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EN BANC

[A.M. No. RTJ-96-1350. August 18, 1997.]

[Formerly A.M. No. 96-3-83-RTC]

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, complainant, vs. JUDGE DELIA H. PANGANIBAN, Regional Trial
Court, Branch 64, Makati City, respondent.

SYNOPSIS

Respondent Judge is the presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 64, Makati City. In a letter to
the Office of the Court of Administrator (OCA), respondent judge asked for 60 days within which to
resolve 51 cases which had been submitted to her for decision. The OCA, advised respondent judge to
inform the Court of the dates when the aforesaid 51 cases had been submitted for decision to
determine the "due dates of the cases" for the purpose of determining when the period of extension
which respondent judge was requesting should be counted. Respondent judge complied but in her letter
she did not disclosed her failure to resolve 48 cases within the reglementary period of 90 days in her
certificates of service which she submitted during the period August 1993 to January 1996. She even
stated that "all special proceedings, applications, petitions, motions and all civil cases which have been
under submission for decision or determination for a period of 90 days or more have been determined
and decided" by her. On the basis of the aforementioned facts, respondent judge was charged with
gross negligence, inefficiency, and falsification of public documents in a complaint filed by the Office of
the Court Administrator. The court referred the case for investigation, report and recommendation to
the Court of Appeals. The investigating justice found respondent judge guilty as charged, but found
extenuating circumstances in favor of respondent, to wit: her above-average performance in the
disposition of cases, the absence of malice in the government and her reputation for integrity, honesty,
and hard work. A fine of P100,000.00 was recommended. ScaHDT

The Supreme Court found respondent judge guilty of gross negligence and serious misconduct and was
ordered to pay a fine of P12,000.00, with a warning that a repetition of similar acts will be dealt with
more severely. The Court ruled that neither good faith nor long unblemished and above average service
in the judiciary can fully justify respondent judge's lapses. It cannot countenance undue delay in the
disposition of cases which is one of the causes of loss faith of our people in the judiciary. Nor can the
Court turn a blind eye to what might constitute gross misconduct because of the submission of false
certificates of service.

SYLLABUS

1. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; FAILURE TO DECIDE CASES WITHIN THE PERIOD SPECIFIED BY
CONSTITUTION CONSTITUTES A VIOLATION OF CANON 3, RULE 3.05 OF THE CODE OF JUDICIAL
CONDUCT. — Respondent's failure to decide cases constitutes a violation of Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the
Code of Judicial Conduct which requires judges to dispose of their court's business promptly and decide
cases within the period specified in the Constitution, i.e., three (3) months or ninety (90) days from the
filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum. This Canon is intended to implement the Constitution
which makes it the duty of trial courts to decide cases within three months, even as it gives parties to a
suit the right to the speedy disposition of their cases.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; NEITHER GOOD FAITH NOR LONG UNBLEMISHED AND ABOVE AVERAGE SERVICE IN
THE JUDICIARY CAN AND FULLY JUSTIFY RESPONDENT JUDGES' LAPSES; THE COURT CANNOT TURN A
BLIND EYE TO WHAT MIGHT CONSTITUTES GROSS MISCONDUCT BECAUSE OF THE SUBMISSION OF
FALSE CERTIFICATES OF SERVICE. — Respondent judge knew of the cases pending resolution. In fact, she
had been reporting them to this Court in her monthly reports. Nonetheless she stated in her certificates
of service that she had no case submitted for decision within the 90 days preceding the submission of
her certificate, in the honest belief that the salary which she collected on the basis of such certificates
"had been justly earned notwithstanding the fact that there are submitted cases remaining for
decision." This of course constitutes serious misconduct under Rule 140, §1 of the Rules of Court. As an
officer of the court, she should conduct herself strictly in accordance with the highest standards of
ethics. Neither good faith nor long, unblemished and above average service in the judiciary can fully
justify respondent judge's lapses. The Court cannot countenance undue delay in the disposition of cases
which is one of the causes of the loss of faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary and brings it
into disrepute. Nor can the Court turn a blind eye to what might constitute gross misconduct because of
the submission of false certificates of service. cCSTHA

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES THAT MUST BE CONSIDERED IN
DETERMINING THE CULPABILITY OF RESPONDENT JUDGE AS A MATTER OF JUSTICE. — There are
counterweights that must be considered in determining the culpability of respondent judge as a matter
of justice. For there are present in this case mitigating circumstances in her favor. First is the fact that
this is respondent judge's first offense. That this is a mitigating circumstance in her favor has been
settled by our cases. Second is her long and exemplary service in the judiciary and the fact that her rate
of disposition is above average. Although she failed to decide the 48 cases within the 90-day period
prescribed by law, the fact is that respondent judge was able to reduce her initial caseload of 704 upon
assuming office in 1992 to 219 in September 1996 and it is entirely possible that the failure to decide the
cases in question within 90 days was precisely due to the heavy case load which she had when she first
assumed office in Makati in 1992. Her fault lies in the fact that she did not apply for an extension of the
time to decide until 1996. Otherwise, she has never been idle. Third is that there is here no private
complainant prejudiced by the failure to decide their cases on time. It was respondent judge who
brought to our attention her predicament. Fourth is that after having been administratively charged,
respondent readily acknowledged her fault, offering no excuses and assuming full responsibility for her
failure which she immediately corrected by disposing of all of the cases subject of the present
administrative case. These additional extenuating circumstances, which were not before the investigator
and therefore were not considered by him in his report, warrant the reduction of the recommended
penalty from P100,000.00 to P12,000.00.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J p:
Respondent Delia H. Panganiban is presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 64, Makati City.
She is charged with gross negligence, inefficiency, and falsification of public documents in a complaint
filed by the Office of the Court Administrator. cdll

The facts are as follows. In a letter to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) dated January 24,
1996, respondent judge asked for 60 days within which to resolve 51 cases which had been submitted to
her for decision. She informed the OCA that the 90-day period for deciding the cases had already lapsed
at the time of her request for extension.

The OCA, through Deputy Court Administrator Bernardo P. Abesamis, advised respondent judge to
inform the Court of the dates when the aforesaid 51 cases had been submitted for decision to
determine the "due dates of the cases," for the purpose of determining when the period of extension
which respondent judge was requesting should be counted.

Respondent judge thereafter sent a letter, dated February 1, 1996, to the OCA showing that, of the 51
cases for which an extension of the time for deciding was being requested, the due dates for deciding 48
had expired: in six cases since 1993; in 13 cases since 1994; and in 29 cases since 1995.

Respondent judge did not disclose her failure to resolve these 48 cases within the reglementary period
of 90 days in her certificates of service which she submitted during the period August 1993 to January
1996. On the contrary, she stated in each certificate that "all special proceedings, applications, petitions,
motions and all civil cases which have been under submission for decision or determination for a period
of ninety (90) days or more have been determined and decided" by her.

On the basis of these facts, the OCA filed the present administrative case, alleging that respondent judge
was guilty of (1) delay in the administration of justice amounting to negligence and inefficiency as well
as violation of the Constitution, Art. VIII, §15(1) and (2) and (2) falsification of certificates of service
submitted during the period August 1993 to January 1996. The OCA recommended that respondent
judge be fined in an amount equal to her salary for one year.

In her Comment, respondent judge says that "she does not offer justification or excuse" for her failure
to decide cases within the reglementary period and for making false certificates and that "she takes full
responsibility for the acts complained of." However, she pleads good faith, pointing out that it was she
who disclosed her own "momentary inadequacy," that her monthly reports of cases have always been
truthful, by indicating therein the cases left undecided and the reasons therefor, and that the
falsification of the certificates "did not proceed from a corrupt mind." She pleads for understanding,
calling attention to her rate of disposition in general, which she claims is at par with those of other
judges, given the inadequate facilities of her court and to the fact that she had other duties as a member
of the Raffle Committee and officer-in-charge of Voluntary Confinement in Drugs Cases, and the fact
that as of August 9, 1996 she had no more cases pending decision beyond the 90-day period.

On August 13, 1996, Executive Judge Salvador Abad S. Santos filed a Manifestation, stating that
respondent judge deserves compassion. The Executive Judge avers that, although respondent did not
come up to the standard of performance set by this Court, she has nonetheless given to the judiciary
many years of unquestionable and dedicated service and is among the judges who have not been
swayed by money, power, or fame in rendering judgments.

The Court referred the case for investigation, report and recommendation to Court of Appeals Justice
Fermin A. Martin, Jr., who, in a report dated January 31, 1997, found respondent judge guilty as
charged. However, Justice Martin, Jr. found extenuating circumstances in favor of respondent, to wit:
her above-average performance in the disposition of cases, the absence of malice in the alleged
falsification of her certificate of service, her long and unblemished service in the government, and her
reputation for integrity, honesty, and hard work. For this reason, Justice Martin, Jr. recommends that
she be made to pay a fine of P100,000.00

There is no dispute regarding the failure of respondent judge to decide 48 cases within the 90-day
period prescribed by law and her failure to indicate this fact in her monthly certificates of service.
Respondent judge admits these allegations, offers no excuses and justification, and assumes full
responsibility for them. However, she pleads for understanding and compassion, calling attention to her
above average disposition of cases, good faith, and dedicated service as warranting the dismissal of the
case against her.

Respondent's failure to decide cases constitutes a violation of Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial
Conduct which requires judges to dispose of their court's business promptly and decide cases within the
period specified in the Constitution, i.e., three (3) months or ninety (90) days from the filing of the last
pleading, brief, or memorandum. 1 This canon is intended to implement the Constitution which makes it
the duty of trial courts to decide cases within three months, 2 even as it gives parties to a suit the right
to the speedy disposition of their cases. 3

Respondent judge knew of the cases pending resolution. In fact, she had been reporting them to this
Court in her monthly reports. 4 Nonetheless, she stated in her certificates of service that she had no
case submitted for decision within the 90 days preceding the submission of her certificate, in the honest
belief that the salary which she collected on the basis of such certificates "had been justly earned
notwithstanding the facts that there are submitted cases remaining for decision." This of course
constitutes serious misconduct under Rule 140, §1 of the Rules of Court. As an officer of the court, she
should conduct herself strictly in accordance with the highest standards of ethics. 5

Neither good faith nor long, unblemished and above average service in the judiciary can fully justify
respondent judge's lapses. The Court cannot countenance delay in the disposition of cases which is one
of the causes of the loss of faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary and brings it into
disrepute. 6 Nor can the Court turn a blind eye to what might constitute gross misconduct because of
the submission of false certificates of service.

At the same time there are counterweights that must be considered in determining the culpability of
respondent judge as a matter of justice. For there are present in this case mitigating circumstances in
her favor. First is the fact that this is respondent judge's first offense. That this is a mitigating
circumstance in her favor has been settled by our cases. 7
Second is her long and exemplary service in the judiciary 8 and the fact that her rate of disposition is
above average. Although she failed to decide the 48 cases within the 90-day period prescribed by law,
the fact is that respondent judge was able to reduce her initial caseload of 704 upon assuming office in
1992 to 219 in September 1996 and it is entirely possible that her failure to decide the cases in question
within 90 days was precisely due to the heavy caseload which she had when she first assumed office in
Makati in 1992. Her fault lies in the fact that she did not apply for an extension of the time to decide
until 1996. Otherwise, she has never been idle. 9 As found by Investigating Justice Fermin A. Martin, Jr.:
prcd

[R]espondent judge's output of decided cases compares favorably with that of the other judges of the
RTC of Makati City. As Executive Judge Salvador S. Santos of the RTC of Makati manifested, respondent
judge is one of the five (5) judges in the RTC of Makati City with the highest number of disposed cases at
the end of the same month. From the 704 cases in her docket when she assumed office, respondent was
able to reduce her caseload to 234 (Exh. "6", pp. 62-63, Record). In fact, as of September 1996,
respondent judge had 219 cases (Exh. "5-A"; TSN, October 23, 1996, p. 14).

Third is that there is here no private complainant prejudiced by the failure to decide their cases on time.
10 It was respondent judge who brought to our attention her predicament.

Fourth is that after having been administratively charged, respondent readily acknowledged her fault,
offering no excuses and assuming full responsibility for her failure which she immediately corrected by
disposing of all of the cases subject of the present administrative case. These additional extenuating
circumstances, which were not before the investigator and therefore were not considered by him in his
report, warrant the reduction of the recommended penalty from P100,000.00 to P12,000.00.

WHEREFORE, Judge Delia H. Panganiban is found guilty of gross negligence and serious misconduct and
is hereby ordered to pay a fine of P12,000.00 directly to this Court, with a warning that a repetition of
similar acts will be dealt with more severely. cdpr

SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION

[A.M. No. P-97-1234. August 18, 1997.]

CRISTETA ORFILA, complainant, vs. RONA S. QUIROZ, Stenographer III, RTC-Br. 18, Manila, respondent.

SYNOPSIS

Complainant filed an administrative case against respondent for her habitual tardiness and loafing
around during office hours. Both parties are assigned with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Manila,
as Utility Worker and Stenographer III, respectively. The Office of the Court Administrator referred the
matter to the presiding Judge for Comment and Recommendation. After conducting a hearing the
investigating judge submitted his report and recommended that the respondent be suspended for one
(1) month without pay with stern warning that a repetition of the same acts will be dealt with more
severely.

The Supreme Court upheld the findings of the Investigating Judge as well as the evaluation of the Office
of the Court Administrator particularly with respect to the charge that respondent Quiroz had been
loafing on the job. The act of respondent necessarily hampers her efficiency as a court stenographer.
The Court stressed that the conduct and behavior of everyone connected with the dispensation of
justice, from the presiding judge to the lowest clerk, is circumscribed with the heavy burden of
responsibility.

Respondent was fined Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000.00) with warning that any repetition by her of the
same or similar act will be dealt with more severely. ITAaCc

SYLLABUS

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW; PUBLIC OFFICER; COURT PERSONNEL; THEIR CONDUCT AND BEHAVIOR IS
CIRCUMSCRIBED WITH THE HEAVY BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY. — It bears stressing that the conduct
and behavior of everyone connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice, from the
presiding judge to the lowest clerk, is circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility. This Court
cannot countenance any act or omission on the part of all those involved in the administration of justice
which would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the
faith of the people in the judiciary. Court employees are, at all times, expected to act with strict
propriety and decorum so as to earn and keep the public's respect for and confidence in the judicial
service. CHaDIT

DECISION

PADILLA, J p:

This administrative matter arose from the undated letter-complaint of Cristeta Orfila, Utility Worker,
Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Manila, charging Rona Quiroz, Stenographer III, same court, with
habitual tardiness and loafing around during office hours. It was alleged that respondent Quiroz
frequently leaves the office during office hours without permission from her immediate superior or from
the presiding judge of said court. cdasia

On 9 October 1996, Deputy Court Administrator Reynaldo L. Suarez, by way of 1st Indorsement, referred
the matter to Judge Perfecto A. S. Laguio, Jr. for Comment and Recommendation, the same being within
his authority as judge of RTC, Branch 18, Manila. Acting thereon, Judge Laguio issued a memorandum
directing respondent Quiroz to submit her comment on the charges against her.

In her comment, respondent Quiroz denies the charges against her stressing that her daily time record
will show that she has been regularly reporting for work. She claims that she has been performing
"diligently and devotedly all the tasks assigned to her" which include transcribing her stenographic notes
and typing court orders and decisions. She avers that the instant administrative complaint was filed by
complainant Orfila against her merely in retaliation for the administrative complaint that she
(respondent Quiroz) had earlier filed against herein complainant.

On 5 November 1996, Judge Laguio conducted a hearing during which complainant and respondent
testified and adduced evidence to support their respective allegations. On 8 November 1996,
respondent Quiroz furnished Judge Laguio with a copy of her supplemental comment dated 7 November
1996 which she filed with the Office of Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo.

Thereafter, Judge Laguio submitted his report dated 6 December 1996 stating that:

"After a careful consideration of the testimonies of the complainant and the respondent, the
undersigned Judge is inclined to believe the complainant. The fact that the complainant filed the
complaint against the respondent in retaliation for the latter's filing of an administrative complaint
against the former, is not detrimental to the complainant's credibility, having in mind the probabilities of
her allegations and the respective characters of the two protagonists. On many occasions during the
periods in question, the undersigned had called the respondent to take some dictation, but she was not
around, and the undersigned had been told that she had just gone out for a while, or was in the ladies
room (some of her officemates had covered up for her).

Considering that the acts complaint [sic] of are merely light service offenses (Memorandum Circular No.
8, series of 1970) it is respectfully recommended that a fine equivalent to five days salary be imposed on
respondent."

In a memorandum addressed to Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa, dated 19 December 1996, Deputy
Court Administrator Suarez recommended that:

"Premises considered, the undersigned respectfully recommends that respondent Rona S. Quiroz be
suspended for one (1) month without pay with a stern warning that a repetition of same or similar act in
the future will be dealt with more severely. Likewise, it is recommended that complainant Cristeta Orfila
be advised to settle amicably her differences with the respondent, an act that is expected especially of
court employees."

The Court is in accord with the findings of the Investigating Judge as well as the evaluation and report of
the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) particularly with respect to the charge that respondent
Quiroz had been loafing on the job. Even the Investigating Judge himself attested to the veracity of this
charge when he reported, and this we quote again, that:

". . . On many occasions during the periods in question, the undersigned had called the respondent to
take some dictation, but she was not around, and the undersigned had been told that she had gone out
for a while, or was in the ladies room (some of her officemates had covered up for her)."

Respondent Quiroz did not directly deny this particular charge against her of loafing on the job. Her
justification that her daily time record will show her daily presence in the office is unconvincing. One can
simply enter in one's daily time record the time of arrival in the office, thereafter, leave the same and
then just come back in the afternoon in time for the close of office hours. In such case, it would
obviously appear in the daily time record that the employee was in the office the whole day when in
fact, she was not.

The act of respondent Quiroz of frequently leaving the office during office hours necessarily hampers
her efficiency as a court stenographer. It bears stressing that the conduct and behavior of everyone
connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice, from the presiding judge to the
lowest clerk, is circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility. This Court cannot countenance
any act or omission on the part of all those involved in the administration of justice which would violate
the norm of public accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in
the judiciary. (Roque, et al. v. Grimaldo, A.M. No. P-95-1148, 30 July 1996, Re: Ms. Teresita S. Sabido,
242 SCRA 432 [1995]).

In their respective reports, the Investigating Judge and the OCA have recommended different amounts
of fine to be imposed as penalty on respondent Quiroz. The Investigating Judge has recommended a fine
equivalent to respondent Quiroz' five (5) days salary while the OCA has recommended a fine equivalent
to her one (1) month salary. The Court finds the penalty recommended by the Investigating Judge to be
the more appropriate penalty in this case as it involves merely light civil service offenses. But the Court
chooses to impose a penalty in the amount of Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000.00).

The Court notes with disapproval the pervasive atmosphere of animosity between complainant Orfila
and respondent Quiroz as evidenced by the fact that both have filed administrative charges against each
other. It has also been brought to the Court's attention that a great deal of official time have already
been wasted by them (complainant and respondent) in monitoring and spying on each other's
actuations as bases for future complaints. Their conduct is certainly prejudicial to the best interest of the
service and cannot be allowed to continue. The Court strongly urges complainant and respondent to
amicably settle their differences at the soonest, possible time. It is well to remind them that as court
employees, they are, at all times, expected to act with strict propriety and decorum so as to earn and
keep the public's respect for and confidence in the judicial service. (Gratela v. Yonzon, Jr., 256 SCRA 587
(1996); Tablate v. Tanjutco-Seechung, 234 SCRA 161 [1994])

ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds respondent Quiroz GUILTY of loafing on the job and imposes on her a
FINE of Two Thousand (P2,000.00) Pesos, with WARNING that any repetition by her of the same or
similar acts will be dealt with more severely. aisadc

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Vitug, Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ ., concur.

C o p y r i g h t 1 9 9 4 - 1 9 9 9 C D T e c h n o l o g i e s A s i a, I n c.

G.R. No. 123290 August 15, 1997


De Leon v. Court of Appeals

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 123290. August 15, 1997.]

AURORA DE LEON, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, and CITIBANK, N.A. (Manila Branch), INTEGRATED
CREDIT & CORPORATE SERVICES COMPANY, ET AL., respondents.

Eduardo Tutaan for petitioner.

Balante, Tamase, Alampay Law Office for respondents.

SYNOPSIS

Petitioner Aurora de Leon applied for and was granted by private respondent Citibank, Manila Branch, a
credit line facility under its Ready Credit Line System. When petitioner overdrawn her allowed credit
limit, private respondent Citibank filed with the Regional Trial Court of Makati a complaint for recovery
of the overdrawn amounts. The deputy sheriff of the trial court then caused the garnishment of
petitioner's deposits with different banks and the attachment of personal and real properties covered by
TCT Nos. 3723 to 3731 of the Register of Deeds of Mandaluyong. The aforementioned real properties
were earlier mortgaged by petitioner in favor of Bonifacio Choa and Rodolfo Bediones to secure a loan.
The attached real properties were sold at public auction upon motion of Citibank because of petitioner's
failure to comply with the compromise agreement, which the parties entered into and approved by the
trial court. The Integrated Credit and Corporate Services (ICCS) was the highest bidder at the said
auction sale. Prior to the auction sale, Choa and Bediones executed a deed of cancellation of mortgage
and five days thereafter; petitioner executed a Deed of Absolute Sale over the attached real properties
in favor of Amicus Construction and Development Corporation (Amicus) of which Bediones is the
president and Choa, the chairman of the board. Subsequently, the titles in the name of the petitioner
were cancelled and new titles were issued. Petitioner, however, filed with the RTC of Pasig, Metro
Manila (Branch 153), a complaint for the annulment of the deed of sale, claiming that the deed was
executed "through machination, misrepresentation, fraudulent and deceitful means" employed by Choa
and Bediones. TEAcCD

Since the petitioner failed to exercise the right of redemption over the auctioned properties, the sheriff
executed a final deed of sale to ICCS. Petitioner also filed with the RTC of Makati a complaint for the
annulment of sale and for damages, with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order
and/or writ of preliminary injunction against Citibank, ICCS, and the Deputy Sheriff. The trial court
presided by Judge Julio R. Logarta granted petitioner's prayer. Citibank and ICCS filed a motion to
dismiss the civil case and after due hearing, the Logarta court issued an order denying petitioner's
motion and granted ICCS and Citibank's motion to dismiss. Petitioner filed separate motions for
reconsideration of the orders of Judge Logarta.

The Logarta court denied petitioner's motion for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction but
granted her motion for consideration of the order of the trial court dismissing the civil case. Earlier,
Ovation Intrigators and Realty Corporation (Ovation) purchased from ICCS and subject lots, now under
TCT Nos. 7555 to 7566 and 3731. Ovation moved that it be substituted for ICCS and that the notice of lis
pendens be cancelled and also prayed for the issuance of a writ of possession in its favor. The Madayag
court denied the motion. Citibank and Ovation then filed a motion to resolve the issue of whether the
petitioner is still a party in interest. The Madayag court ruled that petitioner had no legal interest in the
subject properties and ordered a writ of possession to issue in favor of Ovation. Petitioner filed an
Urgent Motion to Hold in Abeyance Issuance of Writ of Possession. The motion was eventually denied.
Petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari. The appellate court denied the
petition for want of merit, stressing that the province of certiorari is the correction of errors of
jurisdiction, not errors of judgment. Petitioner moved for reconsideration but was denied. Hence, the
present petition. The core issue to be resolved by the Court is whether or not petitioner had an existing
interest to question the execution sale.

The Supreme Court ruled that there would have been no question about petitioner's standing to
challenge the execution sale had she remained the owner of the subject properties at the time of the
auction sale. However, after the filing by respondent bank of a motion for execution, petitioner
executed in favor of Amicus a Deed of Absolute Sale over the attached real properties. Subsequently,
the certificates of title in the name of the petitioner were cancelled and new titles were issued in the
name of Amicus. By such sale; petitioner relinquished all her rights over the said properties in favor of
Amicus. CTHDcS

Petition dismissed for lack of merit.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; CIVIL ACTIONS; PARTIES TO CIVIL ACTIONS; REAL PARTY IN INTEREST IN
PROCEEDINGS TO SET ASIDE AN EXECUTION SALE. — Under the Rules of Court, every action must be
prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest. A suit instituted by one who is not a
real party in interest may be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action. A real party in interest is one
who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of
the suit. By real interest is meant a present substantial interest, as distinguished from a mere
expectancy or a future, contingent, subordinate, or consequential interest. In proceedings to set aside
an execution sale, the real party in interest is the person who has an interest either in the property sold
or the proceeds thereof. Conversely, one who is not interested or is not injured by the execution sale
cannot question its validity.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; BY EXECUTING A DEED OF ABSOLUTE SALE OVER THE ATTACHED PROPERTIES,
PETITIONER HAD RELINQUISHED ALL HER RIGHTS AND INTERESTS OVER SAID PROPERTIES IN FAVOR OF
THE BUYER; BY REASON THEREOF, PETITIONER LOSES HER LEGAL STANDING TO CHALLENGE THE
EXECUTION SALE. — There would have been no question about petitioner's standing to challenge the
execution sale conducted on 21 November 1991 had she remained the owner of the subject properties
at the time of the auction sale. It must, however, be recalled that after the filing by respondent Citibank
of a motion for execution, the petitioner executed in favor of Amicus a Deed of Absolute Sale over the
attached real properties Subsequently, the certificates of title in the name of the petitioner were
cancelled and new titles were issued in the name of Amicus. By such sale, the petitioner had
relinquished all her rights and interests over the said properties in favor of Amicus. CETIDH

DECISION

DAVIDE, JR., J p:

May a judgment debtor dispute the validity of the execution sale of properties belonging to him at the
time of the attachment thereof which were later sold to him in favor of a third person? This is the basic
issue presented before this Court for resolution. LLpr

On 8 October 1990, petitioner Aurora de Leon applied for and was granted by private respondent
Citibank, N.A., Manila Branch (hereafter Citibank) a credit line facility under its Ready Credit Line System.
It was stipulated that the petitioner could draw from the line "an amount not exceeding her available
balance," i.e., the sum of the initial amount of the line (P200,000), deposits, and payments, less previous
dues and availments made from the line. She could avail of the line through checks drawn against the
Ready Credit Account or through withdrawals from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) or by other
means specified by Citibank.

The petitioner made transactions under the line. But due to excess of availments she made, computer
errors which redounded to her benefit, and withdrawals she made after deposit of checks which were
subsequently dishonored but were erroneously credited in her favor, the petitioner had overdrawn from
the line P393,373.16 for the period ending 22 April 1991; P692,748.00 for the period from 10 to 13 May
1991; and P1,483,201.84 on 16 May 1991.

On 5 June 1991, Citibank filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati a complaint 1 for recovery of
the overdrawn amounts and for exemplary damages and attorney's fees. It also prayed for the issuance
of a writ of attachment. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 91-1580 and raffled to Branch 145
presided by Judge Job B. Madayag (hereafter MADAYAG court).

The next day, the trial court issued a writ of attachment. 2 After Citibank's filing of the required
attachment bond of P2,369,523.00, 3 Deputy Sheriff Ruben S. Nequinto caused the garnishment of
petitioner's deposits with different banks and the attachment of petitioner's personal properties and
real properties covered by TCT Nos. 3723 to 3731 of the Register of Deeds of Mandaluyong, Metro
Manila.

The aforementioned real properties were earlier mortgaged by the petitioner in favor of Bonifacio Choa
and Rodolfo Bediones to secure a loan. The mortgage was annotated in the titles.

On 8 August 1991, Citibank and the petitioner submitted to the trial court for its approval a Compromise
Agreement 4 wherein the petitioner acknowledged her obligation to Citibank in the amount of
P3,047,917.45. After having paid P279,164.90, she undertook to pay the balance of P2,768,752.45 in
four installments covered by postdated checks. It was expressly agreed by them that the writ of
preliminary attachment over petitioner's properties would be maintained until full payment of
petitioner's obligation.

On 21 August 1991, the trial court rendered a decision approving the Compromise Agreement and
ordering the parties to strictly comply with it. 5

Since the first check delivered by the petitioner to Citibank was dishonored upon presentment for
having been drawn against insufficient funds, 6 Citibank filed on 7 October 1991 a motion for the
execution of the aforementioned decision. On 22 October 1991, the trial court granted 7 the motion,
and on 25 October 1991 it issued a writ of execution. 8

On 21 November 1991, the attached real properties covered by TCT Nos. 3723 to 3731 were sold at
public auction, with the Integrated Credit and Corporate Services (hereafter ICCS) as the highest bidder.
9 The sum of P2,810,582.45 realized from the sale was applied to the partial satisfaction of the writ of
execution. 10

Meanwhile, or on 11 October 1991, Choa and Bediones executed a Deed of Cancellation of Mortgage.
Five days after, the petitioner executed a Deed of Absolute Sale over the attached real properties in
favor of Amicus Construction and Development Corporation (hereafter Amicus) of which Bediones is the
president and Choa, the chairman of the board. Subsequently, the titles in the name of the petitioner
were cancelled and new titles were issued. However, on 14 November 1991, the petitioner filed with
the RTC of Pasig, Metro Manila (Branch 153), a complaint 11 docketed as Civil Case No. 61500 for the
annulment of the deed of sale, claiming that the deed was executed "through machination,
misrepresentation, fraudulent and deceitful means" employed by Choa and Bediones.

Since the petitioner or her successor in interest failed to exercise the right of redemption over the
auctioned properties, the Sheriff executed on 20 May 1993 a Final Deed of Sale to ICCS. 12

The next day, the petitioner filed with the RTC of Makati a complaint 13 for the annulment of the
certificate of sale and for damages, with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order
and/or writ of preliminary injunction against Citibank, ICCS, and Deputy Sheriff Nequinto. This case was
docketed as Civil Case No. 93-1650 and raffled to Branch 63 presided by Judge Julio R. Logarta (hereafter
LOGARTA court).

A week later, the LOGARTA court issued a temporary restraining order 14 against ICCS, the Deputy
Sheriff, and the Register of Deeds of Mandaluyong to prevent them from executing a final deed of sale
registering the deed, and issuing new transfer certificates of title.

On 4 June 1993, Citibank and ICCS filed a motion to dismiss 15 Civil Case No. 93-1650. After due hearing,
the LOGARTA court issued an order dated 17 June 1993 denying petitioner's prayer for the issuance of a
writ of preliminary injunction. 16 On June 21 1993, said court granted the motion to dismiss. 17

The petitioner filed separate motions for the reconsideration 18 of the orders of 17 June 1993 and 21
June 1993.
In September 1993, Ovation Intrigators and Realty Corporation (hereafter Ovation) purchased from ICCS
19 the subject lots, now under TCT Nos. 7555 to 7566 and 3731. Thus, on 23 November 1993, Ovation
moved that it be substituted for ICCS and that the notice of lis pendens appearing on TCT Nos. 7555 to
7566 and 3731 be cancelled. It further prayed that a writ of possession be issued in its favor. 20

In its order of 10 November 1993, 21 the LOGARTA court denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration
of the order of 17 June 1993 but granted her motion for reconsideration of the order of 21 June 1993.
Furthermore, it granted the motion for the consolidation of Civil Case No. 93-1650 with Civil Case No.
91-1580 (erroneously referred to as Civil Case No. 93-1508). On 11 January 1994, the MADAYAG court
granted a similar motion for consolidation filed by Citibank. 22 The record of Civil Case No. 93-1650 was
thereafter forwarded to the MADAYAG court. 23 LLjur

On 18 April 1994, Ovation manifested before the MADAYAG court that Civil Case No. 61500 in Branch
153 of the RTC of Pasig was dismissed for non-suit. Ovation thus submitted that the petitioner was not a
real party in interest in Civil Case No. 91-1650. 24

On 19 April 1994, the MADAYAG court denied Ovation's motion for the issuance of a writ of possession
(prayed for in its Omnibus Motion dated 23 November 1993), reasoning that a favorable action on the
motion would be premature in view of the consolidation of Civil Case No. 93-1650 with Civil Case No. 91-
1580. 25 Afterwards, it issued an order 26 declaring that it would treat petitioner's action in Civil Case
No. 93-1650 as a mere motion in, or an incident of, Civil Case No. 91-1580.

On 30 September 1994, Citibank and Ovation filed a motion to resolve the issue of whether the
petitioner was still a real party in interest. 27 The petitioner, in turn, filed her Opposition to the motion.
28

In its order of 1 March 1995, 29 the MADAYAG court ruled that the petitioner had "no legal interest in
the subject properties" and ordered a writ of possession to issue in favor of Ovation. It justified its
pronouncements in this wise:

. . . [T]here is no dispute that the subject properties were registered in the name of Amicus on October
24, 1991, or even before these properties were sold on execution . . . By virtue of such sale, Aurora
transferred all her rights and interests over the subject properties to Amicus as her successor-in-
interest, even the right to redeem the same from ICCS resided with Amicus at this time (Sec. 29, Rule 39,
Revised Rules of Court).

Third, Aurora may contend that the Guinobatan ruling cannot apply to the case at bar since it
contemplates the annulment of contracts of sale as opposed to execution sale. This is without merit.
Such distinction is of no moment as the real issue is who would be benefited by the annulment of the
sale, whether by contract or by execution, and as such stands as a real party in interest. It is thus clear
that in the event the execution sale is annulled and subsequent titles cancelled in case of an adverse
judgment, it is Amicus that will be reinstated as registered owner. It is, therefore, Amicus which is the
real party in interest.
Fourthly, the fact that the judgment executed was rendered against Aurora and the further fact that she
was a party to the case where execution issued, has no bearing on the present proceeding. For all
intents of /sic/ purposes, the rights she bore as such defendant regarding the subject properties were
transferred to Amicus which should have been the party to question any irregularity in the sale thereof.
Records show that at no time has Amicus entered its appearance in these proceedings nor has it
authorized Aurora to act on its behalf, Aurora, therefore, has no further right to question the execution
sale of the subject properties. Such right properly belongs to Amicus.

In the fifth place, the pendency of the proceeding for annulment of sale against Amicus as filed by
Aurora in Civil Case No. 61500 of the Pasig RTC Branch 153 does not affect this Court's ruling. The filing
of the said case before the RTC of Pasig does not vest any rights in favor of Aurora and as stated in the
Guinobatan ruling, real interest to pursue an action does not contemplate incidental or contingent
interests. The filing of a case and the annotation of a notice of lis pendens does not create a non-
existent right or lien (Citations omitted).

Petitioner's motion for the reconsideration 30 of the said order was denied for lack of merit. 31

Subsequently, the petitioner filed an Urgent Motion to Hold in Abeyance Issuance of Writ of Possession.
The motion was eventually denied, and a writ of possession was issued. 32

On 23 June 1995, the petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari, 33 which was
docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 37537.

In its Decision 34 of 20 September 1995, the Court of Appeals denied the petition for want of merit,
stressing that the province of a writ of certiorari is the correction of errors of jurisdiction, not errors of
judgment.

Petitioner's motion for reconsideration 35 of the decision having been denied in the resolution 36 of 20
December 1995, she filed the instant petition.

The petitioner asserts the following as her "Reasons Warranting Review":

1. In ruling that "the object of petitioner's protestations arose from the decision of the respondent
(trial) court which was promulgated way back on August 16, 1991, which decision was never appealed,"
(Parenthesis supplied), the Court of Appeals failed to appreciate the fact that petitioner was not and is
not questioning the said decision. What is at issue and is claimed to be in violation of the law and
existing jurisprudence is the manner in which the auction sale of petitioner's properties was conducted.

2. In denying petitioner's petition, the Court of Appeals sustained the theory of private
respondents and the conclusion of the trial court of the alleged "lack of interest" of petitioner in the
properties in question despite the fact, appearing and spread out in the records of the trial court, that
the said properties were attached, levied upon in execution and sold at public auction as properties
belonging to the petitioner as judgment debtor.
3. In denying petitioner's petition, the Court of Appeals sustained the trial court's denial of due
process to the petitioner of her day in court and of the opportunity to prove that —

a. The nine (9) parcels of land of the petitioner covered by separate titles and with nine (9)
townhouses built thereon were sold as a package deal and not lot by lot as should have been.

b. The package price of P2,810,582.45 for which the nine (9) lots and townhouses were sold is
grossly inadequate.

The determinative issue here relates to the second "reason warranting review" raised by the petitioner,
that is, whether she had an existing interest to question the execution sale. If she had none then it
would be unnecessary, for being academic, to resolve the two other issues.

Under the Rules of Court, every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in
interest. 37 A suit instituted by one who is not a real party in interest may be dismissed for failure to
state a cause of action. 38 cdta

A real party in interest is one who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the
party entitled to the avails of the suit. 39 By real interest is meant a present substantial interest, as
distinguished from a mere expectancy or a future, contingent, subordinate, or consequential interest. 40

In proceedings to set aside an execution sale, the real party in interest is the person who has an interest
either in the property sold or the proceeds thereof . Conversely, one who is not interested or is not
injured by the execution sale cannot question its validity. 41

There would have been no question about petitioner's standing to challenge the execution sale
conducted on 21 November 1991 had she remained the owner of the subject properties at the time of
the auction sale. It must, however, be recalled that after the filing by respondent Citibank of a motion
for execution, the petitioner executed in favor of Amicus a Deed of Absolute Sale over the attached real
properties. Subsequently, the certificates of title in the name of the petitioner were cancelled and new
titles were issued in the name of Amicus. By such sale, the petitioner had relinquished all rights and
interests over the said properties in favor of Amicus.

Notably, petitioner's former counsel, Atty. Reynaldo A. Feliciano, stated before the LOGARTA court:

ATTY. FELICIANO:

Well if your Honor please, what we have admitted is the existence of the transfer certificates of
title. We have not admitted that Amicus is really the owner of the properties because as of now, in
these transfer certificates of title, and it is annotated in the certificates that the case was filed by the
plaintiff against Bonifacio Choa, Rodolfo Bediones and Amicus Construction and Development
Corporation. With that annotation, the alleged ownership of Amicus is not clear and it is questionable.
42

The petitioner, in her Opposition to Citibank's Motion to Resolve, referred to herself in this wise:
In the third place, there is no despute [sic] that defendant is the previous registered owner of the
properties sold at the herein questioned execution sale for the purpose of satisfying the judgment debt
of defendant in favor of plaintiff.

As such previous registered owner, she is a real party in interest in seeking the annulment of the
execution sale because she stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment on this issue. 43

Petitioner's present counsel, Atty. Eduardo C. Tutaan, admitted before the appellate court:

JUSTICE DE LA RAMA:

Will you please explain now why your clients transferred these properties to Amicus?

ATTY. TUTAAN:

She was embeggled [sic] to sign a deed of sale Your Honor.

JUSTICE DE LA RAMA:

What do you mean?

ATTY. TUTAAN:

On the ground Your Honor, telling her that they will not foreclose the mortgage of your client
Your Honor. She will just cancel the mortgage, but she will sign a Deed of Sale . . .(inaudible)

JUSTICE LUNA:

So, she owned money?

ATTY. TUTAAN:

Yes, she owned money Your Honor.

xxx xxx xxx

JUSTICE DE LA RAMA:

Was that considered paid by Amicus?

ATTY. TUTAAN:

Considered it as paid Your Honor. They cancelled the mortgage but they made her sign a Deed
of Sale, which they said they will not registered [sic] but they registered it.

JUSTICE DE LA RAMA:

The question is, what [sic] that transfer of property to Amicus by your client considered the full
payment of the obligation of your client and is there a document to the effect?
ATTY. TUTAAN:

Reading from the Deed of Sale signed by my client Your Honor, they considered it, the execution
of the Deed, as paid . . . (inaudible)

JUSTICE DE LA RAMA:

So why was she embeggled [sic], if that is the case?

ATTY. TUTAAN:

I was not the lawyer then Your Honor, but I read the pleadings Your Honor, but I was not yet the
lawyer for the petitioner Your Honor.

JUSTICE DE LA RAMA:

The point the Court would like to raise is, so, there was full consent of De Leon to transfer the
properties to Amicus knowing that the transfer will be considered as full payment of her obligation, is
that correct?

ATTY. TUTAAN:

Yes, Your Honor, but they assured her that the Sale will not be registered and she will be given
time to pay the obligation, Your Honor. But what Amicus did, was register the sale and the titles in its
own name.

JUSTICE MABUTAS:

What is the profession of your client?

ATTY. TUTAAN:

She is a teacher, Your Honor.

JUSTICE MABUTAS:

So, we can presume that she knew what she was doing.

ATTY. TUTAAN:

She is not a lawyer, Your Honor.

JUSTICE LUNA: (off the record)

Even then, if there is an agreement not to register the property, and then the document of sale
should be the best evidence whether the sale was subject to certain resolutory or conditional factors.

ATTY. TUTAAN:
That is surprising. Amicus does not do anything Your Honor, No, no, no, we can only assume but
we have no proof. 44

From the above it may be gathered that Amicus is, at the least, the registered owner of the properties.
Moreover, Atty. Tutaan's statements before the appellate court exposed the improbability of
petitioner's claim over the subject properties. While the petitioner sought to annul the sale of the
properties to Amicus in Civil Case No. 61500, according to Ovation that case was dismissed for non-suit.
The petitioner never denied or contested this assertion. Her non-existent claim to the properties was
thus further weakened by the dismissal of her complaint in Civil Case No. 61500. cdti

The next question that we have to tackle is whether the petitioner had an interest in the proceeds of the
execution sale. Here, we must make a distinction. If there were excess proceeds of the sale, the
petitioner could not be said to have an interest thereon, as the same would pertain to Amicus, which is
her successor in interest. But, if there was a deficiency, that is to say, the proceeds of the sale were not
enough to satisfy the judgment, she would be qualified to attack the sale. This is so because it would be
the petitioner as the judgment debtor, and not Amicus, who should pay the deficiency.

However, it is significant to note that in her 26 February 1996 Manifestation/Motion 45 to lift the
garnishment on her dollar account with a certain bank, the petitioner declared:

That the Branch Sheriff sold at public auction real properties under the name of petitioner in the
amount of Two Million Eight Hundred Ten Thousand Five Hundred Eighty-Two Pesos and Forty Five
Centavos (P2,810,582.45) and as per sheriff's return of execution the said amount was credited to the
partial satisfaction of the judgment.

That as per computation of the petitioner there is a minimal balance of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00)
more or less on the judgment.

Three days after she filed the said motion, the petitioner unconditionally paid the balance of P1,000 46
for the full satisfaction of the judgment debt, and the court forthwith granted the motion. 47 By her
acquiescence of the bid price of the auctioned properties and of the application thereof to the
satisfaction of her judgment debt, coupled with her payment of the deficiency, the petitioner is deemed
to have waived, or is estopped to assert, defects and irregularities in the execution sale. 48

In closing we note that petitioner's bad faith cannot be overemphasized. She paid her debts to Citibank
with bouncing checks. Later, she brokered a compromise agreement which it appears, she had not
intention of honoring, as she breached the same by delivering more bouncing checks to Citibank. She
raised no objection to the execution sale before or immediately after the sale was held. She even moved
for the lifting of the garnishment on her dollar account on the ground that the execution sale raised
sufficient money to release her from her liability. She or her successor in interest did not redeem the
property, even though the auction price, according to her, was grossly inadequate. More than a year
after the sale, when the right of redemption had already lapsed and when the winning bidder had a right
to conveyance and possession 49 of the properties, she filed an action in another court to annul the
auction on grounds which existed during the sale and which she could have raised earlier. Clearly, her
acts have succeeded only in delaying justice by denying what is rightfully due the private respondents.

WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed for lack of merit.

Treble costs against the petitioner. cda

Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ ., concur.

Narvasa, C .J ., took no part; related to one of lawyers.

Footnotes

1. Original Record (OR), Civil Case No. 91-1580, 1-16.

2. Id., 43.

3. Id., 34-35.

4. Id., 58-61.

5. OR, 62-64; Rollo, 57-59.

6. OR, 65-67.

7. Id., 71.

8. Id., 72.

9. Id., 86.

10. Id.

11. Rollo, CA-G.R. SP. No. 37537, 23-39.

12. OR, Civil Case No. 91-1580, 90.

13. OR, Civil Case No. 93-1650, 1-8.

14. Id., 152-151.

15. Id., 159-166.

16. Id., 223-226.

17. Id., 235-236.

18. Id., 227, 230, 240-248.

19. OR, Civil Case No. 93-1650, 283-285.


20. Id., 278-282.

21. Id., 297-298.

22. Id., 299.

23. Id., 300.

24. OR, Civil Case No. 91-1580, 131-133.

25. Id., 130.

26. Id., 135-136.

27. OR, Civil Case No. 91-1580, 138-144.

28. Id., 149-153.

29. Id., 165-175.

30. Id., 214-220, 221-223.

31. OR, Civil Case Bo. 91-1580, 237.

32. Id., 239-242.

33. Rollo, CA-G.R. SP. No. 37537, 2-18.

34. Per Mabutas, Jr., R. J ., ponente, with Torres, Jr. (now Supreme Court Associate Justice) and De
la Rama, J., JJ ., concurring, Rollo, 30-55.

35. Rollo, CA-G.R. SP No. 37537, 296-302.

36. Rollo, 56.

37. Section 2, Rule 3 of the RULES OF COURT.

38. Columbia Pictures, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 110318, 28 August 1996, 15.

39. Board of Optometry v. Colet, G.R. No. 122241, 30 July 1996, 13.

40. I MANUEL V. MORAN, COMMENTARIES ON THE RULES OF COURT 154 [1979].

41. 30 AM JUR. 2d, Executions and Enforcement of Judgments § 552 [1994].

42. TSN, 14 June 1993, 7; OR Civil Case No. 93-1650, 211.

43. OR, Civil Case No. 91-1580, 150. Emphasis supplied.

44. TSN, 20 July 1995, 64-69; Rollo, CA-G.R. SP No. 37537, 254-259. Emphasis supplied.
45. OR, Civil Case No. 91-1580, 75.

46. Id., 78.

47. OR, Civil Case No. 91-1580, 79.

48. 30 AM. JUR. 2d Executions and Enforcement of Judgments § 545 [1994].

49. Sec. 35, Rule 39 of the RULES OF COURT.

C o p y r i g h t 1 9 9 4 - 1 9 9 9 C D T e c h n o l o g i e s A s i a, I n c.

G.R. No. 121466 August 15, 1997

PMI Colleges v. National Labor Relations Commission

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 121466. August 15, 1997.]

PMI COLLEGES, petitioner, vs. THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and ALEJANDRO
GALVAN, respondents.

Esteban M. Mendoza for petitioner.

N. L. Dasig Law Office for private respondent.

SYNOPSIS

Petitioner hired private respondent as contractual instructor with an agreement that the latter shall be
paid a rate on hourly basis. Private respondent and other instructors were compensated for services
rendered during the first three periods of the abovementioned contract but for reasons unknown to
them, they stopped receiving payment for the succeeding rendition of services. Repeated demands on
petitioner to release the salaries remained unheeded. Private respondent filed a complaint before the
National Capital Region Arbitration Branch seeking payment of the salaries he earned while conducting
on-the-job training courses, conducted outside the school premises. Attempts at amicable settlement
having failed the parties were required to submit their respective position papers. On the basis thereof,
the Labor Arbiter issued an order declaring the case submitted for decision. Such order was vigorously
opposed by petitioner insisting that there should be a formal hearing on the merits in view of the
important factual issues raised. A decision was subsequently rendered by the Labor Arbiter finding for
the private respondent. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the same in toto. In this petition for review,
petitioner imputes grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Labor Arbiter in rendering the assailed
decision without a formal hearing. Petitioner also assails the legal soundness of the monetary award in
favor of the private respondent.

The Supreme Court ruled that the absence of a formal hearing or trial before the Labor Arbiter is not a
ground to impute grave abuse of discretion. Whether to conduct one or not depends on the sole
discretion of the Labor Arbiter, taking into account the position papers and supporting documents
submitted by the parties on every issue presented. In case at bar, private respondent through annexes
to his position paper, has adequately established the substance of his case. Petitioner on the other
hand, failed to controvert private respondent's evidence, it offered only four documents. It has only
itself to blame if it did not attach its supporting evidence with its position paper and now insist that
there be a trial to give it an opportunity to ventilate what it should have done earlier. The Court also
upheld the Labor Arbiter's monetary award in favor of private respondent holding that the same has
sufficient factual and legal basis. EHaCID

Petition dismissed for lack of merit.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTIONS; CERTIORARI; CONFINED ONLY TO JURISDICTIONAL


ISSUES AND A DETERMINATION OF WHETHER THERE IS SUCH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION ON THE PART OF A TRIBUNAL OR AGENCY. — A
mere perusal of the issues raised by petitioner already invites dismissal for demonstrated ignorance and
disregard of settled rules on certiorari. Except perhaps for the third issue, the rest glaringly call for a re-
examination, evaluation and appreciation of the weight and sufficiency of factual evidence presented
before the Labor Arbiter. This, of course, the Court cannot do in the exercise of its certiorari jurisdiction
without transgressing the well-defined limits thereof. The corrective power of the Court in this regard is
confined only to jurisdictional issues and a determination of whether there is such grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of a tribunal or agency. So unyielding
and consistent are the decisional rules thereon that it is indeed surprising why petitioner's counsel failed
to accord them the observance they deserve. Thus, in San Miguel Foods, Inc. Cebu B-Meg Feed Plant v.
Hon. Bienvenido Laguesma, we were emphatic in declaring that: "This Court is definitely not the proper
venue to consider this matter for it is not a trier of facts. . . . Certiorari is a remedy narrow in its scope
and inflexible in character. It is not a general utility tool in the legal workshop. Factual issues are not a
proper subject for certiorari, as the power of the Supreme Court to review labor cases is limited to the
issue of jurisdiction and grave abuse of discretion. . . ." Of the same tenor was our disquisition in Ilocos
Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. NLRC where we made plain that: "In certiorari proceedings under Rule
65 of the Rules of Court, judicial review by this Court does not go so far as to evaluate the sufficiency of
evidence upon which the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC based their determinations, the inquiry being
limited essentially to whether or not said public respondents had acted without or in excess of its
jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion."

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; IN CERTIORARI PROCEEDINGS, THE COURT IS CONCERNED WITH MERE "ERRORS OF
JURISDICTION" AND NOT "ERRORS OF JUDGMENT". — To be sure, this does not mean that the Court
would disregard altogether the evidence presented. We merely declare that the extent of review of
evidence we ordinarily provide in other cases is different when it is a special civil action of certiorari. The
latter commands us to merely determine whether there is basis established on record to support the
findings of a tribunal and such findings meet the required quantum of proof, which in this instance, is
substantial evidence. Our deference to the expertise acquired by quasi-judicial agencies and the limited
scope a granted to us in the exercise of certiorari jurisdiction restrain us from going so far as to probe
into the correctness of a tribunal's evaluation of evidence, unless there is palpable mistake and
complete disregard thereof in which case certiorari would be proper. In plain terms, in certiorari
proceedings, we are concerned with mere "errors of jurisdiction" and not "errors of judgment." Thus:
"The rule is settled that the original and exclusive jurisdiction of this Court to review a decision of
respondent NLRC (or Executive Labor Arbiter as in this case) in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65
does not normally include an inquiry into the correctness of its evaluation of the evidence. Errors of
judgment, as distinguished from errors of jurisdiction, are not within the province of a special civil action
for certiorari, which is merely confined to issues of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. It is thus
incumbent upon petitioner to satisfactorily establish that respondent Commission or executive labor
arbiter acted capriciously and whimsically in total disregard of evidence material to or even decisive of
the controversy, in order that the extraordinary writ of certiorari will lie. By grave abuse of discretion is
meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, and it
must be shown that the discretion was exercised arbitrary or despotically. For certiorari to lie there
must be capricious, arbitrarily and whimsical exercise of power, the very antithesis of the judicial
prerogative in accordance with centuries of both civil law and common law traditions." The Court
entertains no doubt that the foregoing doctrines apply with equal force in the case at bar. ITaESD

3. CIVIL LAW; CONTRACTS; FORM OF CONTRACTS; THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT UNDER THE LAW
THAT THE CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT SHOULD BE IN ANY PARTICULAR FORM. — Petitioner places so
much emphasis on its argument that private respondent did not produce a copy of the contract
pursuant to which he rendered services. This argument is, of course, puerile. The absence of such copy
does not in any manner negate the existence of a contract of employment since "(C)ontracts shall be
obligatory, in whatever form they have been entered into, provided all the essential requisites for their
validity are present." The only exception to this rule is "when the law requires that a contract be in some
form in order that it may be valid or enforceable, or that a contract be proved in a certain way."
However, there is no requirement under the law that the contract of employment of the kind entered
into by petitioner with private respondent should be in any particular form. While it may have been
desirable for private respondent to have produced a copy of his contract if one really exists, but the
absence thereof, in any case, does not militate against his claims inasmuch as: "No particular form of
evidence is required to prove the existence of an employer-employee relationship. Any competent and
relevant evidence to prove the relationship may be admitted. For, if only documentary evidence would
be required to show that relationship, no scheming employer would even be brought before the bar of
justice, as no employer would wish to come out with any trace of the illegality he has authored
considering that it should take much weightier proof to invalidate a written instrument. . . ." At any rate,
the vouchers prepared by petitioner's own accounting department and the letter-request of its Acting
Director asking for payment of private respondent's services suffice to support a reasonable conclusion
that private respondent was employed with petitioner. How else could one explain the fact that private
respondent was supposed to be paid the amounts mentioned in those documents if he were not
employed? Petitioner's evidence is wanting in this respect while private respondent affirmatively stated
that the same arose out of his employment with petitioner. As between the two, the latter is weightier
inasmuch as we accord affirmative testimony greater value than a negative one. For the foregoing
reasons, we find it difficult to agree with petitioner's assertion that the absence of a copy of the alleged
contract should nullify private respondent's claims.

4. LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION; LABOR RELATIONS; THE ABSENCE OF A FORMAL HEARING OR
TRIAL BEFORE THE LABOR ARBITER IS NO CAUSE FOR PETITIONER TO IMPUTE GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION; REASON. — We can understand why the Labor Arbiter has opted not to proceed to trial,
considering that private respondent, through annexes to his position paper, has adequately established
that, first of all, he was an employee of petitioner; second, the nature and character of his services, and
finally, the amounts due him in consideration of his services. Petitioner, it should be reiterated, failed to
controvert them. Actually, it offered only four documents later in the course of the proceedings. It has
only itself to blame if it did not attach its supporting evidence with its position paper. It cannot now
insist that there be a trial to give it an opportunity to ventilate what it should have done earlier. Section
3, Rule V of the New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC is very clear on the matter: "Section 3. . . . These
verified position papers . . . shall be accompanied by all supporting documents including the affidavits of
their respective witnesses which shall take the place of the latter's direct testimony. The parties shall
thereafter not be allowed to allege facts, or present evidence to prove facts, not referred to and any
cause or causes of action not included in the complaint or position papers, affidavits and other
documents. . . ."

5. COMMERCIAL LAW; CORPORATION; BY LAWS; OPERATE MERELY AS INTERNAL RULES AMONG


THE STOCKHOLDERS, THEY CANNOT AFFECT OR PREJUDICE THIRD PERSONS UNLESS THEY HAVE
KNOWLEDGE OF THE SAME; CASE AT BAR. — Neither can we concede that such contract would be
invalid just because the signatory thereon was not the Chairman of the Board which allegedly violated
petitioner's by-laws. Since by-laws operate merely as internal rules among the stockholders, they cannot
affect or prejudice third persons who deal with the corporation, unless they have knowledge of the
same." No proof appears on record that private respondent ever knew anything about the provisions of
said by-laws. In fact, petitioner itself merely asserts the same without even bothering to attach a copy or
excerpt thereof to show that there is such a provision. How can it now expect the Labor Arbiter and the
NLRC to believe it? That this allegation has never been denied by private respondent does not
necessarily signify admission of its existence because technicalities of law and procedure and the rules
obtaining in the courts of law do not strictly apply to proceedings of this nature. ScAaHE

6. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; THE FACT ALONE THAT MOST OF THE DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED IN
EVIDENCE BY RESPONDENT WERE PREPARED BY HIM DOES NOT MAKE THEM SELF-SERVING SINCE THEY
HAVE BEEN OFFERED IN THE PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE LABOR ARBITER AND THAT AMPLE
OPPORTUNITY WAS GIVEN TO PETITIONER TO REBUT THEIR VERACITY. — Petitioner bewails the fact
that both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC accorded due weight to the documents prepared by private
respondent since they are said to be self-serving. "Self-serving evidence" is not to be literally taken as
evidence that serves one's selfish interest. The fact alone that most of the documents submitted in
evidence by private respondent were prepared by him does not make them self-serving since they have
been offered in the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter and that ample opportunity was given to
petitioner to rebut their veracity and authenticity. Petitioner, however, opted to merely deny them
which denial, ironically is actually what is considered self-serving evidence and, therefore, deserves
scant consideration. In any event, any denial made by petitioner cannot stand against the affirmative
and fairly detailed manner by which private respondent supported his claims; such as the places where
he conducted his classes on-the-job training and shipyard and plant visits; the rate he applied and the
duration of said rendition of services; the fact that he was indeed engaged as a contractual instructor by
petitioner; and that part of his services was not yet remunerated. These evidence, to reiterate, have
never been effectively refuted by petitioner.

DECISION

ROMERO, J p:

Subject of the instant petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is the resolution 1 of
public respondent National Labor Relations Commission 2 rendered on August 4, 1995, affirming in toto
the December 7, 1994 decision 3 of Labor Arbiter Pablo C. Espiritu declaring petitioner PMI Colleges
liable to pay private respondent Alejandro Galvan P405,000.00 in unpaid wages and P40,532.00 as
attorney's fees.

A chronicle of the pertinent events on record leading to the filing of the instant petition is as follows:

On July 7, 1991, petitioner, an educational institution offering courses on basic seaman's training and
other marine-related courses, hired private respondent as contractual instructor with an agreement that
the latter shall be paid at an hourly rate of P30.00 to P50.00, depending on the description of load
subjects and on the schedule for teaching the same. Pursuant to this engagement, private respondent
then organized classes in marine engineering. llcd

Initially, private respondent and other instructors were compensated for services rendered during the
first three periods of the abovementioned contract. However, for reasons unknown to private
respondent, he stopped receiving payment for the succeeding rendition of services. This claim of non-
payment was embodied in a letter dated March 3, 1992, written by petitioner's Acting Director, Casimiro
A. Aguinaldo, addressed to its President, Atty. Santiago Pastor, calling attention to and appealing for the
early approval and release of the salaries of its instructors including that of private respondent. It
appeared further in said letter that the salary of private respondent corresponding to the shipyard and
plant visits and the ongoing on-the-job training of Class 41 on board MV "Sweet Glory" of Sweet Lines,
Inc. was not yet included. This request of the Acting Director apparently went unheeded. Repeated
demands having likewise failed, private respondent was soon constrained to file a complaint 4 before
the National Capital Region Arbitration Branch on September 14, 1993 seeking payment for salaries
earned from the following: (1) basic seaman course Classes 41 and 42 for the period covering October
1991 to September 1992; (2) shipyard and plant visits and on-the-job training of Classes 41 and 42 for
the period covering October 1991 to September 1992 on board M/V "Sweet Glory" vessel; and (3) as
Acting Director of Seaman Training Course for 3-1/2 months.

In support of the abovementioned claims, private respondent submitted documentary evidence which
were annexed to his complaint, such as the detailed load and schedule of classes with number of class
hours and rate per hour (Annex "A"); PMI Colleges Basic Seaman Training Course (Annex "B"); the
aforementioned letter-request for payment of salaries by the Acting Director of PMI Colleges (Annex
"C"); unpaid load of private respondent (Annex "D"); and vouchers prepared by the accounting
department of petitioner but whose amounts indicated therein were actually never paid to private
respondent (Exhibit "E").

Private respondent's claims, as expected, were resisted by petitioner. It alleged that classes in the
courses offered which complainant claimed to have remained unpaid were not held or conducted in the
school premises of PMI Colleges. Only private respondent, it was argued, knew whether classes were
indeed conducted. In the same vein, petitioner maintained that it exercised no appropriate and proper
supervision of the said classes which activities allegedly violated certain rules and regulations of the
Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS). Furthermore, the claims, according to petitioner,
were all exaggerated and that, at any rate, private respondent abandoned his work at the time he
should have commenced the same.

In reply, private respondent belied petitioner's allegations contending, among others, that he conducted
lectures within the premises of petitioner's rented space located at 5th Floor, Manufacturers Bldg., Sta.
Cruz, Manila; that his students duly enrolled with the Registrar's Office of petitioner; that shipyard and
plant visits were conducted at Fort San Felipe, Cavite Naval Base; that petitioner was fully aware of said
shipyard and plant visits because it even wrote a letter for that purpose; and that basic seaman courses
41 and 42 were sanctioned by the DECS as shown by the records of the Registrar's Office.

Later in the proceedings below, petitioner manifested that Mr. Tomas G. Cloma, Jr., a member of the
petitioner's Board of Trustees wrote a letter 5 to the Chairman of the Board on May 23, 1994, clarifying
the case of private respondent and stating therein, inter alia, that under petitioner's by-laws only the
Chairman is authorized to sign any contract and that private respondent, in any event, failed to submit
documents on the alleged shipyard and plant visits in Cavite Naval Base.

Attempts at amicable settlement having failed, the parties were required to submit their respective
position papers. Thereafter, on June 16, 1994, the Labor Arbiter issued an order declaring the case
submitted for decision on the basis of the position papers which the parties filed. Petitioner, however,
vigorously opposed this order insisting that there should be a formal trial on the merits in view of the
important factual issues raised. In another order dated July 22, 1994, the Labor Arbiter impliedly denied
petitioner's opposition, reiterating that the case was already submitted for decision. Hence, a decision
was subsequently rendered by the Labor Arbiter on December 7, 1994 finding for the private
respondent. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the same in toto in its decision of August 4, 1995.

Aggrieved, petitioner now pleads for the Court to resolve the following issues in its favor, to wit:
I. Whether the money claims of private respondent representing salaries/wages as contractual
instructor for class instruction, on-the-job training and shipboard and plant visits have valid legal and
factual bases;

II. Whether claims for salaries/wages for services relative to on-the-job training and shipboard and
plant visits by instructors, assuming the same were really conducted, have valid bases;

III. Whether the petitioner was denied its right to procedural due process; and

IV. Whether the NLRC findings in its questioned resolution have sound legal and factual support.

We see no compelling reason to grant petitioner's plea; the same must, therefore, be dismissed.

At once, a mere perusal of the issues raised by petitioner already invites dismissal for demonstrated
ignorance and disregard of settled rules on certiorari. Except perhaps for the third issue, the rest
glaringly call for a re-examination, evaluation and appreciation of the weight and sufficiency of factual
evidence presented before the Labor Arbiter. This, of course, the Court cannot do in the exercise of its
certiorari jurisdiction without transgressing the well-defined limits thereof. The corrective power of the
Court in this regard is confined only to jurisdictional issues and a determination of whether there is such
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of a tribunal or agency.
So unyielding and consistent are the decisional rules thereon that it is indeed surprising why petitioner's
counsel failed to accord them the observance they deserve.

Thus, in San Miguel Foods, Inc. Cebu B-Meg Feed Plant v. Hon. Bienvenido Laguesma, 6 we were
emphatic in declaring that:

"This Court is definitely not the proper venue to consider this matter for it is not a trier of facts. . . .
Certiorari is a remedy narrow in its scope and inflexible in character. It is not a general utility tool in the
legal workshop. Factual issues are not a proper subject for certiorari, as the power of the Supreme Court
to review labor cases is limited to the issue of jurisdiction and grave abuse of discretion. . . ." (Emphasis
supplied).

Of the same tenor was our disquisition in Ilocos Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. NLRC 7 where we made
plain that:

"In certiorari proceedings under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, judicial review by this Court does not go
so far as to evaluate the sufficiency of evidence upon which the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC based their
determinations, the inquiry being limited essentially to whether or not said public respondents had
acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion." (Emphasis supplied).

To be sure, this does not mean that the Court would disregard altogether the evidence presented. We
merely declare that the extent of review of evidence we ordinarily provide in other cases is different
when it is a special civil action of certiorari. The latter commands us to merely determine whether there
is basis established on record to support the findings of a tribunal and such findings meet the required
quantum of proof, which in this instance, is substantial evidence. Our deference to the expertise
acquired by quasi-judicial agencies and the limited scope granted to us in the exercise of certiorari
jurisdiction restrain us from going so far as to probe into the correctness of a tribunal's evaluation of
evidence, unless there is palpable mistake and complete disregard thereof in which case certiorari
would be proper. In plain terms, in certiorari proceedings, we are concerned with mere "errors of
jurisdiction" and not "errors of judgment." Thus:

"The rule is settled that the original and exclusive jurisdiction of this Court to review a decision of
respondent NLRC (or Executive Labor Arbiter as in this case) in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65
does not normally include an inquiry into the correctness of its evaluation of the evidence. Errors of
judgment, as distinguished from errors of jurisdiction, are not within the province of a special civil action
for certiorari, which is merely confined to issues of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. It is thus
incumbent upon petitioner to satisfactorily establish that respondent Commission or executive labor
arbiter acted capriciously and whimsically in total disregard of evidence material to or even decisive of
the controversy, in order that the extraordinary writ of certiorari will lie. By grave abuse of discretion is
meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, and it
must be shown that the discretion was exercised arbitrary or despotically. For certiorari to lie there
must be capricious, arbitrarily and whimsical exercise of power, the very antithesis of the judicial
prerogative in accordance with centuries of both civil law and common law traditions." 8

The Court entertains no doubt that the foregoing doctrines apply with equal force in the case at bar.

In any event, granting that we may have to delve into the facts and evidence of the parties, we still find
no puissant justification for us to adjudge both the Labor Arbiter's and NLRC's appreciation of such
evidence as indicative of any grave abuse of discretion.

First. Petitioner places so much emphasis on its argument that private respondent did not produce a
copy of the contract pursuant to which he rendered services. This argument is, of course, puerile. The
absence of such copy does not in any manner negate the existence of a contract of employment since
"(C)ontracts shall be obligatory, in whatever form they have been entered into, provided all the essential
requisites for their validity are present." 9 The only exception to this rule is "when the law requires that
a contract be in some form in order that it may be valid or enforceable, or that a contract be proved in a
certain way." However, there is no requirement under the law that the contract of employment of the
kind entered into by petitioner with private respondent should be in any particular form. While it may
have been desirable for private respondent to have produced a copy of his contract if one really exists,
but the absence thereof, in any case, does not militate against his claims inasmuch as:

"No particular form of evidence is required to prove the existence of an employer-employee


relationship. Any competent and relevant evidence to prove the relationship may be admitted. For, if
only documentary evidence would be required to show that relationship, no scheming employer would
even be brought before the bar of justice, as no employer would wish to come out with any trace of the
illegality he has authored considering that it should take much weightier proof to invalidate a written
instrument. . . ." 10
At any rate, the vouchers prepared by petitioner's own accounting department and the letter-request of
its Acting Director asking for payment of private respondent's services suffice to support a reasonable
conclusion that private respondent was employed with petitioner. How else could one explain the fact
that private respondent was supposed to be paid the amounts mentioned in those documents if he
were not employed? Petitioner's evidence is wanting in this respect while private respondent
affirmatively stated that the same arose out of his employment with petitioner. As between the two, the
latter is weightier inasmuch as we accord affirmative testimony greater value than a negative one. For
the foregoing reasons, we find it difficult to agree with petitioner's assertion that the absence of a copy
of the alleged contract should nullify private respondent's claims. cdasia

Neither can we concede that such contract would be invalid just because the signatory thereon was not
the Chairman of the Board which allegedly violated petitioner's by-laws. Since by-laws operate merely as
internal rules among the stockholders, they cannot affect or prejudice third persons who deal with the
corporation, unless they have knowledge of the same." 11 No proof appears on record that private
respondent ever knew anything about the provisions of said by-laws. In fact, petitioner itself merely
asserts the same without even bothering to attach a copy or excerpt thereof to show that there is such a
provision. How can it now expect the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC to believe it? That this allegation has
never been denied by private respondent does not necessarily signify admission of its existence because
technicalities of law and procedure and the rules obtaining in the courts of law do not strictly apply to
proceedings of this nature.

Second. Petitioner bewails the fact that both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC accorded due weight to the
documents prepared by private respondent since they are said to be self-serving. "Self-serving
evidence" is not to be literally taken as evidence that serves one's selfish interest. 12 The fact alone that
most of the documents submitted in evidence by private respondent were prepared by him does not
make them self-serving since they have been offered in the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter and
that ample opportunity was given to petitioner to rebut their veracity and authenticity. Petitioner,
however, opted to merely deny them which denial, ironically, is actually what is considered self-serving
evidence 13 and, therefore, deserves scant consideration. In any event, any denial made by petitioner
cannot stand against the affirmative and fairly detailed manner by which private respondent supported
his claims, such as the places where he conducted his classes, on-the-job training and shipyard and plant
visits; the rate he applied and the duration of said rendition of services; the fact that he was indeed
engaged as a contractual instructor by petitioner; and that part of his services was not yet remunerated.
These evidence, to reiterate, have never been effectively refuted by petitioner.

Third. As regards the amounts demanded by private respondent, we can only rely upon the evidence
presented which, in this case, consists of the computation of private respondent, as well as the findings
of both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC. Petitioner, it must be stressed, presented no satisfactory proof
to the contrary. Absent such proof, we are constrained to rely upon private respondent's otherwise
straightforward explanation of his claims.

Fourth. The absence of a formal hearing or trial before the Labor Arbiter is no cause for petitioner to
impute grave abuse of discretion. Whether to conduct one or not depends on the sole discretion of the
Labor Arbiter, taking into account the position papers and supporting documents submitted by the
parties on every issue presented. If the Labor Arbiter, in his judgment, is confident that he can rely on
the documents before him, he cannot be faulted for not conducting a formal trial anymore, unless it
would appear that, in view of the particular circumstances of a case, the documents, without more, are
really insufficient.

As applied to the instant case, we can understand why the Labor Arbiter has opted not to proceed to
trial, considering that private respondent, through annexes to his position paper, has adequately
established that, first of all, he was an employee of petitioner; second, the nature and character of his
services, and finally, the amounts due him in consideration of his services. Petitioner, it should be
reiterated, failed to controvert them. Actually, it offered only four documents later in the course of the
proceedings. It has only itself to blame if it did not attach its supporting evidence with its position paper.
It cannot now insist that there be a trial to give it an opportunity to ventilate what it should have done
earlier. Section 3, Rule V of the New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC is very clear on the matter:

"Section 3. ...

These verified position papers . . . shall be accompanied by all supporting documents including the
affidavits of their respective witnesses which shall take the place of the latter's direct testimony. The
parties shall thereafter not be allowed to allege facts, or present evidence to prove facts, not referred to
and any cause or causes of action not included in the complaint or position papers, affidavits and other
documents. . . ." (Emphasis supplied).

Thus, given the mandate of said rule, petitioner should have foreseen that the Labor Arbiter, in view of
the non-litigious nature of the proceedings before it, might not proceed at all to trial. Petitioner cannot
now be heard to complain of lack of due process. The following is apropos:

"The petitioners should not have assumed that after they submitted their position papers, the Labor
Arbiter would call for a formal trial of hearing. The holding of a trial is discretionary on the Labor Arbiter,
it is not a matter of right of the parties, especially in this case, where the private respondents had
already presented their documentary evidence.

xxx xxx xxx

The petitioners did ask in their position paper for a hearing to thresh out some factual matters pertinent
to their case. However, they had no right or reason to assume that their request would be granted. The
petitioners should have attached to their position paper all the documents that would prove their claim
in case it was decided that no hearing should be conducted or was necessary. In fact, the rules require
that position papers shall be accompanied by all supporting documents, including affidavits of witnesses
in lieu of their direct testimony." 14

It must be noted that adequate opportunity was given to petitioner in the presentation of its evidence,
such as when the Labor Arbiter granted petitioner's Manifestation and Motion 15 dated July 22, 1994
allowing it to submit four more documents. This opportunity notwithstanding, petitioner still failed to
fully proffer all its evidence which might help the Labor Arbiter in resolving the issues. What it desired
instead, as stated in its petition, 16 was to "require presentation of witnesses buttressed by relevant
documents in support thereof." But this is precisely the opportunity given to petitioner when the Labor
Arbiter granted its Motion and Manifestation. It should have presented the documents it was proposing
to submit. The affidavits of its witnesses would have sufficed in lieu of their direct testimony 17 to clarify
what it perceives to be complex factual issues. We rule that the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC were not
remiss in their duty to afford petitioner due process. The essence of due process is merely that a party
be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard and to submit any evidence he may have in support of
his defense. 18

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit while
the resolution of the National Labor Relations Commission dated August 4, 1995 is hereby AFFIRMED.
cdtech

SO ORDERED.

Regalado, Puno and Mendoza, JJ ., concur.

Torres, Jr., J ., is on leave.

Footnotes

1. Rollo, pp. 82-93.

2. Third Division; penned by Commissioner Ireneo B. Bernardo.

3. Rollo, pp. 53-64.

4. Id., p. 25.

5. Id., p. 48.

6. G.R. No. 116712, October 10, 1996.

7. 241 SCRA 36; 50 (1995).

8. Zarate Jr. v. Hon. Norma C . Olegario, et al., G.R. No. 90655, October 7, 1996; emphasis supplied.
See also Ledesma v. NLRC, 246 SCRA 47 (1995) and Philippine Advertising Counselors v. NLRC and
Teodoro Diaz, G.R. No. 120008, October 18, 1996.

9. Art. 1356, Civil Code.

10. Opulencia Ice Plant and Storage v. NLRC, 228 SCRA 473 (1993).

11. Campos, I THE CORPORATION CODE Comments, Notes and Selected Cases 124 (1990) citing
Fleischer v. Botica Nolasco, 47 Phil. 583 (1925); Agbayani III COMMENTARIES AND JURISPRUDENCE ON
THE COMMERCIAL LAWS OF THE PHILIPPINES 410 (1984 ed.)
12. Cuison v. Court of Appeals, 227 SCRA 391 (1993).

13. Abadilla v. Tabiliran, Jr., 249 SCRA 447 (1995); People v. Godoy, 250 SCRA 676 (1995).

14. Pacific Timber Export Corp. v. NLRC, 224 SCRA 860 (1993); See also Shoemart, Inc. v. NLRC, 225
SCRA 311 (1993).

15. Rollo, pp. 45-47.

16. id., p. 18.

17. Rule V, section 3, supra.

18. Shoemart v. NLRC, supra.

C o p y r i g h t 1 9 9 4 - 1 9 9 9 C D T e c h n o l o g i e s A s i a, I n c.

G.R. No. 121377 August 15, 1997

People v. Gelera

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 121377. August 15, 1997.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. JOSEPH GELERA @ "SAKI" and ROGELIO FERNANDEZ
@ "TIMBOY", accused-appellants.

The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.

Public Attorney's Office for accused-appellant.

SYNOPSIS

Joseph Gelera and Rogelio Fernandez were charged in an Information with the killing of Daniel Udto
with the use of a stone, by ". . . conspiring and confederating and mutually helping each other, with
intent to kill and with evident premeditation and treachery . . . ."

The trial court convicted Gelera and Fernandez of "the crime of murder committed by means of superior
strength, evident premeditation, grave abuse of confidence, qualified by treachery."

Both appealed. The records show that Fernandez escaped from detention. Pursuant to Rule 124, Section
8, the appeal of Fernandez is dismissed. EcTCAD
The appeal of Gelera is partly meritorious. From the evidence on record, we find that treachery was not
proved by clear and convincing evidence. We cannot fairly deduce from the scant testimony of the lone
witness to the killing of Daniel that the attack was sudden and unexpected. Even if the blow on Daniel
was sudden, this fact alone would not constitute treachery. There is no showing that Gelera and
Fernandez consciously adopted the means or method of attack employed by them against Daniel.

The trial court also held that Gelera and Fernandez took advantage of their superior strength in killing
Daniel. We do not agree. To appreciate this aggravating circumstance, it must be shown that the
aggressors took advantage of their combined strength in order to consummate the offense and not
merely the fact that there were two or more assailants to a victim.

We also hold that the finding of the trial court that there was grave abuse of confidence on the part of
the appellant is not supported by the records. For this aggravating circumstance to exist, it is essential to
show that the confidence between the parties must be such as would give the accused some advantage
or make it easier for him to commit the criminal act. Except for the testimony that Fernandez claimed to
be the nephew of Daniel, no evidence was shown to prove that the victim reposed confidence upon the
accused and that the latter took advantage of such confidence in committing the crime.

Lastly, we hold that the trial court erred when it found evident premeditation to exist in the commission
of the crime. The prosecution failed to establish (a) the time when the accused determined to commit
the crime, (b) an act manifestly indicating that the accused has clung to his determination, and (c) a
sufficient lapse of time between such determination and execution to allow him to reflect upon the
consequences of his act. There is no evidence when and how appellant planned and prepared for the
killing of the victim; nor is there an act indicating that appellant and Fernandez persisted in their plan.
Nor is there any evidence of the lapse of time between the determination and execution of the same.
ITDSAE

The assailed decision of the trial court is set aside and a new one is entered finding Gelera guilty of
homicide.

SYLLABUS

1. CRIMINAL LAW; MURDER; GENERIC AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES; MAY BE PROVEN EVEN IF


NOT ALLEGED IN THE INFORMATION. — Treachery was the only qualifying circumstance used by the trial
court in convicting appellant of murder, as alleged in the Information. Abuse of superior strength, abuse
of confidence and evident premeditation were appreciated by the trial court as mere generic
aggravating circumstances. Generic aggravating circumstances may be proven even if not alleged in the
information.

2. ID.; ID.; QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCES; TREACHERY; REQUISITES; NOT ESTABLISHED IN CASE AT


BAR. — For treachery to be appreciated, the prosecution must prove: (1) that at the time of the attack,
the victim was not in a position to defend himself, and (2) that the offender consciously adopted the
particular means, method or form of attack employed by him. From the evidence on record, we find that
treachery was not proved by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court merely relied on the
testimony of Amid Jamandron, the lone eyewitness in the killing of Daniel. Amid's testimony lacks details
on what immediately preceded the punching of Daniel. Even if the blow on Daniel was sudden, this fact
alone would not constitute treachery. Suddenness of attack is not synonymous to treachery. Likewise,
failure to resist the attack is not enough to prove treachery: There is no showing that accused
consciously adopted the particular means, method or form of attack employed by them against Daniel.
Treachery cannot be deduced from mere presumption or sheer speculation. HIAESC

3. ID.; AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES; ABUSE OF SUPERIOR STRENGTH; NOT PRESENT IN CASE


AT BAR. — To appreciate abuse of superior strength as an aggravating circumstance, what should be
considered is not that there were three, four or more assailants of one victim, but whether the
aggressors took advantage of their combined strength in order to consummate the offense. It is
therefore necessary to show that the attackers "cooperated in such a way as to secure advantage of
their superiority in strength." In the instant case, there is no proof that the appellant and the accused
took advantage of their combined strength to kill Daniel. Superiority in number does not per se mean
superiority in strength.

4. ID.; ID.; ABUSE OF CONFIDENCE; NOT PRESENT IN CASE AT BAR. — For grave abuse of
confidence to exist, it is essential to show that the confidence between the parties must be immediate
and personal such as would give the accused some advantage or make it easier for him to commit the
criminal act. The confidence must be a means of facilitating commission of the crime, the culprit taking
advantage of the offended party's belief that the former would not abuse said confidence. Except for
the testimony of Aniñon that the accused claimed to be the nephew of the victim, no evidence was
shown to prove that the victim reposed confidence upon the accused and his companions and that the
latter took advantage of such confidence. The evidence is insufficient.

5. ID.; ID.; EVIDENT PREMEDITATION; REQUISITES; NOT ESTABLISHED IN CASE AT BAR. — The
prosecution failed to establish the requisites for evident premeditation, viz: (a) the time when the
accused determined to commit the crime, (b) an act manifestly indicating that the accused has clung to
his determination, and (c) a sufficient lapse of time between such determination and execution to allow
him to reflect upon the consequences of his act. There is no evidence when and how appellant planned
and prepared for the killing of the victim. There is no act indicating that appellant and accused persisted
in their plan. Nor is there any evidence of the lapse of time between the determination and execution of
the same.

6. ID.; JUSTIFYING CIRCUMSTANCES; SELF-DEFENSE; ELEMENTS; NOT ESTABLISHED IN CASE AT


BAR. — Where an accused charged with the killing of a person admits having caused that death but
invokes self-defense to escape from criminal liability, it becomes incumbent upon him to prove by clear
and convincing evidence the positiveness of that justifying circumstance; otherwise, having admitted the
killing, conviction is inescapable. Self-defense is an affirmative allegation that must be established with
certainty by sufficient and satisfactory proof and, coincidentally, the existence of the following
requisites: (a) unlawful aggression; (b) reasonable necessity of the means employed to repel it; and (c)
lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. All these conditions must
concur. Here, appellant's version is self-serving and no witness corroborated his claim that the victim
attacked him. His allegation is belied by the fact that the victim was so drunk that he could not even
manage to stand up and walk by himself. There is thus no basis for appellant's claim that there was
unlawful aggression on the part of the victim prompting him to defend himself. caAICE

DECISION

PUNO, J p:

This is an appeal from the Decision 1 of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City, Branch 44, dated
August 12, 1994, in Criminal Case No. 10126, convicting Joseph Gelera @ "Saki" and Rogelio Fernandez
@ "Timboy" of Murder and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua in its medium
period and to indemnify jointly and severally the heirs of the victim, Daniel Udto, the sum of fifty
thousand pesos (P50,000.00) without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. cdasia

The two were charged in an Information which reads as follows:

"That on December 4, 1991, at more or less 11 o'clock in the evening, in Sitio Malampa, Barangay
Pangatban, Bayawan, Negros Oriental, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above
named accused, conspiring and confederating and mutually helping each other, with intent to kill and
with evident premeditation and treachery, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
attack, box and strike one DANIEL UDTO with the use of a stone with which they were then armed,
thereby hitting and inflicting upon said Daniel Udto physical injuries which caused cerebral hemorrhage
causing his death soon thereafter.

"Contrary to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code."

The facts are as follows:

On December 4, 1991, at about 7 p.m., 14-year old Amid Jamandron, Joseph Gelera alias "Saki" and
Aron Vergara went to Sitio Malampa, Barangay Pangatban, Bayawan, Negros Oriental, to watch a dance.
At the dance hall, Amid saw his uncle, Daniel Udto, Rogelio Fernandez alias "Timboy", Ruty Gelera and
one Pabling. 2 At about 11 p.m., Eduardo Aniñon, a neighbor of Daniel and one of the organizers of the
dance, noticed that Daniel was already drunk and could hardly walk straight. He advised Daniel to stop
drinking and sleep in his grandfather's house. Fernandez, claiming to be Daniel's nephew, volunteered
and insisted on bringing him home. Daniel's grandmother, Marta, warned him that he would be
responsible if something happened to Daniel. Fernandez left the dance hall with Daniel, Gelera, Amid
Jamandron and Aron Vergara. 3

After about half kilometer, Daniel, Fernandez and Gelera walked with their arms over each other's
shoulders along a narrow footpath. Following them some ten (10) meters away were Amid and Aron.
The place was illumined by two (2) electric lamps. Amid testified that Fernandez punched Daniel causing
the latter to fall down. Aron rushed back to the dance hall when the violence started. While Daniel was
down on the ground, Gelera struck him with a stone five times (5x) on the neck. Thereafter, Fernandez
and Gelera dumped Daniel face down in a nearby canal filled with knee-deep water. They then stepped
on his body. Amid saw that Daniel was dead. The three left and went to the beach where they
separated. Amid went home to sleep. 4

At about 7 a.m. of the following day, Fernandez and Gelera went to Amid's house and told him to stow
away with them. Amid refused and the two did not persist with their suggestion. Thereafter, Amid
informed his father about the killing of Daniel. 5

A certain Rustico Zamora reported the killing to the police at about 11 a.m. At the crime scene, the
policemen found a dead body, face down lying flat on the canal. The body bore contusions on the left
forehead, left side below the ear, left chin and left side below the throat. The dead person was
identified by his relatives as Daniel Udto alias "Dadi". The policemen found out that the night before,
Daniel left the dance hall with Fernandez, Gelera and Amid Jamandron. They investigated Amid and he
revealed to them that Fernandez and Gelera were the perpetrators of the crime. 6

Gelera claimed self-defense. He testified that he saw Daniel Udto drinking at the dance hall on the night
of December 4, 1991. Without any provocation, Daniel punched him. Instead of retaliating, he just
walked away from Daniel as the latter was drunk. He remained in the dance hall drinking wine. He left
for home at about 11 p.m. with Amid Jamandron. Along a narrow footpath, he heard somebody say
"You are here, I will finish you." He identified the voice as that of Daniel. Daniel boxed him at the upper
left portion of his chest and he fell to the ground. As Daniel might strike him again, he grabbed a stone
and threw it at Daniel. The stone hit Daniel at the left portion below the base of the neck causing him to
fall. Daniel got up and attempted to attack him again. He then struck Daniel on the neck with a stone
and he fell to the ground once more. He left Daniel for fear that he might get up and strike back. 7

Gelera alleged that he has no misunderstanding with Daniel. He explained that he used a stone to
repulse Daniel's attack because he was smaller than Daniel. 8

Rogelio Fernandez's defense was alibi. He testified that on December 2, 1991, he left Barangay
Cansilong, Bayawan, Negros Oriental, at about 8 p.m. with Boboy Puyat, Tinoy Atay, a certain Bebot and
an unnamed boatman to fish in the deep sea of Mindanao. They stayed in the sea for three days and
two nights. They returned to Bayawan on December 5, 1991 at about 11 a.m. When he arrived at his
house at about 12 noon, he found Gelera who told him about his encounter with Daniel on the night of
December 4, 1991. He declared that he and Gelera were arrested at his house by Victor, a CVO member,
and brought to the house of the barangay captain who was not around at that time. They proceeded to
the police station in Bayawan where he was forced to admit the killing of Daniel. Allegedly, his head was
bumped against the cement wall by one of the policemen. 9

The trial court convicted Gelera and Fernandez of "the crime of murder committed by means of superior
strength, evident premeditation, grave abuse of confidence, qualified with (sic) treachery". 10 Both
appealed. Accused-appellant Gelera contends in his Brief:

"I. The trial court erred in holding that the killing of the victim, Daniel Udto, was attended with the
qualifying circumstances of superior strength, evident premeditation, grave abuse of confidence and
treachery.
"II The trial court erred in not finding that accused-appellant acted in legitimate self-defense."

As for accused Fernandez, the records show that he escaped from the Negros Oriental Rehabilitation
and Detention Center, Dumaguete City, on April 6, 1995. 11 Pursuant to section 8 of Rule 124, the
appeal of Fernandez is dismissed.

The appeal of Gelera is partly meritorious.

In the first assignment of error, appellant Gelera claims that the trial court erred in holding that the
qualifying circumstances of abuse of confidence and abuse of superior strength attended the killing of
Daniel although they were not alleged in the Information. A reading of the dispositive portion of the
assailed Decision, however, clearly shows that the aggravating circumstances of abuse of superior
strength and grave abuse of confidence were not used by the trial court to qualify the crime committed
by the accused-appellant to murder. Its dispositive portion states:

"WHEREFORE, finding the evidence for the prosecution convincing and credible, this Court hereby
declares both accused Joseph Gelera alias "Saki" and Rogelio Fernandez alias "Timboy" guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder committed by means of superior strength, evident
premeditation, grave abuse of confidence, qualified with (sic) treachery." prll

Plainly, treachery was the only qualifying circumstance used by the trial court in convicting appellant of
murder. It is not disputed that treachery as a qualifying circumstance was alleged in the Information.
Abuse of superior strength, abuse of confidence and evident premeditation were appreciated by the
trial court as mere generic aggravating circumstances. Generic aggravating circumstances may be
proven even if not alleged in the information. 12

II

We now pass upon the propriety of the trial court's appreciation of the qualifying circumstance of
treachery and the aggravating circumstances of abuse of confidence, superior strength and evident
premeditation.

For treachery to be appreciated, the prosecution must prove: (1) that at the time of the attack, the
victim was not in a position to defend himself, and (2) that the offender consciously adopted the
particular means, method or form of attack employed by him. From the evidence on record, we find that
treachery was not proved by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court merely relied on the
testimony of Amid Jamandron, the lone eyewitness in the killing of Daniel, to wit:

"Q: Can you describe to us how the four (4) of you were positioned in walking home that evening of
December 4, 1991?

"A: Daniel, Timboy and Saki were walking with arms over each other's shoulders.
"Q: What about you in relation to the three (3) of them? Where were you situated, in front of them
or behind them?

"A: I was at the back.

"Q: While you were in that situation with the three (3) of them walking with their arms over their
shoulders and you were at the back, do you remember if there was any unusual incident that
happened?

"A: Yes.

"Q: What was that unusual incident? Please tell us.

"A: At first he was punched.

"Q: Who was punched?

"A: Daniel.

"Q: You are referring to the victim in this case?

"A: Yes.

"Q: And who boxed Daniel?

"A: Timboy.

"Q: And you are referring to the accused you pointed out awhile ago?

"A: Yes.

"Q: What happened to Daniel Udto when he was boxed by Rogelio Fernandez alias "Timboy"?

"A: He fell down.

"Q: When Daniel Udto fell down, what happened next, if any?

"A: He was struck with a stone in the neck.

"Q: Who struck Daniel Udto?

"A: Saki.

"Q: When you said Saki, you are referring to Joseph Gelera, one of the accused in this case?

"A: Yes.

"Q: Was Daniel Udto hit when Saki struck him with a stone?

"A: Yes." 13
Amid's testimony lacks details on what immediately preceded the punching of Daniel. We cannot fairly
deduce from his scant testimony that the attack was sudden and unexpected. Even if the blow on Daniel
was sudden, this fact alone would not constitute treachery. We have ruled time and again that mere
suddenness of attack is not synonymous to treachery. 14 Likewise, the failure of Daniel to resist the
attack is not enough to prove treachery. There is no showing that appellant and accused Fernandez
consciously adopted the particular means, method or form of attack employed by them against Daniel.
Treachery cannot be deduced from mere presumption or sheer speculation. 15

The trial court also held that accused-appellant Gelera and accused Fernandez took advantage of their
superior strength in killing Daniel. We do not agree. To appreciate this aggravating circumstance, what
should be considered is not that there were three, four or more assailants of one victim, but whether
the aggressors took advantage of their combined strength in order to consummate the offense. 16 It is
therefore necessary to show that the attackers "cooperated in such a way as to secure advantage of
their superiority in strength." 17 In the instant case, there is no proof that the appellant and the accused
Fernandez took advantage of their combined strength to kill Daniel. Superiority in number does not per
se mean superiority in strength.

We also hold that the finding of the trial court that there was grave abuse of confidence on the part of
the appellant is not supported by the records. For this aggravating circumstance to exist, it is essential to
show that the confidence between the parties must be immediate and personal such as would give the
accused some advantage or make it easier for him to commit the criminal act. 18 The confidence must
be a means of facilitating the commission of the crime, the culprit taking advantage of the offended
party's belief that the former would not abuse said confidence. 19 Except for the testimony of Aniñon
that accused Fernandez claimed to be the nephew of the victim, no evidence was shown to prove that
the victim reposed confidence upon the accused and his companions and that the latter took advantage
of such confidence. The evidence is insufficient.

Lastly, we hold that the trial court erred when it found evident premeditation to exist in the commission
of the crime. The prosecution failed to establish its requisites, viz: (a) the time when the accused
determined to commit the crime, (b) an act manifestly indicating that the accused has clung to his
determination, and (c) a sufficient lapse of time between such determination and execution to allow
him to reflect upon the consequences of his act. 20 There is no evidence when and how appellant
planned and prepared for the killing of the victim. There is no act indicating that appellant and
Fernandez persisted in their plan. Nor is there any evidence of the lapse of time between the
determination and execution of the same.

III

We reject appellant's claim that the trial court erred in not finding that he acted in legitimate self-
defense. Where an accused charged with the killing of a person admits having caused that death but
invokes self-defense to escape from criminal liability, it becomes incumbent upon him to prove by clear
and convincing evidence the positiveness of that justifying circumstance; otherwise, having admitted the
killing, conviction is inescapable. Self-defense is an affirmative allegation that must be established with
certainty by sufficient and satisfactory proof and, coincidentally, the existence of the following
requisites: (a) unlawful aggression; (b) reasonable necessity of the means employed to repel it; and (c)
lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. All these conditions must
concur. 21 As correctly held by the trial court, appellant's version that he was punched by the victim at
the dance hall and later waylaid on his way home is devoid of credibility. His testimony is self-serving
and no witness corroborated his claim that the victim attacked him in the dance hall. His allegation that
the victim ambushed him is belied by the fact that the victim was so drunk that he could not even
manage to stand up and walk by himself. 22 There is thus no basis for appellant's claim that there was
unlawful aggression on the part of the victim prompting him to defend himself.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City, Branch 44, in Criminal
Case No. 10126, is SET ASIDE and a new one is entered finding appellant Joseph Gelera guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of HOMICIDE. He is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty ranging
from 12 years of prision mayor, as minimum, to 17 years and 4 months of reclusion temporal, as
maximum, with all the accessory penalties prescribed by law. Appellant is also ordered to indemnify the
heirs of Daniel Udto the sum of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00). aisadc

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 120074. June 10, 1997.]

LEAH P. ADORIO, petitioner, vs. HON. LUCAS P. BERSAMIN, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch
96, Quezon City, respondent, PHILIP SEE, intervenor.

King & Adorio Law Offices for petitioner.

Ongkiko, Kalaw, Manhit, Acorda, Panga & Velasco Law Offices for intervenor.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; REQUESTS BY A PARTY FOR THE ISSUANCE OF


SUBPOENAS DO NOT REQUIRE NOTICE TO THE OTHER PARTIES TO THE ACTION. — Contrary to
petitioner's allegations, there was nothing "irregular" in the issuance of the subpoenas duces tecum.
Requests by a party for the issuance of subpoenas do not require notice to other parties to the action.
No violation of due process results by such lack of notice since the other parties would have ample
opportunity to examine the witnesses and documents subpoenaed once they are presented in court.

2. ID.; ID.; TRIAL; ORDER OF TRIAL; DEFENSE NOT PRECLUDE FROM PROCURING SUBPOENAS
DUCES TECUM DURING THE TIME OF THE PROSECUTION'S PRESENTATION OF WITNESSES. — Rule 119,
Section 3 of the Rules of Court which prescribes the order of trial in criminal cases does not preclude the
defense from procuring subpoenas duces tecum during the time of the prosecution's presentation of
evidence. In this case, counsel for the accused felt that he needed the documents subject of the
subpoenas for his cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses. Accordingly, respondent judge called
a recess to enable said counsel to secure said documents from the bank officials. The order of trial was
not in any way altered; counsel for the accused did not even attempt to call any of the bank officials to
the stand. Under these circumstances, the resulting delay cannot be considered unreasonable nor
"IRREGULAR". CEDHTa

3. LEGAL ETHICS; CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY; PETITIONER'S STATEMENT TENDS TO


BRING THE AUTHORITY AND ADMINISTRATION OF LAW INTO DISRESPECT AND CONSTITUTES A
VIOLATION THEREOF; CASE AT BAR. — Petitioner's allegation that the proceedings before the trial court
were "irregular" therefore lacks basis. Such statement, when read with petitioner's remark that the so-
called irregularities "show the accused's control over the court and court procedure," is nothing short of
contemptuous. The latter statement is particularly alarming for it implies that court proceedings are a
mere farce, and the court a mere stooge, a marionette subject to the manipulation of the opposing
party. It suggests that the judge was moved by consideration other than his sense of justice and fair play
thereby calling into question the integrity and independence of the court. Such statement tends to bring
the authority and administration of law into disrespect and constitutes a violation of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, specifically: CANON 11 — A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect
due to the courts and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others. . . . Rule 11.03 —
A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the courts.
Rule 11.04 — A lawyer shall not attribute to a judge motives not supported by the record or having no
materiality to the case. Consequently, we rule that respondent Judge did not commit grave abuse of
discretion in declaring petitioner guilty of direct contempt. ESTCHa

4. ID.; ID.; CONTEMPT; PENALTY IMPOSED IS TOO SEVERE; CASE AT BAR. — We find the penalty
imposed by respondent Judge upon petitioner too severe. Punishment in contempt cases are meted on
a corrective principle to vindicate the authority and dignity of the courts and the administration of
justice. Accordingly, we reduce the same to a fine of P200.00.

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; RULE THAT IN CRIMINAL PROCEDURE THE JUDGMENT OF THE APPELLATE COURT
SHALL AFFECT EVEN THOSE ACCUSED WHO DID NOT APPEAL INSOFAR AS SAID JUDGMENT IS
FAVORABLE AND APPLICABLE TO THEM; BY ANALOGY, SAID RULE SHOULD APPLY IN CONTEMPT CASES;
CASE AT BAR — While petitioner's client, Philip G. See, did not question the contempt order against him
— his motion for intervention and the accompanying motion for issuance of clarificatory order merely
questioned the scope of the temporary restraining order issued by this Court — the reduction of the
penalty in favor of his former counsel should likewise benefit him. Under the rules of criminal
procedure, the judgment of the appellate court shall affect even those accused who did not appeal
insofar as said judgment is favorable and applicable to them. By analogy, this rule should apply in
contempt cases. Contempt partakes of the nature of a criminal offense, and the mode of procedure in
contempt proceedings is assimilated as far as practicable to those adapted to criminal prosecutions.
IcDHaT
DECISION

KAPUNAN, J p:

This is a special civil action for certiorari which seeks to set aside the Order of Judge Lucas P. Bersamin 1
dated May 5, 1995 insofar as it holds petitioner in direct contempt and sentences her therefor. The
dispositive portion of said order reads:

WHEREFORE, the Motion For Inhibition And For Re-raffle Of Cases is hereby granted.

The complainant Philip See y Go and his former private prosecutor, Atty. Leah P. Adorio, of the King &
Adorio Law Offices, with address at No. 40 Landargun Street, Quezon City, are hereby found guilty of
direct contempt of this Court for disrespect to the Court and its Presiding Judge and are accordingly
sentenced to suffer imprisonment of two (2) days in the City Jail of Quezon City and to pay a fine of
P200.00 each.

For the purpose of the execution of their sentence, complainant Philip See y Go and Atty. Leah P. Adorio
are hereby directed to appear in person before the Court on May 23, 1995 at 10:00 o'clock in the
morning.

Pending execution of the sentence, the transmittal of the records to the Honorable Executive Judge,
through the Office of the Clerk of Court, for purposes of re-raffle shall be held in abeyance.

SO ORDERED. 2

Petitioner was counsel for Philip G. See, the private complainant in Criminal Case Nos. Q-94-55933 to Q-
94-55957 involving violations of B.P. Blg. 22 pending before the sala of respondent Judge. 3

Pre-trial in these cases was concluded on January 16, 1995. Upon agreement of the parties, trial on the
merits was set on March 8, 15 and 22, all at 8:30 a.m. 4

Unknown to petitioner, counsel for the accused filed several requests addressed to the Branch Clerk of
Court for the issuance of subpoenas duces tecum requiring officials of several banks to bring before the
court on March 8, 1995 at 8:30 a.m., microfilm copies of various checks. The subpoenas duces tecum
were issued on February 6, 7 and 14, 1995. 5

On March 8, 1995, which petitioner supposed to be the date of the presentation of the prosecution's
evidence, petitioner came to court and was surprised by the presence of the bank officials therein. 6
During the hearing, respondent Judge called for a recess to enable counsel for the accused to confer
with the bank officers. 7 When the case was again called, the following arguments took place:

Atty. Adorio:

Before we call our witness, your honor, may I now make of record that I was surprised with the
move this morning of all the bank officers, I was not informed about any request for subpoena to the
bank officers today. No copy of such request was given to the Private Prosecutor. And I also notice, your
honor, that the subpoena or rather no copy issued by this court was ever given to the private
prosecutor. Atty. Rivera knows, he had already entered his appearance and he knows my address, why
did he not furnish me a copy of his request for subpoena, your honor, considering that I have the right
to examine his request, the materiality of his request. I would like also to make of record, your honor,
why they keep it as a secret, as a rule, the opposing party must be a party to whatever paper the other
party may file, it seems that Atty. Rivera is hiding something from us. Whatever he wants to ask the
Court, I am entitled to know.

Atty. Rivera:

I don't think there is a reason or there is a need to be furnished with my request for subpoena,
that is the reason why she was not furnished, your honor. Besides, my request for subpoena this
morning is not a litigated motion. I made this request for advance in order that, when the defense turn
to present evidence, it won't be delayed because of non-availability of these exhibits.

Atty. Adorio:

This is our day of presenting evidence, your honor. This is only my observation, your honor and
may I request Atty. Rivera to give us all copies he submits to the Court.

Atty. Rivera:

May I request for particular rule for that. . . .

Atty. Adorio:

Your honor, copies must be given to the opposing counsel, there is a ruling on that your honor. .
..

Atty. Rivera:

This is not a litigated motion your honor.

Court:

What is the problem of Atty. Adorio?

Atty. Adorio:

My only observation, your honor. And may I request Atty. Rivera to give us all copies he submits
to the Court.

Atty. Rivera:

May I request for that particular rule for furnishing request for subpoena to the other counsel,
your honor. . . .

Court:
What is this rule, will you cite the rule so that we can examine your protest you are insinuating
to the Court that there was something here, we don't even know the request for subpoena. If anyone of
my staff is . . . towards the other side, you call me I can discipline them. . . .

Atty. Adorio:

There was an instance, your honor, when this case was called by the Clerk for arraignment, the
Clerk would say that the accused would be coming. And one time, your honor, the Court already issued
an Order of arrest, and it was already past 10:00 o'clock in the morning when the accused arrived. . . . 8

Petitioner was apparently referring to an incident that allegedly occurred on July 13, 1994, the date set
for the accused's arraignment. According to petitioner, the accused failed to appear in court on said
date even after the third call at around 11:00 a.m. Consequently, the Court ordered the issuance of a
warrant of arrest and the confiscation/cancellation of the accused's bail bond. The clerk in charge of the
record then went to the door separating the courtroom and the staff's office and whispered to someone
in the office. After two minutes, the same clerk again rose from her seat, went back to the door, and
announced to the Court that the accused would be late. Respondent Judge replied that the Court will
wait for the accused. 9

However, on March 8, 1995, Philip See allegedly examined the record but found that the incidents which
purportedly transpired during the arraignment were not reflected therein. 10

The above revelations by Atty. Adorio prompted the following response from respondent Judge:

Court:

Will you call everybody, all the staff inside . . . and you point to me who is that . . .? If you want
me to be disqualified in these cases, you make it in writing. You file your motion to inhibit, I will
disqualify myself because I don't want to hear such accusations. Any participation of my staff which I am
now parading before you . . . I don't like that kind of accusation.

Atty. Rivera:

I will join the court.

Court:

Order

As prayed for, the private prosecutor is hereby directed to file a Request for inhibition in writing stating
the grounds.

Pending consideration of the Request for Inhibition, hearing is hereby suspended.

So ordered. 11
Pursuant to said order, petitioner filed a "Motion for Inhibition and for Re-Raffle of Cases" in behalf of
her client, alleging that:

The filing of the request for issuance of subpoena duces tecum and the issuance of the subpoena
without notice on the private prosecutor were irregular for the following reasons:

[a] The pre-trial of the case had been terminated and the evidence for the prosecution was
scheduled to be heard on March 8, 1995. Thus, it was plaintiff's turn to present evidence. Whatever
request defendant wanted to make with the court which would affect the right of the plaintiff to
present evidence on the date scheduled would therefore be of notice to private prosecutor so that no
surprises would result and so that plaintiff could also prepare questions for these bank officers involved
and make use of their presence.

[b] The act of the Court in issuing the subpoena for the bank officers to testify on March 8, 1995
upon request of the defendant when it was not yet his turn to present evidence is disruptive of orderly
court procedure and shows bias on the part of the court. It shows the control of the accused over the
court and court procedure.

[c] This control was also manifest on July 13, 199[4], when accused was scheduled for arraignment,
when the latter failed to appear before the court despite the third call at about 11:00 a.m. The Court
then issued an Order for the issuance of a warrant of arrest and the confiscation/cancellation of the bail
bond. After this Order was given orally in open court, the clerk who took charge of the records went to
the door between the sala and the office and whispered something to someone in the office. After
about two minutes, the same clerk again rose from her seat and went back to the door and thereafter,
she announced to the Court that the accused would be late and the accused would be arriving. The
Court then said that it will wait, if Alvin Tan is coming. It is puzzling how the clerk knew that Alvin Tan
would be coming when he was not even present in court. However, none of these facts appeared in the
Order or in the Constancia. 12

Petitioner prayed that (1) the judge inhibit himself from hearing the criminal cases; (2) said cases be re-
raffled to another court; and (3) the hearing of said cases be suspended pending the resolution of the
Motion for Inhibition. 13

The trial court granted said motion in an Order dated May 5, 1995. In the same order, declared
petitioner and her client, in direct contempt. He explained thus:

The imputation that the Court has come under the control of the accused on account of the issuance of
the subpoena duces tecum upon his request but without notice to the complainant or the public
prosecutor is most unfair and disrespectful to the Court and is a highly irresponsible accusation on the
part of the private complainant and the private prosecutor (who had meanwhile withdrawn from the
case). The issuance of a subpoena at a party's instance is not subject to prior or simultaneous notice to
the adverse party of the request therefor, for, such notice is not required by the Rules of Court. The
grounds for disqualification are unworthy of any consideration. The questioning by the private
prosecutor of the issuance of the subpoena is unfounded and due to a misplaced sense of procedural
requirements.

xxx xxx xxx

As far as the text and language of the motion are concerned, the Court considers them to be
irresponsible and disrespectful especially the accusation that the Court had come under the control of
the accused and had committed an irregularity of procedure. These statements amount to an
unmitigatedly disrespectful attitude towards the Court and its Presiding Judge. They also display the
dangerous tendencies of a party and counsel who probably think of themselves as beyond reproach.
There is therefore no recourse but to find both the complainant and his former private prosecutor guilty
of direct contempt. 14

On May 22, 1995, petitioner filed this special civil action for certiorari with a prayer for a temporary
restraining order. This Court, in a Resolution dated June 5, 1995, issued a temporary restraining order
enjoining respondent Judge from enforcing the impugned order. cdasia

A perusal of the trial court's order reveals that what respondent judge found particularly contemptuous
were petitioner's statements in her motion alleging that (1) the issuance of the subpoenas duces tecum
was irregular; and (2) the court and court procedure were subject to the "control" of the accused.

Whether or not these statements constitute direct contempt is the issue which confronts this Court.

We rule in the affirmative.

Contrary to petitioner's allegations, there was nothing "irregular" in the issuance of the subpoenas
duces tecum. Requests by a party for the issuance of subpoenas do not require notice to other parties to
the action. No violation of due process results by such lack of notice since the other parties would have
ample opportunity to examine the witnesses and documents subpoenaed once they are presented in
court. 15

Petitioner however argues that:

On March 8, 1995, the prosecution was scheduled to present its first witness, the private complainant,
Philip See, after a very long pre-trial period which started sometime in September 1994. The regular [as
against the 'irregular'] procedure would have been for the prosecution to proceed with the presentation
of evidence pursuant to Rule 119, Section 3 of the Rules of Court. The prosecution was not, however,
able to move along, due to the presence of numerous bank officials from various banks who appeared
pursuant to the subpoenas issued to them by the court.

Moreover, the person who requested for the subpoena was the counsel for the accused. The regular or
usual procedure would have been for the subpoena to be issued during the pre-trial stage or during the
time that the defense is presenting its evidence and not during the time of presentation of evidence by
the prosecution as what happened in this case.
We do not find any merit in petitioner's contentions. Rule 119, Section 3 of the Rules of Court which
prescribes the order of trial in criminal cases does not preclude the defense from procuring subpoenas
duces tecum during the time of the prosecution's presentation of evidence. In this case, counsel for the
accused felt that he needed the documents subject of the subpoenas for his cross-examination of the
prosecution witnesses. Accordingly, respondent judge called a recess to enable said counsel to secure
said documents from the bank officials. The order of trial was not in any way altered; counsel for the
accused did not even attempt to call any of the bank officials to the stand. Under these circumstances,
the resulting delay cannot be considered unreasonable nor "irregular."

Nor do we find anything "irregular" in the accused's arraignment. As counsel for the accused points out:

. . . the fact that the Presiding Judge issued a warrant of arrest and ordered the cancellation of the
accused's bond shows that he gives no special favor to the accused. And it is of common knowledge that
orders like that are easily reconsidered/lifted even for excuses like traffic, ill health or failure to
remember the hearing. The fact that the Presiding Judge opted to wait for the accused upon information
that the latter is coming only shows that he was very aware of the common practice. Waiting saved so
much of the court's and parties' time as it did away with the usual motion for reconsideration and the
necessity for a resetting.

. . . Court personnels [sic], practitioners and even judges know, of course that it is not uncommon for
litigants, especially those coming for trial late, to call the court's office by phone. It is likewise not
uncommon for litigants who follows-up [sic] matters in the office (like bailbonds, [sic] release of rulings,
etc.) to get acquainted with — or even become friends of — court clerks, secretaries, typists,
stenographers or sheriffs, in the office.

. . . Besides, if the plaintiff found it necessary to have those matters stated in the Order or placed on
record, there were two (2) lawyers (the private and the public prosecutors) who could have stood up
and made the proper manifestations or requests. But that incident happened way back 13 July 1994 and
it is only now, in their motion of 15 March 1995, that they mention the same in their vain attempt to
create an issue on the impartiality and fairness of the Presiding Judge. . . . 16

Petitioner's allegation that the proceedings before the trial court were "irregular" therefore lacks basis.
Such statement, when read with petitioner's remark that the so-called irregularities "show the accused's
control over the court and court procedure," is nothing short of contemptuous.

The latter statement is particularly alarming for it implies that court proceedings are a mere farce, and
the court a mere stooge, a marionette subject to the manipulation of the opposing party. It suggests
that the judge was moved by considerations other than his sense of justice and fair play thereby calling
into question the integrity and independence of the court. Such statement tends to bring the authority
and administration of law into disrespect and constitutes a violation of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, specifically:

CANON 11 — A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers
and should insist on similar conduct by others.
xxx xxx xxx

Rule 11.03 — A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior
before the courts.

Rule 11.04 — A lawyer shall not attribute to a judge motives not supported by the record or having no
materiality to the case.

Consequently, we rule that respondent Judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in declaring
petitioner guilty of direct contempt.

However, we find the penalty imposed by respondent Judge upon petitioner too severe. Punishment in
contempt cases are meted on a corrective principle to vindicate the authority and dignity of the courts
and the administration of justice. 17 Accordingly, we reduce the same to a fine of P200.00.

While petitioner's client, Philip G. See, did not question the contempt order against him — his motion
for intervention and the accompanying motion for issuance of clarificatory order merely questioned the
scope of the temporary restraining order issued by this Court — the reduction of the penalty in favor of
his former counsel should likewise benefit him. Under the rules of criminal procedure, the judgment of
the appellate court shall affect even those accused who did not appeal insofar as said judgment is
favorable and applicable to them. 18 By analogy, this rule should apply in contempt cases. Contempt
partakes of the nature of a criminal offense, 19 and the mode of procedure in contempt proceedings is
assimilated as far as practicable to those adapted to criminal prosecutions. 20

WHEREFORE, the Order dated May 5, 1995 issued by respondent Judge is MODIFIED in that the penalty
of imprisonment for Two (2) Days and a fine of Two Hundred Pesos (P200.00) imposed on petitioner
Leah Adorio and intervenor Philip See is REDUCED to a fine of Two Hundred Pesos (P200.00) only. The
Temporary Restraining Order is LIFTED and Criminal Case Nos. Q-94-55933 to Q-94-55957 is ordered re-
raffled to another branch of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Vitug and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Padilla, J ., is on leave.

EN BANC

[A.M. No. MTJ-97-1139. October 16, 1997.]

(A.M. No. OCA-I.P.I. 95-6-MTJ)


ROBERTO ESPIRITU, complainant, vs. JUDGE EDUARDO JOVELLANOS, 8th Municipal Circuit Trial Court,
Alcala-Bautista, Pangasinan, respondent.

SYNOPSIS

Respondent Municipal Trial Judge conducted the preliminary investigation in Criminal Case No. 2346 for
frustrated murder against Weny Dumlao based on a complaint filed by Roberto Espiritu. Accused
surrendered to the police but was released on recognizance. During the proceedings, respondent judge
examined on Dr. Patawaran without the presence of the parties and granted bail to the accused without
notice to the prosecution in the amount of P10,000.00 from the original bail bond of P20,000.00 after
the accused and his father allegedly verbally asked for its reduction. Respondent Judge later dismissed
the complaint citing, among others, that Dumlao filed a countercharge against complainant and several
other persons. Records, however, showed that the counter-affidavit considered by respondent was filed
beyond the 10-day reglementary period and a copy of which was not furnished complainant.
Respondent, was thereafter, charged with ignorance of the law, grave abuse of authority and gross
partiality.

The Supreme Court held that although the applicant was not under arrest, detained or otherwise
deprived of his liberty, respondent judge correctly granted bail to accused when he subsequently
submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court and personally asked respondent judge to admit him to
bail and reduce its amount.

Under Department of Justice Circular No. 10 dated July 3, 1987 the amount of bail should be computed
at the rate of P10,000.00 per year of imprisonment based on the medium penalty imposable for the
offense. Judged by this standard, the P10,000.00 bail fixed in this case was inadequate.

Notice of application for bail to the prosecution is required. The failure to observe this requirement
constitutes ignorance or incompetence which cannot be excused by any protestation of good faith.
What was particularly objectionable was that the examination of Dr. Patawaran as a witness was made
without the presence of the parties.

It is the duty of the court, to see to it that pleadings filed in court be served to the opposing party. The
"serve and file" rule is so basic for respondent judge not to know it. It was not fair for respondent judge
to consider a pleading which the other party knew nothing about because it had not been served on
him. The foregoing acts of respondent judge clearly demonstrate partiality. The respondent Judge was
found guilty of gross misconduct and was fined P20,000.00, with warning that repetition of the same or
similar offenses will be dealt with more severely.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; BAIL; PRESUPPOSES THAT APPLICANT IS UNDER


ARREST, DETAINED OR OTHERWISE DEPRIVED OF LIBERTY; THOUGH APPLICANT IN CASE AT BAR WAS
NOT IN CUSTODY HE SUBSEQUENTLY SUBMITTED TO THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURT WHEN GRANTED
BAIL. — It is indeed true that, in general, bail presupposes that the applicant is under arrest, detained, or
otherwise deprived of his liberty. In this case, it appears that on July 16, 1994, shortly after the incident,
Weny Dumlao surrendered to the police, but the next day (July 17, 1994) he was released to the custody
of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Emiliano Matro. Prosecutor Matro testified that upon DECS Supervisor
Nuelito Dumlao's request, he agreed to take custody of Dumlao for which reason Weny Dumlao was
released by the police. According to Matro, this was not the first time that he took custody of one who
was under investigation. Apparently, therefore, when Dumlao applied for bail on September 7, 1994 to
respondent Judge Dumlao was not in custody. Nor was his release to the custody of Assistant City
Prosecutor Matro in accordance with law. But although then not in legal custody, Dumlao subsequently
submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court when on September 7, 1994 he personally asked
respondent judge to admit him to bail and reduce its amount. Respondent judge thus correctly granted
bail.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; RELEASE ON RECOGNIZANCE; WHEN ALLOWED. — Under Rule 114, §15 of the Rules
of Court, the release on recognizance of any person under detention in the following cases: (a) when the
offense charged is for violation of an ordinance, a light felony, or a criminal offense, the imposable
penalty for which does not exceed 6 months imprisonment and/or P2,000 fine, under the circumstances
provided in R.A. No. 6036; (b) where a person has been in custody for a period equal to or more than
the minimum of the imposable principal penalty, without application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law
or any modifying circumstance, in which case the court, in its discretion, may allow his release on his
own recognizance; (c) where the accused has applied for probation, pending resolution of the case but
no bail was filed or the accused is incapable of filing one; and (d) in case of a youthful offender, held for
physical and mental examination, trial, or appeal, if he is unable to furnish bail and under the
circumstances envisaged in P.D. No. 603, as amended (Art. 191).

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; AMOUNT OF BAIL FOR FRUSTRATED MURDER. — Under the 1981 Bail Bond Guide
(Ministry Circular No. 36, September 1, 1981), the amount of bail in cases of frustrated murder is
P12,500.00. In its Circular No. 10 dated July 3, 1987, the Department of Justice noted that the amounts
fixed in the Bail Bond Guide had become "unrealistic and impractical for the purpose of assuring the
presence and/or appearance of persons facing charges in court" and accordingly directed that the
amount of bail be computed at the rate of P10,000.00 per year of imprisonment based on the medium
penalty imposable for the offense. Judged by this standard, the P10,000.00 bail fixed in this case was
inadequate. The penalty for frustrated murder prior to R.A. No. 7659 is prision mayor in its maximum
period (10 years and 1 day to 12 years) to reclusion temporal in its medium period (14 years, 8 months,
and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months.) So that, applying Art. 50, in relation to Art. 248 of the Revised
Penal Code, the medium penalty would be reclusion temporal in its minimum period (12 years and 1 day
to 14 years and 8 months). Under Circular No. 10, the amount of the bail should have been fixed
between P120,000.00 and P140,000.00.

4. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW; MANIFEST IN FIXING THE AMOUNT
OF BAIL FOR FRUSTRATED MURDER AT P20,000 AND REDUCING IT TO P10,000.00 WITHOUT NOTICE TO
THE PROSECUTION. — Respondent judge erred, however, in fixing the amount of bail for frustrated
murder at P20,000.00 and reducing it to P10,000.00 and in doing so without a hearing. Either
respondent judge was grossly ignorant of the law or he deliberately disregarded it to favor the accused.
Considering that part of his duties as a judge is conducting preliminary investigations, it is his duty to
keep abreast of the laws, in failing to do so he failed to live up to the injunction of the Code of Judicial
Conduct to "maintain professional competence." The maxim ignorance of the law excuses no one has
special application to judges. Further demonstrating either deliberate disregard of the law or groups
ignorance of the same, respondent judge granted bail to Weny Dumlao without notice to the
prosecution, in violation of Rule 114, §18. In Chin v. Gustilo, this Court ruled that notice of application
for bail to the prosecution is required even though no charge has yet been filed in court and even
though under the circumstances bail is a matter of right. The failure to observe the above requirement
constitutes ignorance or incompetence which cannot be excused by any protestation of good faith.

5. ID.; ID.; PARTIALITY; MANIFEST IN GRANT OF VERBAL REQUEST TO REDUCE BAIL. — In this case,
the failure to give notice to the prosecution may be due to the fact that there was no written motion
filed but only, as respondent judge himself admitted, an oral request by Dumlao and his father that the
amount of the bail shall be reduced. What respondent judge should have done was to have Dumlao put
his request in writing and then schedule the incident for hearing with notice to the prosecution. Instead,
he readily granted the request, which indicates rather clearly respondent judge's partiality. This
partiality was nowhere more evident than in the private conference which he had with the Dumlao's in
his chambers without the presence of the opposing party, the complainant in this case. Time and again
we have admonished judges not only to be impartial but also to appear to be so. For appearance is an
essential manifestation of reality. Departing from this established norm, respondent judge signed his
September 7, 1994 order reducing the amount of bail to P10,000.00 and then told Dumlao to inform the
police about it so that he would be released.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; GRAVE ABUSE OF AUTHORITY EXAMINATION OF PROSECUTION WITNESS WITHOUT
NOTICE TO THE PARTIES; CONSIDERATION OF COUNTER-AFFIDAVIT FILED LATE AND WITHOUT NOTICE
TO THE OTHER PARTY AND DISMISSAL OF CASE BASED ON SAID COUNTER-AFFIDAVIT; CASE AT BAR. —
With regard to the examination of Dr. Melecio S. Patawaran, Jr., on September 1, 1994 respondent
judge admits that he did not give notice to the parties of the same but claims that it was because he was
only at that time in the first stage of preliminary investigation. This is inconsistent with his later
testimony in which he admitted that when he ordered a warrant of arrest to be issued against Dumlao
on August 18, 1994, the first stage of preliminary examination had already been terminated. Nor is there
any excuse for respondent's consideration of Dumlao's counter-affidavit despite the fact that it had
been filed several days late. Dumlao received the order requiring him to file his counter-affidavit and
that of his witnesses on September 12, 1994. As under Rule 112, §3 (b) Dumlao had only 10 days from
receipt of the subpoena within which to comply, his counter-affidavit should have been filed not later
than September 22, 1994. However, it took him 19 more days after the reglementary period had expired
before he finally filed his counter-affidavit on October 11, 1994. Dumlao did not ask for an extension yet
respondent judge allowed the counter-affidavit. That respondent judge allowed the late filing of the
counter-affidavit can only be attributed to his desire to enable Dumlao to revive his case against
complainant in the Prosecutor's Office because it was the linchpin for his defense in Criminal Case No.
2346. The service of the counter-affidavit on complainant should indeed be made by Dumlao and not
only by the Court, but respondent judge should have seen to it that this duty had been complied with
upon the filing of the counter-affidavit. The "serve and file" rule is so basic for respondent judge not to
know it. It was not fair for respondent judge to consider a pleading which the other party knew nothing
about because it had not been served on him. Thus, based on alleged testimony of Dr. Patawaran,
respondent judge cast doubt on complainant's claim that his wound had been inflicted by complainant
on himself. This is contrary to Dr. Patawaran's testimony in the preliminary investigation conducted by
respondent judge. It would seem respondent judge simply relied on the counter-affidavit of Dumlao for
his resolution dismissing Criminal Case No. 2346. The foregoing acts of respondent judge clearly
demonstrate partiality.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J p:

Respondent is judge of the 8th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Alcala-Bautista, Pangasinan. He is charged
with ignorance of the law, grave abuse of authority, and gross partiality in connection with the
preliminary investigation of Criminal Case No. 2346 for frustrated murder which the herein complainant,
Roberto Espiritu, had filed against Weny Dumlao.

The facts are as follows:

In his affidavit 1 in Criminal Case No. 2346, Roberto Espiritu, as complainant, alleged that at around 7:30
in the evening of July 16, 1994, while he was with a group which included Eulogio Pabunan, Arnel
Guerra, Januario Peregrino, and Marcelino Bautista, Weny Dumlao approached him and fired at him
three times, as a result of which complainant was wounded; that complainant was able to run away; and
that Dumlao wanted to kill complainant because the latter had filed a case against Dumlao's brother,
Victor, for the murder of complainant's son Rolly. On the basis of this affidavit and those of Arnel Guerra
2 and Eulogio Pabunan, 3 SPO II Eduardo R. Yadao filed a criminal complaint for frustrated murder on
August 10, 1994 4 in respondent's court.

After conducting a preliminary examination, respondent judge ordered on August 18, 1994 the arrest of
Dumlao and fixed the amount of bail for his provisional liberty at P20,000.00. 5 However, in an order
dated September 7, 1994, he reduced the amount of the bail to P10,000.00, stating that Dumlao's father
had asked for the reduction. On September 12, 1994, he ordered "any peace officer under whose
custody [Dumlao] may be found" to release the latter in view of the fact that Dumlao had posted bail for
P10,000.00. 6 Then on October 12, 1994 he dismissed the complaint, citing, among other reasons, the
fact that Dumlao had filed a case against Roberto Espiritu and others as a result of the same incident
complained of in Criminal Case No. 2346.

It appears that Dumlao had filed on July 27, 1994 a countercharge against complainant and others with
the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Villasis, Pangasinan for attempted murder and illegal
possession of firearm. The case was docketed as I.S. No. V-94-30. Dumlao claimed that as he approached
Espiritu's group, Arnel Guerra shot him, although Guerra missed him; that as he ran towards his house,
other members of the group also fired at him; and that Espiritu's group challenged him and his father to
come out and fight. cda
Dumlao's complaint (I.S. No. V-94-30) was dismissed on August, 1994 for insufficiency of evidence. 7
After a reinvestigation of the two cases, however, Assistant City Prosecutor Paz de G. Peralta directed
the filing of an information for attempted murder against complainant Roberto Espiritu, Arnel Guerra,
Andres Espiritu, Marlino Bautista, Januario Peregrino, Abrillo Peregrino, Eulogio Pabunan, Dario
Pabunan, and Landio Pabunan even as she affirmed the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 2346 against
Dumlao. 8

Espiritu sought a review in the Department of Justice, but his petition was denied 9 for having been filed
late and for his failure to attach the affidavits submitted during the preliminary investigation.

Espiritu filed the complaint in this case, alleging irregularities committed by respondent judge in the
conduct of the preliminary investigation of his complaint against Dumlao. 10

Respondent judge filed a comment, 11 denying the charges. Complainant, on the other hand, filed a
reply. Among other things, complainant claimed that this was not the first time that respondent judge
had shown ignorance of the rules on criminal procedure, because on September 29, 1994, in People of
the Philippines v. Cesario Sanchez, Criminal Case No. V-0092, respondent judge had been reprimanded
by the Regional Trial Court of Villasis, Pangasinan (Branch 50) for approving the bail bond of the accused
when the latter had not yet been arrested.

On June 26, 1995, the Court referred the case to Judge Pedro C. Cacho of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 52, at Tayug, Pangasinan for investigation, report, and recommendation. On October 6, 1995,
Judge Cacho submitted his report, recommending that respondent judge be fined in the amount of
P3,000.00 and reprimanded for "neglect of duty, partiality, and/or inefficiency tantamount to grave
ignorance of the law."

Except as to the amount of the fine recommended, the Court concurs in the report of the investigating
judge.

The charges against respondent judge relate to basically two acts committed by him: (1) granting bail to
Weny Dumlao in the reduced amount of P10,000.00 and (2) dismissing the criminal complaint against
Dumlao.

I. With respect to the granting of bail to Weny Dumlao and the reduction of its amount to
P10,000.00, complainant alleges:

2. The municipal courts are now courts of records. Per order dated September 7, 1994 . . . . the
Honorable Judge reduced the amount of bail His Honor set in a previous order (Page 12, Ibid.), from
P20,000.00 to P10,000.00 acting supposedly upon the request of the father of the accused. However,
there is no such request for reduction of bail on file with the records of the case;

3. At the time the Honorable Judge acted on the "request" for reduction of bail, the accused was
not under detention as he was not arrested nor had he voluntarily surrendered as borne by the records.
Accordingly, the Court has not yet acquired jurisdiction over the person of the accused, so the
Honorable Judge cannot act on such "request" for reduction of bail even if interceded by the father of
the accused;

4. The amount at which the bail was reduced: P10,000.00 is not commensurate with the gravity of
the crime charged, an evident manifestation of the Judge's injudiciousness in the exercise of his
authority and discretion. The bail bond guide of 1981 provides for the amount P12,500.00;

Simply stated, the complaint is that respondent judge is guilty of ignorance of the law, bias, and
partiality for Dumlao as shown by the following: (a) respondent judge granted bail and later reduced its
amount when the fact was that, at that time, Dumlao was not in the custody of the court; (b) there was
no written motion presented for the reduction of bail, which is a necessity since MCTCs are courts of
record; and (c) pursuant to the 1981 Bail Bond Guide the bail for frustrated murder should be
P12,500.00.

A. It is indeed true that, in general, bail presupposes that the applicant is under arrest, detained, or
otherwise deprived of his liberty. 12 In this case, it appears that on July 16, 1994, shortly after the
incident, Weny Dumlao surrendered to the police, but the next day (July 17, 1994) he was released to
the custody of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Emiliano Matro. 13

Prosecutor Matro testified that upon DECS Supervisor Nuelito Dumlao's request, he agreed to take
custody of Dumlao for which reason Weny Dumlao was released by the police. 14 According to Matro,
this was not the first time that he took custody of one who was under investigation. 15

Apparently, therefore, when Dumlao applied for bail on September 7, 1994 to respondent judge,
Dumlao was not in custody. Nor was his release to the custody of Assistant City Prosecutor Matro in
accordance with law. Under Rule 114, §15 of the Rules of Court, the release on recognizance of any
person under detention may be ordered only by a court and only in the following cases: (a) when the
offense charged is for violation of an ordinance, a light felony, or a criminal offense, the imposable
penalty for which does not exceed 6 months imprisonment and/or P2,000 fine, under the circumstances
provided in R.A. No. 6036; (b) where a person has been in custody for a period equal to or more than
the minimum of the imposable principal penalty, without application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law
or any modifying circumstance, in which case the court, in its discretion, may allow his release on his
own recognizance; (c) where the accused has applied for probation, pending resolution of the case but
no bail was filed or the accused is incapable of filing one; and (d) in case of a youthful offender held for
physical and mental examination, trial, or appeal, if he is unable to furnish bail and under the
circumstances envisaged in P.D. No. 603, as amended (Art. 191). 16

But although then not in legal custody, Dumlao subsequently submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the
court when on September 7, 1994 he personally asked respondent judge to admit him to bail and
reduce its amount. In Paderanga v. Court of Appeals, 17 Miguel Paderanga was one of the accused in a
case for multiple murder. Before the arrest warrant could be served on him, he filed through counsel a
motion for admission to bail which the trial court set for hearing on November 5, 1992 with notice to
both public and private prosecutors. As Paderanga was then confined at a hospital, his counsel
manifested that they were submitting custody over Paderanga's person to the chapter president of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines and asked that, for purposes of the hearing on his bail application, he
be considered as being in the custody of the law. On November 5, 1992, the trial court admitted
Paderanga to bail in the amount of P200,000.00. The next day, Paderanga in spite of his weak condition,
managed to personally appear before the clerk of court of the trial court and posted bail. He was
arraigned and thereafter he attended the hearings. We held that the accused was in the constructive
custody of the law when he moved for admission to bail through his lawyers (1) by filing the application
for bail with the trial court, (2) by furnishing true information of his actual whereabouts, and (3) by
unequivocably recognizing the jurisdiction of said court.

Respondent judge thus correctly granted bail to Dumlao.

B. Respondent judge erred, however, in fixing the amount of bail at P20,000.00 and reducing it to
P10,000.00 18 and in doing so without a hearing.

Under the 1981 Bail Bond Guide (Ministry Circular No. 36, September 1, 1981), the amount of bail in
cases of frustrated murder is P12,500.00. 19 In its Circular No. 10 dated July 3, 1987, the Department of
Justice noted that the amounts fixed in the Bail Bond Guide had become "unrealistic and impractical for
the purpose of assuring the presence and/or appearance of persons facing charges in court" and
accordingly directed that the amount of bail be computed at the rate of P10,000.00 per year of
imprisonment based on the medium penalty imposable for the offense. Judged by this standard, the
P10,000.00 bail fixed in this case was inadequate. The penalty for frustrated murder prior to R.A. No.
7659 is prision mayor in its maximum period (10 years and 1 day to 12 years) to reclusion temporal in its
medium period (14 years, 8 months, and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months). So that, applying Art. 50, in
relation to Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, the medium penalty would be reclusion temporal in its
minimum period (12 years and 1 day to 14 years and 8 months). Under Circular No. 10, the amount of
the bail should have been fixed between P120,000.00 and P140,000.00. aisadc

Either respondent judge was grossly ignorant of the law or he deliberately disregarded it to favor the
accused. Considering that part of his duties as a judge is conducting preliminary investigations, it is his
duty to keep abreast of the laws, rulings, and jurisprudence regarding this matter. It is apparent that he
has not. In failing to do so he failed to live up to the injunction of the Code of Judicial Conduct to
"maintain professional competence." 20 The maxim ignorance of the law excuses no one has special
application to judges.

Further demonstrating either deliberate disregard of the law or gross ignorance of the same,
respondent judge granted bail to Weny Dumlao without notice to the prosecution, in violation of Rule
114, §18. In Chin v. Gustilo, 21 this Court ruled that notice of application for bail to the prosecution is
required even though no charge has yet been filed in court and even though under the circumstances
bail is a matter of right. The failure to observe the above requirement constitutes ignorance or
incompetence which cannot be excused by any protestation of good faith. 22

In this case, the failure to give notice to the prosecution may be due to the fact that there was no
written motion filed but only, as respondent judge himself admitted, an oral request by Dumlao and his
father that the amount of the bail be reduced. What respondent judge should have done was to have
Dumlao put his request in writing and then schedule the incident for hearing with notice to the
prosecution. Instead, he readily granted the request, which indicates rather clearly respondent judge's
partiality. This partiality was nowhere more evident than in the private conference which he had with
the Dumlaos in his chambers without the presence of the opposing party, the complainant in this case.
Time and again we have admonished judges not only to be impartial but also to appear to be so. For
appearance is an essential manifestation of reality. 23 Departing from this established norm, respondent
judge signed his September 7, 1994 order reducing the amount of bail to P10,000.00 and then told
Dumlao to inform the police about it so that he would be released. cdrep

II. With respect to the charge that respondent judge, with grave abuse of authority, dismissed the
case filed by complainant against Weny Dumlao, it is alleged that:

1. The Honorable Judge of the MCTC subpoenaed Dr. Marcelo S. Patawaran, Jr. (Page 15, Records
of the Case-Annex "A") and conducted examination upon the doctor without notice, nay presence, of
the parties of the case. . . . It is significant to note that the "searching questions" propounded upon the
doctor tended to diminish the significance and importance of the medical certificate (Page 5, Ibid.)
which may have been achieved, but the whole of the proceedings unmasked the partiality of the Court
towards the accused. Moreover, it is unbelievable that the Honorable Judge is not aware of the
plenitude in our jurisprudence of proceedings undertaken by courts and tribunals without notice and
presence of the parties that were declared null and void by the Supreme Court;

xxx xxx xxx

5. On September 12, 1994, the Honorable Judge issued a subpoena upon the accused, requiring
the accused to submit his counter-affidavits of his witnesses and his other pieces of evidence, if any.
Under the rule, and as contained in the subpoena, the accused was given ten (10) days to do so, and the
period expired on September 22, 1994 as he received copies of the subpoena and the complaint with
supporting affidavits on September 12, 1994 as shown by the records, Annex "A". Without prior motion
for extension of period, the Honorable Judge allowed the filing by the accused of his counter-affidavit
only on October 11, 1994, some 29 days late [actually only 19 days]. Moreover, the Court did not require
the accused to furnish copy of his counter-affidavit to the complainant prior to submitting the same in
Court, in violation of Section 2(c), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court;

6. In the resolution recommending the dismissal of this case . . ., the Honorable Judge cited as one
reason the existence of a counter-charge pending preliminary investigation before the Office of the
Provincial Prosecutor, Villasis, Pangasinan concerning the same incident which is the subject matter of
this case, referring to I.S. No. V-94-30, filed by accused as complainant therein. That case (I.S. No. V-94-
30) was dismissed per Resolution dated August 15, 1994, copy of which is hereto attached and marked
as Annex "B". After the dismissal of said case, the accused, as complainant, endeavored to revive the
case, but which undertaking took him a long time, hence, the delay of accused's counter-affidavit in
Criminal Case No. 2346. . . . The fact alone that accused was allowed to delay the filing of his counter-
affidavit to enable him to revive his counter-charge is an evident gross partiality of the Honorable Judge;
and
7. The Honorable Judge, without any basis, directly or impliedly, made a finding that the wound
sustained by herein complainant was self-inflicted, totally disregarding the evidence on record, as
declared positively by eye witnesses. Such actuation bespeaks of the grave abuse of discretion by the
Honorable Judge.

A. With regard to the examination of Dr. Melecio S. Patawaran, Jr. on September 1, 1994
respondent judge admits that he did not give notice to the parties of the same but claims that it was
because he was only at that time in the first stage of preliminary investigation. 24 This is inconsistent
with his later testimony in which he admitted that when he ordered a warrant of arrest to be issued
against Dumlao on August 18, 1994, the first stage of preliminary examination had already been
terminated. 25

Respondent contends that Rule 112, §3(e) did not apply to the examination of Dr. Patawaran on
September 1, 1994 because at that time Dumlao had not yet submitted his counteraffidavit. 26 This
provision states:

If the investigating officer believes that there are matters to be clarified, he may set a hearing to
propound clarificatory questions to the parties or their witnesses, during which the parties shall be
afforded an opportunity to be present but without the right to examine or cross-examine. If the parties
so desire, they may submit questions to the investigating officer which the latter may propound to the
parties or witnesses concerned.

If, as respondent judge claims, the holding of a hearing for the purpose of asking "clarificatory"
questions presupposes the filing by the parties of their affidavits but at the time he examined Dr.
Patawaran he had not yet received the counteraffidavit of Weny Dumlao, then what he should have
done was to wait until the counteraffidavit was filed and in the meantime not examine Dr. Patawaran.
What is particularly objectionable was the examination of Dr. Patawaran as a witness without the
presence of the parties.

B. Nor is there any excuse for respondent's consideration of Dumlao's counteraffidavit despite the
fact that it had been filed several days late. Dumlao received the order 27 requiring him to file his
counteraffidavit and that of his witnesses on September 12, 1994. As under Rule 112, §3(b) Dumlao had
only 10 days from receipt of the subpoena within which to comply, his counteraffidavit should have
been filed not later than September 22, 1994. However, it took him 19 more days after the
reglementary period had expired before he finally filed his counteraffidavit on October 11, 1994.
Dumlao did not ask for an extension, yet respondent judge allowed the counteraffidavit.

Respondent claims that 28

The acceptance of the Counter-Affidavit is not my duty. It is my Clerk of Court who received the
Counter-Affidavit and when I look into the records, the Counter-Affidavit was already there in the record
and I was also preparing a Resolution to that case, so I have to take cognizance of the Counter-Affidavit.
After all, there was no one month yet that lapsed so I have to take cognizance of the Counter Affidavit.
And immediately after that, I issued a Resolution.
The contention has no merit. The duty of the clerk of court was to receive the counteraffidavit. 29 It was
respondent judge's responsibility to see to it that what was received in his court had been filed on time.
Nor is it true that when respondent judge saw the counteraffidavit, it had already been attached to the
records. Clerk of Court Adoracion Marcos testified that upon receipt of the counteraffidavit, she showed
it to respondent judge. 30 Respondent judge therefore knew when the counteraffidavit was filed. At the
very least, he should have checked whether it was filed on time. That respondent judge allowed the late
filing of the counteraffidavit can only be attributed to his desire to enable Dumlao to revive his case
against complainant in the Prosecutor's Office because it was the linchpin for his defense in Criminal
Case No. 2346.

C. What has been just said applies as well to respondent judge's claim that responsibility for
furnishing complainant a copy of the counteraffidavit was not the court's responsibility but Dumlao's.
The service of the counteraffidavit on complainant should indeed be made by Dumlao and not by the
court, 31 but respondent judge should have seen to it that this duty had been complied with upon the
filing of the counteraffidavit. The "serve and file'' rule is so basic for respondent judge not to know it. It
was not fair for respondent judge to consider a pleading which the other party knew nothing about
because it had not been served on him.

D. In dismissing Criminal Case No. 2346, respondent judge said: 32

For the weighing and evaluation of evidence of both parties, the Court took the pain of issuing a
subpoena to Dr. Marcelo [actually Melecio] S. Patawaran, Jr., a resident physician of Don Amadeo Perez,
Sr. Memorial Hospital at Urdaneta, Pangasinan, who testified that the bullet did not have any exit and
there was no bullet left in the body and it becomes only an injury. That the patient was advised to be
referred to the Pangasinan Provincial Hospital for x-ray purposes, instead he went to the Sacred Heart
Hospital at Urdaneta, Pangasinan and went home after x-ray. That no x-ray result was submitted to Don
Amadeo J. Perez, Sr. Hospital or to the Court to prove that it was really a bullet wound. That he did not
notice any powder burns on the injury.

. . . [I]n the opinion of the Court, the injury is self inflicted, this case should be dismissed. . . .

Thus, based on alleged testimony of Dr. Patawaran, respondent judge cast doubt on complainant's claim
that his wound was a gunshot wound and held that the wound had been inflicted by complainant on
himself.

This is contrary to Dr. Patawaran's testimony in the preliminary investigation conducted by respondent
judge. Dr. Patawaran said in his testimony: 33

Q: Doctor, here in this medical certificate in the findings or diagnosis it says 'GSW' or gunshot
wound, was it really in your opinion a gunshot wound?

A: Yes, Judge.

Q: Why do you say it is a gunshot wound?


A: Because when I saw the wound it manifested the characteristic of a gunshot wound like the
inversion of the skin edges.

Q: You said inversion of the skin edges Doctor, did you find any bullet in the injury?

A: That is why I referred the patient to the Provincial Hospital for x-ray because when you see only
the entrance and no exit, it's a must so as to locate the bullet as it does not have any exit.

Q: Do you know if the bullet is inside the body of the person?

A: That will be determined by the x-ray, sir.

xxx xxx xxx

Q: In this medical certificate Doctor below the findings and diagnosis are the letters 'GSW' is in
writing and not typewritten as the injuries and entries indicated, will you please explain?

A: I initialed it to make it authenticated, a typographical error, sir.

Q: From the injury Doctor you can not determine also how far was the assailant?

A: Probably around more or less 3 meters, sir.

Q: Did you talk to the patient Roberto Espiritu when he was taken to your hospital Doctor?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Did Roberto Espiritu ever mention to you the name of the assailant and that he recognized him?

A: I just asked what happened and he said "pinaltogdac" I was shot, and I did not ask the name of
the assailant any more.

It would seem respondent judge simply relied on the counteraffidavit of Dumlao for his resolution,
particularly the following portion of Dumlao's counteraffidavit: 34

The medical certificate of private complainant Roberto Espiritu doesn't categorically state that the
wound is a gun shot wound and if the letters GSW in handwritten form in a ballpen appear therein is an
information coming from and supplied by said complainant, other entries are typewritten, it is not a gun
shot wound as ascertained and examined by the attending doctor; the complainant was never confined
in the hospital; there is no exit of the bullet but no finding whether said bullet is embedded and found
inside the body of the alleged victim-complainant; if the private-complainant ever sustained any wound,
it is one that is self-inflicted in a vain effort to substantiate a false charge of a serious offense of
frustrated murder making it appear as a consequence of a gunshot; the medical certificate doesn't state
the healing period of the self-inflicted wound; medical certificate is attached and marked as Annex "E"
to form part hereof.

The foregoing acts of respondent judge clearly demonstrate partiality.


WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Eduardo U. Jovellanos GUILTY of gross misconduct and imposes on
him a FINE of P20,000.00, with a WARNING that repetition of the same or similar offenses will be dealt
with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Francisco,
Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.

Footnotes

[A.M. No. MTJ-95-1053. January 2, 1997.]

SPOUSES MAKADAYA SADIK and USODAN SADIK, complainants, vs. JUDGE ABDALLAH CASAR,
respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; PERSONAL INTEGRITY AND HONESTY, INDISPENSABLE


QUALIFICATIONS FOR JUDICIAL OFFICE. — Courts exist to dispense and to promote justice. However, the
reality of justice depends, above all, on the intellectual, moral and personal quality of the men and
women who are called to serve as our judges. Indeed, to be effective in his role, a judge must be a man
of exceptional integrity and honesty. The special urgency for requiring these qualities in a judge is not
hard to understand for the judge acts directly upon the property, liberty, even life, of his countrymen.
Hence, being in a position of such grave responsibility in the administration of justice, a judge must
conduct himself in a manner befitting the dignity of such exalted office. llcd

2. ID.; ID.; UNAUTHORIZED PRIVATE PRACTICE, MISAPPROPRIATION AND SUBORDINATION OF


PERJURY WARRANTS DISMISSAL. — The records show that even after he became judge, respondent
acted as counsel for herein complainants and misappropriated the judgment award of P30,000.00 which
rightfully belongs to complainants. Moreover, respondent's line of defense revealed a significant and
deplorable flaw in his character. In hoping to redeem himself, he categorically admitted that he
deliberately, knowingly and willfully agreed to handle a case involving a fraudulent insurance claim and
in the process procured and presented false witnesses in court. Under the circumstances, this Court is
amazed at how brazen respondent has comported himself and without compunctions at leaving a
"paper trail" behind him. This Court notes that respondent had been previously fined P5,000.00 and
sternly warned for knowingly issuing an order without jurisdiction and with grave abuse of discretion.
Moreover, he has four other administrative cases docketed against him involving various charges such
as gross ignorance of the law, gross incompetence, illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions and
falsification of public documents. Respondent judge's seeming propensity to transgress the very law he
is sworn to uphold makes him unfit to discharge the functions of a judge. Judicial office demands the
best possible men and this Court will not hesitate to rid its ranks of undesirables who undermine its
efforts towards effective and efficient administration of justice, thus tainting its image in the eyes of the
public. Wherefore, Judge Abdallah M. Casar is hereby DISMISSED from the service for misconduct and
misappropriation with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and accrued leave credits and with prejudice
to re-employment in any branch, agency or instrumentality of the government including government-
owned or controlled corporations. He is further ordered to turn over to complainant Makadaya Sadik
and Linang Minalang the sum of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) which he received from the Clerk of
Court of RTC, Branch 13, Cotabato City last October 1, 1993.

DECISION

PER CURIAM p:

The case before us stemmed from a verified complaint filed by Spouses Makadaya and Usodan Sadik
charging Judge Abdallah Casar, Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Kolambugan-Tangcal, Lanao del Norte
with misconduct and misappropriation.

Judge Casar filed his answer dated February 28, 1995 averring that the complaint is merely for
harassment and intended to ruin his reputation.

In the resolution of August 14, 1995, this Court referred this case to Executive Judge Valerio M. Salazar
of the Regional Trial Court of Iligan City and Lanao del Norte, Branch 6 for investigation, report and
recommendation.

In his Report and Recommendation dated November 25, 1995, the Investigating Judge made the
following findings:

"The basic facts are not in dispute, to wit:

1. On February 14, 1985, one Lekiya Paito filed an application for life insurance with the Great
Pacific Life Assurance Corporation (Grepalife) in Cotabato City, Exh. 5. The application was approved and
Policy No. 0503033 was issued in her name for the amount of P30,000.00 with an accidental death
benefit rider. Named as beneficiaries were her daughters, Linang Minalang and Makadaya Sadik. She
paid the initial premium of P410.00.

2. On October 12, 1985, Lekiya Paito died in Pagayawan, Tamparan, Lanao del Sur.

3. The beneficiaries and/or through their representatives sought for and obtained the assistance of
respondent, who was then a trial attorney of the Bureau of Forest Development, Cotabato City, to
pursue the approval of their claim for payment of the insurance benefits with Grepalife. Respondent
made the necessary follow-ups but in due course Grepalife denied the claim on the grounds of
misrepresentation and concealment.

4. On October 10, 1986, respondent, as counsel for the beneficiaries, filed a complaint in the
Regional Trial Court, Br. 13, Cotabato City which was docketed therein as Civil Case No. 2747 entitled:
'Makadaya L. Sadik and Linang Minalang, plaintiffs versus Great Pacific Life Assurance Corporation,
defendant' for Specific Performance.

5. On November 17, 1989, the Regional Trial Court rendered a decision in favor of plaintiffs and
against the defendant ordering the latter to pay to the former the sum of P30,000.00 as 'benefit due
them under Insurance Policy No. 503033.' The court denied plaintiffs' claim for double indemnity of
P60,000.00 under the accidental death rider. At this time, respondent was already the Presiding Judge of
the 5th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Kolambugan-Maigo (now, MCTC of Kolambugan-Tangcal), having
assumed such office on September 1, 1989, Exh. 7.

6. Upon receipt of the decision, respondent as counsel for plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal to the
Court of Appeals even as defendant likewise filed an appeal. Respondent represented the plaintiffs in
the appeal. On September 22, 1992, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the decision of the lower
court. Defendant elevated the case on petition for review to the Supreme Court which dismissed the
petition.

7. After the dismissal of its petition by the Supreme Court, Grepalife filed a Manifestation dated 6
July 1993 with the Regional Trial Court, Br. 13, Cotabato City declaring its willingness to pay the
judgment award and depositing with said court RCBC check no. 62837 in the amount of P30,000.00
payable to the plaintiffs. Copy of the manifestation was furnished to 'Atty. Abdallah M. Casar, Counsel
for the Plaintiffs, Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte' (pp. 44 & 55, Records).

8. On October 1, 1992, respondent collected the check from the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial
Court, Br. 13, Cotabato City and thereafter cashed it.

9. Respondent did not deliver the said money judgment to the plaintiffs.

10. On January 26, 1995, complainants filed their administrative complaint.

Respondent admitted that he retained the sum of P30,000.00 representing the judgment award in Civil
Case No. 2747 and that he did not deliver it to the plaintiffs. He interposes the following defenses:

1. He is not guilty of any misconduct because he accepted the case long before he became a judge;

2. He did not misappropriate the money he collected from the court. It is intact but he has the
right to retain the amount of P30,000.00 until he is paid his expenses pursuant to Section 137, Rule 138
on attorney's lien;

3. The complainant, Makadaya Sadik is not the real Makadaya Sadik, plaintiff in Civil Case No. 2747
and being an impostor she is not entitled to the money.

There is no dispute that when respondent agreed to file the complaint in behalf of Makadaya Sadik and
Linang Minalang, he was not yet a member of the judiciary. He was a trial attorney of the Bureau of
Forest Development. He claimed that he was authorized to engage in practice in behalf of relatives but
presented no documentary authority. He continued to represent the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 2747
when he joined the Citizens Legal Assistance Office in a private capacity. In fact he took pains to
emphasize that he handled the case not as a CLAO lawyer (tsn, p. 39; 11-13-95) although in his notices of
change of address, he gave his new addresses as follows: 'Atty. Abdallah M. Casar, CLAO, Capitol,
Pigcarangan, Tubod, Lanao del Norte' Exh. 10 and 'CLAO, Kabacan District Office, Municipal Hall Bldg.,
Kabacan, Province of Cotabato' Exh. 11. (pp. 119-120, Records) Similarly in his Memorandum dated 24
October 1988, he signed as 'Attorney for Plaintiffs, CLAO, Kabacan, Cotabato,' Exh. B (pp. 89-96,
Records). In those instances, while he was actually prosecuting the case in his private capacity, he gave
the impression that he was handling the case for the CLAO. By his own admission, he was engaged in a
private practice while employed as trial attorney with the BFD and citizen's attorney with the CLAO. He
failed to produce proof of authority. But as he correctly states, those were acts performed before he
joined the judiciary. However, he failed to mention that even after he became a municipal judge, he
continued to act as counsel for the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 2747 on appeal to the Court of Appeals and
the Supreme Court. He assumed office on September 1, 1989. The decision of the Regional Trial Court
was rendered on November 17, 1989. He filed an appeal in behalf of the plaintiffs even as Grepalife also
appealed. He testified:

'Q. After that what happened?

A. The case' decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals and eventually appealed again to the
Supreme Court where I made several manifestations'. (tsn, p. 36; 11/13/95)

He actively handled the case on appeal. He violated Rule 5:07 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which
states that 'A judge shall not engage in the private practice of law.' He reasoned out that he was forced
to continue as counsel for the plaintiffs because he failed to get in touch with them after he received the
decision of the lower court. He even went to Davao to look for them but failed. A transparent and flimsy
justification. At that time he was stationed in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte. He knew that plaintiffs are
from Pagayawan, Tamparan, Lanao del Sur. He is himself a native of Tatayawon, Tamparan. He could
have easily went to his hometown or sent someone there to get in touch with plaintiffs. He did not have
to go to Davao which is much further from Kolambugan than Tamparan. At any rate failure to contact his
clients is not reason enough to continue as counsel for plaintiffs on appeal. The least which he should
have done was to secure permission from the Supreme Court before proceeding with the case on
appeal.

He also denies having converted and misappropriated the judgment award of P30,000.00. He claims the
amount is intact but he has the right to retain the same until he is paid for his expenses pursuant to Sec.
37, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. He declared:

'A. They failed to come and for all these, I estimated my expenses to be more than Thirty Thousand
(P30,000.00) Pesos.

Q. What is your right in getting the amount of P30,000.00?


A. Well, pursuant to Rule 138, Section 37 of the Rules of Court known as attorney's liens by virtue
of that I have the right to retain the amount until payment of my expenses was paid . . .' (sic) (tsn, pp.
38-39; 11/13/95).

This is ridiculous. The judgment award is only P30,000.00 but he spent more than P30,000.00 to recover
it. Thus despite winning the case, the client could not collect a single cent and will still have to pay his
lawyer. This may be one reason why the ordinary layman holds an unflattering perception of lawyers.

His evidence fails to prove the amount of expenses claimed by him. He said that to follow-up the claim,
he went to Manila six times spending for fare alone P3,000.00 for each trip. When the case was on
appeal to the Supreme Court, he went to Manila to follow-up thrice (tsn, p. 38; 11/13/95). Except for his
uncorroborated testimony, there are only two documents showing he was indeed in Manila. Those are
Exhs. 26 and 32 indicating that he personally served those letters to Grepalife in Manila. But there is no
evidence that he went there for this purpose alone. It is highly probable that the visit to Grepalife was
merely one of his purposes in going to Manila. On the other hand, his claim that he went to Manila three
times to follow-up the case while it was pending with the Supreme Court is unworthy of credence. He
was then already a municipal judge. He could not have openly exposed himself to the Supreme Court as
being engaged in private practice. Besides there is no reason to follow-up in person any case with the
Supreme Court. Similarly, his claims that he spent a lot of money in looking for witnesses and trying to
trace the whereabouts of his clients are self-serving, devoid of corroboration and unsupported by
document evidence. Finally, he presented the receipts for the payment of docket fees in the amount of
P580.00, Exhs. 28 and 29, which he alleges was paid by him out of his own pocket. Standing alone, those
receipts do not prove his claim. The normal practice is for the client to advance to his lawyer the amount
for the filing fees. It is the lawyer who pays the docket fees and he can easily procure the issuance of the
receipts in his own name. Complainant Makadaya Sadik declared that her husband took care of the
payment of the docket fees. Respondent did not cross-examine Usodan Sadik on this point.

In sum, respondent failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that he did indeed spent more than
P30,000.00 to prosecute the insurance claim. His various claims of expenses for travels to Manila, to find
witnesses and to look for his clients are all designed to inflate his demand for reimbursement and justify
his withholding of the judgment award from his clients. To be generous, the sum of P6,000.00
corresponding to his trips to Manila in March and May, 1986 may be allowed. Added to that may be his
claim for attorney's fees, although to be generous again, he is not really entitled to it. From the
testimonies of both Usodan Sadik and respondent, it appears that there was an agreement for the
payment of P10,000.00 if respondent succeeds in recovering the sum of P60,000.00 under the
accidental death rider. But this amount was not obtained and only the basic claim of P30,000.00 was
adjudged by the court. It is logical to assume that in such case, the amount of attorney's fees should also
be proportionally reduced to P5,000.00. Thus his total claim is not more than P11,000.00. Nonetheless,
it appears that his reliance on Section 37, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court is nothing more than an
afterthought. If indeed, he was claiming attorney's lien pursuant to said section, then he should have
known that to be entitled thereto he must comply with certain pre-conditions. Said section provides
that with respect to judgments for payment of money, like in Civil Case No. 2747, a lawyer shall have a
lien thereto 'from and after the time when he shall have caused a statement of his claim of such lien to
be entered upon the records of the court rendering such judgment . . . and shall have caused written
notice thereof to be delivered to his client and the adverse party.' From July, 1993 when he learned of
the dismissal of Grepalife's petition by the Supreme Court until now, he did not file the necessary
pleadings to enforce his alleged lien. It surfaces only when the administrative case was filed.

His last line of defense is that the complainant Makadaya Sadik is not the real Makadaya Sadik who is
the beneficiary of Lekiya Paito and plaintiff in Civil Case No. 2747. He declared:

"A. As far as I know they were recruited as witnesses.

COURT:

Q. You said 'they', are you referring to Usodan Sadik and Makadaya Sadik?

A. Yes, Your Honor, because of the failure of the beneficiaries to come to Court.

COURT:

Proceed.

Judge Casar:

Q. Do you have any evidence for that, that Makadaya Sadik or referring to these persons who are
complainants, Usodan Sadik and Makadaya Sadik were recruited to testify in this case, but these are not
the true complainants?

A. Yes.

Q. Who recruited them?

A. The claimants.' (tsn, pp. 21-22; 11/13/95).

xxx xxx xxx

COURT:

WHO FAILED TO APPEAR?

A. Makadaya Sadik and Linang Minalang despite notice. The claimants failed to appear and
procured another persons (sic) who are impostors. This Kunug Minalang and Sadik Paito took charge of
the witnesses and they presented another witnesses (sic).

COURT:

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. ANOTHER WITNESSES OR ANOTHER PERSON WAS


PRESENTED TO TESTIFY AS LINANG MINALANG AND SADIK?
A. At that time we needed more witnesses so the parties and Barogong Paito agreed to testify but
two persons who are principal witnesses failed to come.

COURT:

SO WHEN THEY FAILED TO COME, WHAT DID SADIK PAITO DO?

A. They took charge of presenting another witnesses (sic).

Q. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY 'TOOK CHARGE', YOU MEAN, THEY PRESENTED TO YOU PERSONS WHO
WERE NOT REALLY LINANG MINALANG AND MAKADAYA SADIK?

A. They told me that instead of them who could not go to court, they faked another persons ( sic ).

Q. AND THESE PERSONS WHO WERE FAKED APPEARED AND TESTIFIED AS LINANG MINALANG AND
MAKADAYA SADIK?

A. As a matter of fact, only Makadaya Sadik took the stand because Linang Minalang failed to
come.

Q. MAKADAYA SADIK TESTIFIED IN COURT?

A. In reality, Makadaya Sadik failed to appear also.

Q. BUT SOMEBODY TESTIFIED AS IF HE IS MAKADAYA SADIK?

A. Yes.

Q. I WANT THIS VERY CLEAR, HADJI SARIP PAITO PRESENTED TO YOU ANOTHER PERSON WHO
CLAIM TO BE MAKADAYA SADIK BUT HE IS REALLY NOT MAKADAYA?

A. Yes.

Q. AND THAT PERSON WHO ACTUALLY TESTIFIED CLAIMING TO BE MAKADAYA SADIK WAS THE
PERSON WHO TESTIFIED THE LAST TIME AS MAKADAYA SADIK?

A. That is what I can recall.

COURT:

PROCEED.

Judge Casar:

Q. What was the arrangement for that matter for the recruitment of other substitute witnesses?

A. Well, I told my client, I have to give them Five Thousand (P5,000.00) pesos.

COURT:
TO WHOM WILL THE P5,000.00 BE PAID?

A. To the substitute witnesses.

Q. YOU TOLD SARIP PAITO AND KUNUG MINALANG THAT THESE WITNESSES BE PAID P5,000.00?

A. Yes.

Q. DID THEY AGREE?

A. I presume so because they testified.

Q. KUNUG MINALANG AND SARIP PAITO AGREED THAT THE P5,000.00 BE PAID TO THE SUBSTITUTE
WITNESSES?

A. Seems to me that they agreed.' (tsn, pp. 34-36; 11/13/95).

By his own categorical admission, he deliberately, knowingly and willfully agreed to procure a substitute
witness, an impostor, to pose as claimant Makadaya Sadik and testify in Civil Case No. 2747. He even
proposed that such witness be paid P5,000.00. And he actually presented such witness as Makadaya
Sadik in that case and that impostor is the Makadaya Sadik who is the complainant in this case. She is,
respondent says, the step-daughter of Lekiya Paito, the daughter of Batobarani Lugpangan and another
woman (tsn, p. 17; 11/13/95). By any language, this is subornation of perjury.

To make matters worse, he declared that even before he filed the complaint in Civil Case No. 2747, he
was already informed that the insurance policy of Lekiya Paito was fraudulent. Thus:

'Q. What else happened?

A. Naga Datumanong approached me and told me about the facts of the case and that this was
done by unscrupulous persons.

COURT:

WHAT WAS DONE BY UNSCRUPULOUS PERSONS?

A. The insurance application of Lekiya Paito, in fact, at the time of the insurance, Lekiya Paito was
killed in her hometown.

COURT:

YOU MEAN LEKIYA PAITO WAS ALREADY SICK WHEN THE INSURANCE FORM WAS MADE?

A. Yes, she was sick in Pagayawan, not in Cotabato City.

Judge Casar:

So, whose work is that insurance


A. As far as I know, that is the work of Usodan Hadji Ibrahim.

COURT:

THIS USODAN HADJI IBRAHIM IS NOT THE PERSON NOW IN COURT?

A. As far as I know, he is Usodan Ibrahim.

Q. IN OTHER WORDS, THIS IS OR THE PERSON WHO APPEARED AS COMPLAINANT IS ACTUALLY


USODAN IBRAHIM?

A. As far as I know, he is not working with me.

Q. SO THAT THIS PERSON NAMED USODAN SADIK, ONE OF THE COMPLAINANTS, IS ACTUALLY
USODAN IBRAHIM?

A. Yes.

Q. AND YOU NOW CLAIM THAT USODAN IBRAHIM WAS THE ONE WHO PREPARED THE
FRAUDULENT POLICY FOR LEKIYA PAITO?

A. As far as I was told.' (tsn, pp. 30-31; 11/13/95).

Yet knowing that the insurance claim was fraudulent, he filed the complaint and compounded it by
presenting false witnesses in court. He transgressed not only the Canons of Professional Ethics but also
the Revised Penal Code. In his single-minded intent to keep the insurance proceeds for himself and
deprive complainant Makadaya Sadik of her share, respondent dug a deep hole for himself. His cure is
worse than the disease.

It is possible that the insurance taken for Lekiya Paito was indeed a scam. It is not an uncommon
occurrence in these parts to insure a person who is near death or for an insured to fake his death and
collect the proceeds. But scam or not we are convinced that the complainant Makadaya Sadik is not an
impostor. She denied that she is the step-daughter of Lekiya Paito. She insisted she is the youngest
daughter and she named all her brothers and sisters. And it was respondent who presented her in Civil
Case No. 2747 as Makadaya Sadik daughter of Lekiya Sadik and one of the beneficiaries of the latter's
insurance policy." cdasia

The Investigating Judge then recommended that a penalty ranging from a fine of twenty thousand
(P20,000.00) pesos to suspension for six (6) months be imposed depending on respondent's record.
Respondent was likewise ordered to pay to herein complainant, Makadaya Sadik, the sum of fifteen
thousand (P15,000.00) pesos less the sum of five thousand five hundred (P5,500.00) pesos equivalent to
one-half of the expenses and attorney's fees demanded by respondent.

In the resolution of March 13, 1996 this Court referred this case to the Office of the Court Administrator
for evaluation, report and recommendation.
In its memorandum of August 15, 1996, the Office of the Court Administrator made the following
findings and evaluation:

"The undersigned concurs with the finding of Executive Judge Salazar that respondent be found guilty of
the charges of misconduct and misappropriation, but differs insofar as the recommended penalty is
concerned. It is an established rule that the personal behavior of a member of the judiciary in the
performance of his official duties and in his everyday life should be beyond reproach. Respondent's act
of collecting the judgment award of P30,000.00 from the Clerk of Court of RTC, Cotabato City and his
refusal to turn over the amount to his client, complainant Makadaya Sadik and her sister, is an act of
misappropriation amounting to gross misconduct and/or dishonesty. His defense that he has the right to
retain the entire P30,000.00 as attorney's lien in unacceptable. For he has no right to retain the
judgment award allegedly to secure payment of litigation expenses and attorney's fees. He had no
authority to practice law while in government service. In continuing to handle the case of herein
complainants against Grepalife after he joined the government and without first securing proper
authority is no less constitutive of abuse of authority. Furthermore, he violated Rule 5.06 of the Code of
Judicial Conduct which prohibits a judge to engage in the private practice of law. He likewise violated the
Attorney's Oath in agreeing to file Civil Case No. 2747 for the purpose of claiming the insurance
proceeds from Grepalife despite his having been informed that the insurance policy of Lekiya Paito was
fraudulently applied for. Agreeing to handle the claim said to have arisen from a fraudulent act against
the insurer certainly speaks of a moral flaw in his character.

This Court has held that: 'A judge should always be a symbol of rectitude and propriety, comporting
himself in a manner that will raise no doubt whatsoever about his honesty . . . He should ever strive to
preserve the good name of the court on which he sits and avoid any indiscretion that will defile its
probity. The respondent has not lived up to these exacting standards. He has betrayed his oath and
debased his position. He has impaired the image of the Judiciary to which he owes the duty of loyalty
and obligation to keep it at all times above suspicion and worthy of the people's trust. No less
importantly, he has also injured the herein complainant, who has yet to receive the money entrusted to
the respondent for the satisfaction of the judgment that became final and executory more than three
years ago.' (Dr. Ernesto J. Yuson vs. Judge Federico V. Noel, AM No. RTJ-91-762, 1 October 1993).

Records show that in MTJ-92-728 filed by Mayor Perlita Libardos against herein respondent judge for
gross ignorance of the law, grave misconduct, etc. he was fined P5,000.00 and sternly warned. He has
still five (5) other administrative cases docketed against him namely: 1) MTJ-95-1048, for gross
ignorance of the law, gross incompetence, violation of Section 7, 15 and 17 of Rule 37 of the New
Comelec Rules of Procedures, etc.; 2) 95-1061 for Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunitions; 3)
OCA-IPI No. 95-59-MTJ for Gross Ignorance of the Law, Gross Incompetence; and 4) OCA IPI No. 95-59-
MTJ for Falsification of Public Documents. The first two (2) cases are pending investigation by the
Executive Judge while the two (2) others are now pending with the Court with respondent's Comment
dated 29 November 1995 and 7 December 1995 and pending evaluation by this Office, respectively.

It is clear from the facts established that respondent does not deserve to remain in the service of the
Judiciary where honesty, probity and integrity are indispensable credentials."
It then recommended:

"Respectfully submitted for the consideration of the Honorable Court is our recommendation that: a)
Judge Abdallah M. Casar, MCTC Kolambugan-Tangcal, Lanao del Norte be DISMISSED from the service
with prejudice to his appointment to any position in the government, including government-owned or
controlled corporations, and with forfeiture of all retirement benefits except his accrued leave credits;
and b) he be ORDERED to turn over to complainant Makadaya-Sadik and Linang Minalang (co-plaintiff in
Civil Case No. 2747) the sum of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) which he received from the Clerk of
Court of RTC, Branch 13, Cotabato City last 1 October 1993 within fifteen (15) days from receipt of
notice."

The Court has thoroughly studied the record of this case and has ascertained that the findings of the
investigating judge, concurred in by the Office of the Court Administrator, are adequately supported by
the evidence and are in accord with applicable legal principles. Consequently, the Court hereby adopts
the OCA's recommendation of meting out the supreme penalty of dismissal on herein respondent judge.

It must be borne in mind that courts exist to dispense and to promote justice. 1 However, the reality of
justice depends, above all, on the intellectual, moral and personal quality of the men and women who
are called to serve as our judges. 2 In a piece written by Rosenberg, this point was emphasized, thus:

"Justice is an alloy of men and mechanisms in which, as Roscoe Pound remarked, 'men count more than
machinery.' Assume the clearest rules, the most enlightened procedures, the most sophisticated court
techniques; the key factor is still the judge. In the long run, 'There is no guarantee of justice except the
personality of the judge.' The reason the judge makes or breaks the system of justice is that rules are not
self-declaring or self-applying. Even in a government of laws, men make the decisions." 3

In the recent case of Jocelyn Talens-Dabon v. Judge Hermin E. Arceo, 4 the Court emphasized the
importance of the role played by judges in the judicial system, thus:

"The integrity of the Judiciary rests not only upon the fact that it is able to administer justice but also
upon the perception and confidence of the community that the people who run the system have done
justice. At times, the strict manner by which we apply the law may, in fact, do justice but may not
necessarily create confidence among the people that justice, indeed, is served. Hence, in order to create
such confidence, the people who run the judiciary, particularly judges and justices, must not only be
proficient in both the substantive and procedural aspects of the law, but more importantly, they must
possess the highest integrity, probity, and unquestionable moral uprightness, both in their public and
private lives. Only then can the people be reassured that the wheels of justice in this country run with
fairness and equity, thus creating confidence in the judicial system."

Insistence on personal integrity and honesty as indispensable qualifications for judicial office reflect an
awareness in the legal profession of the immensity of the damage that can be done to the legal order by
judicial corruption. The rationale for this was succinctly put by Jones, thus:
"If a physician or a professor or a businessman is discovered to be a thief or an influence peddler, the
disclosure will not put medicine, higher education, or business into general disrepute. But judges are
different and more representative; revelations of judicial corruption create suspicion and loss of
confidence in legal processes generally and endanger public respect for law." 5

Indeed, to be effective in his role, a judge must be a man of exceptional integrity and honesty. The
special urgency for requiring these qualities in a judge is not hard to understand for the judge acts
directly upon the property, liberty, even life, of his countrymen. Hence, being in a position of such grave
responsibility in the administration of justice, a judge must conduct himself in a manner befitting the
dignity of such exalted office.

Respondent judge, however, not only failed in this respect but proved himself repeatedly unworthy of
his post.

The records show that even after he became judge, respondent acted as counsel for herein
complainants and misappropriated the judgment award of P30,000.00 which rightfully belongs to
complainants. Moreover, respondent's line of defense revealed a significant and deplorable flaw in his
character. In hoping to redeem himself, he categorically admitted that he deliberately, knowingly and
willfully agreed to handle a case involving a fraudulent insurance claim and in the process procured and
presented false witnesses in court. Under the circumstances, this Court is amazed at how brazen
respondent has comported himself and without compunction at leaving a "paper trail" behind him.

This Court notes that respondent had been previously fined P5,000.00 and sternly warned for knowingly
issuing an order without jurisdiction and with grave abuse of discretion. 6 Moreover, he has four other
administrative cases docketed against him involving various charges such as gross ignorance of the law,
gross incompetence, illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions and falsification of public
documents. cdtai

Respondent judge's seeming propensity to transgress the very law he is sworn to uphold makes him
unfit to discharge the functions of a judge. Judicial office demands the best possible men and this Court
will not hesitate to rid its ranks of undesirables who undermine its efforts towards effective and efficient
administration of justice, thus tainting its image in the eyes of the public.

WHEREFORE, Judge Abdallah M. Casar is hereby DISMISSED from the service for misconduct and
misappropriation with FORFEITURE of all retirement benefits and accrued leave credits and with
prejudice to re-employment in any branch, agency or instrumentality of the government, including
government-owned or controlled corporations. He is further ordered to turn over to complainant
Makadaya Sadik and Linang Minalang the sum of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) which he received
from the Clerk of Court of RTC, Branch 13, Cotabato City last October 1, 1993.

This judgment is immediately executory and the respondent judge is further ordered to cease and desist
from discharging the functions of his office upon receipt of this decision. Let a copy be entered in the
personal records of the respondent.
SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban, and Torres, JJ ., concur.

Vitug, J ., is on leave.

Footnotes

1. Edmelinda L. Fernandez v. Judge Fausto H. Imbing, Administrative Matter No. RTJ-96-1356,


August 21, 1996.

2. Jones, "The Trial Judge — Role Analysis and Profile, in the Courts, the Public and the Law
Explosion," Readings on Recruitment and Selection of Judges, 1987, p. 11.

3. Rosenberg, "The Qualities of Justice — Are They Strainable?, in Winters, Selected Readings:
Judicial Selection and Tenure," Ibid., p. 11.

4. Administrative Matter No. RTJ-96-1336, July 25, 1996.

5. Jones, supra., p. 8.

[A.M. No. RTJ-94-1195. February 26, 1997.]

Spouses ROMEO P. NAZARENO and ELISA A. NAZARENO, complainants, vs. JUDGE ENRIQUE M.
ALMARIO, respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; SHOULD NOT ONLY BE IMPARTIAL BUT SHOULD ALSO BE BELIEVED
AND PERCEIVED TO BE IMPARTIAL. —The time honored rule is that the government service, a public
official whose duty is to apply the law and dispense justice, be he a Judge of a lower court or tribunal or
a justice of the appellate courts, should not only be impartial, independent and honest but should be
believed and perceived to be impartial, independent and honest. It has to be stressed once more to all
who are sworn to render decisions in actual controversies that a decision which correctly applies the law
and jurisprudence will nevertheless be subject to questions of impropriety when rendered by a
magistrate or tribunal believed to be less than impartial and honest. It is thus the duty of members of
the bench to avoid any impression of impropriety to protect the image and integrity of the judiciary
which in recent times has been the object of criticism and controversy.

2. ID.; ID.; ASKING AND ACCEPTING FOOD CONTRIBUTIONS, MONEY WORTH P20,000.00 AND
RECEIVING CASH IN EXCHANGE FOR HIS SALARY CHECK WHICH HE FAILED TO GIVE COMPLAINANT
CONSTITUTES GROSS DISHONESTY AND MISCONDUCT. — In the present case, respondent's denial of the
charges leveled by complainants that he had asked for and accepted food contributions on at least two
(2) occasions from litigants (herein complainants) is contradicted by his own witnesses, Roldan Alcantara
and Jose R. Salvadora, Jr., who are both employees of the court. Nothing in the testimonies of these two
(2) court employees shows any motivation other than to tell the truth. On the charge of having accepted
P20,000.00 from the Nazareno spouses and receiving cash in exchange for his salary check which he
never gave to Mrs. Nazareno, the Court agrees with the conclusions of Justice Morales that complainant
Elisa Nazareno had convincingly proven having given: a) P10,000.00 to respondent judge on two (2)
occasions and b) cash for respondent's salary check. As correctly observed by Justice Morales, the
testimony of Mrs. Nazareno was undented even when subjected to an extended cross examination by
respondent judge. In sum, the Court finds the charges of gross misconduct and conduct unbecoming a
judge as having been sufficiently substantiated. Judge Enrique M. Almario deserves no less than the
penalty of dismissal from the service. However, based on the records of this case, respondent judge had
already compulsorily retired in July 1995. The proper penalty, therefore, in lieu of his removal from
office, is forfeiture of all his retirement benefits with prejudice to reemployment in the government
service, including government owned or controlled agencies or corporations.

DECISION

PER CURIAM p:

In a sworn complaint dated 28 February 1994 for gross misconduct or acts unbecoming a judge filed
against Judge Enrique M. Almario, then presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 15, Naic,
Cavite, the spouses Romeo P. Nazareno and Elisa A. Nazareno averred:

"We would like to narrate some instances where Judge Enrique M. Almario took advantage of our
situation in order to force us to accede to his demands. They are as follows:

1. Sometime in the middle of 1990, when Judge Almario was still holding his office in Trece
Martires City, he saw me (Elisa) in the office of his Court and he invited me to his chamber. After a short
conversation, Judge Almario said to me that he was near to retire (sic) and so he needed plenty of
money (Inday malapit na ako magretire, kailangan ko ng maraming pera). Mrs. Nazareno was surprised
and shocked to hear what the judge said, but could not say anything but just smiled. However, before I
(Mrs. Nazareno) left his chamber, Judge Almario said to her to help him with this, and I (Mrs. Nazareno)
assured him that she will raise some money for him.

2. Then another incident happened when the Judge saw us (Romeo & Elisa Nazareno) in the office
of his Court, again Judge Almario invited us to his chamber. His office was still in Trece Martires City Hall.
There, he told my husband (Romeo Nazareno, the estate administrator) that he will change him as
administrator of the estate because of his conviction in a criminal case filed against him by his sister
Natividad. But Romeo told Judge Almario that it had nothing to do with the case as it was the same issue
the other party raised even before the former Judge Gustilo of the same sala. Then he said that we have
to be prepared for it. Then we left.
3. In 1992 when the office of Judge Almario was transferred to Naic, Cavite, I was told that the
Judge was at Roschelle Restaurant. Thinking of the incident, I suspected that he (Judge) was waiting for
the money he was asking for. I got P10,000.00 from my husband Romeo, wrapped it in a newspaper and
I personally delivered the money to Judge Almario at Roschelle Restaurant. He (Judge) asked, me (Mrs.
Nazareno) how much was the money, I replied, 'P10,000.00 Judge'. Seeing the Judge's facial expression
(not contented), I (Mrs. Nazareno) promised again to raise some money next time and he (judge)
replied, 'O, sige'.

4. Sometime in the month of November, 1992, in Naic, Cavite, Judge Almario sent for us (sic) his
employee Joe to our place, Naic Cinema, and told us that the Judge was asking for food to be taken to
the Seaside Beach belonging to Mr. Dualan, because the one who promised him to bring food did not
arrive. At about 6:30 P.M. of that day, my husband (Romeo) and I went to the Seaside Beach with the
food the Judge had asked. We ordered the food at Roschelle Restaurant and it cost us no less than
P2,500.00. There in the beach, he introduced us to Mr. Dualan and to some of his visitors there. And
after a while, silently handed the Judge the P10,000.00 as I promised him the last time.

The following morning, a woman from Seaside Beach came to our place, Naic Cinema, and said, 'Ate
Naty, Ate Naty, [n]adala ni Judge Almario 'yong susi ng cottage, pakikuha n'yo nalang sa kanya'.
Surprised, I (Mrs. Nazareno) replied, 'Hindi ako si Ate Naty mo, siya 'yong kalaban namin sa kaso,
nandoon siya sa Dalisay Theatre'. Immediately the woman left. 'Ate Naty' refers to Natividad P.
Nazareno, the defendant in the case heard by Judge Almario which was filed by the Estate, through
Romeo P. Nazareno, as administrator.

5. During the month of December, 1992, also in Naic, Cavite, another employee of Judge Almario,
by the name of Roldan, came to our place, Naic Cinema, telling me that the Judge wanted to see me. So,
I went with Roldan. And when we reached the office of the Judge, he told Roldan to step out and closed
the door. Judge Almario again asked [for] some food, at least three (3) kinds, for the gathering of his
staff at Aroma Beach. He mentioned the time when he needed the food (lunch time). I told him (Judge)
to pick-up the food.

But before I left, the Judge asked to change his salary check because he needed cash on that day. He
asked for the amount of P7,500.00. So I went back to my place and get [sic] the amount from my
husband (Romeo) and returned to the office of Judge Almario. I gave the P7,500.00 for his check, but
Judge Almario did not hand over to me his check. I waited for the said check, but the Judge seemed to
know nothing about the check and did not bother to say something about the P7,500.00 but just
received it. I was then shy to ask from him the check in exchange of the cash I gave him, so I asked
permission to leave which he okayed.

6. One time, Judge Almario asked us to change our lawyer because according to him, our lawyer
has no 'pakikisama' to him. We did not follow his advice because we believe in our lawyer. For this
reason, Judge Almario always deny our motions and pleadings and he even dismissed Mr. Romeo
Nazareno's appeal in a criminal case on the ground that the notice of appeal was filed out of time, but
which the court of origin or municipal trial court has approved and granted by transmitting all the
records of the criminal case to his sala. The criminal case now is pending before the Hon. Supreme
Court.

In spite of our compliance of [sic] his personal demands, Judge Almario has repeatedly shown his bias
acts and partiality against us." 1

In his comment, respondent judge denied all the charges against him. 2

The spouses affirmed the truth of the averments in their complaint in a reply dated 24 May 1994. 3

On 14 June 1994, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) based on findings that the matters/issues
raised in the complaint are factual in nature recommended that the charges against Judge Almario be
assigned to an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals for a full blown investigation.

On 27 July 1994, the Court approved the OCA recommendation and designated Court of Appeals
Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to conduct an investigation and submit a report and
recommendation.

The following persons appeared before Justice Carpio-Morales:

1. Elisa Nazareno — she testified and affirmed the truth of the allegations in the complaint.

She first narrated how respondent Judge Almario, on one occasion, asked her to enter his chamber after
which he told Elisa, in the Visayan dialect, how he needed money since he was nearing his retirement
age and that she should help him ("tulungan mo ako"). She told the judge that she would see what she
could do. Elisa then recounted that she later gave Judge Almario ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) on
two (2) separate occasions. 4

She testified having given food for respondent judge on two (2) occasions; first, for a gathering of
respondent judge's family and friends at the Seaside Beach resort and another, for the Christmas party
of the judge's court staff at the Aroma Beach resort. 5

Elisa also recounted how Judge Almario asked her to encash his salary check for P7,500.00 which she did
but respondent judge did not give her the salary check and she was hesitant to ask him to give it to her.
6

Finally, Elisa testified about the incident when respondent judge talked to them about replacing her
husband (herein co-complainant Romeo Nazareno) as administrator of the property subject of a pending
case before respondent Judge. 7

2. Romeo Nazareno — he testified that they had at least four (4) pending cases before respondent
Judge Almario.

Romeo corroborated the testimony of Elisa that Judge Almario met with them to discuss his decision to
replace him as administrator. Romeo added that respondent judge made them believe that he wanted
the spouses to offer something to him. 8
Romeo also affirmed Elisa's testimony that they were forced to give a total of P20,000.00 to respondent
Judge. 9

Romeo likewise testified about the incident when they brought food to the Seaside Beach Resort upon
the request of respondent judge as well as her wife having given P7,500.00 in cash to Judge Almario for
the latter's salary check which he never delivered. 10

3. Remedios Antipuesto — she testified that she worked as a helper for complainant Mrs. Elisa
Nazareno.

She recalled a time when Mrs. Nazareno asked her to help cook some food which respondent judge was
asking for. She could not remember the exact date but she recalled that an employee of the court where
the judge was assigned, a certain "Joe", picked up the food. 11

4. Roldan Alcantara — he testified that as a utility worker assigned to the sala of respondent judge,
he sometimes encashed the salary checks of Judge Almario. aisadc

Alcantara also testified having seen the Nazareno spouses at the Seaside Beach Resort on at least one
occasion when respondent judge and his sister-in-law were there. Alcantara stated that the Nazareno
spouses brought food which they handed over to the sister-in-law ("hipag") of respondent Judge
Almario. 12

5. Jose R. Salvadora, Jr. — he stated that he worked as a legal researcher in the sala of Judge
Almario.

He recalled an occasion when respondent judge asked him to go with him to the Seaside Beach Resort.
At the resort he saw the judge's sister-in-law talking with complainant Elisa Nazareno. He stated that
Mrs. Nazareno left but returned after about half an hour with a "casserola" (cooking pot) apparently
containing what he supposed was " pansit". Mrs. Nazareno took the "casserola" to the cottage occupied
by the family of respondent judge.

Finally, Salvadora admitted having picked up some food from the food stall of Mrs. Nazareno for the
Christmas party of respondent judge's court staff at the Aroma Beach Resort. 13

6. Respondent Judge Enrique M. Almario — he denied ever receiving any money from the
Nazareno spouses. He maintained that the allegations in the complaint against him are all fabricated
and were filed because the Nazarenos had been receiving adverse rulings and orders from him in several
cases.

Judge Almario stated that he never talked to litigants without the counsel of all other parties being
present. He added that he felt that Atty. Dominguez, counsel of the Nazarenos, was trying to blackmail
him into inhibiting himself from hearing their cases. 14
Finally, Judge Almario denied ever receiving any food from the Nazarenos. He stated that the food for
the Christmas party of his staff at the Aroma Beach Resort was contributed by friends and relatives of
staff members.

7. Jacinto P. Dominguez — he testified that as counsel for the Nazarenos in cases pending before
Judge Almario, there was an occasion when he asked for a meeting with the latter inside his chambers in
the presence of opposing counsel Atty. Roman C. Cabading. The purpose of said meeting was to inform
the judge that his clients (the Nazarenos) had talked to then Justice Secretary Franklin Drilon about the
possibility of filing administrative charges against Judge Almario. Atty. Dominguez specifically referred to
charges that Judge Almario had: a) asked Mrs. Nazareno to encash a check which he did not give to the
latter; b) accepted a total of P20,000.00 from the Nazarenos; and c) requested for food for a Christmas
party. 15

8. Roman C. Cabading — he testified that as counsel for the opposing party in the cases involving
the Nazareno spouses, there was an occasion when opposing counsel Atty. Jacinto P. Dominguez asked
to see Judge Almario in his presence. Atty. Cabading testified that Atty. Dominguez showed Judge
Almario and himself a letter written by the spouses addressed to then Justice Secretary Drilon about an
alleged demand made by respondent judge for some amount of money. 16

After a close and careful study of the records of the proceedings before investigating Justice Conchita
Carpio-Morales, the Court finds sufficient evidence to find respondent Judge Enrique M. Almario liable
for gross dishonesty and misconduct. His conduct undoubtedly is unbecoming a member of the bench.

The time honored rule is that a public official whose duty is to apply the law and dispense justice, be he
a judge of a lower court or tribunal or a justice of the appellate courts, should not only be impartial,
independent and honest but should be believed and perceived to be impartial, independent and honest.

It has to be stressed once more to all who are sworn to render decisions in actual controversies that a
decision which correctly applies the law and jurisprudence will nevertheless be subject to questions of
impropriety when rendered by a magistrate or tribunal believed to be less than impartial and honest. It
is thus the duty of members of the bench to avoid any impression of impropriety to protect the image
and integrity of the judiciary which in recent times has been the object of criticism and controversy.

In the present case, respondent's denial of the charges leveled by complainants that he had asked for
and accepted food contributions on at least two (2) occasions from litigants (herein complainants) is
contradicted by his own witnesses, Roldan Alcantara and Jose R.. Salvadora, Jr., who are both employees
of the court. Nothing in the testimonies of these two (2) court employees shows any motivation other
than to tell the truth.

On the charge of having accepted P20,000.00 from the Nazareno spouses and receiving cash in
exchange for his salary check which he never gave to Mrs. Nazareno, the Court agrees with the
conclusions of Justice Morales that complainant Elisa Nazareno had convincingly proven having given: a)
P10,000.00 to respondent judge on two (2) occasions and b) cash for respondent's salary check. As
correctly observed by Justice Morales, the testimony of Mrs. Nazareno was undented even when
subjected to an extended cross examination by respondent judge. 17

In sum, the Court finds the charges of gross misconduct and conduct unbecoming a judge as having been
sufficiently substantiated. Judge Enrique M. Almario deserves no less than the penalty of dismissal from
the service.

However, based on the records of this case, respondent judge had already compulsorily retired in July
1995. The proper penalty, therefore, in lieu of his removal from office, is forfeiture of all his retirement
benefits.

WHEREFORE, respondent former Judge Enrique M. Almario is hereby found GUILTY of gross misconduct
and dishonesty, while in office. The Court hereby ORDERS the FORFEITURE of all leave and retirement
benefits to which he may be entitled WITH PREJUDICE to reemployment in the government service,
including government owned or controlled agencies or corporations.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.

Footnotes

THIRD DIVISION

[A.M. No. RTJ-97-1383. July 24, 1997.]

(Formerly Adm. Matter OCA I.P.I. No. 95-20-RTJ)

JOSE LAGATIC, complainant, vs. HON. JUDGE JOSE PEÑAS, JR. and Branch Clerk of Court CRESCENCIO V.
CORTES, JR., both of Branch 34, Regional Trial Court, Iriga City, respondents.

CRESCENCIO V. CORTES, JR., respondent-third party complainant, vs. SALVADOR C. MIRANDO, Clerk III,
Branch 34, Regional Trial Court, Iriga City, third-party respondent.

SYNOPSIS

Complainant Jose Lagatic charged respondent Judge Jose Peñas, Jr. and Cresencio V. Cortes, Jr., his Clerk
of Court, with gross negligence which caused the delay in the transmittal of the records of Civil Case No.
IR-1903 (of which complainant was the plaintiff) to the appellate court.

Respondent Judge decided the case in favor of complainant on May 30, 1991. The defendants appealed
from the decision by filing a notice of appeal on July 31, 1991. But the transmittal letter showed that the
records of the case were transmitted by respondent Cortes only on February 21, 1994, or after 7 months
and 6 days from the last order of respondent Judge handed down on July 15, 1993.

Complainant contended that it was the primary responsibility of respondent Cortes as Branch Clerk of
Court to see to it that records of appealed cases, as well as the transcript of stenographic notes, were
properly sent to the appellate court with delay.

Cortes, in his task of supervising court employees, observed that Mr. Salvador Mirando, the officer in
charge of Civil Case, was negligent in the performance of his duties, in the face of mounting complaints
from litigants and lawyers. Cortes wrote a letter-complaint to the Court Administrator through the
Executive Judge, concerning Mirando's incorrigible attitude towards his work. But before the letter
could be forwarded to the Court Administrator, Mirando admitted his shortcomings and promised to
reform. He pleaded with the Executive Judge to hold in abeyance the transmittal of the letter-complaint
to the Court Administrator. It was only then that Mirando started to prepare the court processes which
had piled up in his office.

In its Memorandum dated December 14, 1995, the Office of the Court Administrator recommended that
respondent Judge Jose Peñas, Jr. be required to submit his Comment within a non-extendible period of 5
days from notice with a stern warning that should be fail to do so he would be dealt with
administratively, and that Mr. Mirando be required to comment within ten days from notice on the
charges of Cortes.

Mirando explained that the delay in the transmittal of the records was due to the delay in the
submission by the stenographer on duty of the transcripts of the hearings. Respondent Judge never filed
his comment.

The contention of respondent Mirando is unworthy of credence. He is remiss in his duties as an


employee of the judiciary, being the subject of memoranda on two different occasions for his absences.
He could have been a respondent in a letter-complaint to be filed with the Office of the Court
Administrator had not the Executive Judge held the same in abeyance. The unexplained absences of
respondent is an act prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

As regards Judge Jose Peñas, he has not, up to this date, filed his comment within the non-extendible
period of five days from notice. It seems that he was not interested in clearing his name. His deafening
silence means a tacit admission of the charges against him. While it is the duty of the respondent Clerk
of Court to transmit to the Court of Appeals the records of the case within ten days from approval as
mandated under Section 11, Rule 14, respondent judge as his superior should see to it that his Clerk of
Court complied with such duty. There was failure of supervision, in violation of Rules 3.08 and 3.09 of
Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

SYLLABUS

1. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW; PUBLIC OFFICERS; JUDGES; DUTY BOUND TO OBEY THE ORDERS AND
PROCESSES OF THE SUPREME COURT; CASE AT BAR. — In deliberately ignoring or disregarding this
Court's resolution of 12 July 1995 requiring him to comment on the complaint, and that of 14 February
1996 giving him a non-extendible period of five days from notice within which to file his comment with a
stern warning that his failure to do so would be dealt with administratively, respondent Judge Peñas
demonstrated not merely indifference, but disobedience to, disrespect for and contempt of this Court,
the highest tribunal of the land to which he owes fealty. To restate Parane vs. Reloza (A.M. NO. MTJ-92-
718, 4 August 1994, 235 SCRA 1), we are simply "dumb-founded by [the] strange and extraordinary
attitude of respondent Judge." He entirely disregarded our injunction in Pascual vs. Runcan (A.M. NO. R-
668-P, 23 December 1992) that "(e)very officer and employee in the Judiciary is duty bound to obey the
orders and processes of the Supreme Court without the least delay." Pursuant to our ruling in Parane vs.
Reloza, the above actuations of Judge Peñas constituted "misconduct and insubordination" for which a
penalty higher than that recommended by the Office of the Court Administrator should be meted out to
him.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; CHARGED WITH DIRECT SUPERVISION OF THE COURT PERSONNEL; REQUIRES THE
OBSERVANCE OF HIGH STANDARDS OF PUBLIC SERVICE AND FIDELITY; CASE AT BAR. — As presiding
Judge of Branch 34, RTC, Iriga City, Judge Peñas had direct supervision of the personnel of his Court;
otherwise stated, his sala was under his direct internal control and management. Under Canon 8 of the
Canons of Judicial Ethics he was required to "organize his court with a view to prompt and convenient
dispatch and he should not tolerate abuses and neglect by clerks, sheriffs, and other assistants who are
sometimes prone to presume too much upon his good-natured acquiescence by reason of friendly
association with him." Rules 3.08 and 3.09 of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, respectively,
provide that a judge "should diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain professional
competence in court management, and facilitate the performance of the administrative functions of
other judges and court personnel"; and "should organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure
the prompt and efficient dispatch of business, and require at all times the observance of high standards
of public service and fidelity." A judge, therefore, cannot simply take refuge behind the inefficiency or
mismanagement of his court personnel, for the latter are not the guardians of the former's
responsibility. In the instant case, despite the report to him by Cortes of Mirando's neglect of duty and
misconduct, respondent Judge even opted to defer the filing of the appropriate administrative case
against Mirando. Judge Peñas then not only committed neglect of duty, he abetted and tolerated its
commission by a member of his staff.

DECISION

DAVIDE, JR., J p:

In a sworn complaint dated 7 April 1995, complainant Jose Lagatic charged respondent Judge Jose
Peñas, Jr., Presiding Judge of Branch 34 of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, and Crescencio V. Cortes,
Jr., Branch Clerk of the Court of said Branch 34, with gross negligence which caused the delay in the
transmittal of the records of Civil Case No. IR-1903 to the appellate court.

Complainant was the plaintiff in Civil Case No. IR-903, an action for reinstatement with preliminary
injunction and damages filed against spouses Generoso Tarala and Avelina Naron Tarala. Respondent
Judge decided the case in favor of complainant on 30 May 1991. The defendants appealed from the
decision by filing a notice of appeal on 31 July 1991. Yet, as shown by the transmittal letter complainant
secured, the records of the case were transmitted by respondent Cortes only on 21 February 1994, or
after 7 months and 6 days from the last order of respondent Judge handed down on 15 July 1993.
Complainant contended that it was the primary responsibility of respondent Cortes as Branch Clerk of
Court to see to it that records of appealed cases, as well as the transcript of stenographic notes, were
properly sent to the appellate court without delay, in accordance with the rulings in Advincula v.
Intermediate Appellate Court (147 SCRA 262) and Arcega v. Court of Appeals (166 SCRA 773); likewise, it
was the duty of respondent Judge to "keep tract [sic] and make a regular periodic physical inventory of
cases to enable him to know their status (Juan v. Arias, 72 SCRA 404)."

We required respondents to comment on the sworn complaint.

In his Comment dated 25 August 1995, respondent Cortes, now Prosecutor I, Office of the Provincial
Prosecutor of Ligao, Albay, alleged that he was Branch Clerk of Court of Branch 34, RTC of Iriga City from
17 October 1989 to 26 February 1995. In the course of the performance of his task of supervising court
employees, he observed that certain employees were remiss in the performance of their duties and duly
called their attention to this fact. Unfortunately, Mr. Salvador Mirando, Clerk III and officer-in-charge of
Civil Case, continued to while away his time. Thus, Cortes issued memoranda on two occasions
regarding Mirando's absences and reported the matter to the Presiding Judge, but when Cortes
confronted Mirando, the latter would merely promise to change his ways, which would last for only a
week. Fed up with Mirando's empty promises and in view of the mounting complaints from litigants and
lawyers, on 29 October 1993, Cortes wrote a letter-complaint to the Court of Administrator through the
Executive Judge, concerning Mirando's incorrigible attitude towards his work. However, before the
letter could be forwarded to the Court Administrator, the Executive Judge called Cortes and Mirando to
a conference. The latter admitted his shortcomings, promised to reform, and pleaded with the Executive
Judge to hold in abeyance the transmittal of the letter to the Court Administrator. The Executive Judge
was moved by Mirando's plea in light of his 17 years of service in the judiciary. It was only after this
conference that Mirando started to prepare the court processes which had piled up in his office. In
closing, Cortes prayed that he be exonerated.

In its Memorandum dated 14 December 1995, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA)
recommended that: (1) the complaint against respondent (former) Branch Clerk of Court Crescencio L.
Cortes, Jr., now Provincial Prosecutor of Ligao, Albay, be dismissed; (2) respondent Judge Jose Peñas, Jr.
be required to submit his Comment within a non-extendible period of 5 days from notice with a stern
warning that should he fail to do so he would be dealt with administratively; and (3) Mr. Salvador C.
Mirando, Clerk III, RTC, Branch 34, Iriga City be required to comment within ten days from notice on the
charges of (former) Branch Clerk of Court Cortes contained in the latter's aforementioned comment.

We adopted the above recommendations of the Office of the Court of Administrator in the resolution of
14 February 1996. In compliance therewith, Mr. Salvador Mirando, now a party respondent in this case,
filed an Answer dated March 5, 1996. Mirando admitted that he was, indeed, in charge of the civil cases
of Branch 34 of the RTC of Iriga City; but the delay in the elevation of the records of Civil Case No. IR-
1903 entitled "J. Lagatic vs. Sps. Tarala" was not entirely of his doing. Mirando explained that the seven
(7) month and six (6) day delay in the transmittal of the records was due, in part, to the delay in the
submission by the stenographer on duty of the transcripts of the hearings on October 11, 1988 and
December 21, 1988; but he could not compel the stenographer concerned under pain of administrative
sanction since he was lower in rank than the stenographer. He then asserted that the delay for the
period aforementioned was not unreasonable. cdtai

For reasons known only to him, respondent Judge never filed his comment as required in the resolution
of 14 February 1996. It must be pointed out that in the resolution of 12 July 1995 he was already given
ten days from notice within which to file his comment. Accordingly, in the resolution of 9 October 1996,
we considered him as having waived the submission of his comment and this case was deemed
submitted for decision as against him; and required Mirando to inform us if he was willing to submit this
case for decision on the basis of the pleadings already filed.

On 19 November 1996, Mirando filed a supplemental answer praying for dismissal of the case based on
a copy of the affidavit of complainant, attached thereto, wherein complainant stated therein that he did
not intend to file the instant complaint, but did so at the instance of one Eudes Cuadro who, as he later
realized, merely wanted to extract money from him, if not also to spite respondent Judge. This pleading
was followed by the filing by complainant himself on 6 December 1996 of a motion to dismiss and
withdraw this case, claiming that he was not aggrieved by the delay in the transmittal of the record of
the case. He attached to the motion a copy of the same affidavit used by Mirando. In the resolution of
20 January 1997, this Court noted without action the former and denied the latter for lack of merit.

Mirando agreed to submit this case for decision on the basis of the pleadings already filed.

In its Memorandum, the OCA found:

Upon perusal of the records of the instant case, the undersigned finds the contention of respondent Mr.
Mirando unworthy of credence. He is remiss in his duties as an employee of the judiciary, being the
subject of memoranda on two different occasions for his absences. He could have been a respondent in
a letter-complaint to be filed with the Office of the Court Administrator had not the Executive Judge
held the same in abeyance taking into consideration that herein respondent served the judiciary for
seventeen (17) years and his promise to reform.

The conduct and behaviour of everyone connected with an office charged with the dispensation of
justice from the Presiding Judge to the lowest clerk should be circumscribed with the heavy burden of
responsibility (Angeles vs. Bantug, 209 SCRA 413).

In the case of Torres vs. Tayros (235 SCRA 297) the Court held that the unexplained absences of
respondent is an act prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

In the resolution of the Court dated February 14, 1996, respondent Judge Jose Peñas was required to
submit his Comment within a NON-EXTENDIBLE period of five (5) days from notice, failure of which, he
will be dealt with administratively. Up to this date, no such comment has been filed by Judge Peñas. It
would appear to us that he had no intention to submit the same considering that inspite of the fact that
he was required to do so twice in the resolutions of the Court dated July 12, 1995 and February 14,
1996, respectively he ignored these resolution[s]. "Every officer or employee in the Judiciary is duty
bound to obey the orders and processes of the Supreme Court without the least delay." (Pascual vs.
Runcan, 216 SCRA 787). It seems that the respondent was not interested in clearing his name. His
deafening silence means a tacit admission of the charges against him. In the case at bench, it is evident
that there was delay in the transmittal of records of the appealed case to the Court of Appeals. While it
is the duty of the respondent Clerk of Court to transmit to the Court of Appeals the records of the case
within ten (10) days from approval as mandated under Section 11, Rule 14, respondent Judge as his
superior should see to it that his Clerk of Court complied with such duty. There was failure of
supervision.

The OCA thus recommended the imposition of the following penalties:

1) On Respondent Judge Peñas, a Fine of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00) for his repeated failure
to file his comment and a SEVERE REPRIMAND for his failure to supervise his former Clerk of Court to
comply with Section 11, Rule 41, Rules of Court; and

2) On third-party respondent Salvador C. Mirando, a Fine of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00) for
being negligent in the performance of his official duties with a warning that a repetition of similar acts
will be dealt with more severely.

We confirm the above findings of the OCA, but wish to add a few words.

In deliberately ignoring or disregarding our resolution of 12 July 1995 requiring him to comment on the
complaint, and that of 14 February 1996 giving him a non-extendible period of five days from notice
within which to file his comment with a stern warning that his failure to do so would be dealt with
administratively, respondent Judge Peñas demonstrated not merely indifference, but disobedience to,
disrespect for and contempt of this Court, the highest tribunal of the land to which he owes fealty. To
restate Parane v. Reloza (A.M. No. MTJ-92-718, 4 August 1994, 235 SCRA 1), we are simply "dumb-
founded by [the] strange and extraordinary attitude of respondent Judge." He entirely disregarded our
injunction in Pascual v. Runcan (A.M. No. R-668-P, 23 December 1992) that "(e)very officer and
employee in the Judiciary is duty bound to obey the orders and processes of the Supreme Court without
the least delay."

Pursuant to our ruling in Parane v. Reloza, the above actuations of Judge Peñas constituted "misconduct
and insubordination" for which a penalty higher than that recommended by the Office of the Court
Administrator should be meted out to him. A fine of P5,000.00 is thus in order.

As to the main complaint, we considered it submitted for decision as against him on the basis of the
complaint itself.

The delay in the transmittal to the appellate court of the record of Civil Case No. IR-903 lasted seven (7)
months and six (6) days. Original respondent Cortes and third-party respondent Mirando did not deny
this fact. However, Mirando was not solely responsible for the delay, with Judge Peñas having to
shoulder his part of the blame. If only he exercised due diligence in the performance of his duties, he
would have readily discovered that fact. As presiding Judge of Branch 34, RTC, Iriga City, he had direct
supervision of the personnel of his court; otherwise stated, his sala was under his direct internal control
and management. (See Manual for Clerks of Court, p. 9). Under Canon 8 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics
he was required to "organize his court with a view to prompt and convenient dispatch and he should not
tolerate abuses and neglect by clerks, sheriffs, and other assistants who are sometimes prone to
presume too much upon his good-natured acquiescence by reason of friendly association with him."
Rules 3.08 and 3.09 of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, respectively, provide that a judge
"should diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain professional competence in court
management, and facilitate the performance of the administrative functions of other judges and court
personnel;" and "should organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient
dispatch of business, and require at all times the observance of high standards of public service and
fidelity." A judge, therefore, cannot simply take refuge behind the inefficiency or mismanagement of his
court personnel, for the latter are not the guardians of the former's responsibility. (Tan v. Madayag, 231
SCRA 62 [1994] citing Nidua v. Lazaro, 174 SCRA 581 [1989]). In the instant case, despite the report to
him by Cortes of Mirando's neglect of duty and misconduct, respondent judge even opted to defer the
filing of the appropriate administrative case against Mirando. Judge Peñas then not only committed
neglect of duty, he abetted and tolerated its commission by a member of his staff. For that, the penalty
of severe reprimand recommended by the Office of the Court Administrator is much too lenient. We
impose upon him a penalty of fine in the amount of P3,000.00

As to third-party respondent Mirando, the penalty of Fine of P1,000.00 is likewise too light for his
serious neglect of duty, his infractions likewise constituting conduct prejudicial to the best interest of
the service. He is hereby fined in the amount of P3,000.00

THE FOREGOING CONSIDERED, judgment is hereby rendered:

A. Finding respondent Judge Jose Peñas, Jr., of Branch 34, Regional Trial Court, Iriga City, guilty of:
a) Misconduct and Insubordination for which he is hereby FINED in the amount of FIVE THOUSAND
PESOS (P5,000.00); and b) Gross neglect of duty, for which he is hereby FINED in the amount of Three
Thousand Pesos (P3,000.00).

B. Finding third party respondent SALVADOR C. MIRANDO, Clerk III, Branch 34, Regional Trial
Court, Iriga City, guilty of gross neglect of duty and incompetence for which he is hereby FINED in the
amount of Three Thousand Pesos (P3,000.00).

The fines shall be paid within ten (10) days from their receipt of a copy of this decision.

Let copies of this decision be attached to the personal records in the Office of the Court Administrator of
respondent Judge Jose Peñas, Jr. and Salvador C. Mirando.

SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C .J ., Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ ., concur.

C o p y r i g h t 1 9 9 4 - 1 9 9 9 C D T e c h n o l o g i e s A s i a, I n c.

A.M. No. P-96-1205 July 24, 1997

De los Reyes v. Erispe, Jr.

EN BANC

[A.M. No. P-96-1205. July 24, 1997.]

OSCAR P. DE LOS REYES, complainant, vs. ESTEBAN H. ERISPE, JR., Sheriff III, MeTC, Branch 79, Las Piñas,
Metro Manila, respondent.

SYNOPSIS

The complainant procured a judgment in an ejectment case in his favor whereby the defendants therein
were ordered to vacate the premises and to pay complainant the amount of P115,000.00 as rentals. A
writ of execution was issued, as a result of which the respondent sheriff ejected the defendants and
levied upon personal properties of the defendants. The sheriff took the appliances to the house of his
sister while the others he gave to the complainant. An alias writ of execution was issued for other
properties of the defendants and succeeded in taking additional appliances of the defendants by virtue
of a break open order. The scheduled auction sale for said properties never took place despite the
schedule sale of the same at public auction.

The respondent denied the charges as well as the procedure for the execution of the property and the
sale thereof as there was notice of auction sale. He denied that he took the seven items he levied under
the original writ of execution and claimed that they were unserviceable and he discarded them as junk.
He pawned the microwave oven to be delivered to the complainant after it was redeemed by him. He
gave the cabinet (aparador) to his assistant as a graduation present to the latter's daughter. The dining
set was given by complainant as a gift to his sheriff. The other items were abandoned by complainant.
As to the other items seized under the alias writ of execution, they were delivered to his sister's house
with the consent of the complainant.

The Office of the Court Administrator, to which the case was referred, reported that two other cases
had been filed against the respondent: one for grave misconduct, for which respondent was given an
admonition and stern warning against the repetition of the same or similar acts, and another for gross
dereliction of duty and gross exaction of money in which the Investigating Judge recommended the
dismissal of respondent.
There is no reason why respondent should levy upon property which he knew to be old and
unserviceable and not dispose of them by public auction sale. He had no discretion not to conduct a
sale. An auction sale is mandatory. Whatever is not sold or is in excess of the judgment should be
returned to the judgment debtor. It was irregular for the sheriff to appropriate the personal properties
of the judgment debtor.

Respondent was found guilty of misconduct justifying his dismissal from the service with forfeiture of all
benefits.

SYLLABUS

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; SUPREME COURT; ADMINISTRATIVE SUPERVISION OVER COURT PERSONNEL;


SHERIFF; LEVY OF OLD AND UNSERVICEABLE PROPERTY, FAILURE TO CONDUCT AUCTION SALE,
APPROPRIATION FOR HIMSELF OF PROPERTIES OF JUDGMENT DEBTOR CONSTITUTE GRAVE
MISCONDUCT. — The Court finds the complaint against respondent sheriff to be well substantiated. In
the first place, there is no reason why respondent should levy upon property, which he knew to be old
and unserviceable, and, for that reason, not dispose of them by public auction sale, when the judgment
debtor had several other properties of value which respondent could have taken. Respondent had no
discretion not to conduct a sale. When a writ is placed in the hands of a sheriff, it is his duty, in the
absence of instructions to the contrary, to proceed with reasonable alacrity and promptness, to execute
it according to all good fidelity. Respondent knew this. His present excuse is nothing but a pretext to
justify his failure to comply with his duty. Also, in complete disregard of propriety and the law,
respondent took an interest in the things he had seized from the judgment debtor by accepting, if
indeed they were given to him, some of the things he had levied upon to satisfy the judgment. In Padilla
vs. Arabia (242 SCRA 227 [1995]), the Court ruled that a sheriff is entitled to retain as his fee only 4 per
cent of the first P4,000.00 and 2 per cent of the sums in excess of that amount. Beyond that, a sheriff is
not allowed to accept more, whether in cash or in kind, even if such fees or gifts are given to him
voluntarily. To accept additional amounts than are authorized under the law would be a palpable
authorized violation of Sec. 3 (b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R A. No. 3019, as amended)
and an act plainly inimical to the best interest of the service. Thus, no amount justification can lend a
color of validity to the highly irregular execution of the decision in Civil Case No. 4033 by respondent
sheriff. Secondly, it is elementary that a judgment creditor cannot be given the property of the
judgment debtor levied upon under a writ of execution except through a public auction sale. An auction
sale is mandatory. Whatever is not sold or is in excess of the judgment should be returned to the
judgment debtor. This is clear enough from Rule 39, Sec. 15 of the 1964 Rules of Court. This is
substantially reiterated in the new Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 39, Sec. 19. It was irregular for the
sheriff to appropriate the personal properties of the judgment debtor for himself and for the judgment
creditor, and later to ask for an alias writ of execution without first knowing how much of the judgment
had been satisfied. What respondent did in this case amounted to a pillage of the possession of the
judgment debtor, when he knew or ought to have known that he was limited to the amount of the
judgment and he must comply strictly with the procedure set forth in the Rules of Court. What this
Court said in one case bears repeating here. For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds respondent guilty
of gross misconduct justifying his dismissal from the service, considering that he has already been given
a warning that a repetition of his previous misconduct in the Implementation of a writ of execution
would be punished more severely, but the warning appears to have fallen on deaf ears. WHEREFORE,
the Court finds respondent Esteban H. Erispe, Jr., Sheriff III, MeTC, Branch 97, Las Piñas, Metro Manila
GUILTY of gross misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and hereby orders
his DISMISSAL from the service with forfeiture of all leave credits and retirement benefits and
disqualification for reemployment in any government office, including government-owned and
controlled corporation.

DECISION

PER CURIAM p:

This is a complaint for grave misconduct and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A.
No. 3019) against Esteban H. Erispe, Jr., Sheriff III of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 79, of Las
Piñas, Metro Manila. Complainant is Oscar P. de los Reyes who was plaintiff in a case for ejectment (Civil
Case No. 4033) filed with the Metropolitan Trial Court, Las Piñas, Branch 79.

On October 10, 1994, judgment was rendered in his favor, ordering the defendants therein to vacate the
premises and to pay complainant the amount of P115,000.00 as rentals for the use of the subject house
and lot. On January 3, 1995, a writ of execution was issued, pursuant to which, on January 26, 1995,
respondent Esteban Erispe, Jr. ejected the defendants and levied upon the following appliances found in
the premises:

"1. One (1) unit of Sony components with five decks with two (2) speakers

"2. One (1) unit Electronic Remote colored TV, Montgomery brand old and out of order

"3. One (1) unit Refrigerator (old) with brush paint of white with Kelvinator brand, and out of order

"4. One (1) pc. Aparador made of plywood Narra type and 3 drawer

"5. One (1) unit Stand fan 3d brand out of order

"6. One (1) set Dining Table made of wood and painted maroon with 6 chairs upholstered partly
torn and old

"7. One (1) unit of Stereo Music System with Serial No. 805503 out of order, old

"8. One (1) unit BW TV Tatung brand old

"9. One (1) set partly torn sala set with tattered upholstery with center table small with top glass
and sofa old black in color with dilapidated ballcasters." 1

Sheriff Erispe allegedly took the appliances to the house of his sister and gave to complainant the Sony
component set and the Tatung television set.
On February 27, 1995, respondent prepared a motion for complainant for the issuance of an alias writ of
execution. The motion was granted and an alias writ was issued by the trial court on March 13, 1995, by
virtue of which respondent sheriff levied upon eight (8) more appliances of the judgment debtors,
namely:

"1. One (1) unit of Panasonic colored TV with Serial No. MB 131-50961;

"2. One (1) unit Super Jumbo de Luxe Washing Machine with National Brand, Model NA 650;

"3. One (1) unit Refrigerator "Kelvinator" brand 2-door colored white, with Serial Nos. 5-002761;

"4. One (1) Sala set composed of sofa and two chairs with ball casters with a blue-black color and
upholstered and a center table with top glass;

"5. One (1) unit Gold Star Micro Oven with Serial Nos. 20700174;

"6. One (1) unit La Germania gas range and with Blue tank color with Serial Nos. X-830-1863;

"7. One (1) unit Honda Scooter with Eve Pax-S Model;

"8. One (1) set Compact Disc Player Digital, Model CDP-253 with Serial Nos. S-3818994 with Four
Deck and two (2) side speakers." 2

On May 15, 1995, respondent obtained from the trial court authority to "break open" the premises, by
virtue of which he was able to take the eight (8) appliances which he scheduled for sale at public auction
on August 25, 1995, at 1 p.m., at his residence at St. Matthew Street, St. Joseph Subdivision, Pulang
Lupa, Las Piñas, Metro Manila, posting for this purpose a notice of levy and sheriff's sale. Complainant
claims, however, that no auction actually took place on the date scheduled. According to complainant:

"On August 25, 1995 at 1:00 p.m., I was at the designated place of public auction. I was then on high
spirit as all those appliances will be converted to cash and to my surprise, the sheriff was not around, no
other person was there for the auction, plain and simple, no public auction. I waited and at around 4:30
p.m., the sheriff called and requested that I wait for him. Mr. Erispe told me that he came from a
demolition job and that he has talked to some interested persons to buy the appliances. One (1) unit La
Germania Gas Range with Petron tank was bought by his mother for P1,500.00. All the other appliances
were all accounted for except one (1) unit Goldstar Microwave Oven with Serial No. 20700174 which
was pawned at Precious Gem Pawnshop III, per Receipt No. 34940 for P1,500.00 on July 25, 1995 (Annex
"C").

"On September 2, 1995, morning, I went to the house of Mr. Erispe and picked up the Sony Component
Disc 4-Deck with 2-speakers and the Panasonic colored TV. My decision to get the two (2) appliances
was to protect my own interest in view of the fact that the Microwave Oven was still at the Pawnshop.
The Westinghouse Refrigerator was not around as it was sold for P4,500.00 and payment will be made
on Friday, September 8, 1995. Before I left the place, Mr. Erispe told me to meet him at the Las Piñas,
MTC on Monday, September 4, 1995 at 9:00 A.M. to give the Goldstar Microwave Oven. He did not
come and at 11:00 A.M., I called his sister's house and was able to talk to Mr. Erispe who promised again
to meet me next day, September 5, 1995 at 2:00 P.M., Las Piñas, MTC, rain or shine. I told him that I
have to take a leave of absence and spend gasoline and time just to be in Las Piñas. Again, he did not
show up.

"On September 7, 1995, I was able to secure a photocopy of the pawnshop Receipt No. 34940 and
proceeded to Las Piñas MTC where I met Mr. Erispe at around 11:30 A.M. and even showed him the
xerox copy of the receipt to his surprise.

"On September 9, 1995 (Saturday afternoon), I hired a pick up and get the Honda Scooter and the
National Washing Machine. Mr. Erispe gave me P3,700.00 representing the proceed of the sale of the
Westinghouse Refrigerator which was negotiated at P4,500.00. Therefore, he still have a balance of
P800.00. Regarding the upholstered sala set, it was at the house of his sister (Mrs. Perico) who promised
to pay me P5,000.00 as soon as she has the money.

"I gave him one last chance to surrender the microwave oven on September 11, 1995 at 2:00 P.M. at the
Las Piñas MTC. Again, he did not show up nor even called the court. Very disappointed, I decided to
write him a letter asking him to meet me at the guardhouse of the Supreme Court. Again, he did not
show up." 3

This is complainant's first time to go to court. He states that he finds the judicial system very expensive
and justice difficult to come by from the very person who is supposed to implement the decision.

Respondent admits having pawned the microwave oven but claims that complainant agreed the oven
could be delivered to him after it was redeemed by respondent. As for the seven items levied upon
under the original writ of execution, respondent denies he took them and claims that they were
unserviceable and for this reason complainant discarded them as junk. Complainant allegedly gave the
cabinet (aparador) made of narra plywood to his assistant as a graduation present for the latter's
daughter. On the other hand, the dining set was given by complainant as a gift to the sheriff, to help the
latter for his transportation and other expenses in implementing the writ. The other items, according to
respondent, were abandoned by complainant. With respect to the appliances seized under the alias writ
of execution, respondent states that they were delivered to his (respondent's) sister's house with the
knowledge and consent of complainant, to insure their safety and avoid payment of storage fees.

Respondent denies that he disregarded the procedure for the execution of the property and the sale
thereof as there was notice of the auction sale of August 25, 1995.

The case was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation, report and
recommendation. The OCA reported that two other cases had been filed against respondent, namely
A.M. No. P-94-1044, entitled "Españo vs. Erispe" for Grave Misconduct also arising from the
implementation of a writ of execution, for which respondent, in the resolution of October 27, 1994, was
given an admonition and a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts would be dealt
with more severely, and A.M. No. P-96-11911 entitled "Contreras vs. Erispe" for gross dereliction of duty
and gross exaction of money, which is pending consideration by the Court, in which Executive Judge
Florentino M. Alumbres has recommended the dismissal of respondent. The OCA recommends that
Sheriff Erispe be suspended for six (6) months for serious misconduct, without prejudice to the outcome
of A.M. No. P-96-1191.

The Court finds the complaint against respondent sheriff to be well substantiated. In the first place,
there is no reason why respondent should levy upon property, which he knew to be old and
unserviceable, and, for that reason, not dispose of them by public auction sale, when the judgment
debtor had several other properties of value which respondent could have taken. Respondent had no
discretion not to conduct a sale. When a writ is placed in the hands of a sheriff, it is his duty, in the
absence of instructions to the contrary, to proceed with reasonable alacrity and promptness, to execute
it according to all good fidelity. 4 Respondent knew this. His present excuse is nothing but a pretext to
justify his failure to comply with his duty.

Also, in complete disregard of propriety and the law, respondent took an interest in the things he had
seized from the judgment debtor by accepting, if indeed they were given to him, some of the things he
had levied upon to satisfy the judgment. In Padilla vs. Arabia (supra), the Court ruled that a sheriff is
entitled to retain as his fee only 4 per cent of the first P4,000.00 and 2 per cent of the sums in excess of
that amount. Beyond that, a sheriff is not allowed to accept more, whether in cash or in kind, even if
such fees or gifts are given to him voluntarily. To accept additional amounts than are authorized under
the law would be palpable violation of sec. 3(b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A. No.
3019, as amended) 5 and an act plainly inimical to the best interest of the service. 6 Thus, no amount of
justification can lend a color of validity to the highly irregular execution of the decision in Civil Case No.
4033 by respondent sheriff.

Secondly, it is elementary that a judgment creditor cannot be given the property of the judgment debtor
levied upon under a writ of execution except through a public auction sale. An auction sale is
mandatory. Whatever is not sold or is in excess of the judgment should be returned to the judgment
debtor. This is clear enough from Rule 39, sec. 15 of the 1964 Rules of Court, which provides:

"Sec. 5 Execution of money judgments. — The officer must enforce an execution of a money judgment
by levying on all the property, real and personal of every name and nature whatsoever, and which may
be disposed of for value, of the judgment debtor not exempt from execution, or on a sufficient amount
of such property, if there be sufficient, and selling the same, and paying to the judgment creditor, or his
attorney, so much of the proceeds as will satisfy the judgment. Any excess in the proceeds over the
judgment and accruing costs must be delivered to the judgment debtor, unless otherwise directed by
the judgment or order of the court. When there is more property of the judgment debtor than is
sufficient to satisfy the judgment and accruing costs, within the view of the officer, he must levy only on
such part of the property as is amply sufficient to satisfy the judgment and costs."

This is substantially reiterated in the new Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 39, sec. 19 of which provides:

"Sec. 19. How property sold on execution; who may direct manner and order of sale. — All sales
of property under execution must be made at public auction, to the highest bidder, to start at the exact
time fixed in the notice. After sufficient property has been sold to satisfy the execution, no more shall be
sold and any excess property or proceeds of the sale shall be promptly delivered to the judgment obligor
or his authorized representative, unless otherwise directed by the judgment or order of the court. When
the sale is of real property, consisting of several known lots, they must be sold separately; or, when a
portion of such real property is claimed by a third person, he may require it to be sold separately. When
the sale is of personal property capable of manual delivery, it must be sold within view of those
attending the same and in such parcels as are likely to bring the highest price. The judgment obligor, if
present at the sale, may direct the order in which property, real or personal, shall be sold, when such
property consists of several known lots or parcels which can be sold to advantage separately. Neither
the officer conducting the execution sale, nor his deputies, can become a purchaser, nor be interested
directly or indirectly in any purchase at such sale."

It was irregular for the sheriff to appropriate the personal properties of the judgment debtor for himself
and for the judgment creditor, and later to ask for an alias writ of execution without first knowing how
much of the judgment had been satisfied. What respondent did in this case amounted to a pillage of the
possessions of the judgment debtor, when he knew or ought to have known that he was limited to the
amount of the judgment and he must comply strictly with the procedure set forth in the Rules of Court.
What this Court said in one case bears repeating here:

"It is indisputable that the most difficult phase of any proceeding is the execution of judgment. Hence,
the officers charged with the delicate task of the enforcement and/or implementation of the same must,
in the absence of a restraining order, act with considerable dispatch so as not to unduly delay the
administration of justice; otherwise, the decisions, orders or other processes of the courts of justice and
the like would be futile. Stated differently, the judgment if not executed would be just an empty victory
on the part of the prevailing party." 7

For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds respondent guilty of gross misconduct justifying his dismissal
from the service, considering that he has already been given a warning that a repetition of his previous
misconduct in the implementation of a writ of execution would be punished more severely, but the
warning appears to have fallen on deaf ears. cda

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Esteban H. Erispe, Jr., Sheriff III, MeTC, Branch 79, Las Piñas,
Metro Manila GUILTY of gross misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and
hereby orders his DISMISSAL from the service with forfeiture of all leave credits and retirement benefits
and disqualification for reemployment in any government office, including government owned and
controlled corporations.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco and Panganiban, JJ ., concur.

Hermosisima, Jr. and Torres, Jr., JJ., are o


SECOND DIVISION

[A.M. No. MTJ-96-1104. January 14, 1997.]

FRANCISCO BOLALIN, complainant, vs. JUDGE SALVADOR M. OCCIANO, respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; GROSS INEFFICIENCY AND NEGLECT OF DUTY; DELAY IN DECIDING
ELECTION PROTEST AND UNAUTHORIZED ABSENCES. — Respondent judge, by his own admission in his
comment, is guilty of delay in deciding Election Protest No. 1 for, up to the present, it would appear that
he is still in the process of preparing the final draft of his decision although eight months have already
elapsed. A petition or protest contesting the election of a barangay officer should be decided by the
municipal or metropolitan trial court within fifteen days from the filing thereof. (Sec. 252 of B.P. 881
[Omnibus Election Code]) Anent the charge of absenteeism, respondent judge vehemently disputes the
allegation on his absence for five consecutive months with the concomitant inaction on cases filed and
submitted in his court for decision. He insists that his absence for several days for the period from
August to December, 1995 were duly reflected in his certificates of service submitted and on file with
the Leave Section of this Court. These representations were made by him under oath. His aforestated
submissions only aggravate the charges against him for, again, we advert to the findings in the
memorandum of the Office of Court Administrator that a verification with the Leave Section of this
Court reveals that Judge Occiano never did file any application for leave of absence for the periods
mentioned and, worse, he had stated in his Certificates of Service for December 1995 that all
applications, petitions, motions, resolutions and all civil and criminal cases under submission for decision
or determination for a period of ninety (90) days have been determined and decided on or before
November 30, 1995 when the truth is Election Protest No. 1 has not been decided by him. His being
absent without any application for leave constitutes frequent unauthorized absences and his filing of a
false certificate of service is tantamount to gross dishonesty which falls within the category of less
serious and serious charges, respectively, under Sec. 3, Rule 140, Rules of Court. On top of his gross
inefficiency, we are gravely disturbed by his submission of false certificates of service which seriously
undermines and reflects on the honesty and integrity expected of an officer of the court. We have ruled
in Maceda vs. Vasquez, that a judge who submits a false certificate of service is administratively liable
for serious misconduct under Section 1, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court and he is further criminally liable
to the State under the Revised Penal Code. Respondent Judge has committed infractions, both
administrative and criminal, of such a grave nature as to call for sanctions of commensurate degrees. He
has disregarded and ignored our repeated injunctions that judges should endeavor to conduct
themselves strictly in accordance with the mandate of the law and the Code of Judicial Ethics that may
be exemplars in their community and the living personifications of Justice and the Rule of Law. He has
even ignored constitutional mandates. Wherefore, we find and declare Judge Salvador M. Occiano guilty
of undue delay in deciding Election Protest No. 1, absenteeism in office, and falsification of certificates
of service. He is hereby meted, in this instance, an administrative penalty of SUSPENSION from office for
six (6) months without pay, without prejudice to the contingency contemplated in the following
paragraph.

2. ID.; ID.; SHOULD BE FAITHFUL TO THE LAW AND MAINTAIN PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE. — A
judge should always be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence and should
administer justice impartially and without delay. He should be faithful to the law and maintain
professional competence, dispose of the court's business promptly, and decide cases within the
required periods.

DECISION

REGALADO, J p:

In a sworn letter complaint 1 date January 15, 1996, complainant Francisco Bolalin, who was a candidate
for the office of Barangay Captain during the 1994 Barangay Elections, charged respondent Judge
Salvador M. Occiano of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Balatan, Camarines Sur, with gross
inefficiency and neglect of duty for his failure to render his decision in Election Protest No. 1 within the
prescribed period. Complainant alleges that the last and final hearing of the election protest was on
February 27, 1995 but, until now, it does not appear that a decision has been rendered by respondent.

He further claims that respondent judge was absent from his court for five consecutive months already
and many cases have been pending for decision, including that of the Chief of Police of Balatan which
remained unacted upon since August 29, 1995. Additionally, he reports that respondent judge
solemnizes marriages without being present at the ceremony. He allegedly just directs the contracting
parties and witnesses to sign the marriage contract in his absence and, thereafter, the documents are
brought to his residence at Nabua, Camarines Sur for his signature.

In compliance with the resolution 2 of this Court dated March 20, 1996, respondent judge filed his
comment on May 29, 1996, wherein he questions the veracity of the allegations of complainant.
Specifically, he denies that Election Protest No. 1 was submitted for decision on February 27, 1995 which
was allegedly the last hearing conducted in the case, the truth being that the last pleading captioned
"Protestee's Objection to Formal Offer of Exhibits" 3 was submitted on September 5, 1995. He
vehemently denies being partial to the protestee who is not a relative, friend or even an acquaintance of
his, and he claims that such allegation is speculative and a product of complainant's fertile imagination.

Furthermore, he also denies having been absent for five consecutive months which resulted in his
nonfeasance on the cases submitted for decision in his court. He claims that aside from presiding over
the MTC of Balatan, he is also holding office in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Nabua-Bato,
Camarines Sur which is some twenty-seven kilometers away from Balatan; that, to date, he is trying ten
criminal and civil cases originally assigned to Judge Mirardo R. Armea 4 but who had inhibited himself
therefrom; that he was also designated by the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Iriga
City to try fifteen criminal cases for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 filed before the MCTC of Nabua-Bato, but
from which he later recused himself by reason of personal affinity with the private complainant; that he
was on vacation leave of absence during the period from August to December, 1995 for several days,
except in November, 1995 when Typhoon "Rosing" hit the Bicol region, especially Nabua where he
resides, resulting in overflooding and impassable road conditions. Said leaves of absence are allegedly
indicated in his certificates of service for August to December, 1995 submitted to the Leave Section of
the Supreme Court.

Respondent likewise contends that he had actually acted on the criminal complaint filed by the Chief of
Police of Balatan. that the last hearing therein for reception of the evidence for the prosecution was on
April 19, 1996, and that the defense was scheduled to present its witnesses on May 17, 24 and 31, 1996.

Finally, he gainsays the reports that he had solemnized marriages without being present at the
ceremony or that the contracting parties and their witnesses merely signed the marriage contracts
which were then brought to his residence for signature. He theorizes that since complainant is not an
employee of the court or of any government agency, he could not have been able to obtain information
of those facts, assuming the truth thereof.

As a counterpoise, he alleges that, on two occasions, complainant had asked him inside his chambers to
decide the election protest in his favor. He avers that the case is being carefully studied by him on
account of the numerous documentary exhibits and, as of the date of his comment, he was already
finalizing the draft of his decision which he himself types without the aid of his stenographer as has been
his practice ever since he was appointed as a judge.

After a careful examination of the records of the case, and a thorough evaluation of the respective
contentions of the parties, we find merit in the administrative complaint. cda

Respondent judge by his own admission in his comment is guilty of delay in deciding Election Protest No.
1 for, up to the present, it would appear that he is still in the process of preparing the final draft of his
decision although eight months have already elapsed.

A petition or protest contesting the election of a barangay officer should be decided by the municipal or
metropolitan trial court within fifteen days from the filing thereof. 5 The period provided by law must he
observed faithfully because an election case, unlike ordinary actions, involves public interest. Time is of
the essence in its disposition since the uncertainty as to who is the real choice of the people for the
position must soonest be dispelled. It is neither fair nor just that one whose right to the office is in doubt
should remain in hat office for an uncertain period. It must be noted that the term of office of barangay
officials is only three years, hence the need for the resolution of the controversy in the shortest possible
time.

As observed in the memorandum of the Office of the Court Administrator submitted on October 24,
1996 which merits our approval —

"The excuse given by respondent Judge that he is also the Acting Judge of MCTC, Nabua-Bato and that
he types his own decision cannot be given credence for he ought to know that an election protest case
should be given preferential attention and, moreover, he should keep a list of cases already due for
decision, to keep him guided. His inaction for 8 months considering that the law requires only 15 days to
decide the case cannot be ignored and shows his incompetency."

A judge should always be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence and should
administer justice impartially and without delay. 6 He should be faithful to the law and maintain
professional competence, dispose of the court's business promptly, and decide cases within the
required periods. 7

As we held in Española vs. Panay, 8 if the caseload of the judge prevents the disposition of cases within
the reglementary periods, he should ask this Court for a reasonable extension of time to dispose of the
cases involved. This is to avoid or dispel any suspicion that something sinister or corrupt is going on.
However, the records of this administrative matter do not show that any attempt was made by
respondent judge to make such a request. Instead, he preferred to keep the case pending and shrouded
by his silence.

Anent the charge of absenteeism, respondent judge vehemently disputes the allegation on his absence
for five consecutive months with the concomitant inaction on cases filed and submitted in his court for
decision. He reasons out that whenever he was not in the MTC of Balatan, Camarines Sur, he was
holding office in the MCTC of Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur by designation of the Executive Judge 9 of the
RTC of Iriga City. He insists that his absence for several days for the period from August to December,
1995 were duly reflected in his certificates of service submitted and on file with the Leave Section of this
Court. 10 These representations, it will be noted, were made by him under oath.

His aforestated submissions only aggravate the charges against him for, again, we advert to the findings
in the memorandum of the Office of Court Administrator, to wit:

"(We) find merit (in) the charge of absenteeism. Judge Occiano maintains that he was on leave of
absence from August to December 1995 for several days and the same is reflected in his Certificates of
Service covering said period. A verification with the Leave Section of this Court, however, reveals that
Judge Occiano for the periods mentioned never did file any application for leave of absence and, worse,
he had stated in his Certificates of Service for December 1995 that all applications, petitions, motions,
resolutions and all civil and criminal cases under submission for decision or determination for a period of
ninety (90) days have been determined and decided on or before November 30, 1995 when the truth is
Election Protest No. 1 has not been decided by him. His being absent without any application for leave
constitutes frequent unauthorized absences and his filing of a false certificate of service is tantamount
to gross dishonesty which falls within the category of less serious and serious charges respectively under
Sec. 3. Rule 140 Rules of Court."

Thus, because of his unauthorized absences, not only the constitutional and statutory requirements that
cases be decided within the period fixed therefor were flagrantly violated. In the process, he also
contravened Section 16, Article III of the Constitution which provides that "(a)ll persons shall have the
right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies."
Delay in the disposition of cases erodes the faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary, lowers its
standards, and brings it into disrepute. 11 We cannot countenance such undue delay by a judge,
especially now when there is an all-out effort to minimize, if not totally eradicate, the problems posed
by congested dockets which have long plagued the courts.

On top of his gross inefficiency, we are gravely disturbed by his submission of false certificates of service
which seriously undermines and reflects on the honesty and integrity expected of an officer of the court.
We have ruled in Maceda vs. Vasquez 12 that a judge who submits a false certificate of service is
administratively liable for serious misconduct under Section I, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court and he is
further criminally liable to the State under the Revised Penal Code. 13 A certificate of service is not
merely a means to one's paycheck but is an instrument by which the Court can fulfill the constitutional
mandate of the people's right to a speedy disposition of cases. 14

As to the charge of solemnizing marriage without his actual presence, complainant failed to mention any
names or the particulars thereof, nor did he adduce any evidence, such as sworn affidavits of the
contracting parties or the marriage contract itself, which would prove that indeed the respondent judge
committed such malfeasance. We are, therefore, constrained to dismiss this particular charge for lack of
substantiation.

Respondent judge has committed infractions, both administrative and criminal, of such a grave nature
as to call for sanctions of commensurate degrees. He has disregarded and ignored our repeated
injunctions that judges should endeavor to conduct themselves strictly in accordance with the mandate
of the law and the Code of Judicial Ethics that they be exemplars in their community and the living
personifications of Justice and the Rule of Law. 15 He has even ignored constitutional mandates.

WHEREFORE, we find and declare Judge Salvador M. Occiano guilty of undue delay in deciding Election
Protest No. 1, absenteeism in office, and falsification of certificates of service. He is hereby meted, in
this instance, an administrative penalty of SUSPENSION from office for six (6) months without pay,
without prejudice to the contingency contemplated in the following paragraph. cda

The Office of the Court Administrator shall conduct an evaluation of the criminal aspects of the
falsification of certificates of service by respondent judge, as well as his false statements to this Court in
his comment made under oath, and based on the findings thereon, to take appropriate steps leading to
the criminal prosecution thereof. A report of the action taken shall forthwith be submitted to this Court,
with the corresponding recommendation.

Let a copy of this decision be attached to the personal records of respondent judge.

SO ORDERED.

Romero, Puno, Mendoza and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.

[A.M. No. RTJ-97-1391. October 16, 1997.]


(Formerly OCA IPI No. 96-247-RTJ)

ATTY. ROMULO A. RIVERA, complainant, vs. JUDGE EFREN A. LAMORENA, RTC, Santiago City, Branch 36,
respondent.

SYNOPSIS

Complainant is the counsel of the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 2178 entitled "NCH Philippines, Inc. vs.
Spouses Ernesto Lagua and Elvire Acosta-Lagua" which was submitted for decision before respondent
judge in December, 1995. For failure of respondent to act on two Motions for Early Resolution,
complainant filed the instant complaint. Respondent judge, in his Comment, pleaded for this Court's
compassion regarding his failure to resolve the case as required by law, and claimed that the delay in
disposing the said case was due to the pressure of work coupled with poor and unbearable working
conditions as his office was actually a stock room which did not provide ample space for eleven
employees and several steel cabinets filled with old dusty records of the Multi-Sala Court.

The Supreme Court held that the delay in resolving motions and incidents pending before a judge within
the reglementary period of ninety (90) days fixed by the Constitution and the law is not excusable and
constitutes gross inefficiency. In the instant case, however, the Court extended its compassionate arm
and found the reasons for the delay justified. It however admonished respondent Judge with a warning
that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely.

SYLLABUS

1. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGE; 90-DAY REGLEMENTARY PERIOD FOR DECIDING A CASE, ENJOINED. —
A judge should not pay mere lip service to the 90-day reglementary period for deciding a case. Strict
implementation of the 90-day rule is enjoined by this Court. However, this Court is not unaware of
certain circumstances beyond the judge's control that could possibly justify the delay in his disposition
of the cases assigned to him.

2. ID.; ID.; JUDGE ADMONISHED FOR FAILURE TO DECIDE CASE WITHIN 90-DAY REGLEMENTARY
PERIOD DUE TO PRESSURE OF WORK COUPLED WITH POOR AND UNBEARABLE WORKING CONDITIONS;
CASE AT BAR. — In a letter-complaint, dated September 20, 1996, filed by Atty. Rivera against
respondent judge, he prays that the latter be ordered to render a decision in a case for judicial
foreclosure of mortgage and/or to impose the appropriate penalty or failure to comply with the
mandate requiring judges to resolve cases submitted before them within the reglementary 90-day
period. On March 26, 1997, respondent judge, in his Comment, pleaded for this Court's compassion
regarding his failure to resolve Civil Case No. 2178 as required by law. By way of explanation, he claimed
that the delay in disposing the said case was due to the pressure of work coupled with poor and
unbearable working conditions as his office was actually a stock room which did not provide ample
space for eleven employees and several steel cabinets filled with old dusty records of the Multi-Sala
Court. A careful review of the records of this case discloses that although apparently, there exists valid
ground for some delay in deciding the cases submitted before respondent judge, the circumstances
pointed out by him can only serve to mitigate but not to exonerate him from any administrative liability.
This Court has consistently impressed upon judges to decide cases promptly and expeditiously in the
principle that justice delayed is justice denied. Decision-making, among others, is the primordial and
most important duty of a member of the judiciary. The delay in resolving motions and incidents pending
before a judge within reglementary period of ninety (90) days fixed by the Constitution and the law is
not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency. In the instant case, however, this Court extends its
compassionate arm and finds the reason for the delay justified. ACCORDINGLY, for his failure to decide a
case within the 90-day period, We hereby RESOLVE: that Judge Efren A. Lamorena be ADMONISHED
with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more
severely.

RESOLUTION

HERMOSISIMA, JR., J p:

A judge should not pay mere lip service to the 90-day reglementary period for deciding a ease. Strict
implementation of the 90-day rule is enjoined by this Court. However, this Court is not unaware of
certain circumstances beyond the judge's control that could possibly justify the delay in his disposition
of the cases assigned to him.

In a letter-complaint, 1 dated September 20, 1996, filed by Atty. Rivera against respondent judge, he
prays that the latter be ordered to render a decision in a case for judicial foreclosure of mortgage and/or
to impose the appropriate penalty for failure to comply with the mandate requiring judges to resolve
cases submitted before them within the reglementary 90-day period.

Complainant is the counsel of the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 2178 2 entitled "NCH Philippines, Inc. vs.
Spouses Ernesto Lagua and Elvira Acosta-Lagua," which case was already submitted for decision before
respondent judge in December 1995.

On March 19, 1996, complainant filed a Motion for Early Resolution 3 of the above-mentioned civil case.
For failure to obtain any positive results, complainant filed a Second Motion for Early Resolution, 4
dated June 17, 1996. On account of respondent judge's inaction on the said motions and his continuous
inability to resolve the subject foreclosure case before his sala in violation of the 90-day period provided
by law, complainant was prompted to address the matter to us through a letter-complaint. aisadc

In our Resolution, 5 dated January 27, 1997, we required respondent judge to submit his Comment on
complainant's letter.

On March 26, 1997, respondent judge, in his Comment, 6 pleaded for this Court's compassion regarding
his failure to resolve Civil Case No. 2178 as required by law. By way of explanation, he claimed that the
delay in disposing the said case was due to the pressure of work coupled with poor and unbearable
working conditions as his office was actually a stock room which did not provide ample space for eleven
employees and several steel cabinets filled with old dusty records of the Multi-Sala Court.
A careful review of the records of this case discloses that although apparently, there exists valid grounds
for some delay in deciding the cases submitted before respondent judge, the circumstances pointed out
by him can only serve to mitigate but not to exonerate him from any administrative liability.

This Court has consistently impressed upon judges to decide cases promptly and expeditiously in the
principle that justice delayed is justice denied. 7 Decision-making, among others, is the primordial and
most important duty of a member of the judiciary. 8 The delay in resolving motions and incidents
pending before a judge within the reglementary period of ninety (90) days fixed by the Constitution and
the law is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency. 9 In the instant case, however, this Court
extends its compassionate arm and finds the reasons for the delay justified.

ACCORDINGLY, for his failure to decide a case within the 90-day period, We hereby RESOLVE that Judge
Efren A. Lamorena be ADMONISHED with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the
future will be dealt with more severely. cdrep

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Bellosillo, Vitug and Kapunan, JJ ., concur.

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 120074. June 10, 1997.]

LEAH P. ADORIO, petitioner, vs. HON. LUCAS P. BERSAMIN, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch
96, Quezon City, respondent, PHILIP SEE, intervenor.

King & Adorio Law Offices for petitioner.

Ongkiko, Kalaw, Manhit, Acorda, Panga & Velasco Law Offices for intervenor.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; REQUESTS BY A PARTY FOR THE ISSUANCE OF


SUBPOENAS DO NOT REQUIRE NOTICE TO THE OTHER PARTIES TO THE ACTION. — Contrary to
petitioner's allegations, there was nothing "irregular" in the issuance of the subpoenas duces tecum.
Requests by a party for the issuance of subpoenas do not require notice to other parties to the action.
No violation of due process results by such lack of notice since the other parties would have ample
opportunity to examine the witnesses and documents subpoenaed once they are presented in court.

2. ID.; ID.; TRIAL; ORDER OF TRIAL; DEFENSE NOT PRECLUDE FROM PROCURING SUBPOENAS
DUCES TECUM DURING THE TIME OF THE PROSECUTION'S PRESENTATION OF WITNESSES. — Rule 119,
Section 3 of the Rules of Court which prescribes the order of trial in criminal cases does not preclude the
defense from procuring subpoenas duces tecum during the time of the prosecution's presentation of
evidence. In this case, counsel for the accused felt that he needed the documents subject of the
subpoenas for his cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses. Accordingly, respondent judge called
a recess to enable said counsel to secure said documents from the bank officials. The order of trial was
not in any way altered; counsel for the accused did not even attempt to call any of the bank officials to
the stand. Under these circumstances, the resulting delay cannot be considered unreasonable nor
"IRREGULAR". CEDHTa

3. LEGAL ETHICS; CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY; PETITIONER'S STATEMENT TENDS TO


BRING THE AUTHORITY AND ADMINISTRATION OF LAW INTO DISRESPECT AND CONSTITUTES A
VIOLATION THEREOF; CASE AT BAR. — Petitioner's allegation that the proceedings before the trial court
were "irregular" therefore lacks basis. Such statement, when read with petitioner's remark that the so-
called irregularities "show the accused's control over the court and court procedure," is nothing short of
contemptuous. The latter statement is particularly alarming for it implies that court proceedings are a
mere farce, and the court a mere stooge, a marionette subject to the manipulation of the opposing
party. It suggests that the judge was moved by consideration other than his sense of justice and fair play
thereby calling into question the integrity and independence of the court. Such statement tends to bring
the authority and administration of law into disrespect and constitutes a violation of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, specifically: CANON 11 — A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect
due to the courts and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others. . . . Rule 11.03 —
A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the courts.
Rule 11.04 — A lawyer shall not attribute to a judge motives not supported by the record or having no
materiality to the case. Consequently, we rule that respondent Judge did not commit grave abuse of
discretion in declaring petitioner guilty of direct contempt. ESTCHa

4. ID.; ID.; CONTEMPT; PENALTY IMPOSED IS TOO SEVERE; CASE AT BAR. — We find the penalty
imposed by respondent Judge upon petitioner too severe. Punishment in contempt cases are meted on
a corrective principle to vindicate the authority and dignity of the courts and the administration of
justice. Accordingly, we reduce the same to a fine of P200.00.

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; RULE THAT IN CRIMINAL PROCEDURE THE JUDGMENT OF THE APPELLATE COURT
SHALL AFFECT EVEN THOSE ACCUSED WHO DID NOT APPEAL INSOFAR AS SAID JUDGMENT IS
FAVORABLE AND APPLICABLE TO THEM; BY ANALOGY, SAID RULE SHOULD APPLY IN CONTEMPT CASES;
CASE AT BAR — While petitioner's client, Philip G. See, did not question the contempt order against him
— his motion for intervention and the accompanying motion for issuance of clarificatory order merely
questioned the scope of the temporary restraining order issued by this Court — the reduction of the
penalty in favor of his former counsel should likewise benefit him. Under the rules of criminal
procedure, the judgment of the appellate court shall affect even those accused who did not appeal
insofar as said judgment is favorable and applicable to them. By analogy, this rule should apply in
contempt cases. Contempt partakes of the nature of a criminal offense, and the mode of procedure in
contempt proceedings is assimilated as far as practicable to those adapted to criminal prosecutions.
IcDHaT

DECISION
KAPUNAN, J p:

This is a special civil action for certiorari which seeks to set aside the Order of Judge Lucas P. Bersamin 1
dated May 5, 1995 insofar as it holds petitioner in direct contempt and sentences her therefor. The
dispositive portion of said order reads:

WHEREFORE, the Motion For Inhibition And For Re-raffle Of Cases is hereby granted.

The complainant Philip See y Go and his former private prosecutor, Atty. Leah P. Adorio, of the King &
Adorio Law Offices, with address at No. 40 Landargun Street, Quezon City, are hereby found guilty of
direct contempt of this Court for disrespect to the Court and its Presiding Judge and are accordingly
sentenced to suffer imprisonment of two (2) days in the City Jail of Quezon City and to pay a fine of
P200.00 each.

For the purpose of the execution of their sentence, complainant Philip See y Go and Atty. Leah P. Adorio
are hereby directed to appear in person before the Court on May 23, 1995 at 10:00 o'clock in the
morning.

Pending execution of the sentence, the transmittal of the records to the Honorable Executive Judge,
through the Office of the Clerk of Court, for purposes of re-raffle shall be held in abeyance.

SO ORDERED. 2

Petitioner was counsel for Philip G. See, the private complainant in Criminal Case Nos. Q-94-55933 to Q-
94-55957 involving violations of B.P. Blg. 22 pending before the sala of respondent Judge. 3

Pre-trial in these cases was concluded on January 16, 1995. Upon agreement of the parties, trial on the
merits was set on March 8, 15 and 22, all at 8:30 a.m. 4

Unknown to petitioner, counsel for the accused filed several requests addressed to the Branch Clerk of
Court for the issuance of subpoenas duces tecum requiring officials of several banks to bring before the
court on March 8, 1995 at 8:30 a.m., microfilm copies of various checks. The subpoenas duces tecum
were issued on February 6, 7 and 14, 1995. 5

On March 8, 1995, which petitioner supposed to be the date of the presentation of the prosecution's
evidence, petitioner came to court and was surprised by the presence of the bank officials therein. 6
During the hearing, respondent Judge called for a recess to enable counsel for the accused to confer
with the bank officers. 7 When the case was again called, the following arguments took place:

Atty. Adorio:

Before we call our witness, your honor, may I now make of record that I was surprised with the
move this morning of all the bank officers, I was not informed about any request for subpoena to the
bank officers today. No copy of such request was given to the Private Prosecutor. And I also notice, your
honor, that the subpoena or rather no copy issued by this court was ever given to the private
prosecutor. Atty. Rivera knows, he had already entered his appearance and he knows my address, why
did he not furnish me a copy of his request for subpoena, your honor, considering that I have the right
to examine his request, the materiality of his request. I would like also to make of record, your honor,
why they keep it as a secret, as a rule, the opposing party must be a party to whatever paper the other
party may file, it seems that Atty. Rivera is hiding something from us. Whatever he wants to ask the
Court, I am entitled to know.

Atty. Rivera:

I don't think there is a reason or there is a need to be furnished with my request for subpoena,
that is the reason why she was not furnished, your honor. Besides, my request for subpoena this
morning is not a litigated motion. I made this request for advance in order that, when the defense turn
to present evidence, it won't be delayed because of non-availability of these exhibits.

Atty. Adorio:

This is our day of presenting evidence, your honor. This is only my observation, your honor and
may I request Atty. Rivera to give us all copies he submits to the Court.

Atty. Rivera:

May I request for particular rule for that. . . .

Atty. Adorio:

Your honor, copies must be given to the opposing counsel, there is a ruling on that your honor. .
..

Atty. Rivera:

This is not a litigated motion your honor.

Court:

What is the problem of Atty. Adorio?

Atty. Adorio:

My only observation, your honor. And may I request Atty. Rivera to give us all copies he submits
to the Court.

Atty. Rivera:

May I request for that particular rule for furnishing request for subpoena to the other counsel,
your honor. . . .

Court:
What is this rule, will you cite the rule so that we can examine your protest you are insinuating
to the Court that there was something here, we don't even know the request for subpoena. If anyone of
my staff is . . . towards the other side, you call me I can discipline them. . . .

Atty. Adorio:

There was an instance, your honor, when this case was called by the Clerk for arraignment, the
Clerk would say that the accused would be coming. And one time, your honor, the Court already issued
an Order of arrest, and it was already past 10:00 o'clock in the morning when the accused arrived. . . . 8

Petitioner was apparently referring to an incident that allegedly occurred on July 13, 1994, the date set
for the accused's arraignment. According to petitioner, the accused failed to appear in court on said
date even after the third call at around 11:00 a.m. Consequently, the Court ordered the issuance of a
warrant of arrest and the confiscation/cancellation of the accused's bail bond. The clerk in charge of the
record then went to the door separating the courtroom and the staff's office and whispered to someone
in the office. After two minutes, the same clerk again rose from her seat, went back to the door, and
announced to the Court that the accused would be late. Respondent Judge replied that the Court will
wait for the accused. 9

However, on March 8, 1995, Philip See allegedly examined the record but found that the incidents which
purportedly transpired during the arraignment were not reflected therein. 10

The above revelations by Atty. Adorio prompted the following response from respondent Judge:

Court:

Will you call everybody, all the staff inside . . . and you point to me who is that . . .? If you want
me to be disqualified in these cases, you make it in writing. You file your motion to inhibit, I will
disqualify myself because I don't want to hear such accusations. Any participation of my staff which I am
now parading before you . . . I don't like that kind of accusation.

Atty. Rivera:

I will join the court.

Court:

Order

As prayed for, the private prosecutor is hereby directed to file a Request for inhibition in writing stating
the grounds.

Pending consideration of the Request for Inhibition, hearing is hereby suspended.

So ordered. 11
Pursuant to said order, petitioner filed a "Motion for Inhibition and for Re-Raffle of Cases" in behalf of
her client, alleging that:

The filing of the request for issuance of subpoena duces tecum and the issuance of the subpoena
without notice on the private prosecutor were irregular for the following reasons:

[a] The pre-trial of the case had been terminated and the evidence for the prosecution was
scheduled to be heard on March 8, 1995. Thus, it was plaintiff's turn to present evidence. Whatever
request defendant wanted to make with the court which would affect the right of the plaintiff to
present evidence on the date scheduled would therefore be of notice to private prosecutor so that no
surprises would result and so that plaintiff could also prepare questions for these bank officers involved
and make use of their presence.

[b] The act of the Court in issuing the subpoena for the bank officers to testify on March 8, 1995
upon request of the defendant when it was not yet his turn to present evidence is disruptive of orderly
court procedure and shows bias on the part of the court. It shows the control of the accused over the
court and court procedure.

[c] This control was also manifest on July 13, 199[4], when accused was scheduled for arraignment,
when the latter failed to appear before the court despite the third call at about 11:00 a.m. The Court
then issued an Order for the issuance of a warrant of arrest and the confiscation/cancellation of the bail
bond. After this Order was given orally in open court, the clerk who took charge of the records went to
the door between the sala and the office and whispered something to someone in the office. After
about two minutes, the same clerk again rose from her seat and went back to the door and thereafter,
she announced to the Court that the accused would be late and the accused would be arriving. The
Court then said that it will wait, if Alvin Tan is coming. It is puzzling how the clerk knew that Alvin Tan
would be coming when he was not even present in court. However, none of these facts appeared in the
Order or in the Constancia. 12

Petitioner prayed that (1) the judge inhibit himself from hearing the criminal cases; (2) said cases be re-
raffled to another court; and (3) the hearing of said cases be suspended pending the resolution of the
Motion for Inhibition. 13

The trial court granted said motion in an Order dated May 5, 1995. In the same order, declared
petitioner and her client, in direct contempt. He explained thus:

The imputation that the Court has come under the control of the accused on account of the issuance of
the subpoena duces tecum upon his request but without notice to the complainant or the public
prosecutor is most unfair and disrespectful to the Court and is a highly irresponsible accusation on the
part of the private complainant and the private prosecutor (who had meanwhile withdrawn from the
case). The issuance of a subpoena at a party's instance is not subject to prior or simultaneous notice to
the adverse party of the request therefor, for, such notice is not required by the Rules of Court. The
grounds for disqualification are unworthy of any consideration. The questioning by the private
prosecutor of the issuance of the subpoena is unfounded and due to a misplaced sense of procedural
requirements.

xxx xxx xxx

As far as the text and language of the motion are concerned, the Court considers them to be
irresponsible and disrespectful especially the accusation that the Court had come under the control of
the accused and had committed an irregularity of procedure. These statements amount to an
unmitigatedly disrespectful attitude towards the Court and its Presiding Judge. They also display the
dangerous tendencies of a party and counsel who probably think of themselves as beyond reproach.
There is therefore no recourse but to find both the complainant and his former private prosecutor guilty
of direct contempt. 14

On May 22, 1995, petitioner filed this special civil action for certiorari with a prayer for a temporary
restraining order. This Court, in a Resolution dated June 5, 1995, issued a temporary restraining order
enjoining respondent Judge from enforcing the impugned order. cdasia

A perusal of the trial court's order reveals that what respondent judge found particularly contemptuous
were petitioner's statements in her motion alleging that (1) the issuance of the subpoenas duces tecum
was irregular; and (2) the court and court procedure were subject to the "control" of the accused.

Whether or not these statements constitute direct contempt is the issue which confronts this Court.

We rule in the affirmative.

Contrary to petitioner's allegations, there was nothing "irregular" in the issuance of the subpoenas
duces tecum. Requests by a party for the issuance of subpoenas do not require notice to other parties to
the action. No violation of due process results by such lack of notice since the other parties would have
ample opportunity to examine the witnesses and documents subpoenaed once they are presented in
court. 15

Petitioner however argues that:

On March 8, 1995, the prosecution was scheduled to present its first witness, the private complainant,
Philip See, after a very long pre-trial period which started sometime in September 1994. The regular [as
against the 'irregular'] procedure would have been for the prosecution to proceed with the presentation
of evidence pursuant to Rule 119, Section 3 of the Rules of Court. The prosecution was not, however,
able to move along, due to the presence of numerous bank officials from various banks who appeared
pursuant to the subpoenas issued to them by the court.

Moreover, the person who requested for the subpoena was the counsel for the accused. The regular or
usual procedure would have been for the subpoena to be issued during the pre-trial stage or during the
time that the defense is presenting its evidence and not during the time of presentation of evidence by
the prosecution as what happened in this case.
We do not find any merit in petitioner's contentions. Rule 119, Section 3 of the Rules of Court which
prescribes the order of trial in criminal cases does not preclude the defense from procuring subpoenas
duces tecum during the time of the prosecution's presentation of evidence. In this case, counsel for the
accused felt that he needed the documents subject of the subpoenas for his cross-examination of the
prosecution witnesses. Accordingly, respondent judge called a recess to enable said counsel to secure
said documents from the bank officials. The order of trial was not in any way altered; counsel for the
accused did not even attempt to call any of the bank officials to the stand. Under these circumstances,
the resulting delay cannot be considered unreasonable nor "irregular."

Nor do we find anything "irregular" in the accused's arraignment. As counsel for the accused points out:

. . . the fact that the Presiding Judge issued a warrant of arrest and ordered the cancellation of the
accused's bond shows that he gives no special favor to the accused. And it is of common knowledge that
orders like that are easily reconsidered/lifted even for excuses like traffic, ill health or failure to
remember the hearing. The fact that the Presiding Judge opted to wait for the accused upon information
that the latter is coming only shows that he was very aware of the common practice. Waiting saved so
much of the court's and parties' time as it did away with the usual motion for reconsideration and the
necessity for a resetting.

. . . Court personnels [sic], practitioners and even judges know, of course that it is not uncommon for
litigants, especially those coming for trial late, to call the court's office by phone. It is likewise not
uncommon for litigants who follows-up [sic] matters in the office (like bailbonds, [sic] release of rulings,
etc.) to get acquainted with — or even become friends of — court clerks, secretaries, typists,
stenographers or sheriffs, in the office.

. . . Besides, if the plaintiff found it necessary to have those matters stated in the Order or placed on
record, there were two (2) lawyers (the private and the public prosecutors) who could have stood up
and made the proper manifestations or requests. But that incident happened way back 13 July 1994 and
it is only now, in their motion of 15 March 1995, that they mention the same in their vain attempt to
create an issue on the impartiality and fairness of the Presiding Judge. . . . 16

Petitioner's allegation that the proceedings before the trial court were "irregular" therefore lacks basis.
Such statement, when read with petitioner's remark that the so-called irregularities "show the accused's
control over the court and court procedure," is nothing short of contemptuous.

The latter statement is particularly alarming for it implies that court proceedings are a mere farce, and
the court a mere stooge, a marionette subject to the manipulation of the opposing party. It suggests
that the judge was moved by considerations other than his sense of justice and fair play thereby calling
into question the integrity and independence of the court. Such statement tends to bring the authority
and administration of law into disrespect and constitutes a violation of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, specifically:

CANON 11 — A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers
and should insist on similar conduct by others.
xxx xxx xxx

Rule 11.03 — A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior
before the courts.

Rule 11.04 — A lawyer shall not attribute to a judge motives not supported by the record or having no
materiality to the case.

Consequently, we rule that respondent Judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in declaring
petitioner guilty of direct contempt.

However, we find the penalty imposed by respondent Judge upon petitioner too severe. Punishment in
contempt cases are meted on a corrective principle to vindicate the authority and dignity of the courts
and the administration of justice. 17 Accordingly, we reduce the same to a fine of P200.00.

While petitioner's client, Philip G. See, did not question the contempt order against him — his motion
for intervention and the accompanying motion for issuance of clarificatory order merely questioned the
scope of the temporary restraining order issued by this Court — the reduction of the penalty in favor of
his former counsel should likewise benefit him. Under the rules of criminal procedure, the judgment of
the appellate court shall affect even those accused who did not appeal insofar as said judgment is
favorable and applicable to them. 18 By analogy, this rule should apply in contempt cases. Contempt
partakes of the nature of a criminal offense, 19 and the mode of procedure in contempt proceedings is
assimilated as far as practicable to those adapted to criminal prosecutions. 20

WHEREFORE, the Order dated May 5, 1995 issued by respondent Judge is MODIFIED in that the penalty
of imprisonment for Two (2) Days and a fine of Two Hundred Pesos (P200.00) imposed on petitioner
Leah Adorio and intervenor Philip See is REDUCED to a fine of Two Hundred Pesos (P200.00) only. The
Temporary Restraining Order is LIFTED and Criminal Case Nos. Q-94-55933 to Q-94-55957 is ordered re-
raffled to another branch of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Vitug and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Padilla, J ., is on leave.

Footnotes

EN BANC

[A.M. No. 4349. December 22, 1997.]

LOURDES R. BUSINOS, complainant, vs. ATTY. FRANCISCO RICAFORT, respondent.

Rodolfo R. Paulino for complainant.


SYNOPSIS

Complainant charged respondent with having committed the crime of estafa for having misappropriated
the sum of P32,000.00. Of this amount, P30,000.00 was entrusted to respondent for deposit in the bank
account of respondent bank account of complainant's husband, while P2,000.00 represented the
amount demanded from complainant supposedly for a bond in a civil case when no such bond is
required. The Bar Confidant recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a
period of one (1 ) year. The Supreme Court disregarded the recommendation of the Bar Confidant.
According to the Court, respondent's transgressions manifested dishonesty and amounted to gross
misconduct and grossly unethical which caused dishonor, not merely to respondent, but to the noble
profession to which he belongs. Respondent forgot that by swearing the lawyer's oath, became a
guardian of truth and the rule of law and an indispensable instrument in the fair and impartial
administration of justice. The Court resolved to impose the extreme penalty disbarment.

Respondent is disbarred from the practice of law.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; RESPECT OF LITIGANTS FOR THE PROFESSION IS INEXORABLY DIMINISHED


WHENEVER A MEMBER OF THE BAR BETRAYS THEIR TRUST AND CONFIDENCE. — Respondent's
transgressions manifested dishonesty and amounted to grave misconduct and grossly unethical.
behavior which caused dishonor, not merely to respondent, but to the noble profession to which he
belongs, for it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably diminished
whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence. This Court has been nothing short of
exacting in its demand for integrity and good moral character from members of the Bar. In Marcelo vs.
Javier (A.C. No. 3248,18 September 1992, 214 SCRA 1, 12-13), reiterated in Fernandez vs. Grecia, (A.C.
No. 3694,17 June 1993, 223 SCRA 425,434), this Court declared: A lawyer shall at all times uphold the
integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The trust and confidence necessarily reposed by clients
require in the attorney a high standard and appreciation of his duty to his clients, his profession, the
courts and the public. The bar should maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as well as of honesty
and fair dealing. Generally speaking, a lawyer can do honor to the legal profession by faithfully
performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. To this end, nothing should
be done by any member of the legal fraternity which might tend to lessen in any degree the confidence
of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the profession. Here respondent chose to forget
that by swearing the lawyer's oath. he became a guardian of truth and the rule of law, and an
indispensable instrument in the fair and impartial administration of justice - a vital function of
democracy a failure of which is disastrous to society.

2. ID.; ID,; ANY DEPARTURE FROM THE PATH WHICH A LAWYER MUST FOLLOW AS DEMANDED BY
THE VIRTUES OF HIS PROFESSION SHALL NOT BE TOLERATED BY THE COURT AS THE DISCIPLINING
AUTHORITY; DISBARMENT OF RESPONDENT ATTORNEY IS WARRANTED IN CASE AT BAR. — Any
departure from the path which a lawyer must follow as demanded by the virtues of his profession shall
not be tolerated by this Court as the disciplining authority. This is specially so, as here. where
respondent even deliberately defied the lawful orders of the Court for him to file his comment on the
complaint, thereby transgressing Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires a
lawyer to observe and maintain the respect due the courts. WHEREFORE, for dishonesty, grave
misconduct, grossly unethical behavior in palpable disregard of Section 25 of Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Rules 16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, aggravated by a violation of Canon 11 thereof, and consistent with the urgent need to
maintain the esteemed traditions and high standards of the legal profession and to preserve
undiminished public faith in the members of the Philippine Bar, the Court Resolves to DISBAR
respondent ATTY. FRANCISCO RICAFORT from the practice of law.

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM p:

In a sworn complaint for disbarment dated 31 October 1994 but received by us on 21 November 1994,
complainant Lourdes R. Businos charged respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort, a practicing lawyer in Oas,
Albay, with having committed the crime of estafa under Article 315 (1) (b) of the Revised Penal Code by
misappropriating the sum of P32,000.00. Of this amount, P30,000.00 was entrusted to respondent for
deposit in the bank account of complainant's husband, while P2,000.00 represented the amount
respondent demanded from complainant supposedly for a bond in Civil Case No. 5814, when no such
bond was required. prLL

In the resolution of 18 January 1995, we required respondent to comment on the complaint. Despite his
receipt of a copy of the resolution, respondent did not comply, compelling us in the resolution of 17 July
1995 to require him to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for
such failure.

Again respondent failed to comply. Hence in the resolution of 25 September 1996, we ordered him once
more to file his comment within ten (10) days from notice, and within the same period, to pay a fine of
P1,000.00 or suffer imprisonment of ten (10) days should he fail to so pay. In a Compliance and Motion
dated 24 October 1996, respondent transmitted the fine of P1,000.00 by way of postal money order, but
asked for five (5) days from date to file his comment. As respondent still failed to so file, we then
declared, in the resolution of 2 December 1996, that respondent was deemed to have waived his right
to file his comment, and referred the complaint to the Office of the Bar Confidant for reception of
complainant's evidence and submission of a report and recommendation thereon.

On 16 October 1997, the Bar Confidant, Atty. Erlinda C. Verzosa, submitted her Report and
Recommendation, material portions of which read as follows:

Respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort stands charged with having misappropriated the sum of P30,000.00
intended for his clients as well as having deceived his clients into giving him the sum of P2,000.00
purportedly to be deposited as a bond in the case he was handling.
Complainant Lourdes R. Businos is one of the heirs of Pedro Rodrigo who are the defendants in Civil
Case No. 1584, apparently a case involving the properties of the late Pedro Rodrigo, father of herein
complainant. Respondent was the counsel of record for the defendants in the said case. On July 10,
1994, complainant, representing her co-heirs, executed a special power of attorney, appointing and
constituting respondent and/or Pedro Rodrigo, Jr. to be her true and lawful attorney-in-fact with the
following powers:

"1. To attend to and represent me, testify, or otherwise enter into compromise during the pre-trial
stage or other proceedings in civil case No. 1584, entitled "Heirs of Rosano Rodrigo-Reantaso, vs. Heirs
of Pedro Rodrigo Sr., et al." now pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 12, Ligao, Albay;

"2. To demand, collect and receipt for any and all sums of money that may now be deposited in said
court by the defendant Oas Standard High School or hereafter be deposited by said defendant, due and
owing to me or said Heirs of Pedro Rodrigo, Sr., representing the rentals of said defendant for the lease
of the property involved in said case; and

"3. To sign, authenticate, issue, and deliver any and all deeds, instruments, papers and other
records necessary and pertinent to the above stated transactions."

On August 10, 1994, the Regional Trial Court of Ligao, Albay, Br. 12 issued an order, directing the Clerk of
Court "to release any and all deposits of rentals made in connection with this case (Civil Case No. 1584)
to the defendants Heirs of Pedro Rodrigo through Lourdes Rodrigo Businos who were receiving the
rentals from Oas Standard High School prior to the institution of this case."

In a letter dated August 10, 1994, the Clerk of Court of RTC, Ligao informed herein complainant that
respondent had already received the rental deposit of P25,000.00 on even date (see Annex "C" to the
complaint). Respondent also received from Oas Standard High School on August 17, 1994 the sum of
P5,000.00 as payment for rental of school site for the month of July 1994 (See Annex "D" to the
complaint). The said sum was entrusted to respondent with an obligation on his part to deposit the
same in the account of complainant's husband at PNB, Ligao Branch. Instead, however, of depositing the
money, respondent convened the money to his own personal use, and despite several demands, he
failed to return the same to complainant. She was thus constrained to file a criminal case for estafa and
an administrative case for disbarment against him. Thus, on November 21, 1994, complainant filed the
instant administrative case against respondent.

Complainant further accuses respondent for demanding and receiving P2,000.00 from her which he said
will be used for the bond in Civil Case No. 1584, but said amount was never used as intended since no
bond was required in the said case. Thus, respondent merely pocketed the said amount.

xxx xxx xxx

Complainant, upon questioning by the undersigned, testified that: She authorized respondent to
withdraw the money amounting to P35,000.00 representing the rental fee paid by Oas Standard High
School from the Clerk of Court, with the instruction to deposit the same in her savings account at the
PNB. After she was informed by the court that respondent had already withdrawn the money, she
expected in vain to receive the money a week later in Tarlac as respondent failed to effect the deposit of
the said sum in her account. She demanded from him to give her the money, but he informed her that
he had already spent the same. He promised, though, to pay her the said amount. (pp. 7-8, TSN,
Reception of Evidence, April 18, 1997). She clarified that respondent withdrew only the sum of
P30,000.00 from the Clerk of Court, while the P5,000.00 was withdrawn by respondent from Oas
Standard High School (TSN, p. 8). Despite several demands, both from her and her lawyer, respondent
failed to make good his promise to give her the money he withdrew from the Clerk of Court and Oas
Standard High School (TSN, pp. 11-13). She was then constrained to file a criminal case for estafa and an
administrative case against respondent sometime in November of 1994 to recover the money in
question (TSN, pp. 14-16). On their third hearing of the estafa case sometime in 1995, respondent came
with the money and paid complainant inside the courtroom (TSN, pp. 15, 19-20). Because of this
development, she did not anymore pursue the estafa case against respondent (TSN, p. 17). She has no
intention, however, of withdrawing the instant complaint (TSN, p. 18).

She further testified that respondent demanded from her the sum of P2,000.00 for the bond required in
the civil case. (TSN, p. 18). Respondent did not give her a receipt for the said amount. (TSN, p. 19).
Respondent gave back the P2,000.00 to complainant. He paid complainant a total of P60,000.00
representing the money he withdrew from the Clerk of Court and Oas Standard High School, the
P2,000.00 he got from complainant and attorney's fees, which he undertook to foot as a way of
settlement. (TSN, p. 19).

Although complainant failed to submit the original or certified true copies of the documents in support
of her complaint against respondent, respondent's repeated failure to comply with several resolutions
of the Court requiring him to comment on the complaint lends credence to the allegations of the
complainant. It manifests his tacit admission thereto. We have no other alternative, therefore, but to
accept the said documents at their [sic] face value. dctai

There is no doubt that respondent is guilty of having used the money of his clients without their
consent. As the evidentiary value of the documents should be given more weight than the oral
testimony of complainant, we place the amount illegally used by respondent at P30,000.00 and not
P35,000.00 as claimed by complainant. Respondent's illegal use of his client's money is made more
manifest [by] his letters to complainant, all promising the latter to make good his promise to pay the
money he withdrew from the Clerk of Court and Oas Standard High School (See Annex "E" to the
complaint).

It bears emphasis that a lawyer, under his oath, pledges himself not to delay any man for money or
malice and is bound to conduct himself with all good fidelity to his clients. He is obligated to report
promptly the money of his clients that has come into his possession. He should not commingle it with
his private property or use it for his personal purposes without his client's [sic] consent. He should
maintain a reputation for honesty and fidelity to private trust (Daroy vs. Legaspi, 65 SCRA 304).
Money collected by a lawyer in pursuance of a judgment in favor of his clients is held in trust and must
be immediately turned over to them (Aya vs. Bigornia, 57 Phil. 8).

Respondent, by converting the money of his clients to his own personal use without their consent, and
by deceiving the complainant into giving him the amount of P2,000.00 purportedly to be used as a bond
which was not required, is, undoubtedly, guilty of deceit, malpractice and gross misconduct. By so doing,
he betrays the confidence reposed in him by his clients. Not only has he degraded himself but as an
unfaithful lawyer he has besmirched the fair name of an honorable profession.

His belated payment of the amount he illegally used and fraudulently obtained do not relieve him from
any liability if only to impress upon him that the relation between an attorney and his client is highly
fiduciary in its nature and of a very delicate, exacting and confidential character, requiring high degree
of fidelity and good faith. In view of that special relationship, lawyers are bound to promptly account for
money or property received by them on behalf of their clients and failure to do so constitutes
professional misconduct (Daroy vs. Legaspi, supra).

Moreover, his repeated failure to comply with the resolutions of the Court, requiring him to comment
on the complaint indicate the high degree of irresponsibility of respondent.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully recommended that respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort be


SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of ONE (1) YEAR.

While the findings are in order, the penalty recommended is not commensurate to respondent's
infractions.

Plainly, respondent breached Section 25 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and
Rules 16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which read:

SEC. 25. Unlawful retention of client's funds; contempt. — When an attorney unjustly retains in his
hands money of his client after it has been demanded he may be punished for contempt as an officer of
the Court who has misbehaved in his official transactions; but proceedings under this section shall not
be a bar to a criminal prosecution.

CANON 1. — A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND
PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.

Rule 1.01. — A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

CANON 16 — A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY
COME INTO HIS POSSESSION

Rule 16.01. — A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the
client.

Rule 16.02. — A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his own and those of
others kept by him.
Rule 16.03. — A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand.
However, he shall have a lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof as may be necessary to
satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to his client. He shall also
have a lien to the same extent on all judgments and executions he has secured for his client as provided
for in the Rules of Court.

Respondent's transgressions manifested dishonesty and amounted to grave misconduct and grossly
unethical behavior which caused dishonor, not merely to respondent, but to the noble profession to
which he belongs, for it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably
diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence.

This Court has been nothing short of exacting in its demand for integrity and good moral character from
members of the Bar. In Marcelo vs. Javier (AC. No. 3248, 18 September 1992, 214 SCRA 1, 12-13),
reiterated in Fernandez v. Grecia, (AC No. 3694, 17 June 1993, 223 SCRA 425, 434), this Court declared:

A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The trust and
confidence necessarily reposed by clients require in the attorney a high standard and appreciation of his
duty to his clients, his profession, the courts and the public. The bar should maintain a high standard of
legal proficiency as well as of honesty and fair dealing. Generally speaking, a lawyer can do honor to the
legal profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients.
To this end, nothing should be done by any member of the legal fraternity which might tend to lessen in
any degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the profession.

Here, respondent chose to forget that by swearing the lawyer's oath, he became a guardian of truth and
the rule of law, and an indispensable instrument in the fair and impartial administration of justice — a
vital function of democracy a failure of which is disastrous to society. LLphil

Any departure from the path which a lawyer must follow as demanded by the virtues of his profession
shall not be tolerated by this Court as the disciplining authority. This is specially so, as here, where
respondent even deliberately defied the lawful orders of the Court for him to file his comment on the
complaint, thereby transgressing Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires a
lawyer to observe and maintain the respect due the courts.

WHEREFORE, for dishonesty, grave misconduct, grossly unethical behavior in palpable disregard of
Section 25 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Rules 16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of
Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, aggravated by a violation of Canon 11 thereof, and
consistent with the urgent need to maintain the esteemed traditions and high standards of the legal
profession and to preserve undiminished public faith in the members of the Philippine Bar, the Court
Resolves to DISBAR respondent ATTY. FRANCISCO RICAFORT from the practice of law. His name is
hereby stricken from the Roll of Attorneys.

This resolution shall take effect immediately and copies thereof furnished the Office of the Bar
Confidant, to be appended to respondent's personal record; the National Office and the Albay Chapter
of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; the Philippine Judges Association; and all courts of the land for
their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco, Panganiban and Martinez, JJ ., concur.

SYNOPSIS

Respondent Judge is the presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 64, Makati City. In a letter to
the Office of the Court of Administrator (OCA), respondent judge asked for 60 days within which to
resolve 51 cases which had been submitted to her for decision. The OCA, advised respondent judge to
inform the Court of the dates when the aforesaid 51 cases had been submitted for decision to
determine the "due dates of the cases" for the purpose of determining when the period of extension
which respondent judge was requesting should be counted. Respondent judge complied but in her letter
she did not disclosed her failure to resolve 48 cases within the reglementary period of 90 days in her
certificates of service which she submitted during the period August 1993 to January 1996. She even
stated that "all special proceedings, applications, petitions, motions and all civil cases which have been
under submission for decision or determination for a period of 90 days or more have been determined
and decided" by her. On the basis of the aforementioned facts, respondent judge was charged with
gross negligence, inefficiency, and falsification of public documents in a complaint filed by the Office of
the Court Administrator. The court referred the case for investigation, report and recommendation to
the Court of Appeals. The investigating justice found respondent judge guilty as charged, but found
extenuating circumstances in favor of respondent, to wit: her above-average performance in the
disposition of cases, the absence of malice in the government and her reputation for integrity, honesty,
and hard work. A fine of P100,000.00 was recommended. ScaHDT

The Supreme Court found respondent judge guilty of gross negligence and serious misconduct and was
ordered to pay a fine of P12,000.00, with a warning that a repetition of similar acts will be dealt with
more severely. The Court ruled that neither good faith nor long unblemished and above average service
in the judiciary can fully justify respondent judge's lapses. It cannot countenance undue delay in the
disposition of cases which is one of the causes of loss faith of our people in the judiciary. Nor can the
Court turn a blind eye to what might constitute gross misconduct because of the submission of false
certificates of service.

SYLLABUS

1. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; FAILURE TO DECIDE CASES WITHIN THE PERIOD SPECIFIED BY
CONSTITUTION CONSTITUTES A VIOLATION OF CANON 3, RULE 3.05 OF THE CODE OF JUDICIAL
CONDUCT. — Respondent's failure to decide cases constitutes a violation of Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the
Code of Judicial Conduct which requires judges to dispose of their court's business promptly and decide
cases within the period specified in the Constitution, i.e., three (3) months or ninety (90) days from the
filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum. This Canon is intended to implement the Constitution
which makes it the duty of trial courts to decide cases within three months, even as it gives parties to a
suit the right to the speedy disposition of their cases.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; NEITHER GOOD FAITH NOR LONG UNBLEMISHED AND ABOVE AVERAGE SERVICE IN
THE JUDICIARY CAN AND FULLY JUSTIFY RESPONDENT JUDGES' LAPSES; THE COURT CANNOT TURN A
BLIND EYE TO WHAT MIGHT CONSTITUTES GROSS MISCONDUCT BECAUSE OF THE SUBMISSION OF
FALSE CERTIFICATES OF SERVICE. — Respondent judge knew of the cases pending resolution. In fact, she
had been reporting them to this Court in her monthly reports. Nonetheless she stated in her certificates
of service that she had no case submitted for decision within the 90 days preceding the submission of
her certificate, in the honest belief that the salary which she collected on the basis of such certificates
"had been justly earned notwithstanding the fact that there are submitted cases remaining for
decision." This of course constitutes serious misconduct under Rule 140, §1 of the Rules of Court. As an
officer of the court, she should conduct herself strictly in accordance with the highest standards of
ethics. Neither good faith nor long, unblemished and above average service in the judiciary can fully
justify respondent judge's lapses. The Court cannot countenance undue delay in the disposition of cases
which is one of the causes of the loss of faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary and brings it
into disrepute. Nor can the Court turn a blind eye to what might constitute gross misconduct because of
the submission of false certificates of service. cCSTHA

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES THAT MUST BE CONSIDERED IN
DETERMINING THE CULPABILITY OF RESPONDENT JUDGE AS A MATTER OF JUSTICE. — There are
counterweights that must be considered in determining the culpability of respondent judge as a matter
of justice. For there are present in this case mitigating circumstances in her favor. First is the fact that
this is respondent judge's first offense. That this is a mitigating circumstance in her favor has been
settled by our cases. Second is her long and exemplary service in the judiciary and the fact that her rate
of disposition is above average. Although she failed to decide the 48 cases within the 90-day period
prescribed by law, the fact is that respondent judge was able to reduce her initial caseload of 704 upon
assuming office in 1992 to 219 in September 1996 and it is entirely possible that the failure to decide the
cases in question within 90 days was precisely due to the heavy case load which she had when she first
assumed office in Makati in 1992. Her fault lies in the fact that she did not apply for an extension of the
time to decide until 1996. Otherwise, she has never been idle. Third is that there is here no private
complainant prejudiced by the failure to decide their cases on time. It was respondent judge who
brought to our attention her predicament. Fourth is that after having been administratively charged,
respondent readily acknowledged her fault, offering no excuses and assuming full responsibility for her
failure which she immediately corrected by disposing of all of the cases subject of the present
administrative case. These additional extenuating circumstances, which were not before the investigator
and therefore were not considered by him in his report, warrant the reduction of the recommended
penalty from P100,000.00 to P12,000.00.

DECISION
MENDOZA, J p:

Respondent Delia H. Panganiban is presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 64, Makati City.
She is charged with gross negligence, inefficiency, and falsification of public documents in a complaint
filed by the Office of the Court Administrator. cdll

The facts are as follows. In a letter to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) dated January 24,
1996, respondent judge asked for 60 days within which to resolve 51 cases which had been submitted to
her for decision. She informed the OCA that the 90-day period for deciding the cases had already lapsed
at the time of her request for extension.

The OCA, through Deputy Court Administrator Bernardo P. Abesamis, advised respondent judge to
inform the Court of the dates when the aforesaid 51 cases had been submitted for decision to
determine the "due dates of the cases," for the purpose of determining when the period of extension
which respondent judge was requesting should be counted.

Respondent judge thereafter sent a letter, dated February 1, 1996, to the OCA showing that, of the 51
cases for which an extension of the time for deciding was being requested, the due dates for deciding 48
had expired: in six cases since 1993; in 13 cases since 1994; and in 29 cases since 1995.

Respondent judge did not disclose her failure to resolve these 48 cases within the reglementary period
of 90 days in her certificates of service which she submitted during the period August 1993 to January
1996. On the contrary, she stated in each certificate that "all special proceedings, applications, petitions,
motions and all civil cases which have been under submission for decision or determination for a period
of ninety (90) days or more have been determined and decided" by her.

On the basis of these facts, the OCA filed the present administrative case, alleging that respondent judge
was guilty of (1) delay in the administration of justice amounting to negligence and inefficiency as well
as violation of the Constitution, Art. VIII, §15(1) and (2) and (2) falsification of certificates of service
submitted during the period August 1993 to January 1996. The OCA recommended that respondent
judge be fined in an amount equal to her salary for one year.

In her Comment, respondent judge says that "she does not offer justification or excuse" for her failure
to decide cases within the reglementary period and for making false certificates and that "she takes full
responsibility for the acts complained of." However, she pleads good faith, pointing out that it was she
who disclosed her own "momentary inadequacy," that her monthly reports of cases have always been
truthful, by indicating therein the cases left undecided and the reasons therefor, and that the
falsification of the certificates "did not proceed from a corrupt mind." She pleads for understanding,
calling attention to her rate of disposition in general, which she claims is at par with those of other
judges, given the inadequate facilities of her court and to the fact that she had other duties as a member
of the Raffle Committee and officer-in-charge of Voluntary Confinement in Drugs Cases, and the fact
that as of August 9, 1996 she had no more cases pending decision beyond the 90-day period.
On August 13, 1996, Executive Judge Salvador Abad S. Santos filed a Manifestation, stating that
respondent judge deserves compassion. The Executive Judge avers that, although respondent did not
come up to the standard of performance set by this Court, she has nonetheless given to the judiciary
many years of unquestionable and dedicated service and is among the judges who have not been
swayed by money, power, or fame in rendering judgments.

The Court referred the case for investigation, report and recommendation to Court of Appeals Justice
Fermin A. Martin, Jr., who, in a report dated January 31, 1997, found respondent judge guilty as
charged. However, Justice Martin, Jr. found extenuating circumstances in favor of respondent, to wit:
her above-average performance in the disposition of cases, the absence of malice in the alleged
falsification of her certificate of service, her long and unblemished service in the government, and her
reputation for integrity, honesty, and hard work. For this reason, Justice Martin, Jr. recommends that
she be made to pay a fine of P100,000.00

There is no dispute regarding the failure of respondent judge to decide 48 cases within the 90-day
period prescribed by law and her failure to indicate this fact in her monthly certificates of service.
Respondent judge admits these allegations, offers no excuses and justification, and assumes full
responsibility for them. However, she pleads for understanding and compassion, calling attention to her
above average disposition of cases, good faith, and dedicated service as warranting the dismissal of the
case against her.

Respondent's failure to decide cases constitutes a violation of Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial
Conduct which requires judges to dispose of their court's business promptly and decide cases within the
period specified in the Constitution, i.e., three (3) months or ninety (90) days from the filing of the last
pleading, brief, or memorandum. 1 This canon is intended to implement the Constitution which makes it
the duty of trial courts to decide cases within three months, 2 even as it gives parties to a suit the right
to the speedy disposition of their cases. 3

Respondent judge knew of the cases pending resolution. In fact, she had been reporting them to this
Court in her monthly reports. 4 Nonetheless, she stated in her certificates of service that she had no
case submitted for decision within the 90 days preceding the submission of her certificate, in the honest
belief that the salary which she collected on the basis of such certificates "had been justly earned
notwithstanding the facts that there are submitted cases remaining for decision." This of course
constitutes serious misconduct under Rule 140, §1 of the Rules of Court. As an officer of the court, she
should conduct herself strictly in accordance with the highest standards of ethics. 5

Neither good faith nor long, unblemished and above average service in the judiciary can fully justify
respondent judge's lapses. The Court cannot countenance delay in the disposition of cases which is one
of the causes of the loss of faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary and brings it into
disrepute. 6 Nor can the Court turn a blind eye to what might constitute gross misconduct because of
the submission of false certificates of service.

At the same time there are counterweights that must be considered in determining the culpability of
respondent judge as a matter of justice. For there are present in this case mitigating circumstances in
her favor. First is the fact that this is respondent judge's first offense. That this is a mitigating
circumstance in her favor has been settled by our cases. 7

Second is her long and exemplary service in the judiciary 8 and the fact that her rate of disposition is
above average. Although she failed to decide the 48 cases within the 90-day period prescribed by law,
the fact is that respondent judge was able to reduce her initial caseload of 704 upon assuming office in
1992 to 219 in September 1996 and it is entirely possible that her failure to decide the cases in question
within 90 days was precisely due to the heavy caseload which she had when she first assumed office in
Makati in 1992. Her fault lies in the fact that she did not apply for an extension of the time to decide
until 1996. Otherwise, she has never been idle. 9 As found by Investigating Justice Fermin A. Martin, Jr.:
prcd

[R]espondent judge's output of decided cases compares favorably with that of the other judges of the
RTC of Makati City. As Executive Judge Salvador S. Santos of the RTC of Makati manifested, respondent
judge is one of the five (5) judges in the RTC of Makati City with the highest number of disposed cases at
the end of the same month. From the 704 cases in her docket when she assumed office, respondent was
able to reduce her caseload to 234 (Exh. "6", pp. 62-63, Record). In fact, as of September 1996,
respondent judge had 219 cases (Exh. "5-A"; TSN, October 23, 1996, p. 14).

Third is that there is here no private complainant prejudiced by the failure to decide their cases on time.
10 It was respondent judge who brought to our attention her predicament.

Fourth is that after having been administratively charged, respondent readily acknowledged her fault,
offering no excuses and assuming full responsibility for her failure which she immediately corrected by
disposing of all of the cases subject of the present administrative case. These additional extenuating
circumstances, which were not before the investigator and therefore were not considered by him in his
report, warrant the reduction of the recommended penalty from P100,000.00 to P12,000.00.

WHEREFORE, Judge Delia H. Panganiban is found guilty of gross negligence and serious misconduct and
is hereby ordered to pay a fine of P12,000.00 directly to this Court, with a warning that a repetition of
similar acts will be dealt with more severely. cdpr

SO ORDERED.

[B.M. No. 712. March 19, 1997.]

RE: PETITION OF AL ARGOSINO TO TAKE THE LAWYER'S OATH

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; POWER OF THE COURT TO REGULATE THE ADMISSION TO THE PRACTICE OF LAW.
— The practice of law is a privilege granted only to those who possess the strict intellectual and moral
qualifications required of lawyers who are instruments in the effective and efficient administration of
justice. It is the sworn duty of this Court not only to "weed our" lawyers who have become a disgrace to
the noble profession of the law but, also of equal importance, to prevent "misfits" from taking the
lawyer's oath, thereby further tarnishing the public image of lawyers which in recent years has
undoubtedly become less than irreproachable.

2. ID.; ADMISSION TO THE BAR; LAWYER'S OATH; NOT A MERE CEREMONY OR FORMALITY FOR
PRACTICING LAW; EVERY LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES WEIGH HIS ACTIONS ACCORDING TO THE
LAWYER'S OATH AND THE CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY. — After a very careful evaluation of
this case, we resolve to allow petitioner Al Caparros Argosino to take the lawyer's oath, sign the Roll of
Attorneys and practice the legal profession with the following, admonition: In allowing Mr. Argosino to
take the lawyer's oath, the Court recognizes that Mr. Argosino is not inherently of bad moral fiber. On
the contrary, the various certifications show that he is a devout Catholic with a genuine concern for civic
duties and public service. The Court is persuaded that Mr. Argosino has exerted all efforts to atone for
the death of Raul Camaligan. We are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, taking judicial notice
of the general tendency of youth to be rash, temerarious and uncalculating. We stress to Mr. Argosino
that the lawyer's oath is NOT a mere ceremony or formality for practicing law. Every lawyer should at
ALL TIMES weigh his actions according to the sworn promises he makes when taking the lawyer's oath. If
all lawyers conducted themselves strictly according to the lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility, the administration of justice will undoubtedly be faster, fairer and easier for everyone
concerned. The Court sincerely hopes that Mr. Argosino will continue with the assistance he has been
giving to his community. As a lawyer he will now be in a better position to render legal and other
services to the more unfortunate members of society.

RESOLUTION

PADILLA, J p:

Petitioner Al Caparros Argosino passed the bar examinations held in 1993. The Court however deferred
his oath-taking due to his previous conviction for Reckless Imprudence Resulting In Homicide.

The criminal case which resulted in petitioner's conviction, arose from the death of a neophyte during
fraternity initiation rites sometime in September 1991. Petitioner and seven (7) other accused initially
entered pleas of not guilty to homicide charges. The eight (8) accused later withdrew their initial pleas
and upon re-arraignment all pleaded guilty to reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

On the basis of such pleas, the trial court rendered judgment dated 11 February 1993 imposing on each
of the accused a sentence of imprisonment of from two (2) years four (4) months and one (1) day to four
(4) years.

On 18 June 1993, the trial court granted herein petitioner's application for probation.

On 11 April 1994, the trial court issued an order approving a report dated 6 April 1994 submitted by the
Probation Officer recommending petitioner's discharge from probation.
On 14 April 1994, petitioner filed before this Court a petition to be allowed to take the lawyer's oath
based on the order of his discharge from probation.

On 13 July 1995, the Court through then Senior Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano issued a
resolution requiring petitioner Al C. Argosino to submit to the Court evidence that he may now be
regarded as complying with the requirement of good moral character imposed upon those seeking
admission to the bar.

In compliance with the above resolution, petitioner submitted no less than fifteen (15)
certifications/letters executed by among others two (2) senators, five (5) trial court judges, and six (6)
members of religious orders. Petitioner likewise submitted evidence that a scholarship foundation had
been established in honor of Raul Camaligan, the hazing victim, through joint efforts of the latter's
family and the eight (8) accused in the criminal case.

On 26 September 1995, the Court required Atty. Gilbert Camaligan, father of Raul, to comment on
petitioner's prayer to be allowed to take the lawyer's oath.

In his comment dated 4 December 1995, Atty. Camaligan states that:

a. He still believes that the infliction of severe physical injuries which led to the death of his son
was deliberate rather than accidental. The offense therefore was not only homicide but murder since
the accused took advantage of the neophyte's helplessness implying abuse of confidence, taking
advantage of superior strength and treachery.

b. He consented to the accused's plea of guilt to the lesser offense of reckless imprudence
resulting in homicide only out of pity for the mothers of the accused and a pregnant wife of one of the
accused who went to their house on Christmas day 1991 and Maundy Thursday 1992, literally on their
knees, crying and begging for forgiveness and compassion. They also told him that the father of one of
the accused had died of a heart attack upon learning of his son's involvement in the incident.

c. As a Christian, he has forgiven petitioner and his co-accused for the death of his son. However,
as a loving father who had lost a son whom he had hoped would succeed him in his law practice, he still
feels the pain of an untimely demise and the stigma of the gruesome manner of his death.

d. He is not in a position to say whether petitioner is now morally fit for admission to the bar. He
therefore submits the matter to the sound discretion of the Court.

The practice of law is a privilege granted only to those who possess the strict intellectual and moral
qualifications required of lawyers who are instruments in the effective and efficient administration of
justice. It is the sworn duty of this Court not only to "weed out" lawyers who have become a disgrace to
the noble profession of the law but, also of equal importance, to prevent "misfits" from taking the
lawyer' s oath, thereby further tarnishing the public image of lawyers which in recent years has
undoubtedly become less than irreproachable.
The resolution of the issue before us required a weighing and re-weighing of the reasons for allowing or
disallowing petitioner's admission to the practice of law. The senseless beatings inflicted upon Raul
Camaligan constituted evident absence of that moral fitness required for admission to the bar since they
were totally irresponsible, irrelevant and uncalled for.

In the 13 July 1995 resolution in this case we stated:

". . . participation in the prolonged and mindless physical behavior, [which] makes impossible a finding
that the participant [herein petitioner] was then possessed of good moral character." 1

In the same resolution, however, we stated that the Court is prepared to consider de novo the question
of whether petitioner has purged himself of the obvious deficiency in moral character referred to above.

Before anything else, the Court understands and shares the sentiment of Atty. Gilbert Camaligan. The
death of one's child is, for a parent, a most traumatic experience. The suffering becomes even more
pronounced and profound in cases where the death is due to causes other than natural or accidental but
due to the reckless imprudence of third parties. The feeling then becomes a struggle between grief and
anger directed at the cause of death.

Atty. Camaligan's statement before the Court manifesting his having forgiven the accused is no less than
praiseworthy and commendable. It is exceptional for a parent, given the circumstances in this cases, to
find room for forgiveness.

However, Atty. Camaligan admits that he is still not in a position to state if petitioner is now morally fit
to be a lawyer. cdasia

After a very careful evaluation of this case, we resolve to allow petitioner Al Caparros Argosino to take
the lawyer's oath, sign the Roll of Attorneys and practice the legal profession with the following
admonition:

In allowing Mr. Argosino to take the lawyer' s oath, the Court recognizes that Mr. Argosino is not
inherently of bad moral fiber. On the contrary, the various certifications show that he is a devout
Catholic with a genuine concern for civic duties and public service.

The Court is persuaded that Mr. Argosino has exerted all efforts to atone for the death of Raul
Camaligan. We are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, taking judicial notice of the general
tendency of youth to be rash, temerarious and uncalculating.

We stress to Mr. Argosino that the lawyer's oath is NOT a mere ceremony or formality for practicing law.
Every lawyer should at ALL TIMES weigh his actions according to the sworn promises he makes when
taking the lawyer's oath. If all lawyers conducted themselves strictly according to the lawyer's oath and
the Code of Professional Responsibility, the administration of justice will undoubtedly be faster, fairer
and easier for everyone concerned.
The Court sincerely hopes that Mr. Argosino will continue with the assistance he has been giving to his
community. As a lawyer he will now be in a better position to render legal and other services to the
more unfortunate members of society.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, petitioner Al Caparros Argosino is hereby ALLOWED to take the lawyer's oath
on a date to be set by the Court, to sign the Roll of Attorneys and, thereafter, to practice the legal
profession.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Footnotes

1. Resolution, p. 8.

[G.R. No. 111478. March 13, 1997.]

GEORGE F. SALONGA and SOLID INTERTAIN CORPORATION, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, HON.
JULIO R. LOGARTA, and PAUL GENEVE ENTERTAINMENT CORPORATION, respondents.

Puno and Puno for petitioners.

Sadili, Romulo, Dy & Carandang for private respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; ACTIONS; ANNULMENT OF JUDGMENT; GROUNDS. — Well-settled is the


doctrine that "a judgment can be annulled only on two (2) grounds: (a) that the judgment is void for
want of jurisdiction or lack of due process of law; or (b) that it has been obtained by fraud." Absent any
of these grounds, a final and executory judgment cannot be voided.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; EXTRINSIC FRAUD; REFERS TO SOME ACT OF THE PREVAILING PARTY WHICH
PREVENTED THE AGGRIEVED PARTY FROM PRESENTING HIS CASE TO COURT. — Jurisprudence teaches
us that "(i)n order for fraud to serve as a basis for the annulment of a judgment, it must be extrinsic or
collateral in character, otherwise there would be no end to litigations. Extrinsic fraud refers to any
fraudulent act of the prevailing party which is committed outside the trial of the case, whereby the
defeated party has been prevented from exhibiting fully his side of the case, by fraud or deception
practised on him by his opponent." Thus, it "refers to some act or conduct of the prevailing party which
has prevented the aggrieved party from having a trial or presenting his case to the court, or was used to
procure judgment without a fair submission of the controversy . . . It must be distinguished from
intrinsic fraud which refers to acts of a party at a trial which prevented a fair and just determination of
the case and which could have been litigated and determined at the trial or adjudication of the case."

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; DOES NOT INCLUDE DELINQUENT ACTS AND OMISSIONS OF ATTORNEY; CASE AT
BAR, NOT AN EXCEPTION. — The petitioners argue that "(e)xtrinsic fraud justifying the annulment of a
judgment should not and cannot be solely limited to acts attributable to the adverse party. It likewise
includes instances wherein a party was prevented from defending the action brought against him on
account of the delinquent acts and omissions of his attorney. In other words, there is extrinsic fraud
when a party was prevented from having presented all of his case to the court as when the lawyer
connives at his defeat or corruptly sells out his client's interests (Laxamana vs. Court of Appeals, 87 SCRA
48)." We disagree. The nature of extrinsic fraud, as discussed previously, necessarily requires that its
cause be traceable to some fraudulent act of the prevailing party committed outside the trial of the
case. The Court notes that the previously enumerated negligent acts attributed to petitioner's former
counsel Garlitos were in no way shown or alleged to have been caused by private respondents. Atty.
Garlitos neither connived nor sold out to the latter. Laxamana vs. Court of Appeals cited by petitioners
does not support their cause because its factual background is different from the instant case. In that
case, the Court found that "Laxamana had directly charged his lawyer with having deliberately failed to
appear at the trial after having received P1,500 from Mallari. He introduced evidence in support of that
charge. His lawyer, although subpoenaed by the Mallari plaintiffs, did not testify to deny that charge."
Thus, the fraudulent act of the aggrieved parties' counsel in the cited case was clearly caused by and
done in connivance with the prevailing party. In contrast, Atty. Garlitos, in the instant case, was not even
charged with, much less shown guilty of, having neglected his duties to his clients by reason of any
compensatory arrangement or collusion with Private Respondent Paul Geneve Entertainment
Corporation. In fact, petitioners never alleged that private respondent had anything to do with
petitioners' counsel Garlitos. Since there was no extrinsic fraud, the assailed judgment may not be
annulled on such ground.

4. LEGAL ETHICS; ATTORNEYS; NEGLIGENCE OF COUNSEL BINDS THE CLIENT; EXCEPTIONS. — It is


well-settled that the negligence of counsel binds the client. This is based on the rule that any act
performed by a lawyer within the scope of his general or implied authority is regarded as an act of his
client. Consequently, the mistake or negligence of petitioners' counsel may result in the rendition of an
unfavorable judgment against them. Exceptions to the foregoing have been recognized by the Court in
cases where reckless or gross negligence of counsel deprives the client of due process of law, or when its
application "results in the outright deprivation of one's property through a technicality." None of these
exceptions has been sufficiently shown in the present case.

5. ID.; ID.; SIMPLE NEGLIGENCE OF COUNSEL IN CASE AT BAR. — Petitioners argue that their
previous counsel Garlitos was guilty of gross negligence in handling their case before the trial court and,
thus, they should not be bound by the consequences of his said negligence. They insist on the
applicability of Legarda vs. Court of Appeals asserting that "it sets the correct directions upon which the
Public Respondent Court of Appeals should have steered its course." We are not persuaded. The factual
scenario in Legarda is not on all fours with the case before us. The counsel in the cited case was found
grossly negligent because of the sheer absence of real effort on his part to defend his client's cause. In
the present case, however, counsel Garlitos was merely guilty of simple negligence. Although his failure
to file a timely answer had led to a judgment by default against his clients, his efforts at defending their
cause were palpably real, albeit bereft of zeal.

6. POLITICAL LAW; CONSTITUTION; DUE PROCESS; NO DENIAL THEREOF WHERE PARTIES WERE
GIVEN REASONABLE OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD AND PRESENT THEIR SIDE IN ALL THE PROCEEDINGS.
— The Constitution mandates that "(n)o person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due
process of law . . .." The "essence of due process is to be found in the reasonable opportunity to be
heard and submit any evidence one may have in support of one's defense. 'To be heard' does not mean
only verbal arguments in court; one may be heard also through pleadings. Where opportunity to be
heard, either through oral arguments or pleadings, is accorded, there is no denial of procedural due
process." Hence, due process was never denied petitioners Salonga and Solid Intertain Corporation
because the trial court had given them a reasonable opportunity to be heard and present their side in all
the proceedings before it. The records reveal that the judgment by default was rendered by the trial
court in faithful compliance with Rule 18 of the Rules of Court and the constitutional guaranty of due
process. The failure of petitioners and their counsel Garlitos to take full advantage of this opportunity to
be heard does not change the fact that they were accorded such opportunity.

7. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; CREDIBILITY; FINDINGS OF FACT OF THE TRIAL AND APPELLATE
COURTS, GENERALLY BINDING ON APPEAL. — Prevailing jurisprudence uniformly holds that findings of
fact of the trial court, particularly when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are binding upon this Court.
Hence, the factual finding of the trial court affirmed by the respondent Court of Appeals as to the
perfection of the Memorandum of Agreement between petitioners and private respondent, is binding
on this Court.

8. ID.; SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS; CONTEMPT; JURISDICTION NOT AFFECTED BY QUESTION OF


WHETHER CONTEMPT IS CIVIL OR CRIMINAL. — The Court is not persuaded. The distinction between
civil and criminal contempt made by this Court in Slade Perkins does not support petitioners' contention.
As we stated in Slade Perkins, the "question of whether the contempt for which the petitioner was
committed in jail is civil or criminal, does not affect either the jurisdiction or the power of the court in
the premises."

9. ID.; ID.; INDIRECT CONTEMPT; MOTION, SUFFICIENT TO CONFER JURISDICTION. — The Court of
Appeals correctly ruled that "(in) indirect contempt proceedings such as in the case at bar, a mere
motion to that effect will suffice for the (trial court) to acquire jurisdiction." For after all, Section 3 of the
Rules of Court requires merely that "a charge in writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the
accused to be heard by himself or counsel" before one guilty of indirect contempt may be punished
therefor.

10. ID.; ID.; CONTEMPT; PAYMENT OF FINE INURING TO THE BENEFIT OF ADVERSE PARTY,
ALLOWED. — As aptly observed by respondent appellate court, the order for petitioners to pay a fine
inuring to the benefit of private respondent finds support in Slade Perkins, viz.: "Where the punishment
is by fine directed to be paid to a party in the nature of damages for the wrong inflicted or by
imprisonment as a coercive measure to enforce the performance of some act for the benefit of the
party or in aid of the final judgment or decree rendered in his behalf, the contempt judgment will, if
made before final decree, be treated as in the nature of an interlocutory order, or, if made after final
decree, as remedial in nature, and may be reviewed only on appeal from the final decree, or in such
other mode as in appropriate to the review of judgments in civil cases."

DECISION

PANGANIBAN, J p:

Are the professional lapses, inefficiency, carelessness and negligence of a lawyer enough to annul a
default judgment? Do they constitute "extrinsic fraud"? Alternatively, do they amount to deprivation of
due process? Is a motion (as distinguished from an independent and separate petition) sufficient to vest
contempt jurisdiction on a trial court? These questions are answered by the Court as it resolves this
petition assailing the Decision of respondent Court of Appeals 1 in CA-G.R. SP No. 29138 promulgated on
August 26, 1993, affirming with slight modification the judgment by default rendered by the trial court.

The Antecedent Facts

The court of origin (Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 63, presided by Judge Julio R. Logarta)
narrated the facts it culled from the evidence, as follows:

"Astra Realty Development Corporation owned a property located at No. 32 Jupiter St., Bel-Air Village,
Makati. This property is being leased to Alelie A. Montojima under a 'bilateral' contract of lease. Alelie
Montojima constructed a building in the leased premises and opened a restaurant (sic) under the name
and style Aquatic Chef Seafoods Restaurant which however, did not prosper. Alelie Montojima then
came to transact with (herein private respondent) Paul Geneve Entertainment Corporation and with the
consent of the lessor Astra Realty they agreed on a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with the following
terms: that upon the signing and due execution of the JVA, Alelie Montojima will be selling all her
existing rights and interests over the leased premises in favor of (herein private respondent) for P3
Million pesos. The JVA was executed and signed on September 1, 1989. (Herein private respondent) paid
Alelie Montojima the total amount of P1,000,000.00. (Herein private respondent) took over the
possession of the leased premises, but before (herein private respondent) could open her business, a
complaint was lodged by Bel-Air Village Homeowner's Association for violation of some municipal
ordinances. Astra was also informed by the Bel-Air Village Association of the complaint and Alelie
Montojima demanded (herein private respondent) to vacate the premises. Meanwhile, (herein private
respondent), through Mrs. Milagros Izon, the president, was looking for a possible taker of the leased
premises for a consideration, so she could recover the huge investments she had made. Thereafter,
(herein private respondent) filed a civil case with prayer for preliminary injunction and writ of
attachment against Montojima. A Temporary Restraining Order against Montojima was issued on March
22, 1990 while the writ of preliminary injunction was granted on November 29, 1991. Mrs. Milagros Izon
was introduced by her friend, Ed Calveria, to (herein petitioner) George Salonga. (Herein petitioner)
Salonga was supposed to buy-out all the leaseholding rights of the (herein private respondent) in the
amount of P5.5 Million. Since (herein petitioner) Salonga did not have the sum of money(,) he proposed
instead to Mrs. Izon a joint venture enterprise between (herein petitioner) Salonga's company (herein
petitioner) Solid Intertain and (herein private respondent). The idea was that (herein petitioner) Solid
Intertain Corporation and (herein private respondent) Paul Geneve Corporation will form a new
corporation and the name Solidisque Inc. (sic). The documents all in seven (7) sets were drafted by both
parties' respective counsels, Atty. Garlitos for (herein petitioners) and Atty. Sadili for (herein private
respondent). (Herein private respondent) through Mrs. Izon has signed the joint venture agreement. The
document with extra copies were then delivered to (herein petitioner) Salonga for his signature and for
notarization. The document together with the extra copies remained unsigned and unexecuted. With
the memorandum of agreement still unsigned, not notarized and in the possession of (herein petitioner)
Salonga, the latter transferred all his equipments and properties from his former business site, Metro
Disco, to the subject premises in question after informing Mrs. Izon that he did not have a place where
he can transfer his things and asked that he be allowed to put it at No. 32 Jupiter St. Club Ibiza was thus
opened and made operational on the leased premises in question under the name (of herein petitioner)
Solid Intertain Corporation. No corporation under the name Solidisque (sic) Inc. was ever registered as
agreed upon in the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Herein private respondent) was totally left
out." 2

To continue the story, we now quote from the respondent Court of Appeals:

"It appears that on November 26, 1991 herein private respondent (Paul Geneve Entertainment
Corporation) filed a complaint for specific performance with temporary restraining order and
preliminary injunction with prayer for damages against herein petitioners (George Salonga and Solid
Intertain Corporation) to enforce a memorandum of agreement that was supposedly perfected between
the parties (Rollo, p. 157). On November 29, 1991 petitioners received a copy of the summons and
complaint, including a copy of the restraining order issued in the said civil case by public respondent,
enjoining 'petitioners from further operating club Ibiza,' which order was referred by petitioners to Atty.
Onofre G. Garlito, Jr., the former counsel of record (Petition, p. 8 paragraph 16).

During the scheduled hearing for injunction on December 4, 1991, only private respondents appeared
despite notice to petitioners (Rollo, p. 31 Annex 'A'). For disobeying the restraining order issued on
November 29, 1991, private respondent sought to cite petitioner for indirect criminal contempt (Rollo,
p. 217) during the hearing on the civil case whereby Atty. Garlito, Jr. presented George F. Salonga in
support of the opposition to the issuance of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction (Rollo, p. 125, Comment).

On December 9, 1991, petitioners and their counsel failed to appear on the date set for hearing the
motion for issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction (Rollo, p. 38). Acting on private respondent's
motion to submit the application for the writ of preliminary injunction, the (Regional Trial Court a quo)
resolved to grant the same on December 12, 1991 (Rollo, p. 38, Decision, Annex 'A').

In the meantime, and despite two motions for extension of time to file an answer, (Petition, paragraphs
21 and 22) no answer was filed (Rollo, p. 39). However, (the) trial court received on June 16, 1992
(Petition, p. 10) an answer purportedly dated January 14, 1992.
On January 15, 1992, petitioner's counsel move (sic) to dissolve the injunction (Rollo, p. 232) and set the
hearing thereof on January 17, but on said latter date, only private respondent's counsel showed up
(Rollo, p. 237).

Due to petitioner's failure to file an answer, private respondent submitted a third ex parte motion to
declare petitioner, as defendant (before the Regional Trial Court), in default on March 4, 1992 (Rollo, p.
238) which was favorably acted upon on March 10, 1992 (Petition, paragraph 25).

On April 14, 1992, the impugned decision was handed down by (the Regional Trial Court) judge, thus:

"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

1. The writ of preliminary injunction issued on December 12, 1991 is hereby made permanent;

2. Ordering defendants to sign, perform and execute the formalities of the Memorandum of
Agreement (Exh. 'K'), pursuant to the Joint Venture Agreement (Exh. 'C');

3. Ordering defendants to undertake the creation and formation, organization and registration of a
new corporation pursuant to and in accordance with Philippine Laws before the Securities and Exchange
Commission, under the business name and style 'Solidisque Inc.' whose primary purpose shall be to
operate a discotique (sic), club restaurant and/or other forms of business similar thereto on the
aforesaid leased premises setting the authorized capital stock of the Joint Venture Corporation to be
registered at PESOS TEN MILLION (P10,000,000.00), twenty five (25 %) per cent of the total subscription
as paid-up capital, in compliance to paragraphs Nos. 1 and 2, page (3), of the Memorandum of
Agreement;

4. Ordering defendants to perform and provide as its equity participation to SOLIDISQUE, INC. a
total of SEVEN MILLION PESOS (P7,000,000,00), more or less consisting of audio and lighting equipment,
inclusive of electrical and construction materials, among others, and to prepare a list of the aforesaid
equipment, materials together with their present value and cost of improvements to be introduced on
the establishment to be operated on the leased premises and make such list available to the plaintiff the
soonest possible time, in compliance to paragraph No. 3, of the Memorandum of Agreement;

5. Ordering defendants to faithfully and religiously perform, comply, fulfill and satisfy all the terms
and conditions as embodied under paragraphs Nos. 4, 5, 5(a) and 5(b), 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,
and 16, pages (3) to (6), of the Memorandum of Agreement, Exh. 'K';

6. Ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiff, jointly and severally the cash amount of
P500,000.00 plus legal interest, computed from November 1, 1990, for being in default, until fully paid,
pursuant to paragraph No. 6, page (4) of the MOA as ACTUAL DAMAGES;

7. Ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiff, jointly and severally the amount of P100,000.00 as
exemplary damages;
8. Ordering the defendants jointly (and) severally to pay the amount of P100,000.00 attorney's
fees; and

9. Costs of Suit.

SO ORDERED." (PETITION, pp. 2-3)

Petitioner claims that he received a copy of the decision only on October 7, 1992 (Petition, par. 3). Yet, a
Motion for Reconsideration was filed on July 28, 1992 by his counsel (Petition, par. 24).

On September 25, 1992, herein petitioner George F. Salonga was adjudged guilty of civil contempt, thus:

'IN VIEW THEREOF, plaintiff's motion are hereby GRANTED and defendant George F. Salonga, is hereby
adjudged guilty of indirect contempt of court. Accordingly, the (Regional Trial Court) hereby orders
defendant George F. Salonga jointly and severally with the corporation to pay a fine of TWO THOUSAND
(P2,000.00) PESOS), a day reckoned from November 1991 until he complies with the orders of the Court
aforementioned and the default judgment. Such fine shall pertain to the benefit of plaintiff.

Let a warrant of arrest issue on defendant George F. Salonga, who shall be placed under the custody of
the law until such time that he obeys the orders and judgment of the Court afore-mentioned (sic).

SO ORDERED.' (Rollo, pp. 115-116)

Four days later, an order for issuance of a writ of execution was issued over petitioner's plea for a period
of five days within which to submit an opposition. (Rollo, p. 300)

On October 13, 1992, (the Court of Appeals) issued a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining public
respondent (trial court) from enforcing the Decision dated April 14, 1992 and the Order dated
September 15, 1992 (Rollo, p. 45) and on November 3, 1992, a writ of preliminary injunction was issued
by the (Court of Appeals) upon approval of the required bond (Rollo, p. 300)." 3

Petitioners raised before the public respondent Court of Appeals the following arguments:

"1. The Judgment/Decision dated 14 April 1992 and the Order dated 25 September 1992 issued in
Civil Case No. 91-3261 must be annulled on the ground of fraud on the part of petitioners' previous
counsel.

2. The public respondent judge never acquired jurisdiction over the person of petitioner Salonga in
hearing the criminal contempt proceedings, thereby depriving petitioner Salonga of his basic
constitutional right to due process and justifying the annulment of the Order dated 25 September
1992." 4

The respondent Court disagreed with these arguments and ruled that:

"WHEREFORE, IN THE LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Writ of Preliminary
Injunction earlier issued by this Court is hereby LIFTED and SET ASIDE. Insofar as the fine for contempt is
concerned, the same is reduced to only P1,000.00, pursuant to and as provided under Section 6, Rule 71
of the Rules of Court." 5

The Issues

Before us, petitioners allege the following "errors" in the challenged Decision of public respondent:

"I

The public respondent Court of Appeals grievously erred in denying the Petition for Annulment of
Default Judgment filed in CA-G.R. SP No. 29138 and disregarding the blatant, serious and culpable
negligence and professional misconduct of petitioners' previous counsel amounting to deprivation of
due process of law.

II

The public respondent Court of Appeals committed grave and serious reversible error in merely reducing
the fine for the indirect contempt instead of nullifying the entire contempt proceedings as having no
basis in law and procedure." 6

In the main, the issue is whether extrinsic fraud and denial of due process obtain in this case to justify
annulment of the default judgment rendered by the trial court against petitioners.

The Court's Ruling

The petition has no merit.

First Issue: Annulment of Judgment

Well-settled is the doctrine that "a judgment can be annulled only on two (2) grounds: (a) that the
judgment is void for want of jurisdiction or lack of due process of law; or (b) that it has been obtained by
fraud." 7 Absent any of these grounds, a final and executory judgment cannot be voided.

Petitioners George Salonga and Solid Intertain Corporation allege that the "inimical and antagonistic
acts" of their counsel Atty. Onofre G. Garlitos constitute extrinsic fraud "entitling them to the remedy of
annulment of the assailed Judgment/Decision dated 14 April 1992 and of the Order dated 25 September
1992" that they "may be afforded substantial justice and their day in court." 8 These allegedly
fraudulent acts of their previous counsel Garlitos in handling Civil Case No. 91-3261 are: 9 (1) his "very
late" arrival at the December 4, 1991 hearing tackling private respondent's application for a Writ of
Preliminary Injunction, arriving only after the testimony of private respondent's witness; (2) his failure to
appear at the December 9, 1991 hearing "for purposes of submitting evidence/opposition to private
respondent's aforementioned application for the issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction, as a
consequence of which said private respondent's application was deemed 'submitted for resolution' . . ."
by the trial judge; (3) his failure to appear on the date he himself requested, January 17, 1992, for the
hearing of the Motion for Dissolution of Injunction he had filed on behalf of petitioners; (4) his failure to
file an answer within the period required by the Rules of Court, which resulted in a decision by default in
favor of private respondents; (5) his failure to appear on the date he requested for hearing petitioners'
Motion for Reconsideration on July 8, 1992, as a result of which the motion was considered submitted
for resolution since only the counsel for private respondent was present; and (6) his failure to appear at
the August 26, 1992 hearing during which the counsel for private respondent successfully obtained
denial of the aforementioned motion.

No Extrinsic Fraud

Jurisprudence teaches us that "(i)n order for fraud to serve as a basis for the annulment of a judgment, it
must be extrinsic or collateral in character, otherwise there would be no end to litigations. Extrinsic
fraud refers to any fraudulent act of the prevailing party which is committed outside the trial of the
case, whereby the defeated party has been prevented from exhibiting fully his side of the case, by fraud
or deception practised on him by his opponent." 10 Thus, it "refers to some act or conduct of the
prevailing party which has prevented the aggrieved party from having a trial or presenting his case to
the court, or was used to procure judgment without a fair submission of the controversy. . . It must be
distinguished from intrinsic fraud which refers to acts of a party at a trial which prevented a fair and just
determination of the case and which could have been litigated and determined at the trial or
adjudication of the case." 11

The petitioners argue that "(e)xtrinsic fraud justifying the annulment of a judgment should not and
cannot be solely limited to acts attributable to the adverse party. It likewise includes instances wherein
a party was prevented from defending the action brought against him on account of the delinquent acts
and omissions of his attorney. In other words, there is extrinsic fraud when a party was prevented from
having presented all of his case to the court as when the lawyer connives at his defeat or corruptly sells
out his client's interests (Laxamana vs. Court of Appeals, 87 SCRA 48)." 12 (Emphasis found in the
original.)

We disagree. The nature of extrinsic fraud, as discussed previously, necessarily requires that its cause be
traceable to some fraudulent act of the prevailing party committed outside the trial of the case. The
Court notes that the previously enumerated negligent acts attributed to petitioner's former counsel
Garlitos were in no way shown or alleged to have been caused by private respondents. Atty. Garlitos
neither connived nor sold out to the latter.

Laxamana vs. Court of Appeals 13 cited by petitioners does not support their cause because its factual
background is different from the instant case. In that case, the Court found that "Laxamana had directly
charged his lawyer with having deliberately failed to appear at the trial after having received P1,500
from Mallari. He introduced evidence in support of that charge. His lawyer, although subpoenaed by the
Mallari plaintiffs, did not testify to deny that charge." Thus, the fraudulent act of the aggrieved parties'
counsel in the cited case was clearly caused by and done in connivance with the prevailing party. In
contrast, Atty. Garlitos, in the instant case, was not even charged with, much less shown guilty of, having
neglected his duties to his clients by reason of any compensatory arrangement or collusion with Private
Respondent Paul Geneve Entertainment Corporation. In fact, petitioners never alleged that private
respondent had anything to do with petitioner's counsel Garlitos. Since there was no extrinsic fraud, the
assailed judgment may not be annulled on such ground. 14

Negligence of Counsel Binds Client

On the other hand, it is well-settled that the negligence of counsel binds the client. 15 This is based on
the rule that any act performed by a lawyer within the scope of his general or implied authority is
regarded as an act of his client. 16 Consequently, the mistake or negligence of petitioners' counsel may
result in the rendition of an unfavorable judgment against them. 17

Exceptions to the foregoing have been recognized by the Court in cases where reckless or gross
negligence of counsel deprives the client of due process of law, 18 or when its application "results in the
outright deprivation of one's property through a technicality." 19 None of these exceptions has been
sufficiently shown in the present case.

Gross or Simple Negligence?

Petitioners argue that their previous counsel Garlitos was guilty of gross negligence in handling their
case before the trial court and, thus, they should not be bound by the consequences of his said
negligence. They insist on the applicability of Legarda vs. Court of Appeals 20 asserting that "it sets the
correct directions upon which the Public Respondent Court of Appeals should have steered its course."
21 We are not persuaded. The factual scenario in Legarda is not on all fours with the case before us. The
counsel in the cited case was found grossly negligent because of the sheer absence of real effort on his
part to defend his client's cause. In the present case, however, counsel Garlitos was merely guilty of
simple negligence. Although his failure to file a timely answer had led to a judgment by default against
his clients, his efforts at defending their cause were palpably real, albeit bereft of zeal. As succinctly
stated by the Court of Appeals:

". . . It may be noted that in the case of Legarda vs. Court of Appeals, supra, counsel for petitioner
Legarda merely entered his appearance and filed a motion for extension of time to file answer before
the lower court. When the lower court declared petitioner Legarda as in default and subsequently
issued a judgment by default, her counsel did nothing and allowed the judgment to become final and
executory. Upon the prodding of petitioner Legarda, her counsel filed a petition for annulment of
judgment before the (Court of Appeals). When the (Court of Appeals) denied the petition, her counsel
allowed the judgment to become final and executory. Petitioner Legarda's counsel was, therefore,
adjudged as grossly negligent by the Supreme Court. The case at bar is different. Herein petitioners'
previous counsel presented petitioner Salonga as witness to oppose the issuance of the writ of
preliminary injunction. When the writ of injunction was issued by (the trial court), petitioners' counsel
filed a motion to dissolve the writ. When the assailed judgment was rendered by (the trial court),
petitioners' counsel filed a motion for reconsideration. Petitioners' previous counsel was present during
one of the hearings of the motion for contempt and even filed and objection/comment to the private
respondent's offer of exhibits in support of their motion. Thus, while petitioners' counsel failed to file
some pleadings or to attend other hearings before (the trial court), (the Court of Appeals) holds that
such negligence is purely simple, not gross as would amount to a deprivation of petitioner's right to due
process of law." 22

No Denial of Due Process

The Constitution mandates that "(n)o person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due
process of law . . ." 23 The "essence of due process is to be found in the reasonable opportunity to be
heard and submit any evidence one may have in support of one's defense. 'To be heard' does not mean
only verbal arguments in court; one may be heard also through pleadings. Where opportunity to be
heard, either through oral arguments or pleadings, is accorded, there is no denial of procedural due
process." 24 Hence, due process was never denied petitioners Salonga and Solid Intertain Corporation
because the trial court had given them a reasonable opportunity to be heard and present their side in all
the proceedings before it. The records reveal that the judgment by default was rendered by the trial
court in faithful compliance with Rule 18 of the Rules of Court and the constitutional guaranty of due
process.

In fact, petitioners were declared in default only on the third ex parte motion filed by private
respondents on March 4, 1992. 25 Acting on the private respondents' first motion to declare petitioners
in default for their failure to appear at the hearing of the Motion for Dissolution of Injunction, on the
hearing date petitioners themselves requested, the trial court issued an order dated February 3, 1992,
which read as follows:

"After examination of the record this court finds that the interest of justice would be better served by
giving the parties opportunities to ventilate their respective positions.

Furthermore, this Court finds that motion to Declare Defendants (herein petitioners) in Default
prematurely filed considering that (herein petitioners) filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File
Responsive Pleading on December 27, 1991, which was granted by the Court."

The failure of petitioners and their counsel Garlitos to take full advantage of this opportunity to be
heard does not change the fact that they were accorded such opportunity.

To agree with petitioners' tenuous argument would enable any defeated party to render inutile any
default judgment through the simple expedient of alleging negligence of counsel in filing a timely
answer. This Court will not countenance such a farce which contradicts long-settled doctrines of trial
and procedure. As correctly stated by Respondent Court of Appeals:

"Neither can petitioners claim that they were denied of their day in court. It is axiomatic that as long as
the parties were given the chance to present their case or defense before judgment was rendered, the
demands of due process are sufficiently met. In the case at bar, petitioners were served with copies of
the summons and the complaint. Petitioners were allowed to present their evidence in support of their
opposition to the writ of preliminary injunction. They were given the chance to oppose the motion to
cite them in contempt of court. Counsel for petitioners had filed before respondent court several
pleadings and had attended hearings of the case. Indeed, it cannot be gainsaid that petitioners were
given the opportunity to be heard.

xxx xxx xxx

Corollarily, the records of the case would suggest that petitioner Salonga is also negligent. For instance,
petitioner Salonga knew that the initial hearing of the application for issuance of writ of injunction was
set on December 4, 1991 but he did not attend. His former counsel attended, albeit he arrived late.
During the hearing on December 6, 1991, petitioner Salonga arrived late such that (the Regional Trial
Court), the private respondent and his former counsel had to wait for him. After giving his testimonies
on December 6, 1991, petitioner Salonga knew that the next hearing for injunction was on December 9,
1991 but he, as well as his counsel, did not arrive on said date. (The Court of Appeals) also notes that the
motion for dissolution of injunction filed by petitioner's former counsel was verified by petitioner
Salonga. Therefore, petitioner Salonga must have known that as requested by his counsel, the motion
for dissolution was set for hearing on January 17, 1972, yet he and his counsel again failed to appear
during the hearing. Petitioner Salonga knew about private respondent's motion to cite him in contempt
of court but he did not attend the hearing of said motion. The above incidents clearly manifest the in
officiousness or lack of zeal on the part of petitioner Salonga in pursuing his defense." 26

Parenthetically, petitioners admit that on July 22, 1992, Atty. Garlitos was able to file a timely Motion
for Reconsideration on their behalf which was set for hearing by the trial court. 27 The fact that
petitioners and their counsel Garlitos failed to attend said hearing and adduce evidence on their behalf
is of no moment. What is important is that they were given the chance to do so. "Indeed, deprivation of
due process cannot be successfully invoked where a party was given the chance to be heard in his
motion for reconsideration." 28

Memorandum of Agreement

Consented to by Petitioners

Petitioners further attack the validity of the decision of the trial court by contending that they "were
unjustly and unlawfully compelled to pay the Private Respondent Corporation the amount of five
hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00), compelled to make Private Respondent Corporation a partner
of the petitioners in the latter's business under the name and style 'Solidisque, Inc.' and to provide the
former with thirty percent (30%) equity participation in exchange for the alleged three million pesos
(P3,000,000.00) capital contribution, compelled to provide as petitioners' alleged equity participation in
the supposed Joint Venture with Private Respondent Corporation the exorbitant amount of seven
million pesos (P7,000,000.00) consisting of audio and lightning (sic) equipment, electrical and
construction materials and other assets necessary in the creation and construction of a discoteque, (sic)
and, compelled to enter into a Joint Venture with the Private Respondent Corporation, all on the basis of
an unsigned Memorandum of Agreement . . ." 29 Thus, petitioners' contention is based on their alleged
lack of consent to the Memorandum of Agreement.
Prevailing jurisprudence uniformly holds that findings of fact of the trial court, particularly when
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are binding upon this Court. 30 Hence, the factual finding of the trial
court affirmed by the respondent Court of Appeals as to the perfection of the Memorandum of
Agreement between petitioners and private respondent, is binding on this Court. This is more than
sufficient to debunk petitioners' contention.

Understood properly, it is clear that the lower courts are not compelling petitioners to enter into any
contract or to pay any sum of money. The courts are merely enforcing the terms of the agreement
voluntarily entered into by the parties, particularly petitioners.

Second Issue: Petitioners Guilty of Indirect Contempt?

Petitioners argue that the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over the person of Petitioner Salonga
because the contempt proceedings were "wrongly initiated." Citing Slade Perkins vs. Director of Prisons,
31 they contend that the Motion to Cite for Indirect Contempt filed by private respondent partakes of
the nature of criminal contempt as distinguished from civil contempt; hence, the mode of procedure
and rules of evidence in criminal prosecutions should apply. 32

The Court is not persuaded. The distinction between civil and criminal contempt made by this Court in
Slade Perkins does not support petitioners' contention. As we stated in Slade Perkins, the "question of
whether the contempt for which the petitioner was committed in jail is civil or criminal, does not affect
either the jurisdiction or the power of the court in the premises." 33 The Court of Appeals correctly
ruled that "(in) indirect contempt proceedings such as in the case at bar, a mere motion to that effect
will suffice for the (trial court) to acquire jurisdiction." 34 For after all, Section 3 of the Rules of Court
requires merely that "a charge in writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the accused to be
heard by himself or counsel" before one guilty of indirect contempt may be punished therefor. The
conclusion of Respondent Court of Appeals was based on the pronouncement of this Court in Gavieres
vs. Falcis:

"A court's power to punish for contempt is primarily self-preservative, in the exercise of which the
interest of private parties — be they litigants or not in the case in which it is invoked — is at best only a
coincidental, not a necessary or an indispensable, factor. A citation for indirect contempt issued by the
Court itself, even if based on information only privately or informally communicated to the court,
operates as the written charge prescribed by the Rule and if duly and regularly heard, makes a resulting
contempt order no less valid than if it had been rendered upon formal charges preferred by a party-
litigant. Indeed, it has been held that such charges may be made, not only by the court or the
prosecuting office, but '. . . even by a private person.'" 35

Incidentally, as aptly observed by respondent appellate court, the order for petitioners to pay a fine
inuring to the benefit of private respondent finds support in Slade Perkins, viz.:

"Where the punishment is by fine directed to be paid to a party in the nature of damages for the wrong
inflicted or by imprisonment as a coercive measure to enforce the performance of some act for the
benefit of the party or in aid of the final judgment or decree rendered in his behalf, the contempt
judgment will, if made before final decree, be treated as in the nature of an interlocutory order, or, if
made after final decree, as remedial in nature, and may be reviewed only on appeal from the final
decree, or in such other mode as in appropriate to the review of judgments in civil cases." 36

Finally, this Decision is without prejudice to whatever cause of action petitioners may have in law
against their former counsel Garlitos. Elementary dictates of due process prevent us from acting against
him in this proceeding. LexLib

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit, for its failure to show
any reversible error on the part of Respondent Court. The assailed Decision is AFFIRMED in toto. No
costs.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 4369. November 28, 1997.]

PIKE P. ARRIETA, complainant, vs. ATTY. JOEL A. LLOSA, respondent.

SYNOPSIS

This is an administrative case filed by complainant Arrieta praying for the disbarment of respondent
Atty. Jose A. Llosa for notarizing and certifying under oath a Deed of Absolute Sale making it appear that
some of the vendors in said deed were parties and signatories thereto when in truth and in fact, some of
them were already dead prior to its execution. The case was assigned to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for proper investigation. During the pendency of the case, complainant had a complete
turn-around and moved for the dismissal of his complaint. The Investigating Commissioner
recommended the dismissal of the instant case and the Board of Governors of the IBP adopted the
recommendation and resolved to dismiss the instant case.

The Supreme Court ruled otherwise. Evidence clearly shows that it would have been impossible, both
physically and legally, for Jesus T. Bonilla and Leonardo Toledano to have personally subscribed and
sworn before respondent as to the validity and authenticity of the deed of sale as they had already
passed away prior to the execution of said document. Yet, respondent certified to this effect. As a
lawyer, respondent breached his professional responsibility by certifying under oath an instrument fully
knowing that some of the signatories thereto were long dead. Not only did he commit an illegal act but
also did so without thinking of the possible damage or prejudice that might result from non-observance
of the same, but this being his first administrative offense, such should not warrant the supreme penalty
of disbarment. Accordingly, the Court finds respondent guilty of misconduct and meted a penalty of
suspension from the practice of law for six (6) months effective immediately, with a warning that
another infraction would be dealt with more severely. HcTIDC

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY; RESPONDENT'S ACT OF CERTIFYING


UNDER OATH A DEED OF ABSOLUTE SALE KNOWING THAT SOME OF THE VENDORS WERE ALREADY
DEAD, THEY BEING HIS FORMER CLIENTS, CONSTITUTES MISCONDUCT. — As a lawyer commissioned to
be a notary public, respondent is mandated to discharge his sacred duties which are dictated by public
policy and, as such, impressed with public interest. Faithful observance and utmost respect of the legal
solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgment or jurat is sacrosanct. It is dismaying to note how
respondent so cavalierly disregarded the requirements and solemnities of the Notarial Law simply to
accommodate his clients. Not only did he commit an illegal act but also did so without thinking of the
possible damage or prejudice that might result from non-observance of the same. As a lawyer,
respondent breached his professional responsibility by certifying under oath an instrument fully
knowing that some of the signatories thereto were long dead. This Court cannot countenance this
practice, especially coming, as it does, from respondent who formerly served as president of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Negros Oriental Chapter, President of the Dumaguete Lions Club and
City Councilor of Dumaguete. If indeed respondent had taken steps to verify the identities of the
signatories, he would have easily known that the signatures were fake as they purported to be those of
his former clients. Respondent's act of certifying under oath a Deed of Absolute Sale knowing that some
of the vendors were already dead, they being his former clients, constitutes misconduct. But this being
his first administrative offense, such should not warrant the supreme penalty of disbarment. This Court
finds respondent Atty. Joel A. Llosa guilty of misconduct. Consequently, he is ordered SUSPENDED from
the practice of law for six (6) months effective immediately, with a warning that another infraction
would be dealt with more severely. ADECcI

2. ID.; A NOTARIAL DOCUMENT IS BY LAW ENTITLED TO FULL FAITH AND CREDIT UPON ITS FACE
AND, FOR THIS REASON, NOTARIES PUBLIC MUST OBSERVE WITH THE UTMOST CARE THE BASIC
REQUIREMENTS IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR DUTIES. — Notarization is not an empty, meaningless,
routinary act. On the contrary, it is invested with substantial public interest, such that only those who
are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public. Notarization of a private document converts the
document into a public one making it admissible in court without further proof of its authenticity. A
notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face and, for this reason, notaries
public must observe with the utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their duties.
Otherwise, the confidence of the public in the integrity of this form of conveyance would be
undermined.

3. ID.; PRACTICE OF LAW IS NOT A RIGHT BUT A PRIVILEGE BESTOWED BY THE STATE ON THOSE
WHO SHOW THAT THEY POSSESS, AND CONTINUE TO POSSESS, THE QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED BY LAW
FOR THE CONFERMENT OF SUCH PRIVILEGE. — It is worth stressing that the practice of law is not a right
but a privilege bestowed by the State on those who show that they possess, and continue to possess,
the qualifications required by law for the conferment of such privilege. [M]embership in the bar is a
privilege burdened with conditions. There being no lifetime guaranty, a lawyer has the privilege and
right to practice law only during good behavior and can be deprived of it for misconduct ascertained and
declared by judgment of the court after opportunity to be heard has been afforded him. HETDAC

RESOLUTION

ROMERO, J p:

Complainant Pike P. Arrieta prays for the disbarment of Atty. Joel A. Llosa for certifying under oath a
Deed of Absolute Sale. LLphil

Particularly, complainant avers that respondent notarized a Deed of Absolute Sale dated March 24, 1993
1 making it appear that some of the vendors in said Deed namely, Edelina T. Bonilla, Jesus T. Bonilla and
Leonardo P. Toledano were parties and signatories thereto when in truth and in fact, all three were
already dead prior to the execution of the said Deed of Absolute Sale. Jesus T. Bonilla died on August 22,
1992 2 while Leonardo P. Toledano died on November 1, 1992. 3 Edelina T. Bonilla allegedly died on or
about June 11, 1992.

In answer, respondent admitted having notarized the Deed of Absolute Sale. But before affixing his
notarial seal, he first ascertained the authenticity of the signatures, verified the identities of the
signatories, and determined the voluntariness of its execution. Satisfied with all of the above, it was only
then that he certified the document.

Curiously, on September 9, 1996, complainant had a complete turn-around and moved for the dismissal
of his complaint. He alleged that the instant case is only a product of misunderstanding and
misinterpretation of some facts and is now convinced that everything is in order. cdtai

The designated Investigating Commissioner of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines recommended the
dismissal of the instant case. The Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines adopted
the above recommendation and resolved to dismiss the instant case after finding no compelling reason
to continue with the disbarment proceedings.

This Court cannot agree.

"Sec. 1 of Public Act No. 2103 provides:

(a) The acknowledgment shall be made before a notary public or an officer duly authorized by law
of the country to take acknowledgment of instruments or documents in the place where the act is done.
The notary public or the officer taking the acknowledgment shall certify that the person acknowledging
the instrument or document is known to him and that he is the same person who executed it, and
acknowledged that the same is his free act and deed. The certificate shall be made under his official
seal, if he is by law required to keep a seal, and if not, his certificate shall so state."

It is thus clear from the foregoing that the party acknowledging must appear before the notary public or
any person authorized to take acknowledgment of instruments or documents. 4 Aside from being
required to appear before the Notary Public, it is similarly incumbent upon the person acknowledging
the instrument to declare before the same Notary Public that the execution of the instrument was done
by him of his own free will.

In the Acknowledgment of the Deed of Sale, respondent certified: "BEFORE ME, this 24th day of March,
1993 at Dumaguete City, Philippines, personally appeared . . . Jesus Bonilla; . . . Leonardo Toledano; . . ."
5 Respondent claims that as a Notary Public, he asked the signatories whether the signatures appearing
above their respective names were theirs, and whether they voluntarily executed the Deed of Absolute
Sale. In order to ascertain their identities, respondent asked for their respective residence certificates.

Except for Edelina T. Bonilla whose alleged death was not evidenced by a death certificate, respondent
certified in the acknowledgment that Jesus T. Bonilla and Leonardo P. Toledano personally appeared
before him. Respondent's acts require the presence of the vendors to be able to verify the authenticity
of their signatures, the identities of the signatories and the voluntariness of the execution of the Deed. It
defies imagination and belief how these could have happened. It would have been impossible, both
physically and legally, for Jesus T. Bonilla and Leonardo P. Toledano to have personally subscribed and
sworn before respondent as to the authenticity and validity of the Deed of Sale as they had already
passed on to the Great Beyond prior to the execution of the said documents.

Yet, respondent certified to this effect. By affixing his notarial seal on the instrument, he converted the
Deed of Absolute Sale, from being a private document into a public document. By certifying the Deed,
respondent, in effect, proclaimed to the world (1) that all the parties therein personally appeared before
him; (2) that they are all personally known to him; (3) that they were the same persons who executed
the instruments; (4) that he inquired into the voluntariness of execution of the instrument; and (5) they
acknowledged personally before him that they voluntarily and freely executed the same.

Notarization is not an empty, meaningless, routinary act. On the contrary, it is invested with substantial
public interest, such that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public.
Notarization of a private document converts the document into a public one making it admissible in
court without further proof of its authenticity. 6 A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and
credit upon its face and, for this reason, notaries public must observe with the utmost care the basic
requirements in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, the confidence of the public in the integrity
of this form of conveyance would be undermined. 7

As a lawyer commissioned to be a notary public, respondent is mandated to discharge his sacred duties
which are dictated by public policy and, as such, impressed with public interest. Faithful observance and
utmost respect of the legal solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgment or jurat is sacrosanct. 8

It is for the above reason that this Court is most concerned about the explanation given by complainant
for withdrawing his complaint against respondent. In his Motion to Dismiss dated September 9, 1996,
complainant declares:

"xxx xxx xxx


That he is now fully convinced that everything was in order, and that nobody was ever prejudiced by the
acts of the respondent. Herein complainant has realized that he himself, or any other legal practitioner,
would have done similarly as the respondent, if confronted with such an urgent voluntary transaction in
an emergency situation; . . ."

That respondent acted the way he did because he was confronted with an alleged urgent situation is no
excuse at all. As an individual, and even more so as a member of the legal profession, he is required to
obey the laws of the land AT ALL TIMES, to refrain from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or
deceitful conduct AT ALL TIMES, to uphold the integrity of his profession AT ALL TIMES, to promote
respect to his profession AT ALL TIMES, and to act with justice AT ALL TIMES.

It is dismaying to note how respondent so cavalierly disregarded the requirements and solemnities of
the Notarial Law simply to accommodate his clients. Not only did he commit an illegal act but also did so
without thinking of the possible damage or prejudice that might result from non-observance of the
same. cdrep

As a lawyer, respondent breached his professional responsibility by certifying under oath an instrument
fully knowing that some of the signatories thereto were long dead. This Court cannot countenance this
practice, especially coming, as it does, from respondent who formerly served as president of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Negros Oriental Chapter, President of the Dumaguete Lions Club and
City Councilor of Dumaguete. If indeed respondent had taken steps to verify the identities of the
signatories, he would have easily known that the signatures were fake as they purported to be those of
his former clients.

It is worth stressing that the practice of law is not a right but a privilege bestowed by the State on those
who show that they possess, and continue to possess, the qualifications required by law for the
conferment of such privilege. 9 [M]embership in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions. There
being no lifetime guaranty, a lawyer has the privilege and right to practice law only during good
behavior and can be deprived of it for misconduct ascertained and declared by judgment of the court
after opportunity to be heard has been afforded him. 10

Pursuant to the foregoing, it is primarily required of lawyers to obey the Constitution and laws of the
land. 11 They must refrain from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. 12

An attorney may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath or of his duties as an attorney
and counsellor, which include statutory grounds enumerated in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court, all of these being broad enough to cover practically any misconduct of a lawyer in his professional
or private capacity. 13

Respondent's act of certifying under oath a Deed of Absolute Sale knowing that some of the vendors
were already dead, they being his former clients, constitutes misconduct. But this being his first
administrative offense, such should not warrant the supreme penalty of disbarment.
ACCORDINGLY, this Court finds respondent Atty. Joel A. Llosa guilty of misconduct. Consequently, he is
ordered SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months effective immediately, with a warning
that another infraction would be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished all the courts of the land as well as the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, the Office of the Bar Confidant and recorded in the personal files of respondent himself.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ ., concur.

Footnotes

1. Deed of Absolute Sale, Annex "C", Rollo, p. 11.

2. Certificate of Death of Jesus Jose Bonilla issued by Local Civil Registrar, Cebu City, Annex "A",
Rollo, p. 9.

3. Certificate of Death of Leonardo Toledano issued by Local Civil Registrar, City of Manila, Annex
"B", Rollo, p. 10.

4. Jamildo v. New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) Officials, 242 SCRA 87 (1995).

5. "An Act Providing for the Acknowledgment and Authentication of Instruments and Documents
Without the Philippine Islands," enacted January 26, 1912.

6. Romana R. Maligsa v. Atty. Arsenio Fer Cabanting, A.C. No. 4539, May 14, 1997.

7. Ramirez v. Ner, 21 SCRA 207 (1967).

8. See Note 6.

9. Bongalonta v. Castillo, 240 SCRA 313 (1995).

10. Marcelo v. Javier, 214 SCRA 13 (1992).

11. Canon I, Code of Professional Responsibility.

12. Rule 1, supra.

13. Marcelo v. Javier, Sr., 214 SCRA 1 (1992).

FIRST DIVISION

[A.M. No. P-96-1189. October 16, 1997.]

ATTY. LELU P. CONTRERAS, complainant, vs. SALVADOR C. MIRANDO, respondent.


SYNOPSIS

Respondent was administratively charged in a sworn-letter complaint by Atty. Lelu P. Contreras,


respondent's immediate supervisor and the clerk of court of the Regional Trial Court, Iriga City, Branch
34. Atty. Contreras specifically charged respondent with frequent unexplained absences, for reporting to
work drunk, leaving unacted upon documents, papers and transmittals requiring his immediate
attention and asking money from litigants in exchange for small favors. When this case was referred to
Judge R. Gonzales for investigation, report and recommendation, respondent manifested his admission
and acceptance of the charges filed against him. Judge Gonzales then recommended the penalty of fine
equivalent to respondent's two months salary with a warning that repetition of the same acts would be
dealt with accordingly. cdasia

The Supreme Court ruled that respondent was clearly remiss in his official duties as he had precisely
admitted this fact before the investigating judge. Respondent must be reminded that the administration
of justice is a sacred task. It demands the highest degree of efficiency, dedication and professionalism.
For neglect of duty, respondent was fined P5,000.00 to be paid in ten (10) equal monthly installments of
P500.00 each, with a warning that repetition of the same will be dealt with more severely.

SYLLABUS

1. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW; SUPREME COURT'S SUPERVISION OVER COURT EMPLOYEES; PUBLIC


OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES MUST DISCHARGE THEIR DUTIES WITH UTMOST RESPONSIBILITY,
INTEGRITY, COMPETENCE AND LOYALTY, ACT WITH PATRIOTISM AND JUSTICE, LEAD MODEST LIVES,
AND UPHOLD PUBLIC INTEREST OVER PERSONAL INTEREST. — There is no dispute that respondent was
remiss in his official duties as he had precisely admitted this fact before Judge Gonzales. Administration
of justice is a sacred task. It demands the highest degree of efficiency, dedication and professionalism.
Respondent must be reminded of the State policy in promoting the highest standard of ethics in public
service which is embedded in specific legal obligations. Public officials and employees are at all times
accountable to the people. Hence they shall discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity,
competence and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives, and uphold public interest
over personal interest. They shall perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree of
excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill. They shall enter public service with utmost dedication
to duty. They shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of
undue patronage.

2. ID.; ID.; IT IS INCUMBENT UPON EVERY MEMBER OF THE JUDICIARY FAMILY TO WORK HAND IN
HAND IN RESTORING AND UPHOLDING, RATHER THAN DESTROYING, THE INTEGRITY OF THE COURTS TO
WHICH THEY BELONG. — These unsettling times have witnessed the judiciary as the target of strong
criticisms, and at times even vile innuendoes and imputations. Although they remain unproved, false
and unfounded, to a certain extent this cacophony has sullied the reputation and integrity of the
institution and compromised the moral ascendancy of its members. It is therefore incumbent upon
every member of the judiciary family to work hand in hand in restoring and upholding, rather than
destroying, the integrity of the courts to which they belong. cdtai
DECISION

BELLOSILLO, J p:

Former Clerk of Court Crescencio L. Cortes, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, Br. 34, repeatedly
called attention to the irresponsibility of respondent Salvador C. Mirando in handling his job as Clerk III
in the same office through several memoranda which apparently fell on deaf ears. Atty. Cortes, Jr. was
therefore constrained to file his letter-complaint 1 of 29 October 1993 charging respondent with gross
inefficiency and unexplained absences and tardiness. The letter-complaint however was held in the
suspense files after respondent promised several times to mend his ways and perform his job properly.

But respondent reneged on his promises. He reverted to his old ways after only two (2) weeks of good
behavior. Atty. Lelu P. Contreras, herein complainant, who succeeded Atty. Crescencio L. Cortes, Jr. as
the current immediate supervisor of respondent, conferred with him and reminded him of the nature of
his responsibilities but the efforts of complainant proved futile. Hence, respondent was administratively
charged in a sworn letter-complaint dated 16 November 1995 2 with (a) conduct prejudicial to the best
interest of the service; (b) gross neglect of duty; (c) refusal to perform official duty; (d) inefficiency and
incompetence in the performance of official duties; (e) frequent absences or tardiness; (f) failure to act
promptly on letters and requests within fifteen (15) days from receipt; and, (g) failure to process
documents and complete action on documents and papers within a reasonable time from preparation
thereof. Complainant averred that respondent's work attitude was so incorrigible and widespread,
penetrating the very core of his being, that no amount of "sweet talk" or stringent measures could
resuscitate him.

Atty. Contreras specifically charged respondent Mirando with frequent unexplained absences, reporting
to work drunk, documents, papers and transmittals requiring his immediate attention were left unacted
upon, and asking money from litigants in exchange for small favors.

In his Comment, 3 respondent denied any knowledge of the accusations against him. He claimed instead
that, on the contrary, he performed his duties and responsibilities religiously and regularly. Thus he
prayed for the dismissal of the administrative case filed against him. cda

When this case was referred to Judge Reno R. Gonzales for investigation, report and recommendation,
respondent manifested his admission and acceptance of the charges filed against him. At the same time,
he asked for clemency and promised not to commit the same or similar acts again. Judge Gonzales
therefore recommended the penalty of fine equivalent to respondent's two (2) months salary with a
warning that repetition of the same or similar acts would be dealt with more severely.

There is no dispute that respondent was remiss in his official duties as he had precisely admitted this
fact before Judge Gonzales. Administration of justice is a sacred task. It demands the highest degree of
efficiency, dedication and professionalism. Respondent must be reminded of the State policy in
promoting the highest standard of ethics in public service which is embedded in specific legal
obligations. Public officials and employees are at all times accountable to the people. Hence they shall
discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence and loyalty, act with patriotism
and justice, lead modest lives, and uphold public interest over personal interest. 4 They shall perform
and discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill.
They shall enter public service with utmost dedication to duty. They shall endeavor to discourage wrong
perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage. 5

These unsettling times have witnessed the judiciary as the target of strong criticisms, and at times even
vile innuendoes and imputations. Although they remain unproved, false and unfounded, to a certain
extent this cacophony has sullied the reputation and integrity of the institution and compromised the
moral ascendancy of its members. It is therefore incumbent upon every member of the judiciary family
to work hand in hand in restoring and upholding, rather than destroying, the integrity of the courts to
which they belong.

We are gratified to know that since the filing of this administrative complaint there has been a marked
improvement in respondent's performance of his official duties and responsibilities. We trust that this
change was not brought about more by fear of any sanction which the filing of this case might bring him
but rather by a genuine realization by respondent of the significance of his office, the role he plays, the
responsibility he assumes and the burden of trust reposed in him.

WHEREFORE, for neglect of duty, respondent Salvador C. Mirando, Jr. is FINED P5,000.00 to be paid in
ten (10) equal monthly installments of P500.00 each with a WARNING that repetition of the same or
similar act will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Vitug, Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Footnotes

1. Rollo, p. 7.

2. Id., p. 2.

3. Id., p. 22.

4. Sec. 2, RA 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public
Officials and Employees.

5. Sec. 4 (B), id.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 94457. October 16, 1997.]

VICTORIA LEGARDA, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, NEW CATHAY HOUSE, INC.,
THE HONORABLE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF QUEZON CITY, BRANCH 94, respondents.
Singson, Valdez & Associates for petitioner.

Ceferino Padua Law Office for Cabrera.

Jesus M. Bautista for Nancy Saw Cheung.

SYNOPSIS

The parties hereto entered into a lease agreement over a certain property owned by petitioner Victoria
Legarda. Legarda, however, refused to sign a contract although respondent New Cathay House already
made a deposit and a down payment of rentals. Cathay, therefore, filed a complaint against Legarda for
specific performance with preliminary injunction and damages. The court a quo issued an injunction.
Legarda's counsel (Atty. Coronel) failed to file an answer, thereby prompting the court to declare her in
default. Cathay was allowed to present evidence ex-parte and a judgment by default was reached by the
trial court ordering Legarda to execute the lease contract in favor of Cathay. When the judgment
became final and executory, the trial court issued a writ of execution and a public auction was held
where Cathay's Manager, Roberto V. Cabrera, Jr. was the highest bidder. The sheriff issued a Certificate
of Sale. Upon failure of Legarda to redeem her property within the one-year redemption period, a final
Deed of Sale was issued by the sheriff which was registered by Cabrera with the Register of Deeds.
Legarda's Transfer Certificate of Title was cancelled with the issuance of a new TCT in favor of Cabrera.
Atty. Coronel did not inform Legarda of all these developments. He then filed a petition for annulment
of judgment before the Court of Appeals. The appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court by
dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment and holding Legarda bound by the negligence of her
counsel. Legarda then hired a new lawyer for the purpose of elevating her case to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court's decision reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and declared that Atty.
Coronel committed reckless, inexcusable and gross negligence which deprived his client of her property
without due process of law. Aggrieved, Cathay filed the instant motion for reconsideration alleging that
the reconveyance would not be possible because its owner Cabrera, even prior to the promulgation of
the decision, had already sold the subject property. cdasia

The motion for reconsideration of respondent New Cathay House, Inc. was granted. A new judgment
was entered dismissing petition for review and affirming the decision of the Court of Appeals. What was
clear from the records of the case was that the auction sale was conducted regularly. The certificate of
sale and the final deed of sale were properly issued to Cabrera that allowed him to consolidate his
ownership over the subject property, register it and obtain a title in his own name and sell it to an
innocent purchaser for value. Therefore, since the property was already sold to an innocent purchaser
for value, Cabrera, much less by Cathay can no longer return it to its original owner.

Justice Kapunan issued a separate, concurring and dissenting opinion while Justice Hermosisima wrote a
dissenting opinion. cCAIDS

SYLLABUS
1. CIVIL LAW; LAND REGISTRATION; TORRENS SYSTEM; AS A RULE, ONE WHO DEALS WITH
PROPERTY REGISTERED THEREIN NEED NOT GO BEYOND SUCH REGISTRATION BUT ONLY HAS TO RELY
ON THE TITLE; APPLICATION IN CASE AT BAR. — We do not have to belabor the fact that all the
successors-in-interest of Cabrera to the subject lot were transferees for value and in good faith, having
relied as they did on the clean titles of their predecessors. The successive owners were each armed with
their own indefeasible titles which automatically brought them under the aegis of the Torrens System.
As the Court declared in Sandoval vs. Court of Appeals, 260 SCRA 283 (1996), "(i)t is settled doctrine that
one who deals with property registered under the Torrens system need not go beyond the same, but
only has to rely on the title. He is charged with notice only of such burdens and claims as are annotated
on the title." In the case at bar, it is not disputed that no notice of lis pendens was ever annotated on
any of the titles of the subsequent owners. And even if there were such a notice, it would not have
created a lien over the property because the main office of a lien is to warn prospective buyers that the
property they intend to purchase is the subject of a pending litigation. Therefore, since the property is
already in the hands of Luminlun, an innocent purchaser for value, it can no longer be returned to its
original owner by Cabrera, much less by Cathay itself.

2. REMEDIAL LAW; JURISDICTION OVER PARTY-RESPONDENT; WHEN ACQUIRED; NOT APPLICABLE


IN CASE AT BAR. — Though not raised as an issue in this case, the fact is that Cabrera was impleaded as
a party-respondent only on August 12, 1991, after the promulgation of the Gancayco decision. The
dispositive portion ordered Cathay, instead of Cabrera, to reconvey the property to Legarda. Cabrera
was never a party to this case, either as plaintiff-appellee below or as respondent in the present action.
Neither did he ever act as Cathay's representative. As we held in the recent case of National Power
Corporation vs. NLRC, et. al., G.R. Nos. 90933-61, May 29, 1997, "(j)urisdiction over a party is acquired
by his voluntary appearance or submission to the court or by the coercive process issued by the court to
him, generally by service of summons." In other words, until Cabrera was impleaded as party
respondent and ordered to file a comment in the August 12 1991 resolution, the Court never obtained
jurisdiction over him, and to command his principal to reconvey a piece of property which used to be
HIS would not only be inappropriate but would also constitute a real deprivation of one's property
without due process of law.

3. CIVIL LAW; LAND REGISTRATION; WHEN THE ORDER OF RECONVEYANCE MAY NOT BE AVAILED
OF; CASE AT BAR. — Under the Gancayco ruling, the order of reconveyance was premised on the alleged
gross negligence of Legarda's counsel which should not be allowed to bind her as she was deprived of
her property "without due process of law." It is, however, basic that as long as a party was given the
opportunity to defend her interests in due course, she cannot be said to have been denied due process
of law, for this opportunity to be heard is the very essence of due process. The chronology of events
shows that the case took its regular course in the trial and appellate courts but Legarda's counsel failed
to act as any ordinary counsel should have acted, his negligence every step of the way amounting to
"abandonment," in the words of the Gancayco decision. Yet, it cannot be denied that the proceedings
which led to the filing of this case were not attended by any irregularity. The judgment by default was
valid, so was the ensuing sale at public auction. If Cabrera was adjudged highest bidder in said auction
sale, it was not through any machination on his part. All of his actuations that led to the final registration
of the title in his name were aboveboard, untainted by any irregularity. The fact that Cabrera is an
officer of Cathay does not make him a purchaser in bad faith. His act in representing the company was
never questioned nor disputed by Legarda. And while it is true that he won in the bidding, it is likewise
true that said bidding was conducted by the book. There is no call to be alarmed in case an official of the
company emerges as the winning bidder since in some cases, the judgment creditor himself personally
participates in the bidding.

4. REMEDIAL LAW; CIVIL PROCEDURE; JUDGMENT; DEFINED. — "A judgment may be broadly
defined as the decision or sentence of the law given by a court or other tribunal as the result of
proceedings instituted therein." It is "a judicial act which settles the issues, fixes the rights and liabilities
of the parties, and determines the proceeding, and it is regarded as the sentence of the law pronounced
by the court on the action or question before it."

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; EFFECT OF FINALITY. — In our jurisdiction, a judgment becomes ipso facto final
when no appeal is perfected or the reglementary period to appeal therefrom expires. "The necessity of
giving finality to judgments that are not void is self-evident. The interests of society impose it. The
opposite view might make litigations more unendurable than the wrongs (they are) intended to redress.
It would create doubt, real or imaginary, and controversy would constantly arise as to what the
judgment or order was. Public policy and sound practice demand that, at the risk of occasional errors,
judgments of courts should become final at some definite date fixed by law. The very object for which
courts were instituted was to put an end to controversies." When judgments of lower courts gain finality
"they, too, become inviolable, impervious to modification. They may, then, no longer be reviewed, or in
any way modified directly or indirectly, by a higher court, not even by the Supreme Court." In other
words, once a judgment becomes final, the only errors that may be corrected are those which are
clerical.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; WHEN VOIDED; NOT APPLICABLE IN CASE AT BAR. — Void judgments may be
classified into two groups: those rendered by a court without jurisdiction to do so and those obtained by
fraud or collusion. This case must be tested in light of the guidelines governing the latter class of
judgments. "In this regard, an action to annul a judgment on the ground of fraud will not lie unless the
fraud is extrinsic or collateral and facts upon which it is based (have) not been controverted or resolved
in the case where (the) judgment was rendered." It must be noted that, aside from the fact that no
extrinsic fraud attended the trial and resolution of this case, the jurisdiction of the court a quo over the
parties and the subject matter was never raised as an issue by Legarda. Such being the case, the decision
of the trial court cannot be nullified. Errors of judgment, if any, can only be reviewed on appeal, failing
which the decision becomes final and executory, "valid and binding upon the parties in the case and
their successors in interest."

7. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; SUPREME COURT; THIS COURT RENDERS DECISIONS NOT ON THE BASIS
OF EMOTIONS BUT ON ITS SOUND JUDGMENT. — Neither Cathay nor Cabrera should he made to suffer
for the gross negligence of Legarda's counsel. If she may be said to be "innocent" because she was
ignorant of the acts of negligence of her counsel, with more reason are respondents truly "innocent." As
between two parties who may lose due to the negligence or incompetence of the counsel of one, the
party who was responsible for making it happen should suffer the consequences. This reflects the basic
common law maxim, so succinctly stated by Justice J.B.L. Reyes, that ". . . (B)etween two innocent
parties, the one who made it possible for the wrong to be done should be the one to bear the resulting
loss." In this case, it was not respondents, but Legarda, who misjudged and hired the services of the
lawyer who practically abandoned her case and who continued to retain him even after his proven
apathy and negligence. The Gancayco decision makes much of the fact that Legarda is now "consigned
to penury" and, therefore, this Court "must come to the aid of the distraught client." It must be
remembered that this Court renders decisions, not on the basis of emotions but on its sound judgment,
applying the relevant, appropriate law. Much as it may pity Legarda, or any losing litigant for that
matter, it cannot play the role of a "knight in shining armor" coming to the aid of someone, who through
her weakness, ignorance or misjudgment may have been bested in a legal joust which complied with all
the rules of legal proceedings. In Vales vs. Villa, 35 Phil. 769, this Court warned against the danger of
jumping to the aid of a litigant who commits serious error or judgment resulting in his own loss: ". . .
Courts operate not because one person has been defeated or overcome by another, but because he has
been defeated or overcome illegally. Men may do foolish things, make ridiculous contracts, use
miserable judgment, and lose money by them — indeed, all they have in the world; but not for that
alone can the law intervene and restore. There must be, in addition, a violation of law, the commission
of what the law knows as an actionable wrong, before the courts are authorized to lay hold of the
situation and remedy it." Respondents should not be penalized for Legarda's mistake. If the subject
property was at all sold, it was only after the decisions of the trial and appellate courts had gained
finality. These twin judgments, which were nullified by the Gancayco decision, should be respected and
allowed to stand by this Court for having become final and executory.

KAPUNAN, J., separate and dissenting opinion:

1. LEGAL ETHICS; LAWYERS; CLIENTS ARE BOUND BY THE MISTAKE OF THEIR COUNSEL; EXCEPTION.
— The rule is that a client is bound by the acts, even mistakes, of his counsel in the realm of procedural
technique. The exception to this rule is when the negligence of counsel, as here, is so gross, reckless and
inexcusable that the client is deprived of his day in court. (People's Homesite & Housing Corp. vs.
Tiongco, 12 SCRA 471 [1964]; Escudero vs. Dulay, 158 SCRA 69 [1988]; De Guzman vs. Sandiganbayan,
256 SCRA 171 [1996]), in which case, the remedy then is to reopen the case and allow the party who
was denied his day in court to adduce his evidence. aESIDH

2. CIVIL LAW; LAND REGISTRATION; RECONVEYANCE DEFINED; WHEN AVAILABLE; NOT APPLICABLE
IN CASE AT BAR. — Reconveyance is a remedy of the landowner whose property has been wrongfully or
erroneously registered in the name of another but which recourse cannot be availed of if the property
has passed to an innocent purchaser for value. Here, there has been no definite finding that New Cathay
House, Inc. or its representative, Mr. Roberto V. Cabrera, Jr. has committed any wrongful, unlawful or
fraudulent act which deprived petitioner of her land. As between two innocent parties the one who
made it possible for the wrong to be done should suffer the loss. Certainly, New Cathay House, Inc.
cannot be made to suffer the loss by compelling it to reconvey the land to petitioner who lost her
property due to the gross and inexcusable negligence of her counsel. Moreover, the remedy of
reconveyance cannot be availed of if the property has passed to innocent third parties for value.
HERMOSISIMA, JR., J., dissenting opinion:

1. CIVIL LAW; LAND REGISTRATION; TORRENS SYSTEM; THE PRIMARY AND FUNDAMENTAL
PURPOSE THEREOF IS TO QUIET TITLE TO LAND. — This Court had, on more than one occasion, stated
and hence must continuously state, as long as cases like the one at bench involving titled lands subsist,
that the primary and fundamental purpose of the Torrens System of Land Registration is to quiet title to
land; to put a stop forever to any question of the legality of the title, except claims which were noted at
the time of registration in the certificate or which may arise subsequent thereto. That being the purpose
of the law, once a title is registered, the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the
portals of the court, or sitting in the "mirador su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his land. Thus,
where innocent third persons relying on the correctness of the certificate of title thus issued, acquire
rights over the property, the court cannot disregard such rights and order the total cancellation of the
certificate. The effect of such an outright cancellation would be to impair public confidence in the
certificate of title, for everyone dealing with property registered under the Torrens System would have
to inquire in every instance as to whether the title has been regularly or irregularly issued by the court.
Indeed, this is contrary to the evident purpose of the law. Every person dealing with registered land may
safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefor and the law will in no way oblige
him to go beyond the certificate to determine the condition of the property.

2. ID.; ID.; NOTICE OF LIS PENDENS; PURPOSE THEREOF. — As its name suggests, the only purpose
of a notice of lis pendens is to give notice to third persons and to the whole world that any interest they
might acquire in the property pending litigation would be subject to the result of the suit. If the notice is
effective, a third person who acquires the property affected by the lis pendens takes the same subject to
the incidents and results of the pending litigation. But when the adverse right fails in such litigation, the
lis pendens loses its efficacy. This is the only import of a lis pendens notice which did not even find its
way in any of the titles issued covering the subject property.

3. ID.; ID.; PURCHASER IN GOOD FAITH; DEFINED AND CONSTRUED. — A purchaser in good faith is
one who buys property of another, without notice that some other person has a right to, or interest in,
such property and pays a full and fair price for the same, at the time of such purchase, or before he has
notice of the claim or interest of some other persons in the property. Good faith consists in an honest
intention to abstain from taking any unconscientious advantage of another. Good faith, or the lack of it,
is in its last analysis a question of intention; but in ascertaining the intention by which one is actuated on
a given occasion, we are necessarily controlled by the evidence as to the conduct and outward acts by
which alone the inward motive may, with safety, be determined. Truly, good faith is not a visible,
tangible fact that can be seen or touched, but rather a state or condition of mind which can only be
judged by actual or fancied tokens or signs. Otherwise stated, good faith is the opposite of fraud and it
refers to the state of mind which is manifested by the acts of the individual concerned.

4. LEGAL ETHICS; LAWYERS; NEGLIGENCE OF COUNSEL BINDS THE CLIENT; EXCEPTION. — It is true
that the basic general rule is that the negligence of counsel binds the client. Hence, if counsel commits a
mistake in the course of litigation, thereby resulting in his losing the case, his client must perforce suffer
the consequences of that mistake. The reason for the rule is to avoid the act of every losing party to
raise negligence of his or her counsel to escape an adverse decision of the court to the detriment of our
justice system as no party will ever accept a losing verdict. This general rule, however, pertains only to
simple negligence of the lawyer. Where the negligence of counsel, on the other hand, is one that is so
gross, palpable, pervasive, reckless and inexcusable, such as in this case, this type of negligence does not
bind the client, since in such a case, the client is effectively deprived of his or her day in court. It cannot
be overemphasized that any judgment rendered where there was gross negligence on the part of
counsel of once of the parties is one rendered without due process of law and, thus, void.

5. REMEDIAL LAW; CIVIL PROCEDURE; JUDGMENT; EFFECT OF VOID JUDGMENT; APPLICATION IN


CASE AT BAR. — What is the effect of a void judgment? Gomez vs. Concepcion, 47 Phil. 717. 722-723
[1925]; and Heirs of Mayor Nemencio Galvez vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 119193, 29 March
1996, p. 18, provide the answer: ". . . A void judgment is in legal effect no judgment. By it no rights are
divested. From it no rights can be obtained. Being worthless in itself, all proceedings founded upon it are
equally worthless. It neither binds nor bars any one. All acts performed under it and all claims flowing
out of it are void. The parties attempting to enforce it may be responsible as trespassers. The purchaser
at a sale by virtue of its authority finds himself without title and without redress. "The judgment by
default in Civil Case No. Q-43811 being void, all acts and incidents arising therefrom must necessarily be
void since nothing can arise from a void judgment. Inevitably, the writ of execution, the levy on the
property of Legarda to satisfy the void judgment award, the subsequent public auction sale, the Deed of
Sale issued in favor of the highest bidder Cabrera, as well as the title issued in the name of Cabrera
ought to be struck down for they all arose from the judgment in Civil Case No. Q-43811, which is a void
judgment. Needless to state, these incidents have no leg to stand on. Reconveyance, therefore, of the
Legarda property by Cabrera, the purchaser at the auction sale, would have been in order had the
property not been transferred to innocent purchasers for value beginning with Nancy Saw.
Consequently, the only thing that Cabrera can return now to Legarda is the money he received from the
first innocent purchaser of the property worth P4 million with legal interest to be counted from the time
the judgment by default of the respondent trial court was rendered on March 25, 1985. Respondent
New Cathay House, Inc., Cabrera's corporation, must return to him the auction price in the amount of
P376,500 with legal interest bidded by him at the void auction sale. EDATSC

RESOLUTION

ROMERO, J p:

For our resolution is the motion for reconsideration of the March 18, 1991, decision of the Court's First
Division, filed by private respondent New Cathay House, Inc. (Cathay). A brief narration of facts is in
order.

The parties hereto entered into a lease agreement over a certain Quezon City property owned by
petitioner Victoria Legarda. For some reason or another, she refused to sign the contract although
respondent lessee, Cathay, made a deposit and a down payment of rentals, prompting the latter to file
before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 94 a complaint 1 against the former for specific
performance with preliminary injunction and damages. The court a quo issued the injunction. In the
meantime, Legarda's counsel, noted lawyer Dean Antonio Coronel, requested a 10-day extension of time
to file an answer which the court granted. Atty. Coronel, however, failed to file an answer within the
extended period. His client was eventually declared in default, Cathay was allowed to present evidence
ex-parte, and on March 25, 1985, a judgment by default was reached by the trial court ordering Legarda
to execute the lease contract in favor of, and to pay damages to, Cathay.

On April 9, 1985, a copy of said decision was served on Atty. Coronel but he took no action until the
judgment became final and executory. A month later, the trial court issued a writ of execution and a
public auction was held where Cathay's manager, Roberto V. Cabrera, Jr., as highest bidder, was
awarded the property for P376,500.00 in satisfaction of the judgment debt. Consequently, a Certificate
of Sale was issued by the sheriff on June 27, 1985. Upon failure of Legarda to redeem her property
within the one-year redemption period, a Final Deed of Sale was issued by the sheriff on July 8, 1986,
which was registered by Cabrera with the Register of Deeds three days later. Hence, Legarda's Transfer
Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 270814 was cancelled with the issuance of TCT No. 350892 in the name of
Cabrera.

Despite the lapse of over a year since the judgment by default became final and executory, Atty. Coronel
made no move on behalf of his client. He did not even inform her of all these developments. When
Legarda did learn of the adverse decision, "she nevertheless did not lose faith in her counsel" 2 and
prevailed upon him to seek appropriate relief. Thus, on October 23, 1986, he filed a petition for
annulment of judgment with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction
before the Court of Appeals. 3 aisadc

On November 29, 1989, the appellate court rendered a decision affirming the March 25, 1985, decision
of the trial court, dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment, and holding Legarda bound by the
negligence of her counsel. It considered her allegation of fraud by Cathay to be "improbable," and added
that there was "pure and simple negligence" on the part of petitioner's counsel who failed to file an
answer and, later, a petition for relief from judgment by default. Upon notice of the Court of Appeals
decision, Atty. Coronel again neglected to protect his client's interest by failing to file a motion for
reconsideration or to appeal therefrom until said decision became final on December 21, 1989.

Sometime in March 1990, Legarda learned of the adverse decision of the Court of Appeals dated
November 29, 1989, not from Atty. Coronel but from his secretary. She then hired a new counsel for the
purpose of elevating her case to this Court. The new lawyer filed a petition for certiorari praying for the
annulment of the decision of the trial and appellate courts and of the sheriff's sale, alleging, among
other things, that Legarda lost in the courts below because her previous lawyer was grossly negligent
and inefficient, whose omissions cannot possibly bind her because this amounted to a violation of her
right to due process of law. She, therefore, asked Cathay (not Cabrera) to reconvey the subject property
to her.

On March 18, 1991, a decision 4 was rendered in this case by Mr. Justice Gancayco, ruling, inter alia, as
follows: (a) granting the petition; (b) nullifying the trial court's decision dated March 25, 1985, the Court
of Appeals decision dated November 29, 1989, the Sheriff's Certificate of Sale dated June 27, 1985, of
the property in question, and the subsequent final deed of sale covering the same property; and (c)
ordering Cathay to reconvey said property to Legarda, and the Register of Deeds to cancel the
registration of said property in the name of Cathay (not Cabrera) and to issue a new one in Legarda's
name.

The Court then declared that Atty. Coronel committed, not just ordinary or simple negligence, but
reckless, inexcusable and gross negligence, which deprived his client of her property without due
process of law. His acts, or the lack of it, should not be allowed to bind Legarda who has been
"consigned to penury" because "her lawyer appeared to have abandoned her case not once but
repeatedly." Thus, the Court ruled against tolerating "such unjust enrichment" of Cathay at Legarda's
expense, and noted that counsel's "lack of devotion to duty is so gross and palpable that this Court must
come to the aid of his distraught client."

Aggrieved by this development, Cathay filed the instant motion for reconsideration, alleging, inter alia,
that reconveyance is not possible because the subject property had already been sold by its owner,
Cabrera, even prior to the promulgation of said decision.

By virtue of the Gancayco decision, Cathay was duty bound to return the subject property to Legarda.
The impossibility of this directive is immediately apparent, for two reasons: First, Cathay neither
possessed nor owned the property so it is in no position to reconvey the same; second, even if it did,
ownership over the property had already been validly transferred to innocent third parties at the time of
promulgation of said judgment.

There is no question that the highest bidder at the public auction was Cathay's manager. It has not been
shown nor even alleged, however, that Roberto Cabrera has all the time been acting for or in behalf of
Cathay. For all intents and purposes, Cabrera was simply a vendee whose payment effectively
extinguished Legarda's liability to Cathay as the judgment creditor. No proof was ever presented which
would reveal that the sale occurred only on paper, with Cabrera acting as a mere conduit for Cathay.
What is clear from the records is that the auction sale was conducted regularly, that a certificate of sale
and, subsequently, a final deed of sale were issued to Cabrera which allowed him to consolidate his
ownership over the subject property, register it and obtain a title in his own name, and sell it to Nancy
Saw, an innocent purchaser for value, at a premium price. Nothing on record would demonstrate that
Cathay was the beneficiary of the sale between Cabrera and Saw. Cabrera himself maintained that he
was "acting in his private (as distinct from his corporate) capacity" 5 when he participated in the bidding.

Since the decision of the Court of Appeals gained finality on December 21, 1989, the subject property
has been sold and ownership thereof transferred no less than three times, viz.: (a) from Cabrera to
Nancy Saw on March 21, 1990, four months after the decision of the Court of Appeals became final and
executory and one year before the promulgation of the March 18, 1991, decision under reconsideration;
(b) from Nancy Saw to Lily Tanlo Sy Chua on August 7, 1990, more than one year before the Court issued
a temporary restraining order in connection with this case; and (c) from the spouses Victor and Lily Sy
Chua to Janet Chong Luminlun on April 3, 1992. With these transfers, Cabrera's TCT No. 350892 gave
way to Saw's TCT No. 31672, then to Chua's TCT No. 31673, and finally to Luminlun's TCT No. 99143, all
issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City on April 3, 1990, August 8, 1990, and November 24,
1993, respectively.

We do not have to belabor the fact that all the successors-in-interest of Cabrera to the subject lot were
transferees for value and in good faith, having relied as they did on the clean titled of their
predecessors. The successive owners were each armed with their own indefeasible titles which
automatically brought them under the aegis of the Torrens System. As the Court declared in Sandoval v.
Court of Appeals, 6 "(i)t is settled doctrine that one who deals with property registered under the
Torrens system need not go beyond the same, but only has to rely on the title. He is charged with notice
only of such burdens and claims as are annotated on the title." 7 In the case at bar, it is not disputed
that no notice of lis pendens was ever annotated on any of the titles of the subsequent owners. And
even if there were such a notice, it would not have created a lien over the property because the main
office of a lien is to warn prospective buyers that the property they intend to purchase is the subject of a
pending litigation. Therefore, since the property is already in the hands of Luminlun, an innocent
purchaser for value, it can no longer be returned to its original owner by Cabrera, much less by Cathay
itself. cdphil

Another point to consider, though not raised as an issue in this case, is the fact that Cabrera was
impleaded as a party-respondent only on August 12, 1991, after the promulgation of the Gancayco
decision. 8 The dispositive portion itself ordered Cathay, instead of Cabrera, to reconvey the property to
Legarda. Cabrera was never a party to this case, either as plaintiff-appellee below or as respondent in
the present action. Neither did he ever act as Cathay's representative. As we held in the recent case of
National Power Corporation v. NLRC, et al., 9 "(j)urisdiction over a party is acquired by his voluntary
appearance or submission to the court or by the coercive process issued by the court to him, generally
by service of summons." 10 In other words, until Cabrera was impleaded as party respondent and
ordered to file a comment in the August 12, 1991, resolution, the Court never obtained jurisdiction over
him, and to command his principal to reconvey a piece of property which used to be HIS would not only
be inappropriate but would also constitute a real deprivation of one's property without due process of
law.

Assuming arguendo that reconveyance is possible, that Cathay and Cabrera are one and the same and
that Cabrera's payment redounded to the benefit of his principal, reconveyance, under the facts and
evidence obtaining in this case, would still not address the issues raised herein.

The application of the sale price to Legarda's judgment debt constituted a payment which extinguished
her liability to Cathay as the party in whose favor the obligation to pay damages was established. 11 It
was a payment in the sense that Cathay had to resort to a court-supervised auction sale in order to
execute the judgment. 12 With the fulfillment of the judgment debtor's obligation, nothing else was
required to be done.

Under the Gancayco ruling, the order of reconveyance was premised on the alleged gross negligence of
Legarda's counsel which should not be allowed to bind her as she was deprived of her property "without
due process of law."
It is, however, basic that as long as a party was given the opportunity to defend her interests in due
course, she cannot be said to have been denied due process of law, for this opportunity to be heard is
the very essence of due process. The chronology of events shows that the case took its regular course in
the trial and appellate courts but Legarda's counsel failed to act as any ordinary counsel should have
acted, his negligence every step of the way amounting to "abandonment," in the words of the Gancayco
decision. Yet, it cannot be denied that the proceedings which led to the filing of this case were not
attended by any irregularity. The judgment by default was valid, so was the ensuing sale at public
auction. If Cabrera was adjudged highest bidder in said auction sale, it was not through any machination
on his part. All of his actuations that led to the final registration of the title in his name were
aboveboard, untainted by any irregularity.

The fact that Cabrera is an officer of Cathay does not make him a purchaser in bad faith. His act in
representing the company was never questioned nor disputed by Legarda. And while it is true that he
won in the bidding, it is likewise true that said bidding was conducted by the book. There is no call to be
alarmed in case an official of the company emerges as the winning bidder since in some cases, the
judgment creditor himself personally participates in the bidding.

There is no gainsaying that Legarda is the judgment debtor here. Her property was sold at public auction
to satisfy the judgment debt. She cannot claim that she was illegally deprived of her property because
such deprivation was done in accordance with the rules on execution of judgments. Whether the money
used to pay for said property came from the judgment creditor or its representative is not relevant.
What is important is that it was purchased for value. Cabrera parted with real money at the auction. In
his "Sheriff's Certificate of Sale" dated June 27, 1985, 13 Deputy Sheriff Angelito R. Mendoza certified,
inter alia, that the "highest bidder paid to the Deputy Sheriff the said amount of P376,500.00, the sale
price of the levied property." If this does not constitute payment, what then is it? Had there been no
real purchase and payment below, the subject property would never have been awarded to Cabrera and
registered in his name, and the judgment debt would never have been satisfied. Thus, to require either
Cathay or Cabrera to reconvey the property would be an unlawful intrusion into the lawful exercise of
the latter's proprietary rights over the land in question, an act which would constitute an actual denial
of property without due process of law.

It may be true that the subject lot could have fetched a higher price during the public auction, as
Legarda claims, but the records fail to betray any hint of a bid higher than Cabrera's which was bypassed
in his favor. Certainly, he could not help it if his bid of P376,500.00 was the highest. Moreover, in spite
of this allegedly low selling price, Legarda still failed to redeem her property within the one-year
redemption period. She could not feign ignorance of said sale on account of her counsel's failure to so
inform her, because such auction sales comply with requirements of notice and publication under the
Rules of Court. In the absence of any clear and convincing proof that such requisites were not followed,
the presumption of regularity stands. Legarda also maintains that she was in the United States during
the redemption period, but she admits that she left the Philippines only on July 13, 1985, or sixteen days
after the auction sale of June 27, 1985. Finally, she admits that her mother Ligaya represented her
during her absence. 14 In short, she was not totally in the dark as to the fate of her property and she
could have exercised her right of redemption if she chose to, but she did not.
Neither Cathay nor Cabrera should be made to suffer for the gross negligence of Legarda's counsel. If
she may be said to be "innocent" because she was ignorant of the acts of negligence of her counsel, with
more reason are respondents truly "innocent." As between two parties who may lose due to the
negligence or incompetence of the counsel of one, the party who was responsible for making it happen
should suffer the consequences. This reflects the basis common law maxim, so succinctly stated by
Justice J.B.L. Reyes, that ". . . (B)etween two innocent parties, the one who made it possible for the
wrong to be done should be the one to bear the resulting loss." 15 In this case, it was not respondents,
but Legarda, who misjudged and hired the services of the lawyer who practically abandoned her case
and who continued to retain him even after his proven apathy and negligence.

The Gancayco decision makes much of the fact that Legarda is now "consigned to penury" and,
therefore, this Court "must come to the aid of the distraught client." It must be remembered that this
Court renders decisions, not on the basis of emotions but on its sound judgment, applying the relevant,
appropriate law. Much as it may pity Legarda, or any losing litigant for that matter, it cannot play the
role of a "knight in shining armor" coming to the aid of someone, who through her weakness, ignorance
or misjudgment may have been bested in a legal joust which complied with all the rules of legal
proceedings.

In Vales v. Villa, 16 this Court warned against the danger of jumping to the aid of a litigant who commits
serious error of judgment resulting in his own loss:

". . . Courts operate not because one person has been defeated or overcome by another, but because he
has been defeated or overcome illegally. Men may do foolish things, make ridiculous contracts, use
miserable judgment, and lose money by them — indeed, all they have in the world; but not for that
alone can the law intervene and restore. There must be, in addition, a violation of law, the commission
of what the law knows as an actionable wrong, before the courts are authorized to lay hold of the
situation and remedy it."

Respondents should not be penalized for Legarda's mistake. If the subject property was at all sold, it was
only after the decisions of the trial and appellate courts had gained finality. These twin judgments,
which were nullified by the Gancayco decision, should be respected and allowed to stand by this Court
for having become final and executory. cdasia

"A judgment may be broadly defined as the decision or sentence of the law given by a court or other
tribunal as the result of proceedings instituted therein." 17 It is "a judicial act which settles the issues,
fixes the rights and liabilities of the parties, and determines the proceeding, and it is regarded as the
sentence of the law pronounced by the court on the action or question before it." 18

In the case at bar, the trial court's judgment was based on Cathay's evidence after Legarda was declared
in default. Damages were duly awarded to Cathay, not whimsically, but upon proof of its entitlement
thereto. The issue of whether the plaintiff (Cathay) deserved to recover damages because of the
defendant's (Legarda's) refusal to honor their lease agreement was resolved. Consequently, the right of
Cathay to be vindicated for such breach and the liability incurred by Legarda in the process were
determined.
This judgment became final when she failed to avail of remedies available to her, such as filing a motion
for reconsideration or appealing the case. At the time, the issues raised in the complaint had already
been determined and disposed of by the trial court. 19 This is the stage of finality which judgments must
at one point or another reach. In our jurisdiction, a judgment becomes ipso facto final when no appeal is
perfected or the reglementary period to appeal therefrom expires. "The necessity of giving finality to
judgments that are not void is self-evident. The interests of society impose it. The opposite view might
make litigations more unendurable than the wrongs (they are) intended to redress. It would create
doubt, real or imaginary, and controversy would constantly arise as to what the judgment or order was.
Public policy and sound practice demand that, at the risk of occasional errors, judgments of courts
should become final at some definite date fixed by law. The very object for which courts were instituted
was to put an end to controversies." 20 When judgments of lower courts gain finality, "they, too,
become inviolable, impervious to modification. They may, then, no longer be reviewed, or in any way
modified directly or indirectly, by a higher court, not even by the Supreme Court." 21 In other words,
once a judgment becomes final, the only errors that may be corrected are those which are clerical. 22

From the foregoing precedents, it is readily apparent that the real issue that must be resolved on this
motion for reconsideration is the alleged illegality of the final judgments of the trial and appellate
courts.

Void judgments may be classified into two groups: those rendered by a court without jurisdiction to do
so and those obtained by fraud or collusion. 23 This case must be tested in light of the guidelines
governing the latter class of judgments. "In this regard, an action to annul a judgment on the ground of
fraud will not lie unless the fraud is extrinsic or collateral and facts upon which it is based (have) not
been controverted or resolved in the case where (the) judgment was rendered." 24 Where is the fraud
in the case at bar? Was Legarda unlawfully barred from the proceedings below? Did her counsel sell her
out to the opponent?

It must be noted that, aside from the fact that no extrinsic fraud attended the trial and resolution of this
case, the jurisdiction of the court a quo over the parties and the subject matter was never raised as an
issue by Legarda. Such being the case, the decision of the trial court cannot be nullified. Errors of
judgment, if any, can only be reviewed on appeal, failing which the decision becomes final and
executory, "valid and binding upon the parties in the case and their successors in interest." 25

At this juncture, it must be pointed out that while Legarda went to the Court of Appeals claiming
precisely that the trial court's decision was fraudulently obtained, she grounded her petition before the
Supreme Court upon her estranged counsel's negligence. This could only imply that at the time she filed
her petition for annulment of judgment, she entertained no notion that Atty. Coronel was being remiss
in his duties. It was only after the appellate court's decision had become final and executory, a writ of
execution issued, the property auctioned off then sold to an innocent purchase for value, that she began
to protest the alleged negligence of her attorney. In most cases, this would have been dismissed
outright for being dilatory and appearing as an act of desperation on the part of a vanquished litigant.
The Gancayco ruling, unfortunately, ruled otherwise.
Fortunately, we now have an opportunity to rectify a grave error of the past.

WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration of respondent New Cathay House, Inc. is hereby
GRANTED. Consequently, the decision dated March 18, 1991, of the Court's First Division in VACATED
and SET ASIDE. A new judgment is hereby entered DISMISSING the instant petition for review and
AFFIRMING the November 29, 1989, decision of the Court of Appeals in CA- G.R. No. SP-10487. Costs
against petitioner Victoria Legarda.

SO ORDERED.

Regalado, Davide, Jr., Melo, Mendoza, Francisco, Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Narvasa, C .J ., I dissent reserving the filing of a separate opinion.

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. Nos. 114924-27. March 18, 1997.]

DANTE NACURAY, ANGELITO ACOSTA and LARRY CLEMENTE, petitioners, vs. NATIONAL LABOR
RELATIONS COMMISSION and BMC-BENGUET MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, respondents.

Eduardo F . Lopez for petitioners.

Leonides S. Respicio & Associates for private respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP; SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL, ELEMENTS. —


For a valid substitution of counsel, the following elements must concur: (a) there must be a written
request for substitution; (b) it must be filed with the written consent of the client; (c) it must be with the
written consent of the attorney to be substituted; and, (d) in case the consent of the attorney to be
substituted cannot be obtained, there must be at least a proof of notice that the motion for substitution
was served on him in the manner prescribed by the Rules of Court.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR. — In the instant case, the process of substitution of counsel was not
yet complete when Atty. Ferraren filed the first petition in view of the absence of the third and fourth
elements. If at all, it became complete and effective only after Atty. Ferraren received the letter from
petitioners formally terminating his services as counsel. For, it was only then could he be considered to
have been notified of the substitution. In the absence of clear and convincing proof, the allegation of
petitioners that there was prior verbal notice is insufficient and cannot even be considered as
substantial compliance with the requirements. It must be stressed that while petitioners have the right
to terminate their relations with their counsel and make substitution or change at any stage of the
proceedings, the exercise of such right is subject to compliance with the prescribed requirements.
Otherwise, no substitution can be effective and the counsel who last appeared in the case before the
substitution became effective shall still be responsible for the conduct of the case. The rule is intended
to ensure the orderly disposition of cases. Without it there will be confusion in the service of processes,
pleadings and other papers.

3. ID.; ID.; CLIENT BOUND BY THE ACTS OF HIS ATTORNEY. — Thus when Atty. Ferraren filed his
petition on 17 December 1993 he continued to enjoy the presumption of authority granted to him by
petitioners because as of that date he was still their counsel of record. Petitioners cannot now be
allowed to disown the negligence and mistake of their counsel which resulted in the dismissal of their
petition as they are bound by them no matter how prejudicial they may be to their cause.

4. REMEDIAL LAW; ACTIONS; FORUM SHOPPING; MANIFEST IN CASE AT BAR. — Petitioners were
aware all along that Atty. Ferraren was actively pursuing, their case, and that the latter had their
express, if not at least, tacit approval. The alleged substitution of counsel was a subterfuge to resurrect a
case that is now "too dead" to be revived. Time and again it has been ruled that the deplorable practice
of forum shopping tends to degrade the administration of justice, adds to the congestion of the already
heavily burdened dockets of the courts, and wreaks havoc upon the orderly judicial procedure. For this
matter, petitioners are sternly warned that a repetition of this act will be dealt with more severely.

5. ID.; ID.; MOTION TO DISMISS; RES JUDICATA; REQUISITES. — The requirements for res judicata
to apply are: (a) the former judgment must be final; (b) the court which rendered it had jurisdiction over
the subject matter and the parties; (c) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (d) there must be,
between the first and second actions, identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR. — One of the overriding considerations that militate against this
petition is the fact that the Third Division of this Court has finally disposed of the first petition of Atty.
Ferraren, albeit in a minute resolution only. As such, the present petition is now barred under the time-
honored principle of res judicata. All the elements of res judicata are present in this case. In fact, the 17
December 1993 petition is identical with the one before us, the only difference being the names of
counsels who prepared and filed each petition. Moreover, the decision of the Third Division of this Court
on the first petition is already final and executory the same having already been entered. Lastly, the
pronouncement of the Court in the first petition to the effect that the NLRC committed no grave abuse
of discretion was for all purposes an adjudication on the merits. Res judicata requires that stability be
accorded to judgments. Controversies once decided on the merits shall remain in repose for there
should be an end to litigation which, without the doctrine, would be endless. Furthermore, there are
two entries of judgment: the Resolution of the Third Division of this Court entered on 28 February 1994,
and the Decision of the Second Division of the NLRC on 4 March 1994, thereby clearly suggesting that
both judgments are already final and executory.

7. ID.; ID.; IMMUTABILITY OF FINAL JUDGMENT. — Nothing is more settled in law than that when a
judgment becomes final and executory it becomes immutable and unalterable. The same may no longer
be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an
erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and whether made by the highest court of the land. The reason is
grounded on the fundamental considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of
occasional error, the judgments or orders of courts must be final at some definite date fixed by law.

8. ID.; SUPREME COURT; FINAL ARBITER OF JUSTICIABLE CONTROVERSY. — Even in the absence of
the foregoing considerations, it is still beyond our power and authority to grant the relief prayed for. As
we have ruled in Church Assistance Program, Inc. v. Sibulo, the Supreme Court, by tradition and in our
system of judicial administration, has the last word on what the law is. It is the final arbiter of any
justiciable controversy. There is only one Supreme Court from whose decisions all other courts should
take their bearings. Consequently, a Division cannot and should not review a case already passed upon
by another Division of this Court. It is only proper to allow the case to take its rest after having attained
finality.

DECISION

BELLOSILLO, J p:

DANTE NACURAY, ANGELITO ACOSTA AND LARRY CLEMENTE pray that the petition filed by their former
counsel be considered null and void, the adverse consequences thereof declared without any force and
effect, and that the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission be set aside and the judgment
of the Labor Arbiter reinstated.

The antecedents: On various dates, BMC-Benguet Management Corporation (BMC for short) employed
petitioners as helpers. They were assigned at the Finishing Section of BMC's Production Department and
worked as "air-grinder operators." The Confirmation of Employment forms issued to them by BMC
specifically provided that their employment should only be for three (3) months. 1

Their employment contracts were nonetheless renewed several times; thrice for Dante Nacuray and
Larry Clemente, and twice for Angelito Acosta. Later, however, their services were terminated by the
non-extension of their respective contracts. 2 According to BMC, their "performance during the
contractual period did not meet the company's standards." 3

As a consequence, several complaints for illegal dismissal, non-payment of wages and violation of P.D.
No. 851 were filed against BMC. Thereafter, upon motion of complainants, and in view of the similarity
of the causes of action and the identity of the parties involved, the hearing and the disposition of their
complaints were consolidated in the Office of Labor Arbiter Evangeline S. Lubaton.

On 7 March 1990, the Labor Arbiter decided in favor of complainants, petitioners herein. Holding that
they were "regular" employees and not "casual" employees, BMC was ordered to reinstate them.

Undaunted by the adverse decision of the Labor Arbiter, BMC appealed to the NLRC on 23 March 1990.
The Second Division of the Commission rendered its judgment on 29 October 1993 reversing the
decision of the Labor Arbiter. The motion of complainants for reconsideration was denied on 16
December 1993. Thereafter, the resolution of NLRC having become final and executory was entered in
the Book of Entry of Judgments on 4 March 1994.

On 26 April 1994 complainants through their new counsel Atty. Eduardo Lopez, 4 filed a special civil
action for certiorari before this Court.

The problem actually started on 17 December 1993. A day after the motion for reconsideration was
denied by the NLRC, Atty. Francisco Ferraren, the counsel who represented herein petitioners in the
proceedings below, instituted a special civil action for certiorari before this Court, docketed as G.R. No.
112834 and assigned to the Third Division. 5

On 24 January 1994, the Third Division dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by Atty. Ferraren. In a
minute resolution, the Third Division ruled —

Accordingly, the Court Resolved to DISMISS the petition for certiorari of the decision dated October 29,
1993 of the National Labor Relations Commission in NLRC NCR Case No. 00-04-01954-89 for failure to
comply with requirement No. 2 and with Circular 19-91.

Besides, even if the petition complied with the aforesaid requirements, it would still be dismissed, as the
Court finds that no grave abuse of discretion was committed by the public respondent. 6

The minute resolution became final and executory. It was entered in the Book of Entry of Judgments on
28 February 1994. 7

Petitioners claim that they have no knowledge whatsoever that a similar petition was filed by their
counsel Atty. Ferraren with this Court. According to them they came to know of it only when they
received copy of the Manifestation of respondent BMC. According to their undertaking, they
immediately filed a Counter-Manifestation informing the Court of the existence of a similar petition
before this Court; that after the favorable resolution of the Labor Arbiter was reversed by the NLRC,
petitioners terminated the services of Atty. Ferraren verbally and formally thru a letter dated 26
November 1993 copy of which was furnished public respondent NLRC; and that the "best proof" of Atty.
Ferraren's lack of authority to file the petition was the fact that he himself verified the same instead of
having it verified by any of herein petitioners. 8

When required by this Court to explain why he filed the 17 December 1993 Petition for Certiorari, Atty.
Ferraren replied that he received the letter from petitioners on 21 December 1993, four (4) days after
he filed his petition in their behalf. He claimed that petitioners even urged him to file a petition as soon
as they received copy of the decision of the Commission. But after he prepared the petition, he could
not any more get in touch with his clients so he was constrained to take matters into his own hands. 9

Petitioners filed a memorandum on 21 November 1994 while respondent filed their supplemental
memorandum on 28 April 1995.

The following interrelated procedural issues were raised by petitioners: First, was there a valid
substitution of counsel so that at the time Atty. Ferraren filed his petition he was no longer authorized
to do so; Second, were petitioners guilty of forum shopping; and, Third, what is the effect of the minute
resolution of the Third Division dismissing the first petition for certiorari?

As regards the first issue, we hold that there was no valid substitution of counsel in accordance with the
Rules. For a valid substitution of counsel the following elements must concur: (a) there must be a
written request for substitution; (b) it must be filed with the written consent of the client; (c) it must be
with the written consent of the attorney to be substituted; and, (d) in case the consent of the attorney
to be substituted cannot be obtained, there must be at least a proof of notice that the motion for
substitution was served on him in the manner prescribed by the Rules of Court. 10 cda

In the instant case, the process of substitution of counsel was not yet complete when Atty. Ferraren
filed the first petition in view of the absence of the third and fourth elements. If at all, it became
complete and effective only after Atty. Ferraren received the letter from petitioners formally
terminating his services as counsel. For, it was only then could he be considered to have been notified of
the substitution. In the absence of clear and convincing proof, the allegation of petitioners that there
was prior verbal notice is insufficient and cannot even be considered as substantial compliance with the
requirements.

Thus when Atty. Ferraren filed his petition on 17 December 1993 he continued to enjoy the presumption
of authority granted to him by petitioners because as of that date he was still their counsel of record.
Petitioners cannot now be allowed to disown the negligence and mistake of their counsel which resulted
in the dismissal of their petition as they are bound by them no matter how prejudicial they may be to
their cause. 11

It must be stressed that while petitioners have the right to terminate their relations with their counsel
and make substitution or change at any stage of the proceedings, the exercise of such right is subject to
compliance with the prescribed requirements. Otherwise, no substitution can be effective and the
counsel who last appeared in the case before the substitution became effective shall still be responsible
for the conduct of the case. 12 The rule is intended to ensure the orderly disposition of cases. Without it
there will be confusion in the service of processes, pleadings and other papers.

This brings us to the second issue. Perhaps hoping to exculpate themselves from the adverse
consequences of their misdeed, petitioners want us to believe that they have nothing to do with the first
petition. To this end, they impute bad faith on their former counsel and deny his authority. A careful
scrutiny of the records however reveals that they have not been candid with this Court.

It is very unnatural for Atty. Ferraren to continue prosecuting the case despite having been verbally
notified of the termination of his services; much more, in not informing his clients of the status of the
case. Moreover, judging from the vigor with which this case has been prosecuted, it strains our
imagination to discover that the instant petition was filed by petitioners only after more than four (4)
months from the date of the NLRC resolution denying their motion for reconsideration. As if confirming
our suspicion, the petitioners' letter of 26 November 1993 addressed to Atty. Ferraren was
"coincidentally" mailed on the same date the petition was filed by Atty. Ferraren.
As we view it, petitioners were aware all along that Atty. Ferraren was actively pursuing their case, and
that the latter had their express, if not at least, tacit approval. The alleged substitution of counsel was a
subterfuge to resurrect a case that is now "too dead" to be revived.

Time and again it has been ruled that the deplorable practice of forum shopping tends to degrade the
administration of justice, adds to the congestion of the already heavily burdened dockets of the courts,
13 and wreaks havoc upon the orderly judicial procedure. 14 For this matter, petitioners are sternly
warned that a repetition of this act will be dealt with more severely.

One of the overriding considerations that militate against this petition is the fact that the Third Division
of this Court has finally disposed of the first petition of Atty. Ferraren, albeit in a minute resolution only.
As such, the present petition is now barred under the time-honored principle of res judicata, the
requirements of which are: (a) the former judgment must be final; (b) the court which rendered it had
jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (c) it must be a judgment on the merits; and, (d)
there must be, between the first and second actions, identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of
action. 15

All the elements of res judicata are present in this case. In fact, the 17 December 1993 petition is
identical with the one before us, the only difference being the names of counsels who prepared and
filed each petition. Moreover, the decision of the Third Division of this Court on the first petition is
already final and executory the same having already been entered. Lastly, the pronouncement of the
Court in the first petition to the effect that the NLRC committed no grave abuse of discretion was for all
purposes an adjudication on the merits.

Res judicata requires that stability be accorded to judgments. Controversies once decided on the merits
shall remain in repose for there should be an end to litigation which, without the doctrine, would be
endless. 16 Furthermore, there are two entries of judgment: the Resolution of the Third Division of this
Court entered on 28 February 1994, and the Decision of the Second Division of the NLRC on 4 March
1994, thereby clearly suggesting that both judgments are already final and executory. Nothing is more
settled in law than that when a judgment becomes final and executory it becomes immutable and
unalterable. The same may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to
correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and whether made by the
highest court of the land. 17 The reason is grounded on the fundamental considerations of public policy
and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional error, the judgments or orders of courts must be final
at some definite date fixed by law. 18

Finally, even in the absence of the foregoing considerations, it is still beyond our power and authority to
grant the relief prayed for. As we have ruled in Church Assistance Program, Inc. v. Sibulo, 19 the
Supreme Court, by tradition and in our system of judicial administration, has the last word on what the
law is. It is the final arbiter of any justiciable controversy. There is only one Supreme Court from whose
decisions all other courts should take their bearings. Consequently, a Division cannot and should not
review a case already passed upon by another Division of this Court. It is only proper to allow the case to
take its rest after having attained finality.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Padilla, Vitug, Kapunan and Hermosisima Jr., JJ ., concur.3

THIRD DIVISION

[A.M. No. MTJ-97-1114. April 4, 1997.]

MARIANO DEL ROSARIO, JR., petitioner, vs. JUDGE NICASIO BARTOLOME, MTC, Sta. Maria, Bulacan,
respondent.

SYLLABUS

LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; DISCIPLINE OF JUDGES; GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW; FAILURE
TO FOLLOW BASIC COMMANDS OF THE LAW, A CASE OF; CASE AT BENCH. — The Revised Penal Code
imposes the penalty of prision correccional for acts of lasciviousness, which penalty has a duration of six
months and one day to six years (Articles 27 & 336). Exclusive and original jurisdiction over offenses
punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six years is lodged with the Municipal Trial Courts (Section 2,
R.A. 7691, amending Section 32(2), B.P. 129). For crimes cognizable by Municipal Trial Courts, a
preliminary investigation is not required for such is only warranted for offenses cognizable by the
Regional Trial Court (Section 1, Rule 112, Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure). Thus, it was patent error
for respondent judge to conduct a preliminary investigation after the complaint for acts of lasciviousness
was filed for none was required in the first place. To compound such error, he passed the responsibility
of conducting the preliminary investigation after the complaint was amended to attempted rape to the
Office of the Provincial Prosecutor when he should have done it himself. Section 1, Rule 110 of the Rules
states that the prosecution of an offense falling under the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court is
commenced by "filing the complaint with the appropriate officer for the purpose of conducting the
requisite preliminary investigation." Being among the appropriate officers enumerated in Section 2 of
Rule 112, respondent judge's failure to follow these basic commands of the law and the Rules
constitutes gross ignorance of the law.

DECISION

MELO, J p:

Municipal Trial Court (Sta. Maria, Bulacan) Judge Nicasio Bartolome is once again named respondent in
the instant administrative case for gross ignorance of the law and for knowingly rendering an unjust
judgment. LLjur
It appears that on July 1, 1996, complainant Mariano del Rosario filed on behalf of his minor daughter
Jennifer, a complaint for acts of lasciviousness against Roderick Lazaro, which was thereafter docketed
as Criminal Case No. 10273 of the Municipal Trial Court of Sta. Maria, Bulacan. Later that same day, a
motion was filed to amend the charge to attempted rape. After additional statements were taken from
complainants, an amended complaint for attempted rape was filed before the same court (p. 1, Office of
the Court Administrator Report).

On July 5, 1996, respondent judge issued the following Order, from which the charges against him
stemmed:

ORDER

Upon conclusion of the preliminary examination by conducting searching questions and answers of the
witnesses for the prosecution Rosalia del Rosario, mother and the daughter Jennifer del Rosario
respectively, this Court finds prima facie evidence to admit the complaint as charged that is, Acts of
Lasciviousness as there was no evidence found to support a case of Attempted Rape as the testimonies
could not show that there was even an attempt on the part of the accused to lie with the offended party
or to have sexual intercourse it being the second occasion already according to the testimony of the
mother. Thereafter, the complainant thru counsel filed a motion to amend complaint to attempted rape
and supporting the amended complaint with additional statement. On the other hand there is a motion
on the part of the accused to reduce bail previously fixed for Acts of Lasciviousness. The afterthought of
the complainant for Attempted Rape operates as an abandonment of the previous case and therefore,
appears to have lost interest to further prosecute the same.

WHEREFORE, this case is hereby dismissed and the matter of having the same amended is referred to
the Office of the Provincial Fiscal, Malolos, Bulacan for further action.

The Station Commander or any of his authorized representative is hereby ordered to release the living
person of the accused upon receipt of this Order unless held on some other charges. SO ORDERED (p.
11, Rollo).

In a letter to the Clerk of Court of the Municipal Trial Court of Sta. Maria, Bulacan, complainant
requested that the records of the case be forwarded immediately to the Office of the Provincial
Prosecutor since the release order increased the possibility of Lazaro fleeing. Complainant also
manifested his opinion that Lazaro should not be ordered released because he is still being held on
another charge by reason of the amended complaint for attempted rape (p. 12, Ibid.).

True enough, after his release, Lazaro could no longer be located, his whereabouts unknown (p. 1, Office
of the Court Administrator Report).

Thereafter, complainant Mariano del Rosario filed the instant letter-complaint dated July 26, 1996 (pp.
1-2, Rollo).

In the comment dated October 25, 1996 required of him, respondent explained that his acts were all
done according to procedure. His theory is that the filing of the amended complaint for attempted rape
constitutes an abandonment of the complaint for acts of lasciviousness. Furthermore, as accused Lazaro
was being held in detention without a warrant of arrest even before the filing of the complaint for acts
of lasciviousness, he had to be released pending the preparation of the proper charge (pp. 14-15, Ibid.).

The case was ordered referred to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation, report, and
recommendation in this Court's Resolution dated November 18, 1996 (p. 16, Ibid.). Perplexed as to why
respondent judge conducted a preliminary investigation of an offense cognizable by his court, when it
was not necessary, and thereafter, referring the amended complaint for attempted rape to the Office of
the Provincial Prosecutor for preliminary investigation when he could have conducted it himself, Senior
Deputy Court Administrator Reynaldo L. Suarez submits that respondent is guilty of gross ignorance of
the law. Noting that he was previously censured and warned by the Court in Adm. Matter No. MTJ-95-
1068 for gross ignorance of the law on account of granting a motion for extension of time to file answer,
a prohibited pleading, in an action subject to the Rules on Summary Procedure, a fine of P10,000.00 is
recommended as the proper sanction, with a stern warning that the same or similar acts shall be dealt
with more severely (pp. 4-5, Office of the Court Administrator Report). LLphil

The Court agrees with the findings of the Office of the Court Administrator, although we deem it fit to
reduce the fine.

The Revised Penal Code imposes the penalty of prision correccional for acts of lasciviousness, which
penalty has a duration of six months and one day to six years (Articles 27 & 336). Exclusive and original
jurisdiction over offenses punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six years is lodged with the
Municipal Trial Courts (Section 2, R.A. 7691, amending Section 32(2), B.P. 129). For crimes cognizable by
Municipal Trial Courts, a preliminary investigation is not required for such is only warranted for offenses
cognizable by the Regional Trial Court (Section 1, Rule 112, Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure). Thus,
it was patent error for respondent judge to conduct a preliminary investigation after the complaint for
acts of lasciviousness was filed for none was required in the first place. To compound such error, he
passed the responsibility of conducting the preliminary investigation after the complaint was amended
to attempted rape to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor when he should have done it himself.
Section 1, Rule 110 of the Rules states that the prosecution of an offense falling under the jurisdiction of
the Regional Trial Court is commenced by "filing the complaint with the appropriate officer for the
purpose of conducting the requisite preliminary investigation." Being among the appropriate officers
enumerated in Section 2 of Rule 112, respondent judge's failure to follow these basic commands of the
law and the Rules constitutes gross ignorance of the law.

Respondent justifies his assailed order by saying that the release of accused Lazaro was necessary in
view of his already long detention without any warrant of arrest, although he failed to note the motion
to reduce bail filed by the accused, which motion may be considered as a waiver of any irregularity
attending his arrest. This, however does not absolve respondent.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Nicasio Bartolome is hereby ordered to pay a FINE of Eight Thousand
(P8,000.00) pesos to be paid within fifteen (15) days from receipt of this Resolution, and is sternly
WARNED that the same or similar conduct in the future will be dealt with even more severely. cdll
SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Davide, Jr., Francisco and Panganiban, JJ ., concur.

[G.R. No. 94457. October 16, 1997.]

VICTORIA LEGARDA, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, NEW CATHAY HOUSE, INC.,
THE HONORABLE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF QUEZON CITY, BRANCH 94, respondents.

Singson, Valdez & Associates for petitioner.

Ceferino Padua Law Office for Cabrera.

Jesus M. Bautista for Nancy Saw Cheung.

SYNOPSIS

The parties hereto entered into a lease agreement over a certain property owned by petitioner Victoria
Legarda. Legarda, however, refused to sign a contract although respondent New Cathay House already
made a deposit and a down payment of rentals. Cathay, therefore, filed a complaint against Legarda for
specific performance with preliminary injunction and damages. The court a quo issued an injunction.
Legarda's counsel (Atty. Coronel) failed to file an answer, thereby prompting the court to declare her in
default. Cathay was allowed to present evidence ex-parte and a judgment by default was reached by the
trial court ordering Legarda to execute the lease contract in favor of Cathay. When the judgment
became final and executory, the trial court issued a writ of execution and a public auction was held
where Cathay's Manager, Roberto V. Cabrera, Jr. was the highest bidder. The sheriff issued a Certificate
of Sale. Upon failure of Legarda to redeem her property within the one-year redemption period, a final
Deed of Sale was issued by the sheriff which was registered by Cabrera with the Register of Deeds.
Legarda's Transfer Certificate of Title was cancelled with the issuance of a new TCT in favor of Cabrera.
Atty. Coronel did not inform Legarda of all these developments. He then filed a petition for annulment
of judgment before the Court of Appeals. The appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court by
dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment and holding Legarda bound by the negligence of her
counsel. Legarda then hired a new lawyer for the purpose of elevating her case to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court's decision reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and declared that Atty.
Coronel committed reckless, inexcusable and gross negligence which deprived his client of her property
without due process of law. Aggrieved, Cathay filed the instant motion for reconsideration alleging that
the reconveyance would not be possible because its owner Cabrera, even prior to the promulgation of
the decision, had already sold the subject property. cdasia

The motion for reconsideration of respondent New Cathay House, Inc. was granted. A new judgment
was entered dismissing petition for review and affirming the decision of the Court of Appeals. What was
clear from the records of the case was that the auction sale was conducted regularly. The certificate of
sale and the final deed of sale were properly issued to Cabrera that allowed him to consolidate his
ownership over the subject property, register it and obtain a title in his own name and sell it to an
innocent purchaser for value. Therefore, since the property was already sold to an innocent purchaser
for value, Cabrera, much less by Cathay can no longer return it to its original owner.

Justice Kapunan issued a separate, concurring and dissenting opinion while Justice Hermosisima wrote a
dissenting opinion. cCAIDS

SYLLABUS

1. CIVIL LAW; LAND REGISTRATION; TORRENS SYSTEM; AS A RULE, ONE WHO DEALS WITH
PROPERTY REGISTERED THEREIN NEED NOT GO BEYOND SUCH REGISTRATION BUT ONLY HAS TO RELY
ON THE TITLE; APPLICATION IN CASE AT BAR. — We do not have to belabor the fact that all the
successors-in-interest of Cabrera to the subject lot were transferees for value and in good faith, having
relied as they did on the clean titles of their predecessors. The successive owners were each armed with
their own indefeasible titles which automatically brought them under the aegis of the Torrens System.
As the Court declared in Sandoval vs. Court of Appeals, 260 SCRA 283 (1996), "(i)t is settled doctrine that
one who deals with property registered under the Torrens system need not go beyond the same, but
only has to rely on the title. He is charged with notice only of such burdens and claims as are annotated
on the title." In the case at bar, it is not disputed that no notice of lis pendens was ever annotated on
any of the titles of the subsequent owners. And even if there were such a notice, it would not have
created a lien over the property because the main office of a lien is to warn prospective buyers that the
property they intend to purchase is the subject of a pending litigation. Therefore, since the property is
already in the hands of Luminlun, an innocent purchaser for value, it can no longer be returned to its
original owner by Cabrera, much less by Cathay itself.

2. REMEDIAL LAW; JURISDICTION OVER PARTY-RESPONDENT; WHEN ACQUIRED; NOT APPLICABLE


IN CASE AT BAR. — Though not raised as an issue in this case, the fact is that Cabrera was impleaded as
a party-respondent only on August 12, 1991, after the promulgation of the Gancayco decision. The
dispositive portion ordered Cathay, instead of Cabrera, to reconvey the property to Legarda. Cabrera
was never a party to this case, either as plaintiff-appellee below or as respondent in the present action.
Neither did he ever act as Cathay's representative. As we held in the recent case of National Power
Corporation vs. NLRC, et. al., G.R. Nos. 90933-61, May 29, 1997, "(j)urisdiction over a party is acquired
by his voluntary appearance or submission to the court or by the coercive process issued by the court to
him, generally by service of summons." In other words, until Cabrera was impleaded as party
respondent and ordered to file a comment in the August 12 1991 resolution, the Court never obtained
jurisdiction over him, and to command his principal to reconvey a piece of property which used to be
HIS would not only be inappropriate but would also constitute a real deprivation of one's property
without due process of law.

3. CIVIL LAW; LAND REGISTRATION; WHEN THE ORDER OF RECONVEYANCE MAY NOT BE AVAILED
OF; CASE AT BAR. — Under the Gancayco ruling, the order of reconveyance was premised on the alleged
gross negligence of Legarda's counsel which should not be allowed to bind her as she was deprived of
her property "without due process of law." It is, however, basic that as long as a party was given the
opportunity to defend her interests in due course, she cannot be said to have been denied due process
of law, for this opportunity to be heard is the very essence of due process. The chronology of events
shows that the case took its regular course in the trial and appellate courts but Legarda's counsel failed
to act as any ordinary counsel should have acted, his negligence every step of the way amounting to
"abandonment," in the words of the Gancayco decision. Yet, it cannot be denied that the proceedings
which led to the filing of this case were not attended by any irregularity. The judgment by default was
valid, so was the ensuing sale at public auction. If Cabrera was adjudged highest bidder in said auction
sale, it was not through any machination on his part. All of his actuations that led to the final registration
of the title in his name were aboveboard, untainted by any irregularity. The fact that Cabrera is an
officer of Cathay does not make him a purchaser in bad faith. His act in representing the company was
never questioned nor disputed by Legarda. And while it is true that he won in the bidding, it is likewise
true that said bidding was conducted by the book. There is no call to be alarmed in case an official of the
company emerges as the winning bidder since in some cases, the judgment creditor himself personally
participates in the bidding.

4. REMEDIAL LAW; CIVIL PROCEDURE; JUDGMENT; DEFINED. — "A judgment may be broadly
defined as the decision or sentence of the law given by a court or other tribunal as the result of
proceedings instituted therein." It is "a judicial act which settles the issues, fixes the rights and liabilities
of the parties, and determines the proceeding, and it is regarded as the sentence of the law pronounced
by the court on the action or question before it."

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; EFFECT OF FINALITY. — In our jurisdiction, a judgment becomes ipso facto final
when no appeal is perfected or the reglementary period to appeal therefrom expires. "The necessity of
giving finality to judgments that are not void is self-evident. The interests of society impose it. The
opposite view might make litigations more unendurable than the wrongs (they are) intended to redress.
It would create doubt, real or imaginary, and controversy would constantly arise as to what the
judgment or order was. Public policy and sound practice demand that, at the risk of occasional errors,
judgments of courts should become final at some definite date fixed by law. The very object for which
courts were instituted was to put an end to controversies." When judgments of lower courts gain finality
"they, too, become inviolable, impervious to modification. They may, then, no longer be reviewed, or in
any way modified directly or indirectly, by a higher court, not even by the Supreme Court." In other
words, once a judgment becomes final, the only errors that may be corrected are those which are
clerical.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; WHEN VOIDED; NOT APPLICABLE IN CASE AT BAR. — Void judgments may be
classified into two groups: those rendered by a court without jurisdiction to do so and those obtained by
fraud or collusion. This case must be tested in light of the guidelines governing the latter class of
judgments. "In this regard, an action to annul a judgment on the ground of fraud will not lie unless the
fraud is extrinsic or collateral and facts upon which it is based (have) not been controverted or resolved
in the case where (the) judgment was rendered." It must be noted that, aside from the fact that no
extrinsic fraud attended the trial and resolution of this case, the jurisdiction of the court a quo over the
parties and the subject matter was never raised as an issue by Legarda. Such being the case, the decision
of the trial court cannot be nullified. Errors of judgment, if any, can only be reviewed on appeal, failing
which the decision becomes final and executory, "valid and binding upon the parties in the case and
their successors in interest."

7. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; SUPREME COURT; THIS COURT RENDERS DECISIONS NOT ON THE BASIS
OF EMOTIONS BUT ON ITS SOUND JUDGMENT. — Neither Cathay nor Cabrera should he made to suffer
for the gross negligence of Legarda's counsel. If she may be said to be "innocent" because she was
ignorant of the acts of negligence of her counsel, with more reason are respondents truly "innocent." As
between two parties who may lose due to the negligence or incompetence of the counsel of one, the
party who was responsible for making it happen should suffer the consequences. This reflects the basic
common law maxim, so succinctly stated by Justice J.B.L. Reyes, that ". . . (B)etween two innocent
parties, the one who made it possible for the wrong to be done should be the one to bear the resulting
loss." In this case, it was not respondents, but Legarda, who misjudged and hired the services of the
lawyer who practically abandoned her case and who continued to retain him even after his proven
apathy and negligence. The Gancayco decision makes much of the fact that Legarda is now "consigned
to penury" and, therefore, this Court "must come to the aid of the distraught client." It must be
remembered that this Court renders decisions, not on the basis of emotions but on its sound judgment,
applying the relevant, appropriate law. Much as it may pity Legarda, or any losing litigant for that
matter, it cannot play the role of a "knight in shining armor" coming to the aid of someone, who through
her weakness, ignorance or misjudgment may have been bested in a legal joust which complied with all
the rules of legal proceedings. In Vales vs. Villa, 35 Phil. 769, this Court warned against the danger of
jumping to the aid of a litigant who commits serious error or judgment resulting in his own loss: ". . .
Courts operate not because one person has been defeated or overcome by another, but because he has
been defeated or overcome illegally. Men may do foolish things, make ridiculous contracts, use
miserable judgment, and lose money by them — indeed, all they have in the world; but not for that
alone can the law intervene and restore. There must be, in addition, a violation of law, the commission
of what the law knows as an actionable wrong, before the courts are authorized to lay hold of the
situation and remedy it." Respondents should not be penalized for Legarda's mistake. If the subject
property was at all sold, it was only after the decisions of the trial and appellate courts had gained
finality. These twin judgments, which were nullified by the Gancayco decision, should be respected and
allowed to stand by this Court for having become final and executory.

KAPUNAN, J., separate and dissenting opinion:

1. LEGAL ETHICS; LAWYERS; CLIENTS ARE BOUND BY THE MISTAKE OF THEIR COUNSEL; EXCEPTION.
— The rule is that a client is bound by the acts, even mistakes, of his counsel in the realm of procedural
technique. The exception to this rule is when the negligence of counsel, as here, is so gross, reckless and
inexcusable that the client is deprived of his day in court. (People's Homesite & Housing Corp. vs.
Tiongco, 12 SCRA 471 [1964]; Escudero vs. Dulay, 158 SCRA 69 [1988]; De Guzman vs. Sandiganbayan,
256 SCRA 171 [1996]), in which case, the remedy then is to reopen the case and allow the party who
was denied his day in court to adduce his evidence. aESIDH
2. CIVIL LAW; LAND REGISTRATION; RECONVEYANCE DEFINED; WHEN AVAILABLE; NOT APPLICABLE
IN CASE AT BAR. — Reconveyance is a remedy of the landowner whose property has been wrongfully or
erroneously registered in the name of another but which recourse cannot be availed of if the property
has passed to an innocent purchaser for value. Here, there has been no definite finding that New Cathay
House, Inc. or its representative, Mr. Roberto V. Cabrera, Jr. has committed any wrongful, unlawful or
fraudulent act which deprived petitioner of her land. As between two innocent parties the one who
made it possible for the wrong to be done should suffer the loss. Certainly, New Cathay House, Inc.
cannot be made to suffer the loss by compelling it to reconvey the land to petitioner who lost her
property due to the gross and inexcusable negligence of her counsel. Moreover, the remedy of
reconveyance cannot be availed of if the property has passed to innocent third parties for value.

HERMOSISIMA, JR., J., dissenting opinion:

1. CIVIL LAW; LAND REGISTRATION; TORRENS SYSTEM; THE PRIMARY AND FUNDAMENTAL
PURPOSE THEREOF IS TO QUIET TITLE TO LAND. — This Court had, on more than one occasion, stated
and hence must continuously state, as long as cases like the one at bench involving titled lands subsist,
that the primary and fundamental purpose of the Torrens System of Land Registration is to quiet title to
land; to put a stop forever to any question of the legality of the title, except claims which were noted at
the time of registration in the certificate or which may arise subsequent thereto. That being the purpose
of the law, once a title is registered, the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the
portals of the court, or sitting in the "mirador su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his land. Thus,
where innocent third persons relying on the correctness of the certificate of title thus issued, acquire
rights over the property, the court cannot disregard such rights and order the total cancellation of the
certificate. The effect of such an outright cancellation would be to impair public confidence in the
certificate of title, for everyone dealing with property registered under the Torrens System would have
to inquire in every instance as to whether the title has been regularly or irregularly issued by the court.
Indeed, this is contrary to the evident purpose of the law. Every person dealing with registered land may
safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefor and the law will in no way oblige
him to go beyond the certificate to determine the condition of the property.

2. ID.; ID.; NOTICE OF LIS PENDENS; PURPOSE THEREOF. — As its name suggests, the only purpose
of a notice of lis pendens is to give notice to third persons and to the whole world that any interest they
might acquire in the property pending litigation would be subject to the result of the suit. If the notice is
effective, a third person who acquires the property affected by the lis pendens takes the same subject to
the incidents and results of the pending litigation. But when the adverse right fails in such litigation, the
lis pendens loses its efficacy. This is the only import of a lis pendens notice which did not even find its
way in any of the titles issued covering the subject property.

3. ID.; ID.; PURCHASER IN GOOD FAITH; DEFINED AND CONSTRUED. — A purchaser in good faith is
one who buys property of another, without notice that some other person has a right to, or interest in,
such property and pays a full and fair price for the same, at the time of such purchase, or before he has
notice of the claim or interest of some other persons in the property. Good faith consists in an honest
intention to abstain from taking any unconscientious advantage of another. Good faith, or the lack of it,
is in its last analysis a question of intention; but in ascertaining the intention by which one is actuated on
a given occasion, we are necessarily controlled by the evidence as to the conduct and outward acts by
which alone the inward motive may, with safety, be determined. Truly, good faith is not a visible,
tangible fact that can be seen or touched, but rather a state or condition of mind which can only be
judged by actual or fancied tokens or signs. Otherwise stated, good faith is the opposite of fraud and it
refers to the state of mind which is manifested by the acts of the individual concerned.

4. LEGAL ETHICS; LAWYERS; NEGLIGENCE OF COUNSEL BINDS THE CLIENT; EXCEPTION. — It is true
that the basic general rule is that the negligence of counsel binds the client. Hence, if counsel commits a
mistake in the course of litigation, thereby resulting in his losing the case, his client must perforce suffer
the consequences of that mistake. The reason for the rule is to avoid the act of every losing party to
raise negligence of his or her counsel to escape an adverse decision of the court to the detriment of our
justice system as no party will ever accept a losing verdict. This general rule, however, pertains only to
simple negligence of the lawyer. Where the negligence of counsel, on the other hand, is one that is so
gross, palpable, pervasive, reckless and inexcusable, such as in this case, this type of negligence does not
bind the client, since in such a case, the client is effectively deprived of his or her day in court. It cannot
be overemphasized that any judgment rendered where there was gross negligence on the part of
counsel of once of the parties is one rendered without due process of law and, thus, void.

5. REMEDIAL LAW; CIVIL PROCEDURE; JUDGMENT; EFFECT OF VOID JUDGMENT; APPLICATION IN


CASE AT BAR. — What is the effect of a void judgment? Gomez vs. Concepcion, 47 Phil. 717. 722-723
[1925]; and Heirs of Mayor Nemencio Galvez vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 119193, 29 March
1996, p. 18, provide the answer: ". . . A void judgment is in legal effect no judgment. By it no rights are
divested. From it no rights can be obtained. Being worthless in itself, all proceedings founded upon it are
equally worthless. It neither binds nor bars any one. All acts performed under it and all claims flowing
out of it are void. The parties attempting to enforce it may be responsible as trespassers. The purchaser
at a sale by virtue of its authority finds himself without title and without redress. "The judgment by
default in Civil Case No. Q-43811 being void, all acts and incidents arising therefrom must necessarily be
void since nothing can arise from a void judgment. Inevitably, the writ of execution, the levy on the
property of Legarda to satisfy the void judgment award, the subsequent public auction sale, the Deed of
Sale issued in favor of the highest bidder Cabrera, as well as the title issued in the name of Cabrera
ought to be struck down for they all arose from the judgment in Civil Case No. Q-43811, which is a void
judgment. Needless to state, these incidents have no leg to stand on. Reconveyance, therefore, of the
Legarda property by Cabrera, the purchaser at the auction sale, would have been in order had the
property not been transferred to innocent purchasers for value beginning with Nancy Saw.
Consequently, the only thing that Cabrera can return now to Legarda is the money he received from the
first innocent purchaser of the property worth P4 million with legal interest to be counted from the time
the judgment by default of the respondent trial court was rendered on March 25, 1985. Respondent
New Cathay House, Inc., Cabrera's corporation, must return to him the auction price in the amount of
P376,500 with legal interest bidded by him at the void auction sale. EDATSC

RESOLUTION
ROMERO, J p:

For our resolution is the motion for reconsideration of the March 18, 1991, decision of the Court's First
Division, filed by private respondent New Cathay House, Inc. (Cathay). A brief narration of facts is in
order.

The parties hereto entered into a lease agreement over a certain Quezon City property owned by
petitioner Victoria Legarda. For some reason or another, she refused to sign the contract although
respondent lessee, Cathay, made a deposit and a down payment of rentals, prompting the latter to file
before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 94 a complaint 1 against the former for specific
performance with preliminary injunction and damages. The court a quo issued the injunction. In the
meantime, Legarda's counsel, noted lawyer Dean Antonio Coronel, requested a 10-day extension of time
to file an answer which the court granted. Atty. Coronel, however, failed to file an answer within the
extended period. His client was eventually declared in default, Cathay was allowed to present evidence
ex-parte, and on March 25, 1985, a judgment by default was reached by the trial court ordering Legarda
to execute the lease contract in favor of, and to pay damages to, Cathay.

On April 9, 1985, a copy of said decision was served on Atty. Coronel but he took no action until the
judgment became final and executory. A month later, the trial court issued a writ of execution and a
public auction was held where Cathay's manager, Roberto V. Cabrera, Jr., as highest bidder, was
awarded the property for P376,500.00 in satisfaction of the judgment debt. Consequently, a Certificate
of Sale was issued by the sheriff on June 27, 1985. Upon failure of Legarda to redeem her property
within the one-year redemption period, a Final Deed of Sale was issued by the sheriff on July 8, 1986,
which was registered by Cabrera with the Register of Deeds three days later. Hence, Legarda's Transfer
Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 270814 was cancelled with the issuance of TCT No. 350892 in the name of
Cabrera.

Despite the lapse of over a year since the judgment by default became final and executory, Atty. Coronel
made no move on behalf of his client. He did not even inform her of all these developments. When
Legarda did learn of the adverse decision, "she nevertheless did not lose faith in her counsel" 2 and
prevailed upon him to seek appropriate relief. Thus, on October 23, 1986, he filed a petition for
annulment of judgment with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction
before the Court of Appeals. 3 aisadc

On November 29, 1989, the appellate court rendered a decision affirming the March 25, 1985, decision
of the trial court, dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment, and holding Legarda bound by the
negligence of her counsel. It considered her allegation of fraud by Cathay to be "improbable," and added
that there was "pure and simple negligence" on the part of petitioner's counsel who failed to file an
answer and, later, a petition for relief from judgment by default. Upon notice of the Court of Appeals
decision, Atty. Coronel again neglected to protect his client's interest by failing to file a motion for
reconsideration or to appeal therefrom until said decision became final on December 21, 1989.

Sometime in March 1990, Legarda learned of the adverse decision of the Court of Appeals dated
November 29, 1989, not from Atty. Coronel but from his secretary. She then hired a new counsel for the
purpose of elevating her case to this Court. The new lawyer filed a petition for certiorari praying for the
annulment of the decision of the trial and appellate courts and of the sheriff's sale, alleging, among
other things, that Legarda lost in the courts below because her previous lawyer was grossly negligent
and inefficient, whose omissions cannot possibly bind her because this amounted to a violation of her
right to due process of law. She, therefore, asked Cathay (not Cabrera) to reconvey the subject property
to her.

On March 18, 1991, a decision 4 was rendered in this case by Mr. Justice Gancayco, ruling, inter alia, as
follows: (a) granting the petition; (b) nullifying the trial court's decision dated March 25, 1985, the Court
of Appeals decision dated November 29, 1989, the Sheriff's Certificate of Sale dated June 27, 1985, of
the property in question, and the subsequent final deed of sale covering the same property; and (c)
ordering Cathay to reconvey said property to Legarda, and the Register of Deeds to cancel the
registration of said property in the name of Cathay (not Cabrera) and to issue a new one in Legarda's
name.

The Court then declared that Atty. Coronel committed, not just ordinary or simple negligence, but
reckless, inexcusable and gross negligence, which deprived his client of her property without due
process of law. His acts, or the lack of it, should not be allowed to bind Legarda who has been
"consigned to penury" because "her lawyer appeared to have abandoned her case not once but
repeatedly." Thus, the Court ruled against tolerating "such unjust enrichment" of Cathay at Legarda's
expense, and noted that counsel's "lack of devotion to duty is so gross and palpable that this Court must
come to the aid of his distraught client."

Aggrieved by this development, Cathay filed the instant motion for reconsideration, alleging, inter alia,
that reconveyance is not possible because the subject property had already been sold by its owner,
Cabrera, even prior to the promulgation of said decision.

By virtue of the Gancayco decision, Cathay was duty bound to return the subject property to Legarda.
The impossibility of this directive is immediately apparent, for two reasons: First, Cathay neither
possessed nor owned the property so it is in no position to reconvey the same; second, even if it did,
ownership over the property had already been validly transferred to innocent third parties at the time of
promulgation of said judgment.

There is no question that the highest bidder at the public auction was Cathay's manager. It has not been
shown nor even alleged, however, that Roberto Cabrera has all the time been acting for or in behalf of
Cathay. For all intents and purposes, Cabrera was simply a vendee whose payment effectively
extinguished Legarda's liability to Cathay as the judgment creditor. No proof was ever presented which
would reveal that the sale occurred only on paper, with Cabrera acting as a mere conduit for Cathay.
What is clear from the records is that the auction sale was conducted regularly, that a certificate of sale
and, subsequently, a final deed of sale were issued to Cabrera which allowed him to consolidate his
ownership over the subject property, register it and obtain a title in his own name, and sell it to Nancy
Saw, an innocent purchaser for value, at a premium price. Nothing on record would demonstrate that
Cathay was the beneficiary of the sale between Cabrera and Saw. Cabrera himself maintained that he
was "acting in his private (as distinct from his corporate) capacity" 5 when he participated in the bidding.

Since the decision of the Court of Appeals gained finality on December 21, 1989, the subject property
has been sold and ownership thereof transferred no less than three times, viz.: (a) from Cabrera to
Nancy Saw on March 21, 1990, four months after the decision of the Court of Appeals became final and
executory and one year before the promulgation of the March 18, 1991, decision under reconsideration;
(b) from Nancy Saw to Lily Tanlo Sy Chua on August 7, 1990, more than one year before the Court issued
a temporary restraining order in connection with this case; and (c) from the spouses Victor and Lily Sy
Chua to Janet Chong Luminlun on April 3, 1992. With these transfers, Cabrera's TCT No. 350892 gave
way to Saw's TCT No. 31672, then to Chua's TCT No. 31673, and finally to Luminlun's TCT No. 99143, all
issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City on April 3, 1990, August 8, 1990, and November 24,
1993, respectively.

We do not have to belabor the fact that all the successors-in-interest of Cabrera to the subject lot were
transferees for value and in good faith, having relied as they did on the clean titled of their
predecessors. The successive owners were each armed with their own indefeasible titles which
automatically brought them under the aegis of the Torrens System. As the Court declared in Sandoval v.
Court of Appeals, 6 "(i)t is settled doctrine that one who deals with property registered under the
Torrens system need not go beyond the same, but only has to rely on the title. He is charged with notice
only of such burdens and claims as are annotated on the title." 7 In the case at bar, it is not disputed
that no notice of lis pendens was ever annotated on any of the titles of the subsequent owners. And
even if there were such a notice, it would not have created a lien over the property because the main
office of a lien is to warn prospective buyers that the property they intend to purchase is the subject of a
pending litigation. Therefore, since the property is already in the hands of Luminlun, an innocent
purchaser for value, it can no longer be returned to its original owner by Cabrera, much less by Cathay
itself. cdphil

Another point to consider, though not raised as an issue in this case, is the fact that Cabrera was
impleaded as a party-respondent only on August 12, 1991, after the promulgation of the Gancayco
decision. 8 The dispositive portion itself ordered Cathay, instead of Cabrera, to reconvey the property to
Legarda. Cabrera was never a party to this case, either as plaintiff-appellee below or as respondent in
the present action. Neither did he ever act as Cathay's representative. As we held in the recent case of
National Power Corporation v. NLRC, et al., 9 "(j)urisdiction over a party is acquired by his voluntary
appearance or submission to the court or by the coercive process issued by the court to him, generally
by service of summons." 10 In other words, until Cabrera was impleaded as party respondent and
ordered to file a comment in the August 12, 1991, resolution, the Court never obtained jurisdiction over
him, and to command his principal to reconvey a piece of property which used to be HIS would not only
be inappropriate but would also constitute a real deprivation of one's property without due process of
law.
Assuming arguendo that reconveyance is possible, that Cathay and Cabrera are one and the same and
that Cabrera's payment redounded to the benefit of his principal, reconveyance, under the facts and
evidence obtaining in this case, would still not address the issues raised herein.

The application of the sale price to Legarda's judgment debt constituted a payment which extinguished
her liability to Cathay as the party in whose favor the obligation to pay damages was established. 11 It
was a payment in the sense that Cathay had to resort to a court-supervised auction sale in order to
execute the judgment. 12 With the fulfillment of the judgment debtor's obligation, nothing else was
required to be done.

Under the Gancayco ruling, the order of reconveyance was premised on the alleged gross negligence of
Legarda's counsel which should not be allowed to bind her as she was deprived of her property "without
due process of law."

It is, however, basic that as long as a party was given the opportunity to defend her interests in due
course, she cannot be said to have been denied due process of law, for this opportunity to be heard is
the very essence of due process. The chronology of events shows that the case took its regular course in
the trial and appellate courts but Legarda's counsel failed to act as any ordinary counsel should have
acted, his negligence every step of the way amounting to "abandonment," in the words of the Gancayco
decision. Yet, it cannot be denied that the proceedings which led to the filing of this case were not
attended by any irregularity. The judgment by default was valid, so was the ensuing sale at public
auction. If Cabrera was adjudged highest bidder in said auction sale, it was not through any machination
on his part. All of his actuations that led to the final registration of the title in his name were
aboveboard, untainted by any irregularity.

The fact that Cabrera is an officer of Cathay does not make him a purchaser in bad faith. His act in
representing the company was never questioned nor disputed by Legarda. And while it is true that he
won in the bidding, it is likewise true that said bidding was conducted by the book. There is no call to be
alarmed in case an official of the company emerges as the winning bidder since in some cases, the
judgment creditor himself personally participates in the bidding.

There is no gainsaying that Legarda is the judgment debtor here. Her property was sold at public auction
to satisfy the judgment debt. She cannot claim that she was illegally deprived of her property because
such deprivation was done in accordance with the rules on execution of judgments. Whether the money
used to pay for said property came from the judgment creditor or its representative is not relevant.
What is important is that it was purchased for value. Cabrera parted with real money at the auction. In
his "Sheriff's Certificate of Sale" dated June 27, 1985, 13 Deputy Sheriff Angelito R. Mendoza certified,
inter alia, that the "highest bidder paid to the Deputy Sheriff the said amount of P376,500.00, the sale
price of the levied property." If this does not constitute payment, what then is it? Had there been no
real purchase and payment below, the subject property would never have been awarded to Cabrera and
registered in his name, and the judgment debt would never have been satisfied. Thus, to require either
Cathay or Cabrera to reconvey the property would be an unlawful intrusion into the lawful exercise of
the latter's proprietary rights over the land in question, an act which would constitute an actual denial
of property without due process of law.

It may be true that the subject lot could have fetched a higher price during the public auction, as
Legarda claims, but the records fail to betray any hint of a bid higher than Cabrera's which was bypassed
in his favor. Certainly, he could not help it if his bid of P376,500.00 was the highest. Moreover, in spite
of this allegedly low selling price, Legarda still failed to redeem her property within the one-year
redemption period. She could not feign ignorance of said sale on account of her counsel's failure to so
inform her, because such auction sales comply with requirements of notice and publication under the
Rules of Court. In the absence of any clear and convincing proof that such requisites were not followed,
the presumption of regularity stands. Legarda also maintains that she was in the United States during
the redemption period, but she admits that she left the Philippines only on July 13, 1985, or sixteen days
after the auction sale of June 27, 1985. Finally, she admits that her mother Ligaya represented her
during her absence. 14 In short, she was not totally in the dark as to the fate of her property and she
could have exercised her right of redemption if she chose to, but she did not.

Neither Cathay nor Cabrera should be made to suffer for the gross negligence of Legarda's counsel. If
she may be said to be "innocent" because she was ignorant of the acts of negligence of her counsel, with
more reason are respondents truly "innocent." As between two parties who may lose due to the
negligence or incompetence of the counsel of one, the party who was responsible for making it happen
should suffer the consequences. This reflects the basis common law maxim, so succinctly stated by
Justice J.B.L. Reyes, that ". . . (B)etween two innocent parties, the one who made it possible for the
wrong to be done should be the one to bear the resulting loss." 15 In this case, it was not respondents,
but Legarda, who misjudged and hired the services of the lawyer who practically abandoned her case
and who continued to retain him even after his proven apathy and negligence.

The Gancayco decision makes much of the fact that Legarda is now "consigned to penury" and,
therefore, this Court "must come to the aid of the distraught client." It must be remembered that this
Court renders decisions, not on the basis of emotions but on its sound judgment, applying the relevant,
appropriate law. Much as it may pity Legarda, or any losing litigant for that matter, it cannot play the
role of a "knight in shining armor" coming to the aid of someone, who through her weakness, ignorance
or misjudgment may have been bested in a legal joust which complied with all the rules of legal
proceedings.

In Vales v. Villa, 16 this Court warned against the danger of jumping to the aid of a litigant who commits
serious error of judgment resulting in his own loss:

". . . Courts operate not because one person has been defeated or overcome by another, but because he
has been defeated or overcome illegally. Men may do foolish things, make ridiculous contracts, use
miserable judgment, and lose money by them — indeed, all they have in the world; but not for that
alone can the law intervene and restore. There must be, in addition, a violation of law, the commission
of what the law knows as an actionable wrong, before the courts are authorized to lay hold of the
situation and remedy it."
Respondents should not be penalized for Legarda's mistake. If the subject property was at all sold, it was
only after the decisions of the trial and appellate courts had gained finality. These twin judgments,
which were nullified by the Gancayco decision, should be respected and allowed to stand by this Court
for having become final and executory. cdasia

"A judgment may be broadly defined as the decision or sentence of the law given by a court or other
tribunal as the result of proceedings instituted therein." 17 It is "a judicial act which settles the issues,
fixes the rights and liabilities of the parties, and determines the proceeding, and it is regarded as the
sentence of the law pronounced by the court on the action or question before it." 18

In the case at bar, the trial court's judgment was based on Cathay's evidence after Legarda was declared
in default. Damages were duly awarded to Cathay, not whimsically, but upon proof of its entitlement
thereto. The issue of whether the plaintiff (Cathay) deserved to recover damages because of the
defendant's (Legarda's) refusal to honor their lease agreement was resolved. Consequently, the right of
Cathay to be vindicated for such breach and the liability incurred by Legarda in the process were
determined.

This judgment became final when she failed to avail of remedies available to her, such as filing a motion
for reconsideration or appealing the case. At the time, the issues raised in the complaint had already
been determined and disposed of by the trial court. 19 This is the stage of finality which judgments must
at one point or another reach. In our jurisdiction, a judgment becomes ipso facto final when no appeal is
perfected or the reglementary period to appeal therefrom expires. "The necessity of giving finality to
judgments that are not void is self-evident. The interests of society impose it. The opposite view might
make litigations more unendurable than the wrongs (they are) intended to redress. It would create
doubt, real or imaginary, and controversy would constantly arise as to what the judgment or order was.
Public policy and sound practice demand that, at the risk of occasional errors, judgments of courts
should become final at some definite date fixed by law. The very object for which courts were instituted
was to put an end to controversies." 20 When judgments of lower courts gain finality, "they, too,
become inviolable, impervious to modification. They may, then, no longer be reviewed, or in any way
modified directly or indirectly, by a higher court, not even by the Supreme Court." 21 In other words,
once a judgment becomes final, the only errors that may be corrected are those which are clerical. 22

From the foregoing precedents, it is readily apparent that the real issue that must be resolved on this
motion for reconsideration is the alleged illegality of the final judgments of the trial and appellate
courts.

Void judgments may be classified into two groups: those rendered by a court without jurisdiction to do
so and those obtained by fraud or collusion. 23 This case must be tested in light of the guidelines
governing the latter class of judgments. "In this regard, an action to annul a judgment on the ground of
fraud will not lie unless the fraud is extrinsic or collateral and facts upon which it is based (have) not
been controverted or resolved in the case where (the) judgment was rendered." 24 Where is the fraud
in the case at bar? Was Legarda unlawfully barred from the proceedings below? Did her counsel sell her
out to the opponent?
It must be noted that, aside from the fact that no extrinsic fraud attended the trial and resolution of this
case, the jurisdiction of the court a quo over the parties and the subject matter was never raised as an
issue by Legarda. Such being the case, the decision of the trial court cannot be nullified. Errors of
judgment, if any, can only be reviewed on appeal, failing which the decision becomes final and
executory, "valid and binding upon the parties in the case and their successors in interest." 25

At this juncture, it must be pointed out that while Legarda went to the Court of Appeals claiming
precisely that the trial court's decision was fraudulently obtained, she grounded her petition before the
Supreme Court upon her estranged counsel's negligence. This could only imply that at the time she filed
her petition for annulment of judgment, she entertained no notion that Atty. Coronel was being remiss
in his duties. It was only after the appellate court's decision had become final and executory, a writ of
execution issued, the property auctioned off then sold to an innocent purchase for value, that she began
to protest the alleged negligence of her attorney. In most cases, this would have been dismissed
outright for being dilatory and appearing as an act of desperation on the part of a vanquished litigant.
The Gancayco ruling, unfortunately, ruled otherwise.

Fortunately, we now have an opportunity to rectify a grave error of the past.

WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration of respondent New Cathay House, Inc. is hereby
GRANTED. Consequently, the decision dated March 18, 1991, of the Court's First Division in VACATED
and SET ASIDE. A new judgment is hereby entered DISMISSING the instant petition for review and
AFFIRMING the November 29, 1989, decision of the Court of Appeals in CA- G.R. No. SP-10487. Costs
against petitioner Victoria Legarda.

SO ORDERED.

Regalado, Davide, Jr., Melo, Mendoza, Francisco, Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Narvasa, C .J ., I dissent reserving the filing of a separate opinion.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 123230. April 18, 1997.]

NORODIN M. MATALAM, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and ZACARIA A. CANDAO,


respondents.

Pete Quirino-Quadra for petitioner.

Zoreta Bueno Masukat Macapeges Pajo & Casanova Law Offices for private respondent.

SYLLABUS
1. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; OMNIBUS ELECTION CODE; PRE-PROCLAMATION CONTROVERSY;
DEFINED. — The Omnibus Election Code defines a pre-proclamation controversy as "any question
pertaining to or affecting the proceedings of the board of canvassers which may be raised by any
candidate or by any registered political party or coalition of political parties before the board or directly
with the Commission, or any matter raised under Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 in relation to the
preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ISSUES PROVIDED FOR UNDER SECTION 243 OF CODE RESTRICTIVE AND
EXCLUSIVE. — Stressing that the enumeration in Section 243 of the Omnibus Election Code is restrictive
and exclusive, the Court in Sanchez vs. Commission on Election held that: "The scope of pre-
proclamation controversy is limited to issues enumerated under Section 243 of the Omnibus Election
Code. The enumeration therein of the issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy, is
restrictive and exclusive. In the absence of any clear showing or proof that the election returns
canvassed are incomplete or contain material defects (Sec. 234), appear to have been tampered with,
falsified or prepared under duress (Sec. 235) and/or contain discrepancies in the votes credited to any
candidate, the difference of which affects the result of the election (Sec. 236), which are the only
instances where a pre-proclamation recount may be resorted to, granted the preservation of the
integrity of the ballot box and its contents, Sanchez' petition must fail."

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; IN SUCH CONTROVERSY, THE COMELEC IS RESTRICTED TO AN EXAMINATION OF
THE ELECTION RETURNS. — In a pre-proclamation controversy. the Comelec, as a rule, is restricted to an
examination of the election returns and is without jurisdiction to go beyond or behind them and
investigate election irregularities. Indeed, in the recent case of Loong vs. Comelec, the Court, through
Mr. Justice Regino Hermosisima, Jr., declared that "the prevailing doctrine in this jurisdiction . . . is that
as long as the returns appear to be authentic and duly accomplished on their face, the Board of
Canvassers cannot look beyond or behind them to verify allegations of irregularities in the casting or the
counting of votes." Justifying the circumscribed scope of pre-proclamation controversies. Loong cited
the earlier ruling of the Court in Dipatuan vs. Comelec and held that in a pre-proclamation controversy,
Comelec is not to look beyond or behind election returns which are on their face regular and authentic
returns. A party seeking to raise issues resolution of which would compel o r necessitate COMELEC to
pierce the veil of election returns which appear prima facie regular on their face, has his proper remedy
in a regular election protest.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; ELECTION PROTEST; PROPER REMEDY IN ALLEGATION OF FRAUD OR


IRREGULARITIES IN ELECTION. — The petition must fail because it effectively implore the Court to
disregard the statutory norm that pre-proclamation controversies are to be resolved in a summary
proceeding. He asks the Court to ignore the fact that the election returns appear regular on their face,
and instead to determine whether fraud or irregularities attended the election process. Because what
he is asking for necessarily postulates a full reception of evidence aliunde and the meticulous
examination of voluminous election documents, it is clearly anathema to a pre-proclamation
controversy which, by its nature, is to be heard summarily and decided on as promptly as possible. A
party seeking to raise issues the resolution of which would compel or necessitate the Comelec to pierce
the veil of election returns which appear prima facie regular on their face, has his proper remedy in a
regular election protest, wherein the parties may litigate all the legal and factual issues raised by them
in as much detail as they may deem necessary or appropriate.

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; PRE-PROCLAMATION CONTROVERSY; SUMMARY IN NATURE. — The public interest
that animates the rule requiring summary resolution of pre-proclamation controversies was previously
explained by the Court thus: "The public policy involved in the rule that pre-proclamation controversies
shall be resolved in summary proceedings, is very real and insistent. The public interest requires that the
position for the filling of which the election was held should be filled as promptly as possible, even if the
proclamation of the winning candidates should be provisional in nature, in the sense that such would be
subject to the results of the election protest or protests that may be expected to be filed. The Court is
bound by high duty and responsibility to give effect to this public policy which is enshrined in statutory
norms." As already adverted to, both law (principally Sec. 243 of the Omnibus Election Code) and extant
jurisprudence restrict the grounds that may be invoked to nullify election returns in a pre-proclamation
controversy. Aside from the public interest that impels the prompt disposition of these cases, there is
another substantial — not just technical — reason why such grounds are limited and why election
irregularities in general cannot be the subjects of pre-proclamation suits. The boards of canvassers,
particularly municipal and provincial, before whom such pre-proclamation controversies are initiated
through timely objections by the parties during the canvass, are ad hoc bodies that exist only for the
interim task of canvassing election returns. They do not have the facilities, the time and even the
competence to hear, examine and decide on alleged election irregularities, unlike regular courts or the
Comelec itself or the electoral tribunals (Presidential, Senate, and House) which are regular agencies of
government tasked and equipped for the purpose. While this Court has time and again expressed its
abhorrence for the nefarious "grab the proclamation and prolong the protest" strategy of some
candidates, nonetheless, it recognizes the very limited jurisdiction of municipal and provincial boards of
canvassers.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; TECHNICAL EXAMINATION, RUNS COUNTER THERETO. — Petitioner also prays
for a technical examination of CE Forms 1 and 2. Again, a technical examination runs counter to the
nature and scope of a pre-proclamation controversy. In Dimaporo vs. Comelec, the Court denied a
similar supplication for the reexamination of Dianalan lists. In Dimaporo, the Court held: ". . . the nature,
scope and ambit of a pre-proclamation controversy, as set out in Dianalan and Dipatuan and the other
cases cited are determined by statutory provisions: Section 243 (entitled "Issues that may be Raised in
Pre-Proclamation Controversy"), 245 ("Contested Election Returns") and 246 ("Summary Proceedings
before the Commission") of the Omnibus Election Code. As pointed out above in Dipatuan, these
statutory provisions reflect a very definite view of what public policy requires on the matter.

7. ID.; ID.; ID.; PRE-PROCLAMATION CONTROVERSY DIFFERENT FROM ANNULMENT OF ELECTION


RESULTS OR DECLARATION OF FAILURE OF ELECTIONS. — It is well to stress that SPA No. 95-284, which
was the subject in Loong vs. Comelec recently decided by the Court, involved a petition to annul the
election results or to declare a failure of election, an action which is different from the present pre-
proclamation controversy. Loong distinguished between the two actions, thus: "While, however, the
Comelec is restricted, in pre-proclamation cases, to an examination of the election returns on their face
and is without jurisdiction to go beyond or behind them and investigate election irregularities, the
Comelec is duty bound to investigate allegations of fraud, terrorism, violence, and other analogous
causes in actions for annulment of election results or as the Omnibus Election Code denominates the
same. Thus the Comelec, in the case of actions for annulment of election results or declaration of failure
of election, declaration of failure of elections, for may, conduct technical examination of election
documents and compare and analyze voters' signatures and fingerprints in order to determine whether
or not the elections had indeed been free, honest and clear. Needless to say, a pre-proclamation
controversy is not the same as an action for annulment of election results or declaration of failure of
elections."

8. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; FACTUAL FINDINGS OF THE COMELEC, GENERALLY NOT DISTURBED
ON APPEAL. — The Comelec evaluated the evidence presented by the parties, and its conclusion is
contrary to petitioner's. The Comelec held that "in the absence of a strong evidence establishing
spuriousness of the returns, the basic rule that the election returns shall be accorded prima facie status
as bona fide reports of the results of the count of the votes for canvassing and proclamation purposes
must perforce prevail." There appears no reason for the Court to disturb this factual finding of the
Comelec. It is axiomatic that factual findings of administrative agencies which have acquired expertise in
their field are binding and conclusive on the court. An application for certiorari against actions of the
Comelec is confined to instances of grave abuse of discretion amounting to patent and substantial denial
of due process, considering that the Comelec is presumed to be most competent in matters falling
within its domain. And because the Court is not a trier of facts, it will have to rely, absent any clear
showing of grave abuse of discretion, on the factual findings of the Commission on Elections — the
authority tasked by the Constitution to administer and enforce election laws.

9. ID.; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTIONS, CERTIORARI; RULING OF COMELEC THAT PETITIONER FAILED TO
OVERCOME PRESUMPTION THAT ELECTION RETURNS AND CERTIFICATES OF CANVASS WERE VALID,
NOT A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION. — At the outset, it is already clear that, as a rule, there is no
necessity for the Comelec to examine in a pre-proclamation controversy allegations of irregularity that
had allegedly attended the preparation of election returns which, however, do not appear on the face of
the said documents. We hold, just the same, that the Comelec has not committed a grave abuse of
discretion in ruling that petitioner had failed to present strong evidence sufficient to overcome the
presumption that the election returns and the certificates of canvass were valid.

10. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; OMNIBUS ELECTION CODE; PRE-PROCLAMATION CONTROVERSY;


ELECTION RETURNS OF DATU PIANG AND MAGONOY PRESUMED VALID. — Petitioner also asks for the
exclusion of all the election returns and the certificates of canvass in Maganoy on the ground that no
election was actually conducted is said town. This allegation lacks sufficient factual basis. Petitioner
relied on the sworn statement dated July 11, 1995 of Daud K. Dimapalao, the Municipal Treasurer and
Vice-Chairman of the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Maganoy. Maguindanao that "there was never
any election in Maganoy, Maguindanao and I myself when I went to Maguindanao National High School,
Poblacion, Maganoy, in order to vote, there was no precinct established thereat open for election and I
am one of those who failed to cast a vote." We, find however, that Dimapalao himself executed an
earlier and contrary statement dated May 13, 1995 not only, admitting that elections were actually
conducted in Maganoy, but certifying as well that these were free, orderly and peaceful. Furthermore,
the election officer himself, Abas Saga, reiterated in his affidavit dated June 30, 1995 the peaceful and
lawful conduct of the elections. In view of the inconsistent statements of the municipal treasurer, the
Comelec cannot be faulted for not giving credence thereto and relying instead on the positive statement
of the election officer in that locale, whose primary function is to oversee the enforcement of election
laws. All in all, we cannot ascribe grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction
against the Comelec for granting prima facie status of validity to the election returns of Datu Piang and
Maganoy, for the purpose of resolving the pre-proclamation controversy.

11. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ELECTIONS RETURNS TO BE INVALIDATED ON GROUND OF STATISTICAL
IMPROBABILITY MUST MATERIALLY AFFECT THE RESULT OF ELECTION. — There is a cogent reason why
the exclusion of the allegedly statistically improbable election returns cannot be ruled upon. Even if we
assume arguendo that the said election returns for Maganoy were in fact statistically, improbable, this
alone cannot warrant petitioner's proclamation. Contrary to the requirement of Section 243 (d) of the
Omnibus Election Code, petitioner has failed to demonstrate that the results reflected in the allegedly
"statistically improbable" returns for the Municipality of Maganoy alone would materially affect the
results of the gubernatorial contest. Petitioner merely stated that the nullification of all the returns for
both municipalities of Datu Piang and Maganoy would overhaul the lead of Private Respondent Candao.
Although petitioner alleged the number of votes received by the parties from each of the two
municipalities, he has not shown, as earlier observed, their respective vote totals by precincts and/or by
towns for the entire Province of Maguindanao. In view of this, petitioner has utterly failed to persuade
the Court that the nullification of some or even all of the returns from the Municipality of Maganoy
alone would materially affect the standing of the parties, i.e., that petitioner would win the canvass.

12. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; PRESUMPTIONS; REGULARITY IN THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL


FUNCTIONS AND AUTHENTICITY OF OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS, APPLIED IN CASE AT BAR. — Unless the
petitioners can show cogently and clearly their entitlement to the summary exclusion of clearly
unacceptable election returns, this Court will always uphold the constitutional and legal presumption of
regularity in the performance of official functions, and authenticity of official documents.

13. LEGAL ETHICS; ATTORNEYS; SHOULD CHOOSE TIMELY REMEDY IN HANDLING ELECTION CASES.
— The court agonized over its inability to fully look into the election irregularities alleged by Petitioner,
due to the very limited scope of a pre-proclamation controversy. Thus, the court reminds lawyers
handling election cases to make a careful choice of remedies. Where it becomes apparent that a pre-
proclamation suit is inadequate, they should immediate choose another timely remedy, like a petition to
annul the election results or to declare a failure of elections or even an election protest, so that the
election irregularities may be fully ventilated and properly adjudicated by the competent tribunal. They
owe this not only to their clients but to the proper administration of justice.

DECISION

PANGANIBAN, J p:

Law and jurisprudence mandate that pre-proclamation controversies should be resolved in summary
proceedings; thus, the Comelec and the Boards of Canvassers, in resolving these disputes, need not look
beyond the face of the election returns. So too, petitioner must show that the exclusion of the
contested returns will materially change the standing of the aggrieved parties. In the case at bench, the
Court affirms once again these well-entrenched doctrines in our legal system. cdpr

This petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assails the Resolution 1 dated August 24,
1995 of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Second Division, in the consolidated cases of SPC No.
95-029, SPC No. 95-279, SPC No. 95-185 and SPC No. 95-291, the dispositive portion of which states:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, that the Commission on Elections (Second Division) resolves to
DISMISS the appeals and AFFIRM the rulings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers. The proclamation of
respondent Candao as Governor of the Province of Maguindanao earlier set aside and declared null and
void is hereby reconsidered and ordered revived." 2

Also assailed herein is the Comelec en banc Resolution 3 dated January 16, 1996 denying the motion for
reconsideration, to wit:

"In keeping with the ruling of the Supreme Court in Alfonso vs. Commission on Elections, 232 SCRA 777,
that, 'It is a matter of public policy that pre-proclamation controversies shall be resolved in summary
proceedings,' and it appearing that the instant motion for reconsideration is without merit and does not
offer much in terms of new issues or substantial matters to warrant the reversal or setting aside of the
questioned Resolution of the Second Division, the Commission En Banc RESOLVES to DENY the Motion
for Reconsideration. Accordingly, the resolution of the Second Division is hereby AFFIRMED.

The Motion filed subsequently on September 6, 1995 by herein petitioners-movants for technical
examination of CE Forms 1 and 2 of the Municipality of Maganoy, Maguindanao is likewise hereby
DENIED for having become moot and academic." 4

In its assailed Resolutions, Public Respondent Comelec disposed of the following four cases: 5

1. SPC Case No. 95-029, initiated by the local candidates from the Municipality of Maganoy,
Maguindanao, seeking to nullify the election results in and the consequent proclamation of the
candidates in said municipality. Petitioner Norodin Matalam filed a petition for intervention, contending
that the election returns in the said municipality were falsified, fabricated and manufactured.

2. SPC Case No. 95-185, filed by Petitioner Matalam to enjoin the Provincial Board of Canvassers of
Maguindanao from tabulating the certificate of canvass from Maganoy, Maguindanao;

3. SPC No. 95-279, filed also by Petitioner Matalam to set aside the proceedings of the Municipal
Board of Canvassers of Datu Piang, Maguindanao;

4. SPC No. 95-291, filed by Petitioner Matalam to exclude the certificates of canvass from the
Municipality of Datu Piang.

The Facts
Petitioner Norodin M. Matalam and Private Respondent Zacaria A. Candao were both candidates for
Governor of the Province of Maguindanao in the May 8, 1995 elections.

During the canvass of the election returns in the municipalities of Datu Piang and Maganoy, both in the
Province of Maguindanao, Petitioner Matalam challenged before the respective Municipal Boards of
Canvassers ("MBC") the authenticity of the election returns in said towns. Because the MBC merely
noted his objections, petitioner reiterated the same before the Provincial Board of Canvassers ("PBC").
In those two municipalities, petitioner was credited with only 3,641 votes, while private respondent
received 44,654 votes. It is the contention of petitioner that the exclusion of the results is enough to
overhaul the lead of Candao. 6

Because the Provincial Board of Canvassers rejected the pleas of petitioner and included the challenged
certificates of canvass for Datu Piang and Maganoy in the provincial canvass, petitioner filed the above-
mentioned petitions before the Comelec.

During the pendency of the said petitions, the Provincial Board of Canvassers on June 30, 1995
proclaimed Respondent Candao as the duly elected governor of Maguindanao.

Citing Section 20 (1) of Republic Act No. 7166 which requires that proclamations of winning candidates
during the pendency of an appeal or petition should be authorized by the Comelec, the Second Division
of Respondent Commission subsequently nullified on July 11, 1995 the said proclamation of Candao.

On August 24, 1995, as earlier stated, the Comelec Second Division denied, via the assailed Resolution,
the petitions questioning the proceedings in the Municipal and Provincial Boards of Canvassers and, at
the same time, reinstated the proclamation of Respondent Candao. The Comelec held that "in the
absence of a strong evidence establishing the spuriousness of the returns, the basic rule that the
election returns shall be accorded prima facie status as bona fide reports of the results of the count of
the votes for canvassing and proclamation purposes must perforce prevail." 7

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. Subsequently, he also filed a motion for technical
examination of the signatures and thumbmarks of the registered voters of Maganoy appearing in the
Voter's Affidavit and the List of Voters (CE Forms 1 and 2, respectively) for the purpose of proving that
no election was conducted therein. prcd

On January 16, 1996, the Comelec en banc denied the motions for reconsideration and technical
examination. Hence, this petition for certiorari, praying for the following reliefs:

"a) upon filing of this petition, a restraining order be issued enjoining the execution and
implementation of the resolutions of August 24, 1995 and January 16, 1996 until further orders by the
Honorable Court upon such bond as may be required; 8

b) after due hearing, the resolutions of August 24, 1995 and January 16, 1996 be reversed and set
aside;

c) that the proclamation of the private respondent Candao be declared null and void;
d) that the certificates of canvass of Datu Piang and Maganoy be ordered excluded in the
canvassing by the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Maguindanao;

e) that the petitioner Gov. Norodin Matalam be ordered proclaimed by the Provincial Board of
Canvassers of Maguindanao as the duly elected governor in the May 8, 1995 elections;

f) in the alternative, the Comelec be ordered to conduct a technical examination of CE Forms 1


and 2 of Maganoy, Maguindanao used in the May 8, 1995 elections, and thereafter, the certificate of
canvass of Maganoy be ordered excluded and petitioner be ordered proclaimed as the duly elected
governor of Maguindanao." 9

In his memorandum, petitioner added the following prayer:

"7. Or as a second alternative, after the technical examination, a Special Election be conducted in
Datu Piang and Maganoy, in the event only that the Hon. Court will not order the proclamation of the
winner on the basis of the remaining MBC Certificates of Canvass of the 18 towns of Maguindanao
including the results of the Special Elections of May 27, 1995 in 5 precincts of Datu Piang and 6 precincts
of Maganoy." 10

The Issue

Petitioner contends that the election returns of Datu Piang were falsified and spurious, because they
were prepared notwithstanding the alleged failure to count all the ballots therein. Petitioner asserts that
the counting of votes for 165 precincts inside the old Municipal Building was disrupted and cut short by
grenade explosions which allegedly resulted in chaos and pandemonium. In describing the aftermath of
the incident, petitioner cites the report of Election Officer E.J. Klar of Datu Piang, to wit:

"1. Only 3 precincts have complete documents including tally boards duly accomplished by the BEIs;

2. Some boxes only contained detached stubs;

3. Some boxes or majority of the boxes not sealed nor padlocked;

4. Counted and uncounted ballots were mixed together inside the ballot boxes;

5. . . . the tally boards were also scattered all around the Treasurer's Office.

6. Only 39 precincts received their election returns and these were also missing;

7. There are BEIs who also brought their tally board to their house;

8. Some BEIs cannot be found or refused to appear;

So we can begin the transferring from the tally board to the election return after the matching.

I'll just send you my report next time." 11


Relying on the dissenting opinion of Commissioner Regalado E. Maambong, petitioner points out that
Section 212 of the Omnibus Election Code requires that the preparation of election returns must be
simultaneous with the counting of ballots.

Petitioner further contends that the election returns and certificates of canvass for the Municipality of
Maganoy were falsified and spurious, as no election was actually conducted therein. The results
reflected in the Statement of Votes (SOV) by precinct were allegedly farcical, with Petitioner Matalam
and his congressional candidate receiving one or no vote at all in a number of precincts, while Candao
and his congressional candidate were credited with all the votes cast therein. In some precincts, the
number of votes received by Candao even exceeded the number of registered voters. 12

Petitioner also alleges that the SOV by precinct, the "Municipal Certificate of Canvass and the
proclamation papers of Maganoy" were signed in blank a day before the elections, as evinced by the
sworn statement of the Municipal Treasurer and concurrent Vice-Chairperson of the MBC. Also
presented was a certification from the Maganoy Election Officer that only two barangays received ballot
boxes and election paraphernalia. Furthermore, joint affidavits were presented by barangay captains
and officials declaring that the Boards of Election Inspectors failed to report for duty in their respective
polling precincts on election day. cdta

In view of these, petitioner argues that the Comelec should have granted the motion for technical
examination to determine whether the signatures and thumbmarks affixed in CE Forms 1 and 2 belong
to the voters therein, as it had done motu proprio in SPA No. 95-284 involving the Municipality of
Parang, Sulu.

Private Respondent Candao vigorously denies the contentions that no counting of votes was conducted
in Datu Piang 13 and that no election was held at all in Maganoy. He rebuts the respective statements of
the Maganoy Municipal Treasurer and the Municipal Election Officer that there were no elections in the
said municipality in May 1995, pointing to their earlier joint affidavit declaring the elections in Maganoy
as free, orderly and peaceful. Candao argues further that the receipt of zero vote by some candidates
for public office does not necessarily make the returns statistically improbable.

The public respondent, in its comment, contends principally that the allegations in the petition are
insufficient to warrant the issuance of the writ of certiorari. The resolution of the present issue of fraud
is within the powers of public respondent, the findings of which deserve great credence, in the absence
of compelling evidence of a clear and arbitrary abuse. 14 Public respondent suggests that the proper
recourse of private respondent is an election protest. 15

The ultimate issue posed is whether the questioned election returns for the municipalities of Maganoy
and Datu Piang could be the proper subjects of a pre-proclamation controversy and, corollarily, whether
said returns should be excluded from the canvass.

The Court's Ruling


The petition is not meritorious.

May the Comelec in a Pre-Proclamation

Case Go Beyond the Face of the Election Returns?

The Omnibus Election Code defines a pre-proclamation controversy as "any question pertaining to or
affecting the proceedings of the board of canvassers which may be raised by any candidate or by any
registered political party or coalition of political parties before the board or directly with the
Commission, or any matter raised under Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 in relation to the preparation,
transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns." 16

Section 243 of the same Code enumerates the issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamation
controversy, to wit:

"SEC. 243. Issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy. — The following shall be
proper issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamation controversy:

(a) Illegal composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers;

(b) The canvassed election returns are incomplete, contain material defects, appear to be tampered
with or falsified, or contain discrepancies in the same returns or in other authentic copies thereof as
mentioned in Sections 233, 234, 235, and 236 of this Code;

(c) The election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or intimidation, or they are
obviously manufactured or not authentic; and

(d) When substitute or fraudulent returns in controverted polling places were canvassed, the
results of which materially affected the standing of the aggrieved candidate or candidates."

Stressing that the said enumeration is restrictive and exclusive, the Court in Sanchez vs. Commission on
Elections 17 held that:

"The scope of pre-proclamation controversy is limited to issues enumerated under Section 243 of the
Omnibus Election Code. The enumeration therein of the issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation
controversy, is restrictive and exclusive. In the absence of any clear showing or proof that the election
returns canvassed are incomplete or contain material defects (sec. 234), appear to have been tampered
with, falsified or prepared under duress (sec. 235) and/or contain discrepancies in the votes credited to
any candidate, the difference of which affects the result of the election (sec. 236), which are the only
instances where a pre-proclamation recount may be resorted to, granted the preservation of the
integrity of the ballot box and its contents, Sanchez' petition must fail. 18 "

In an obvious attempt to satisfy the restrictive requirements of Sec. 243 and Sanchez, the petitioner
claims that the election returns were "spurious and obviously manufactured," 19 and "prepared under
irregular circumstances." In this light, petitioner characterizes the present case as a pre-proclamation
controversy. 20
In seeking to prove his characterization, however, petitioner does not claim that the election returns are
"incomplete, contain material defects, appear to be tampered with or falsified, or contain discrepancies
. . ." which irregularities appear on their face; or ". . . were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or
intimidation or they are obviously manufactured or not authentic." Neither has he denounced as
"illegal" the composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers. Rather, he maintains that there
were irregularities aliunde, e.g., (a) the counting of votes in Datu Piang was not completed; (b) no
election was conducted in Maganoy; and (c) grenade explosions marred the counting of votes in Datu
Piang. cdti

That the election returns were obviously manufactured must be evident from the face of the said
documents themselves. 21 In a pre-proclamation controversy, the Comelec, as a rule, is restricted to an
examination of the election returns and is without jurisdiction to go beyond or behind them and
investigate election irregularities. Indeed, in the recent case of Loong vs. Comelec, 22 the Court, through
Mr. Justice Regino Hermosisima, Jr., declared that "the prevailing doctrine in this jurisdiction . . . is that
as long as the returns appear to be authentic and duly accomplished on their face, the Board of
Canvassers cannot look beyond or behind them to verify allegations of irregularities in the casting or the
counting of the votes." 23 (Emphasis supplied.)

Justifying the circumscribed scope of pre-proclamation controversies, Loong cited the earlier ruling of
the Court in Dipatuan vs. Comelec 24 and held:

"The policy consideration underlying the delimitation both of substantive ground and procedure is the
policy to determine as quickly as possible the result of the election on the basis of the canvass. Thus, in
the case of Dipatuan vs. Commission on Election, we categorically ruled that in a pre-proclamation
controversy, Comelec is not to look beyond or behind election returns which are on their face regular
and authentic returns. A party seeking to raise issues resolution of which would compel or necessitate
Comelec to pierce the veil of election returns which appear prima facie regular on their face, has his
proper remedy in a regular election protest. By their very nature, and given the obvious public interest
in the speedy determination of the results of elections, pre-proclamation controversies are to be
resolved in summary proceedings without the need to present evidence aliunde and certainly without
having to go through voluminous documents and subjecting them to meticulous technical examinations
which take up considerable time." 25 (Emphasis supplied.)

The petition must fail because it effectively implores the Court to disregard the statutory norm that pre-
proclamation controversies are to be resolved in a summary proceeding. He asks the Court to ignore the
fact that the election returns appear regular on their face, and instead to determine whether fraud or
irregularities attended the election process. Because what he is asking for necessarily postulates a full
reception of evidence aliunde and the meticulous examination of voluminous election documents, it is
clearly anathema to a pre-proclamation controversy which, by its very nature, is to be heard summarily
and decided on as promptly as possible. 26 A party seeking to raise issues the resolution of which would
compel or necessitate the Comelec to pierce the veil of election returns which appear prima facie
regular on their face, has his proper remedy in a regular election protest, wherein the parties may
litigate all the legal and factual issues raised by them in as much detail as they may deem necessary or
appropriate. 27

The public interest that animates the rule requiring summary resolution of pre-proclamation
controversies was previously explained by the Court thus:

"The public policy involved in the rule that pre-proclamation controversies shall be resolved in summary
proceedings, is very real and insistent. The public interest requires that the position for the filling of
which the election was held should be filled as promptly as possible, even if the proclamation of the
winning candidates should be provisional in nature, in the sense that such would be subject to the
results of the election protest or protests that may be expected to be filed. The Court is bound by high
duty and responsibility to give effect to this public policy which is enshrined in statutory norms." 28

In the present case, petitioner clearly asks too much, for he wants the Comelec and the Court to look
beyond the face of the documents, contrary to the clear mandate of Loong.

Technical Examination Not Proper

in a Pre-Proclamation Controversy

Petitioner also prays for a technical examination of CE Forms 1 and 2. Again, a technical examination
runs counter to the nature and scope of a pre-proclamation controversy. In Dimaporo vs. Comelec, 29
the Court denied a similar supplication for the reexamination of Dianalan vs. Comelec 30 in order to
allow a technical examination of the handwriting and fingerprints in the voter's affidavits and voting
lists. In Dimaporo, the Court held:

"Petitioners ask the Court to re-examine its decision in Dianalan v. Commission on Elections, so as to
permit petitioners to subject to handwriting and fingerprint examination the voter's affidavits and voting
lists and other voting records in the contested precincts. We are not persuaded by petitioners'
arguments on this point. It is important to bear in mind that the nature, scope and ambit of a pre-
proclamation controversy as set out in Dianalan and Dipatuan and the other cases there cited are
determined by statutory provisions: Section 243 (entitled "Issues that may be Raised in Pre-
Proclamation Controversy"), 245 ("Contested Election Returns") and 246 ("Summary Proceedings before
the Commission") of the Omnibus Election Code. As pointed out above in Dipatuan, these statutory
provisions reflect a very definite view of what public policy requires on the matter. It may well be true
that public policy may occasionally permit the occurrence of "grab the proclamation and prolong the
protest" situations; that public policy, however, balances the possibility of such situations against the
shortening of the period during which no winners are proclaimed, a period commonly fraught with
tension and danger for the public at large. For those who disagree with that public policy, the
appropriate recourse is not to ask this Court to abandon case law which merely interprets faithfully
existing statutory norms, to engage in judicial legislation and in effect to rewrite portions of the
Omnibus Election Code. The appropriate recourse is, of course, to the Legislative Department of the
Government and to ask that Department to strike a new and different equilibrium in the balancing of
the public interests at stake." 31
It is interesting to note that the counsel who prayed for technical examination in Dimaporo is "Pedro Q.
Quadra," 32 while the counsel for petitioner in this case who now makes the same request is "Pete
Quirino-Quadra." 33

In support of his prayer for a technical examination, petitioner also cites the Comelec ruling in SPA No.
95-284, in which the Comelec ordered a similar technical examination in Parang, Sulu. llcd

It is well to stress that SPA No. 95-284, which was the subject in Loong vs. Comelec 34 recently decided
by the Court, involved a petition to annul the election results or to declare a failure of election, an action
which is different from the present pre-proclamation controversy. 35 Loong distinguished between the
two actions, thus:

"While, however, the Comelec is restricted, in pre-proclamation cases, to an examination of the election
returns on their face and is without jurisdiction to go beyond or behind them and investigate election
irregularities, the Comelec is duty bound to investigate allegations of fraud, terrorism, violence, and
other analogous causes in actions for annulment of election results or for declaration of failure of
elections, as the Omnibus Election Code denominates the same. Thus, the Comelec, in the case of
actions for annulment of election results or declaration of failure of elections, may conduct technical
examination of election documents and compare and analyze voters' signatures and fingerprints in
order to determine whether or not the elections had indeed been free, honest and clean. Needless to
say, a pre-proclamation controversy is not the same as an action for annulment of election results or
declaration of failure of elections." 36

Presumption That Election Returns

Are Valid Not Overcome

Petitioner Matalam contends that the presumption of regularity of the election returns for Datu Piang
and Maganoy had been overcome by his "overwhelming evidence," as presented principally by the Klar
Report. We cannot sustain this view.

The Comelec evaluated the evidence presented by the parties, and its conclusion is contrary to
petitioner's. The Comelec held that "in the absence of a strong evidence establishing spuriousness of the
returns, the basic rule that the election returns shall be accorded prima facie status as bona fide reports
of the results of the count of the votes for canvassing and proclamation purposes must perforce
prevail." 37 There appears no reason for the Court to disturb this factual finding of the Comelec.

It is axiomatic that factual findings of administrative agencies which have acquired expertise in their field
are binding and conclusive on the Court. An application for certiorari against actions of the Comelec is
confined to instances of grave abuse of discretion amounting to patent and substantial denial of due
process, considering that the Comelec is presumed to be most competent in matters falling within its
domain. 38

At the outset, it is already clear that, as a rule, there is no necessity for the Comelec to examine in a pre-
proclamation controversy allegations of irregularity that had allegedly attended the preparation of
election returns which, however, do not appear on the face of the said documents. We hold, just the
same, that the Comelec has not committed a grave abuse of discretion in ruling that petitioner had
failed to present strong evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption that the election returns and
the certificates of canvass were valid.

In respect of the election returns of Datu Piang, the Comelec relied on the following report of Atty. Jose
Beltran, Provincial Election Supervisor of Maguindanao (and disregarded the aforequoted Report of E.J.
Klar which, on the other hand, petitioner cited):

"xxx xxx xxx

The elections in Datu Piang, Maguindanao on May 8, 1995, was initially held in a peaceful and orderly
manner;

From the distribution of the ballot boxes, election documents and other election paraphernalia in the
morning of May 8, 1995, up to the opening of the precincts and actual casting of votes, no untoward
incident was reported by the Acting Election Officer Eliza Gasmin;

The counting of votes as agreed upon by the contending mayoralty candidates was centralized in the old
Municipal townhall;

The counting of votes started simultaneously at about seven o'clock in the evening and as reported by
Election Officer Gasmin, almost all of the Boards of Election Inspectors completed their counting;

At about 10:30 that same evening when the Board of Election Inspectors were preparing their election
returns, grenade explosion occurred and there was pandemonium in the canvassing hall. The Boards of
Election Inspectors scampered to safety leaving their ballot boxes and election materials behind. One
person was killed and scores of other persons were wounded.

The following day, Election Inspector Gasmin with the help of her staff and Treasury personnel, gathered
the ballot boxes and other election materials and kept them in the Treasurer's Office;

The Treasurer's Office and its premises were cordoned by military authorities and no one was allowed
inside the Treasurer's Office.

Election Officer Gasmin reported this incident to the Provincial Election Supervisor.

The Provincial Supervisor immediately invited to a conference the contending parties and it was agreed
upon by and among themselves that an inventory and segregation of the ballot boxes and documents be
done before any counting and canvassing be made.

Election Officer Gasmin failed to recall the different Board of Election Inspectors. The BEI refused to
serve if the venue of the counting and/or canvassing is not transferred to a safer place.

A new acting Election Officer in the person of Election Officer Eleuterio Klar was designated. Mr. Klar
was able to convince the contending parties to transfer to Cotabato City. cdll
On May 26, 1995, the transfer was effected, sorting and inventory were undertaken and after that the
counting resumed.

On June 3, 1995, while counting was being completed a grenade explosion inside the gymnasium in
Cotabato City occurred. One soldier was wounded.

On June 5, 1995, partial proclamation was done by the Municipal Board of Canvassers for the position of
Mayor, Vice-mayor and three Councilors. On June 6, 1995, proclamation of 3 additional councilors was
made.

To summarize, the conduct of election in Datu Piang was peaceful and orderly until a trend of the
winning mayoralty candidate was established at about 10:30 p.m. on election day." 39 (Emphasis
supplied.)

We note that almost all of the Boards of Election Inspectors had completed the counting of votes when
the grenade explosions disrupted the proceedings. Moreover, as soon as it was safe to do so, the
election officials took steps to safeguard the election documents by gathering and keeping them in the
Treasurer's Office, under constant watch of military authorities that had cordoned off the area.
Thereafter, with the agreement of the parties, an inventory of election documents was conducted and
the counting was continued on June 3, 1995. Although the counting was again marred by a grenade
explosion, the winning candidates were proclaimed on June 5, 1995 and on June 6, 1995. There have
been no allegations that the election documents had been tampered with, substituted, manufactured or
in any way compromised by reason alone of the disruption in the proceedings. Neither does petitioner
allege that the election returns are irregular on their face. Under the circumstances, we find no
sufficient reason to hold that the election officials, amidst trying conditions, had not adequately
safeguarded the sanctity of the election process or preserved the documents used therein. We find it
difficult to ascribe substance to the prayer for the wholesale exclusion of all of said election returns in
Datu Piang.

Petitioner also asks for the exclusion of all the election returns and the certificates of canvass in
Maganoy on the ground that no election was actually conducted in said town. This allegation lacks
sufficient factual basis.

Petitioner relied on the sworn statement dated July 11, 1995 of Daud K. Dimapalao, the Municipal
Treasurer and Vice-Chairman of the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Maganoy, Maguindanao that
"there was never any election in Maganoy, Maguindanao and I myself when I went to Maguindanao
National High School, Poblacion, Maganoy, in order to vote, there was no precinct established thereat
open for election and I am one of those who failed to cast a vote." 40

We find, however, that Dimapalao himself executed an earlier and contrary statement dated May 13,
1995 not only admitting that elections were actually conducted in Maganoy, but certifying as well that
these were free, orderly and peaceful. 41 Furthermore, the election officer himself, Abas Saga,
reiterated in his affidavit dated June 30, 1995 the peaceful and lawful conduct of the elections. 42 In
view of the inconsistent statements of the municipal treasurer, the Comelec cannot be faulted for not
giving credence thereto and relying instead on the positive statement of the election officer in that
locale, whose primary function is to oversee the enforcement of election laws.

All in all, we cannot ascribe grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction against
the Comelec for granting prima facie status of validity to the election returns of Datu Piang and
Maganoy, for the purpose of resolving the pre-proclamation controversy.

It is well to stress that the Court here merely sustains the Comelec position that the challenged election
returns are prima facie regular on their face and may be validly included in the challenged certificates of
canvass. The Court is not ruling that fraud or terrorism or other irregularities aliunde had or had not
attended the elections in Maguindanao. This is NOT in issue in a pre-proclamation controversy such as
the one before us. This is to be resolved ultimately in a proper electoral protest after the appreciation of
sufficient credible evidence.

Statistical Improbability

Petitioner also argues that the results reflected in various election returns of Maganoy were statistically
improbable. He identifies several precincts where Candao and his running mate received the same
number of votes, while petitioner and his running mate uniformly received zero. In some other
precincts, Candao's total even exceeded the number of registered voters. In 20 precincts, Candao and
Datumanong were credited with the same number of votes while Matalam and Mentang were credited
with few scattered votes. 43 Petitioner's argument is based on Lagumbay vs. Comelec 44 in which the
Court invalidated several election returns as evidently fraudulent and statistically improbable because
all the eight senatorial candidates of one party garnered all the votes, while all the eight candidates of
the other party got nothing.

However, there is a cogent reason why the exclusion of the allegedly statistically improbable election
returns cannot be ruled upon. Even if we assume arguendo that the said election returns for Maganoy
were in fact statistically improbable, this alone cannot warrant petitioner's proclamation. Contrary to
the requirement of Section 243 (d) of the Omnibus Election Code, 45 petitioner has failed to
demonstrate that the results reflected in the allegedly "statistically improbable" returns for the
Municipality of Maganoy alone would materially affect the results of the gubernatorial contest.
Petitioner merely stated that the nullification of all the returns for both municipalities of Datu Piang and
Maganoy would overhaul the lead of Private Respondent Candao. Although petitioner alleged the
number of votes received by the parties from each of the two municipalities, he has not shown, as
earlier observed, 46 their respective vote totals by precincts and/or by towns for the entire Province of
Maguindanao. In view of this, petitioner has utterly failed to persuade the Court that the nullification of
some or even all of the returns from the Municipality of Maganoy alone would materially affect the
standing of the parties, i.e., that petitioner would win the canvass. In his motion for reconsideration
dated August 25, 1995 before the Respondent Comelec, 47 Petitioner Matalam contended that the
"alleged result of the canvassing of the certificates of canvass (for the entire province) are as follows:
cdtech

Candao 157, 844


Matalam 119, 445

(that) (t)he alleged results of Maganoy and Datu Piang are as follows:

Municipality Candao Matalam

Maganoy 30,605 146

Datu Piang 14,049 3,495

——— ———

Totals 44,654 3,641

(and that) (w)ith the exclusion of Maganoy and Datu Piang, the results are as follows:

Matalam 115,804

Candao 113,190."

An analysis of the above figures supplied by petitioner will show (1) that the exclusion of all the elections
returns in the two towns involved, taken together, would be necessary to enable petitioner to win; and
(2) that the exclusion of the alleged statistically improbable returns, in fact, of even all the returns in the
town of Maganoy alone would not result in petitioner's victory and proclamation. In short, the rejection
of such returns from Maganoy would not alter the election results: Candao would still win.

In Dimaporo, the Court did not rule on a similar allegation of statistically improbable election returns, as
the nullification thereof would not have materially affected the election results. In this light, petitioner
has not given the Court sufficient reason to consider his prayer for the nullification of the Maganoy
election returns even if we agree to uphold his plea of "statistical improbability."

Epilogue

As already adverted to, both law (principally Sec. 243 of the Omnibus Election Code) and extant
jurisprudence restrict the grounds that may be invoked to nullify election returns in a pre-proclamation
controversy. Aside from the public interest 48 that impels the prompt disposition of these cases, there is
another substantial — not just technical — reason why such grounds are limited and why election
irregularities in general cannot be the subjects of pre-proclamation suits. The boards of canvassers,
particularly municipal and provincial, before whom such pre-proclamation controversies are initiated
through timely objections by the parties during the canvass, are ad hoc bodies that exist only for the
interim task of canvassing election returns. They do not have the facilities, the time and even the
competence to hear, examine and decide on alleged election irregularities, 49 unlike regular courts or
the Comelec itself or the electoral tribunals (Presidential, Senate, and House) which are regular agencies
of government tasked and equipped for the purpose. While this Court has time and again expressed its
abhorrence for the nefarious "grab the proclamation and prolong the protest" strategy of some
candidates, nonetheless, it recognizes the very limited jurisdiction of municipal and provincial boards of
canvassers. Unless the petitioners can show cogently and clearly their entitlement to the summary
exclusion of clearly unacceptable election returns, this Court will always uphold the constitutional and
legal presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions, and authenticity of official
documents. And because the Court is not a trier of facts, it will have to rely, absent any clear showing of
grave abuse of discretion, on the factual findings of the Commission on Elections — the authority tasked
by the Constitution to administer and enforce election laws.

In the present case, the Court notes the passion, energy and vigor with which petitioner and his counsel
have pleaded their cause. But, while they may have presented enough allegations to warrant an election
protest, they have failed to satisfy the very restrictive grounds required in a pre-proclamation
controversy.

The Court agonized over its inability to fully look into the election irregularities alleged by petitioner,
due to the very limited scope of a pre-proclamation controversy. Thus, the Court reminds lawyers
handling election cases to make a careful choice of remedies. Where it becomes apparent that a pre-
proclamation suit is inadequate, they should immediately choose another timely remedy, like a petition
to annul the election results or to declare a failure of elections or even an election protest, so that the
election irregularities may be fully ventilated and properly adjudicated by the competent tribunal. They
owe this not only to their clients but to the proper administration of justice.

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is hereby DISMISSED for its failure to show grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the Commission on Elections. No
costs. cdphil

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Padilla, Regalado, Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco
and Torres, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Davide, Jr., J ., concurs in the result.

Hermosisima, Jr., J ., is on leave.

EN BANC

[A.M. No. MTJ-97-1139. October 16, 1997.]

(A.M. No. OCA-I.P.I. 95-6-MTJ)

ROBERTO ESPIRITU, complainant, vs. JUDGE EDUARDO JOVELLANOS, 8th Municipal Circuit Trial Court,
Alcala-Bautista, Pangasinan, respondent.

SYNOPSIS
Respondent Municipal Trial Judge conducted the preliminary investigation in Criminal Case No. 2346 for
frustrated murder against Weny Dumlao based on a complaint filed by Roberto Espiritu. Accused
surrendered to the police but was released on recognizance. During the proceedings, respondent judge
examined on Dr. Patawaran without the presence of the parties and granted bail to the accused without
notice to the prosecution in the amount of P10,000.00 from the original bail bond of P20,000.00 after
the accused and his father allegedly verbally asked for its reduction. Respondent Judge later dismissed
the complaint citing, among others, that Dumlao filed a countercharge against complainant and several
other persons. Records, however, showed that the counter-affidavit considered by respondent was filed
beyond the 10-day reglementary period and a copy of which was not furnished complainant.
Respondent, was thereafter, charged with ignorance of the law, grave abuse of authority and gross
partiality.

The Supreme Court held that although the applicant was not under arrest, detained or otherwise
deprived of his liberty, respondent judge correctly granted bail to accused when he subsequently
submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court and personally asked respondent judge to admit him to
bail and reduce its amount.

Under Department of Justice Circular No. 10 dated July 3, 1987 the amount of bail should be computed
at the rate of P10,000.00 per year of imprisonment based on the medium penalty imposable for the
offense. Judged by this standard, the P10,000.00 bail fixed in this case was inadequate.

Notice of application for bail to the prosecution is required. The failure to observe this requirement
constitutes ignorance or incompetence which cannot be excused by any protestation of good faith.
What was particularly objectionable was that the examination of Dr. Patawaran as a witness was made
without the presence of the parties.

It is the duty of the court, to see to it that pleadings filed in court be served to the opposing party. The
"serve and file" rule is so basic for respondent judge not to know it. It was not fair for respondent judge
to consider a pleading which the other party knew nothing about because it had not been served on
him. The foregoing acts of respondent judge clearly demonstrate partiality. The respondent Judge was
found guilty of gross misconduct and was fined P20,000.00, with warning that repetition of the same or
similar offenses will be dealt with more severely.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; BAIL; PRESUPPOSES THAT APPLICANT IS UNDER


ARREST, DETAINED OR OTHERWISE DEPRIVED OF LIBERTY; THOUGH APPLICANT IN CASE AT BAR WAS
NOT IN CUSTODY HE SUBSEQUENTLY SUBMITTED TO THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURT WHEN GRANTED
BAIL. — It is indeed true that, in general, bail presupposes that the applicant is under arrest, detained, or
otherwise deprived of his liberty. In this case, it appears that on July 16, 1994, shortly after the incident,
Weny Dumlao surrendered to the police, but the next day (July 17, 1994) he was released to the custody
of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Emiliano Matro. Prosecutor Matro testified that upon DECS Supervisor
Nuelito Dumlao's request, he agreed to take custody of Dumlao for which reason Weny Dumlao was
released by the police. According to Matro, this was not the first time that he took custody of one who
was under investigation. Apparently, therefore, when Dumlao applied for bail on September 7, 1994 to
respondent Judge Dumlao was not in custody. Nor was his release to the custody of Assistant City
Prosecutor Matro in accordance with law. But although then not in legal custody, Dumlao subsequently
submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court when on September 7, 1994 he personally asked
respondent judge to admit him to bail and reduce its amount. Respondent judge thus correctly granted
bail.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; RELEASE ON RECOGNIZANCE; WHEN ALLOWED. — Under Rule 114, §15 of the Rules
of Court, the release on recognizance of any person under detention in the following cases: (a) when the
offense charged is for violation of an ordinance, a light felony, or a criminal offense, the imposable
penalty for which does not exceed 6 months imprisonment and/or P2,000 fine, under the circumstances
provided in R.A. No. 6036; (b) where a person has been in custody for a period equal to or more than
the minimum of the imposable principal penalty, without application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law
or any modifying circumstance, in which case the court, in its discretion, may allow his release on his
own recognizance; (c) where the accused has applied for probation, pending resolution of the case but
no bail was filed or the accused is incapable of filing one; and (d) in case of a youthful offender, held for
physical and mental examination, trial, or appeal, if he is unable to furnish bail and under the
circumstances envisaged in P.D. No. 603, as amended (Art. 191).

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; AMOUNT OF BAIL FOR FRUSTRATED MURDER. — Under the 1981 Bail Bond Guide
(Ministry Circular No. 36, September 1, 1981), the amount of bail in cases of frustrated murder is
P12,500.00. In its Circular No. 10 dated July 3, 1987, the Department of Justice noted that the amounts
fixed in the Bail Bond Guide had become "unrealistic and impractical for the purpose of assuring the
presence and/or appearance of persons facing charges in court" and accordingly directed that the
amount of bail be computed at the rate of P10,000.00 per year of imprisonment based on the medium
penalty imposable for the offense. Judged by this standard, the P10,000.00 bail fixed in this case was
inadequate. The penalty for frustrated murder prior to R.A. No. 7659 is prision mayor in its maximum
period (10 years and 1 day to 12 years) to reclusion temporal in its medium period (14 years, 8 months,
and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months.) So that, applying Art. 50, in relation to Art. 248 of the Revised
Penal Code, the medium penalty would be reclusion temporal in its minimum period (12 years and 1 day
to 14 years and 8 months). Under Circular No. 10, the amount of the bail should have been fixed
between P120,000.00 and P140,000.00.

4. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW; MANIFEST IN FIXING THE AMOUNT
OF BAIL FOR FRUSTRATED MURDER AT P20,000 AND REDUCING IT TO P10,000.00 WITHOUT NOTICE TO
THE PROSECUTION. — Respondent judge erred, however, in fixing the amount of bail for frustrated
murder at P20,000.00 and reducing it to P10,000.00 and in doing so without a hearing. Either
respondent judge was grossly ignorant of the law or he deliberately disregarded it to favor the accused.
Considering that part of his duties as a judge is conducting preliminary investigations, it is his duty to
keep abreast of the laws, in failing to do so he failed to live up to the injunction of the Code of Judicial
Conduct to "maintain professional competence." The maxim ignorance of the law excuses no one has
special application to judges. Further demonstrating either deliberate disregard of the law or groups
ignorance of the same, respondent judge granted bail to Weny Dumlao without notice to the
prosecution, in violation of Rule 114, §18. In Chin v. Gustilo, this Court ruled that notice of application
for bail to the prosecution is required even though no charge has yet been filed in court and even
though under the circumstances bail is a matter of right. The failure to observe the above requirement
constitutes ignorance or incompetence which cannot be excused by any protestation of good faith.

5. ID.; ID.; PARTIALITY; MANIFEST IN GRANT OF VERBAL REQUEST TO REDUCE BAIL. — In this case,
the failure to give notice to the prosecution may be due to the fact that there was no written motion
filed but only, as respondent judge himself admitted, an oral request by Dumlao and his father that the
amount of the bail shall be reduced. What respondent judge should have done was to have Dumlao put
his request in writing and then schedule the incident for hearing with notice to the prosecution. Instead,
he readily granted the request, which indicates rather clearly respondent judge's partiality. This
partiality was nowhere more evident than in the private conference which he had with the Dumlao's in
his chambers without the presence of the opposing party, the complainant in this case. Time and again
we have admonished judges not only to be impartial but also to appear to be so. For appearance is an
essential manifestation of reality. Departing from this established norm, respondent judge signed his
September 7, 1994 order reducing the amount of bail to P10,000.00 and then told Dumlao to inform the
police about it so that he would be released.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; GRAVE ABUSE OF AUTHORITY EXAMINATION OF PROSECUTION WITNESS WITHOUT
NOTICE TO THE PARTIES; CONSIDERATION OF COUNTER-AFFIDAVIT FILED LATE AND WITHOUT NOTICE
TO THE OTHER PARTY AND DISMISSAL OF CASE BASED ON SAID COUNTER-AFFIDAVIT; CASE AT BAR. —
With regard to the examination of Dr. Melecio S. Patawaran, Jr., on September 1, 1994 respondent
judge admits that he did not give notice to the parties of the same but claims that it was because he was
only at that time in the first stage of preliminary investigation. This is inconsistent with his later
testimony in which he admitted that when he ordered a warrant of arrest to be issued against Dumlao
on August 18, 1994, the first stage of preliminary examination had already been terminated. Nor is there
any excuse for respondent's consideration of Dumlao's counter-affidavit despite the fact that it had
been filed several days late. Dumlao received the order requiring him to file his counter-affidavit and
that of his witnesses on September 12, 1994. As under Rule 112, §3 (b) Dumlao had only 10 days from
receipt of the subpoena within which to comply, his counter-affidavit should have been filed not later
than September 22, 1994. However, it took him 19 more days after the reglementary period had expired
before he finally filed his counter-affidavit on October 11, 1994. Dumlao did not ask for an extension yet
respondent judge allowed the counter-affidavit. That respondent judge allowed the late filing of the
counter-affidavit can only be attributed to his desire to enable Dumlao to revive his case against
complainant in the Prosecutor's Office because it was the linchpin for his defense in Criminal Case No.
2346. The service of the counter-affidavit on complainant should indeed be made by Dumlao and not
only by the Court, but respondent judge should have seen to it that this duty had been complied with
upon the filing of the counter-affidavit. The "serve and file" rule is so basic for respondent judge not to
know it. It was not fair for respondent judge to consider a pleading which the other party knew nothing
about because it had not been served on him. Thus, based on alleged testimony of Dr. Patawaran,
respondent judge cast doubt on complainant's claim that his wound had been inflicted by complainant
on himself. This is contrary to Dr. Patawaran's testimony in the preliminary investigation conducted by
respondent judge. It would seem respondent judge simply relied on the counter-affidavit of Dumlao for
his resolution dismissing Criminal Case No. 2346. The foregoing acts of respondent judge clearly
demonstrate partiality.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J p:

Respondent is judge of the 8th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Alcala-Bautista, Pangasinan. He is charged
with ignorance of the law, grave abuse of authority, and gross partiality in connection with the
preliminary investigation of Criminal Case No. 2346 for frustrated murder which the herein complainant,
Roberto Espiritu, had filed against Weny Dumlao.

The facts are as follows:

In his affidavit 1 in Criminal Case No. 2346, Roberto Espiritu, as complainant, alleged that at around 7:30
in the evening of July 16, 1994, while he was with a group which included Eulogio Pabunan, Arnel
Guerra, Januario Peregrino, and Marcelino Bautista, Weny Dumlao approached him and fired at him
three times, as a result of which complainant was wounded; that complainant was able to run away; and
that Dumlao wanted to kill complainant because the latter had filed a case against Dumlao's brother,
Victor, for the murder of complainant's son Rolly. On the basis of this affidavit and those of Arnel Guerra
2 and Eulogio Pabunan, 3 SPO II Eduardo R. Yadao filed a criminal complaint for frustrated murder on
August 10, 1994 4 in respondent's court.

After conducting a preliminary examination, respondent judge ordered on August 18, 1994 the arrest of
Dumlao and fixed the amount of bail for his provisional liberty at P20,000.00. 5 However, in an order
dated September 7, 1994, he reduced the amount of the bail to P10,000.00, stating that Dumlao's father
had asked for the reduction. On September 12, 1994, he ordered "any peace officer under whose
custody [Dumlao] may be found" to release the latter in view of the fact that Dumlao had posted bail for
P10,000.00. 6 Then on October 12, 1994 he dismissed the complaint, citing, among other reasons, the
fact that Dumlao had filed a case against Roberto Espiritu and others as a result of the same incident
complained of in Criminal Case No. 2346.

It appears that Dumlao had filed on July 27, 1994 a countercharge against complainant and others with
the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Villasis, Pangasinan for attempted murder and illegal
possession of firearm. The case was docketed as I.S. No. V-94-30. Dumlao claimed that as he approached
Espiritu's group, Arnel Guerra shot him, although Guerra missed him; that as he ran towards his house,
other members of the group also fired at him; and that Espiritu's group challenged him and his father to
come out and fight. cda

Dumlao's complaint (I.S. No. V-94-30) was dismissed on August, 1994 for insufficiency of evidence. 7
After a reinvestigation of the two cases, however, Assistant City Prosecutor Paz de G. Peralta directed
the filing of an information for attempted murder against complainant Roberto Espiritu, Arnel Guerra,
Andres Espiritu, Marlino Bautista, Januario Peregrino, Abrillo Peregrino, Eulogio Pabunan, Dario
Pabunan, and Landio Pabunan even as she affirmed the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 2346 against
Dumlao. 8

Espiritu sought a review in the Department of Justice, but his petition was denied 9 for having been filed
late and for his failure to attach the affidavits submitted during the preliminary investigation.

Espiritu filed the complaint in this case, alleging irregularities committed by respondent judge in the
conduct of the preliminary investigation of his complaint against Dumlao. 10

Respondent judge filed a comment, 11 denying the charges. Complainant, on the other hand, filed a
reply. Among other things, complainant claimed that this was not the first time that respondent judge
had shown ignorance of the rules on criminal procedure, because on September 29, 1994, in People of
the Philippines v. Cesario Sanchez, Criminal Case No. V-0092, respondent judge had been reprimanded
by the Regional Trial Court of Villasis, Pangasinan (Branch 50) for approving the bail bond of the accused
when the latter had not yet been arrested.

On June 26, 1995, the Court referred the case to Judge Pedro C. Cacho of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 52, at Tayug, Pangasinan for investigation, report, and recommendation. On October 6, 1995,
Judge Cacho submitted his report, recommending that respondent judge be fined in the amount of
P3,000.00 and reprimanded for "neglect of duty, partiality, and/or inefficiency tantamount to grave
ignorance of the law."

Except as to the amount of the fine recommended, the Court concurs in the report of the investigating
judge.

The charges against respondent judge relate to basically two acts committed by him: (1) granting bail to
Weny Dumlao in the reduced amount of P10,000.00 and (2) dismissing the criminal complaint against
Dumlao.

I. With respect to the granting of bail to Weny Dumlao and the reduction of its amount to
P10,000.00, complainant alleges:

2. The municipal courts are now courts of records. Per order dated September 7, 1994 . . . . the
Honorable Judge reduced the amount of bail His Honor set in a previous order (Page 12, Ibid.), from
P20,000.00 to P10,000.00 acting supposedly upon the request of the father of the accused. However,
there is no such request for reduction of bail on file with the records of the case;

3. At the time the Honorable Judge acted on the "request" for reduction of bail, the accused was
not under detention as he was not arrested nor had he voluntarily surrendered as borne by the records.
Accordingly, the Court has not yet acquired jurisdiction over the person of the accused, so the
Honorable Judge cannot act on such "request" for reduction of bail even if interceded by the father of
the accused;
4. The amount at which the bail was reduced: P10,000.00 is not commensurate with the gravity of
the crime charged, an evident manifestation of the Judge's injudiciousness in the exercise of his
authority and discretion. The bail bond guide of 1981 provides for the amount P12,500.00;

Simply stated, the complaint is that respondent judge is guilty of ignorance of the law, bias, and
partiality for Dumlao as shown by the following: (a) respondent judge granted bail and later reduced its
amount when the fact was that, at that time, Dumlao was not in the custody of the court; (b) there was
no written motion presented for the reduction of bail, which is a necessity since MCTCs are courts of
record; and (c) pursuant to the 1981 Bail Bond Guide the bail for frustrated murder should be
P12,500.00.

A. It is indeed true that, in general, bail presupposes that the applicant is under arrest, detained, or
otherwise deprived of his liberty. 12 In this case, it appears that on July 16, 1994, shortly after the
incident, Weny Dumlao surrendered to the police, but the next day (July 17, 1994) he was released to
the custody of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Emiliano Matro. 13

Prosecutor Matro testified that upon DECS Supervisor Nuelito Dumlao's request, he agreed to take
custody of Dumlao for which reason Weny Dumlao was released by the police. 14 According to Matro,
this was not the first time that he took custody of one who was under investigation. 15

Apparently, therefore, when Dumlao applied for bail on September 7, 1994 to respondent judge,
Dumlao was not in custody. Nor was his release to the custody of Assistant City Prosecutor Matro in
accordance with law. Under Rule 114, §15 of the Rules of Court, the release on recognizance of any
person under detention may be ordered only by a court and only in the following cases: (a) when the
offense charged is for violation of an ordinance, a light felony, or a criminal offense, the imposable
penalty for which does not exceed 6 months imprisonment and/or P2,000 fine, under the circumstances
provided in R.A. No. 6036; (b) where a person has been in custody for a period equal to or more than
the minimum of the imposable principal penalty, without application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law
or any modifying circumstance, in which case the court, in its discretion, may allow his release on his
own recognizance; (c) where the accused has applied for probation, pending resolution of the case but
no bail was filed or the accused is incapable of filing one; and (d) in case of a youthful offender held for
physical and mental examination, trial, or appeal, if he is unable to furnish bail and under the
circumstances envisaged in P.D. No. 603, as amended (Art. 191). 16

But although then not in legal custody, Dumlao subsequently submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the
court when on September 7, 1994 he personally asked respondent judge to admit him to bail and
reduce its amount. In Paderanga v. Court of Appeals, 17 Miguel Paderanga was one of the accused in a
case for multiple murder. Before the arrest warrant could be served on him, he filed through counsel a
motion for admission to bail which the trial court set for hearing on November 5, 1992 with notice to
both public and private prosecutors. As Paderanga was then confined at a hospital, his counsel
manifested that they were submitting custody over Paderanga's person to the chapter president of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines and asked that, for purposes of the hearing on his bail application, he
be considered as being in the custody of the law. On November 5, 1992, the trial court admitted
Paderanga to bail in the amount of P200,000.00. The next day, Paderanga in spite of his weak condition,
managed to personally appear before the clerk of court of the trial court and posted bail. He was
arraigned and thereafter he attended the hearings. We held that the accused was in the constructive
custody of the law when he moved for admission to bail through his lawyers (1) by filing the application
for bail with the trial court, (2) by furnishing true information of his actual whereabouts, and (3) by
unequivocably recognizing the jurisdiction of said court.

Respondent judge thus correctly granted bail to Dumlao.

B. Respondent judge erred, however, in fixing the amount of bail at P20,000.00 and reducing it to
P10,000.00 18 and in doing so without a hearing.

Under the 1981 Bail Bond Guide (Ministry Circular No. 36, September 1, 1981), the amount of bail in
cases of frustrated murder is P12,500.00. 19 In its Circular No. 10 dated July 3, 1987, the Department of
Justice noted that the amounts fixed in the Bail Bond Guide had become "unrealistic and impractical for
the purpose of assuring the presence and/or appearance of persons facing charges in court" and
accordingly directed that the amount of bail be computed at the rate of P10,000.00 per year of
imprisonment based on the medium penalty imposable for the offense. Judged by this standard, the
P10,000.00 bail fixed in this case was inadequate. The penalty for frustrated murder prior to R.A. No.
7659 is prision mayor in its maximum period (10 years and 1 day to 12 years) to reclusion temporal in its
medium period (14 years, 8 months, and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months). So that, applying Art. 50, in
relation to Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, the medium penalty would be reclusion temporal in its
minimum period (12 years and 1 day to 14 years and 8 months). Under Circular No. 10, the amount of
the bail should have been fixed between P120,000.00 and P140,000.00. aisadc

Either respondent judge was grossly ignorant of the law or he deliberately disregarded it to favor the
accused. Considering that part of his duties as a judge is conducting preliminary investigations, it is his
duty to keep abreast of the laws, rulings, and jurisprudence regarding this matter. It is apparent that he
has not. In failing to do so he failed to live up to the injunction of the Code of Judicial Conduct to
"maintain professional competence." 20 The maxim ignorance of the law excuses no one has special
application to judges.

Further demonstrating either deliberate disregard of the law or gross ignorance of the same,
respondent judge granted bail to Weny Dumlao without notice to the prosecution, in violation of Rule
114, §18. In Chin v. Gustilo, 21 this Court ruled that notice of application for bail to the prosecution is
required even though no charge has yet been filed in court and even though under the circumstances
bail is a matter of right. The failure to observe the above requirement constitutes ignorance or
incompetence which cannot be excused by any protestation of good faith. 22

In this case, the failure to give notice to the prosecution may be due to the fact that there was no
written motion filed but only, as respondent judge himself admitted, an oral request by Dumlao and his
father that the amount of the bail be reduced. What respondent judge should have done was to have
Dumlao put his request in writing and then schedule the incident for hearing with notice to the
prosecution. Instead, he readily granted the request, which indicates rather clearly respondent judge's
partiality. This partiality was nowhere more evident than in the private conference which he had with
the Dumlaos in his chambers without the presence of the opposing party, the complainant in this case.
Time and again we have admonished judges not only to be impartial but also to appear to be so. For
appearance is an essential manifestation of reality. 23 Departing from this established norm, respondent
judge signed his September 7, 1994 order reducing the amount of bail to P10,000.00 and then told
Dumlao to inform the police about it so that he would be released. cdrep

II. With respect to the charge that respondent judge, with grave abuse of authority, dismissed the
case filed by complainant against Weny Dumlao, it is alleged that:

1. The Honorable Judge of the MCTC subpoenaed Dr. Marcelo S. Patawaran, Jr. (Page 15, Records
of the Case-Annex "A") and conducted examination upon the doctor without notice, nay presence, of
the parties of the case. . . . It is significant to note that the "searching questions" propounded upon the
doctor tended to diminish the significance and importance of the medical certificate (Page 5, Ibid.)
which may have been achieved, but the whole of the proceedings unmasked the partiality of the Court
towards the accused. Moreover, it is unbelievable that the Honorable Judge is not aware of the
plenitude in our jurisprudence of proceedings undertaken by courts and tribunals without notice and
presence of the parties that were declared null and void by the Supreme Court;

xxx xxx xxx

5. On September 12, 1994, the Honorable Judge issued a subpoena upon the accused, requiring
the accused to submit his counter-affidavits of his witnesses and his other pieces of evidence, if any.
Under the rule, and as contained in the subpoena, the accused was given ten (10) days to do so, and the
period expired on September 22, 1994 as he received copies of the subpoena and the complaint with
supporting affidavits on September 12, 1994 as shown by the records, Annex "A". Without prior motion
for extension of period, the Honorable Judge allowed the filing by the accused of his counter-affidavit
only on October 11, 1994, some 29 days late [actually only 19 days]. Moreover, the Court did not require
the accused to furnish copy of his counter-affidavit to the complainant prior to submitting the same in
Court, in violation of Section 2(c), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court;

6. In the resolution recommending the dismissal of this case . . ., the Honorable Judge cited as one
reason the existence of a counter-charge pending preliminary investigation before the Office of the
Provincial Prosecutor, Villasis, Pangasinan concerning the same incident which is the subject matter of
this case, referring to I.S. No. V-94-30, filed by accused as complainant therein. That case (I.S. No. V-94-
30) was dismissed per Resolution dated August 15, 1994, copy of which is hereto attached and marked
as Annex "B". After the dismissal of said case, the accused, as complainant, endeavored to revive the
case, but which undertaking took him a long time, hence, the delay of accused's counter-affidavit in
Criminal Case No. 2346. . . . The fact alone that accused was allowed to delay the filing of his counter-
affidavit to enable him to revive his counter-charge is an evident gross partiality of the Honorable Judge;
and

7. The Honorable Judge, without any basis, directly or impliedly, made a finding that the wound
sustained by herein complainant was self-inflicted, totally disregarding the evidence on record, as
declared positively by eye witnesses. Such actuation bespeaks of the grave abuse of discretion by the
Honorable Judge.

A. With regard to the examination of Dr. Melecio S. Patawaran, Jr. on September 1, 1994
respondent judge admits that he did not give notice to the parties of the same but claims that it was
because he was only at that time in the first stage of preliminary investigation. 24 This is inconsistent
with his later testimony in which he admitted that when he ordered a warrant of arrest to be issued
against Dumlao on August 18, 1994, the first stage of preliminary examination had already been
terminated. 25

Respondent contends that Rule 112, §3(e) did not apply to the examination of Dr. Patawaran on
September 1, 1994 because at that time Dumlao had not yet submitted his counteraffidavit. 26 This
provision states:

If the investigating officer believes that there are matters to be clarified, he may set a hearing to
propound clarificatory questions to the parties or their witnesses, during which the parties shall be
afforded an opportunity to be present but without the right to examine or cross-examine. If the parties
so desire, they may submit questions to the investigating officer which the latter may propound to the
parties or witnesses concerned.

If, as respondent judge claims, the holding of a hearing for the purpose of asking "clarificatory"
questions presupposes the filing by the parties of their affidavits but at the time he examined Dr.
Patawaran he had not yet received the counteraffidavit of Weny Dumlao, then what he should have
done was to wait until the counteraffidavit was filed and in the meantime not examine Dr. Patawaran.
What is particularly objectionable was the examination of Dr. Patawaran as a witness without the
presence of the parties.

B. Nor is there any excuse for respondent's consideration of Dumlao's counteraffidavit despite the
fact that it had been filed several days late. Dumlao received the order 27 requiring him to file his
counteraffidavit and that of his witnesses on September 12, 1994. As under Rule 112, §3(b) Dumlao had
only 10 days from receipt of the subpoena within which to comply, his counteraffidavit should have
been filed not later than September 22, 1994. However, it took him 19 more days after the
reglementary period had expired before he finally filed his counteraffidavit on October 11, 1994.
Dumlao did not ask for an extension, yet respondent judge allowed the counteraffidavit.

Respondent claims that 28

The acceptance of the Counter-Affidavit is not my duty. It is my Clerk of Court who received the
Counter-Affidavit and when I look into the records, the Counter-Affidavit was already there in the record
and I was also preparing a Resolution to that case, so I have to take cognizance of the Counter-Affidavit.
After all, there was no one month yet that lapsed so I have to take cognizance of the Counter Affidavit.
And immediately after that, I issued a Resolution.
The contention has no merit. The duty of the clerk of court was to receive the counteraffidavit. 29 It was
respondent judge's responsibility to see to it that what was received in his court had been filed on time.
Nor is it true that when respondent judge saw the counteraffidavit, it had already been attached to the
records. Clerk of Court Adoracion Marcos testified that upon receipt of the counteraffidavit, she showed
it to respondent judge. 30 Respondent judge therefore knew when the counteraffidavit was filed. At the
very least, he should have checked whether it was filed on time. That respondent judge allowed the late
filing of the counteraffidavit can only be attributed to his desire to enable Dumlao to revive his case
against complainant in the Prosecutor's Office because it was the linchpin for his defense in Criminal
Case No. 2346.

C. What has been just said applies as well to respondent judge's claim that responsibility for
furnishing complainant a copy of the counteraffidavit was not the court's responsibility but Dumlao's.
The service of the counteraffidavit on complainant should indeed be made by Dumlao and not by the
court, 31 but respondent judge should have seen to it that this duty had been complied with upon the
filing of the counteraffidavit. The "serve and file'' rule is so basic for respondent judge not to know it. It
was not fair for respondent judge to consider a pleading which the other party knew nothing about
because it had not been served on him.

D. In dismissing Criminal Case No. 2346, respondent judge said: 32

For the weighing and evaluation of evidence of both parties, the Court took the pain of issuing a
subpoena to Dr. Marcelo [actually Melecio] S. Patawaran, Jr., a resident physician of Don Amadeo Perez,
Sr. Memorial Hospital at Urdaneta, Pangasinan, who testified that the bullet did not have any exit and
there was no bullet left in the body and it becomes only an injury. That the patient was advised to be
referred to the Pangasinan Provincial Hospital for x-ray purposes, instead he went to the Sacred Heart
Hospital at Urdaneta, Pangasinan and went home after x-ray. That no x-ray result was submitted to Don
Amadeo J. Perez, Sr. Hospital or to the Court to prove that it was really a bullet wound. That he did not
notice any powder burns on the injury.

. . . [I]n the opinion of the Court, the injury is self inflicted, this case should be dismissed. . . .

Thus, based on alleged testimony of Dr. Patawaran, respondent judge cast doubt on complainant's claim
that his wound was a gunshot wound and held that the wound had been inflicted by complainant on
himself.

This is contrary to Dr. Patawaran's testimony in the preliminary investigation conducted by respondent
judge. Dr. Patawaran said in his testimony: 33

Q: Doctor, here in this medical certificate in the findings or diagnosis it says 'GSW' or gunshot
wound, was it really in your opinion a gunshot wound?

A: Yes, Judge.

Q: Why do you say it is a gunshot wound?


A: Because when I saw the wound it manifested the characteristic of a gunshot wound like the
inversion of the skin edges.

Q: You said inversion of the skin edges Doctor, did you find any bullet in the injury?

A: That is why I referred the patient to the Provincial Hospital for x-ray because when you see only
the entrance and no exit, it's a must so as to locate the bullet as it does not have any exit.

Q: Do you know if the bullet is inside the body of the person?

A: That will be determined by the x-ray, sir.

xxx xxx xxx

Q: In this medical certificate Doctor below the findings and diagnosis are the letters 'GSW' is in
writing and not typewritten as the injuries and entries indicated, will you please explain?

A: I initialed it to make it authenticated, a typographical error, sir.

Q: From the injury Doctor you can not determine also how far was the assailant?

A: Probably around more or less 3 meters, sir.

Q: Did you talk to the patient Roberto Espiritu when he was taken to your hospital Doctor?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Did Roberto Espiritu ever mention to you the name of the assailant and that he recognized him?

A: I just asked what happened and he said "pinaltogdac" I was shot, and I did not ask the name of
the assailant any more.

It would seem respondent judge simply relied on the counteraffidavit of Dumlao for his resolution,
particularly the following portion of Dumlao's counteraffidavit: 34

The medical certificate of private complainant Roberto Espiritu doesn't categorically state that the
wound is a gun shot wound and if the letters GSW in handwritten form in a ballpen appear therein is an
information coming from and supplied by said complainant, other entries are typewritten, it is not a gun
shot wound as ascertained and examined by the attending doctor; the complainant was never confined
in the hospital; there is no exit of the bullet but no finding whether said bullet is embedded and found
inside the body of the alleged victim-complainant; if the private-complainant ever sustained any wound,
it is one that is self-inflicted in a vain effort to substantiate a false charge of a serious offense of
frustrated murder making it appear as a consequence of a gunshot; the medical certificate doesn't state
the healing period of the self-inflicted wound; medical certificate is attached and marked as Annex "E"
to form part hereof.

The foregoing acts of respondent judge clearly demonstrate partiality.


WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Eduardo U. Jovellanos GUILTY of gross misconduct and imposes on
him a FINE of P20,000.00, with a WARNING that repetition of the same or similar offenses will be dealt
with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 4539. May 14, 1997.]

ROMANA R. MALIGSA, complainant, vs. ATTY. ARSENIO FER CABANTING, respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS; ATTORNEYS; DISCIPLINE AND DISBARMENT; NOTARIES PUBLIC;
NOTARIZATION OF A PRIVATE DOCUMENT; EFFECTS THEREOF. — Notarization is not an empty routine;
to the contrary, it engages public interest in a substantial degree and protection of the interest requires
preventing those who are not qualified or authorized to act as notaries public from imposing upon the
public and the courts and the administrative offices generally. Notarization of a private document
converts the document into a public one making it admissible in court without further proof of its
authenticity.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; DUTY TO OBSERVE LEGAL SOLEMNITY OF AN OATH IN ACKNOWLEDGMENT OR
JURAT; CASE AT BENCH. — On the basis of the complaint and the supporting documents, this Court finds
sufficient legal basis for disciplinary action against respondent for making it appear in the
Acknowledgment of the Deed of Quitclaim in question that the affiant therein signed the document and
acknowledged the contents thereof before him as Notary Public on 5 May 1992 when in truth and in fact
the affiant did not and could not have done so. . . In the case before us, it would have been physically
and legally impossible for the affiant Irene Maligsa to have executed the alleged Deed of Quitclaim on 5
May 1992 and to have personally subscribed to its authenticity, and validity before respondent notary
public on the same date, affiant having died on 21 April 1992. Also, it behooves respondent as a notary
public to require the personal appearance of the person executing a document to enable the former to
verify the genuineness of the signature of the affiant. . . As a lawyer commissioned as notary public,
respondent is mandated to subscribe to the sacred duties appertaining to his office, such duties being
dictated by public policy and impressed with public interest. Faithful observance and utmost respect of
the legal solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgment or jurat is sacrosanct. Simply put, such
responsibility is incumbent upon respondent and failing therein, he must now accept the commensurate
consequences of his professional indiscretion. By his effrontery of notarizing a fictitious or spurious
document, he has made a mockery of the legal solemnity of the oath in an Acknowledgment.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; DUTY TO UPHOLD INTEGRITY OF LEGAL PROFESSION. — A lawyer shall at all times
uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The bar should maintain a high standard of legal
proficiency as well as of honesty and fair dealing. A lawyer brings honor to the legal profession by
faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. To this end a
member of the legal fraternity should refrain from doing any act which might lessen in any degree the
confidence and trust reposed by the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the legal profession.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; MISCONDUCT SHOWING WANT IN MORAL CHARACTER; NOTARIZING FICTITIOUS
DOCUMENT; DISBARMENT, A PROPER PENALTY IN CASE AT BENCH. — A lawyer may be disbarred or
suspended for any misconduct, whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be
wanting in moral character, in honesty, probity and good demeanor or unworthy to continue as an
officer of the court. Considering the serious nature of the instant offense and in light of his prior
misconduct hereinbefore mentioned for which he was penalized with a six (6) month suspension from
the practice of law, with a warning that repetition of the same or similar act would be dealt with more
severely, the contumacious behavior of respondent in the instant case which grossly degrades the legal
profession indeed warrants the imposition of a much graver penalty.

DECISION

PER CURIAM p:

ATTY. ARSENIO FER CABANTING is charged by Romana R. Maligsa in a verified affidavit-complaint for
disbarment with conduct unbecoming a lawyer for certifying under oath a Deed of Quitclaim dated 5
May 1992 1 over a piece of property subject of a pending civil case before the Regional Trial Court — Br.
45, Urdaneta, Pangasinan, docketed as Civil Case No. U-5434. 2

On 11 March 1996 we required respondent to comment on the complaint. He failed to comply despite
service upon him of our Resolution together with copy of the complaint. cdtai

On 22 October 1996 we considered the failure of respondent Atty. Arsenio Fer Cabanting to file his
comment as waiver of his right to do so and directed the case submitted for decision.

On the basis of the complaint and the supporting documents, this Court finds sufficient legal basis for
disciplinary action against respondent for making it appear in the Acknowledgment of the Deed of
Quitclaim in question that the affiant therein signed the document and acknowledged the contents
thereof before him as Notary Public on 5 May 1992 when in truth and in fact the affiant did not and
could not have done so.

The evidence clearly discloses that on 5 May 1992 a Deed of Quitclaim was purportedly executed by one
Irene Maligsa in favor of Juanito V. Abaoag over a parcel of land located in Cablong, Pozorrubio,
Pangasinan. 3 The subject document was notarized by respondent on the same date. The document was
apparently used as evidence against complainant in a pending civil case for annulment of OCT No. P-
31297, quieting of title with prayer for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary
restraining order plus damages.
The complainant alleges that the Deed of Quitclaim could not have been executed and notarized on 5
May 1992 because the affiant Irene Maligsa died on 21 April 1992 or sixteen (16) days earlier. 4
Moreover, Irene Maligsa could not have signed the document because she "never knew how to write as
she uses the thumb mark in every transaction she entered." 5

Section 1 of Public Act No. 2103 6 provides —

(a) The acknowledgment shall be made before a notary public or an officer duly authorized by law
of the country to take acknowledgments of instruments or documents in the place where the act is
done. The notary public or the officer taking the acknowledgment shall certify that the person
acknowledging the instrument or document is known to him and that he is the same person who
executed it, and acknowledged that the same is his free act and deed. The certificate shall be made
under the official seal, if he is by law required to keep a seal, and if not, his certificate shall so state.

Furthermore, the Acknowledgment contained in the questioned document specifically provides


"BEFORE ME personally appeared IRENE MALIGSA . . ." 7 Clearly, the party acknowledging must
personally appear before the Notary Public or any other person authorized to take such
acknowledgment of instruments or documents.

In the case before us, it would have been physically and legally impossible for the affiant Irene Maligsa
to have executed the alleged Deed of Quitclaim on 5 May 1992 and to have personally subscribed to its
authenticity and validity before respondent notary public on the same date, affiant having died on 21
April 1992. Also, it behooves respondent as a notary public to require the personal appearance of the
person executing a document to enable the former to verify the genuineness of the signature of the
affiant.

Quite importantly, this is not the first time that respondent has been involved in an act of malpractice in
violation of his oath as a lawyer and the Canons of Professional Ethics.

In the consolidated administrative cases of Valencia v. Cabanting, 8 the Court suspended respondent
Atty. Arsenio Fer Cabanting for six (6) months from the practice of law. In those cases respondent
purchased his client's property which was still the subject of a pending certiorari proceeding contrary to
the prohibition stated in Art. 1491 of the New Civil Code and Art. II of the Canons of Professional Ethics.
Under the circumstances, a recollection of the basic principles of professional ethics in the practice of
law is apropos.

A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The bar should
maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as well as of honesty and fair dealing. A lawyer brings
honor to the legal profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and
to his clients. To this end a member of the legal fraternity should refrain from doing any act which might
lessen in any degree the confidence and trust reposed by the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity
of the legal profession. 9
Notarization is not an empty routine; to the contrary, it engages public interest in a substantial degree
and protection of the interest requires preventing those who are not qualified or authorized to act as
notaries public from imposing upon the public and the courts and the administrative offices generally.
10 Notarization of a private document converts the document into a public one making it admissible in
court without further proof of its authenticity.

As a lawyer commissioned as notary public, respondent is mandated to subscribe to the sacred duties
appertaining to his office, such duties being dictated by public policy and impressed with public interest.
Faithful observance and utmost respect of the legal solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgment or jurat
is sacrosanct. Simply put, such responsibility is incumbent upon respondent and failing therein, he must
now accept the commensurate consequences of his professional indiscretion. By his effrontery of
notarizing a fictitious or spurious document, he has made a mockery of the legal solemnity of the oath in
an Acknowledgment.

A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any misconduct, whether in his professional or private
capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, in honesty, probity and good demeanor or
unworthy to continue as an officer of the court. 11 Considering the serious nature of the instant offense
and in light of his prior misconduct hereinbefore mentioned for which he was penalized with a six (6)
month suspension from the practice of law, with a warning that repetition of the same or similar act
would be dealt with more severely, the contumacious behavior of respondent in the instant case which
grossly degrades the legal profession indeed warrants the imposition of a much graver penalty.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds respondent ATTY. ARSENIO FER CABANTING guilty of grave misconduct
rendering him unworthy of his continued membership in the legal profession; consequently, he is
ordered DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name stricken off the Roll of Attorneys effective
immediately.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished all the courts of the land as well as the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, the Office of the Bar Confidant and recorded in the personal files of respondent. cdasia

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Regalado, Davide Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco, Hermosisima Jr., Panganiban and Torres Jr., JJ ., concur.

Padilla, J ., is on leave.

SECOND DIVISION

[A.M. No. MTJ-94-989. April 18, 1997.]


OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, complainant, vs. JUDGE AUGUSTO SUMILANG, INTERPRETER
FELICIDAD MALLA, STENO-REPORTER EDELITA LAGMAY and STENO-REPORTER NIEVA MERCADO,
respondents.

Cayetano T . Santos & Associates for respondents.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; DISCIPLINE OF JUDGES; DUTY TO MANAGE COURT
PROPERLY; IGNORANCE AS TO IRREGULARITIES OCCURRING IN COURT CONSTITUTES SERIOUS BREACH
THEREOF; CASE AT BENCH. — A judge must always remember that as the administrator of his court, he
is responsible for the conduct and management thereof. He has the duty to supervise his court
personnel to ensure prompt and efficient dispatch of business in his court. The ignorance of respondent
Judge as to the irregularities occurring in his own backyard constitutes serious breach of judicial ethics.
Judge Sumilang's excuse, that upon learning of the irregularities being committed by his court
personnel, he immediately acted with haste and instructed Malla to turn over the money, is specious
and unconvincing. His admission that he had no knowledge regarding the anomalies going on in his
court underscores his inefficiency, and incompetence. It clearly demonstrates a lack of control expected
of a judge exercising proper office management.

2. POLITICAL LAW; SUPREME COURT ADMINISTRATIVE SUPERVISION OVER COURT PERSONNEL;


PAYMENTS MADE BY LITIGANTS IN RELATION TO THEIR CASES SHOULD NOT BE RECEIVED BY COURT
INTERPRETER IN HIS PERSONAL CHARGE. — The evidence against Malla is equally incriminating. It has
been clearly established, and this is not denied by Malla, that she misappropriated for her own use the
amount of P240,000.00 which she received from Villarica, the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 858, instead of
directing him to deposit said amount with the Municipal Treasurer. A court interpreter should not
receive payments made by litigants in relation to their cases in his personal charge.

3. ID.; CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED UNDER CUSTODIAL INVESTIGATION; NOT
APPLICABLE TO INVESTIGATIONS BEFORE THE OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR. — Malla further
claims that her constitutional rights under Section 12, Article III of the Constitution were violated when
she was "pressured" to sign an affidavit dated September 14, 1994 before the Office of the Court
Administrator, where she admitted her misdeed. Thus, she concludes that the affidavit is inadmissible in
evidence. In People vs. Loveria, however, we ruled that the aforementioned constitutional provision
may be invoked only during "custodial investigation" or as in "custody investigation" which has been
defined as "questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody
or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way." The investigation is defined as an
"investigation conducted by police authorities which will include investigation conducted by the
Municipal Police, P.C. (now PNP) and the NBI and such other police agencies in our government." Thus,
the Office of the Court Administrator can hardly be deemed to be the law enforcement authority
contemplated in the constitutional provision. At any rate, Malla admitted during her testimony that she
received the said check from Villarica covering the amount of P240,000.00 payable to Dizon. However,
when she tried to deposit it with the Municipal Treasurer, the latter refused because there was no order
from Judge Sumilang. Consequently, Villarica entrusted said check to her. It was at this juncture that she
used the money for personal purposes.

4. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; JUDICIAL CONFESSION; STATEMENT IN AFFIDAVIT REPEATED IN


OPEN COURT IS CONVERTED INTO A JUDICIAL CONFESSION. — During the investigation, Malla repeated
what she basically stated in her affidavit i.e., that she used a substantial amount of the P240,000.00 for
her personal needs. This effectively refutes whatever pressure and coercion she claims was employed
against her. By repeating her confession in open court, Malla thereby converted it into a judicial
confession.

5. POLITICAL LAW; SUPREME COURT ADMINISTRATIVE SUPERVISION OVER COURT PERSONNEL;


PROHIBITION AGAINST TAKING COURT RECORDS OUTSIDE COURT PREMISES; CASE AT BENCH. — During
the investigation, Malla was charged with a second offense for keeping in her custody missing court
records containing the technical description of a cadastral survey. Malla never denied this charge, but
claimed that they were returned five hours after they were removed. We are not impressed with the
remonstration of Malla. It should be stressed that court employees are not allowed to take any court
records, papers or documents outside the court premises.

6. ID.; ID.; PERSONAL USE OF FUNDS ENTRUSTED TO THE COURT; PROPER PENALTY IN CASE AT
BENCH. — All these acts call for Malla's dismissal, but this penalty cannot be enforced because she is no
longer connected with the MTC of Pila, Laguna. Hence, the appropriate penalty that may be meted
against her is the forfeiture of her accrued leave credits, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch
or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations. This
disciplinary action should serve as a reminder to all court personnel who yield to the temptation of using
for their own personal interest funds entrusted to the court, that there is no place in the judiciary for
those who cannot meet the exacting standards of judicial conduct and integrity. The fact that Malla
returned the whole amount is of no moment because such act will not mitigate her liability.

7. ID.; ID.; QUANTUM OF PROOF REQUIRED IN ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS; CASE AT BENCH.


— Respondents Lagmay and Mercado, on the other hand, vehemently deny knowing that the money
they borrowed was money held in trust by Malla. This assertion contradicts the latter's testimony as to
the source of the money, lent to the former. Worth stressing is the well-entrenched principle that in
administrative proceedings, such as the instant case, the quantum of proof necessary for a finding of
guilt is only substantial evidence. Substantial evidence has been defined as such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.

8. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; WEIGHT AND SUFFICIENCY; TESTIMONIAL EVIDENCE CARRIES MORE
WEIGHT THAN AFFIDAVIT; CASE AT BENCH. — The only evidence presented before this Court are the
affidavits of Malla, Lagmay and Mercado. Firmly established is the rule that testimonial evidence carries
more weight than affidavits.

9. ID.; ID.; ID.; MATTER OF ASSIGNING VALUES THERETO BEST PERFORMED BY INVESTIGATING
BODY; EXCEPTION; CASE AT BENCH. — In situations such as the one at hand, the matter of assigning
values to the testimony of witnesses is best performed by the investigating body because, unlike
appellate courts, they can weigh such testimony in light of the demeanor, conduct and attitude of the
witnesses at the trial. This rule, however, must be relaxed when certain facts of substance and value
have been overlooked which, if considered, might affect the result of the matter. Unfortunately for
respondents, no such omission is present here.

10. POLITICAL LAW; SUPREME COURT ADMINISTRATIVE SUPERVISION OVER COURT PERSONNEL;
STRICTEST STANDARD OF HONESTY REQUIRED OF THOSE INVOLVED IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF
JUSTICE; CASE AT BENCH. — We need not belabor jurisprudence that those involved in the
administration of justice must live up to the strictest standard of honesty and integrity in the public
service. Their conduct must at all times, not only be characterized with propriety and decorum but
above all must be above suspicion. For the image of a court of justice is necessarily mirrored in the
conduct, official or otherwise, of the men and women thereat, from the judge to the least and lowest of
its personnel. By the very nature of the amount involved and considering that Malla was only receiving a
salary of P5,000.00 a month with no other source of income, the conduct of the employees involved cast
suspicion and tended to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary.

11. ID.; ID.; APPLICABILITY OF CONSTITUTIONAL TENET THAT PUBLIC OFFICE IS A PUBLIC TRUST IN
CASE AT BENCH. — In resolving this case, this Court emphasizes the Constitutional tenet that "(p)ublic
office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people,
serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice,
and lead modest lives."

DECISION

ROMERO, J p:

With reluctance, the Court once again has to wield its power of imposing disciplinary measures on
members of the Bench and employees of the judiciary for failure to live up to the obligations incident to
their status as officers of the Court. cdtai

Respondents Judge Augusto Sumilang, Felicidad Malla, Edelita Lagmay and Nieva Mercado, court
employees of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pila, Laguna (hereinafter referred to as the lower court),
were charged in a memorandum report by the Office of Court Administrator dated August 16, 1994, 1
for misappropriating funds deposited by the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 858, entitled "Spouses Entero
Villarica and Felicidad Domingo v. Teodorico Dizon." On October 5, 1994, this Court issued a resolution
treating the aforesaid memorandum report as an administrative complaint which was docketed as
Administrative Matter No. MTJ-94-989. 2

In addition, a second complaint was lodged against Malla for removing judicial records outside the court
premises. 3 This Court decided to include this matter in the original complaint earlier docketed as A.M.
No. MTJ-94-989 in a resolution dated March 6, 1995. 4 The antecedent facts follow:

This case arose as an aftermath of an on-the-spot audit examination of the official cashbook and other
documents of the lower court. It appears from the evidence that court interpreter Malla who was the
officer-in-charge from July 1, 1992 to November 15, 1992, took a maternity leave for one (1) month
(November 16, 1992 to December 15, 1992) and reassumed her position on December 16, 1992, until
her resignation on August 31, 1993.

On September 1, 1993, Rebecca Avanzado assumed the position of officer in charge. It was during her
tenure on August 8, 1994, that an on-the-spot audit examination was conducted by the Fiscal Audit
Division of the Office of Court Administrator. In the course of the examination, several anomalous
transactions were discovered. One involved a manager's check deposited in the name of Teodorico
Dizon in connection with Civil Case No. 858, wherein Entero Villarica, on August 7, 1992 during the
tenure of Malla entrusted the amount of P240,000.00 to said respondent instead of handling it over to
the Clerk of Court pursuant to Supreme Court Circular No. 13-92. 5

When asked to explain where the P240,000.00 was, Malla, explained that she deposited it at the Sta.
Cruz, Laguna branch of the Philippine National Bank but she and Judge Sumilang later withdrew it
allegedly under the belief that the defendant, Dizon, would demand the delivery of the money upon the
termination of the case. Upon further questioning by the examining team, however, Malla admitted that
she lent the amount of P87,000.00 to steno-reporter Lagmay, P40,000.00 to steno-reporter Mercado,
and P81,000.00 to Mrs. Sumilang, wife of Judge Sumilang. She spent P32,000.00 for the hospitalization
of her husband and the remaining balance for personal purposes. 6

Later on, she executed an affidavit stating that only Lagmay and Mercado borrowed P55,000.00 and
P40,000.00, respectively. On the other hand, she used P100,000.00 for her personal needs. 7

Upon learning that they were being implicated in the anomalous transaction, Lagmay executed an
affidavit stating that the amount of P55,000.00 was from the personal account of Malla and not from
the P240,000.00 amount deposited before the court and such loan has already been paid. 8 Mercado,
on the other hand, claims that the amount of P40,000.00 was borrowed only two weeks before the
audit took place, when Malla was no longer employed with the court. 9 Mrs. Sumilang, for her part,
denied any involvement in any of the transactions. 10 After carefully studying the records of this case,
the Court is convinced that respondents did commit acts prejudicial to the service for which they should
be held accountable.

The evidence against Judge Sumilang adequately proves his gross negligence in this matter. In his
proffered explanation, he averred that his wife did not borrow any money from Malla and that he had
no knowledge of the irregularities involving members of his own staff. 11 It bears emphasizing that this
is not the first time that respondent judge has been charged with an administrative case. In Arviso v.
Sumilang, 12 this Court found him guilty of gross negligence and ordered him to pay a fine of P3,000.00
for his failure to act on a motion to dismiss in an expeditious manner.

A judge must always remember that as the administrator of his court, he is responsible for the conduct
and management thereof. He has the duty to supervise his court personnel to ensure prompt and
efficient dispatch of business in his court. 13 The ignorance of respondent Judge as to the irregularities
occurring in his own backyard constitutes serious breach of judicial ethics. 14
Judge Sumilang's excuse, that upon learning of the irregularities being committed by his court
personnel, he immediately acted with haste and instructed Malla to turn over the money, 15 is specious
and unconvincing. His admission that he had no knowledge regarding the anomalies going on in his
court underscores his inefficiency and incompetence. It clearly demonstrates a lack of control expected
of a judge exercising proper office management.

The evidence against Malla is equally incriminating. It has been clearly established, and this is not denied
by Malla, 16 that she misappropriated for her own use the amount of P240,000.00 which she received
from Villarica, the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 858, instead of directing him to deposit said amount with the
Municipal Treasurer. A court interpreter should not receive payments made by litigants in relation to
their cases in his personal charge. 17

In her defense, Malla testified that her uncle Entero Villarica allowed her to use the money on the
condition that she should be ready to produce it when necessary. 18 Malla, however, never presented
Villarica as her witness to bolster her claim which, therefore, has no evidentiary value for being self-
serving. Besides, there is a disputable presumption that evidence wilfully suppressed would be adverse
if produced during trial. 19

Malla further claims that her constitutional rights under Section 12, Article III of the Constitution 20
were violated when she was " pressured" to sign an affidavit dated September 14, 1994 before the
Office of the Court Administrator, where she admitted her misdeed. 21 Thus, she concludes that the
affidavit is inadmissible in evidence. cdtech

In People v. Loveria, 22 however, we ruled that the aforementioned constitutional provision may be
invoked only during "custodial investigation" or as in "custody investigation" which has been defined as
"questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or
otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way." 23 The investigation is defined as an
"investigation conducted by police authorities which will include investigation conducted by the
Municipal Police, P.C. (now PNP) and the NBI and such other police agencies in our government." 24
Thus, the Office of the Court Administrator can hardly be deemed to be the law enforcement authority
contemplated in the constitutional provision. At any rate, Malla admitted during her testimony that she
received the said check from Villarica covering the amount of P240,000.00 payable to Dizon. However,
when she tried to deposit it with the Municipal Treasurer, the latter refused because there was no order
from Judge Sumilang. Consequently, Villarica entrusted said check to her. It was at this juncture that she
used the money for personal purposes. 25

During the investigation, Malla repeated what she basically stated in her affidavit i.e., that she used a
substantial amount of the P240,000.00 for her personal needs. This effectively refutes whatever
pressure and coercion she claims was employed against her. By repeating her confession in open court,
Malla thereby converted it into a judicial confession. 26

During the investigation, Malla was charged with a second offense for keeping in her custody missing
court records containing the technical description of a cadastral survey.
Malla never denied this charge, 27 but claimed that they were returned five hours after they were
removed. We are not impressed with the remonstration of Malla. It should be stressed that court
employees are not allowed to take any court records, papers or documents outside the court premises.
28

All these acts call for Malla's dismissal, but this penalty cannot be enforced because she is no longer
connected with the MTC of Pila, Laguna. Hence, the appropriate penalty that may be meted against her
is the forfeiture of her accrued leave credits, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or
instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations. This
disciplinary action should serve as a reminder to all court personnel who yield to the temptation of using
for their own personal interest funds entrusted to the court, that there is no place in the judiciary for
those who cannot meet the exacting standards of judicial conduct and integrity. The fact that Malla
returned the whole amount is of no moment because such act will not mitigate her liability.

Respondents Lagmay and Mercado, on the other hand, vehemently deny knowing that the money they
borrowed was money held in trust by Malla. 29 This assertion contradicts the latter's testimony as to the
source of the money lent to the former.

Worth stressing is the well-entrenched principle that in administrative proceedings, such as the instant
case, the quantum of proof necessary for a finding of guilt is only substantial evidence. 30 Substantial
evidence has been defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. 31

The only evidence presented before this Court are the affidavits of Malla, Lagmay and Mercado. Firmly
established is the rule that testimonial evidence carries more weight than affidavits. 32

On this point, the investigating Justice, 33 reported:

"In the instant case, both Mercado and Lagmay are residents of Pila, Laguna, like Malla. All of them were
employed with the Municipal Trial Court of Pila, Laguna, Mercado and Lagmay as stenographic reporters
and Malla as court interpreter and, for a time, as officer-in-charge of the Office of the Clerk of Court.
Moreover, being stenographic reporters in the same court where Malla was the court interpreter, the
deposit by Villarica of the amount of P240,000.00 could not have been unknown to Mercado and
Lagmay. It is not every day that such a huge amount is deposited with a mere Municipal Trial Court of a
town in the province.

Indeed, Lagmay even admitted, when she testified during the investigation, that she was aware of the
deposit of the said amount with the Court as ordered by it. Lagmay admitted when she testified that
Malla was receiving only a monthly salary of P5,000.00. The three (3) failed to adduce competent
evidence sufficient to prove any other sources of income of Malla except her salary as an employee of
the government. Although Malla, Mercado and Lagmay claimed that Malla's husband was an agricultural
tenant of a five-hectare parcel of land and a real estate broker and that Malla was the owner of a
restaurant managed by her sister, however, they relied solely on their testimonies to buttress their
claim. Malla failed to adduce in evidence any business or Mayor's permit to prove that she was the
owner and operator of a restaurant and any documentary evidence to prove that her husband was
engaged in real estate or that her husband was an agricultural tenant and his income from said business
or occupation. On the other hand, when she testified during the investigation, Malla admitted that she
used P200,000.00 from the P240,000.00 deposit (T .S .N ., Malla, Page 96, April 21, 1995) for the
expansion of her restaurant. In fine, Malla was in dire need of money. If Malla had other sources of
income other than her salary as a government employee, it would not have been necessary for her to
use part of the deposit with the RCBC. Neither Lagmay nor Malla adduced any evidence to prove that
Malla was granted a loan by the Luzon Development Bank, in March, 1994, in the gargantuan amount of
P600,000.00." cdt

In situations such as the one at hand, the matter of assigning values to the testimony of witnesses is
best performed by the investigating body because, unlike appellate courts, they can weigh such
testimony in light of the demeanor, conduct and attitude of the witnesses at the trial. 34 This rule,
however, must be relaxed when certain facts of substance and value have been overlooked which, if
considered, might affect the result of the matter. 35 Unfortunately for respondents, no such omission is
present here.

We need not belabor jurisprudence that those involved in the administration of justice must live up to
the strictest standard of honesty and integrity in the public service. Their conduct must at all times, not
only be characterized with propriety and decorum but above all must be above suspicion. 36 For the
image of a court of justice is necessarily mirrored in the conduct, official or otherwise, of the men and
women thereat, from the judge to the least and lowest of its personnel. 37

By the very nature of the amount involved and considering that Malla was only receiving a salary of
P5,000.00 a month with no other source of income, the conduct of the employees involved cast
suspicion and tended to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary.

In resolving this case, this Court emphasizes the Constitutional tenet that "(p)ublic office is a public trust.
Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost
responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives."
38

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Augusto Sumilang is hereby found guilty of gross negligence in the
management of his court and ordered to pay a FINE of P20,000.00.

Respondent Felicidad Malla is found guilty of misappropriating funds deposited to the court by the
plaintiff in Civil Case No. 858 and infidelity in the custody of court records. The Court, therefore, imposes
the penalty of FORFEITURE of all retirement benefits and accrued leave credits and with prejudice to re-
employment in any branch, agency or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned
or controlled corporations, considering that dismissal is no longer feasible in view of her separation from
the service.
Respondents Edelita Lagmay and Nieva Mercado are likewise found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the
best interest of the service, and are hereby ordered to pay a FINE of P3,000.00 each, with a stem
warning that commission of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely. cda

SO ORDERED.

Regalado, Puno, Mendoza and Torres, Jr., JJ ., concur.

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 4431. June 19, 1997.]

PRISCILLA CASTILLO VDA. DE MIJARES, complainant, vs. JUSTICE ONOFRE A. VILLALUZ (Retired),
respondent.

Autemio V. Gebana for complainant.

Natividad Perez for respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY; GROSS IMMORAL CONDUCT;


COMMITTED IN CASE AT BAR — After a thorough review of the records, the Court finds itself in full
accord with the findings and recommendation of Justice Purisima. Herein respondent is undeniably
guilty of deceit and grossly immoral conduct. He has made a mockery of marriage which is a sacred
institution demanding respect and dignity. He himself asserts that at the time of his marriage to herein
complainant, the decision of the court annulling his marriage to his first wife, Librada Peña, had not yet
attained finality. Worse, four months after his marriage to petitioner, respondent married another
woman, Lydia Geraldez, in Cavite, after making a false statement in his application for marriage license
that his previous marriage had been annulled. DAaIEc

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; RESPONDENT'S CASE IS AGGRAVATED BY THE FACT THAT HE IS NOT A LAYMAN NOR
EVEN JUST AN ORDINARY LAWYER BUT A FORMER JUDGE OF THE CIRCUIT CRIMINAL COURT AND
THEREAFTER, A JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF APPEALS WHO CANNOT BUT HAVE BEEN FULLY AWARE OF
THE CONSEQUENCE OF A MARRIAGE CELEBRATED WITH ALL THE NECESSARY LEGAL REQUISITES. —
Respondent's subterfuge that his marriage to petitioner was just a "sham" marriage will not justify his
actuations. Even if the said marriage was just a caper of levity in bad taste, a defense which amazes and
befuddles but does not convince, it does not speak well of respondent's sense of social propriety and
moral values. This is aggravated by the fact that he is not a layman nor even just an ordinary lawyer, but
a former Judge of the Circuit Criminal Court and, thereafter, a Justice of the Court of Appeals who
cannot but have been fully aware of the consequence of a marriage celebrated with all the necessary
legal requisites.
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; RESPONDENT DISMALLY FAILS TO MEET THE STANDARD OF MORAL FITNESS FOR
CONTINUED MEMBERSHIP IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION. — It is evident that respondent dismally fails to
meet the standard of moral fitness for continued membership in the legal profession. The nature of the
office of an attorney at law requires that he shall be a. person of good moral character. This qualification
is not only a condition precedent for admission to the practice of law, its continued possession is also
essential for remaining in the practice of law. Under Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. The commission of
grossly immoral conduct and deceit are grounds for suspension or disbarment of lawyers.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; DISBARMENT WOULD BE TOO HARSH A PENALTY; SUSPENSION OF TWO YEARS
WOULD SUFFICE AS A PUNITIVE BUT COMPASSIONATE DISCIPLINARY MEASURE; CASE AT BAR. —
However considering that respondent is in the declining years of his life; that his impulsive conduct
during some episodes of the investigation reveal a degree of aberrant reactive behavior probably
ascribable to advanced age; and the undeniable fact that he has rendered some years of commendable
service in the Judiciary, the Court feels that disbarment would be too harsh a penalty in this peculiar
case. Hence, a suspension of two years, as recommended, would suffice as a punitive but
compassionate disciplinary measure. ISaCTE

DECISION

REGALADO, J p:

Doubly distressing as the subject of administrative recourse to this Court is the present case where the
cause celebre is a star-crossed marriage, and the unlikely protagonists are an incumbent and a retired
member of the Judiciary.

In a sworn complaint for disbarment filed with this Court on June 6, 1995, complainant Judge Priscilla
Castillo Vda. de Mijares charged respondent Onofre A. Villaluz, a retired Justice of the Court of Appeals,
with gross immorality and grave misconduct. 1

After an answer 2 and a reply 3 were respectively filed by respondent and complainant, the Court, in its
Resolution dated February 27, 1996, resolved to refer the administrative case Associate Justice Fidel P.
Purisima of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and recommendation.

On March 4, 1997, Justice Purisima submitted his Report to this Court, with the following
recommendation:

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing and without prejudice to the outcome of the aforesaid Criminal
Case No. 142481 for Bigamy, it is respectfully recommended that the respondent, former Justice Onofre
A. Villaluz, be found guilty of gross misconduct, within the contemplation of Rule 138 of the Revised
Rules of Court on removal or suspension of attorneys, and therefor(e), he be suspended from the
practice of law for a period of two (2) years, commencing from the finality of the Decision in this case,
with a warning that a repetition of the same or any other misconduct will be dealt with more severely.
On the bases of the evidence adduced by the parties, Justice Purisima summarized the antecedent facts
in his aforestated Report and which we feel should be reproduced hereunder so that his disposition of
this case may be duly appreciated:

Complainant is the Presiding Judge of Branch 108 of the Regional Trial Court, Pasay City, while
respondent former Justice Onofre A. Villaluz is a consultant at the Presidential Anti Crime Commission
(PACC) headed by Vice-President Joseph E. Estrada.

Widowed by the death of her first husband, Primitivo Mijares, complainant commenced Special
Proceeding No. 90-54650 and therein obtained a decree declaring the said Primitivo Mijares
presumptively dead, after an absence of sixteen (16) years.

Complainant narrated that on January 7, 1994, she got married to respondent in a civil wedding before
Judge Myrna Lim Verano, then Presiding Judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Carmona, Cavite
and now Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Mandaluyong City. Their marriage was the culmination
of a long engagement. They met sometime in 1977, when respondent, as Presiding Judge of the Criminal
Circuit Court in Pasig, Metro Manila, was trying a murder case involving the death of a son of Judge
Mijares. Since then, respondent became a close family friend of complainant (TSN, p. 14; April 10, 1996).
After the wedding, they received their guests at a German restaurant in Makati. With the reception
over, the newlywed(s) resumed their usual work and activities. At 6:00 o'clock in the afternoon of the
same day, respondent fetched complainant from her house in Project 8, Quezon City, and reached the
condominium unit of respondent two hours later at which time, she answered the phone. At the other
end of the line was a woman offending her with insulting remarks. Consternated, complainant
confronted respondent on the identity of such caller but respondent simply remarked "it would have
been just a call at the wrong number". What followed was a heated exchange of harsh words, one word
led to another, to a point when respondent called complainant a "nagger", saying "Ayaw ko nang
ganyan! Ang gusto ko sa babae, 'yong sumusunod sa bawa't gusto ko'. Get that marriage contract and
have it burned." Such unbearable utterances of respondent left complainant no choice but to leave in
haste the place of their would-be honeymoon. Since then, the complainant and respondent have been
living separately because as complainant rationalized, contrary to her expectation respondent never got
in touch with her and did not even bother to apologize for what happened (TSN, p. 13, April 10, 1996).

Several months after that fateful encounter of January 7, 1994, in a Bible Study session, the complainant
learned from Manila RTC Judge Ramon Makasiar, a member of the Bible Group, that he (Judge
Makasiar) solemnized the marriage between former Justice Onofre A. Villaluz and a certain Lydia
Geraldez. Infuriated and impelled by the disheartening news, complainant lost no time in gathering
evidence against respondent, such that, on June 6, 1995 she filed the instant Complaint for Disbarment
against him (Exh. "A").

On August 7, 1995, when she discovered another incriminatory document against respondent, the
complainant executed against respondent her "Supplemental Complaint Affidavit for Falsification" (Exhs.
"D" and "D-1").
Exhibit "C", marriage contract of respondent and Lydia Geraldez, dated May 10, 1994, was offered by
complainant to prove that respondent immorally and bigamously entered into a marriage, and to show
that the respondent distorted the truth by stating his civil status as SINGLE, when he married Lydia
Geraldez. This, the respondent did; to lead an immoral and indiscreet life. He resorted to falsification to
distort the truth, complainant lamented. Also presented for complainant were: Marriage Contract
between her and respondent (Exh. "B"), Order declaring her first husband, Primitivo Mijares,
presumptively dead (Exh. "E"); and Affidavit of Judge Myrna Lim Verano, who solemnized the marriage
between her (complainant) and respondent (Exhs. "F" and "F-1").

Respondent gave a different version. According to him, what he inked with the complainant on January
7, 1994 was merely but a "sham marriage". He explained that he agreed as, in fact, he voluntarily signed
the Marriage Contract marked Exh. "B", in an effort to help Judge Mijares in the administrative case for
immorality filed against her by her Legal Researcher, Atty. Joseph Gregorio Naval, Jr., sometime in 1993.
Respondent theorized that when his marriage with complainant took place before Judge Myrna Lim
Verano, his marriage with Librada Peña, his first wife, was subsisting because the Decision declaring the
annulment of such marriage had not yet become final and executory, for the reason that said Decision
was not yet published as required by the Rules, the service of summons upon Librada Peña having been
made by publication, and subject Decision was not yet published. To this effect was the Certification by
Mrs. Nelia B. Rosario, Acting Branch Clerk of Court of Branch 37 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila
(Exh. "4").

After a thorough review of the records, the Court finds itself in full accord with the findings and
recommendation of Justice Purisima. Herein respondent is undeniably guilty of deceit and grossly
immoral conduct. He has made a mockery of marriage which is a sacred institution demanding respect
and dignity. 4 He himself asserts that at the time of his marriage to herein complainant, the decision of
the court annulling his marriage to his first wife, Librada Peña, had not yet attained finality. Worse, four
months after his marriage to petitioner, respondent married another woman, Lydia Geraldez, in Cavite,
after making a false statement in his application for marriage license that his previous marriage had
been annulled.

Respondent's subterfuge that his marriage to petitioner was just a "sham" marriage will not justify his
actuations. Even if the said marriage was just a caper of levity in bad taste, a defense which amazes and
befuddles but does not convince, it does not speak well of respondent's sense of social propriety and
moral values. This is aggravated by the fact that he is not a layman nor even just an ordinary lawyer, but
a former Judge of the Circuit Criminal Court and, thereafter, a Justice of the Court of Appeals who
cannot but have been fully aware of the consequence of a marriage celebrated with all the necessary
legal requisites. 5

On this score, we rely once again on the perceptive findings and discussion of Investigating Justice
Purisima which we quote with approval:

That, on January 7, 1994 respondent knowingly and voluntarily entered into and signed a Marriage
Contract with complainant before Judge Myrna Lim Verano, then Presiding Judge of the Municipal
Circuit Trial Court of Carmona, Cavite, competent under the law to solemnize a civil marriage, is beyond
cavil. As stated under oath by respondent himself, he could not be forced to do anything not of his liking
(TSN, April 2, 1996, p. 15a).

That what complainant and respondent contracted was a valid marriage is borne out by law and the
evidence. To be sure, all the essential and formal requisites of a valid marriage under Articles 2 and 3 of
the Family Code, i.e., legal capacity of the contracting parties, who must be a male and a female;
consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer; authority of the solemnizing officer; a
valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of Title I on marriage, Family Code;
and a marriage ceremony with the appearance of the contracting parties before the solemnizing officer,
and their personal declaration that they take each other as husband and wife, in the presence of not less
than two witnesses of legal age, were satisfied and complied with.

The theory of respondent that what (was) solemnized with complainant was nothing but a "sham"
marriage is too incredible to deserve serious consideration. According to respondent, he entered into
subject marriage in an effort to save the complainant from the charge of immorality against her. But, to
repeat: regardless of the intention of respondent in saying "I do" with complainant before a competent
authority, all ingredients of a valid marriage were present. His consent thereto was freely given. Judge
Myrna Lim Verano was authorized by law to solemnize the civil marriage, and both contracting parties
had the legal capacity to contract such marriage.

Without in anyway pre-empting whatever the Regional Trial Court of Manila will find in the criminal case
for Bigamy against herein respondent, and even assuming for the sake of argument that the judgment in
Civil Case No. 93-67048 decreeing the annulment of the marriage between respondent and Librada Peña
had not attained complete finality due to non publication of said judgment in a newspaper of general
circulation; that circumstance, alone, only made subject marriage voidable and did not necessarily
render the marriage between complainant and respondent void.

Besides, as stressed upon by complainant, respondent stated under oath that his marriage with Librada
Peña had been annulled by a decree of annulment, when he (respondent) took Lydia Geraldez as his
wife by third marriage, and therefore, he is precluded, by the principle of estoppel, from claiming that
when he took herein complainant as his wife by second marriage, his first marriage with Librada Peña
was subsisting and unannulled.

But, anyway, as it is not proper to make here a definitive finding as to whether or not respondent can be
adjudged guilty of bigamy under the attendant facts and circumstances a crucial issue pending
determination in Criminal Case, No. 142481 before Branch 12 of the Manila Regional Trial Court, even
assuming arguendo that what respondent contracted with complainant on January 7, 1994 was a
"sham" marriage, as he terms it, the ineluctable conclusion is — that what respondent perpetrated was
a gross misconduct on his part as a member of the Philippine Bar and as former appellate Justice, at
that. Even granting that the immorality charge against herein complainant in the administrative case
instituted against her by Atty. Joseph Gregorio Naval, Jr., is unfounded, respondent was not justified in
resorting to a "sham" marriage to protect her (complainant) from said immorality charge. Being a
lawyer, the respondent is surely conversant with the legal maxim that a wrong cannot be righted by
another wrong. If he never had any immoral love affair with Judge Priscilla Castillo Vda. de Mijares and
therefore, he felt duty bound to help her in ventilating the whole truth and nothing but the truth,
respondent could have testified in her favor in said administrative case, to assure all and sundry that
what Atty. Joseph Gregorio Naval, Jr. complained of in said administrative case was without any factual
and legal basis.

In this only Christian country of the Far East, society cherishes and protects the sanctity of marriage and
the family as a social institution. Consequently, no one can make a mockery thereof and perform a sham
marriage with impunity. To make fun of and take lightly the sacredness of marriage is to court the wrath
of the Creator and mankind. Therefore, the defense of respondent that what was entered into by him
and complainant on January 7, 1994 was nothing but a "sham" marriage is unavailing to shield or
absolve him from liability for his gross misconduct, nay sacrilege.

From the foregoing, it is evident that respondent dismally fails to meet the standard of moral fitness for
continued membership in the legal profession. The nature of the office of an attorney at law requires
that he shall be a person of good moral character. This qualification is not only a condition precedent for
admission to the practice of law; its continued possession is also essential for remaining in the practice
of law. 6 Under Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer shall not engage in
unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. The commission of grossly immoral conduct and
deceit are grounds for suspension or disbarment of lawyers. 7

However, considering that respondent is in the declining years of his life, that his impulsive conduct
during some episodes of the investigation reveal a degree of aberrant reactive behavior probably
ascribable to advanced age; and the undeniable fact that he has rendered some years of commendable
service in the Judiciary, the Court feels that disbarment would be too harsh a penalty in this peculiar
case. Hence, a suspension of two years, as recommended, would suffice as a punitive but
compassionate disciplinary measure. LexLib

WHEREFORE, finding herein respondent, former Justice Onofre A. Villaluz, GUILTY of immoral conduct in
violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility, he is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law
for a period of two (2) years effective upon notice hereof, with the specific WARNING that a more
severe penalty shall be imposed should he commit the same or a similar offense hereafter.

SO ORDERED.

Padilla, Davide, Jr., Romero, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban and
Torres, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Narvasa, C .J ., took no part; close relation to party.

Bellosillo and Francisco, JJ ., are on leave.

Footnotes
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 120592. March 14, 1997.]

TRADERS ROYAL BANK EMPLOYEES UNION-INDEPENDENT, petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS
COMMISSION and EMMANUEL NOEL A. CRUZ, respondents.

Filemon G. Tercero for petitioner.

Emmanuel Noel A. Cruz in his own behalf.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS; ATTORNEY'S FEES; A CLAIM FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES MAY BE
ASSERTED EITHER IN THE VERY ACTION IN WHICH THE SERVICES OF A LAWYER HAD BEEN RENDERED OR
IN A SEPARATE ACTION. — It is well settled that a claim for attorney's fees may be asserted either in the
very action in which the services of a lawyer had been rendered or in a separate action. Attorney's fees
cannot be determined until after the main litigation has been decided and the subject of the recovery is
at the disposition of the court. The issue over attorney's fees only arises when something has been
recovered from which the fee is to be paid. While a claim for attorney's fees may be filed before the
judgment is rendered, the determination as to the propriety of the fees or as to the amount thereof will
have to be held in abeyance until the main case from which the lawyer's claim for attorney's fees may
arise has become final. Otherwise, the determination to be made by the courts will be premature. Of
course, a petition for attorney's fees may be filed before the judgment in favor of the client is satisfied
or the proceeds thereof delivered to the client. It is apparent from the foregoing discussion that a
lawyer has two options as to when to file his claim for professional fees. Hence, private respondent was
well within his rights when he made his claim and waited for the finality of the judgment for holiday pay
differential, instead of filing it ahead of the award's complete resolution. To declare that a lawyer may
file a claim for fees in the same action only before the judgment is reviewed by a higher tribunal would
deprive him of his aforestated options and render ineffective the foregoing pronouncements of this
Court.

2. ID.; RETAINER FEES; GENERAL RETAINER AND A SPECIAL RETAINER; DISTINGUISHED. — A


general retainer, or retaining fee, is the fee paid to a lawyer to secure his future services as general
counsel for any ordinary legal problem that may arise in the routinary business of the client and referred
to him for legal action. The future services of the lawyer are secured and committed to the retaining
client. For this, the client pays the lawyer a fixed retainer fee which could be monthly or otherwise,
depending upon their arrangement. The fees are paid whether or not there are cases referred to the
lawyer. The reason for the remuneration is that the lawyer is deprived of the opportunity of rendering
services for a fee to the opposing party or other parties. In fine, it is a compensation for lost
opportunities. A special retainer is a fee for a specific case handled or special service rendered by the
lawyer for a client. A client may have several cases demanding special or individual attention. If for every
case there is a separate and independent contract for attorney's fees, each fee is considered a special
retainer.

3. ID.; THE P3,000.00 MONTHLY FEE PROVIDED IN THE RETAINER AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE
UNION AND THE LAW FIRM REFERS TO A GENERAL RETAINER OR A RETAINING FEE. — The P3,000.00
which petitioner pays monthly to private respondent does not cover the services the latter actually
rendered before the labor arbiter and the NLRC in behalf of the former. As stipulated in Part C of the
agreement, the monthly fee is intended merely as a consideration for the law firm's commitment to
render the services enumerated in Part A (General Services) and Part B (Special Legal Services) of the
retainer agreement. Evidently, the P3,000.00 monthly fee provided in the retainer agreement between
the union and the law firm refers to a general retainer, or a retaining fee, as said monthly fee covers
only the law firm's pledge, or as expressly stated therein, its "commitment to render the legal services
enumerated." The fee is not payment for private respondent's execution or performance of the services
listed in the contract, subject to some particular qualifications or permutations stated there. We have
already shown that the P3,000.00 is independent and different from the compensation which private
respondent should receive in payment for his services. While petitioner and private respondent were
able to fix a fee for the latter's promise to extend services, they were not able to come into agreement
as to the law firm's actual performance of services in favor of the union. Hence, the retainer agreement
cannot control the measure of remuneration for private respondent's services.

4. ID.; PRIVATE RESPONDENT'S ENTITLEMENT TO AN ADDITIONAL REMUNERATION FOR SPECIAL


SERVICES RENDERED IN THE INTEREST OF PETITIONER IS BASED ON QUASI-CONTRACT. — The fact that
petitioner and private respondent failed to reach a meeting of the minds with regard to the payment of
professional fees for special services will not absolve the former of civil liability for the corresponding
remuneration therefor in favor of the latter. Obligations do not emanate only from contracts. One of the
sources of extra-contractual obligations found in our Civil Code is the quasi-contract premised on the
Roman maxim that nemo cum alterius detrimento locupletari protest. As embodied in our law, certain
lawful, voluntary and unilateral acts give rise to the juridical relation of quasi-contract to the end that no
one shall be unjustly enriched or benefited at the expense of another. A quasi-contract between the
parties in the case at bar arose from private respondent's lawful, voluntary and unilateral prosecution of
petitioner's cause without awaiting the latter's consent and approval. Petitioner cannot deny that it did
benefit from private respondent's efforts as the law firm was able to obtain an award of holiday pay
differential in favor of the union. It cannot even hide behind the cloak of the monthly retainer of
P3,000.00 paid to private respondent because, as demonstrated earlier, private respondent's actual
rendition of legal services is not compensable merely by said amount.

5. ID.; THE LABOR ARBITER ERRONEOUSLY SET THE AMOUNT OF ATTORNEY'S FEES ON THE BASIS
OF ART. 111 OF THE LABOR CODE; A HEARING SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONDUCTED FOR THE PROPER
DETERMINATION OF ATTORNEY'S FEES. — Here, then, is the flaw we find in the award for attorney's
fees in favor of private respondent. Instead of adopting the above guidelines, the labor arbiter forthwith
but erroneously set the amount of attorney's fees on the basis of Article 111 of the Labor Code. He
completely relied on the operation of Article 111 when he fixed the amount of attorney's fees at
P17,574.43. As already stated, Article 111 of the Labor Code regulates the amount recoverable as
attorney's fees in the nature of damages sustained by and awarded to the prevailing party. It may not be
used therefore, as the lone standard in fixing the exact amount payable to the lawyer by his client for
the legal services he rendered. Also, while it limits the maximum allowable amount of attorney's fees, it
does not direct instantaneous and automatic award of attorney's fees in such maximum limit. It,
therefore, behooves the adjudicator in questions and circumstances similar to those in the case at bar,
involving a conflict between lawyer and client, to observe the above guidelines in cases calling for the
operation of the principles of quasi-contract and quantum meruit, and to conduct a hearing for the
proper determination of attorney's fees. The criteria found in the Code of Professional Responsibility are
to be considered, and not disregarded, in assessing the proper amount. Here, the records do not reveal
that the parties were duly heard by the labor arbiter on the matter and for the resolution of private
respondent's fees.

DECISION

REGALADO, J p:

Petitioner Traders Royal Bank Employees Union and private respondent Atty. Emmanuel Noel A. Cruz,
head of the E.N.A. Cruz and Associates law firm, entered into a retainer agreement on February 26, 1987
whereby the former obligated itself to pay the latter a monthly retainer fee of P3,000.00 in
consideration of the law firm's undertaking to render the services enumerated in their contract. 1
Parenthetically, said retainer agreement was terminated by the union on April 4, 1990. 2

During the existence of that agreement, petitioner union referred to private respondent the claims of its
members for holiday, mid-year and year-end bonuses against their employer, Traders Royal Bank (TRB).
After the appropriate complaint was filed by private respondent, the case was certified by the Secretary
of Labor to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) on March 24, 1987 and docketed as NLRC-
NCR Certified Case No. 0466. 3

On September 2, 1988, the NLRC rendered a decision in the foregoing case in favor of the employees,
awarding them holiday pay differential, mid-year bonus differential, and year-end bonus differential. 4
The NLRC, acting on a motion for the issuance of a writ of execution filed by private respondent as
counsel for petitioner union, raffled the case to Labor Arbiter Oswald Lorenzo. 5

However, pending the hearing of the application for the writ of execution, TRB challenged the decision
of the NLRC before the Supreme Court. The Court, in its decision promulgated on August 30, 1990, 6
modified the decision of the NLRC by deleting the award of mid-year and year-end bonus differentials
while affirming the award of holiday pay differential. 7

The bank voluntarily complied with such final judgment and determined the holiday pay differential to
be in the amount of P175,794.32. Petitioner never contested the amount thus found by TRB. 8 The latter
duly paid its concerned employees their respective entitlement in said sum through their payroll. 9
After private respondent received the above decision of the Supreme Court on September 18, 1990, 10
he notified the petitioner union, the TRB management and the NLRC of his right to exercise and enforce
his attorney's lien over the award of holiday pay differential through a letter dated October 8, 1990. 11

Thereafter, on July 2, 1991, private respondent filed a motion before Labor Arbiter Lorenzo for the
determination of his attorney's fees, praying that ten percent (10%) of the total award for holiday pay
differential computed by TRB at P175,794.32, or the amount of P17,579.43, be declared as his attorney's
fees, and that petitioner union be ordered to pay and remit said amount to him. 12

The TRB management manifested before the labor arbiter that they did not wish to oppose or comment
on private respondent' s motion as the claim was directed against the union, 13 while petitioner union
filed a comment and opposition to said motion on July 15, 1991. 14 After considering the position of the
parties, the labor arbiter issued an order 15 on November 26, 1991 granting the motion of private
respondent, as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is hereby ordered that the TRADERS ROYAL BANK EMPLOYEES
UNION with offices at Kanlaon Towers, Roxas Boulevard is hereby ordered (sic) to pay without delay the
attorney's fees due the movant law firm, E.N.A. CRUZ and ASSOCIATES the amount of P17,574.43 or ten
(10%) per cent of the P175,794.32 awarded by the Supreme Court to the members of the former.

This constrained petitioner to file an appeal with the NLRC on December 27, 1991, seeking a reversal of
that order. 16

On October 19, 1994, the First Division of the NLRC promulgated a resolution affirming the order of the
labor arbiter. 17 The motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner was denied by the NLRC in a
resolution dated May 23, 1995, 18 hence the petition at bar.

Petitioner maintains that the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of
jurisdiction in upholding the award of attorney's fees in the amount of P17,574.43, or ten percent (10%)
of the P175,794.32 granted as holiday pay differential to its members, in violation of the retainer
agreement; and that the challenged resolution of the NLRC is null and void, 19 for the reasons
hereunder stated.

Although petitioner union concedes that the NLRC has jurisdiction to decide claims for attorney's fees, it
contends that the award for attorney' s fees should have been incorporated in the main case and not
after the Supreme Court had already reviewed and passed upon the decision of the NLRC. Since the
claim for attorney's fees by private respondent was neither taken up nor approved by the Supreme
Court, no attorney's fees should have been allowed by the NLRC.

Thus, petitioner posits that the NLRC acted without jurisdiction in making the award of attorney's fees,
as said act constituted a modification of a final and executory judgment of the Supreme Court which did
not award attorney's fees. It then cited decisions of the Court declaring that a decision which has
become final and executory can no longer be altered or modified even by the court which rendered the
same.
On the other hand, private respondent maintains that his motion to determine attorney's fees was just
an incident of the main case where petitioner was awarded its money claims. The grant of attorney's
fees was the consequence of his exercise of his attorney's lien. Such lien resulted from and corresponds
to the services he rendered in the action wherein the favorable judgment was obtained. To include the
award of the attorney's fees in the main case presupposes that the fees will be paid by TRB to the
adverse party. All that the non-inclusion of attorney's fees in the award means is that the Supreme
Court did not order TRB to pay the opposing party attorney's fees in the concept of damages. He is not
therefore precluded from filing his motion to have his own professional fees adjudicated.

In view of the substance of the arguments submitted by petitioner and private respondent on this score,
it appears necessary to explain and consequently clarify the nature of the attorney's fees subject of this
petition, in order to dissipate the apparent confusion between and the conflicting views of the parties.

There are two commonly accepted concepts of attorney's fees, the so-called ordinary and extraordinary.
20 In its ordinary concept, an attorney's fee is the reasonable compensation paid to a lawyer by his
client for the legal services he has rendered to the latter. The basis of this compensation is the fact of his
employment by and his agreement with the client.

In its extraordinary concept, an attorney's fee is an indemnity for damages ordered by the court to be
paid by the losing party in a litigation. The basis of this is any of the cases provided by law where such
award can be made, such as those authorized in Article 2208, Civil Code, and is payable not to the
lawyer but to the client, unless they have agreed that the award shall pertain to the lawyer as additional
compensation or as part thereof. aisadc

It is the first type of attorney's fees which private respondent demanded before the labor arbiter. Also,
the present controversy stems from petitioner's apparent misperception that the NLRC has jurisdiction
over claims for attorney's fees only before its judgment is reviewed and ruled upon by the Supreme
Court, and that thereafter the former may no longer entertain claims for attorney's fees.

It will be noted that no claim for attorney's fees was filed by private respondent before the NLRC when it
acted on the money claims of petitioner, nor before the Supreme Court when it reviewed the decision of
the NLRC. It was only after the High Tribunal modified the judgment of the NLRC awarding the
differentials that private respondent filed his claim before the NLRC for a percentage thereof as
attorney's fees.

It would obviously have been impossible, if not improper, for the NLRC in the first instance and for the
Supreme Court thereafter to make an award for attorney's fees when no claim therefor was pending
before them. Courts generally rule only on issues and claims presented to them for adjudication.
Accordingly, when the labor arbiter ordered the payment of attorney's fees, he did not in any way
modify the judgment of the Supreme Court.

As an adjunctive episode of the action for the recovery of bonus differentials in NLRC-NCR Certified Case
No. 0466, private respondent' s present claim for attorney's fees may be filed before the NLRC even
though or, better stated, especially after its earlier decision had been reviewed and partially affirmed. It
is well settled that a claim for attorney's fees may be asserted either in the very action in which the
services of a lawyer had been rendered or in a separate action. 21

With respect to the first situation, the remedy for recovering attorney's fees as an incident of the main
action may be availed of only when something is due to the client. 22 Attorney's fees cannot be
determined until after the main litigation has been decided and the subject of the recovery is at the
disposition of the court. The issue over attorney's fees only arises when something has been recovered
from which the fee is to be paid. 23

While a claim for attorney's fees may be filed before the judgment is rendered, the determination as to
the propriety of the fees or as to the amount thereof will have to be held in abeyance until the main
case from which the lawyer's claim for attorney's fees may arise has become final. Otherwise, the
determination to be made by the courts will be premature. 24 Of course, a petition for attorney's fees
may be filed before the judgment in favor of the client is satisfied or the proceeds thereof delivered to
the client. 25

It is apparent from the foregoing discussion that a lawyer has two options as to when to file his claim for
professional fees. Hence, private respondent was well within his rights when he made his claim and
waited for the finality of the judgment for holiday pay differential, instead of filing it ahead of the
award's complete resolution. To declare that a lawyer may file a claim for fees in the same action only
before the judgment is reviewed by a higher tribunal would deprive him of his aforestated options and
render ineffective the foregoing pronouncements of this Court.

Assailing the rulings of the labor arbiter and the NLRC, petitioner union insists that it is not guilty of
unjust enrichment because all attorney's fees due to private respondent were covered by the retainer
fee of P3,000.00 which it has been regularly paying to private respondent under their retainer
agreement. To be entitled to the additional attorney's fees as provided in Part D (Special Billings) of the
agreement, it avers that there must be a separate mutual agreement between the union and the law
firm prior to the performance of the additional services by the latter. Since there was no agreement as
to the payment of the additional attorney's fees, then it is considered waived.

En contra, private respondent contends that a retainer fee is not the attorney's fees contemplated for
and commensurate to the services he rendered to petitioner. He asserts that although there was no
express agreement as to the amount of his fees for services rendered in the case for recovery of
differential pay, Article 111 of the Labor Code supplants this omission by providing for an award of ten
percent (10%) of a money judgment in a labor case as attorney's fees.

It is elementary that an attorney is entitled to have and receive a just and reasonable compensation for
services performed at the special instance and request of his client. As long as the lawyer was in good
faith and honestly trying to represent and serve the interests of the client, he should have a reasonable
compensation for such services. 26 It will thus be appropriate, at this juncture, to determine if private
respondent is entitled to an additional remuneration under the retainer agreement 27 entered into by
him and petitioner.
The parties subscribed therein to the following stipulations:

xxx xxx xxx

The Law Firm shall handle cases and extend legal services under the parameters of the following terms
and conditions:

A. GENERAL SERVICES

1. Assurance that an Associate of the Law Firm shall be designated and be available on a day-to-
day basis depending on the Union's needs;

2. Legal consultation, advice and render opinion on any actual and/or anticipatory situation
confronting any matter within the client's normal course of business;

3. Proper documentation and notarization of any or all transactions entered into by the Union in
its day-to-day course of business;

4. Review all contracts, deeds, agreements or any other legal document to which the union is a
party signatory thereto but prepared or caused to be prepared by any other third party,

5. Represent the Union in any case wherein the Union is a party litigant in any court of law or
quasi-judicial body subject to certain fees as qualified hereinafter;

6. Lia(i)se with and/or follow-up any pending application or any papers with any government
agency and/or any private institution which is directly related to any legal matter referred to the Law
Firm.

B. SPECIAL LEGAL SERVICES

1. Documentation of any contract and other legal instrument/documents arising and/or required
by your Union which do not fall under the category of its ordinary course of business activity but
requires a special, exhaustive or detailed study and preparation;

2. Conduct or undertake researches and/or studies on special projects of the Union;

3. Render active and actual participation or assistance in conference table negotiations with TRB
management or any other third person(s), juridical or natural, wherein the presence of counsel is not for
mere consultation except CBA negotiations which shall be subject to a specific agreement (pursuant to
PD 1391 and in relation to BP 130 & 227);

4. Preparation of Position Paper(s), Memoranda or any other pleading for and in behalf of the
Union;

5. Prosecution or defense of any case instituted by or against the Union; and,


6. Represent any member of the Union in any proceeding provided that the particular member
must give his/her assent and that prior consent be granted by the principal officers. Further, the
member must conform to the rules and policies of the Law Firm.

C. FEE STRUCTURE

In consideration of our commitment to render the services enumerated above when required or
necessary, your Union shall pay a monthly retainer fee of THREE THOUSAND PESOS (PHP 3,000.00),
payable in advance on or before the fifth day of every month.

An Appearance Fee which shall be negotiable on a case-to-case basis.

Any and all Attorney's Fees collected from the adverse party by virtue of a successful litigation shall
belong exclusively to the Law Firm.

It is further understood that the foregoing shall be without prejudice to our claim for reimbursement of
all out-of-pocket expenses covering filing fees, transportation, publication costs, expenses covering
reproduction or authentication of documents related to any matter referred to the Law Firm or that
which redound to the benefit of the Union.

D. SPECIAL BILLINGS

In the event that the Union avails of the services duly enumerated in Title B, the Union shall pay the Law
Firm an amount mutually agreed upon PRIOR to the performance of such services. The sum agreed upon
shall be based on actual time and effort spent by the counsel in relation to the importance and
magnitude of the matter referred to by the Union. However, charges may be WAIVED by the Law Firm if
it finds that time and efforts expended on the particular services are inconsequential but such right of
waiver is duly reserved for the Law Firm.

xxx xxx xxx

The provisions of the above contract are clear and need no further interpretation; all that is required to
be done in the instant controversy is its application. The P3,000.00 which petitioner pays monthly to
private respondent does not cover the services the latter actually rendered before the labor arbiter and
the NLRC in behalf of the former. As stipulated in Part C of the agreement, the monthly fee is intended
merely as a consideration for the law firm's commitment to render the services enumerated in Part A
(General Services) and Part B (Special Legal Services) of the retainer agreement.

The difference between a compensation for a commitment to render legal services and a remuneration
for legal services actually rendered can better be appreciated with a discussion of the two kinds of
retainer fees a client may pay his lawyer. These are a general retainer, or a retaining fee, and a special
retainer. 28

A general retainer, or retaining fee, is the fee paid to a lawyer to secure his future services as general
counsel for any ordinary legal problem that may arise in the routinary business of the client and referred
to him for legal action. The future services of the lawyer are secured and committed to the retaining
client. For this, the client pays the lawyer a fixed retainer fee which could be monthly or otherwise,
depending upon their arrangement. The fees are paid whether or not there are cases referred to the
lawyer. The reason for the remuneration is that the lawyer is deprived of the opportunity of rendering
services for a fee to the opposing party or other parties. In fine, it is a compensation for lost
opportunities.

A special retainer is a fee for a specific case handled or special service rendered by the lawyer for a
client. A client may have several cases demanding special or individual attention. If for every case there
is a separate and independent contract for attorney's fees, each fee is considered a special retainer.

As to the first kind of fee, the Court has had the occasion to expound on its concept in Hilado vs. David
29 in this wise:

There is in legal practice what is called a "retaining fee," the purpose of which stems from the realization
that the attorney is disabled from acting as counsel for the other side after he has given professional
advice to the opposite party, even if he should decline to perform the contemplated services on behalf
of the latter. It is to prevent undue hardship on the attorney resulting from the rigid observance of the
rule that a separate and independent fee for consultation and advice was conceived and authorized. "A
retaining fee is a preliminary fee given to an attorney or counsel to insure and secure his future services,
and induce him to act for the client. It is intended to remunerate counsel for being deprived, by being
retained by one party, of the opportunity of rendering services to the other and of receiving pay from
him, and the payment of such fee, in the absence of an express understanding to the contrary, is neither
made nor received in payment of the services contemplated; its payment has no relation to the
obligation of the client to pay his attorney for the services for which he has retained him to perform."
(Emphasis supplied).

Evidently, the P3,000.00 monthly fee provided in the retainer agreement between the union and the law
firm refers to a general retainer, or a retaining fee, as said monthly fee covers only the law firm's pledge,
or as expressly stated therein, its "commitment to render the legal services enumerated." The fee is not
payment for private respondent's execution or performance of the services listed in the contract,
subject to some particular qualifications or permutations stated there.

Generally speaking, where the employment of an attorney is under an express valid contract fixing the
compensation for the attorney, such contract is conclusive as to the amount of compensation. 30 We
cannot, however, apply the foregoing rule in the instant petition and treat the fixed fee of P3,000.00 as
full and sufficient consideration for private respondent's services, as petitioner would have it.

We have already shown that the P3,000.00 is independent and different from the compensation which
private respondent should receive in payment for his services. While petitioner and private respondent
were able to fix a fee for the latter's promise to extend services, they were not able to come into
agreement as to the law firm's actual performance of services in favor of the union. Hence, the retainer
agreement cannot control the measure of remuneration for private respondent's services.
We, therefore, cannot favorably consider the suggestion of petitioner that private respondent had
already waived his right to charge additional fees because of their failure to come to an agreement as to
its payment.

Firstly, there is no showing that private respondent unequivocally opted to waive the additional charges
in consonance with Part D of the agreement. Secondly, the prompt actions taken by private respondent,
i.e., serving notice of charging lien and filing of motion to determine attorney's fees, belie any intention
on his part to renounce his right to compensation for prosecuting the labor case instituted by the union.
And, lastly, to adopt such theory of petitioner may frustrate private respondent's right to attorney's
fees, as the former may simply and unreasonably refuse to enter into any special agreement with the
latter and conveniently claim later that the law firm had relinquished its right because of the absence of
the same.

The fact that petitioner and private respondent failed to reach a meeting of the minds with regard to the
payment of professional fees for special services will not absolve the former of civil liability for the
corresponding remuneration therefor in favor of the latter.

Obligations do not emanate only from contracts. 31 One of the sources of extra-contractual obligations
found in our Civil Code is the quasi-contract premised on the Roman maxim that nemo cum alterius
detrimento locupletari protest. As embodied in our law, 32 certain lawful, voluntary and unilateral acts
give rise to the juridical relation of quasi-contract to the end that no one shall be unjustly enriched or
benefited at the expense of another.

A quasi-contract between the parties in the case at bar arose from private respondent's lawful,
voluntary and unilateral prosecution of petitioner's cause without awaiting the latter's consent and
approval. Petitioner cannot deny that it did benefit from private respondent's efforts as the law firm was
able to obtain an award of holiday pay differential in favor of the union. It cannot even hide behind the
cloak of the monthly retainer of P3,000.00 paid to private respondent because, as demonstrated earlier,
private respondent's actual rendition of legal services is not compensable merely by said amount.

Private respondent is entitled to an additional remuneration for pursuing legal action in the interest of
petitioner before the labor arbiter and the NLRC, on top of the P3,000.00 retainer fee he received
monthly from petitioner. The law firm's services are decidedly worth more than such basic fee in the
retainer agreement. Thus, in Part C thereof on "Fee Structure," it is even provided that all attorney's
fees collected from the adverse party by virtue of a successful litigation shall belong exclusively to
private respondent, aside from petitioner's liability for appearance fees and reimbursement of the items
of costs and expenses enumerated therein.

A quasi-contract is based on the presumed will or intent of the obligor dictated by equity and by the
principles of absolute justice. Some of these principles are: (1) It is presumed that a person agrees to
that which will benefit him; (2) Nobody wants to enrich himself unjustly at the expense of another; and
(3) We must do unto others what we want them to do unto us under the same circumstances. 33
As early as 1903, we allowed the payment of reasonable professional fees to an interpreter,
notwithstanding the lack of understanding with his client as to his remuneration, on the basis of quasi-
contract. 34 Hence, it is not necessary that the parties agree on a definite fee for the special services
rendered by private respondent in order that petitioner may be obligated to pay compensation to the
former. Equity and fair play dictate that petitioner should pay the same after it accepted, availed itself
of, and benefited from private respondent's services.

We are not unaware of the old ruling that a person who had no knowledge of, nor consented to, or
protested against the lawyer' s representation may not be held liable for attorney's fees even though he
benefited from the lawyer's services. 35 But this doctrine may not be applied in the present case as
petitioner did not object to private respondent's appearance before the NLRC in the case for
differentials.

Viewed from another aspect, since it is claimed that petitioner obtained respondent's legal services and
assistance regarding its claims against the bank, only they did not enter into a special contract regarding
the compensation therefor, there is at least the innominate contract of facio ut des (I do that you may
give). 36 This rule of law, likewise founded on the principle against unjust enrichment, would also
warrant payment for the services of private respondent which proved beneficial to petitioner's
members.

In any case, whether there is an agreement or not, the courts can fix a reasonable compensation which
lawyers should receive for their professional services. 37 However, the value of private respondent' s
legal services should not be established on the basis of Article 111 of the Labor Code alone. Said article
provides:

ART. 111. Attorney's fees. — (a) In cases of unlawful withholding of wages the culpable party may
be assessed attorney's fees equivalent to ten percent of the amount of the wages recovered.

xxx xxx xxx

The implementing provision 38 of the foregoing article further states:

Sec. 11. Attorney's fees. — Attorney's fees in any judicial or administrative proceedings for the recovery
of wages shall not exceed 10% of the amount awarded. The fees may be deducted from the total
amount due the winning party.

In the first place, the fees mentioned here are the extraordinary attorney's fees recoverable as
indemnity for damages sustained by and payable to the prevailing part. In the second place, the ten
percent (10%) attorney's fees provided for in Article 111 of the Labor Code and Section 11, Rule VIII,
Book III of the Implementing Rules is the maximum of the award that may thus be granted. 39 Article
111 thus fixes only the limit on the amount of attorney's fees the victorious party may recover in any
judicial or administrative proceedings and it does not even prevent the NLRC from fixing an amount
lower than the ten percent (10%) ceiling prescribed by the article when circumstances warrant it. 40
The measure of compensation for private respondent' s services as against his client should properly be
addressed by the rule of quantum meruit long adopted in this jurisdiction. Quantum meruit, meaning
"as much as he deserves," is used as the basis for determining the lawyer's professional fees in the
absence of a contract, 41 but recoverable by him from his client.

Where a lawyer is employed without a price for his services being agreed upon, the courts shall fix the
amount on quantum meruit basis. In such a case, he would be entitled to receive what he merits for his
services. 42

It is essential for the proper operation of the principle that there is an acceptance of the benefits by one
sought to be charged for the services rendered under circumstances as reasonably to notify him that the
lawyer performing the task was expecting to be paid compensation therefor. The doctrine of quantum
meruit is a device to prevent undue enrichment based on the equitable postulate that it is unjust for a
person to retain benefit without paying for it. 43

Over the years and through numerous decisions, this Court has laid down guidelines in ascertaining the
real worth of a lawyer's services. These factors are now codified in Rule 20.01, Canon 20 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and should be considered in fixing a reasonable compensation for services
rendered by a lawyer on the basis of quantum meruit. These are: (a) the time spent and the extent of
services rendered or required; (b) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; (c) the
importance of the subject matter; (d) the skill demanded; (e) the probability of losing other employment
as a result of acceptance of the proffered case; (f) the customary charges for similar services and the
schedule of fees of the IBP chapter to which the lawyer belongs; (g) the amount involved in the
controversy and the benefits resulting to the client from the services; (h) the contingency or certainty of
compensation; (i) the character of the employment, whether occasional or established; and (j) the
professional standing of the lawyer.

Here, then, is the flaw we find in the award for attorney's fees in favor of private respondent. Instead of
adopting the above guidelines, the labor arbiter forthwith but erroneously set the amount of attorney's
fees on the basis of Article 111 of the Labor Code. He completely relied on the operation of Article 111
when he fixed the amount of attorney's fees at P17,574.43. 44 Observe the conclusion stated in his
order. 45

xxx xxx xxx

FIRST. Art. 111 of the Labor Code, as amended, clearly declares movant's right to a ten (10%) per cent
of the award due its client. In addition, this right to ten (10%) per cent attorney's fees is supplemented
by Sec. 111, Rule VIII, Book III of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code, as amended.

xxx xxx xxx

As already stated, Article 111 of the Labor Code regulates the amount recoverable as attorney's fees in
the nature of damages sustained by and awarded to the prevailing party. It may not be used therefore,
as the lone standard in fixing the exact amount payable to the lawyer by his client for the legal services
he rendered. Also, while it limits the maximum allowable amount of attorney's fees, it does not direct
the instantaneous and automatic award of attorney's fees in such maximum limit.

It, therefore, behooves the adjudicator in questions and circumstances similar to those in the case at
bar, involving a conflict between lawyer and client, to observe the above guidelines in cases calling for
the operation of the principles of quasi-contract and quantum meruit, and to conduct a hearing for the
proper determination of attorney's fees. The criteria found in the Code of Professional Responsibility are
to be considered, and not disregarded, in assessing the proper amount. Here, the records do not reveal
that the parties were duly heard by the labor arbiter on the matter and for the resolution of private
respondent's fees.

It is axiomatic that the reasonableness of attorney's fees is a question of fact. 46 Ordinarily, therefore,
we would have remanded this case for further reception of evidence as to the extent and value of the
services rendered by private respondent to petitioner. However, so as not to needlessly prolong the
resolution of a comparatively simple controversy, we deem it just and equitable to fix in the present
recourse a reasonable amount of attorney's fees in favor of private respondent. For that purpose, we
have duly taken into account the accepted guidelines therefor and so much of the pertinent data as are
extant in the records of this case which are assistive in that regard. On such premises and in the exercise
of our sound discretion, we hold that the amount of P10,000.00 is a reasonable and fair compensation
for the legal services rendered by private respondent to petitioner before the labor arbiter and the
NLRC.

WHEREFORE, the impugned resolution of respondent National Labor Relations Commission affirming
the order of the labor arbiter is MODIFIED, and petitioner is hereby ORDERED to pay the amount of TEN
THOUSAND PESOS (P10,000.00) as attorney's fees to private respondent for the latter's legal services
rendered to the former. cdt

SO ORDERED.

Romero, Puno, Mendoza and Torres, Jr., JJ ., concur.

Footnotes

EN BANC

[A.M. No. 4349. December 22, 1997.]

LOURDES R. BUSINOS, complainant, vs. ATTY. FRANCISCO RICAFORT, respondent.

Rodolfo R. Paulino for complainant.


SYNOPSIS

Complainant charged respondent with having committed the crime of estafa for having misappropriated
the sum of P32,000.00. Of this amount, P30,000.00 was entrusted to respondent for deposit in the bank
account of respondent bank account of complainant's husband, while P2,000.00 represented the
amount demanded from complainant supposedly for a bond in a civil case when no such bond is
required. The Bar Confidant recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a
period of one (1 ) year. The Supreme Court disregarded the recommendation of the Bar Confidant.
According to the Court, respondent's transgressions manifested dishonesty and amounted to gross
misconduct and grossly unethical which caused dishonor, not merely to respondent, but to the noble
profession to which he belongs. Respondent forgot that by swearing the lawyer's oath, became a
guardian of truth and the rule of law and an indispensable instrument in the fair and impartial
administration of justice. The Court resolved to impose the extreme penalty disbarment.

Respondent is disbarred from the practice of law.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; RESPECT OF LITIGANTS FOR THE PROFESSION IS INEXORABLY DIMINISHED


WHENEVER A MEMBER OF THE BAR BETRAYS THEIR TRUST AND CONFIDENCE. — Respondent's
transgressions manifested dishonesty and amounted to grave misconduct and grossly unethical.
behavior which caused dishonor, not merely to respondent, but to the noble profession to which he
belongs, for it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably diminished
whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence. This Court has been nothing short of
exacting in its demand for integrity and good moral character from members of the Bar. In Marcelo vs.
Javier (A.C. No. 3248,18 September 1992, 214 SCRA 1, 12-13), reiterated in Fernandez vs. Grecia, (A.C.
No. 3694,17 June 1993, 223 SCRA 425,434), this Court declared: A lawyer shall at all times uphold the
integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The trust and confidence necessarily reposed by clients
require in the attorney a high standard and appreciation of his duty to his clients, his profession, the
courts and the public. The bar should maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as well as of honesty
and fair dealing. Generally speaking, a lawyer can do honor to the legal profession by faithfully
performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. To this end, nothing should
be done by any member of the legal fraternity which might tend to lessen in any degree the confidence
of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the profession. Here respondent chose to forget
that by swearing the lawyer's oath. he became a guardian of truth and the rule of law, and an
indispensable instrument in the fair and impartial administration of justice - a vital function of
democracy a failure of which is disastrous to society.

2. ID.; ID,; ANY DEPARTURE FROM THE PATH WHICH A LAWYER MUST FOLLOW AS DEMANDED BY
THE VIRTUES OF HIS PROFESSION SHALL NOT BE TOLERATED BY THE COURT AS THE DISCIPLINING
AUTHORITY; DISBARMENT OF RESPONDENT ATTORNEY IS WARRANTED IN CASE AT BAR. — Any
departure from the path which a lawyer must follow as demanded by the virtues of his profession shall
not be tolerated by this Court as the disciplining authority. This is specially so, as here. where
respondent even deliberately defied the lawful orders of the Court for him to file his comment on the
complaint, thereby transgressing Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires a
lawyer to observe and maintain the respect due the courts. WHEREFORE, for dishonesty, grave
misconduct, grossly unethical behavior in palpable disregard of Section 25 of Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Rules 16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, aggravated by a violation of Canon 11 thereof, and consistent with the urgent need to
maintain the esteemed traditions and high standards of the legal profession and to preserve
undiminished public faith in the members of the Philippine Bar, the Court Resolves to DISBAR
respondent ATTY. FRANCISCO RICAFORT from the practice of law.

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM p:

In a sworn complaint for disbarment dated 31 October 1994 but received by us on 21 November 1994,
complainant Lourdes R. Businos charged respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort, a practicing lawyer in Oas,
Albay, with having committed the crime of estafa under Article 315 (1) (b) of the Revised Penal Code by
misappropriating the sum of P32,000.00. Of this amount, P30,000.00 was entrusted to respondent for
deposit in the bank account of complainant's husband, while P2,000.00 represented the amount
respondent demanded from complainant supposedly for a bond in Civil Case No. 5814, when no such
bond was required. prLL

In the resolution of 18 January 1995, we required respondent to comment on the complaint. Despite his
receipt of a copy of the resolution, respondent did not comply, compelling us in the resolution of 17 July
1995 to require him to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for
such failure.

Again respondent failed to comply. Hence in the resolution of 25 September 1996, we ordered him once
more to file his comment within ten (10) days from notice, and within the same period, to pay a fine of
P1,000.00 or suffer imprisonment of ten (10) days should he fail to so pay. In a Compliance and Motion
dated 24 October 1996, respondent transmitted the fine of P1,000.00 by way of postal money order, but
asked for five (5) days from date to file his comment. As respondent still failed to so file, we then
declared, in the resolution of 2 December 1996, that respondent was deemed to have waived his right
to file his comment, and referred the complaint to the Office of the Bar Confidant for reception of
complainant's evidence and submission of a report and recommendation thereon.

On 16 October 1997, the Bar Confidant, Atty. Erlinda C. Verzosa, submitted her Report and
Recommendation, material portions of which read as follows:

Respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort stands charged with having misappropriated the sum of P30,000.00
intended for his clients as well as having deceived his clients into giving him the sum of P2,000.00
purportedly to be deposited as a bond in the case he was handling.
Complainant Lourdes R. Businos is one of the heirs of Pedro Rodrigo who are the defendants in Civil
Case No. 1584, apparently a case involving the properties of the late Pedro Rodrigo, father of herein
complainant. Respondent was the counsel of record for the defendants in the said case. On July 10,
1994, complainant, representing her co-heirs, executed a special power of attorney, appointing and
constituting respondent and/or Pedro Rodrigo, Jr. to be her true and lawful attorney-in-fact with the
following powers:

"1. To attend to and represent me, testify, or otherwise enter into compromise during the pre-trial
stage or other proceedings in civil case No. 1584, entitled "Heirs of Rosano Rodrigo-Reantaso, vs. Heirs
of Pedro Rodrigo Sr., et al." now pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 12, Ligao, Albay;

"2. To demand, collect and receipt for any and all sums of money that may now be deposited in said
court by the defendant Oas Standard High School or hereafter be deposited by said defendant, due and
owing to me or said Heirs of Pedro Rodrigo, Sr., representing the rentals of said defendant for the lease
of the property involved in said case; and

"3. To sign, authenticate, issue, and deliver any and all deeds, instruments, papers and other
records necessary and pertinent to the above stated transactions."

On August 10, 1994, the Regional Trial Court of Ligao, Albay, Br. 12 issued an order, directing the Clerk of
Court "to release any and all deposits of rentals made in connection with this case (Civil Case No. 1584)
to the defendants Heirs of Pedro Rodrigo through Lourdes Rodrigo Businos who were receiving the
rentals from Oas Standard High School prior to the institution of this case."

In a letter dated August 10, 1994, the Clerk of Court of RTC, Ligao informed herein complainant that
respondent had already received the rental deposit of P25,000.00 on even date (see Annex "C" to the
complaint). Respondent also received from Oas Standard High School on August 17, 1994 the sum of
P5,000.00 as payment for rental of school site for the month of July 1994 (See Annex "D" to the
complaint). The said sum was entrusted to respondent with an obligation on his part to deposit the
same in the account of complainant's husband at PNB, Ligao Branch. Instead, however, of depositing the
money, respondent convened the money to his own personal use, and despite several demands, he
failed to return the same to complainant. She was thus constrained to file a criminal case for estafa and
an administrative case for disbarment against him. Thus, on November 21, 1994, complainant filed the
instant administrative case against respondent.

Complainant further accuses respondent for demanding and receiving P2,000.00 from her which he said
will be used for the bond in Civil Case No. 1584, but said amount was never used as intended since no
bond was required in the said case. Thus, respondent merely pocketed the said amount.

xxx xxx xxx

Complainant, upon questioning by the undersigned, testified that: She authorized respondent to
withdraw the money amounting to P35,000.00 representing the rental fee paid by Oas Standard High
School from the Clerk of Court, with the instruction to deposit the same in her savings account at the
PNB. After she was informed by the court that respondent had already withdrawn the money, she
expected in vain to receive the money a week later in Tarlac as respondent failed to effect the deposit of
the said sum in her account. She demanded from him to give her the money, but he informed her that
he had already spent the same. He promised, though, to pay her the said amount. (pp. 7-8, TSN,
Reception of Evidence, April 18, 1997). She clarified that respondent withdrew only the sum of
P30,000.00 from the Clerk of Court, while the P5,000.00 was withdrawn by respondent from Oas
Standard High School (TSN, p. 8). Despite several demands, both from her and her lawyer, respondent
failed to make good his promise to give her the money he withdrew from the Clerk of Court and Oas
Standard High School (TSN, pp. 11-13). She was then constrained to file a criminal case for estafa and an
administrative case against respondent sometime in November of 1994 to recover the money in
question (TSN, pp. 14-16). On their third hearing of the estafa case sometime in 1995, respondent came
with the money and paid complainant inside the courtroom (TSN, pp. 15, 19-20). Because of this
development, she did not anymore pursue the estafa case against respondent (TSN, p. 17). She has no
intention, however, of withdrawing the instant complaint (TSN, p. 18).

She further testified that respondent demanded from her the sum of P2,000.00 for the bond required in
the civil case. (TSN, p. 18). Respondent did not give her a receipt for the said amount. (TSN, p. 19).
Respondent gave back the P2,000.00 to complainant. He paid complainant a total of P60,000.00
representing the money he withdrew from the Clerk of Court and Oas Standard High School, the
P2,000.00 he got from complainant and attorney's fees, which he undertook to foot as a way of
settlement. (TSN, p. 19).

Although complainant failed to submit the original or certified true copies of the documents in support
of her complaint against respondent, respondent's repeated failure to comply with several resolutions
of the Court requiring him to comment on the complaint lends credence to the allegations of the
complainant. It manifests his tacit admission thereto. We have no other alternative, therefore, but to
accept the said documents at their [sic] face value. dctai

There is no doubt that respondent is guilty of having used the money of his clients without their
consent. As the evidentiary value of the documents should be given more weight than the oral
testimony of complainant, we place the amount illegally used by respondent at P30,000.00 and not
P35,000.00 as claimed by complainant. Respondent's illegal use of his client's money is made more
manifest [by] his letters to complainant, all promising the latter to make good his promise to pay the
money he withdrew from the Clerk of Court and Oas Standard High School (See Annex "E" to the
complaint).

It bears emphasis that a lawyer, under his oath, pledges himself not to delay any man for money or
malice and is bound to conduct himself with all good fidelity to his clients. He is obligated to report
promptly the money of his clients that has come into his possession. He should not commingle it with
his private property or use it for his personal purposes without his client's [sic] consent. He should
maintain a reputation for honesty and fidelity to private trust (Daroy vs. Legaspi, 65 SCRA 304).
Money collected by a lawyer in pursuance of a judgment in favor of his clients is held in trust and must
be immediately turned over to them (Aya vs. Bigornia, 57 Phil. 8).

Respondent, by converting the money of his clients to his own personal use without their consent, and
by deceiving the complainant into giving him the amount of P2,000.00 purportedly to be used as a bond
which was not required, is, undoubtedly, guilty of deceit, malpractice and gross misconduct. By so doing,
he betrays the confidence reposed in him by his clients. Not only has he degraded himself but as an
unfaithful lawyer he has besmirched the fair name of an honorable profession.

His belated payment of the amount he illegally used and fraudulently obtained do not relieve him from
any liability if only to impress upon him that the relation between an attorney and his client is highly
fiduciary in its nature and of a very delicate, exacting and confidential character, requiring high degree
of fidelity and good faith. In view of that special relationship, lawyers are bound to promptly account for
money or property received by them on behalf of their clients and failure to do so constitutes
professional misconduct (Daroy vs. Legaspi, supra).

Moreover, his repeated failure to comply with the resolutions of the Court, requiring him to comment
on the complaint indicate the high degree of irresponsibility of respondent.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully recommended that respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort be


SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of ONE (1) YEAR.

While the findings are in order, the penalty recommended is not commensurate to respondent's
infractions.

Plainly, respondent breached Section 25 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and
Rules 16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which read:

SEC. 25. Unlawful retention of client's funds; contempt. — When an attorney unjustly retains in his
hands money of his client after it has been demanded he may be punished for contempt as an officer of
the Court who has misbehaved in his official transactions; but proceedings under this section shall not
be a bar to a criminal prosecution.

CANON 1. — A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND
PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.

Rule 1.01. — A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

CANON 16 — A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY
COME INTO HIS POSSESSION

Rule 16.01. — A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the
client.

Rule 16.02. — A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his own and those of
others kept by him.
Rule 16.03. — A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand.
However, he shall have a lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof as may be necessary to
satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to his client. He shall also
have a lien to the same extent on all judgments and executions he has secured for his client as provided
for in the Rules of Court.

Respondent's transgressions manifested dishonesty and amounted to grave misconduct and grossly
unethical behavior which caused dishonor, not merely to respondent, but to the noble profession to
which he belongs, for it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably
diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence.

This Court has been nothing short of exacting in its demand for integrity and good moral character from
members of the Bar. In Marcelo vs. Javier (AC. No. 3248, 18 September 1992, 214 SCRA 1, 12-13),
reiterated in Fernandez v. Grecia, (AC No. 3694, 17 June 1993, 223 SCRA 425, 434), this Court declared:

A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The trust and
confidence necessarily reposed by clients require in the attorney a high standard and appreciation of his
duty to his clients, his profession, the courts and the public. The bar should maintain a high standard of
legal proficiency as well as of honesty and fair dealing. Generally speaking, a lawyer can do honor to the
legal profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients.
To this end, nothing should be done by any member of the legal fraternity which might tend to lessen in
any degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the profession.

Here, respondent chose to forget that by swearing the lawyer's oath, he became a guardian of truth and
the rule of law, and an indispensable instrument in the fair and impartial administration of justice — a
vital function of democracy a failure of which is disastrous to society. LLphil

Any departure from the path which a lawyer must follow as demanded by the virtues of his profession
shall not be tolerated by this Court as the disciplining authority. This is specially so, as here, where
respondent even deliberately defied the lawful orders of the Court for him to file his comment on the
complaint, thereby transgressing Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires a
lawyer to observe and maintain the respect due the courts.

WHEREFORE, for dishonesty, grave misconduct, grossly unethical behavior in palpable disregard of
Section 25 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Rules 16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of
Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, aggravated by a violation of Canon 11 thereof, and
consistent with the urgent need to maintain the esteemed traditions and high standards of the legal
profession and to preserve undiminished public faith in the members of the Philippine Bar, the Court
Resolves to DISBAR respondent ATTY. FRANCISCO RICAFORT from the practice of law. His name is
hereby stricken from the Roll of Attorneys.

This resolution shall take effect immediately and copies thereof furnished the Office of the Bar
Confidant, to be appended to respondent's personal record; the National Office and the Albay Chapter
of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; the Philippine Judges Association; and all courts of the land for
their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C .J ., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Francisco, Panganiban and Martinez, JJ ., concur.

C o p y r i g h t 1 9 9 4 - 1 9 9 9 C D T e c h n o l o g i e s A s i a, I n c.

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 114275. July 7, 1997.]

IÑIGO F. CARLET, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Pablo Sevillo and Antonia Palisoc, petitioner,
vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, VIRGINIA C. ZARATE, JACOBO C. ZARATE, VICTORIA C. ZARATE, HON.
CONRADO DIZON, Acting Judge of the Municipal Trial Court of Biñan Laguna, and DEPUTY SHERIFF
ROGELIO S. MOLINA of Biñan, Laguna, respondents.

Modesto Jimenez for petitioner.

Noe Cangco Zarate for private respondents.

SYNOPSIS

Jose Sevillo bought Lot 981 of the Biñan Estate in Laguna in 1910. Pablo Sevillo, Jose's son, declared said
lot for taxation purposes even if the property was still in Jose Sevillo's name. Pablo married Antonia
Palisoc in 1920.

Pablo, by then a widower, married Candida Baylo. The union produced no offspring. Candida's daughter,
Cirila Baylo Carolasan, was sired by another man.

Pablo Sevillo, filed a petition for reconstitution of title, which was allowed. TCT No. RT-926 was issued in
the name of Pablo Sevillo, married to Candida Baylo. Pablo and Candida died in 1967 and in 1974,
respectively.

In 1980, the heirs of Cirila Baylo Carolasan, all surnamed Zarate, had herein private respondents, filed a
case for annulment of deed of sale over Lot 981 and for partition of property among the surviving heirs
of Pablo Sevillo. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. B-1656. The Deed of Sale sought to be annulled
was allegedly executed by Candida Baylo in favor of Gregorio, Samero, Martin and Andrea, all surnamed
Sevillo and Isidro Zamora. After trial on the merits, the court declared the deed of sale null and void.
Private respondents, the Zarates, filed Civil Case No. 2375, an ejectment suit against the Sevillos before
the Municipal Trial Court of Biñan. The trial court ordered the defendants below, the Sevillos, to
immediately vacate the subject property.

Petitioner Iñigo F. Carlet, as special administrator of the estate of Pablo and Antonia, filed an action for
reconveyance of property, docketed as Civil Case No. B-3582 against the Zarates. Plaintiff therein prayed
for a declaration of ownership over the entire Lot 981 in the name of the estate of Jose Sevillo and/or
his heirs.

The Zarates, the defendants, moved to dismiss the case on the ground of res judicata, claiming that the
issue of ownership had already been pleaded and passed upon by the lower court in Civil Case No. B-
1656. The trial court issued an order granting the motion to dismiss Civil Case No. B-3582.

Hence, the instant petition for review where the issue to be resolved is whether or not the adjudication
in Civil Case No. B-1656 constitutes res judicata to Civil Cases No. B-3582.

When material facts or questions are judicially determined in an action, such facts or questions become
res judicata and may not again be litigated in a subsequent action between the same parties or their
privies regardless of the form of the latter. This is the essence of res judicata or bar by prior judgment.

Respondent court correctly concluded that there is identity of parties between the case at bar (Civil Case
No. B-3582), an action for reconveyance of Lot No. 981, and Civil Case No. B-1656 for annulment of deed
of sale and partition involving the same Lot 981. It should be stressed that absolute identity of parties is
not required for the principle of res judicata to be applicable. A shared identity of interest is sufficient to
invoke the coverage of this principle.

There is no dispute as regards the identity of subject matter since the center of controversy in the
instant case and in Civil Case No. B-1656 is Lot No. 981 of the Biñan Estate.

Neither does the fact that Civil Case No. B-1656 was an action for annulment of deed of sale and
partition while Civil Case No. B-3582 is for reconveyance of property alter the fact that both cases have
an identical cause of action, because the same evidence which is necessary to sustain the second action
would have been sufficient to authorize a recovery in the first, even if the forms or nature of the two
actions be different. If the same facts or evidence would sustain both actions, the two actions are
considered the same within the rule that the judgment in the former is a bar to the subsequent action;
otherwise, it is not.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; ACTION; JUDGMENT; RES JUDICATA; NATURE THEREOF. — When material facts
or questions which were in issue in a former action and were admitted or judicially determined there
are conclusively settled by a judgment rendered therein, such facts or questions become res judicata
and may not again be litigated in a subsequent action between the same parties or their privies
regardless of the form of the latter. This is the essence of res judicata or bar by prior judgment. The
parties are bound not only as regards every matter offered and received to sustain or defeat their claims
or demand but as to any other admissible matter which might have been offered for that purpose and of
all other matters that could have been adjudged in that case. A change in the form of the action or in
the relief sought does not remove a proper case from the application of res judicata. It is to the interest
of the public that there should be an end to litigation by the parties over a subject fully and fairly
adjudicated — republicae ut sit finis litium. And an individual should not be vexed twice for the same
cause — nemo debet bis vexari pro eadem causa. As this Court has had occasion to rule: "The
foundation principle upon which the doctrine of res judicata rests is that parties ought not to be
permitted to litigate the same issue more than once; that, when a right or fact has been judicially tried
and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, or an opportunity for such trial has been given, 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." (Nabus vs. CA, 193 SCRA 732, February 7, 1991.)

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; REQUISITES. — There are four requisites to successfully invoke res judicata: (a)
finality of the former judgment; (b) the court which rendered it had jurisdiction over the subject matter
and the parties; (c) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (d) there must be between the first and
second actions identity of parties, subject matter and cause of action. A judgment on the merits
rendered in the first case constitutes an absolute bar to the subsequent action when the three identities
are present.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; CONSTRUED. — It should further be stressed that absolute identity of
parties is not required for the principle of res judicata to be applicable. A shared identity of interest is
sufficient to invoke the coverage of this principle. As regards identity of causes of action, the test often
used in determining whether causes of action are identical is to ascertain whether the same evidence
which is necessary to sustain the second action would have been sufficient to authorize a recovery in the
first, even if the forms or nature of the two actions be different. If the same facts or evidence would
sustain both actions, the two actions are considered the same within the rule that the judgment in the
former is a bar to the subsequent action; otherwise, it is not.

4. ID.; ID.; "FORUM-SHOPPING"; APPLIES ONLY WHEN TWO (OR MORE) CASES ARE STILL PENDING;
NOT APPLICABLE IN CASE AT BAR. — With respect to the issue of forum-shopping, this applies only
when the two (or more) cases are still pending. Clearly, despite knowledge of final judgments in Civil
Case No. B-1656, CA-G.R. CV No. 07657 and SC-G.R. No. 74505, as well as in G.R. No. 94382 (the
ejectment case), counsel persisted in filing the case for reconveyance. Since this case is barred by the
judgment in Civil Case No. B-1656, there was no other pending case to speak of when it was filed in July
1991. Thus, the "non-forum-shopping rule" is not violated.

5. LEGAL ETHICS; CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY; WHEN VIOLATED. — What counsel for
petitioners did in filing an action to relitigate the title to and partition over Lot No. 981, violates Canon
10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers which states that a lawyer owes candor,
fairness and good faith to the court. Rule 10.01 of the same Canon states that "(a) lawyer shall not do
any falsehood . . . nor shall he mislead or allow the court to be misled by any artifice." Counsel's act of
filing a new case involving essentially the same cause of action is likewise abusive of the courts'
processes and may be viewed as "improper conduct tending to directly impede, obstruct and degrade
the administration of justice." (Said improper conduct is considered as indirect contempt under Rule 71
of the Revised Rules of Court; Heirs of Guballa, Sr. vs. CA, 168 SCRA 539 [December 19, 1988] citing
Gabriel vs. CA, 72 SCRA 275.)

DECISION

ROMERO, J p:

The Rules of Court provide litigants with options on what course of action to take in obtaining judicial
relief. Once such option is taken and a case is filed in court, the parties are compelled to ventilate all
matters and relevant issues therein. The losing party who files another action regarding the same
controversy will be needlessly squandering time, effort and financial resources because he is barred by
law from litigating the same controversy all over again. Such is the situation in the case at bar: whether
or not there is res judicata or bar by prior judgment. The present controversy is surrounded by the
following facts: cda

Lot 981 of the Biñan Estate in Laguna, with an area of 864 square meters, was purchased by Jose Sevillo
in 1910 on installment. In 1917, Transfer Certificate No. 1599 was issued in his name after payment of
the full purchase price. Jose Sevillo's marriage to Severa Bayran produced four sons, Teodoro, Mariano,
Vicente and Pablo. Pablo married Antonia Palisoc in 1920 and they begot four children, Consolacion,
Alejandra (Andrea), Samero (Casimiro) and Marin (Martin or Maltin) Sevillo. In 1949, Pablo Sevillo
declared Lot No. 981 for taxation purposes under Tax Declaration Nos. 6125 and 2586 even if the
property was still in Jose Sevillo's name.

In 1955, Pablo, by then a widower, married Candida Baylo. The union produced no offspring. Candida's
daughter, Cirila Baylo Carolasan, was sired by another man.

In 1965, Pablo Sevillo, with Candida Baylo, filed a petition before the Court of First Instance for
reconstitution of title. Reconstitution was allowed and TCT No. RT-926 was issued in the name of Pablo
Sevillo, married to Candida Baylo. Pablo Sevillo and his wife died in 1967 and in 1974, respectively.

In 1980, the heirs of Cirila Baylo Carolasan, 1 all surnamed Zarate and herein private respondents, filed a
case for annulment of deed of sale over Lot 981 and for partition of property among the surviving heirs
of Pablo Sevillo. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. B-1656 before the Court of First Instance of
Biñan, Laguna. The Deed of Sale sought to be annulled was allegedly executed by Candida Baylo,
grandmother to the Zarates, in favor of Gregorio, Samero, Martin and Andrea, surnamed Sevillo and
Isidro Zamora. After trial on the merits, the court rendered its Decision on June 15, 1982 with the
following dispositive portion:

"WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the deed
of sale entitled 'Bilihang Patuluyan ng Bahagi ng Isang Lupang Panahanan' purportedly executed by
Candida Baylo on August 25, 1971, acknowledged before Notary Public Apolinario S. Escueta and
entered in his notarial register as Doc. No. 124, Page No. 16, Book No. IV, Series of 1971, as null and void
and of no force and effect, and the representative of the estate of the plaintiff Cirila Baylo Carolasan and
the defendants Gregorio Sevillo, Samero Sevillo, Maltin Sevillo, Andrea Sevillo and Isidro Zamora, as the
surviving spouse of Consolacion Sevillo, are hereby ordered to partition Lot No. 981 of the Biñan Estate,
situated in Tubigan, Biñan, Laguna if they are able to agree among themselves by proper instruments of
conveyance, within 30 days from the finality of this decision, which shall be confirmed by this Court,
otherwise, commissioners will be appointed to make the partition.

The defendants Gregorio Sevillo and Samero Sevillo are hereby jointly and severally ordered to pay
plaintiffs substituted heirs of the late Cirila Baylo Carolasan, namely, Virginia C. Zarate, of Brgy. Real,
Calamba, Laguna, Jacobo C. Zarate, Victoria C. Zarate, Nemesio C. Zarate, Dominador C. Zarate and Elvira
C. Zarate, all of Brgy. Tubigan, Biñan, Laguna, the sum of P3,000.00 for attorney's fees and the sum of
P2,000.00 for litigation expenses aside from costs of suit."

The decision having become final and executory, a writ of execution was issued on November 10, 1982.
Lot 981 was surveyed and subdivided into six lots, one lot having an area of 452.04 square meters, four
lots with 86.49 square meters each and one lot with 66 square meters as footpath or concession to a
right of way. 2 By virtue of this adjudication, private respondents Zarate procured TCT Nos. T-163388
and T-163393 over their share in the property.

The losing parties in that case, the Sevillos, filed a case to annul the aforesaid decision of the trial court
in Civil Case No. B-1656 before the then Intermediate Appellate Court (CA-G.R. SP No. 07657) alleging
lack of jurisdiction based on service of summons on unauthorized counsel. On March 31, 1986, the
appellate court granted the Zarates' motion to dismiss the case on the ground of res judicata. The
Supreme Court denied the petition for review filed by the Sevillos for lack of merit on September 8, 1986
in G.R. No. 74505. 3

On May 6, 1983, private respondents, the Zarates, filed Civil Case No. 2375, an ejectment suit against
the Sevillos before the Municipal Trial Court of Biñan. 4 The municipal court ruled in favor of plaintiffs
and ordered defendants below, to immediately vacate the subject property and remove their houses
thereon and to pay rental in arrears, damages, attorney's fees and litigation expenses. 5 Writs of
execution and demolition were issued by the court. Defendants filed a motion for reconsideration but
before said motion could be heard, they filed a petition for certiorari with the Regional Trial Court of
Laguna (Civil Case No. B-3106). The Sevillos alleged that the inferior court did not have jurisdiction over
the case which was filed more than a year after the alleged unlawful entry. The Regional Trial Court held
that the municipal court had no jurisdiction over the complaint for ejectment. On appeal, the Court of
Appeals reversed the Regional Trial Court's decision on July 11, 1990 in CA-G.R. SP No. 18806. Affirming
the appellate court's decision, the Supreme Court denied the Sevillos' petition for review in G.R. No.
94382 on April 10, 1991. 6

On July 10, 1991, petitioner Iñigo F. Carlet, as special administrator of the estate of Pablo and Antonia
Sevillo, filed the case at bar, an action for reconveyance of property, docketed as Civil Case No. B-3582,
against the heirs of Cirila namely, Virginia, Jacobo, Victoria and Elvira, all surnamed Zarate. Plaintiff
therein prayed for a declaration of ownership over the entire 864-square-meter lot in the name of the
estate of Jose Sevillo and/or the estate of Teodoro, Mariano, Vicente and Pablo Sevillo; that TCT Nos. T-
163393 and T-163388 be annulled and a new one be issued in favor of said estate; and that defendants
be ordered to pay P20,000.00, attorneys fees in the amount of P50,000.00 and expenses of litigation. 7

Defendants Zarate moved to dismiss the case on the ground of res judicata, claiming that the facts
alleged in the complaint had already been pleaded and passed upon by the lower court in Civil Case No.
B-1656, the Court of Appeals in CA- G.R. SP No. 07657 and by the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 74505. They
also opposed the motion for preliminary injunction saying it was meant to delay and that the grounds
relied upon had previously been passed upon by the lower court in Civil Case Nos. B-1656 and 2375, the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 18806 and the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 94382.

On October 8, 1991, the trial court issued an Order granting the motion to dismiss Civil Case No. B-3582,
stating that the issue of ownership had been threshed out in the cases cited and that, as held by the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 07657, plaintiff below merely tried to obtain the same relief by way
of a different action. The dispositive portion of said Order reads: cdrep

"WHEREFORE, finding merit in the motion to dismiss, the same is hereby granted and the above case is
hereby ordered dismissed. As a consequence, the motion for preliminary injunction is hereby denied.

Pursuant to well-settled pronouncement of the Supreme Court, the plaintiff and her counsel are hereby
ordered to explain within five (5) days from receipt hereof why they should not be cited in contempt of
court for forum-shopping. Let a copy of this order be furnished the local IBP Chapter where Atty.
Modesto Jimenez belongs so that he may be administratively dealt with in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED."

Carlet's appeal to respondent court (CA-G.R. CV No. 36129) was dismissed on January 11, 1994, with the
Court of Appeals affirming the questioned Order of the trial court in toto and ordering appellants and
counsel to pay treble costs. 8

Hence, the instant petition for review where the issue to be resolved is whether or not the adjudication
in Civil Case No. B-1656 (including CA-G.R. SP No. 07657 and SC-G.R. No. 74505) constitutes res judicata
to the case at bar (Civil Case No. B-3582).

Petitioner in the main contends that respondent court erred, because there is no identity of cause of
action between the case at bar (Civil Case No. B-3582) and the cases, cited, particularly Civil Case No. B-
1656. The former is an entirely different case which seeks the annulment of TCT No. 1599 and the
derivative titles issued in the name of private respondents Zarate. There is likewise no identity of
parties. According to petitioner, the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 3582 is the Special Administrator
representing the estate of Jose Sevillo and Severa Bayran, who does not represent any of the private
respondents herein. 9

We affirm the contested decision of the Court of Appeals.

When material facts or questions which were in issue in a former action and were admitted or judicially
determined there are conclusively settled by a judgment rendered therein, such facts or questions
become res judicata and may not again be litigated in a subsequent action between the same parties or
their privies regardless of the form of the latter. This is the essence of res judicata or bar by prior
judgment. 10

There are four requisites to successfully invoke res judicata: (a) finality of the former judgment; (b) the
court which rendered it had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (c) it must be a
judgment on the merits; and (d) there must be between the first and second actions identity of parties,
subject matter and cause of action. 11 A judgment on the merits rendered in the first case constitutes
an absolute bar to the subsequent action when the three identities are present. 12

The attendance of the first three elements for the application of res judicata is not disputed by
petitioner. What needs to be determined is the existence of identity in parties, subject matter and cause
of action between Civil Case Nos. B-1656 and B-3582.

Respondent court correctly concluded that there is identity of parties between the case at bar (Civil Case
No. B-3582), an action for reconveyance of Lot No. 981, and Civil Case No. B-1656 for annulment of deed
of sale and partition involving the same Lot 981. Although Civil Case No. B-3582 was initiated by
petitioner as administrator of the estate of Pablo and Antonia Sevillo, the fact remains that he
represents the same heirs of Pablo Sevillo, namely Martin, Alejandra, Casimiro (or Samero) and
Consolacion Sevillo who were defendants in Civil Case No. B-1656, as the latter or their heirs would
eventually benefit should petitioner succeed in this case. Petitioner's allegation that he represents the
heirs of Jose Sevillo and Severa Bayran Sevillo and, therefore, including Pablo Sevillo's three brothers, is
belied by the very title of the instant petition that he is the special administrator of the estate of Pablo
Sevillo and Antonia Palisoc, having been appointed as such on July 10, 1991. 13

It should further be stressed that absolute identity of parties is not required for the principle of res
judicata to be applicable. 14 A shared identity of interest is sufficient to invoke the coverage of this
principle. 15 While it is true that the heirs of Pablo and Antonia Sevillo will still be judicially determined
at the intestate proceedings in which petitioner was named estate special administrator, it is equally
true that the defendants in Civil Case No. B-1656, namely Consolacion, Alejandra, Samero and Martin
Sevillo, are the children and heirs of Pablo and Antonia Sevillo.

There is no dispute as regards the identity of subject matter since the center of controversy in the
instant case and in Civil Case No. B-1656 is Lot No. 981 of the Biñan Estate.

As regards identity of causes of action, the test often used in determining whether causes of action are
identical is to ascertain whether the same evidence which is necessary to sustain the second action
would have been sufficient to authorize a recovery in the first, even if the forms or nature of the two
action be different. If the same facts or evidence would sustain both actions, the two actions are
considered the same within the rule that the judgment in the former is a bar to the subsequent action;
otherwise, it is not. 16

The instant case (Civil Case No. B-3582), which is an action for the reconveyance of Lot No. 981, is
premised on the claim that TCT Nos. T-163388 and T-163393, belonging to private respondents as heirs
of Candida Baylo and Cirila Baylo Carolasan, are null and void. 17 To succeed entails presenting evidence
that the title acquired by the Zarates, upon which they founded their complaint for partition in Civil Case
No. B-1656, is in fact null and void.

In Civil Case No. B-1656, the Zarates' prayer for partition of Lot No. 981 was anchored on the
authenticity of their title thereto. Consequently, the case provided the defendants, heirs of Pablo and
Antonia Sevillo, the opportunity to prove otherwise, i.e., that the Zarates' title was null and void.
However, they failed to contest the matter before the trial court, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme
Court. 18 Inasmuch as the same evidence was needed in prosecuting Civil Case No. B-1656 and the case
at bar, there is identity of causes of action. The additional "fact" alleged by petitioner — that Candida
Baylo was not in fact married to Pablo Sevillo and the reconstituted title in their name reflects a
misrepresentation is, under the circumstances, immaterial. Said allegation could have been presented
and heard in Civil Case No. B-1656. 19 The parties are bound not only as regards every matter offered
and received to sustain or defeat their claims or demand but as to any other admissible matter which
might have been offered for that purpose and of all other matters that could have been adjudged in that
case. 20

Neither does the fact that Civil Case No. B-1656 was an action for annulment of deed of sale and
partition while Civil Case No. B-3582 is for reconveyance of property alter the fact that both cases have
an identical cause of action. A change in the form of the action or in the relief sought does not remove a
proper case from the application of res judicata. 21

Moreover, as early as March 31, 1986 in the original action for annulment of judgment case, the then
Intermediate Appellate Court immediately recognized that:

"Clearly, the relief sought in this action for annulment of judgment beyond nullity of the decision in Civil
Case No. B-1656, is an adjudication that herein defendants are not entitled to Lot 981 of the Biñan
Estate or any part thereof, on the stated grounds that said property in the name of Pablo Sevillo and
Candida Baylo under T.C.T. No. RT-926 was in fact owned by Pablo Sevillo and Antonia Palisoc, and that
in any event, Candida Baylo had ceded her interest therein to plaintiffs and/or their predecessors in
interest on March 31, 1969.

The self-same issue of ownership of Lot 981 was squarely raised in Civil Case No. B-1656, herein
defendants' interest in said property having therein been traversed by invoking instead an alleged sale
of Lot 981 to Gregorio Sevillo on August 25, 1971.

This amounts to employment of different forms of action to obtain identical relief, in violation of the
principle that one and the same cause of action shall not twice be litigated (Yusingco v. Ong Hian, 42
SCRA 589)." 22

It is to the interest of the public that there should be an end to litigation by the parties over a subject
fully and fair adjudicated — republicae ut sit finish litium. And an individual should not be vexed twice
for the same cause — nemo debet bis vexari pro eadem causa. As this Court has had occasion to rule:
"The foundation principle upon which the doctrine of res judicata rests is that parties ought not to be
permitted to litigate the same issue more than once; that, when a right or fact has been judicially tried
and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, or an opportunity for such trial has been given, 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." 23

With respect to the issue of forum-shopping for which the trial court ordered counsel for petitioners,
Atty. Modesto Jimenez, to explain why he should not be cited in contempt, 24 this applies only when the
two (or more) cases are still pending. 25

Clearly, despite knowledge of final judgments in Civil Case No. B-1656, CA-G.R. CV No. 07657 and SC-G.R.
No. 74505, as well as in G.R. No. 94382 (the ejectment case), counsel persisted in filing the case at bar
for reconveyance. Since this case is barred by the judgment in Civil Case No. B-1656, there was no other
pending case to speak of when it was filed in July 1991. Thus, the "non-forum-shopping rule" is not
violated.

What counsel for petitioners did, however, in filing this present action to relitigate the title to and
partition over Lot No. 981, violates Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers
which states that a lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court. Rule 10.01 of the same
Canon states that "(a) lawyer shall not do any falsehood . . . nor shall he mislead or allow the court to be
misled by any artifice." Counsel's act of filing a new case involving essentially the same cause of action is
likewise abusive of the courts' processes and may be viewed as "improper conduct tending to directly
impede, obstruct and degrade the administration of justice." 26

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 11,
1994 is hereby AFFIRMED. Treble costs against petitioner. cdasia

SO ORDERED.

Regalado, J., , and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

Torres, Jr., J., is on leave.

Puno, J., is on leave.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 4244. June 17, 1997.]

BUHANGIN RESIDENTS AND EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION FOR DEVELOPMENT, INC. (BREAD), etc.,
complainants, vs. ATTY. CORAZON NUÑEZ-MALANYAON, respondent.
Martin B. Delgra for complainant.

Paras, Reyes and Manlapaz for respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; DISBARMENT; COMPLAINT DISMISSED; ALLEGATION OF FALSIFICATION OF


PUBLIC INSTRUMENTS UNSUBSTANTIATED. — A petition for disbarment was filed against Atty. Corazon
Nuñez-Malanyaon by Arturo S. Asumbrado, as President and in representation of the Buhangin
Residents and Employees Association for Development, Inc. (BREAD). The petition accused Atty.
Malanyaon of criminal falsification for having prepared and notarized two (2) irreconcilably inconsistent
public instruments — (2) deeds of sale covering titled parcels of land in Buhangin, Davao City, which she
caused to be executed by the registered owners: one for the consideration of P535,400.00; and the
other, for P4,535,400.00, both deeds bearing the same entry in her notarial register, viz.: Doc No. 310,
Book No. VI, Page No. 62, Series of 1990. Cherinita B. Rodriguez and Isagani B. Rodriguez, Jr. were the
owners of the two (2) parcels of land involved. Negotiations were subsequently had between the
Rodriguezes and BREAD concerning the land. It appears that BREAD approached the Rodriguezes and
offered to buy the land for subdivision into smaller lots which it planned thereafter to distribute to its
members. The price was fixed at P4,535,400.00. To reduce the expenses that would have to be initially
borne by the Rodriguez, the parties agreed that the properties would be transferred to BREAD under a
deed that would recite a consideration of only P535,400.00 (obviously to cut down on the cash outlay of
the Rodriguezes (e.g., as regards capital gains tax, etc.), BREAD would then negotiate for a loan to cover
the actual purchase price of P4,535,400.00, and the proceeds of the loan of P4,535,400.00 would be
paid to the RODRIGUEZES. The procedure was followed. His bona fides in making these imputations is
placed in very grave doubt by the very documents he has submitted to the Court in response to its
command, which documents bear out, at the same time, Malanyaon's version of the material
occurrences. Asumbrado has been less than candid with the Court in his narration of the facts. Patently
false are his claims that the price agreed upon between BREAD and the Rodriguezes, as consideration
for its acquisition of the parcels of land in question, was P535,400.00, not P4,535,400.00; and that he did
not know and was in fact surprised to learn that it was the deed of sale with the price of P4,535,400.00,
instead of that for P535,400.00, which was, presented to NHMFC by CODE in consequence of which the
loan proceeds in the amount of P4,535,400.00 were released by NHMFC to the Rodriguezes. Finally, the
fact that evidently on the strength of the two (2) deeds of sale just mentioned, and on the same date,
May 2, 1990, corresponding Transfer Certificates of Title were issued by the Register of Deeds of Davao
City in favor of Asumbrado's organization, BREAD (Annexes C and D, petition.); and that further fact,
already mentioned, that the mortgage involving those same titles was executed on May 2, 1990 by
Asumbrado (representing BREAD), and explicitly adverts to a loan agreement of P4,535,400.00 — make
well nigh conclusive the proposition that Asumbrado did indeed have full knowledge of the real value of
the two (2) parcels of land in question, and constitute the final, and powerfully persuasive, confirmation
of respondent Malanyaon's version disbarment is thus exposed as grounded on nothing but false and
misleading allegations.

DECISION
NARVASA, C .J p:

A petition for disbarment dated May 2, 1994 was filed against Atty. Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon by
Arturo S. Asumbrado, as President and in representation of the Buhangin Residents and Employees
Association for Development, Inc. (BREAD, registered with the Securities & Exchange Commission on
February 6, 1990). The petition accuses Atty. Malanyaon of criminal falsification for having prepared and
notarized two (2) irreconcilably inconsistent public instruments — (2) deeds of sale covering titled
parcels of land in Buhangin, Davao City, with a total area of about 6.0475 hectares, which she caused to
be executed by the registered owners: one for the consideration of P535,400,00; and the other, for
P4,535,400.00, both deeds bearing the same entry in her notarial register, viz.: Doc. No. 310, Book No.
VI, Page No. 62, Series of 1990.

The Court required Atty. Malanyaon to comment on the complaint. In the comment which she filed in
due course, she admits that two (2) deeds of sale were actually prepared but denies, upon the facts
detailed by her, that there was anything irregular or illegal in those acts. There followed an exchange of
pleadings by the parties: complainant's "Reply to Comment" dated January 18, 1996, the "Rejoinder to
Respondent's Reply to Comment" dated September 5, 1996, the "Traverse to Rejoinder to Respondent's
Reply to Comment" dated October 26, 1996.

By Resolution dated October 7, 1996 the Court ordered:

a) "BREAD's president, Arturo S. Asumbrado, to submit to the Bar Confidant authentic copies of
BREAD's contracts and written transactions (including particularly, the loan agreement and/or
promissory note, the mortgage deed, demand letters, notice of foreclosure, etc.) with the National
Home Mortgage and Financing Corporation (NHMFC) and/or the Community Organizing Davao
Experience (CODE) Foundation relative to the subject matter of the case at bar, within ten (10) days
from notice . . .;" and

b) respondent attorney similarly to submit to the Bar Confidant such of the documents just
specified as may be available to her, also within ten (10) days from notice of this Resolution."

After some delay, caused by unavoidable circumstances, the following documents were submitted by
BREAD's counsel, Atty. Martin B. Delgra III:

(Submitted on November 18, 1996:)

1) the duplicate original of the Notice of Extra-Judicial Sale dated December 28, 1993 issued by
Sheriff (Clerk of Court) of Davao City, entitled "National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation,
Mortgagee vs. Buhangin Residents and Employees Association, Inc., Mortgagor, EJP REM Case No.
2331;" and

2) an authenticated copy of the Real Estate Mortgage executed by and between Buhangin
Residents and Employees Association, Inc., and Community Organizing Davao Experience (CODE)
Foundation, having reference to a loan agreement dated May 3, 1990 in the amount of P4,535,400.00
(Doc. 315, Page No. 63, Book No. VI, Series of 1990).
(Submitted on March 3, 1997:)

3) a certified true copy of the LETTER-GUARANTY dated April 27, 1990, signed by the President of
the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC), Ramon Albert, and conformed to by the
owners of the two lots subject of the deeds of sale in question — Cherinita B. Rodriguez and Isagani B.
Rodriguez, represented by their attorney-in-fact, Cynthia R. Dacanay — in which NHMFC guarantees the
payment of P4,535,400.00 to the latter, as the purchase price of said parcels of land with the reciprocal
obligation on the part of the landowners to execute the necessary deed of sale for the same amount in
favor of BREAD, within thirty (30) days from submission to NHMFC of the titles by another agency
(CODE) free from all liens except the mortgage in the latter's favor;

4) another certified true copy (SEE Item No. 2, above) of the REAL ESTATE MORTGAGE dated May
2, 1990 executed by and between BREAD (represented by its President, Asumbrado) and CODE
Foundation (represented by its Executive Director, Favio D. Sayson), notarized by Atty. Malanyaon,
having reference to a loan agreement dated May 3, 1990 in the amount of P4,535,400.00 (Doc. 315,
Page No. 63, Book No. VI, Series of 1990); and

5) a certified true copy of the LOAN AGREEMENT dated March 9, 1990, executed by and between
CODE Foundation, Inc. (represented by its aforenamed Executive Director, Favio D. Sayson) and BREAD
(represented by Arturo Asumbrado), notarized by Atty. Lucilo V. Pucot on March 26, 1990 (Doc. No. 272,
Page No. 55, Book No. 26, Series of 1990).

From these documents, and the parties' pleadings which for the most part raise no issue as to the
essential antecedents, a fairly accurate reconstruction of the events leading to the execution of the
deeds claimed by BREAD to be spurious may be made without too much difficulty.

There is no dispute about the fact that Cherinita B. Rodriguez and Isagani B. Rodriguez, Jr. were the
owners of the two (2) parcels of land involved in this case. They had purchased the lots from co-owners
(the Castañedas) for investment purposes: for a possible joint venture with an experienced developer
who would convert the same into a residential subdivision. In fact, they had already had initial talks with
HLC Construction, Inc. in this connection. According to Asumbrado, the deed of sale was executed in the
Rodriguezes' favor on October 28, 1989 but was not registered until March 7, 1990, at which time titles
were issued in their names.

Neither is there a dispute about the fact that negotiations were subsequently had between the
Rodriguezes and BREAD concerning the land. It appears that BREAD approached the Rodriguezes and
offered to buy the land for subdivision into smaller lots which it planned thereafter to distribute to its
members, who allegedly were "spillovers" from another community association (AWHAG) based in
Bacaca, Davao City, as well as others who had no home lots of their own. BREAD suggested that the
Rodriguezes make an offer to sell in writing. aisadc

The Rodriguezes did make an offer to BREAD — and another non-governmental corporation named
CODE (Community Organizing Davao Experience) Foundation, which was assisting BREAD in its
organization. In the offer, the Rodriguezes set out full details as to land area, location, and price, etc.
Asumbrado adds that the Rodriguezes' written offer was made through their attorney-in-fact, Ms.
Cynthia Rodriguez-Dacanay; that the price was fixed at P4,535,400.00; that said offer was accepted by
CODE's Project Director, Favio Sayson, by letter dated January 25, 1990; and that Atty. Malanyaon is a
member of CODE's Board of Trustees. Asumbrado also points out that actually, his organization, BREAD,
had been established on the initiative of CODE Foundation, membership being "taken from CODE's
spillover of interested applicants under the Land Acquisition Program for the Urban Poor," and BREAD
having been "organized as a non-stock corporation under the direct control and supervision of CODE
Foundation, Inc."

It further appears that BREAD and CODE proposed that BREAD would purchase the properties from the
Rodriguezes at the price of P4,535,400.00, an amount BREAD would borrow from a suitable financing
institution, like the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC); that since the properties
would be used by BREAD as collateral, it was necessary for the titles to be placed in its name; that the
Rodriguezes would also have to advance the amount of P226,770.00 to pay for the capital gains tax (5%
of the consideration of P4,535,400.00), as well as all registration fees incident to the sale (documentary
stamps, transfer fees, etc.). Asumbrado says that key officers of CODE, on the one hand, and Ms.
Dacanay (representing the Rodriguezes), on the other, discussed the matter with the National Home
Mortgage Financing Corporation (NHFMC) under its so-called "Community Mortgage Program."

After the Rodriguezes had consulted (1) their lawyer, Atty. Malanyaon, and (2) the Register of Deeds of
Davao City, Atty. Aludia P. Gadia, and to reduce the expenses that would have to be initially borne by
the Rodriguezes, the parties agreed on the following procedure:

(1) the properties would be transferred to BREAD under a deed that would recite a consideration of
only P535,400.00 (obviously to cut down on the cash outlay of the Rodriguezes (e.g., as regards capital
gains tax, etc.);

(2) the deed would be registered, with the RODRIGUEZES advancing the payment for capital gains
tax, registration and other fees, and titles would be obtained in the name of BREAD;

(3) BREAD would then negotiate for a loan to cover the actual purchase price of P4,535,400.00;

(4) the proceeds of the loan of P4,535,400.00 would be paid to the RODRIGUEZES, who would
thereupon:

(a) deliver to BREAD another deed of sale regarding the same properties but setting forth the
correct price of P4,535,400.00, and

(b) pay the additional capital gains tax and corresponding fees computed in accordance with said
higher and correct price.

The procedure was followed to a point: the properties were transferred by the Rodriguezes to BREAD
under a deed stating the price to be P535,400.00, on the strength of which new titles were issued over
the same in favor of BREAD: TCTs Nos. T-151920 and T-151921; the properties were used as collateral
for a loan obtained by BREAD from NHMFC; and from the loan proceeds the real purchase price of
P4,535,400.00 was paid by BREAD to the Rodriguezes. Asumbrado adds that the sale to BREAD was
registered on May 2, 1990 and titles were issued to it; and he acknowledges that the Rodriguezes paid
P26,700.00 as capital gains tax as well as P5,360.00 for documentary stamps.

However, Malanyaon failed to cause cancellation of the deed of sale for P535,400.00 and its substitution
with that for P4,535,400, in all the corresponding offices, or to attend to the payment of the additional
fees entailed by the actual sale price. This was due, she says, to her "numerous official and unofficial
workload as an accountant, a practicing lawyer, a City Councilor, and involvement in various civil and
professional organizations."

In the complaint by which he initiated the proceeding at bar, Asumbrado gives a different version of
some of the facts. While he admits that the CODE Foundation was the "originator" in the Community
Mortgage Program (CMP) with BREAD as beneficiary, and that it facilitated the preparation and
finalization of the documents for the purchase of the parcels of land, he declares that the price agreed
on was P535,400.00, not P4,535,400.00. While also conceding that CODE did seek the assistance of the
NHMFC to finance the housing project, and did assign the loan agreements between CODE and BREAD
to NHMFC as second mortgagee, he asserts that "(u)nknown to BREAD," CODE presented to NHMFC, in
support of its request for loan assistance, the second deed of sale with the purchase price of
P4,535,400.00, not that for P535,400.00. Consequently, the amount of P4,535,400.00 was released by
NHMFC to the Rodriguezes.

Asumbrado further alleges that he was surprised to learn that another deed of sale, identical to the first,
except for the price, which was P4,535,400.00, was submitted to the NHMFC and used as collateral for a
loan in that same amount. He claims that because of this, despite BREAD's "religious payment" of its
obligations under what it supposed was its loan of only P535,400.00, the mortgage on the lands was
foreclosed for non-payment of the loan of P4,535,400.00. The auction sale was in fact scheduled at 10
AM, February 18, 1994, in front of the Hall of Justice, Ecoland, Davao City.

On these posited premises, Asumbrado theorizes that Malanyaon is liable for falsification of a public
document, resulting in prejudice to the members of BREAD who have to repay, under threat of
foreclosure, a loan in an amount larger than that contemplated, for which she should be
administratively sanctioned.

He also filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman, apparently based on substantially the same
essential factual averments, against Atty. Nuñez-Malanyaon and the officers of the CODE Foundation,
docketed as Case No. OMB-MIN-02-0316. The complaint is for "Alleged Violation of R.A. 3019 and
Falsification of Public Documents." And in representation of BREAD, he also instituted on February 11,
1994 a civil action in Branch 16 of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, docketed as Civil Case No.
22,658-94, against (1) CODE Foundation, (2) National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC),
and (3) the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Courts and Ex-Officio Sheriff of Davao City, for
"Annulment of Real Estate Mortgage, Promissory Note, Loan Agreement, Deed of Assignment, etc."

His bona fides in making these imputations is placed in very grave doubt by the very documents he has
submitted to the Court in response to its command, which documents bear out, at the same time,
Malanyaon's version of the material occurrences. Asumbrado has been less than candid with the Court
in his narration of the facts. Patently false are his claims that the price agreed upon between BREAD and
the Rodriguezes, as consideration for its acquisition of the parcels of land in question, was P535,400.00,
not P4,535,400.00; and that he did not know and was in fact surprised to learn that it was the deed of
sale with the price of P4,535,400.00, instead of that for P535,400.00, which was presented to NHMFC by
CODE in consequence of which the loan proceeds in the amount of P4,535,400.00 were released by
NHMFC to the Rodriguezes.

As early as March 9, 1990, when, in representation of BREAD, he signed the LOAN AGREEMENT between
it and CODE Foundation, he already knew that the real value of the two parcels of land in question was
P4,535,000.00, not P535,400.00 because said agreement explicitly stated that CODE would extend a
loan to BREAD "in the principal sum of FOUR MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY-FIVE THOUSAND FOUR
HUNDRED (P4,535,400) Philippine Currency," the proceeds of which would "be exclusively used to
finance the acquisition" of the Rodriguezes' two (2) parcels of land. His knowledge of this value is
confirmed by the deed of Real Estate Mortgage dated May 2, 1990 to which he was also a signatory,
representing the mortgagor, BREAD, executed over the two (2) lots in question "to secure the
obligations of . . . (said) MORTGAGOR in favor of the MORTGAGEE (CODE Foundation) in the amount of
FOUR MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED PESOS ONLY (P4,535,400.00) . .
." pursuant to the terms of the Loan Agreement between them. Such knowledge is evidenced, too, by
the first Deed of Sale signed by him (Asumbrado) — which exhibits no alteration on its face (Annex J),
supra — which instrument categorically sets out the price of P4,535,400.00.

Other documents on record convincingly prove that the value placed on the two (2) lots by the parties,
BREAD, CODE, NHMFC, was really P4,535,400.00. One of these is the letter dated January 22, 1990 of
Cynthia Rodriguez-Dacanay, attorney-in-fact of the original owners of the two (2) lots in question,
addressed to the CODE Foundation, Inc. ("Attn.: Mr. Flavio Sayson, Project Director") containing the
offer of said lots for sale at the price of P4,535,000.00, acceptance of which is indicated by the signature
therein of CODE Project Director Flavio Sayson. This document (Annex H of BREAD's petition) illustrates
the extreme implausibility of the owners later offering the same property to BREAD at a price of
P535,400.00, lower by P4,000,000.00!

Then there is the Letter-Guaranty executed on April 27, 1990 by the National Home Mortgage Finance
Corporation (NHMFC) through its President, Ramon A. Albert, which bears the conformity (conforme) of
the Rodriguezes' Attorney-in-fact, Cynthia R. Dacanay (also submitted by Asumbrado's lawyer on March
3, 1997), which clearly substantiates the statements in the LOAN AGREEMENT above referred to. It
affirms the obligation of the Rodriguezes to sell to BREAD the two parcels of land, and expresses
NHMFC's undertaking to give to said sellers the sum of P4,535,400.00 — representing the proceeds of a
loan to be obtained by BREAD — within 30 days from submission to it of BREAD's titles "free from all
liens and encumbrances whatsoever except the mortgage to be annotated in favor of . . . CODE
Foundation."

Both these documents, the letter of Cynthia Rodriguez-Dacanay of January 22, 1990, and the Letter-
Guaranty of April 27, 1990, expose the utterly preposterous character of Asumbrado's allegation that
the Rodriguezes subsequently agreed to sell the lots for only P535,400.00 — P4,000,000.00 less than
their original, accepted offer.

Again, the two (2) deeds of sale of May 2, 1990 — Annexes I and J of the petition — demonstrate that
Annex J, stating the price of P4,535,400.00, was the first to be executed. An examination of the deeds,
identical in every respect except for the price, clearly shows that Annex I — stating the price of
P535,400.00 — was copied from Annex J — reciting the price of P4,535,400.00. It is clearly evident that
the price written in words and figures in Annex J as "PESOS: FOUR MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY FIVE
THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED (P4,535,400), Philippine Currency" — which appears on the barest scrutiny
to be without correction of any sort whatever — was erased, and substituted in Annex I, by another
price, superimposed with the use of another typing machine, the new price being stated in words and
figures as "PESOS: FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED PESOS ONLY (P535,400.00)
Philippine Currency." The deeds also indicate that the sale contemplated by both NHMFC and CODE is
that setting out the price of P4,535,400.00 (Annex J). Considered conjointly with the other documents,
these documents also very strongly generate persuasion of Asumbrado's knowledge of the real value of
the land.

Finally, the fact that evidently on the strength of the two (2) deeds of sale just mentioned, and on the
same date, May 2, 1990, corresponding Transfer Certificates of Title were issued by the Register of
Deeds of Davao City in favor of Asumbrado's organization, BREAD (Annexes C and D, petition); and the
further fact, already mentioned, that the mortgage involving those same titles was executed on May 2,
1990 by Asumbrado (representing BREAD), and explicitly adverts to a loan agreement of P4,535,400.00
— make well nigh conclusive the proposition that Asumbrado did indeed have full knowledge of the real
value of the two (2) parcels of land in question, and constitute the final, and powerfully persuasive,
confirmation of respondent Malanyaon's version of the material events.

The petition for disbarment is thus exposed as grounded on nothing but false and misleading
allegations.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, the petition for disbarment dated May 2, 1994 is DISMISSED for utter lack of
merit. The petitioner's President ARTURO S. ASUMBRADO, is hereby ORDERED to show cause within
fifteen (15) days from notice hereof, why he should not be punished for contempt for attempting to
foist falsities upon the Court and abuse of court processes. cdtai

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Melo and Panganiban, JJ ., concur.

Francisco, J ., is on leave.
FIRST DIVISION

[A.M. No. MTJ-97-1142. November 6, 1997.]

(OCA-IPI No. 96-221-MTJ)

JOEL ALMERON and EVANGELINE ALMERON, complainants, vs. JUDGE AGUSTIN T. SARDIDO, Municipal
Trial Court, Koronadal, South Cotabato, respondent.

SYNOPSIS

Respondent, Municipal Trial Court Judge, was administratively charged for granting bail to an accused
charged with two counts of rape without conducting a hearing and without forwarding the records to
the Office of the Public Prosecutor and posting bond using the property of a person long deceased.
Respondent, in his answer, claimed that he was misled by the counsel of the accused who engaged him
in a legal argument inside his chambers to grant bail; that under the "1996 Bail Bond Guide" of the
Department of Justice, the penalty for simple rape is reclusion temporal and bailable at P200,000.00 but
reduced it to P120,000.00 after finding that the amount was excessive for the provincial folk. He further
claimed that he did not know that the bondsman was already dead when he approved the property
bond. The Court Administrator recommended that respondent be fined P10,000.00.

When a judge grants bail to a person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by
reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment without conducting the required hearing, he is considered guilty
of ignorance or incompetence the gravity of which cannot be excused by a claim of good faith or
excusable negligence. Respondent Judge's disregard of an established rule of law in not conducting a
hearing in an application for bail has deprived the prosecution the opportunity to prove the strength of
the evidence of guilt of the accused which amounts to gross ignorance of the law. Respondent Judge
Agustin T. Sardido is fined P10,000.00 payable in two (2) equal monthly installments of P5,000.00 each,
to be deducted from his monthly salary. He is sternly warned that, considering that this is the second
time that he is administratively sanctioned by this Court, the commission of the same or similar acts in
the future will be dealt with more severely including, if warranted, his dismissal from the service.
AScHCD

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; BAIL; DISCRETIONARY AND NOT A MATTER OF RIGHT
ON THE PART OF THE ACCUSED. — Any self-respecting member of the bench or bar knows, or should
know with little effort, that simple rape is punishable with reclusion perpetua as provided in Art. 335 of
the Revised Penal Code. Likewise, as lucidly provided in Sec. 7, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal
Procedure, no person charged with such an offense, when evidence of guilt is strong, shall be admitted
to bail regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution. Hence, a litany of cases emphasizes that bail
is discretionary and not a matter of right on the part of the accused.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; HEARING MANDATORY AND INDISPENSABLE. — In exercising such judicial
discretion, however, a judge is required to conduct a hearing wherein both the prosecution and the
defense present evidence that would point to the strength or weakness of the evidence of guilt. The
discretion of the judge lies solely in the appreciation and evaluation of the weight of the evidence
presented during the hearing but not in the determination of whether or not the hearing itself should be
held for such a hearing is considered mandatory and absolutely indispensable before a judge can aptly
be said to be in a position to determine whether the evidence for the prosecution is weak or strong.

3. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; GRANT OF BAIL WITHOUT HEARING CONSTITUTES IGNORANCE OR


INCOMPETENCY. — Thus, when a judge grants bail to a person charged with a capital offense, or an
offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment without conducting the required hearing,
he is considered guilty of ignorance or incompetence the gravity of which cannot be excused by a claim
of good faith or excusable negligence. This is because members of the judiciary are supposed to exhibit
more than just a cursory acquaintance with the statute, and procedural rules, more so with legal
principles and rules so elementary and basic that not to know them, or to act as if one does not know
them, constitutes gross ignorance of the law.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR. — In the instant case, respondent Judge does not deny that he
granted bail without a hearing to a person accused of two (2) counts of rape. He attempts to excuse
himself by saying that he was misled by the "1996 Bail Bond Guide" of the Department of Justice which
provides that simple rape is punishable by reclusion temporal and bailable at P200,000.00. However, as
already stated, ignorance of this type cannot be excused by a claim of good faith or excusable
negligence. Besides, the fact that he was even misguided only manifests his weakness and reinforces his
gross ignorance. As early as in their freshmen year, aspiring members of the legal profession are already
taught that felonies are defined and their corresponding penalties found in the Revised Penal Code,
probably one of the most important codes in the legal profession. Hence, respondent Judge. should not
have been misled, purportedly at the prodding of the counsel for the accused, that the "1996 Bail Bond
Guide" of the Department of Justice prevails over the explicit provisions of the Revised Penal Code on
rape, especially considering that the Guide is addressed and intended for the guidance of all regional
state prosecutors, city/provincial prosecutors and their assistants, and provides in its "whereas" clauses
that bail shall not be recommended where the penalty is death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.
In his ignorance respondent Judge not only deprived the prosecution due process of law by denying it
the opportunity to contest the application for bail but likewise acted in a manner contrary to Rule 2.01,
Canon 2, of the Code of Judicial Conduct in allowing counsel for the accused to engage him in a legal
discussion inside his chambers, without the presence of any representative of the prosecution, about
the possibility of granting bail to the accused. Thus, respondent Judge's disregard of an established rule
of law (not conducting a hearing in an application for bail) thereby depriving the prosecution the
opportunity to prove the strength of the evidence of guilt of the accused which amounts to gross
ignorance of the law subjects him to disciplinary action. Respondent Judge Agustin T. Sardido is fined
P10,000.00 payable in two (2) equal monthly installments of P5,000.00 each, to be deducted from his
monthly salary. He is sternly warned that, considering that this is the second time that he is
administratively sanctioned by this Court, the commission of the same or similar acts in the future will
be dealt with more severely including, if warranted, his dismissal from the service.

DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J p:

JOEL ALMERON and his wife EVANGELINE in a letter complaint dated 18 October 1996 alleged that their
twelve-year old daughter Jojielyn was raped sometime in April and again in September 1996 by one
Wilfredo Pino. As a result, two (2) criminal complaints for rape were filed with the Municipal Trial Court
(MTC) of Koronadal, South Cotabato, presided over by respondent Judge Agustin T. Sardido. 1 However,
without conducting a hearing and without forwarding the records to the Office of the Public Prosecutor,
respondent Judge granted bail to the accused in the amount of P200,000.00 for each count of rape. The
amount upon motion of the accused was reduced to P120,000.00. In addition, complainant spouses
alleged that bail was posted using property of a person who has already been dead for seven (7) years.

On 22 January 1997 the Court directed Judge Sardido to answer the accusation which he did in his
"Comment/Compliance" dated 20 February 1997. prcd

In his defense respondent Judge alleged that he initially wrote the words "NO BAIL" on the face of the
criminal complaints; however before he could issue a warrant of arrest, Atty. Bonifacio Pagunsan,
counsel of the accused, engaged him in a legal argument inside his chambers about the feasibility of
granting bail to the accused; that according to the "1996 Bail Bond Guide" of the Department of Justice
rape not committed with the use of a deadly weapon, by two or more men or not resulting in the
insanity of the victim, or in the commission of a homicide by reason or on the occasion thereof, is
penalized with reclusion temporal and bailable in the amount of P200,000.00; accordingly he changed
"No Bail" to P200,000.00 and reduced it to P120,000.00 after finding that the amount was excessive for
the provincial folk; that he approved the property bond not knowing that the bondsman was already
dead relying instead on the presumption of regularity in the performance by the notary public of his
notarial function.

On 30 April 1997 this case was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation, report
and recommendation. In a Memorandum dated 11 August 1997 the Office of the Court Administrator
recommended that respondent Judge be fined P10,000.00 for granting bail to the accused charged with
rape on two (2) counts without a hearing thereby denying the prosecution the opportunity to prove that
the evidence of guilt of the accused was strong.

We adopt the foregoing recommendation. Any self-respecting member of the bench or bar knows, or
should know with little effort, that simple rape is punishable with reclusion perpetua as provided in Art.
335 of the Revised Penal Code. 2 Likewise, as lucidly provided in Sec. 7, Rule 114 3 of the Revised Rules
on Criminal Procedure, no person charged with such an offense, when evidence of guilt is strong, shall
be admitted to bail regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution. Hence a litany of cases
emphasizes that bail is discretionary and not a matter of right on the part of the accused. 4 In exercising
such judicial discretion, however, a judge is required to conduct a hearing wherein both the prosecution
and the defense present evidence that would point to the strength or weakness of the evidence of guilt.
5 The discretion of the judge lies solely in the appreciation and evaluation of the weight of the evidence
presented during the hearing but not in the determination of whether or not the hearing itself should be
held 6 for such a hearing is considered mandatory and absolutely indispensable before a judge can aptly
be said to be in a position to determine whether the evidence for the prosecution is weak or strong. 7

Thus, when a judge grants bail to a person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by
reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment without conducting the required hearing, he is considered guilty
of ignorance or incompetence the gravity of which cannot be excused by a claim of good faith or
excusable negligence. 8 This is because members of the judiciary are supposed to exhibit more than just
a cursory acquaintance with the statutes and procedural rules, 9 more so with legal principles and rules
so elementary and basic that not to know them, or to act as if one does not know them, constitutes
gross ignorance of the law. 10

In the instant case, respondent Judge does not deny that he granted bail without a hearing to a person
accused of two (2) counts of rape. He attempts to excuse himself by saying that he was misled by the
"1996 Bail Bond Guide" of the Department of Justice which provides that simple rape is punishable by
reclusion temporal and bailable at P200,000.00. 11 However, as already stated, ignorance of this type
cannot be excused by a claim of good faith or excusable negligence. 12 Besides, the fact that he was
even misguided only manifests his weakness and reinforces his gross ignorance. As early as in their
freshmen year, aspiring members of the legal profession are already taught that felonies are defined
and their corresponding penalties found in the Revised Penal Code, probably one of the most important
codes in the legal profession. Hence, respondent Judge should not have been misled, purportedly at the
prodding of the counsel for the accused, that the "1996 Bail Bond Guide" of the Department of Justice
prevails over the explicit provisions of the Revised Penal Code on rape, especially considering that the
Guide is addressed and intended for the guidance of all regional state prosecutors, city/provincial
prosecutors and their assistants, and provides in its "whereas" clauses that bail shall not be
recommended where the penalty is death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment. 13

In his ignorance respondent Judge not only deprived the prosecution due process of law by denying it
the opportunity to contest the application for bail 14 but likewise acted in a manner contrary to Rule
2.01, Canon 2, of the Code of Judicial Conduct 15 in allowing counsel for the accused to engage him in a
legal discussion inside his chambers, without the presence of any representative of the prosecution,
about the possibility of granting bail to the accused. cdphil

Thus, respondent Judge's disregard of an established rule of law (not conducting a hearing in an
application for bail) thereby depriving the prosecution the opportunity to prove the strength of the
evidence of guilt of the accused which amounts to gross ignorance of the law subjects him to disciplinary
action. 16

In Cabilao v. Judge Sardido, 17 an administrative case for grave ignorance of the law, gross misconduct
and abuse of discretion, the same respondent Judge was fined the amount of P5,000.00 and sternly
warned against the commission of same or similar acts. Considering the foregoing and the seriousness
of the present offense which cannot be excused by a claim of good faith, respondent should be imposed
a stiffer penalty so that he would better grasp the importance of being proficient in both substantive
and procedural laws, particularly in this case, on the subject matter of bail. This could be achieved
without need for the Court to issue any "bail bond guide," as respondent judge suggests, since the
present Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure and jurisprudence on the matter are clear and enlightening
enough.

ACCORDINGLY, respondent Judge Agustin T. Sardido is fined P10,000.00 payable in two (2) equal
monthly installments of P5,000.00 each, to be deducted from his monthly salary. He is sternly WARNED
that, considering that this is the second time that he is administratively sanctioned by this Court, the
commission of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely including, if
warranted, his dismissal from the service. LLjur

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Vitug and Kapunan, JJ ., concur.

Footnotes

1. Docketed as Crim. Cases Nos. 13860 and 13861.

2. However, whenever the crime of rape is committed with the use of a deadly weapon or by two
or more persons, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua to death. When by reason or on the occasion
of the rape, the victim has become insane or a homicide is committed the penalty shall be death (as
amended by RA No. 7659 which took effect 31 December 1993).

3. Sec. 7. Capital offense or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment not
bailable. — No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or
life imprisonment, when evidence of guilt is strong, shall be admitted to bail regardless of the stage of
the criminal prosecution.

4. Santos v. Ofilada, A.M. No. RTJ-94-1217, 16 June 1995, 245 SCRA 56, 61; Baylon v. Sison, A.M.
No. 92-7-360-0, 6 April 1995, 243 SCRA 284, 293; Cardines v. Rosete, A.M. No. MTJ-94-1000, 22 March
1995, 242 SCRA 557, 563; Concerned Citizens v. Elma, A.M. No. RTJ-94-1183, February 1995, 241 SCRA
84, 88; People v. Nitcha, G.R. No. 113517, 19 January 1995, 240 SCRA 283, 294-295; Guillermo v. Reyes,
Jr., A.M. No. RTJ-93-1088, 18 January 1995, 240 SCRA 154, 158-159; Lardizabal v. Reyes, A.M. No. MTJ-
94-897, 5 December 1994, 238 SCRA 640, 642; Borinaga v. Tamin, A.M. No. RTJ-93-936, 10 September
1993, 226 SCRA 206, 213-214.

5. Paderanga v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 115407, 28 August 1995, 247 SCRA 741, 754.

6. Gimeno v. Arcueno, Sr., A.M. No. MTJ-94-981, 29 November 1995, 250 SCRA 376, 378; Baylon v.
Sison, A.M. No. 92-7-360-0, 6 April 1995, 243 SCRA 284, 295.

7. Gimeno v. Arcueno, Sr., A.M. No. MTJ-94-981, 29 November 1995, 250 SCRA 376, 380; Santos v.
Ofilada, A.M. No. RTJ-94-1217, 16 June 1995, 245 SCRA 56, 61; Concerned Citizens v. Elma, A.M. No. RTJ-
94-1183, 6 February 1995, 241 SCRA 84, 88; Aurillo, Jr., v. Francisco, A.M. No. RTJ-93-1097, 12 August
1994, 235 SCRA 283, 288.
8. De los Santos-Reyes v. Montesa, Jr., A.M. No. RTJ-93-983, 7 August 1995, 247 SCRA 85, 95;
Estoya v. Abraham-Singson, A.M. No. RTJ-91-758, 26 September 1994, 237 SCRA 1, 21; Re: Report of the
Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of the Record of Cases in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 43, Roxas,
Mindoro Oriental, A.M. No. 93-9-1249-RTC, 22 September 1994, 236 SCRA 631, 639.

9. Mamolo, Sr. v. Narisma, A.M. No. MTJ-96-1072, 31 January 1996, 252 SCRA 613, 618; Lim v.
Domagas, A.M. No. RTJ-92-899, 15 October 1993, 227 SCRA 258, 263; Libarios v. Dabalos, A.M. No. RTJ-
89-286, 11 July 1991, 199 SCRA 48, 55-56.

10. Uy v. Dizon-Capulong, A.M. No. RTJ-91-766, 7 April 1993, 221 SCRA 87, 95.

11. Department Circular No. 4 issued by Secretary of Justice Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr., which took
effect 1 February 1996.

12. See Note 8.

13. See Note 11, p. 2.

14. Sule v. Biteng, A.M. No. MTJ-95-1018, 18 April 1995, 243 SCRA 524, 528-529; Lardizabal v. Reyes,
A.M. No. MTJ-94-897, 5 December 1994, 238 SCRA 640, 643; People v. Nano, G.R. No. 94639, 13 January
1992, 205 SCRA 155, 160; People v. San Diego, No. L-29676, 24 December 1968, 26 SCRA 522, 524.

15. Rule 2.01. — A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the
integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

16. Libarios v. Dabalos, A.M. No. RTJ-89-286, 11 July 1991, 199 SCRA 49, 55-56.

17. A.M. No. MTJ-93-818, 14 July 1995, 246 SCRA 94.

C o p y r i g h t 1 9 9 4 - 1 9 9 9 C D T e c h n o l o g i e s A s i a, I n c.

G.R. Nos. 124360 & 127867 November 5, 1997

Tatad v. Secretary of the Department of Energy

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 124360. November 5, 1997.]

FRANCISCO S. TATAD, petitioner, vs. THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY AND THE
SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE, respondents.

[G.R. No. 127867. November 5, 1997.]


EDCEL C. LAGMAN, JOKER P. ARROYO, ENRIQUE GARCIA, WIGBERTO TAÑADA, FLAG HUMAN RIGHTS
FOUNDATION, INC., FREEDOM FROM DEBT COALITION (FDC), SANLAKAS, petitioners, vs. HON. RUBEN
TORRES in his capacity as the Executive Secretary, HON. FRANCISCO VIRAY, in his capacity as the
Secretary of Energy, CALTEX Philippines, Inc., PETRON Corporation and PILIPINAS SHELL Corporation,
respondents.

Brillantes, Navarro, Jumamil, Arcilla, Escolin and Martinez Law Office for petitioner in G.R. No. 124360.

Sanidad, Abaya, Cortez, Te Madrid, Viterbo & Tan Law Firm for petitioners in G.R. No. 127867.

Alfonso M. Cruz Law Offices for Enrique Garcia.

SYNOPSIS

Republic Act No. 8180, or the Downstream Oil Industry Regulation Act of 1996, was enacted by Congress
for the purpose of deregulating the downstream oil industry. Its validity was challenged on the following
constitutional grounds: a) that the imposition of different tariff rates on imported crude oil and
imported refined petroleum products violates the equal protection clause; b) the imposition of different
tariff rates does not deregulate the downstream oil industry but instead controls the oil industry; c) the
inclusion of the tariff provision in Section 5(b) of RA 8180 violates the one title-one subject requirement
of the Constitution; d) that Section 15 thereof constitutes undue delegation of legislative power to the
President and the Secretary of Energy and violates the constitutional prohibition against monopolies;
and e) that Executive Order No. 392 implementing R.A. 8180 is arbitrary and unreasonable because it
was enacted due to the alleged depletion of OPSF fund — a condition not found in the law. ECaTDc

This Court has adopted a liberal construction of the one title-one subject rule. A law having a single
general subject indicated in the title may contain any number of provisions, so long as they are not
inconsistent with or foreign to the general subject, and may be considered in furtherance of such
subject by providing for the method and means of carrying out the general subject. Section 5(b)
providing for tariff differential is germane to the subject of R.A. No. 8180 which is the deregulation of
the downstream oil industry.

Section 15 can hurdle both completeness test and the sufficient standard test. Full deregulation at the
end of March 1997 is mandatory and the Executive has no discretion to postpone it for any purported
reason. Thus, the law is complete on the question of the final date of full deregulation.

Section 15 of R.A. No. 8180 did not mention the depletion of the OPSF fund as basis of deregulation,
thus said extraneous factor constitutes a misapplication of R.A. No. 8180.

The 4% tariff differential and the inventory requirement are significant barriers which discourage new
players to enter the market. As the dominant players, Petron, Shell and Caltex boast of existing
refineries of various capacities and easily comply with the inventory requirement as against prospective
new players.
The offending provisions of R.A. No. 8180 so permeate its essence that the entire law has to be struck
down. R.A. No. 8180 with its anti-competition provisions cannot be allowed by this Court to stand even
while Congress is working to remedy its defects. TIAEac

SYLLABUS

1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; JUDICIARY; JUDICIAL POWER, CONSTRUED. — Judicial power includes


not only the duty of the courts to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally
demandable and enforceable, but also the duty to determine whether or not there has been grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or
instrumentality of the government. The courts, as guardians of the Constitution, have the inherent
authority to determine whether a statute enacted by the legislature transcends the limit imposed by the
fundamental law. Where a statute violates the Constitution, it is not only the right but the duty of the
judiciary to declare such act as unconstitutional and void. EcSCHD

2. ID.; ID.; ISSUES ASSAILING THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF R.A. 8180, JUSTICIABLE. — Even a
sideglance at the petitions will reveal that petitioners have raised constitutional issues which deserve
the resolution of this Court in view of their seriousness and their value as precedents. Our statement of
facts and definition of issues clearly show that petitioners are assailing R.A. No. 8180 because its
provisions infringe the Constitution and not because the law lacks wisdom. The principle of separation
of power mandates that challenges on the constitutionality of a law should be resolved in our courts of
justice while doubts on the wisdom of a law should be debated in the halls of Congress. Every now and
then, a law may be denounced in court both as bereft of wisdom and constitutionally infirmed. Such
denunciation will not deny this Court of its jurisdiction to resolve the constitutionality of the said law
while prudentially refusing to pass on its wisdom.

3. REMEDIAL LAW; ACTIONS; PARTIES; TECHNICALITIES SUCH AS PERSONALITY, STANDING OR


INTEREST, ARE BRUSHED ASIDE WHERE ISSUES ARE OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE. — The effort of
respondents to question the locus standi of petitioners must also fall on barren ground. In language too
lucid to be misunderstood, this Court has brightlined its liberal stance on a petitioner's locus standi
where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of transcendental significance to the people. In Kapatiran
ng mga Naglilingkod sa Pamahalaan ng Pilipinas, Inc. v. Tan, we stressed: ". . . Objections to taxpayers'
suit for lack of sufficient personality, standing or interest are, however, in the main procedural matters.
Considering the importance to the public of the cases at bar, and in keeping with the Court's duty, under
the 1987 Constitution, to determine whether or not the other branches of government have kept
themselves within the limits of the Constitution and the laws and that they have not abused the
discretion given to them, the Court has brushed aside technicalities of procedure and has taken
cognizance of these petitions." There is not a dot of disagreement between the petitioners and the
respondents on the far reaching importance of the validity of RA No. 8180 deregulating our downstream
oil industry. Thus, there is no good sense in being hypertechnical on the standing of petitioners for they
pose issues which are significant to our people and which deserve our forthright resolution.
4. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; CONGRESS; ONE TITLE-ONE SUBJECT RULE; LITERALLY CONSTRUED. —
As a policy, this Court has adopted a liberal construction of the one title-one subject rule. We have
consistently ruled that the title need not mirror, fully index or catalogue all contents and minute details
of a law. A law having a single general subject indicated in the title may contain any number of
provisions, no matter how diverse they may be, so long as they are not inconsistent with or foreign to
the general subject, and may be considered in furtherance of such subject by providing for the method
and means of carrying out the general subject.

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; SECTION 5(B) PROVIDING FOR TARIFF DIFFERENTIAL, GERMANE TO DEREGULATION
OF DOWNSTREAM OIL INDUSTRY. — We hold that Section 5(b) providing for tariff differential is
germane to the subject of R.A. No. 8180 which is the deregulation of the downstream oil industry. The
section is supposed to sway prospective investors to put up refineries in our country and make them
rely less on imported petroleum.

6. ID.; ID.; POWER TO DELEGATE EXECUTION OF LAWS; TESTS. — The power of Congress to
delegate the execution of laws has long been settled by this Court. As early as 1916 in Compania General
de Tabacos de Filipinas vs. The Board of Public Utility Commissioners, this Court, thru Mr. Justice
Moreland, held that "the true distinction is between the delegation of power to make the law, which
necessarily involves a discretion as to what it shall be, and conferring authority or discretion as to its
execution, to be exercised under and in pursuance of the law. The first cannot be done; to the latter no
valid objection can be made." Over the years, as the legal engineering of men's relationship became
more difficult, Congress has to rely more on the practice of delegating the execution of laws to the
executive and other administrative agencies. Two tests have been developed to determine whether the
delegation of the power to execute laws does not involve the abdication of the power to make law itself.
We delineated the metes and bounds of these tests in Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. vs. POEA, thus: "There
are two accepted tests to determine whether or not there is a valid delegation of legislative power, viz.:
the completeness test and the sufficient standard test. Under the first test, the law must be complete in
all its terms and conditions when it leaves the legislative such that when it reaches the delegate the only
thing he will have to do is to enforce it. Under the sufficient standard test, there must be adequate
guidelines or limitations in the law to map out the boundaries of the delegate's authority and prevent
the delegation from running riot. Both tests are intended to prevent a total transference of legislative
authority to the delegate, who is not allowed to step into the shoes of the legislature and exercise a
power essentially legislative." caAICE

7. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; EVEN IF THE LAW DOES NOT EXPRESSLY PINPOINT THE STANDARD, COURTS
WILL BEND BACKWARD TO LOCATE THE SAME ELSEWHERE. — The validity of delegating legislative
power is now a quiet area in our constitutional landscape. As sagely observed, delegation of legislative
power has become an inevitability in light of the increasing complexity of the task of government. Thus,
courts bend as far back as possible to sustain the constitutionality of laws which are assailed as unduly
delegating legislative powers. Citing Hirabayashi v. United States as authority, Mr. Justice Isagani A. Cruz
states "that even if the law does not expressly pinpoint the standard, the courts will bend over backward
to locate the same elsewhere in order to spare the statute, if it can, from constitutional infirmity."
8. ID.; ID.;. SECTION 15 OF R.A. 8180, NOT UNDUE DELEGATION OF POWER. — Given the groove of
the Court's rulings, the attempt of petitioners to strike down Section 15 on the ground of undue
delegation of legislative power cannot prosper. Section 15 can hurdle both the completeness test and
the sufficient standard test. It will be noted that Congress expressly provided in R.A. No. 8180 that full
deregulation will start at the end of March 1997, regardless of the occurrence of any event. Full
deregulation at the end of March 1997 is mandatory and the Executive has no discretion to postpone it
for any purported reason. Thus, the law is complete on the question of the final date of full
deregulation. The discretion given to the President is to advance the date of full deregulation before the
end of March 1997. Section 15 lays down the standard to guide the judgment of the President — he is to
time it as far as practicable when the prices of crude oil and petroleum products in the world market are
declining and when the exchange rate of the peso in relation to the US dollar is stable. Petitioners
contend that the words "as far as practicable," "declining" and "stable" should have been defined in R.A.
No. 8180 as they do not set determinate or determinable standards. The stubborn submission deserves
scant consideration. The dictionary meanings of these words are well settled and cannot confuse men of
reasonable intelligence. Webster defines "practicable" as meaning possible to practice or perform,
"decline" as meaning to take a downward direction, and "stable" as meaning firmly established. The fear
of petitioners that these words will result in the exercise of executive discretion that will run riot is thus
groundless. To be sure, the Court has sustained the validity of similar, if not more general standards in
other cases.

9. ID.; ID.; DELEGATION OF POWER; EXECUTIVE IS BEREFT OF ANY RIGHT TO ALTER THE STANDARD
SET IN R.A. 8180 BY CONSIDERING THE DEPLETION OF OIL PRICE STABILIZATION FUND (OPSF) AS A
FACTOR IN FULLY DEREGULATING THE DOWNSTREAM OIL INDUSTRY IN FEBRUARY 1997. — The
Executive department failed to follow faithfully the standards set by R.A. No. 8180 when it considered
the extraneous factor of depletion of the OPSF fund. The misappreciation of this extra factor cannot be
justified on the ground that the Executive department considered anyway the stability of the prices of
crude oil in the world market and the stability of the exchange rate of the peso to the dollar. By
considering another factor to hasten full deregulation, the Executive department rewrote the standards
set forth in R.A. 8180. The Executive is bereft of any right to alter either by subtraction or addition the
standards set in R.A. No. 8180 for it