantial identity of cause of action, it is clear that the complaint below in Civil Case X-404 is barred
by the principle of res adjudicata, and whatever transpired therein are null and void ab initio and without
any legal effect.
To rule otherwise would upset the fundamental issue on which res judicata rests that parties ought not
to be permitted to litigate the same issue more than once, that when a right or fact has been judicially
determined, the judgment of the Court, so long as it remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon
the parties and those in privity with them in law or estate (Sarabia vs. Sec. of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, 2 SCRA 54 [1961]).
ACCORDINGLY, the review sought for is denied and respondent Court's judgment in CA-G.R. SP No.
13080 is hereby affirmed.
SO ORDERED."

Respondents decry the fact that the First Division set aside the due course Order and denied review in an
extended Minute Resolution instead of in a signed Decision. They allege that said Resolution was "railroaded
with such hurry/promptitude unequalled in the entire history of the Supreme Court under circumstances that
have gone beyond the limits of legal and judicial ethics," unduly "persuaded, induced and influenced" by
Solicitor General Ordoñez and Justice Pedro Yap.

Nothing is farthest from the truth. As explained in the "Banc Resolution".

"The petition for review was assigned to the then First Division of seven Justices, which initially gave it
due course because the resolution of the Intermediate Appellate Court had reversed a decision
originally rendered by the then Court of Appeals, and in order to have more time for further study.
Pleadings were submitted, the last being on May 3, 1985, which can be considered as the date when
this case was submitted for resolution.
The First Division of seven (7) was not able to act on the case up to the February, 1986 political
upheaval. The last incident in the case was a motion for the early release of decision filed by petitioner
on November 19, 1985.
| Page 12 of 19
When this Court was reorganized in April of 1986, the membership of the First Division was reduced to
five (5) Justices. Taking account of the motion of petitioner for early release of decision, the new First
Division, then chairmanned by Justice Abad Santos, realizing that the doctrine of res judicata was
clearly applicable not only as to the probate of the will but also as to the heirship of petitioner, among
others, and their right to intervene and participate in the proceedings resolved, on May 14, 1986 to
dismiss the petition through an extended resolution which at the same time recalled the due course
order. The new Division of 5 acted unanimously."

The recall of a due course Order after a review of the records of the case is a common occurrence in the
Court. Respondents speak as if it were only their petition which has been subjected to such recall. They have
lost all objectivity in this regard. They are hardly qualified, and cannot presume to speak of the "entire history"
of the Supreme Court.

As to the participation of Justice Yap in the case, the "Banc Resolution" stated:

"Justice Yap clarified that he was on official mission to Switzerland for the Presidential Commission on
Good Government after his appointment to the Supreme Court on April 11, 1986 and did not assume
his position in the Supreme Court until his return on May 2, 1986. When the resolution of dismissal on
May 14, 1986 was issued, Justice Yap was unaware that Atty. Sedfrey Ordoñez was private
respondent's counsel.

On June 11, 1986, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was taken up by the First Division on
July 9, 1986 with Justice Abad Santos still the Chairman. This time, Justice Yap, realizing that his former
partner, Atty. Ordoñez, had submitted the pleadings for petitioner, inhibited himself and Justice Edgardo L.
Paras was designated under Special Order No. 21, dated July 9, 1986, to sit in the Division in his place. The
motion for reconsideration was denied with finality on July 9, 1986.

Justice Yap was designated Chairman of the First Division on July 14, 1986.

On August 7, 1986, petitioner asked leave to file a second motion for reconsideration, which was denied on
September 3, 1986, entry of judgment of the May 14, 1986 resolution having been made on July 28, 1986.
Justice Yap again took no part in the deliberation of the case."

But respondents continue to claim derisively that Justice Yap could not have been "unaware" of the
appearance of Atty. Sedfrey Ordoñez. They reacted by saying "tell it to the marines" (Letters of November 3,
1986 to Justices Narvasa, Herrera, and Cruz, at p. 8, respectively). But that was the true and untarnished fact.
With so many cases being handled by the Court, the appearances of lawyers during deliberative sessions
very often escape attention, concentration being centered on the issues to be resolved.

Respondents also fault the Court for "still recogniz(ing) Atty. Ordoñez as counsel" for their opponents in the
case. In the same "Banc Resolution," it was clarified:

"A copy of the resolution, dated May 14, 1986, was sent by the Releasing Clerks to Atty. Sedfrey A.
Ordoñez as his name still appears on the cover page of the Rollo. It was not necessarily because the
Supreme Court 'still recognizes him as counsel for respondents'" (at p. 4).

The fact of the matter is that even Atty. Laureta continued to recognize Atty. Ordoñez as counsel as shown by
his pleadings filed before the Court, which inevitably contained the notation "copy furnished Atty. Sedfrey
Ordoñez." No withdrawal of appearance having been presented by Atty. Ordoñez in the main petition, his
name continues to be in the Rollo of the case and the personnel concerned continue to furnish him with
copies of Resolutions of this Court.

In respect of the charge that the Resolutions of the First Division of May 14, 1986, July 9, 1986 denying the
| Page 13 of 19
Motion for Reconsideration with finality, and September 3, 1986 denying leave to file a second motion for
reconsideration since entry of judgment of the May 14, 1986 Resolution had been made on July 28, 1986,
were "unjust" and were "railroaded," the Banc Resolution, adopting the Division Resolution, explained:

"The aforesaid resolutions were by no means 'railroaded.' The pleadings filed by the parties, as in any
other case, were included in the Agenda of the First Division as soon as feasible. The Division acts
promptly on all Agenda items, and the minutes of its deliberations are released as soon as possible
after Agenda day.
xxx xxx xxx
"The dispositions in this case were arrived at after careful study. Because a case is resolved against
the interests of a party, does not mean that it is an 'unjust decision;' or that it has been 'railroaded.'
This Division declares without hesitation that it has consistently rendered justice without fear or favor."
(at p. 4)

Respondents insist that the doctrine of "res judicata" is inapplicable. In their own words "the ordered probate
of the 1944 Will of Digna Maravilla by judgment of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. L-23225 is conclusive only
as to the genuineness and due execution of said will, but not upon the validity of testamentary provision,
particularly with the invalid designation of Herminio Maravilla as sole and universal heir of Digna Maravilla."

On this point, the "Javellana Resolution," in reversing the "Busran Decision" (AC-G.R. SP No. 13680), aptly
held:

"The then Court of Appeals held that the questioned decision does not run counter to the decision of
the Hon. Supreme Court in G.R. No. L-23225 admitting the will of Digna Maravilla to probate because
the latter refers to the extrinsic validity of the will, while the former concerns its intrinsic validity. We
cannot agree with this observation because it is quite clear from the questioned decision that the will
was in effect declared not to have been freely and voluntarily executed by the deceased Digna
Maravilla but was the result of the evil and fraudulent machinations of her husband, Herminio Maravilla,
and sets aside said will. The declaration that private respondents, as collateral relatives of the
deceased Digna Maravilla, are entitled to her estate, is an indication that the Hon. respondent Court
has nullified the will. Private respondents are not compulsory heirs and, in the absence of their being
named legatees or devisees in the will, they could only lay claim to the estate of Digna Maravilla if the
latter died without a will, pursuant to Art. 1003 of the New Civil Code, to wit:
'Art. 1003. If there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children or a surviving spouse,
the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased in accordance with the
following articles.'
"However, assuming arguendo, that the matter complained of by private respondents referred only to
the intrinsic validity of the will, still, it was improper for them to have instituted a separate action in a
court other than that in which the probate proceeding was pending.
xxx xxx xxx

'It seems clear from these provisions of the law that while the estate is being settled in the Court of First
Instance in a special proceeding, no ordinary action can be maintained in that court, or in any other
court, by a person claiming to be the heir, against the executor or against other persons claiming to be
heirs, for the purpose of having the rights of the plaintiffs in the estate determined. The very purpose of
the trial or hearing provided for in section 753 is to settle and determine those questions, and until they
are settled and determined in that proceeding and under that section no action such as the present one
can be maintained."

Considering that the "Escolin Decision," as affirmed by this Court on November 9, 1977 in G.R. No. L-46155,
had become final, the "Javellana Resolution" aptly observed:

"3. The questioned decision of the Hon. respondent Court dated 12 August 1981 (referring to the
| Page 14 of 19
'Macandog Decision') unsettles and reviews issues which had long been laid to rest by the Hon.
Supreme Court and the then Court of Appeals."

But respondents ask: if res judicata were applicable, why did this Court, in G.R. No. L-50814, refer the case to
the Court of Appeals? The answer is simple. The issue of whether the remedy of petitioners in that case was
appeal and not certiorari had to be resolved. If certiorari were proper, then the "Macandog Decision" had not
become final. If appeal, its finality would be the consequence. The "Javellana Resolution;" which reversed the
"Busran Decision," held that Certiorari was proper when a party has been illegally declared in default. It
follows that the "Macandog Decision" had not attained finality.

Still undaunted, respondents claim that the Court of Appeals "deliberately evaded/divaricated" two important
issues: (1) that the judgment of the Trial Court (in CC No. X-404) had attained finality as in fact the Court of
Appeals had held that the "judgment of assail had long become final," and (2) that Digna Maravilla's husband
could not be instituted as the sole and universal heir of the wife on indestructible ground of moral impossibility
and could not inherit wife's vast estate on the ground of utter unworthiness."

The penchant of respondents for making misleading statements is again obvious. It was not in the "Javellana
Resolution" that the Court of Appeals held that "the judgment of assail (referring to the 'Macandog Decision')
had long become final." That was in the "Busran Decision," which was precisely reversed by the "Javellana
Resolution."

As to the alleged unworthiness of the husband to inherit from his wife, the "Javellana Resolution" pointedly
observed:

"The last will and testament of Digna Maravilla which instituted her husband, Herminio Maravilla, as her
sole and universal heir, was admitted to probate, pursuant to a final judgment of the Hon. Supreme
Court in G.R. No. L-23225, 27 February 1971. This probate foreclosed all questions as to the age and
mental capacity of the testator, the signing of the document by the testator, or by someone in his behalf,
and the acknowledgment of the instrument by him in the presence of the required member of witnesses
who affix their signatures to the will to attest the act. In re Estate of Johnson, 39 Phil. 156, 168). Yet,
more than ten years later, the Hon. respondent Court would nullify the effects of the probate by
declaring that Digna Maravilla did not voluntarily and sanely execute the probated last will and
testament, nullifying the institution of Herminio Maravilla as her sole and universal heir, and ordering
the return of the properties of Digna Maravilla to the trunk of origin."

The soundness of the legal conclusions arrived at in the "Escolin Decision" and "Javellana Resolution"
commends itself. Only a disgruntled litigant and a defeated lawyer would claim that those judgments were
accepted "hook, line and sinker" by this Court. The doctrine of res judicata is inescapably applicable. Thus it
was that the First Division, in its challenged Resolution of May 14, 1986, found it unnecessary, after further
study, to have a signed Decision and, instead, recalled the due course Order, which it had previously issued
to give it "more time for further study" (p. 2, Banc Resolution, October 28, 1986). Contrary to respondents'
claim, the Court is not "duty bound" to render signed Decisions all the time. It has ample discretion to
formulate Decisions and/or minute Resolutions, provided a legal basis is given, depending on its evaluation of
a case.

But obdurately enough, respondents have seen fit to take their case to the Tanodbayan charging the
members of the First Division of this Court collectively with having knowingly and deliberately rendered an
"unjust extended minute Resolution" with deliberate bad faith in violation of Article 204 of the Revised Penal
Code 3 and for deliberately causing "undue injury" to respondent Ilustre and her co-heirs because of the
"unjust Resolution" promulgated, in violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. 4

Respondents' action is brazenly unjustifiable. Nor can they plead ignorance. As aptly declared in the Chief
Justice's Statement of December 24, 1986, which the Court hereby adopts in toto, "(I)t is elementary that the
| Page 15 of 19
Supreme Court is supreme the third great department of government entrusted exclusively with the judicial
power to adjudicate with finality all justiciable disputes, public and private. No other department or agency
may pass upon its judgments or declare them 'unjust.'" It is elementary that "(A)s has ever been stressed
since the early case of Arnedo vs. Llorente (18 Phil. 257, 263 [1911]) 'controlling and irresistible reasons of
public policy and of sound practice in the courts demand that at the risk of occasional error, judgments of
courts determining controversies submitted to them should become final at some definite time fixed by law, or
by a rule of practice recognized by law, so as to be thereafter beyond the control even of the court which
rendered them for the purpose of correcting errors of fact or of law, into which, in the opinion of the court it
may have fallen. The very purpose for which the courts are organized is to put an end to controversy, to
decide the questions submitted to the litigants, and to determine the respective rights of the parties.'" (Luzon
Brokerage Co., Inc. vs. Maritime Bldg., Co., Inc., 86 SCRA 305, 316-317)

Respondents should know that the provisions of Article 204 of the Revised Penal Code as to "rendering
knowingly unjust judgment" refer to an individual judge who does so "in any case submitted to him for
decision" and even then, it is not the prosecutor who would pass judgment on the "unjustness" of the decision
rendered by him but the proper appellate court with jurisdiction to review the same, either the Court of
Appeals and/or the Supreme Court. Respondents should likewise know that said penal article has no
application to the members of a collegiate court such as this Court or its Divisions who reach their conclusions
in consultation and accordingly render their collective judgment after due deliberation. It also follows,
consequently, that a charge of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act on the ground that such a
collective decision is "unjust" cannot prosper.

The Chief Justice's Statement of the supremacy of the Supreme Court's judicial power is by no means a
"display of arrogance" as per respondents' puerile contention, but a restatement of the fundamental principle
of separation of powers and checks and balances under a republican form of government such as ours, viz.
that the three co-equal branches of government, the executive, legislative and judicial, are each supreme and
independent within the limits of its own sphere. Neither one can interfere with the performance of the duties of
the other. (Forbes vs. Chuoco, 16 Phil. 534 [1910]). As restated by the late Justice Jose P. Laurel in the 1936
landmark case of Angara vs. Electoral Commission (63 Phil. 134), our Constitution "as 'a definition of the
powers of government' placed upon the judiciary the great burden of 'determining the nature, scope and
extent of such powers' and 'when the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not
assert any superiority over the other departments .. but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation
entrusted to it by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to
establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which the instrument secures and guarantees to
them.'"

As an officer of the Court, respondent Laureta, should realize that the cardinal principle he would grossly
impair and violate is that of the independence of the judiciary, which the members of the bar are called upon
to defend and preserve. The independence of the judiciary is the indispensable means for enforcing the
supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law.

To subject to the threat and ordeal of investigation and prosecution, a judge, more so a member of the
Supreme Court for official acts done by him in good faith and in the regular exercise of official duty and
judicial functions is to subvert and undermine that very independence of the judiciary, and subordinate the
judiciary to the executive. "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." (Bradley vs. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335).

Indeed, resolutions of the Supreme Court as a collegiate court, whether en banc or division, speak for
themselves and are entitled to full faith and credence and are beyond investigation or inquiry under the same
| Page 16 of 19
principle of conclusiveness of enrolled bills of the legislature. (U.S. vs. Pons, 34 Phil. 729; Gardiner, et al. vs.
Paredes, et al., 61 Phil. 118; Mabanag vs. Lopez Vito, 78 Phil. 1) The Supreme Court's pronouncement of the
doctrine that "(I)t is well settled that the enrolled bill . . . is conclusive upon the courts as regards the tenor of
the measure passed by Congress and approved by the President. If there has been any mistake in the
printing of the bill before it was certified by the officers of Congress and approved by the Executive [as
claimed by petitioner-importer who unsuccessfully sought refund of margin fees] on which we cannot
speculate, without jeopardizing the principle of separation of powers and undermining one of the cornerstones
of our democratic system the remedy is by amendment or curative legislation, not by judicial decree" is fully
and reciprocally applicable to Supreme Court orders, resolutions and decisions, mutatis mutandis. (Casco
Phil. Chemical Co., Inc. vs. Gimenez, 7 SCRA 347, 350. (Citing Primicias vs. Paredes, 61 Phil. 118, 120;
Mabanag vs. Lopez Vito, 78 Phil. 1; Macias vs. Comelec, 3 SCRA 1).

The Court has consistently stressed that "the doctrine of separation of powers calls for the executive,
legislative and judicial departments being left alone to discharge their duties as they see fit" (Tan vs.
Macapagal, 43 SCRA 677). It has thus maintained in the same way that the judiciary has a right to expect that
neither the President nor Congress would cast doubt on the mainspring of its orders or decisions, it should
refrain from speculating as to alleged hidden forces at work that could have impelled either coordinate branch
into acting the way it did. The concept of separation of powers presupposes mutual respect by and between
the three departments of the government. (Tecson vs. Salas, 34 SCRA 275, 286-287).

To allow litigants to go beyond the Court's resolution and claim that the members acted "with deliberate bad
faith" and rendered and "unjust resolution" in disregard or violation of the duty of their high office to act upon
their own independent consideration and judgment of the matter at hand would be to destroy the authenticity,
integrity and conclusiveness of such collegiate acts and resolutions and to disregard utterly the presumption
of regular performance of official duty. To allow such collateral attack would destroy the separation of powers
and undermine the role of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of all justiciable disputes.

Dissatisfied litigants and/or their counsels cannot without violating the separation of powers mandated by the
Constitution relitigate in another forum the final judgment of this Court on legal issues submitted by them and
their adversaries for final determination to and by the Supreme Court and which fall within the judicial power
to determine and adjudicate exclusively vested by the Constitution in the Supreme Court and in such inferior
courts as may be established by law.

In resume, we find that respondent Ilustre has transcended the permissible bounds of fair comment and
criticism to the detriment of the orderly administration of justice in her letters addressed to the individual
Justices quoted in the show-cause Resolution of this Court en banc, particularly the underlined portions
thereof; in the language of the charges she filed before the Tanodbayan quoted and underscored in the same
Resolution; in her statements, conduct, acts and charges against the Supreme Court and/or the official
actions of the Justices concerned and her ascription of improper motives to them; and in her unjustified
outburst that she can no longer expect justice from this Court. The fact that said letters are not technically
considered pleadings, nor the fact that they were submitted after the main petition had been finally resolved
does not detract from the gravity of the contempt committed. The constitutional right of freedom of speech or
right to privacy cannot be used as a shield for contemptuous acts against the Court.

We likewise find that Atty. Laureta has committed acts unbecoming an officer of the Court for his stance of
dangling threats of bringing the matter to the "proper forum" to effect a change of the Court's adverse
Resolution; for his lack of respect for and exposing to public ridicule, the two highest Courts of the land by
challenging in bad faith their integrity and claiming that they knowingly rendered unjust judgments (Montecillo
vs. Gica, 60 SCRA 234 [1974]); for authoring, or at the very least, assisting and/or abetting and/or not
preventing the contemptuous statements, conduct, acts and malicious charges of his client, respondent Ilustre,
notwithstanding his disclaimer that he had absolutely nothing to do with them, which we find disputed by the
facts and circumstances of record as above stated; for totally disregarding the facts and circumstances and
legal considerations set forth in this Court's Resolutions of the First Division and en banc, as the Tribunal of
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last resort; for making it appear that the Justices of this Court and other respondents before the Tanodbayan
are charged with "graft and corruption" when the complaint before the Tanodbayan, in essence, is a tirade
from a disgruntled litigant and a defeated counsel in a case that has been brought thrice before this Court,
and who would readily accept anything but the soundness of the judgments of the Courts concerned, all with
the manifest intent to bring the Justices of this Court and of the Court of Appeals into disrepute and to subvert
public confidence in the Courts.

Atty. Laureta should be reminded that his first duty is not to his client but to the administration of justice; to
that end, his client's success is wholly subordinate; and his conduct ought to and must always be
scrupulously observant of law and ethics. For like the Court itself, "a lawyer is an instrument or agency to
advance the ends of justice." (Surigao Mineral Conservation Board vs. Cloribel, 31 SCRA 1 [1970];
Castañeda vs. Ago, 65 SCRA 505 [1975]).

In assessing the penalty on respondent Laureta, the Court notes that "disciplinary proceedings against
lawyers are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they do not involve a trial of an action or a suit,
but are rather investigations by the Court into the conduct of one of its officers. Not being intended to inflict
punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaint nor a prosecutor
therein. It may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the real
question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as
such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to
account for his actions as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal
profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by
their misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities
pertaining to the office of an attorney." Viewed in the light of the demonstrated persistence of grave
misconduct and undermining public confidence in the honor and integrity of the Court and its members (at a
time when the Court is exerting every effort to regain public confidence in our courts after the trauma and
debacle undergone by them in the past regime), the Court shall impose upon him an indefinite suspension,
leaving it to him to prove at some future and opportune time, that he shall have once again regained the
fitness to be allowed to resume the practice of law as an officer of the Courts. (In re: Almacen, 31 SCRA 562).

ACCORDINGLY, (1) respondent Eva Maravilla Ilustre is hereby held in contempt, and is hereby fined in the
amount of P1,000.00 only, mindful that the power of contempt should be exercised on the preservative and
not on the vindictive principle of punishment; and.

(2) Atty. Wenceslao Laureta is found guilty of grave professional misconduct, rendering him unfit to continue
to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney, and is hereby
suspended from the practice of law until further Orders, the suspension to take effect immediately.

Let copies of this Resolution be circulated to all Courts of the country for their information and guidance, and
spread in the personal record of Atty. Wenceslao Laureta.

SO ORDERED.

Teehankee, C.J., Fernan, Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Alampay, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano,
Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento and Cortes, JJ., concur.

Yap, J., no part.

Footnotes

1. Composed of Justices Busran (ponente), Coquia and Zosa, as members.

2. Composed of Justices Cuevas, Mendoza and Javellana (ponente).


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3. "ART. 204. Knowingly rendering unjust judgment. Any judge who shall knowingly render an unjust
judgment in any case submitted to him for decision, shall be punished by prision mayor and perpetual
absolute disqualification.

4. "SEC. 3. Corrupt practices of public officers.

xxx xxx xxx

(e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or any private party any unwarranted
benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through
manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. . . ."

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