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Jurisprudence on Legal and Judicial Ethics

February
2013

Cases in point (digest)


1. Panes, et. al. v. Judge Dinopol, RTC Koronadal City
2. Re: Request of (Ret.) CJ Panganiban for Recomputation of his Creditable Service for the Purpose of
Recomputing his Retirement Benefits
3. Manlapaz v. Judge Sabillo, MCTC Lamitan, Basilan
4. Atty. Fortun v. Atty. Quinsayas, et. al.
5. Agbulos v. Atty. Viray
6. Fernandez, et. al. v. CA Associate Justices Bato, Dicdican, and Peralta
7. Anonymous v. Judge Achas, MTCC Ozamiz City
8. Re: Missing Exhibits and Court Properties in RTC, Branch 4, Panabo City, Davao del Norte
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Panes, et.al. v. Judge Dinopol


February 12, 2013
(Gross Ignorance of the Law; Judge's Immunity from Civil Liability; Mandatory Inhibition)
Facts: This is a consolidation of six (6) administrative cases against Judge Oscar Dinopol of RTC, Branch
24, Koronadal City.
On November 16, 2006, then Mayor Fernando Miguel appointed Reyes and Uy to the Board of
Directors (BOD) of the Koronadal Water District (KWD). Their appointments were subsequently
confirmed by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA). These appointments were communicated
by LWUA to Eleanor Gomba, the general manager of KWD. Gomba, however, refused to recognize the
new BOD, prompting LWUA to replace her and to appoint Rey Vargas as officer-in-charge of KWD. On
February 14, 2007, Gomba transferred her office to Arellano St., Kidapawan City. She then filed a
Complaint against Vargas for injunction and damages with application for the exparte issuance of a
temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction.
A 72-hour TRO was out rightly issued. The case was thereafter raffled to Judge Dinopol. On
February 23, 2007, Dinopol issued an order for a writ of preliminary injunction against Vargas enjoining
him from acting as officer-in-charge of KWD. However, the order was ignored by the respondents (herein
complainants). This led the subsequent issuances of Judge Dinopol of various assailed orders which are
the basis of the present administrative cases:
1. March 24, 2007 Order, issued on a Saturday, at 8:15 p.m., ordering defendants to obey the
February 23, 2007 order, and directing LWUA officers and personnel to explain within twelve
(12) hours why they should not be cited in contempt of Court for violating the aforesaid Order;
2. Order on the same date, at 9:15 p.m., ordering the arrest of Panes as security guard and all
persons inside KWD Del Pilar office for resisting the implementation of the earlier Order;
3. April 13, 2007 Order, directing police forces to augment two PNP teams at the KWD Arellano
office; ordering the LWUA personnel, Mayor Miguel and those giving them aid and comfort to
desist and refrain from forcibly, and without court order, taking over the operation and
management of the KWD Arellano office; and directing the PNP to arrest and detain the mayor
and all his allies in the event of their defiance of the Order; and

Jurisprudence on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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2013

4. Order on the same date, directing LWUA officers and personnel to return certain properties to the
KWD Arellano office; otherwise, they would be held guilty of indirect contempt, and their arrest
and detention ordered until compliance thereof.
Two petitions for certiorari followed, assailing the March 24, 2007 twin orders and April 13,
2007 twin orders, respectively, having issued in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess
of discretion. CA granted the consolidated petitions, declaring all orders null and void on the following
grounds: (1) absence of a notice of hearing; (2) lack of jurisdiction; and (3) lack of due process. The
present administrative cases ensued afterwards.
Issues:
1. Whether or not the issuances by Judge Dinopol of the twin orders constitute gross ignorance of
the law;
2. Whether or not Judge Dinopol is civilly liable for the personal damages suffered by complainants;
and
3. Whether or not Judge Dinopol should have inhibited himself from a case to which one of the
parties was his wifes nephew.
Held: YES, as to issues (1) and (3); NO as to issue (2).
1. The issuance of the Orders was in total disregard of the Rules of Court and with grave
abuse of authority. Undoubtedly, respondent Judge is guilty of gross ignorance of the law.
Respondent Judge failed to provide any legitimate reason for the issuance of the Orders. His
defenses neither justify his failure to comply with due process requirements nor do they demonstrate good
faith on his part that would exculpate him from administrative liability. Respondent violated the most
basic requirements for the proper observance of due process, resulting in the unwarranted arrest and
incarceration of powerless individuals. When respondent issued the first March 24, 2007 Order, he was
obviously aware that there is a need to give the parties involved the opportunity to be heard before he
cited them for contempt. The arrest of Panes, et.al. were clear disregard of their constitutional right and
procedural rules since none of them was a party to the Civil Case.
To be held administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law, the acts complained of must
not only be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence, but must have also been motivated by bad faith,
fraud, dishonesty, and corruption. Gross ignorance of the law is considered as a serious offense under
Rule 140, Section 8 of the Rules of Court.
2. Respondent Judge is however not civilly liable for the personal damages.
In civil actions for damages, judges of superior and general jurisdiction are not liable to answer
for what they do in the exercise of their judicial functions, provided they are acting within their legal
powers and jurisdiction. For it is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration
of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own
convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.

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2013

The doctrine of immunity of judicial officers from civil liability in certain cases should not be
concluded without expressly directing attention to the fact that nothing therein is to be understood as
giving to them the power to act with partiality, or maliciously, or corruptly, or arbitrarily, or oppressively
without fear that they may be called to account for such conduct. No judge, however high his rank may
be, is above or beyond the law which it is his high office to administer.
3. Respondent Judge should have inhibited himself from taking cognizance of the two other
cases involving the leadership and management of KWD.
One of the plaintiffs (Cabel) in the Civil Case is the nephew of the wife of respondent Judge. One
of the instances of mandatory inhibition under Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules of Court is when the
Judge is related to either party within the sixth degree of consanguinity or affinity. Considering that Cabel
is a relative by affinity within the sixth degree, respondent Judge should have inhibited himself from
taking cognizance of the case.
In view of the foregoing, Judge Dinopol is hereby found guilty of gross ignorance of the law. His
offense would have warranted his dismissal from the service with forfeiture of all benefits except leave
credits, if any and disqualification from holding office in the government, including GOCC, had he not
already been previously dismissed in Sy v. Judge Dinopol (January 18, 2011).

Re: Request of (Ret.) CJ Panganiban for Recomputation of his Creditable Service for the
Purpose of Recomputing his Retirement Benefits
A.M. No. 10-9-15-SC. February 12, 2013
(Liberal Treatment upon Retirement Claims of Judges and Justices)
Facts: When CJ Panganiban reached the compulsory age of retirement on December 7, 2006, he was
credited with eleven (11) years, one (1) month and twenty-seven (27) days of government service. The
Office of Administrative Services (OAS) did not include in the computation his 4-year service as Legal
Counsel to the DepEd and its then Secretary Roces, and as Consultant to the Bureau of National
Education (BNE) in a concurrent capacity, from January 1962 to December 1965, on the ground that
consultancy "is not considered government service pursuant to the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V
of E.O. 292." Having failed to meet the twenty (20) years length of service then required under R.A.
910, the OAS considered him eligible to receive only the 5-year lump sum payment under said law.
On January 10, 2010, then President Macapagal-Arroyo approved R.A. 9946, which reduced the
requisite length of service under R.A. 910 from twenty (20) years to fifteen (15) years to be entitled to the
retirement benefits with lifetime annuity. Thus, this instant letter-request of CJ Panganiban seeking a
recomputation of his creditable government service to include the previously excluded 4-year government
service to enable him to meet the reduced service requirement of fifteen (15) years for entitlement to
retirement benefits under R.A. 9946. To support his request, he submitted the Certifications of Former
Education Secretary Roces and Retired Justice Bernardo P. Pardo attesting to the fact of his tenure as
Legal Counsel to the DepEd and its Secretary and Consultant to the BNE.

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2013

Issue: Whether or not the liberal treatment in passing upon retirement claims of judges and justices
applies to the case of CJ Panganiban.
Held: YES. A careful perusal of the documentary evidence submitted by CJ Panganiban reveal that he
performed actual works and was assigned multifarious tasks necessary and desirable to the main purpose
of the DepEd and the BNE. As certified by Roces and corroborated by Pardo, CJ Panganiban worked with
the OSG on legal matters affecting the Department and the Board, collaborating closely with then
Solicitor Pardo himself who was assigned by the OSG to the DepEd.
Under the old Administrative Code (Act No. 2657), a government "officer" refers to officials
whose duties involve the exercise of discretion in the performance of the functions of
government, whether such duties are precisely defined or not. Clearly, the law, then and now, did not
require a specific job description and job specification. Thus, the absence of a specific position in a
governmental structure is not a hindrance for the Court to give weight to CJ Panganibans government
service as legal counsel and consultant.
In any case, having previously ruled to include as creditable government service the postretirement work of Justice Sarmiento as Special Legal Counsel to the University of the Philippines
System and to credit former CJ Narvasa with the legal counseling work he did for the Agrava FactFinding Board to which he was appointed General Counsel by then President Marcos, the Court sees no
reason not to likewise credit in CJ Panganibans favor the work he had performed as Legal Counsel to the
DepEd and its Secretary, not to mention his concurrent work as consultant to the BNE, and accordingly,
qualify him for entitlement to retirement benefits. It bears emphasis that treatment must be without
preference especially between persons similarly situated or in equal footing.
The Supreme Court has unquestionably followed the practice of liberal treatment in passing upon
retirement claims of judges and justices, thus: (1) waiving the lack of required length of service in cases
of disability or death while in actual service or distinctive service; (2) adding accumulated leave credits to
the actual length of government service in order to qualify one for retirement; (3) tacking post-retirement
service in order to complete the years of government service required; (4) extending the full benefits of
retirement upon compassionate and humanitarian considerations; and (5) considering legal counseling
work for a government body or institution as creditable government service.
In view thereof, the Office of Administrative Services is directed to re-compute former CJ
Panganiban's creditable government service and his corresponding retirement benefits.

Manlapaz v. Judge Sabillo


A.M. No. MTJ-10-1771. February 13, 2013
(Willful Failure to Pay Just Debt a Ground for Disciplinary Action against Judges)
Facts: In an administrative complaint for serious and gross misconduct against Judge Manuel Sabillo of
the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Lamitan, Basilan, complainant Manlapaz alleged that he and Sabillo,
then a practicing lawyer, entered into an agreement whereby the latter has agreed to sell a house and lot

Jurisprudence on Legal and Judicial Ethics

February
2013

for P2,400,000. However, after paying an amount of P920,000, the transaction was discontinued for
unknown reason. Sabillo then promised Manlapaz to return the amount paid.
Despite repeated demands, Sabillo reneged on his undertaking and failed to return the amount.
This prompted Manlapaz to file a complaint for sum of money with damages in the RTC - Valenzuela
City. The RTC ordered Sabillo to refund to Manlapaz the amount of P920,000; to pay him P100,000 as
moral damages, P100,000 as exemplary damages, and P100,000 as attorneys fees; and to pay the costs of
the suit. The decision became final and executory after the dismissal of his appeal.
Almost a year thereafter, none of the amounts were settled as Sabillo continuously refuse to pay
them. There were no available properties which may be levied upon by the Sheriff since Sabillo have
already sold them. In an agreed meeting, only the P100,000 attorney's fees was settled. The continuous
refusal to settle just debt led to the filing of this present administrative complaint against Sabillo, who is
now a Judge.
Issue: Whether or not there was a willful failure to pay just debt, warranting disciplinary action.
Held: YES. Respondent Judge showed insincerities, such as when he offered to settle the indebtedness for
only P400,000, and when he paid only the P100,000 attorneys fees but left the principal amount of
P920,000 unsettled. These actions, taken together, indicate a pattern of willfulness to avoid payment of a
just debt.
The Court has repeatedly stressed that it is not a collection agency for the unpaid debts of its
officials and employees, but has nevertheless provided for Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court that
holds its officials and employees administratively liable in unpaid debt situations. This provision
classifies willful failure to pay a just debt as a serious charge and provides that the same is a ground
for disciplinary action against judges and justices and should find full application in the present case.
While reference to a debt necessarily implies a transaction that is private and outside of official
transactions, the rules do not thereby intrude into public officials private lives; they simply look at their
actions from the prism of public service and consider these acts unbecoming of a public official. These
rules take into account that these are actions of officials who are entrusted with public duties and who,
even in their private capacities, should continually act to reflect their status as public servants. Employees
of the judiciary should be living examples of uprightness not only in the performance of official duties
but also in their personal and private dealings with other people so as preserve at all times the good
name and standing of the courts in the community.
Thus, Judge Sabillo is guilty of willful failure to pay just debt under Section 8, Rule 140 of the
Rules of Court. He is hereby imposed a fine of P40,000. He is further directed to pay his indebtedness to
Manlapaz, within thirty (30) days from notice hereof.

Fortun v. Quinsayas, et.al.


G.R. No. 194578. February 13, 2013
(Confidentiality Rule in Disbarment Proceedings; Exception)

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2013

Facts: Petitioner Atty. Philip Sigfrid Fortun, the lead defense counsel of Ampatuan, Jr. in the prominent
"Maguindanao Massacre Case," filed this present petition for contempt against Atty. Prima Jesusa
Quinsayas, et.al., including media men and broadcasting companies.
Quinsayas, et.al. filed a disbarment case against Fortun for dishonest and deceitful conduct
violative of the Code of Professional Responsibility. They alleged that Fortun is "engaging in activities
misleading the prosecution and the trial court." Pending the disbarment case, Quinsayas was invited to a
show "ANC Presents: Crying for Justice: the Maguindanao Massacre," where he discussed the
disbarment case against Fortun, including its principal points. This tempted Fortun to file this present
petition against him and various media men and companies.
Fortun alleged that Quinsayas, et al. actively disseminated the details of the disbarment complaint
against him in violation of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court on the confidential nature of disbarment
proceedings. Petitioner further alleged that respondent media groups and personalities conspired with
Quinsayas, et al. by publishing the confidential materials on their respective media platforms. He said that
the public circulation of the disbarment complaint against him exposed this Court and its investigators to
outside influence and public interference.
In their comments, respondents, among others, contended that the filing of the disbarment
complaint against petitioner was already the subject of widespread news and already of public knowledge,
and that petitioner is a public figure and the public has a legitimate interest in his doings, affairs, and
character.
Issue: Whether or not respondents violated the confidentiality rule in disbarment proceedings, warranting
a finding of guilt for indirect contempt of court.
Held: Quinsayas violated the confidentiality rule, but the media men and companies are not liable thereto.
The Court recognizes that publications which are privileged for reasons of public policy are
protected by the constitutional guaranty of freedom of speech. As a general rule, disbarment proceedings
are confidential in nature until their final resolution and the final decision of this Court. In this case,
however, the filing of a disbarment complaint against petitioner is itself a matter of public concern
considering that it arose from the Maguindanao Massacre case. The interest of the public is not on
petitioner himself but primarily on his involvement and participation as defense counsel in the case.
Indeed, the allegations in the disbarment complaint relate to petitioners supposed actions involving the
Maguindanao Massacre case. Since petitioner is a public figure or has become a public figure because
he is representing a matter of public concern, and because the event itself that led to the filing of the
disbarment case against petitioner is a matter of public concern, the media has the right to report the
filing of the disbarment case as legitimate news. It would have been different if the disbarment case
against petitioner was about a private matter as the media would then be bound to respect the
confidentiality provision of disbarment proceedings under Section 18, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.
Said provision of the Rules of Court is not a restriction on the freedom of the press. If there is a
legitimate public interest, media is not prohibited from making a fair, true, and accurate news report of a

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2013

disbarment complaint. In the absence of a legitimate public interest in a disbarment complaint, members
of the media must preserve the confidentiality of disbarment proceedings during its pendency.
As to Quinsayas, he is bound by Section 18, Rule 139-B both as a complainant in the disbarment
case against petitioner and as a lawyer. As a lawyer and an officer of the Court, Quinsayas is familiar with
the confidential nature of disbarment proceedings. However, instead of preserving its confidentiality, he
disseminated copies of the disbarment complaint against petitioner to members of the media which act
constitutes contempt of court. The premature disclosure by publication of the filing and pendency of
disbarment proceedings is a violation of the confidentiality rule.
The purpose of the rule is not only to enable this Court to make its investigations free from any
extraneous influence or interference, but also to protect the personal and professional reputation of
attorneys and judges from the baseless charges of disgruntled, vindictive, and irresponsible clients and
litigants. It is also to deter the press from publishing administrative cases or portions thereto without
authority.
In view thereof, the court found Quinsayas liable for indirect contempt of court, with a fine of
P20,000.

Fernandez, et.al. v. CA Associate Justices Bato, Dicdican, and Peralta


A.M. OCA IPI No. 12-201-CA-J. February 19, 2013
(Justice sitting in the place of the original ponente may grant a writ of injunction without a hearing, if so
warranted; Discretionary erroneous order not a ground for administrative complaint)
Facts: Fernandez, et.al. were then members of the Board of Directors of the National Development
Corporation, a domestic corporation engaged in mining operations. A regular stockholder's annual
meeting was held, were two groups of stockholders were vying for control of the company. This meeting
was sought to be annulled by wife and children of one of the controlling stockholders claiming to be
stockholders of record. The RTC declared such meeting as void and of no force and effect. Four separate
petitions for certiorari were forthwith filed in the CA, assailing the validity of the RTC order, all with
application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or a writ of preliminary injunction. The CA 11 th
Division issued a TRO effective only for 60 days, ordering the preceding Board to take over the company
in a hold-over capacity during the effectivity of the TRO. The four petitions were consolidated.
Before another stockholder's annual meeting was convened, the CA 14 th decision granted the writ
of preliminary injunction. The Resolution enjoined the Old Board from acting as a hold-over Board,
thereby contravening the TRO issued by the 11 th Division. It then allowed the New Board to continue to
act as Board of Directors of NADECOR.
The Resolution was penned by Justice Bato, concurred in by Justices Dicdican and Peralta.
Contending that Justice Bato usurped the office of ponente in four (4) consolidated petitions before the

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CA, whose resolution was concurred in by two other Justices, complainants filed this present complaint
charging the Justices with grave misconduct, conduct detrimental to the service, gross ignorance of the
law, gross incompetence, and manifest partiality. Justice Bato was not a regular member of the 14 th
Division, and was merely assigned thereto sitting in the place of the original ponente, Justice Lantion who
was scheduled to take a 15-day wellness leave. It was alleged that Justice Bato acted on unverified
motions to resolve the application for a writ of preliminary injunction, and granted the same, without
conducting a prior hearing, with the connivance of the respondents as regular members of the Division.
Issue: Whether or not the CA Justices granted the writ of preliminary injunction with fraud, dishonesty,
gross ignorance, bad faith or deliberate intent to do an injustice, warranting administrative sanctions.
Held: The complaint is dismissed. The Justices granted the writ discretionally within the bounds of law.
Justice Bato, sitting as acting senior member of the Special 14 th Division of the CA, had authority
to act on the urgent motions to resolve the application for writ of preliminary injunction. Firstly, it must
be stated that the designation of Justice Bato by raffle as acting senior member of the 14th Division,
vice Justice Lantion who went on a 15-day wellness leave from June 1-15, 2012, was valid, transparent
and regular.
The third urgent motion to resolve the application for writ of preliminary injunction was filed on
June 6, 2012, with Justice Bato now sitting as acting member of the 14th Division. On June 8, 2012, a
Friday, the consolidated petitions were forwarded to Justice Bato. Since the meeting of NADECORs
stockholders was scheduled on June 13, 2012, it will readily be seen that there was no time for Justice
Bato to set for hearing the application for writ of preliminary injunction.
A preliminary injunction is not a ponencia but an order granted at any stage of an action prior to
final judgment, requiring a person to refrain from a particular act. Its object is to preserve the status
quo until the merits of the case are passed upon. It is not a cause of action in itself but merely a
provisional remedy, an adjunct to a main suit. On the other hand, ponencia refers to the rendition of a
decision in a case on the merits, which disposes of the main controversy
For even granting that the issuance of the writ was erroneous, as a matter of public policy a
magistrate cannot be held administratively liable for every discretionary but erroneous order he
issues. The settled rule is that "a Judge cannot be held to account civilly, criminally or administratively
for an erroneous decision rendered by him in good faith." Only judicial errors tainted with fraud,
dishonesty, gross ignorance, bad faith or deliberate intent to do an injustice will be administratively
sanctioned. To hold otherwise would be to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try
the facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment.
The remedy of the aggrieved party is not to file an administrative complaint against the judge, but
to elevate the assailed decision or order to the higher court for review and correction. An administrative
complaint is not an appropriate remedy where judicial recourse is still available, such as a motion for
reconsideration, an appeal, or a petition for certiorari, unless the assailed order or decision is tainted with
fraud, malice, or dishonesty. It is also an established rule that an administrative, civil or criminal action
against a judge cannot be a substitute for an appeal.

Jurisprudence on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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2013

Anonymous v. Judge Achas


A.M. No. MTJ-11-1801. February 27, 2013
(Judge's Integrity and Propriety and the Appearance of Propriety; Anonymous Complaints)
Facts: Before the Court is an anonymous letter-complaint alleging immorality and conduct unbecoming
of a judge against Judge Rio C. Achas, Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2,
Ozamiz City. The letter calls on the Court to look into the morality of respondent Judge Achas and alleges
that: (1) it is of public knowledge in the city that Judge Achas is living scandalously with a woman who is
not his wife; (2) he lives beyond his means; (3) he is involved with illegal activities through his
connection with bad elements, the kuratongs; ( 4) he comes to court very untidy and dirty; (5) he decides
his cases unfairly in exchange for material and monetary consideration; and (6) he is involved with
cockfighting/gambling.
The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) referred the case to the Executive Judge of the
Regional Trial Court of Ozamiz City. During the investigation, Judge Achas denied all the charges but
admitted that he was married and only separated de facto from his legal wife for 26 years, and that he
reared game cocks for leisure and extra income, having inherited such from his forefathers. The Executive
Judge found that "it is not commendable, proper or moral per Canons of Judicial Ethics to be perceived as
going out with a woman not his wife," and for him to be involved in rearing game cocks.
In its Memorandum, OCA recommended that Judge Achas be reprimanded as to the charge of
immorality and be ordered to refrain from going to cockpits or avoid such places altogether. The other
charges were recommended to be dismissed for lack of merit.
Issue: Whether or not Judge Achas is engaged in conduct unbecoming of a judge, warranting proper
disciplinary measures.
Held: Considering that his immoral behavior is not a secret around town, it is apparent that respondent
judge has failed to ensure that his conduct is perceived to be above reproach by the reasonable observer,
and has failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety in his activities, to the detriment of the judiciary
as a whole.
The Court agrees with the Executive Judge in finding that it is not commendable, proper or moral
for a judge to be perceived as going out with a woman not his wife. Such is a blemish to his integrity and
propriety, as well as to that of the Judiciary. As to involvement in cockfighting, while rearing fighting
cocks is not illegal, Judge Achas should avoid mingling with a crowd of cockfighting enthusiasts and
bettors as it undoubtedly impairs the respect due him. As a judge, he must impose upon himself personal
restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and
willingly.
Judges in particular must be individuals of competence, honesty and probity, charged as they are
with safeguarding the integrity of the court and its proceedings. He should behave at all times so as to

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promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and avoid impropriety and
the appearance of impropriety in all his activities. His personal behavior outside the court, and not only
while in the performance of his official duties, must be beyond reproach, for he is perceived to be the
personification of law and justice. Thus, any demeaning act of a judge degrades the institution he
represents.
As to the anonymity of the complaint, it should be noted that under Section 1 of Rule 140 of the
Rules of Court, anonymous complaints may be filed against judges, but they must be supported by
public records of indubitable integrity. Here, the burden of proof in administrative proceedings which
usually rests with the complainant must be buttressed by indubitable public records and by what is
sufficiently proven during the investigation.
For violation of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, Judge Achas is reprimanded and fined in the
amount of P5,000.

Re: Missing Exhibits and Court Properties in RTC, Branch 4, Panabo City
A.M. No. 10-2-41-RTC. February 27, 2013
(Administrative Complaint should be filed during Respondent's Incumbency; Proof must overcome
Presumption of Regularity)
Facts: Atty. Jacquelyn Labustro-Garcia, Clerk of Court V of RTC, Panabo City, Davao del Norte,
conducted an inventory and discovered some missing items. In a letter to the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA) which gave rise to this administrative case, Labustro-Garcia asked for advice on the
proper action to take regarding the missing items.
In a memorandum, OCA directed then Presiding Judge Jesus Grageda and Atty. Labustro-Garcia
to investigate the circumstances of the missing exhibits and properties and take necessary measures to
prevent a similar occurrence. In another memorandum, after Judge Grageda have compulsorily retired,
OCA found the latter negligent of his duties for taking lightly the veracity of the reported missing exhibits
and court properties. Accordingly, Judge Grageda, as Presiding Judge, should have initiated an immediate
investigation on the allegations without waiting for a directive from the Court. OCA thus recommended
that he be fined P20,000.
It should be noted that before the retirement of Judge Grageda, a judicial audit was conducted,
and a report was rendered whereby the audit team significantly found/reported no missing or lost exhibits
and/or court property thereat.
Issue: Whether or not Judge Grageda remised his duties as a Presiding Judge, and that he is liable for the
alleged missing exhibits and court properties.
Held: NO. The complaint against Judge Grageda must be dismissed. OCA's memorandum was only
rendered more than two years and seven months after Judge Grageda compulsorily retired. During his
incumbency, Judge Grageda was never given the chance to explain the alleged violation of Supreme

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Court rules, directives and circulars. Up to the present, the OCA has not commenced any formal
investigation or asked Judge Grageda to comment on the matter.
In order for the Court to acquire jurisdiction over an administrative case, the complaint must
be filed during the incumbency of the respondent. Once jurisdiction is acquired, it is not lost by reason
of respondents cessation from office. In the present case, Judge Gragedas compulsory retirement
divested the OCA of its right to institute a new administrative case against him after his compulsory
retirement. The Court can no longer acquire administrative jurisdiction over Judge Grageda by filing a
new administrative case against him after he has ceased to be a public official. The remedy, if necessary,
is to file the appropriate civil or criminal case against Judge Grageda for the alleged transgression.
Moreover, aside from the bare allegation in Atty. Labustro-Garcia's letter that, "The presiding
judge merely told me that I am not liable for those lost items," there is no other proof that Judge Grageda
violated any Supreme Court rule, directive, or circular. In fact, in its memorandum, the OCA found that,
contrary to Atty. Labustro- Garcias allegation, there is actually no missing item. In order to hold Judge
Grageda liable, there must be substantial evidence that he committed an offense. Otherwise, the
presumption is that he regularly performed his duties.
The burden of substantiating the charges in an administrative proceeding against court officials
and employees falls on the complainant, who must be able to prove the allegations in the complaint with
substantial evidence. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the presumption that respondent regularly
performed her duties will prevail. Moreover, in the absence of cogent proof, bare allegations of
misconduct cannot prevail over the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions.
In fact, an administrative complaint leveled against a judge must always be examined with a
discriminating eye, for its consequential effects are, by their nature, highly penal, such that the respondent
stands to face the sanction of dismissal and/or disbarment. The Court does not thus give credence to
charges based on mere suspicion and speculation.

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