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CLASS DIGESTS FOR JUDICIAL ETHICS

UNDUE DELAY IN RENDERING A DECISION OR ORDER


Junio vs. Beltran
A.M. No. RTJ-14-2367
January 13, 2014
Facts : Claire Ann Campos, a 17-year old student, filed an
affidavit-complaint for violation of Child Abuse Law and the
Magna Carta for the Disabled before the Tuguegarao City
Prosecution Office against Sr. Remy Angela Junio and Dr.
Josephine D. Lorica, the President and the Dean of the School
of Health Services, respectively, of St. Paul University of the
Philippines (SPUP). The prosecutors office filed two
informations against Junio and Lorica for violations for the said
laws as per DOJs February 24, 2011 resolution. The cases
were assigned to Judge Marivic A. Cacatian-Beltran of the
RTC, Branch 3, Tuguegarao City, due to the inhibition of
Judge Aquino. Junio and Lorica sought a reconsideration of
the DOJs February 24, 2011 resolution. The RTC found
probable cause to issue warrants of arrest against Junio and
Lorica. Accordingly, it issued the warrants of arrest against
them. Meanwhile, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima granted Junio
and Loricas motion for reconsideration and set aside the
February 24, 2011 resolution. The City Prosecutor, Junio and
Lorica filed a joint motion to withdraw informations in view of
Secretary De Limas August 8, 2011 resolution. Judge
Cacatian-Beltran issued an order stating that "the motion
relative to the resolution of the Department of Justice is
deemed submitted for resolution.

The Administrative Complaint


Junio and Lorica filed an affidavit-complaint against Judge
Cacatian-Beltran for violation of Rules 1.02, 3.01, 3.02, and
3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. They alleged that Judge
Cacatian-Beltran only resolved the joint motion to withdraw
informations after almost four months from the time it was
submitted for resolution. They claimed that four months was
beyond the period prescribed by existing rules for the
resolution of simple motions.
In her comment, Judge Cacatian-Beltran explained that Junio
and Lorica might have conducted a follow-up of the motions to
dismiss at Branch 4 where the records of the criminal cases
had been retained, and that the staff of Branch 4 failed to
inform her of any follow-up by Junio and Lorica and/or by their
counsel. She maintained that she "lost no time in finishing the
draft"4 of her January 6, 2012 order when the joint motion for
resolution was brought to her attention.
Judge Cacatian-Beltran maintained that the RTC was not
bound by the findings of the Secretary of Justice since her
court had already acquired jurisdiction over the case. She
added that she made an independent assessment of the
evidence before denying the motion. She further stated that
she acted promptly on all other incidents in the case.
In its Report and Recommendation dated August 13, 2013, the
OCA recommended that: (1) the administrative complaint
against Judge Cacatian-Beltran be dismissed for being judicial
in nature; and (2) Judge Cacatian-Beltran be admonished to
strictly comply with the reglementary periods to act on pending
motions and other incidents in her court.
The OCA held that errors committed by a judge in the exercise
of his adjudicative functions cannot be corrected through

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administrative proceedings. It explained that the aberrant acts


allegedly committed by Judge Cacatian-Beltran relate to the
exercise of her judicial functions, and added that only judicial
errors tainted with fraud, dishonesty, gross ignorance, bad
faith or deliberate intent to do an injustice should be
administratively sanctioned.
The OCA, nonetheless, ruled that Judge Cacatian-Beltran
should be admonished to be more mindful of the reglementary
periods to resolve pending motions.
Issue: Whether Jude Beltran is administratively liable for the
delay?
Ruling : NO.
Sections 9 and 11, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as
amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, classifies undue delay in
rendering a decision or order as a less serious charge, with
the following administrative sanctions: (a) suspension from
office without salary and other benefits for not less than one
(1) nor more than three (3) months; or (b) a fine of more
than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00.
However, the records are bereft of any evidence showing that
there had been undue delay (as shown by the records), any
attendant bad faith, any intent to prejudice a party to the case,
or some other ulterior ends. The OCA, in fact, pointedly ruled
that the inaction was not attended with malice: Judge
Cacatian-Beltran resolved the joint motion to withdraw
informations two (2) days after she learned of its existence on
January 4, 2012.
To our mind, these circumstances are sufficient to mitigate the
liability of Judge Cacatian-Beltran and keep us from imposing
a fine or suspension from office. Accordingly, we find sufficient

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and warranted the OCAs recommended penalty of


admonition.
MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT JUDGES CANNOT NOTARIZE
AFFIDAVITS OF COHABITATION OF PARTIES WHOSE
MARRIAGE THEY WILL SOLEMNIZE.
A.M. No. MTJ-14-1842
February 24, 2014
[Formerly OCA IPI No. 12-2491-MTJ]
REX M. TUPAL, Complainant, vs. JUDGE REMEGIO V.
ROJO, Branch 5, Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC),
Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Respondent.
FACTS: Rex M. Tupal filed with the Office of the Court
Administrator a complaint against Judge Remegio V. Rojo for
violating the Code of Judicial Conduct and for gross ignorance
of the law. Judge Rojo allegedly solemnized marriages without
the required marriage license. He instead notarized affidavits of
cohabitation and issued them to the contracting parties. He
notarized these affidavits on the day of the parties
marriage. These "package marriages" are allegedly common in
Bacolod City.
Circular No. 1-90 allows municipal trial court judges to act as
notaries public ex officio and notarize documents only if
connected with their official functions and duties. Rex argues
that affidavits of cohabitation are not connected with a judges
official functions and duties as solemnizing officer. Thus, Judge
Rojo cannot notarize ex officio affidavits of cohabitation of
parties whose marriage he solemnized. Also, Judge Rojo
allegedly violated the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice since he
notarized affidavits of cohabitation without affixing his judicial
seal on the affidavits. He also did not require the parties to

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present their competent pieces of evidence of identity as


required by law.
Judge Rojo argued that Rex was only harassing him. He did not
deny notarizing the affidavits of cohabitation and argued that
such was connected with his official functions and duties as a
judge.The Guidelines on the Solemnization of Marriage by the
Members of the Judiciary does not prohibit judges from
notarizing affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose marriage
they will solemnize.Thus, Judge Rojo did not violate Circular
No. 1-90. Also, he argued that he did not violate the 2004 Rules
on Notarial Practice. He is a judge, not a notary public. Thus, he
was not required to affix a notarial seal on the affidavits he
notarized. And that he need not notarize the affidavits with the
parties presenting their competent pieces of evidence of
identity. Since he interviewed the parties as to the contents of
their affidavits, he personally knew them to be the same
persons who executed the affidavit.The parties identities are
"unquestionable." Moreover, he alleged that other judges in
Bacolod City and Talisay City also notarized affidavits of
cohabitation of parties whose marriage they solemnized.He
pleaded "not to make him [complainant Tupals] doormat,
punching bag and chopping block" since other judges also
notarized affidavits of cohabitation
ISSUE: Whether Judge Rojo is guilty of violating the New Code
of Judicial Conduct and of gross ignorance of the law?
HELD: YES. This court finds Judge Rojo guilty of violating the
New Code of Judicial Conduct and of gross ignorance of the
law. Judge Rojo violated Circular No. 1-90 and the 2004 Rules
on Notarial Practice.

notaries public ex officio, undertake the preparation and


acknowledgment of private documents, contracts and other acts
of conveyances which bear no direct relation to the performance
of their functions as judges. The 1989 Code of Judicial Conduct
not only enjoins judges to regulate their extra-judicial activities
in order to minimize the risk of conflict with their judicial duties,
but also prohibits them from engaging in the private practice of
law (Canon 5 and Rule 5.07).They may also act as notaries
public ex officio only if lawyers or notaries public are lacking in
their courts territorial jurisdiction
Judge Rojo notarized affidavits of cohabitation, which were
documents not connected with the exercise of his official
functions and duties as solemnizing officer. He also notarized
affidavits of cohabitation without certifying that lawyers or
notaries public were lacking in his courts territorial jurisdiction.
Thus, Judge Rojo violated Circular No. 1-90.
Based on law and the Guidelines on the Solemnization of
Marriage by the Members of the Judiciary, the person who
notarizes the contracting parties affidavit of cohabitation cannot
be the judge who will solemnize the parties marriage.That other
judges have notarized affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose
marriages they solemnized does not make the practice legal.
Violations of laws are not excused by practice to the contrary.
This court does not condone violations of law. Judges have
been dismissed from the service for gross ignorance of the law.
However, Judge Rojo may have been misled by other judges
practice of notarizing affidavits of cohabitation in Bacolod City
and Talisay City. Thus, this court finds suspension from office
without salary and other benefits for six (6) months sufficient
sanction.

MTC and MCTC judges may act as notaries public ex officio in


the notarization of documents connected only with the exercise
of their official functions and duties x x x. They may not, as

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ERRORS IN JUDGEMENT; JUDGES SHALL AVOID


IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN
ALL THE ACTIVITIES OF A JUDGE.
A.M. No. RTJ-14-2376 [Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 11-3625-RTJ],
March 05, 2014
MA. LIZA M. JORDA, CITY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE,
TACLOBAN CITY, Complainant, v. JUDGE CRISOLOGO S.
BITAS, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 7, TACLOBAN
CITY, RESPONDENT.
[A.M. NO. RTJ-14-2377 [FORMERLY OCA I.P.I. NO. 11-3645RTJ]]
PROSECUTOR LEO C. TABAO, Complainant, v. JUDGE
CRISOLOGO S. BITAS, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH
7, TACLOBAN CITY, Respondent.

City Prosecutor Leo C. Tabao, Tacloban City v. Judge


Crisologo S. Bitas, RTC, Branch 7, Tacloban City
The complaint stemmed from Criminal Case Nos. 2009-11-537;
2009-11-538 and 2009-11-5394 for Qualified Trafficking and
Violation of Article VI, Section 10 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7610,
which were filed against Danilo Miralles (Miralles), et al. before the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Tacloban City where respondent
Judge Bitas presides.
Complainant lamented that respondent judge disregarded his
duties and violated mandatory provisions of the Rules of Court
when he did not issue a warrant of arrest against the accused
Miralles, who was charged with two (2) non-bailable criminal
offenses. As early as November 19, 2009, criminal complaints
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against Miralles for Qualified Trafficking were already filed, yet


respondent judge never issued a warrant of arrest for Miralles
despite accuseds presence during the court hearings.
Moreover, respondent judge granted a reduced bail of P40,000.00
for accused Miralles for each of the three (3) cases even without
any petition for the fixing of bail. In fact, complainant reiterated
that even after respondent judge found probable cause to hold
accused Miralles for trial, he did not order the arrest of the
accused. Instead, respondent judge summarily granted a reduced
bail in the absence of a motion to fix bail and the prosecution was
not given the opportunity to interpose its objections. Complainant
claimed that such acts of respondent judge were evident of his
bias towards accused Miralles.
Subsequently, on February 4, 2011, Sheriff Jose Cabcabin of the
Office of the RTC Clerk of Court issued a certification that Miralles
surrendered to him to avail of his right to bail. The cash bail bond
in the amount of P120,000.00 was approved by respondent judge
on the same day.
In his Answer, respondent judge reasoned that it was wrong to
arrest Miralles, because the court was still in the process of
determining whether there is sufficient evidence to hold the
accused for trial. He explained that Miralles had always made
himself available during the hearings for the determination of
probable cause; thus, the court already acquired jurisdiction over
the person of the accused.
After the hearing for the determination of probable cause, the
court ruled that there is no strong evidence presented by the
prosecution. On February 4, 2011, accused Danilo Miralles
surrendered to Sheriff Jose Cabcabin and posted P40,000.00 bail
for each of the three (3) cases, or a total of P120,000.00.

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Respondent judge claimed that there was no more need for a


petition for bail, because in the judicial determination of probable
cause the court found that the evidence against accused was
weak.5

subsequent hearings of the case, complainant opted to transfer to


another court, pursuant to an office order issued by City
Prosecutor Ruperto Golong.
The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) directed respondent
judge to comment on the complaint against him. 11

Ma. Liza M. Jorda, Associate City Prosecutor, Tacloban City


v. Judge Crisologo S. Bitas, RTC, Branch 7, Tacloban City
This complaint, borne from the same criminal cases, has
substantially the same facts involving accused Danilo Miralles
referred to in A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 11-3645-RTJ.
Complainant, Prosecutor Liza M. Jorda, Associate City
Prosecutor, alleged that during the hearing on the Petition for
Involuntary Commitment of the minor victim Margie Baldoza, to
the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD),
respondent judge propounded a series of questions which
appeared to mitigate Miralles role in the crime charged.
Complainant pointed out that respondent judges line of questions
went beyond judicial authority and discretion. Upon investigation,
complainant claimed to have discovered that the family members
of respondent judge are close associates of Miralles.
Prompted by said events, complainant filed a motion for inhibition
against respondent judge. Respondent judge denied the
motion. During the hearing on December 15, 2009, complainant
alleged that respondent judge publicly humiliated her and
exhibited his anger and animosity towards her for filing the motion
for inhibition.7 Complainant added that when she was supposed
to conduct the cross-examination, respondent judge stated off-therecord: I dont want you to participate anymore, and refused to
allow her to do the cross-examination. Due to the continued
hostility of respondent judge towards complainant during the

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In his Answer and Comment12, respondent judge denied the


allegations in the complaint and contended that complainant was
piqued when he blamed her for making baseless
assumptions. He claimed that complainant was incompetent as
showed by the lack of evidence against Miralles.
Respondent judge further averred that, contrary to complainants
allegation that it was her option to transfer to another court, it was
he who caused her transfer. He accused complainant of lacking
in knowledge of the law and that she appeared for politicians and
not for the Republic of the Philippines.
Regarding complainants accusation that he was close to the
Miralleses, respondent judge explained that it was his sister who
was a classmate of one Nora Miralles. Respondent judge also
admitted that he indeed stopped complainant from conducting a
cross-examination on the witness during the hearing for
involuntary commitment, because the lawyer for petitioner DSWD
should be the one actively participating in the case, and not the
prosecutors. He, however, added that the court had already
ordered that minor Margie Baldoza be committed to the DSWD
Home for Girls pending resolution of the criminal cases.
As to the other allegations in the Complaint, respondent judge
commented that these were mere rehash of the complaint filed in
A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 11-3645-RTJ .

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RULING
We adopt the findings of the Investigating Justice, except as to the
recommended penalty.
As a matter of public policy, not every error or mistake of a judge
in the performance of his official duties renders him liable. In the
absence of fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a judge in
his official capacity do not always constitute misconduct although
the same acts may be erroneous. True, a judge may not be
disciplined for error of judgment, absent proof that such error was
made with a conscious and deliberate intent to cause an injustice.
This does not mean, however, that a judge need not observe
propriety, discreetness and due care in the performance of his
official functions.
Here, what is appalling is not only did respondent judge deviate
from the requirement of a hearing where there is an application for
bail, respondent judge granted bail to Miralles without neither
conducting a hearing nor a motion for application for bail.
Respondent judges justification that he granted bail, because he
found the evidence of the prosecution weak, cannot be sustained
because the records show that no such hearing for that purpose
transpired. What the records show is a hearing to determine the
existence of probable cause, not a hearing for a petition for bail.
The hearing for bail is different from the determination of the
existence of probable cause. Clearly, in the instant case,
respondent judges act of fixing the accuseds bail and reducing
the same motu proprio is not mere deficiency in prudence,
discretion and judgment on the part of respondent judge, but a
patent disregard of well-known rules. When an error is so gross
and patent, such error produces an inference of bad faith,
making the judge liable for gross ignorance of the law.22

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Likewise, we are convinced that respondent judges actuations in


the court premises during the hearing of the petition for
commitment to the DSWD constitute abuse of authority and
manifest partiality to the accused. Respondent Bitas use of
abusive and insulting words, tending to project complainants
ignorance of the laws and procedure, prompted by his belief that
the latter mishandled the cause of his client is obviously and
clearly insensitive, distasteful, and inexcusable. Complainants,
likewise, cannot be blamed for being suspicious of respondents
bias to the accused considering that the former can be associated
with the accused following his admission that his sister was a
classmate of one Nora Miralles.
In pending or prospective litigations before them, judges should be
scrupulously careful to avoid anything that may tend to awaken
the suspicion that their personal, social or sundry relations could
influence their objectivity. The use of intemperate language is
included in the proscription provided by Section 1, Canon 4 of
the New Code of Judicial Conduct, thus: Judges shall avoid
impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the
activities of a judge. It bears stressing that as a dispenser of
justice, respondent should exercise judicial temperament at all
times, avoiding vulgar and insulting language. He must maintain
composure and equanimity.
This is not the first time that respondent judge was found guilty of
the offense charged. In the case of Valmores-Salinas v. Judge
Crisologo Bitas,26 the Court had previously imposed a fine of
P10,000.00 on respondent judge for disregarding the basic
procedural requirements in instituting an indirect contempt charge,
with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act
shall be dealt with more severely.

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The provisions of the Revised Penal Code in bail are so clear and
unmistakable that there can be no room for doubt or even
interpretation. There can, therefore, be no excuse for respondent
judges error of law. It hardly speaks well of the legal background
of respondent judge, considering his length of service when he
failed to observe procedural requirements before granting bail. To
top it all, the actuations of respondent judge towards the
complainants, as shown by his use of abusive and insulting words
against complainants in open court, and his correspondence with
the Court, are evident of his partiality to the accused. All these
taken into consideration, respondent judge deserves a penalty of
suspension of three (3) months and one (1) day for the two (2)
cases, instead of P20,000.00 fine for each of the cases, as
recommended by the Investigating Justice.
WHEREFORE, respondent JUDGE CRISOLOGO BITAS,
Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Tacloban
City, is hereby SUSPENDED from service for a period
of THREE (3) MONTHSand ONE (1) DAY without pay,
and WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense will
warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.

INORDINATE DELAY IN THE DISPOSITION OF THE PENDING


INCIDENTS RELATING TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE
WRIT OF EXECUTION OF THE SUBJECT DECISION

Facts: Complainants Sps Marcelo were plaintiffs in an unlawful


detainer case against Sps Magopoy. By virtue of a decision by the
MeTC. Sps Magopoy were ordered to vacate and surrender the
property to the complainants. Sps Marcelo were able to gain
possession of the subject land but the Sps Magopoy were able to
successfully re-enter the property and regained its possession.
Complainant Marcelo moved to cite Magopoy in contempt for
disobedience to lawful processes. However, the RTC did not cite
them in contempt but rather ordered them to surrender the
property to the Marcelos within 10 days from the receipt of the
order.

Sps. Marcelo filed an Ex-Parte Constancia in view of the


continued refusal of Sps. Magopoy to surrender the subject
property. This prompted Judge Pichay to issue an Order giving
Sheriff Epres 3 days within which to effect Sps. Magopoys
eviction from the subject property. Consequently, Sps. Magopoy
filed a motion for reconsideration which was opposed by Sps.
Marcelo.
With respect to the Supplemental Motion and Reply, and in the
interest of justice, the Court directs Sps. Marcelo to file their
Comment and/or Opposition to said Supplemental Motion and
Reply within five (5) days from receipt of this Order with copy
furnished the Sps. Magopoy. The latter is given three (3) days
from the Comment and/or Opposition within which to file their
Reply if necessary.

Marcelo vs Pichay | March 12, 2004


AM No. MTJ-13-1838 | Perlas-Bernabe, J.:

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Despite the directive of the court a quo, Sps. Marcelo failed to file
their comment and/or opposition. Nonetheless, Judge Pichay, set
Sps. Magopoys previous motion for reconsideration as well as
their supplemental motion for hearing.

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Disconcerted with Judge Pichays continuous inaction, Sps.


Marcelo filed an administrative complaint before the Office of the
Court Administrator, charging him and Sheriff Epres with
inordinate delay in the disposition of the pending incidents relating
to the implementation of the writ of execution of the subject
decision.

Separately, however, the OCA did not recommend that Sheriff


Epres be held administratively liable, considering the dearth of
evidence showing that the delay in the implementation of the
subject writ of execution was attributable to him or that he acted
with bad faith or any corrupt motive.

Issue:
In his Comment Judge Pichay attributed the delay to the new
arguments raised in Sps. Magopoys supplemental motion. In
particular, he considered the denial of the sales application of Sps.
Marcelo over the subject property, as brought to his attention by
Sps. Magopoy, as a supervening event that may materially
change the situation of the parties and, thus, render the execution
of the subject decision inequitable. Therefore, in the interest of
justice and equity, he scheduled the supplemental motion for
hearing in order to be better apprised of the situation of the
parties. Unfortunately, the hearing dates therefor were further
reset due to the requests of Sps. Marcelo, and because he went
on sick leave from June 8 to 29, 2010.

OCA - recommended that Judge Pichay be held administratively


liable for undue delay in the resolution of the pending incidents
relative to the execution of the subject decision, and that a fine in
the amount of 10,000.00 be imposed for the infraction.

- found that Judge Pichay entertained dilatory machinations that


resulted in the delay in the implementation of the writ of
execution issued as early as in 2006 for the eviction of Sps.
Magopoy from the subject property.

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Whether or not Judge Pichay should be held administratively


liable for undue delay in the resolution of the pending incidents.

Held:
YES. The Constitution requires our courts to conscientiously
observe the time periods in deciding cases and resolving matters
brought to their adjudication, which, for lower courts, is three (3)
months from the date they are deemed submitted for decision or
resolution. Section 15, Article VIII of the 1987 Philippine
Constitution (1987 Constitution) states this rule, viz.:
Section 15. (1) All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this
Constitution must be decided or resolved within twenty-four
months from date of submission for the Supreme Court, and,
unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all lower
collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower courts.
In consonance with the foregoing, Section 5, Canon 6 of the New
Code of Judicial Conduct For the Philippine Judiciary states that:
Sec. 5. Judges shall perform all judicial duties, including the
delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently fairly and with
reasonable promptness.

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In furtherance of the foregoing mandate, the Court issued


Administrative Circular No. 13-87, which states:
The reorganized judiciary is tasked with the tremendous
responsibility of assisting parties litigants in obtaining just, speedy
and inexpensive determination of their cases and proceedings as
directed in Rule 1, Section 2 of the Rules of Court.38 Delay is a
recurring complaint of every litigant. The main objective of every
judge, particularly trial judges, should be to avoid delays, or if it
cannot be totally avoided, to hold them to the minimum and to
repudiate manifestly dilatory tactics.

An inexcusable failure to decide a case within the prescribed 90day period constitutes gross inefficiency, warranting the imposition
of administrative sanctions such as suspension from office without
pay or fine on the defaulting judge. The fines imposed vary in
each case, depending chiefly on the number of cases not decided
within the reglementary period and other factors, such as the
presence of aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the damage
suffered by the parties as a result of the delay, the health and age
of the judge, and other analogous circumstances.
As correctly observed by the OCA in this case, Judge Pichay
failed to resolve the subject motions, within the 3 month-period
prescribed therefor. Records show that Sps. Marcelos period to
file their comment/opposition to the supplemental motion and/ or
rejoinder to the reply lapsed on October 18, 2009,44 at which time,
the pending incidents were already deemed submitted for
resolution.

Notwithstanding that the matter had already been submitted for


resolution, Judge Pichay continued with the proceedings by

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setting the motions for hearing to the effect of unreasonably


delaying the execution of the subject decision. Indeed, while it has
been held that a presiding judge shall at all times remain in firm
control of the proceedings, he is nevertheless mandated to adopt
a policy against unwarranted delays. In this case, Judge Pichay
did not sufficiently explain the reasons as to why he failed to
resolve the pending incidents on time, as well as to why he still
had to set the same for hearing and repeatedly grant
postponements therefor, either motu proprio or by motion, despite
the summary nature of ejectment proceedings and the ministerial
nature of the subsequent issuance of a writ of execution. These
considerations he should have been fully aware of. As case law
instructs, "ejectment cases are summary proceedings
intended to provide an expeditious means of protecting
actual possession or right of possession of property, and that
"it becomes mandatory or ministerial duty of the court to issue a
writ of execution to enforce the judgment which has become
executory,". To add, the fact that Judge Pichay required medical
attention is no excuse for his default, considering that on such
date, the subject motions were already due for resolution.Thus,
without having duly applied for any extension before the Court,
Judge Pichay was bound to resolve the pending incidents in the
said case within the three (3) month-period prescribed by the
Constitution. This, he, however, failed to do, and, as such, the
imposition of administrative sanctions against him remains in
order.

Pursuant to Section 9, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, undue


delay in rendering a decision or order is considered as a less
serious offense which is punishable by either: (a) suspension from
office without salary and other benefits for not less than one (1)
nor more than three (3) months; or (b) a fine of more than
P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00. Considering, however,

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that Judge Pichay was held administratively liable for the same
offense, and hitherto warned that a repetition of a similar infraction
would warrant a more severe penalty, the Court deems it apt to
increase the fine recommended by the OCA from P10,000.00 to
P12,000.00.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Ramsey Domingo G. Pichay


is found GUILTY of violating Section 9, Rule 140 of the Rules of
Court for undue delay in resolving the pending incidents relative to
Civil Case No. 2004-286 and is thus FINED in the amount of
P12,000.00. He is STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the
same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely.

ERRORS COMMITTED BY A JUDGE IN THE EXERCISE OF


ADJUDICATIVE FUNCTIONS CANNOT BE CORRECTED
THROUGH ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS BUT SHOULD
BE ASSAILED INSTEAD THROUGH JUDICIAL REMEDIES

A.M. No. RTJ-09-2200


April 2, 2014
(formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 08-2834-RTJ)
ANTONIO M. LORENZANA, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE MA. CECILIA I. AUSTRIA, Regional Trial Court,
Branch 2, Batangas City, Respondent.

FACTS: The complainant alleged that in the course of SP. Proc.


No. 06-7993, the respondent committed Gross Ignorance of the
Law, Grave Abuse of Authority, Gross Misconduct, Grave
Incompetence, Irregularity in the Performance of Duty, Grave Bias

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and Partiality, Lack of Circumspection, Conduct Unbecoming of a


Judge, Failure to Observe the Reglementary Period and Violation
of the Code of Professional Responsibility. 1. The respondent
appointed Atty. Santiago T. Gabionza, Jr. as rehabilitation receiver
over SCPs objections and despite serious conflict of interest in
being the duly appointed rehabilitation receiver for SCP and, at
the same time, the external legal counsel of most of SCPs
creditors; he is also a partner of the law firm that he engaged as
legal adviser.
2. The respondent conducted informal meetings (which she
termed as "consultative meetings" in her Order2 dated May 11,
2007) in places outside her official jurisdiction (i.e., a first class
golf club, a hotel and sports club facilities in Metro Manila) and
where she arbitrarily dictated the terms, parameters and features
of the rehabilitation plan she wanted to approve for SCP. She also
announced in the meetings that she would prepare the
rehabilitation plan for SCP.
3. The modified rehabilitation plan submitted by Atty. Gabionza is
a replica of what the respondent dictated to him. Thus, the
respondent exceeded the limits of her authority and effectively
usurped and pre-empted the rehabilitation receivers exercise of
functions.
4. The respondent ordered that the proceedings of the informal
meetings be off-record so that there would be no record that she
had favored Equitable-PCI Bank (EPCIB).
5. The respondent had secret meetings and communications with
EPCIB to discuss the case without the knowledge and presence of
SCP and its creditors.
6. The respondent appointed Gerardo Anonas (Anonas) as Atty.
Gabionzas financial adviser and, at the same time, as her
financial adviser to guide her in the formulation and development

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

of the rehabilitation plan, for a fee of P3.5M at SCPs expense.


Anonas is also the cousin-in-law of the managing partner of Atty.
Gabionzas law firm.
7. The respondent encouraged EPCIB to raise complaints or
accusations against SCP, leading to EPCIBs filing of a motion to
create a management committee.
8. When requested to conduct an evidentiary meeting and to issue
a subpoena (so that SCP could confront EPCIBs witnesses to
prove the allegation that there was a need for the creation of a
management committee), the respondent denied SCPs requests
and delayed the issuance of the order until the last minute.
9. At the hearing of September 14, 2007, the respondent
intimidated SCPs counsel, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio; blocked his
every attempt to speak; refused to recognize his appearances in
court; and made condescending and snide remarks.
10. The respondent failed to observe the reglementary period
prescribed by the Interim Rules of Procedure on Corporate
Rehabilitation (Rules). She approved the rehabilitation plan
beyond the 180 days given to her in the Rules, without asking for
permission to extend the period from the Supreme Court (SC).
11. The respondent erroneously interpreted and applied Section
23, Rule 4 of the Rules (the courts power to approve the
rehabilitation plan) to include the power to amend, modify and
alter it.
12. The respondent took a personal interest and commitment to
decide the matter in EPCIBs favor and made comments and
rulings in the proceedings that raised concerns regarding her
impartiality.

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13. The respondent adamantly refused to inhibit herself and


showed special interest and personal involvement in the case.
The complainant likewise filed a supplemental complaint3 dated
April 14, 2008 where he alleged that the respondent committed an
act of impropriety when she displayed her photographs in a social
networking website called "Friendster" and posted her personal
details as an RTC Judge, allegedly for the purpose of finding a
compatible partner. She also posed with her upper body barely
covered by a shawl, allegedly suggesting that nothing was worn
underneath except probably a brassiere.
In arriving at its recommendation the OCA found that the
respondent was not guilty of gross ignorance of the law as the
complainant failed to prove that her orders were motivated by bad
faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption.
The OCA also found that the charges of bias and partiality in
handling the rehabilitation proceedings were not supported by
evidence. It accepted the respondents explanation in the charge
of failure to observe the reglementary period.
Lastly, the OCA maintained that the allegations of grave abuse of
authority and gross incompetence are judicial in nature, hence,
they should not be the subject of disciplinary action. On the other
hand, on allegations of conduct unbecoming of a judge, violation
of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code), lack of
circumspection and impropriety, the OCA shared Justice
Gonzales-Sisons observations that the respondents act of
posting seductive photos in her Friendster account contravened
the standard of propriety set forth by the Code.
ISSUE:
WON respondent violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

RULING:
We agree with the recommendation of both Justice GonzalesSison and the OCA for the imposition of a fine on the respondent
but modify the amount as indicated below. We sustain Justice
Gonzales-Sisons finding of gross ignorance of the law in so far as
the respondent ordered the creation of a management committee
without conducting an evidentiary hearing. The absence of a
hearing was a matter of basic due process that no magistrate
should be forgetful or careless about.
Even granting that the respondent indeed erred in the exercise of
her judicial functions, these are, at best, legal errors correctible
not by a disciplinary action, but by judicial remedies that are
readily available to the complainant. "An administrative complaint
is not the appropriate remedy for every irregular or erroneous
order or decision issued by a judge where a judicial remedy is
available, such as a motion for reconsideration or an appeal."23
Errors committed by him/her in the exercise of adjudicative
functions cannot be corrected through administrative proceedings
but should be assailed instead through judicial remedies.24
In the present case, aside from being speculative and judicial in
character, the circumstances cited by the complainant were
grounded on mere opinion and surmises. The complainant, too,
failed to adduce proof indicating the respondents predisposition to
decide the case in favor of one party. This kind of evidence would
have helped its cause. The bare allegations of the complainant
cannot overturn the presumption that the respondent acted
regularly and impartially. We thus conclude that due to the
complainants failure to establish with clear, solid, and convincing
proof, the allegations of bias and partiality must fail.
In the present case, nothing in the records suggests that the
respondent was motivated by bad faith, fraud, corruption,
dishonesty or egregious error in rendering her decision approving
the modified rehabilitation plan. Besides his bare accusations, the

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complainant failed to substantiate his allegations with competent


proof. Bad faith cannot be presumed32 and this Court cannot
conclude that bad faith intervened when none was actually
proven.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Ma. Cecilia I. Austria guilty
of GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW for which she is FINED
Twenty-One Thousand Pesos (P21,000,00). Judge Austria is
likewise hereby ADMONISHED to refrain from further acts of
IMPROPRIETY and to refrain from CONDUCT UNBECOMING OF
A JUDGE, with the STERN WARNING that a repetition of the
same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

UNDUE DELAY IN RENDERING DECISION; LIABILITY OF


JUDGES

A.M. No. MTJ-14-1841


June 2, 2014
(Formerly OCA IPI No. 11-2388-MTJ)
GERSHON N. DULANG, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE MARY JOCYLEN1 G. REGENCIA, MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT
TRIAL COURT (MCTC), ASTURIAS-BALAMBAN,
CEBU, Respondent.

FACTS: In a Verified Complaint, Dulang alleged that he moved for


the resolution of an ejectment case within the sala of respondent
Judge, given that the same had been filed as early as year 2000
and had already been submitted for resolution. Notwithstanding
the summary nature of the ejectment proceedings Judge
Regencia rendered a Judgment dismissing the ejectment case
after more than 11 years since its filing.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

Dulang filed a Verified Supplemental before the OCA, alleging that


despite the filing of a notice of appeal from Judge Regencias
judgment, the latter nevertheless issued an Order directing the
postmaster and postal carrier of the Cebu Central Post Office,
Cebu City to certify Dulangs receipt of a copy of the said
Judgment. In this regard, Dulang accused Judge Regencia of
gross ignorance of the law, gross incompetence, serious
misconduct, and serious dereliction of duty, contending that by
filing his appeal, the latter was already stripped of her (Judge
Regencia) jurisdiction over the case and should not have issued
the said order. Dulang claimed that this effectively stalled the
administration of justice, much to his prejudice.
Judge Regencia maintained that no trial was held in said
ejectment case as the parties merely filed their respective position
papers and that she could have easily resolved the said case if
not for another case pending which was closely intertwined with
the former. She also averred that she should not be faulted for the
long delay in resolving the ejectment case as she assumed her
post as MCTC judge only in November 2002 and, thereafter,
began presiding over the same starting on November 2007. She
also explained that this order was merely intended to determine
whether or not Dulang filed his appeal within the reglementary
period.
The OCA recommended that Judge Regencia be held
administratively liable for undue delay in rendering a decision, and
thereby fined her in the amount of 20,000.00 with a stern warning
that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with
more severely. It agreed with the findings of Judge Montero that
there is no justifiable excuse for Judge Regencia not to render
judgment in the ejectment case within the 30-day reglementary
period mandated by the Rules on Summary Procedure.

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ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Regencia may be held


administratively liable for undue delay in rendering a decision.
HELD: Judges should be imbued with a high sense of duty and
responsibility in the discharge of their obligation to administer
justice promptly.This is embodied in Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the
Code of Judicial Conduct which states that "[a] judge shall dispose
of the courts business promptly and decide cases within the
required periods" and echoed in Section 5, Canon 6 of the New
Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary 26which
provides that "[j]udges shall perform all judicial duties, including
the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly, and with
reasonable promptness."
Civil Case No. 212-B being an ejectment case, it is governed by
the Rules of Summary Procedure which clearly sets a period of
thirty (30) days from the submission of the last affidavit or position
paper within which a decision thereon must be issued. 27Despite
this, Judge Regencia rendered judgment only about two (2) years
and four (4) months later. While rules prescribing the time within
which certain acts must be done are indispensable to prevent
needless delays in the orderly and speedy disposition of cases
and, thus, should be regarded as mandatory, 28 the Court has
nevertheless been mindful of the plight of judges and has been
understanding of circumstances that may hinder them from
promptly disposing of their businesses and, as such, has allowed
extensions of time due to justifiable reasons. 29
However, Judge Regencia failed to proffer any acceptable reason
in delaying the disposition of the ejectment case, thus, making her
administratively liable for undue delay in rendering a decision.
Also as correctly held by Judge Montero there was neither a
prejudicial question nor an agreement between the litigants that
would warrant substantial delays in the proceedings a finding
which is subscribed to by the OCA.30 Verily, Judge Regencias

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

clear and blatant attempt to mislead the Court is deplorable and


should never be countenanced.1wphi1

Meanwhile, the new Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Sixto S.


Esquivias IV, issued a new Revenue Travel Assignment
Order reiterating Heftis order. Secretary Teves also approved
Esquiviass order. Gandarosa thus filed a petition for indirect
contempt against Secretary Teves and Commissioner Esquivias.
4

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Judge Mary Jocylen G.


Regencia of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of AsturiasBalamban, Cebu, GUILTY of undue delay in rendering a decision.
Accordingly, she is ordered to pay a fine of P40,000.00 and is
STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts
in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

Judge Flores issued the following orders: (1) Order dated


November 3, 2008 granting a 72-hour temporary restraining
order; (2) Order dated November 7, 2008 extending the
temporary restraining order; (3) Order dated November 21, 2008
admitting Gandarosas documentary exhibits; (4) Order dated
November 21, 2008 granting a writ of preliminary injunction; (5)
Omnibus Order dated November 25, 2008 treating the comment
to the Rule 65 petition, filed through LBC, as a mere scrap of
paper; (6) Order dated December 15, 2008 requiring Secretary
Teves and Commissioner Esquivias to file their comment to the
contempt petition; and (7) Omnibus and Interim Order dated
December 22, 2008, which, among others, (a) impleaded Deputy
Commissioner Nelson Aspe and Alberto Olasiman, Officer-inCharge, Revenue Region No. 16, as respondents in the contempt
petition, and (b) ordered Secretary Teves, Commissioner
Esquivias and their subordinate officials to maintain the status
quo and retain Gandarosa as Regional Director of Revenue
Region No. 16.
6

GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW

10

11

EFREN T. UY vs. Judge Flores


A.M. No. RTJ-12-2332, June 25, 2014
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Facts: In a Revenue Travel Assignment Order, Commissioner of
Internal Revenue Lilian B. Hefti relieved Mustapha M. Gandarosa
as Regional Director of Revenue Region No. 16, Bureau of Internal
Revenue, Cagayan de Oro City. Hefti reassigned Gandarosa as
Chief of Staff of the Special Concerns Group at the Bureau's Head
Office in Quezon City. Secretary of Finance Margarito B. Teves
approved Hefti's order.
2

Gandarosa filed a Rule 65 petition for certiorari and/or prohibition


with prayer for a temporary restraining order before the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 7, Tubod, Lanao del Norte, presided by Judge
Flores. Gandarosa prayed that Heftis order be declared void and
that a writ of injunction be issued prohibiting the Secretary of
Finance and the new Commissioner of Internal Revenue from
enforcing Heftis order and from replacing or reassigning him.
Judge Flores granted a temporary restraining order and writ of
preliminary injunction in favor of Gandarosa.
3

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12

Court of Appeals (CA) - annulled all seven orders and ordered


Judge Flores to dismiss Gandarosas Rule65 and contempt
petitions. The CA ruled that the trial court lacks jurisdiction over
the Rule 65 petition. Said CA Decision attained finality and entry
of judgment was made.
Complainants Contentions: Complainants Efren T. Uy, Nelia B.
Lee, Rodolfo L. Menes and Quinciano H. Lui now allege that Judge
Flores exhibited gross ignorance of the law when he assumed
jurisdiction over the Rule 65 petition as it is the Civil Service

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

Commission which has jurisdiction over the issue of Gandarosas


reassignment. They add that the Regional Trial Court, Branch 7,
Tubod, Lanao del Norte, which is within the 12th Judicial Region,
also lacks jurisdiction to issue a temporary restraining order and
writ of preliminary injunction effective in Metro Manila, National
Capital Judicial Region, where the Secretary of Finance and the
Commissioner of Internal Revenue hold office, and in Cagayan de
Oro City, 10th Judicial Region, where the Regional Office of
Revenue Region No. 16 is based. Moreover, Judge Flores treated
the comment to the Rule 65 petition as a mere scrap of paper
contrary to the basic rule that if a private carrier, LBC in this case,
is used by a party, the date of actual receipt by the court of such
pleading is deemed to be the date of filing of that pleading.
Complainants also allege that Judge Flores violated the right to
due process of the Secretary of Finance and Commissioner of
Internal Revenue when he treated their comment to the Rule 65
petition as a mere scrap of paper. And in impleading Aspe and
Olasiman as respondents to the contempt petition, Judge Flores
sentenced them even if they had no opportunity to speak a single
word in their defense.
Moreover, complainants assail Judge Floress alleged bias when
he enjoined the implementation of Hefti and Esquiviass orders
Judge Floress Reply: Citing an earlier complaint filed against
him by the Coalition of Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Associations, Northern Mindanao, he cites that upon
recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator in its
Report dated January 28,2009, we dismissed said complaint in a
minute Resolution dated March 11, 2009 on the ground that (1)
there was no sufficient evidence to show any anomaly or
irregularity in the trial courts proceedings and (2) the propriety of
the temporary restraining order, writ of preliminary injunction and
Omnibus and Interim Order dated December 22, 2008 was a
judicial matter which should be properly resolved in a judicial
proceeding.
15

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Judge Flores also claims that while he may have erred in taking
cognizance of Gandarosas cases, he did so in good faith and
without malice.

Office of the Court Administrator Report: Judge Flores guilty


of gross ignorance of the law. The Office of the Court
Administrator adopted the ruling of the CA in CAG.R. SP No.
02753-MIN that Judge Floress seven orders were void since the
trial court lacked jurisdiction over Gandarosas case which was a
personnel action within the jurisdiction of the Civil Service
Commission; that Judge Floress orders could only be enforced
within the 12th Judicial Region; that Judge Flores gravely erred in
restraining the implementation of Heftis order; and that Judge
Flores failed to show cold neutrality in granting the writ of
preliminary injunction based on documents identified by
Gandarosas counsel.

Issue: (1) Whether or not Judge Flores failed to act with


neutrality; (2) whether or not he denied complainants of due
process; and (3) whether or not he displayed gross ignorance
of the law.

Ruling: (1) NO. The Office of the Court Administrator did not
discuss the charges of manifest partiality, denial of due process
and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service. This implies
that Judge Flores is not guilty of these charges. In any event, we
dismiss the charge of manifest partiality against Judge Flores for
complainants failure to prove by extrinsic evidence this serious
allegation. We cannot presume that Judge Flores was biased and
partial simply because he enjoined the implementation of Hefti

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

and Esquiviass orders. We have held that there should be clear


and convincing evidence to prove the charge of bias and
partiality. Extrinsic evidence is required to establish bias. Absent
extrinsic evidence, the decision itself would be insufficient to
establish a case against the judge.

deliberate or malicious. It may also be committed when a judge


ignores, contradicts or fails to apply settled law and jurisprudence
because of bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption. Gross
ignorance of the law or incompetence cannot be excused by a
claim of good faith. When an error is so gross and patent, such
error produces an inference of bad faith, making the judge liable
for gross ignorance of the law.
17

18

(2) NO. In the application of the principle of due process, what is


sought to be safeguarded is not the lack of previous notice but
the denial of the opportunity to be heard. We note that the
Secretary of Finance and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue,
even if their comment was erroneously treated as a mere scrap of
paper, were duly represented by the Office of the Solicitor
General during the hearing on November 21, 2008 and were not
denied the opportunity to be heard. They were likewise required
to file their comment to the contempt petition in the Order dated
December 15, 2008. When Aspe and Olasiman were impleaded
as respondents in the contempt petition, there was a motion to
implead them as additional respondents and Judge Flores stated
in the Omnibus and Interim Order dated December 22, 2008 that
Aspeand Olasiman were notified of the hearing for said motion.
Complainants claimed that Aspe and Olasiman were already
sentenced by Judge Flores in the Omnibus and Interim Order
dated December 22, 2008 despite the fact that the hearing for the
contempt petition was only scheduled on January 26, 2009.

In Republic v. Judge Caguioa, we said that the rules on jurisdiction


are basic and judges should know them by heart.

25

(3) YES. We agree with the Office of the Court Administrator that
Judge Flores committed gross ignorance of the law but we
dismiss the other charges.
On the issue of Jurisdiction: When a law or a rule is basic,
judges owe it to their office to simply apply the law. Anything less
is gross ignorance of the law. There is gross ignorance of the law
when an error committed by the judge was gross or patent,
1wphi1

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Here, Judge Flores assumed jurisdiction over the Rule 65 petition


assailing Heftis order when he should have dismissed the petition
for Gandarosas failure to exhaust administrative remedies. An
employee who questions the validity of his transfer should appeal
to the Civil Service Commission per Section 26(3), Chapter 5,
Subtitle A, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987, which reads:
If the employee believes that there is no justification for the
transfer, he may appeal his case to the [Civil Service]
Commission.
The law is basic and jurisprudence is clear but Judge Flores
failed to apply them. Judge Flores committed a gross and patent
error which makes him liable for gross ignorance of the law
notwithstanding his claim of good faith. Judge Flores even
mentioned in the Order dated November 21, 2008 the contention
of the Office of the Solicitor General that the trial court lacks
jurisdiction over the case. Judge Floress gross and patent error
produces an inference of bad faith on his part, considering that
the issue of jurisdiction was raised.

On the issue of Territorial Jurisdiction: And even if we assume


that the trial court has jurisdiction over Gandarosas Rule 65
petition, Section 4, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court requires that the
petition must be filed in the Regional Trial Court exercising

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

jurisdiction over the territorial area asdefined by the Supreme


Court. But the trial court presided by Judge Flores is within the
12th Judicial Region while the Head Office and Regional Office,
Revenue Region No. 16, of the Bureau of Internal Revenue are
respectively located in Metro Manila, National Capital Judicial
Region,and Cagayan de Oro City, 10th Judicial Region. Judge
Flores issued a temporary restraining order and writ of
preliminary injunction against the Secretary of Finance and
Commissioner of Internal Revenue who both hold office in Metro
Manila, outside the territorial area where his court can exercise its
jurisdiction. And while Revenue Region No. 16 has a district office
in Tubod, Lanao del Norte, where the trial court is situated, the
CA found that no court process was served on the said district
office or in Gandarosas residence in Tubod, Lanao del Norte. All
court processes were served in the Regional Office of Revenue
Region No. 16 based in Cagayan de Oro City, 10th Judicial
Region. In Republic v. Judge Caguioa, we found Judge Caguioa
guilty of gross ignorance of the law. Among others, we said that
the writ of preliminary injunction was issued to enjoin acts
performed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Regional
Trial Court of Olongapo City. It was directed against
government officials whose offices are located in Manila.

On the issue of filing: Another gross and patent error of Judge


Flores is treating the comment of the Secretary of Finance and
Commissioner of Internal Revenue as a mere scrap of paper
because the comment was filed through LBC, not by personal
filing or registered mail. But the established rule is that the date of
delivery of pleadings to a private letter-forwarding agency is not to
be considered as the date of filing thereof in court, and that in
such cases, the date of actual receipt by the court, and not the
date of delivery to the private carrier, is deemed the date of filing
of that pleading. Thus, even if the comment was filed through
LBC, it cannot be considered as a mere scrap of paper. The

comment was duly filed on the date it was received by the


trial court.

WHEREFORE, we FIND respondent Judge Alan L. Flores of the


Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Tubod, Lanao del Norte, LIABLE
for gross ignorance of the law, and SUSPEND him from office
without salary and other benefits for three months and one day,
with WARNING that similar acts in the future will be dealt with
more severely.

GROSS MISCONDUCT OF A JUDGE AND COURT


PERSONNEL
EMILIE SISON-BARIAS vs. JUDGE MARINO E. RUBIA,
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT [RTC], BRANCH 24, BIAN,
LAGUNA and EILEEN A. PECAA, DATA ENCODER II, RTC,
OFFICE OF THE CLERK OF COURT, BIAN, LAGUNA
A.M. No. RTJ-14-2388

June 10, 2014. PER CURIAM

FACTS: Complainant Emilie Sison-Barias is involved in three


cases pending before the sala of respondent Judge
Marino Rubianamely, intestate proceeding where she applied for
letters of administration of her husbands estate (opposed by her
mother in law Romelias Barias), guardianship proceeding
over Romelias Almeda-Barias, and a civil action for annulment of
contracts and reconveyance of real properties filed
by Romelias Almeda-Barias, represented by Evelyn Tanael,
against complainant, among others.

23

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In several instances, complainant noticed respondents partiality in


favor of complainants opponents in above cases manifested in
the ff(among others):
- In her (complainant) meeting with respondents,
Judge Bariasallegedly knew some personal information about
complainant (i.e. her being employed at PAL, etc.), despite the
fact that such were never disclosed in the pleadings. Judge
himself told that such facts were told by opponents
counsel Zarate.
- That in 2010, Judge Rubia granted opponents motion for
consolidation of the 3 cases without even considering
complainants opposition despite the clear import of the law that
ordinary civil action and special proceedings cannot be
consolidated.
- That despite opponents noncompliance in a previous 4 pre-trials
that were postponed, respondent never declared opponents in
default.
- That when complainant filed a motion for Judge Rubia to inhibit
due to his apparent partiality, the latter deliberately refused.
- Among others.
Respondents denied the allegations and in corroboration with
each other, alleged that the meeting was mere chance encounter,
that it was not set by respondent Pecana as alleged by
complainant. The OCA referred the matter to the Court of Appeals
Justice Gaerlanwho investigated the matter.
Justice Gaerlan recommended that no penalty be imposed against
respondents. He was "convinced that the meeting at Burgos Circle
was just a chance encounter" and found that complainant failed to
prove her claim with substantial evidence that would justify the
imposition of a penalty on respondents. Justice Gaerlan relied on

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the testimony of Rodel Cortez (respondents witness) as against


the uncorroborated testimony of complainant.
Justice Gaerlan emphasized the fact that it had taken complainant
eight (8) months before she filed the administrative complaint. He
stated that the deliberate concealment of the meeting was
inconsistent with her resolve to prove respondent
Judge Rubiasalleged partiality toward the counsel of the opposing
party.
ISSUE: Whether respondents
Judge Rubia and Pecaa should be held administratively
liable.
HELD: YES.
First, the Court rejected Justice Gaerlans recommendation and
explained that Justice Gaerlan should have not heavy relied
on Rodel Cortez testimony because contrary to
J. Gaerlans findings, Cortez is not a disinterested witness based
from the circumstances. Further, there were a lot of
inconsistencies in Cortez testimony which were not addressed in
J. Gaerlans investigation.
Second, the evidence needed to be established in Administrative
Proceedings is substantial evidence, which, according to the
Court, was satisfied in this case by the evidence thus presented
and offered. The Court noted that based from the testimony of
complainant (which is more credible) and corroborated by the
exchanges of SMS between complainant and Pecana, the
inescapable conclusion is that the meeting was set and in fact
chance meeting could be one in a million considering the
circumstances according to the Court (Please see cross
examination of Pecana and the exchanges of messages for your
reference). Also, the Court said that delay in filing the
administrative complaint is not a proper defense.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

Third, Respondent Pecaas actions amount to violations of the


Code of Conduct for Court Personnel

position or favors from any party to influence their official acts or


duties.

"Court personnel, regardless of position or rank, are expected to


conduct themselves in accordance with the strict standards of
integrity and morality."137

SECTION 5. Court personnel shall use the resources, property


and funds under their official custody in a judicious manner and
solely in accordance with the prescribed statutory and regulatory
guidelines or procedures.

The complaint states that respondents were allegedly acting in


favor of Atty. Noe Zarate, counsel for the opposing parties in the
three cases pending in the sala of respondent Judge Rubia.
Because of respondents actions, complainant and all who will be
made aware of the events of this case will harbor distrust toward
the judiciary and its processes. For this alone, respondents should
be held administratively liable.
For respondent Pecaa, the fact that she allowed herself to be
placed in a position that could cause suspicion toward her work as
a court personnel is disconcerting.
Respondent Pecaa admitted to meeting with complainant several
times, despite the formers knowledge of the pendency of cases in
the court where she is employed and in addition to the text
messages exchanged between them. She had a duty to sever all
forms of communication with complainant or to inform her
superiors or the proper authority of complainants attempts to
communicate with her. Respondent Pecaa failed to do so.
Instead, she continued to communicate with complainant, even to
the extent of advising complainant against filing an administrative
case against her and respondent Judge Rubia.
Respondent Pecaa violated Canon 1 of the Code of Conduct for
Court Personnel:
CANON 1- FIDELITY TO DUTY
SECTION 3. Court personnel shall not discriminate by dispensing
special favors to anyone. They shall not allow kinship, rank,

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Fourth, as for Judge Rubia: 1. He could have been held


administratively liable by the fact alone that he failed to
admonish Pecana notwithstanding his knowledge of her several
meetings with complainant. 2. He violated Canon 2 of the Code of
Judicial Conduct requires a judge to avoid not only impropriety but
also the mere appearance of impropriety in all activities. 3. He
violated: Canon 1 INDEPENDECE- Judicial Independence is a
pre-requisite to the rule of law and a fundamental guarantee of a
fair trial. A judge shall therefore uphold and exemplify judicial
independence in both its individual and institutional aspects.
(SEE: Secs. 1, 6 and 8); Canon 2 INTEGRITY- Integrity is
essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but
also to the personal demeanor of judges. (SEE: Secs. 1, 2, 3);
CANON 3. IMPARTIALITY- Impartiality is essential to the proper
discharge of the judicial office. It applies not only to the decision
itself but also to the process by which the decision is made.
(See: Secs. 1,2,3,4); Canon 4. PROPRIETY- Propriety and the
appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the
activities of a judge. (See Secs. 1-3).
Both respondents are indeed guilty of gross misconduct. However,
respondent Judge Rubia is also guilty of conduct unbecoming of a
judge for violating Canons 2, 3, and 4 of the New Code of Judicial
Conduct. Judge Rubia is DISMISSED from the service, with
corresponding forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued
leave credits, and disqualified from reinstatement or appointment
in any public office, including government owned or -controlled

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

corporations. Respondent Eileen Pecaa is SUSPENDED for one


(1) year for gross misconduct.

BLATANT DISREGARD OF BASIC, ELEMENTARY, AND WELLKNOWN RULES OF PROCEDURE AND LAW
ATTY. REY FERDINAND T. GARAY, Petitioner,
vs.
JUDGE ROLANDO S. VENADAS, SR., Respondent.
A.M. No. RTJ-06-2000, A.M. No. RTJ-06-2000
DEL CASTILLO, J.
FACTS:

Upon learning that Atty. Garay intended to purchase the entire


property for himself, spouses Sombilon offered to buy back the
property from PNB. The bank advised them to make a 10% down
payment of the banks total claim to formalize their offer.
PNB decided to approve the purchase offer of Atty. Garay since
spouses Sombilon failed to make the required down payment.
G.R. No. 179914

A judge owes the public and the court the duty to know the law by
heart and to have the basic rules of procedure at the palm of his
hands.
This involves two consolidated cases: (1) a Petition for Review on
Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the
Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals ; and (2) an
Administrative Complaint against Judge Rolando S. Venadas, Sr.
(Judge Venadas, Sr.) of the RTC of Malaybalay, Bukidnon,
Branch 8, for Grave Abuse of Authority and Grave Misconduct.
Spouses Reynaldo and Hilly G. Sombilon were the previous
owners of a 601-square meter property, with two buildings
constructed on it, in South Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon. The
said property, which they mortgaged to the Philippine National
Bank as security for their loan, was foreclosed and sold at public
auction, where PNB emerged as the winning bidder. The one-year
redemption period lapsed but spouses Sombilon failed to redeem
the property.

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The spouses Sombilon sought the help of Atty. Rey Ferdinand T.


Garay who was once appointed by the court as counsel de officio
for Hilly Sombilon in a criminal case and who happens to be the
owner of a lot adjacent to the property. The spouses were hoping
that he would agree to advance the money and, in exchange, they
promised to sell him the 331-square meter portion of the property.

PNB filed an Ex-Parte Petition for Issuance of a Writ of


Possession before the RTC of Malaybalay City, Bukidnon
presided over by Judge Venadas, Sr. which was granted.
The spouses Sombilon moved for a reconsideration of the
issuance of the Writ of Possession arguing that Atty. Garay, who
was the former counsel of Hilly, was barred from purchasing the
property pursuant to paragraph 5,32 Article 1491 of the Civil
Code.
Judge Venadas, Sr. issued an Order holding in abeyance the
implementation of the Writ of Possession.
The CA found grave abuse of discretion on the part of Judge
Venadas, Sr. in holding in abeyance the implementation of the
Writ of Possession.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

A.M. No. RTJ-06-2000

RULING:

Atty. Garay filed a Verified Complaint against Judge Venadas, Sr.,


charging him with Grave Abuse of Authority and Grave
Misconduct. Atty. Garay claims that Judge Venadas, Sr. should be
administratively sanctioned for holding in abeyance the Writ of
Possession he earlier issued and for ignoring Sections 4, 5, and 6
of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court as he proceeded to hear the
motion despite lack of notice to PNB.

1. YES. The issuance of a writ of possession is ministerial upon


the court. Once title is consolidated under the name of the
purchaser, the issuance of the writ of possession becomes
ministerial on the part of the court; thus, no discretion is left to the
court. Questions regarding the regularity and validity of the
mortgage or the foreclosure sale may not be raised as a ground to
oppose or hold in abeyance the issuance of the writ of possession
as these must be raised in a separate action for the annulment of
the mortgage or the foreclosure sale. The pendency of such action
is also not a ground to stay the issuance of a writ of possession.

In his defense, Judge Venadas, Sr. contends that he did not annul
the Writ of Possession but merely stayed its execution and
implementation to prevent any injustice. He insists there was no
violation of due process because he immediately scheduled a
hearing for PNB to present its evidence.
The OCA, in its Report, found Judge Venadas, Sr. administratively
liable for grave abuse of authority bordering on gross ignorance of
procedure. It found Judge Venadas, Sr. guilty of blatantly
disregarding Sections 4, 5, and 6 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court
when he acted on the defective motion filed by spouses Sombilon.

WHEREFORE, in G.R. No. 179914, the Petition is hereby


DENIED.

ISSUES:
(1) Whether Judge Venadas, Sr. committed grave abuse of
discretion in holding in abeyance the implementation of the Writ of
Possession; and
(2) Whether he should be administratively sanctioned for holding
in abeyance the implementation of the Writ of Possession and for
disregarding Sections 4, 5, and 6, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court.

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In this case, the redemption period had long lapsed when PNB
applied for the issuance of the Writ of Possession. In fact, the title
over the subject property had already been consolidated in PNBs
name. Thus, it was ministerial upon Judge Venadas, Sr. to issue
the Writ of Possession in favor of PNB, the registered owner of the
subject property. The alleged invalidity of the sale is not a ground
to oppose or defer the issuance of the Writ of Possession as this
does not affect PNBs right to possess the subject property.

2. YES. The Court agrees with the findings of the OCA. Records
show that spouses Sombilon failed to comply with the three-day
notice rule and the required proof of service embodied in Sections
4, 5, and 6 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, thereby rendering the
motion fatally defective. Despite this, Judge Venadas, Sr. still took
cognizance of the motion filed by spouses Sombilon, depriving
PNB and Atty. Garay of their right to due process.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

Blatant disregard of basic, elementary, and well-known rules of


procedure and law is gross ignorance of the law, which is
classified as a serious charge under Rule 140, Section 8 of the
Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, punishable
by either dismissal from service, suspension for more than three
months but not exceeding six months, or a fine of more than
P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00.
In Administrative Matter No. RTJ-06-2000, Judge Rolando S.
Venadas, Sr. of the Regional Trial Court of Malaybalay City,
Bukidnon, Branch 8, is hereby found guilty of grave abuse of
authority bordering on gross ignorance of the law and is ordered
to pay a FINE of TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS.

IMPROPRIETY OF A JUDGE RELATIVE TO A LAND DISPUTE


Lopez vs. Judge Lucmayon
A.M. No. MTJ-13-1837
September 24, 2014
Brion, J:
FACTS: Conrado Lopez inherited a land from his adoptive father
as evidenced by Katapusan Panugon (Testamente). While the
document mentioned Lot No. 1718, he ended up receiving a
portion of Lot No. 1696 which became an object of extrajudicial
settlement between him, his adoptive mother and the relatives of
Judge Lucmayon. Half of the said land was cultivated by his
mother until her death and thereafter, he took over the cultivation.
Lopez alleged that sometime in 2004, Judge Lucmayon allegedly
deceived him into signing a SPA to process the sale of Lot No.
1696 to a prospective buyer, Aboitiz Group of Company. Unknown
to him, the said SPA contained at the bottom portion a so-called
Waiver of Rights that Judge Lucmayon had deceptively inserted
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in order to strip him of the ownership of the said lot. The document
was notarized by a certain Atty. Mata without the complainants
presence and thereafter Judge Lucmayon told him that he no
longer had any right over the same. Lopez also asserted that
Judge Lucmayon had cause Pedro Lucmayon (father of
respondent) and his siblings to execute a Supplemental
Extrajudicial Settlement of Moises Legaspino and Victoria Lopez
to his damage and prejudice because his name and that of his
adoptive mother were excluded. He claimed that as the legal heirs
of his adoptive father, who in turn inherited the property from his
late mother Victoria Lopez, their exclusion from the settlement
was an act of dishonesty to which the respondent should be held
administratively liable.

The respondent vehemently denied that he convinced Lopez to


sell his shares in the property and claimed that it was Lopez who
was interested in selling his shares after he got tired of cultivating
the land. He also denied that he deceived Lopez into signing the
Waiver of Rights because such Waiver of Rights was only done
after he discovered that Lopez was not legally adopted. Since
there was no legal adoption, Lopez could not be considered as a
legal heir thus not entitled to any portion of the land. According to
him, his participation in the sale transaction was limited to
informing his parents and relatives that Lopez was not a legal heir
of his adoptive father. He maintained that the filing of the
administrative case was intended to harass and embarrass him.

In the evaluation report of the Office of the Court Administrator


(OCA), it noted that the allegations in the administrative complaint
are the same with that raised in the criminal complaint for
Falsification of Public Documents filed against the respondent.
Such case was dismissed by the City Prosecutor for lack of merit

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

and evidentiary proof. It was also recommended that the


administrative case be dismissed because Lopez failed to
discharge the burden of proving the respondents administrative
liability. The Court then issued a resolution adopting OCAs
findings and recommendation. The complainant sought
consideration thus the Court referred back the complainants MR
to OCA for evaluation. The OCA then recommended that the
respondent be liable for acts of impropriety. The OCA held that
while the respondents act of asking the complainant to sign the
SPAs may not constitute dishonesty, corruption and misconduct,
his act of requiring the complainant to sign the SPA and allowing
Atty. Mata to notarize the Waiver of Rights without each others
presence as well as his appointment as complainants attorney-infact- violate Rule 5.-6 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and amount
to impropriety.
ISSUE: Whether or not the acts of Judge Lucmayon constitute
impropriety thus violated the Code of Judicial Conduct
RULING: YES. Rule 5.06 provides, A judge is prohibited from
serving as executor, administrator, trustee, guardian or other
fiduciary except for the estate, trusts, or person of a member
of the immediate family, and then only if such service will not
interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.
Member of immediate family shall be limited to the spouse
and relatives within the second degree of consanguinity. The
intent of the rule is to limit a judge's involvement in the affairs and
interests of private individuals to minimize the risk of conflict with
his judicial duties and to allow him to devote his undivided
attention to the performance of his official functions. When a
member of the bench serves as administrator of the properties of
private individuals, he runs the risk of losing his neutrality and
impartiality, especially when the interests of his principal conflicts
with those of the litigant who comes before his court.

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In this case, since complainant clearly does not fall under


respondents "immediate family", his appointment as the formers
attorney-in-fact is not a valid exception to the rule. By serving as
attorney-in-fact, the respondent not only allowed himself to be
distracted from the performance of his judicial duties; he also
undertook to perform all acts necessary to protect the
complainants interest which in effect, he acted as the
complainants fiduciary, in direct and patent violation of the
prohibition against judges. The respondent should have been
more circumspect in accepting the appointment as an attorney-infact of the complainant. In the present administrative complaint,
the respondents acts of: (1) making the complainant sign at least
two (2) documents consisting of SPA and Waiver of Rights
without the presence of a counsel; and (2) allowing the
notarization of the documents outside the presence of the
executor, amount to impropriety. While no evidence directly shows
that the respondent had deceived the complainant into signing
these documents, this Court cannot ignore the fact that the
documents the respondent himself prepared greatly prejudiced the
complainant. We also note that the Waiver of Rights benefitted the
respondent and his family. As a judge who is more learned in the
law than the complainant, the respondent, at the very least should
have taken the appropriate steps (e.g. advise the former to
engage the services of a lawyer who could lend him unbiased
legal advice regarding the legal effects of the waiver) to avoid
impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in his dealings.
This step, the respondent failed to take. In these lights, the Court
finds the respondent guilty of impropriety.
PENALTY: fine of P20,000 for violation of Rule 5.06 of the
Code and P10,000 for impropriety and a STERN WARNING
that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with
more severely.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

A.M. No. SB-14-21-J

September 23, 2014

[Formerly A.M. No. 13-10-06-SB]


RE: ALLEGATIONS MADE UNDER OATH AT THE SENATE
BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE HEARING HELD ON SEPTEMBER
26, 2013 AGAINST ASSOCIATE JUSTICE GREGORY S. ONG,
SANDIGANBAYAN
FACTS: This administrative complaint was filed by the Court En
Banc after investigation into certain allegations that surfaced
during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing indicated
prima facie violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct by an
Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan. The investigation was
conducted motu proprio pursuant to the Court's power of
administrative supervision over members of the Judiciary.
The factual antecedents are the following:
In the middle of 2013, the local media ran an expose involving
billions of government funds channeled through bogus
foundations. Dubbed as the "pork barrel scam," as the money was
sourced from the Priority Development Assistance Fund allotted to
members of the House of Representatives and Senate. In the
course of the investigation conducted by the Senate Committee
on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue
Ribbon Committee), the names of certain government officials and
other individuals were mentioned by "whistle-blowers" who are
former employees of the alleged mastermind, Janet Lim-Napoles
(Mrs. Napoles), wife of an ex-military officer. These personalities
identified by the whistle-blowers allegedly transacted with or
attended Mrs. Napoles' parties and events, among whom is
incumbent Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory S. Ong,
herein respondent.

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Benhur Luy (Luy), filed illegal detention charges against Mrs.


Napoles who accused him of double-dealing. When Luy went
public with his story about Mrs. Napoles' anomalous transactions
and before the warrant of arrest was issued by the court, she
reportedly tried to reach out to the other whistle-blowers for them
not to testify against her but instead point to Luy as the one
receiving and distributing the money.
Marina Sula (Sula) executed a Sworn Statement before the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) stating that she witnessed
the ff personalities who would either visit their office or join their
events and affairs : Senator Franklin Drilon, Senator Jinggoy
Estrada and family, Senator Bong Revilla, Lani Mercado-Revilla,
Bryan Revilla, Secretary Rene Villa, Congressman Pichay and
Wife, Congressman Plaza, Congressman Ducut, DAR Director
Theresita Panlilio, Catherine Mae Canlas Santos, Pauline
Labayen, Jen Corpuz (Staff of Senator Sotto), Mayor Rene
Maglanque, Atty. Dequina, Justice Gregory Ong, x x x.
The following day, the social news network Rappler published an
article entitled "Exclusive: Napoles Parties with Anti-Graft Court
Justice" showing a photograph of Senator Jinggoy Estrada
(Senator Estrada), one of the main public figures involved in the
pork barrel scam, together with Mrs. Napoles and respondent. The
reporter had interviewed respondent who quickly denied knowing
Mrs. Napoles and recalled that the photograph was probably
taken in one of the parties frequently hosted by Senator Estrada
who is his longtime friend. Respondent also supposedly admitted
that given the ongoing pork barrel controversy, the picture gains a
different context; nevertheless, he insisted that he has untainted
service in the judiciary, and further denied he was the one
advising Mrs. Napoles on legal strategies in connection with the
Kevlar helmet cases where she was acquitted by a Division of the
Sandiganbayan of which respondent is the Chairman and the then
Acting Presiding Justice.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

In a letter dated September 26, 2013 addressed to Chief Justice


Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, respondent meticulously explained
the controversial photograph which raised questions on his
integrity as a magistrate, particularly in connection with the
decision rendered by the Sandiganbayan' s Fourth Division in the
Kevlar helmet cases, which convicted some of the accused but
acquitted Mrs. Napoles.
Respondent surmised that the photograph was taken during the
birthday of Senator Estrada in February, either in the year 2012 or
2013, but definitely not in 2010 or earlier. He explained that he
could vaguely remember the circumstances but it would have
been rude for him to prevent any guest from posing with him and
Senator Estrada during the party.
As to the Kevlar helmet cases, respondent said it was impossible
for him to have been advising Mrs. Napoles, as claimed by Mr.
Rufo, as even the article itself noted that Mrs. Napoles' own
brother, Reynald L. Lim, ( a.k.a. Reynaldo L. Francisco), a coaccused in the case, was convicted by the Sandiganbayan. He
stressed that these cases were decided on the merits by the
Sandiganbayan, acting as a collegial body and he was not even
the ponente of the decision.
Chief Justice Sereno then requested the Court En Banc to
conduct an investigation motu proprio under this Court's power of
administrative supervision over members of the judiciary and
members of the legal profession (referring to notaries public who
were alleged to have purposely left their specimen signatures, dry
seals and notarial books with Mrs. Napoles to facilitate the
incorporation of non-governmental organizations [NGOs] involved
in the scam).

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This Court upon evaluation of the factual circumstances found


possible transgressions of the New Code of Judicial Conduct
committed by respondent. Accordingly, a Resolution was issued
on January 21, 2014 stating that:
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby resolves to have the instant
administrative matter RE-DOCKETED as A.M. No. SB-14-21-J
(Re: Allegations Made Under Oath at tlze Senate Blue Ribbon
Committee Hearing held on September 26, 2013 against
Associate Justice Gregory S. Ong, Sandiganbayan), and
ASSIGNS the same to retired Supreme Court Justice Angelina
Sandoval-Gutierrez for investigation, report and recommendation
within a period of sixty (60) days from notice hereof.

xxxx
Respondent, in his defense, vehemently denied the imputations
hurled against him.
1. He asserted that he could not be the contact or "connect" of
Napoles at the Sandiganbayan for he never met or came to know
her during the pendency of the Kevlar case;
2. Challenging Benhur's testimony that he fixed or "inayos" the
Kevlar case, respondent claimed that it was decided based on the
merits by the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division as a collegial body.
The two other members of the court, Justice Jose R. Hernandez
(ponente) and Justice Maria Cristina J. Cornejo, are independentminded jurists who could not be pressured or influenced by
anybody, not even by their peers;
3. On Benhur's allegation that respondent received an amount of
money from Napoles prior to the promulgation of the decision in
the Kevlar case, respondent deplored the fact that Benhur was
attempting to tarnish his reputation without any proof. And that it is

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

unthinkable for him to have received money from Napoles


considering that her mother, brother, and sister-in-law were
convicted;
4. Respondent admitted he went to Napoles' office twice,
sometime in March 2012, after the decision in the Kevlar case was
promulgated in 2010 and narrated what prompted him to do so,
thus:
5. Concerning Benhur's testimony that Napoles paid respondent
an advanced interest consisting of eleven (11) checks in the
amount of P282,000.00 each and that he issued to her his BDO
check of P25.5 million which she deposited in her account, he
claimed that "he never issued that check as he did not intend to
invest in AFPSLAI. In fact, he does not have any money deposited
there. Inasmuch as he did not issue any BDO check, it follows that
Napoles could not have given him those eleven (11) checks
representing advanced interest. He further explained that he found
from the internet that in AFPSLAI, an investor can only make an
initial deposit of P30,000.00 every quarter or Pl20,000.00 per
year. The limit or ceiling is P3 million with an interest of 15% or
16% per annum.
6. The whistle blower's testimony are conflicting and therefore lack
credibility. While Sula testified that Napoles told her that she did
not want to approach respondent (should a case involving the
pork barrel scam be filed with the Sandiganbayan) because his
talent fee is too high, however, both whistle blowers claimed that
he is Napoles' contact in the Sandiganbayan.
With respect to the Rappler Report, according to respondent, Rufo
(rappler reporter) was insinuating four things: 1. That there was
irregularity in the manner the Kevlar case was decided;
2. That respondent was close to Napoles even during the
pendency of the Kevlar case;

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3. That respondent was attending parties of the Napoleses; and


4. That respondent was advising Napoles about legal strategies
relative to the Kevlar case. Respondent "dismissed all the above
insinuations as false and without factual basis." As to the last
insinuation that he advised Napoles about legal strategies to be
pursued in the Kevlar case, respondent stressed that the case
was decided by a collegial body and that he never interceded on
her behalf.
RECOMMENDATION OF INVESTIGATING JUSTICES
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, It is respectfully recommended,
for consideration of the Honorable Court, that respondent Justice
Gregory S. Ong be found GUILTY of gross misconduct,
dishonesty, and impropriety, all in violations of the New Code of
Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary and be meted the
penalty of DISMISSAL from the service WITH FORFEITURE of all
retirement benefits, excluding accrued leave credits, and WITH
PREJUDICE to reemployment to any government, including
government-owned or controlled corporations.
xxxx
The Court's Ruling
This Court adopts the findings, conclusions and recommendations
of the Investigating Justice which are well-supported by the
evidence on record.
Based on the testimonies of Luy, Sula and Rufo, the Investigating
Justice formulated the charges against the respondent, as follows:
1. Respondent acted as contact of Napoles in connection with the
Kevlar case while it was pending in the Sandiganbayan Fourth
Division wherein he is the Chairman;

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

2. Respondent, being Napoles' contact in the Sandiganbayan,


fixed the Kevlar case resulting in her acquittal;
3. Respondent received an undetermined amount of money from
Napoles prior to the promulgation of the decision in the Kevlar
case thus, she was sure ("kampante") of her acquittal; 4.
Respondent visited Napoles in her office where she handed to him
eleven (ll) checks, each amounting to P282,000.00 or a total of
P3,102,000.00, as advanced interest for his P25.5 million BDO
check she deposited in her personal account; and
5. Respondent attended Napoles' parties and was photographed
with Senator Estrada and Napoles.11
Respondent thus stands accused of gross misconduct, partiality
and corruption or bribery during the pendency of the Kevlar case,
and impropriety on account of his dealing and socializing with
Napoles after her acquittal in the said case. Additionally,
respondent failed to disclose in his September 26, 2013 letter to
Chief Justice Sereno that he had actually visited Napoles at her
office in 2012, as he vehemently denied having partied with or
attended any social event hosted by her.
Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite
rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, unlawful
behavior, willful in character, improper or wrong behavior; while
"gross" has been defined as "out of all measure beyond
allowance; flagrant; shameful; such conduct as is not to be
excused."12 We agree with Justice Sandoval-Gutierrez that
respondent's association with Napoles during the pendency and
after the promulgation of the decision in the Kevlar case resulting
in her acquittal, constitutes gross misconduct notwithstanding the
absence of direct evidence of corruption or bribery in the rendition
of the said judgment.

The testimonies of Luy and Sula established that Napoles had


been in contact with respondent ("nag-uusap sila") during the
pendency of the Kevlar case. As Napoles' trusted staff, they
(especially Luy who is a cousin) were privy to her daily business
and personal activities. Napoles constantly updated them of
developments regarding the case. She revealed to them that she
has a "connect" or "contact" in the Sandiganbayan who will help
"fix" the case involving her, her mother, brother and some
employees. Having closely observed and heard Napoles being
confident that she will be acquitted even prior to the promulgation
of the decision in the Kevlar case, they were convinced she was
indeed in contact with respondent, whose identity was earlier
divulged by Napoles to Luy. Luy categorically testified that
Napoles told him she gave money to respondent but did not
disclose the amount. There was no reason for them to doubt
Napoles' statement as they even keep a ledger detailing her
expenses for the "Sandiganbayan," which reached Pl 00 million.
Napoles' information about her association with respondent was
confirmed when she was eventually acquitted in 2010 and when
they saw respondent visit her office and given the eleven checks
issued by Napoles in 2012.
An accusation of bribery is easy to concoct and difficult to
disprove. The complainant must present a panoply of evidence in
support of such an accusation. Inasmuch as what is imputed
against the respondent judge connotes a grave misconduct, the
quantum of proof required should be more than substantial.16
Concededly, the evidence in this case is insufficient to sustain the
bribery and corruption charges against the respondent. Both Luy
and Sula have not witnessed respondent actually receiving money
from Napoles in exchange for her acquittal in the Kevlar case.
Napoles had confided to Luy her alleged bribe to respondent.
Notwithstanding the absence of direct evidence of any corrupt act
by the respondent, we find credible evidence of his association

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

with Napoles after the promulgation of the decision in the Kevlar


case. The totality of the circumstances of such association
strongly indicates respondent's corrupt inclinations that only
heightened the public's perception of anomaly in the decisionmaking process. By his act of going to respondent at her office on
two occasions, respondent exposed himself to the suspicion that
he was partial to Napoles. That respondent was not the ponente
of the decision which was rendered by a collegial body did not
forestall such suspicion of partiality, as evident from the public
disgust generated by the publication of a photograph of
respondent together with Napoles and Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
Indeed, the context of the declarations under oath by Luy and
Sula before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, taking place at
the height of the "Pork Barrel" controversy, made all the difference
as respondent himself acknowledged. Thus, even in the present
administrative proceeding, their declarations are taken in the light
of the public revelations of what they know of that government
corruption controversy, and how it has tainted the image of the
Judiciary.

secure a probation. But as stated in our earlier resolution, the


Court will no longer delve into the merits of the Kevlar case as the
investigation will focus on respondent's administrative liability.

It is a settled rule that the findings of investigating magistrates are


generally given great weight by the Court by reason of their
unmatched opportunity to see the deportment of the witnesses as
they testified.The rule which concedes due respect, and even
finality, to the assessment of credibility of witnesses by trial judges
in civil and criminal cases applies a fortiori to administrative
cases.18 In particular, we concur with Justice SandovalGutierrez's assessment on the credibility of Luy and Sula, and
disagree with respondent's claim that these witnesses are simply
telling lies about his association with Napoles.

In Caneda v. Alaan,22 we held that:

As it turned out, Napoles' husband was dropped from the two


informations while her mother, brother and sister-in-law were
convicted in the lesser charge of falsification of public documents.
Apparently, after her acquittal, Napoles helped those convicted
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Respondent's act of voluntarily meeting with Napoles at her office


on two occasions was grossly improper and violated Section 1,
Canon 4 (Propriety) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, which
took effect on June 1, 2004.
SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance
of impropriety in all of their activities.
A judge must not only be impartial but must also appear to be
impartial and that fraternizing with litigants tarnishes this
appearance.20 Public confidence in the Judiciary is eroded by
irresponsible or improper conduct of judges. A judge must avoid
all impropriety and the appearance thereof. Being the subject of
constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept
restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by
the ordinary citizen.21

Judges are required not only to be impartial but also to appear to


be so, for appearance is an essential manifestation of reality.
Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to avoid
not just impropriety in their conduct but even the mere appearance
of impropriety.
They must conduct themselves in such a manner that they give no
ground for reproach. [Respondent's] acts have been less than
circumspect. He should have kept himself free from any
appearance of impropriety and endeavored to distance himself
from any act liable to create an impression of indecorum.
xxxx

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

Indeed, respondent must always bear in mind that:


"A judicial office traces a line around his official as well as
personal conduct, a price one has to pay for o ccupying an exalted
position in the judiciary, beyond which he may not freely venture.
Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins a judge to avoid
not just impropriety in the performance of judicial duties but in all
his activities whether in his public or private life. He must conduct
himself in a manner that gives no ground for reproach." (Emphasis
supplied.)
'30. Social relations
It is not necessary to the proper performance of judicial duty that
judges should live in retirement or seclusion; it is desirable that, so
far as the reasonable attention to the completion of their work will
permit, they continue to mingle in social intercourse, and that they
should not discontinue their interests in or appearance at
meetings of members at the bar. A judge should, however, in
pending or prospective litigation before him be scrupulously
careful to avoid such action as may reasonably tend to waken the
suspicion that his social or business relations or friendships
constitute an element in determining his judicial course.'"
The factual setting in Abundo v. Mania, Jr. is not similar to the
present case because Napoles was not a colleague or lawyerfriend but an accused in a former case before the
Sandiganbayan's Fourth Division chaired by respondent and
which acquitted her from malversation charge. What respondent
perhaps want to underscore is the caveat for judges, in pending or
prospective litigation before them, to avoid such action as may
raise suspicion on their partiality in resolving or deciding the case.
Thus, he emphasized in his Memorandum that he "never knew
Napoles on a personal level while she was still on trial as an
accused in Kevlar helmet case." Respondent even quoted Sula's
testimony expressing her opinion that she finds nothing wrong
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with respondent going to Napoles' office because at that time, the


Kevlar case had already been terminated.
We do not share the view that the rule on propriety was intended
to cover only pending and prospective litigations.
Judges must, at all times, be beyond reproach and should avoid
even the mere suggestion of partiality and impropriety.24 Canon 4
of the New Code of Judicial Conduct states that "[p ]ropriety and
the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all
the activities of a judge." Section 2 further provides:
SEC. 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must
accept personal restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome
by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In
particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way that is
consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.
As we held in Sibayan-Joaquin v. Javellana25
... Judges, indeed, should be extra prudent in associating with
litigants and counsel appearing before them so as to avoid even a
mere perception of possible bias or partiality. It is not expected, of
course, that judges should live in retirement or seclusion from any
social intercourse. Indeed, it may be desirable, for instance, that
they continue, time and work commitments permitting, to relate to
members of the bar in worthwhile endeavors and in such fields of
interest, in general, as are in keeping with the noble aims and
objectives of the legal profession. In pending or prospective
litigations before them, however, judges should be scrupulously
careful to avoid anything that may tend to awaken the suspicion
that their personal, social or sundry relations could influence their
objectivity, for not only must judges possess proficiency in law but
that also they must act and behave in such manner that would
assure, with great comfort, litigants and their counsel of the
judges' competence, integrity and independence.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

In this light, it does not matter that the case is no longer pending
when improper acts were committed by the judge. Because
magistrates are under constant public scrutiny, the termination of
a case will not deter public criticisms for acts which may cast
suspicion on its disposition or resolution. As what transpired in this
case, respondent's association with Napoles has unfortunately
dragged the Judiciary into the "Pork Barrel" controversy which
initially involved only legislative and executive officials. Worse,
Napoles' much-flaunted "contact" in the judiciary is no less than a
Justice of the Sandiganbayan, our special court tasked with
hearing graft cases. We cannot, by any stretch of indulgence and
compassion, consider respondent's transgression as a simple
misconduct.

The Court finds that respondent, in not being truthful on crucial


matters even before the administrative complaint was filed against
him motu proprio, is guilty of Dishonesty, a violation of Canon 3
(Integrity) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.
Dishonesty is a "disposition to lie, cheat, deceive, or defraud;
untrustworthiness; lack of integrity; lack of honesty, probity or
integrity in principle; lack of fairness and straightforwardness;
disposition to defraud, deceive or betray."28 Dishonesty, being a
grave offense, carries the extreme penalty of dismissal from the
service with forfeiture of retirement benefits except accrued leave
credits, and with perpetual disqualification from reemployment in
government service. Indeed, dishonesty is a malevolent act that
has no place in the Judiciary.29

During his testimony, respondent acknowledged his violation of


judicial ethics and its serious repercussions, as shown by his
answers to the questions from the Investigation Justice, viz:
Justice Gutierrez

Under Section 11(A), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, a


respondent found guilty of a serious charge may be penalized as
follows:

SEC. 11. Sanctions. - A. If the respondent is guilty of a serious


charge, any of the following sanctions may be imposed:

Regrettably, the conduct of respondent gave cause for the public


in general to doubt the honesty and fairness of his participation in
the Kevlar case and the integrity of our courts of justice. Before
this Court, even prior to the commencement of administrative
investigation, respondent was less than candid. In his letter to the
Chief Justice where he vehemently denied having attended
parties or social events hosted by Napoles, he failed to mention
that he had in fact visited Napoles at her office. Far from being a
plain omission, we find that respondent deliberately did not
disclose his social calls to Napoles. It was only when Luy and Sula
testified before the Senate and named him as the "contact" of
Napoles in the Sandiganbayan, that respondent mentioned of only
one instance he visited Napoles ("This is the single occasion that
Sula was talking about in her supplemental affidavit x x x."27).

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1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits


as the Court may determine, and disqualification from
reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including
government owned or -controlled corporations. Provided,
however, that the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include
accrued leave credits;
2. Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for
more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months; or
3. A fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00.
Considering that respondent is not a first time offender and the
charges of gross misconduct and dishonesty are both grave
offenses showing his unfitness to remain as a magistrate of the

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

special graft court, we deem it proper to impose the supreme


penalty of dismissal.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Sandiganbayan
Associate Justice Gregory S. Ong GUILTY of GROSS
MISCONDUCT, DISHONESTY and IMPROPRIETY, all in
violations of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine
Judiciary, for which he is hereby DISMISSED from the service,
with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave
credits, if any, and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch,
agency or instrumentality of the government including
government-owned or -controlled corporations.
This Decision is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.

TOPIC: GRAVE ABUSE OF AUTHORITY, GRAVE


MISCONDUCT, GROSS INSUBORDINATION, AND ACTS
INIMICAL TO JUDICIAL SERVICE.

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR vs. EXECUTIVE


JUDGE OWEN B. AMOR, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, DAET,
CAMARINES NORTE
A.M. No. RTJ-08-2140. October 7, 2014. PERLASBERNABE, J.:
FACTS: In the Memorandum which he submitted pursuant to the
verbal instruction of then Court Administrator Alfredo L.
Benipayo, Judge Contreras reported on the alleged acts of
respondent, as follows:
First, on October 1, 1999, respondent impounded the tricycle of a
certain Gervin Ojeda at the Hall of Justice of Daet, Camarines
Norte, when the latter bumped the formers vehicle and was
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unable to pay the amount demanded for the incurred damages. As


such impounding was entered in the Guards Logbook, Judge
Contreras was able to secure a certification regarding the same
from Security Guard Virginia Morico (SG Morico). However, SG
Morico inadvertently dated the certification October 11, 1999,
instead of November 11, 1999. When Judge Contreras called the
attention of SG Morico of the wrong date, the latter took the
certification and went straight to respondents chambers. After
leaving the chambers, SG Morico became "belligerent and
discourteous" and refused to return the certification to Judge
Contreras. Thus, Judge Contreras sought the assistance of Judge
Sancho Dames and 2nd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Leo Intia
in order to retrieve the aforesaid certification from SG Morico, but
to no avail. Thereafter, Judge Contreras learned that respondent
had berated the guards of the Hall of Justice, including SG Morico,
for issuing the certification, and that SG Morico and Head Guard
Quintin Fernandez tried to conceal the alleged acts of grave
abuse of authority by respondent.
Second, during the latter part of October 1999, Acting Presiding
Judge Rosita Lalwani (Judge Lalwani) of the MTC of Mercedes,
Camarines Norte called respondent to seek reconsideration of her
detail to another station. Respondent then berated Judge Lalwani
and accused her of being lazy and abusive like the other judges of
Camarines Sur who were also detailed at Camarines Norte.
Further, respondent instructed Judge Lalwani to go slow with the
trial of a BP 22 case as the accused therein was his friend.
Third, on October 27, 1999 and under the pretext of a judicial visit,
respondent visited Judge Contreras at the latters chambers and
personally intervened for one Atty. Freddie Venida (Atty. Venida),
who was previously arrested and charged with indirect contempt
for his failure to appear in three (3) criminal cases for which he
stood as an accused. Respondent then told Judge Contreras that
he does not mind Atty. Veridas abusive practice as he gives him

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

gold which was abundant in Paracale, Camarines Norte.


Respondent further sneered at Judge Contreras for "not exploiting
the situation" and intimated to the latter that Atty. Venida would
give him gold. Judge Contreras rejected respondents indecent
overtures, resulting in the latter publicly announcing in open court
that he is an abusive judge for persecuting Atty. Venida.
Fourth, lawyers, prosecutors, and litigants complained about the
habitual absenteeism of respondent, especially during Mondays
and Fridays, resulting in delays in the disposition of cases in
violation of existing laws and circulars on speedy trial.
Lastly, upon assumption as Executive Judge, respondent ordered
Clerk of Court Atty. Perfecto Loria (Atty. Loria) to submit all
petitions for extra-judicial foreclosures to him for scrutiny,
especially those requiring publication upon filing, resulting in the
delay in the proceedings. Respondent also ordered Atty. Loria to
ask for "grease money" from the newspaper publishers under the
pain of being blacklisted. Atty. Loria, however, never obeyed
respondent regarding this matter.
Respondent never filed his comment despite repeated order of the
Court. Instead, pending the case, he ran for the 2002 barangay
elections, resulting to his automatic resignation.
OCA recommended that respondents retirement benefits be
ordered forfeited; and respondent be disqualified from
reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including
government-owned and controlled corporations. In fact, had
respondent not resigned, his actuations warranted dismissal.
ISSUE: Whether respondent should be held administratively liable
for Grave Abuse of Authority, Grave Misconduct, Gross
Insubordination, and Acts Inimical to Judicial Service.

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HELD: YES. Grave abuse of authority is defined as a


misdemeanor committed by a public officer, who, under color of
his office, wrongfully inflicts upon a person any bodily harm,
imprisonment, or other injury; it is an act characterized with
cruelty, severity, or excessive use of authority.
Misconduct, on the other hand, is a transgression of some
established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful
behavior or gross negligence by the public officer. To warrant
dismissal from service, the misconduct must be grave, serious,
important, weighty, momentous, and not trifling. The misconduct
must imply wrongful intention and not a mere error of judgment
and must also have a direct relation to and be connected with the
performance of the public officers official duties amounting either
to maladministration or willful, intentional neglect, or failure to
discharge the duties of the office. In order to differentiate grave
misconduct from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption,
clear intent to violate the law, or flagrant disregard of established
rule, must be manifest in the former.
Needless to say, these acts are inimical to judicial service, and
thus, constitute conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the
service as they violate the norm of public accountability and
diminish or tend to diminish the peoples faith in the Judiciary.
In the instant case, the OCA correctly found respondent guilty of
the charges against him. As aptly pointed out, respondents failure
to file a comment despite all the opportunities afforded him
constituted a waiver of his right to defend himself. In the natural
order of things, a man would resist an unfounded claim or
imputation against him. It is generally contrary to human nature to
remain silent and say nothing in the face of false accusations. As
such, respondents silence may thus be construed as an implied
admission and acknowledgement of the veracity of the allegations
against him. Hence, the Court upholds the OCAs findings that

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

respondent: (a) abused his authority in impounding the tricycle


and exerted undue influence on the security guards of the Hall of
Justice in his attempt to obstruct the investigation of Judge
Contreras; (b) was discourteous in dealing with a fellow judge
when the latter was merely asking for reconsideration of her detail
to another station; (c) used his office and position to intervene in
behalf of Atty. Venida and tolerated the latters abusive practice as
a lawyer in exchange for gold; (d) was habitually absent; and (e)
gave orders to Atty. Loria to submit all petitions for extra-judicial
foreclosures to him which resulted in delays in the proceedings
and asked the latter to demand "grease money" from newspaper
publishers in order not to be blacklisted.
Further, the OCA properly found respondent guilty of Gross
Misconduct and Insubordination for refusing to comply with the
numerous directives of the Court to file a comment on the
administrative complaint against him.
WHEREFORE, respondent Executive Judge Owen B. Amor of the
Regional Trial Court of Daet, Camarines Norte, is found GUILTY
of Grave Abuse of Authority, Grave Misconduct, Acts Inimical to
Judicial Service, and Insubordination and would have been
DISMISSED from service, had he not been deemed automatically
resigned effective June 7, 2002. Accordingly, his civil service
eligibility is CANCELLED, his retirement and other benefits,
except accrued leave credits which he had already claimed, are
hereby FORFEITED. Further, he is PERPETUALLY
DISQUALIFIED from re-employment in any government agency or
instrumentality, including any government-owned and controlled
corporation or government financial institution.

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TOPIC: IMMORALITY AND IMPROPER USE BY A JUDGE OF


THE HALL OF JUSTICE
DOROTHY FE MAH-AREVALO
vs.
JUDGE CELSO L. MANTUA, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF
PALOMPON, LEYTE, BRANCH 17
FACTS: Complainant alleged in her complaint that respondent: (a)
used the Hall of Justice, particularly his chamber, as his
residence; (b) openly brought his mistress in court as observed by
all of his staff, especially by a former Utility Worker of the
Metropolitan Trial Court of the same station, Dyndee Nuez
(Nuez); (c) used the court process server, Benjamin Pepito
(Pepito), as his personal driver; (d) delegated his work load tohis
legal researcher, Atty. Elmer Mape (Atty. Mape), because he
could no longer attend to the same due to his many vices; (e)
committed gross ignorance of the law when, in one criminal case
that he handled, he proceeded to trial and allowed the private
complainant to testify in open court even if the accused was not
assisted by counsel, and furthermore, extorted money from the
accused in the amount of P200,000.00; (f) asked for gasoline,
personal allowance, and other benefits from the local government;
and (g) failed to decide cases within the prescribed 90-day period
because he was waiting for litigants to offer him monetary
consideration.
In response to the OCAs 1st Indorsement 4 dated February 13,
2009 directing him to comment on the complaint, respondent
submitted an undated comment denying all accusations against
him. In particular, respondent maintained that he: (a) could not be
residing at the Hall of Justice as he was already renting a vacant
house near the same during his tenure as judge of the RTC; (b)
had no mistress, explaining that the woman that often goes inside
his office was his caterer who brought him food; (c) merely

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

requested to hitchhike with Pepito from Palompon to Ormoc City


and viceversa on Mondays and Fridays since the latter
synchronized his process serving to litigants and lawyers of
Ormoc City on such days; (d) personally prepared his decisions as
Atty. Mape only assisted him with legal research; (e) indeed
allowed trial to proceed without the accused being assisted by
counsel in that criminal case pointed out by the complainant, but
only because the accused violated the three (3)-day rule of filing
postponements and failed to inform the adverse party of such
intention, and that he never extorted money from the accused;
and (f) never asked for gasoline allowance, but nevertheless
affirmed that he, like all other local officials, received allowances
from the local government. Further, respondent averred that as of
January 9, 2009, he had already been separated from service due
to compulsory retirement.
The Investigating Justice of the OCA found respondent guilty of
violating the prohibition on not using the hall of justice as
residence and guilty of immorality. He was then fined 40,000.
ISSUE: Whether respondent should be held administratively liable
for Immorality and violation of SC Administrative Circular No. 3-92
inrelation to A.M. No. 01-9-09-SC.

HELD: YES.
SC Administrative Circular No. 3-92 explicitly states that the Halls
of Justice may only be used for functions related to the
administration of justice and for no other purpose. Similar thereto,
Section 3, PartI of A.M. No. 01-9-09-SC also provides for similar
restrictions regarding the use of the Halls of Justice, to wit:
Sec. 3. USE OF [Halls of Justice] HOJ.

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Sec. 3.1. The HOJ shall be for the exclusive use of Judges,
Prosecutors, Public Attorneys, Probation and ParoleOfficers and,
in the proper cases, the Registries of Deeds, including their
support personnel.
Sec. 3.2. The HOJ shall be used only for court and office
purposes and shall not be used for residential, i.e., dwelling or
sleeping, or commercial purposes.
Sec. 3.3. Cooking, except for boiling water for coffee or similar
beverage, shall not be allowed in the HOJ.20(Emphasis and
underscoring supplied)
In this case, complainants evidence had sufficiently established
that respondent used his chambers in the Hall of Justice as his
residential and dwelling place. As correctly pointed out by both the
Investigating Justice and the OCA, respondents defense that he
rented a house did not negate the possibility that he used the Hall
of Justice as his residence, since it is possible that a person could
be renting one place while actually and physically residing in
another.
Further, the Investigating Justice and the OCA correctly found
respondent guilty of Immorality.1wphi1 Immorality has been
defined "to include not only sexual matters but also conduct
inconsistent with rectitude, or indicative of corruption, indecency,
depravity, and dissoluteness; or is willful, flagrant, or shameless
conduct showing moral indifference to opinions of respectable
members of the community, and an inconsiderate attitude toward
good order and public welfare.
WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Celso L. Mantua of the
Regional Trial Court of Palompon, Leyte, Branch 17 is found
GUILTY of Immorality and violation of Administrative Circular No.
3-92 in relation to A.M. No. 01-9-09-SC. Accordingly, he is hereby

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

meted the penalty of a FINE in the amount of P40,000.00, which


amount shall be deducted from the retirement benefits due him.

THE CONDUCT OF A JUDGE MUST BE FREE OF A WHIFF OF


IMPROPRIETY NOT ONLY WITH RESPECT TO HIS
PERFORMANCE OF HIS JUDICIAL DUTIES, BUT ALSO TO HIS
BEHAVIOR OUTSIDE HIS SALA AND AS A PRIVATE
INDIVIDUAL
A.M. No. RTJ-13-2366

February 4, 2015

JILL M. TORMIS vs. JUDGE MEINRADO P. PAREDES


Facts: Jill charged Judge Paredes with grave misconduct. Jill was
a student of Judge Paredes in Political Law Review. She averred
that in his class discussions, Judge Paredes named her mother,
Judge Rosabella Tormis (Judge Tormis),then Presiding Judge of
Branch 4, Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC),Cebu City, as
one of the judges involved in the marriage scams in Cebu City.
Judge Paredes also mentioned in his class that Judge Tormis was
abusive of her position as a judge, corrupt, and ignorant of the
law.
Jill added that Judge Paredes included Judge Tormis in his
discussions not only once but several times. In one session,
Judge Paredes was even said to have included in his discussion
Francis Mondragon Tormis (Francis),son of Judge Tormis, stating
that he was a "court-noted addict.
She was absent from class at that time, but one of her classmates
who was present, Rhoda L. Litang (Rhoda), informed her about
the inclusion of her brother. To avoid humiliation in school, Jill
decided to drop the class under Judge Paredes and transfer to
another law school in Tacloban City.

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Jill also disclosed thatin the case entitled "Trinidad O. Lachica v.


Judge Tormis" (Lachica v. Tormis), her mother was suspended
from the service for six (6) months for allegedly receiving payment
of a cash bail bond for the temporary release of an accused for
the warrant she had issued in a case then pending before her
sala. Judge Paredes was the one who reviewed the findings
conducted therein and he recommended that the penalty be
reduced to severe reprimand.
Thus, she prayed that Judge Paredes be administratively
sanctioned for his actuations.
In his Comment, Paredes denied the accusations of Jill. He stated
that Judge Tormis had several administrative cases, some of
which he had investigated; that as a result of the investigations, he
recommended sanctions against Judge Tormis; that Judge Tormis
used Jill, her daughter, to get back at him; that he discussed in his
class the case of Lachica v. Tormis, but never Judge Tormis
involvement in the marriage scams nor her sanctions as a result of
the investigation conducted by the Court; that he never personally
attacked Judge Tormis dignity and credibility. that there was
nothing wrong in discussing the administrative cases involving
Judge Tormis because these cases were known to the legal
community and some were even published in the Supreme Court
Reports Annotated (SCRA) and other legal publications; and that
when he was the executive judge tasked to investigate Judge
Tormis, he told her to mend her ways, butshe resented his advice.
Judge Paredes further stated that when Jill was still his student,
she did not complain about or dispute his discussions in class
regarding the administrative liabilities of her mother
Reply of the Complainant
In her Verified-Reply,8 dated November 23, 2011, Jill countered
that her mother had nothing to do with the filing of the present

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

complaint; that she was forced to leave her family in Cebu City to
continue her law studies elsewhere because she could no longer
bear the discriminating and judgmental eyes of her classmates
brought about by Judge Paredes frequent discussions in class of
her mothers administrative cases
Jill claimed that the intention to humiliate her family was evident
when Judge Paredes branded her brother, Francis, as a "drug
addict."
Rejoinder of Judge Paredes
In his Rejoinder, dated December 2, 2011, Judge Paredes
asserted that it was not premature to discuss the marriage scams
in class because the scandal was already disclosed by Atty.
Rullyn Garcia and was also written in many legal publications, and
that the drug addiction of Francis was known in the Palace of
Justice of Cebu City.
1

In its Report, dated September 12, 2012, the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA) stated that the conflicting allegations by the
parties presented factual issues that could not be resolved based
on the evidence on record then. Considering the gravity and the
sensitive natureof the charges, a full-blown investigation should be
conducted by the CA.
On January 14, 2013, pursuant tothe recommendation of the
OCA, the Court referred the administrative complaint to the
Executive Justice of the CA, Cebu Station, for investigation, report
and recommendation within sixty (60) days from receipt of the
records.11
On March 26, 2013, the case was raffled to, and the records were
received by, Justice Diy.
In her Report and Recommendation, Justice Diy found Judge
Paredes guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge. She opined that

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his use of intemperate language during class discussions was


inappropriate. His statements in class, tending to project Judge
Tormis as corrupt and ignorant of the laws and procedure, were
obviously and clearly insensitive and inexcusable.
Justice Diy disregarded the defense of Judge Paredes that his
discussions of the administrative case of Judge Tormis in class
was an exercise of his right to freedom of expression. She cited
the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine
Judiciary which urged members of the Judiciary to be models of
propriety at all times. She quoted with emphasis Section 6 which
stated that "Judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to freedom
of expression, belief, association and assembly, but in exercising
such rights, they shall always conduct themselves in such a
manner as to preserve the dignity of the judicial office and the
impartiality and independence of the judiciary."16
Based on these findings, Justice Diy came up with the following
recommendations, thus:
The undersigned Investigating Justice finds that indeed Judge
Paredes is guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge. Conduct
unbecoming of a judge is classified as a light offense under
Section 10, Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court, penalized
under Section 11 (c) thereof by any of the following: (1) a Fine of
not less thanP1,000.00 but not exceeding P10,000.00; (2)
Censure; (3) Reprimand; and (4) Admonition with warning.
Issue: W/N Judge Paredes is guilty of conduct of unbecoming
a judge
Held: Yes.
The Court adopts the findings and recommendations of Justice
Diy except as to the penalty.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

Misconduct is defined as a transgression of some established and


definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross
negligence by a public officer. The misconduct is grave if it
involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent
to violate the law, or to disregard established rules, which must be
established by substantial evidence. As distinguished from simple
misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the
law, or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be manifest in
a charge of grave misconduct. Corruption, as an element of grave
misconduct, consists in the act of an official or fiduciary person
who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to
procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to
duty and the rights of others.
To constitute misconduct, the act or acts must have a direct
relation to and be connected with the performance of his official
duties. Considering that the acts complained of, the remarks
against Judge Tormis and Francis, were made by Judge Paredes
in his class discussions, they cannot be considered as
"misconduct." They are simply not related to the discharge of his
official functions as a judge. Thus, Judge Paredes cannot be held
liable for misconduct, much less for grave misconduct.
Conduct unbecoming of a judge is classified as a light offense
under Section 10, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court and penalized
under Section 11(C) thereof by any of the following: (1) A fine of
not less than P1,000.00 but not exceeding P10,000.00; (2)
Censure; (3) Reprimand; and (4) Admonition with warning.
Considering that this is the first offense of Judge Paredes, the
appropriate penalty under the circumstances is admonition.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Meinrado P. Paredes,
Presiding Judge of Branch 13 of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu
City, administratively liable for conduct unbecoming of a judge and
ADMONISHES him therefor.
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Discussion of a subjudicematter, however, is another thing.


On subjudice matters, Section 4, Canon 3 ofthe New Code of
Judicial Conduct provides: CANON 3
IMPARTIALITY
SEC. 4. Judges shall not knowingly, while a proceeding is before
or could come before them, make any comment that might
reasonably be expected to affect the outcome of such proceeding
or impair the manifest fairness of the process. Nor shall judges
make any comment in public or otherwise that might affect the fair
trial of any person or issue. (Emphasis supplied)
The subjudice rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining
to the judicial proceedings in order to avoid prejudging the issue,
influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice.
The rationale for the rule was spelled is that courts and juries, in
the decision of issues of fact and law should be immune from
every extraneous influence; that facts should be decided upon
evidence produced in court; and that the determination of such
facts should be uninfluenced by bias, prejudice or sympathies.
Notably, when Judge Paredes discussed the marriage scams
involving Judge Tormis in 2010, the investigation relative to the
said case had not yet been concluded. In fact, the decision on the
case was promulgated by the Court only on April 2, 2013. In 2010,
he still could not make comments on the administrative case to
prevent any undue influence in its resolution. Commenting on the
marriage scams, where Judge Tormis was one of the judges
involved, was in contravention of the subjudicerule. Justice Diy
was, therefore, correct in finding that Judge Paredes violated
Section 4, Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

The Court shares the view of Justice Diy that although the
reasons of Judge Paredes for discussing the marriage scams in
his classes seemed noble, his objectives were carried out
insensitively and in bad taste.

not descend to the level of a sharp-tongued, ill-mannered petty


tyrant by uttering harsh words, snide remarks and sarcastic
comments. He is required to always be temperate, patient and
courteous, both in conduct and in language. 26

Judge Paredes in using intemperate language and unnecessary


comments tending to project Judge Tormisas a corrupt and
ignorant judge in his class discussions, was correctly found guilty
of conduct unbecoming of a judge by Justice Dy.

In this case, records show that Judge Paredes failed to observe


the propriety required by the Code and to use temperate and
courteous language befitting a magistrate. Indeed, Judge Paredes
demonstrated conduct unbecoming of a judge.

Indeed, the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine


Judiciary requires judges to exemplify propriety at all times. Canon
4 instructs:
CANON 4
PROPRIETY
SEC. 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of
impropriety in all of their activities.
xxx
SEC. 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must
accept personal restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome
by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In
particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way that is
consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.
A judge should always conduct himself in a manner that would
preserve the dignity, independence and respect for himself, the
Court and the Judiciary as a whole. He must exhibit the hallmark
judicial temperament of utmost sobriety and self-restraint.
Heshould choose his words and exercise more caution and
control inexpressing himself. In other words, a judge should
possess the virtue of gravitas. Furthermore, a magistrate should

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When Judge Paredes failed to restrain himself and included


Francis, whose condition and personal circumstances, as properly
observed by Justice Diy, had no relevance to the topic that was
then being discussed in class, it strongly indicated his intention to
taint their reputations.
The inclusion of Judge Tormis and Francis in his class
discussions was never denied by Judge Paredes who merely
justified his action by invoking his right to freedom of expression.
Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct
recognizes that judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to
freedom of expression. Such right, however, is not without
limitation. Section 6, Canon 4 of the Code also imposes a
correlative restriction on judges: in the exercise of their freedom of
expression, they should always conduct themselves in a manner
that preserves the dignity of the judicial office and the impartiality
and independence of the Judiciary. In the exercise of his right to
freedomof expression, Judge Paredes should uphold the good
image of the Judiciary ofwhich he is a part. He should have
avoided unnecessary and uncalled for remarks in his discussions
and should have been more circumspect inhis language. Beinga
judge, he is expected to act with greater circumspection and to
speak with self-restraint. Verily, Judge Paredes fell short of this
standard.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

SECTION 1. Judges shall ensure thatnot only is their conduct


above reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a
reasonable observer.
SECTION 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm
the peoples faith in the integrity of the judiciary.1wphi1Justice
must not merely be done but must also be seen to be done.
(Emphases supplied)
Any impropriety on the part of Judge Paredes, whether committed
in or out of the court, should not be tolerated for he is not a judge
only occasionally. It should be emphasized that the Code of
Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free
of a whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his performance of
his judicial duties, but also to his behavior outside his sala and as
a private individual. There is no dichotomy of morality, a public
official is also judged by his private morals. The Code dictates that
a judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times.
The personal behavior of a judge, both in the performance of
official duties and in private life should be above suspicion.

Facts: Complainants Wenefredo Parreno and Ronnie Cuevas,


with Joseph Denamarca, filed a protest in the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources of the National Capital
Region (DENR-NCR) against the issuance of Transfer Certificate
of Title (TCT) No. 14391 and TCT No. 14188 in favor of Susan
Enriquez and Alma Rodriguez covering two lots inside the Signal
Village, Taguig.2 The DENR-NCR dismissed the protest,3 but the
dismissal was subsequently reversed by the DENR.4 Aggrieved,
Enriquez and Rodriguez appealed to the Office of the President
(OP), which denied their appeal.5 With their motion for
reconsideration having been similarly denied,6 Enriquez and
Rodriguez appealed to the CA by petition for review,7 and it is
such appeal from which this administrative complaint arose.
It appears that on June 26, 2012, the Special Sixteenth (16th)
Division of the CA issued its resolution submitting C.A.-G.R. SP
No. 108807 for decision.8 However, the complainants lament that
from the issuance of the resolution until the filing of their complaint
on February 8, 2014, the respondents, who comprised the Special
16th Division of the CA, had not rendered the decision, which the
complainants insist was in patent violation of the mandatory period
within which the respondents should decide under Section 15(1 ),
Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.

UNDUE DELAY IN DECIDING CASES


Issue: Whether the respondents are liable for undue delay in
deciding CA-GR SP No. 108807
RE: COMPLAINT DATED JANUARY 28, 2014 OF WENEFREDO
PARRENO, ET AL., AGAINST HON. CELIA C. LIBREALEAGOGO, HON. ELIHU A. YBANEZ AND HON. AMY C.
LAZARO-JAVIER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICES OF THE COURT OF
APPEALS, RELATIVE TO CA G.R. SP NO.108807
OCA IPI NO. 14-220-CA-J
BERSAMIN, J.:

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March 17, 2015

Held: No. The Constitution mandates a lower collegiate court like


the CA to resolve a case within 12 months from the submission of
the last required pleading or as set by the court itself.
Section 15, Article VIII of the Constitution provides:
Section 15. (1) All cases or matters filed after the effectivity
of this Constitution must be decided or resolved within twenty-four
months from date of submission for the Supreme Court, and,

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all


lower collegiate courts, and three months for all lower courts.

(2) A case or matter shall be deemed submitted for decision or


resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or
memorandum required by the Rules of Court or by the court itself.
xx xx
Although C.A.-G.R. SP No. 108807 was submitted for decision by
the Special 16th Division on June 26, 2012 after the parties did
not file their memoranda,18 it was the 13th Division of the CA
(composed of Justice Ybafiez as the ponente, Justice Japar B.
Dimaampao as the Chairman, and Justice Melchor Quirino C.
Sadang) that promulgated the decision on February 28, 2014, or
nearly 20 months later. Pursuant to Section 1, Rule VI of the 2009
IRCA, the adjudication of cases was the responsibility of the
assigned Justice and the Members of the Division to which he or
she then belonged. Determining who should be administratively
accountable must consider the specific role each of the
respondents played leading to the resolution of C.A.-G.R. SP No.
108807. Under the applicable rule of the 2009 IRCA, the liability
for undue delay in resolving C.A.-G.R. SP No. 108807 might
devolve only on the Members of the 13th Division who actually
promulgated the decision.
Justice Librea-Leagogo and Justice Lazaro-Javier were not
accountable for the delay in rendering the judgment. Justice
Librea-Leagogo had a limited participation in respect of C.A.- G.R.
SP No. 108807 because the reorganization of the CA ensuing
after the promulgation of the resolution by the Special 16th
Division on June 26, 2012 caused her transfer to the 15 th Division
through CA Office Order No. 220-12-ABR,19 terminating her
responsibility in C.A.- G.R. SP No. 108807. Justice Lazaro-Javier

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should also be exculpated because her participation was limited to


her acting as a special Member of the 16th Division in lieu of
Justice Paredes.
Justice Ybanez, as the ponente for C.A. G.R. SP No. 108807,
carried the case with him when he was transferred to the 13th
Division. But whether or not he was administratively liable for the
delay of eight months should depend on the relevant
circumstances.
The delay in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 108807 could not be said to have
been incurred by Justice Ybafiez with malice or deliberate attempt
to impede the dispensation of justice. He assigned C.A.-G.R. SP
No. 108807 to a member of his legal staff, but the latter had fallen
seriously ill in the meantime, forcing him to hire a contractuallawyer for the purpose. The latter subsequently joined another
agency of the Government on a permanent basis. Thus, Justice
Ybafiez could promulgate the decision only on February 28, 2014.
His explanation for the delay, being entirely plausible, is accepted.
WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES for lack of merit the
administrative complaint against Justice Celia C. Librea-Leagogo,
Justice Elihu A. Ybafiez and Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier.

IMPROPER CONDUCT OF JUDGES FAILURE TO PAY


LOANS
A.M. No. RTJ-14-2402

April 15, 2015

JOSEFINA M. ONGCUANGCO TRADING CORPORATION,


represented by JOSEFINA M. ONGCUANGCO VS JUDGE
RENATO D. PINLAC, Regional Trial Court, Branch 57, San
Carlos City, Pangasinan

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

REYES, J.:

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

Facts: In its complaint dated June 14, 2012, JMOTC (Josefina M.


Ongcuangco Trading Corp) averred that, sometime in 2002,
Ongcuangco, its president and majority shareholder, filed with the
MTCC of Cabanatuan City several cases against Yolanda Lazaro
(Lazaro) for violation of B.P. Blg. 22. The said cases were raffled
to Branch 1 of the MTCC wherein Judge Pinlac was then the
Presiding Judge.
JMOTC claimed that:
1. During the course of the trial of the said cases, Judge
Pinlac allegedly learned that Ongcuangco is engaged in
the business of selling, marketing and distribution of
animal feeds.
2. Judge Pinlac approached Ongcuangco, informing her that
he has a hog farm in Pangasinan, and requested her to
supply on credit his farms animal feeds needs.
3. Sometime in 2008, Judge Pinlac purchased on credit
animal feeds from JMOTC, issuing 8 post-dated checks in
the aggregate amount of 2,203,400.00.
4. Upon Judge Pinlacs request, JMOTC did not deposit the
said checks due to lack of funds. Judge Pinlac told
JMOTC not to worry because he secured a loan from a
bank, the proceeds of which will be utilized by him in
paying of his debt. However, JMOTC learned that the loan
has not been approved.
5. On June 18, 2010, Judge Pinlac executed an
acknowledgement for his unpaid obligations in the
aggregate amount of 2,153,400.00 to be paid in
installment basis starting from June 21, 2010 to October
31, 2011. However, Judge Pinlac failed to fulfill his
undertakings.

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6. JMOTC, through counsel, sent Judge Pinlac demand


letters but the same went unheeded
Hence, this administrative case for violation of Rule 140 Section 8,
paragraph 6 for willful failure to pay just debt and paragraph (7) for
borrowing money or property from lawyers and litigants in a case
pending before the court and Section 8, Canon 4 of the New Code
of Judicial Conduct (please see the ruling for the specific
provision). JMOTC averred that Judge Pinlac should be
discharged from the service for taking advantage of his position,
by availing of credit purchases from a litigant who has cases
pending before his sala, and his deliberate failure to pay his debts
for almost four years despite repeated demands.
In his Comment:
1. Judge Pinlac belied JMOTCs claim that there was a
pending case filed by JMOTC before the MTCC of
Cabanatuan City, Branch 1, from 2002 to 2010 while he
was the Presiding Judge therein.
2.

He explained that the complainant in the present


administrative complaint is JMOTC a judicial entity that
has a separate and distinct personality from its officers
and stockholders. As such, it cannot be presumed that
Ongcuangco, the complainant in the case before Branch 1
of the MTCC of Cabanatuan City is the same as JMOTC.

3. He claimed that he did not personally transact the


purchase on credit of animal feeds from JMOTC or from
Ongcuangco because it was Belinda Austria (manager of
Judge Pinlacs hog farm) who transacted with Legend
Feeds
4. He claimed that he did not know then that Legend Feeds
is a product that is being distributed by JMOTC. He only

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

came to know that he transacted with JMOTC when


invoice receipts were delivered and the request was made
for the issuance of post-dated checks payable to JMOTC.
5. He further denied having used his office to advance his
private interest and said that when he was appointed to
the RTC, the case filed by Ongcuangco against Lazaro
was then still being tried before the MTCC of Cabanatuan
City.
6. Judge Pinlac also alleged that his failure to pay his debt
was not willful because he made several payments in the
total amount of 500,000 as partial payment of his
obligation. His failure was due to the losses suffered by his
hog farm, which eventually ceased operations when the
hogs suffered from a disease caused by the substandard
quality of the animal feeds he purchased from JMOTC.
The CA Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta as
Investigating Justice found no evidence to support JMOTCs
allegation that Judge Pinlac took advantage of his office but there
was willful failure on his part to pay just debt. The partial payment
made by respondent and his offer to pay in kind, which were done
only after the filing of the administrative case, may only serve to
mitigate his liability. Justice Peralta recommended that respondent
be suspended from office for 3 months without salary and other
benefits. With respect to the civil liability of respondent pertaining
to his unpaid obligation, the undersigned respectfully defers to the
determination thereof in the separate civil case filed by petitioner
against respondent.
Issues:
1. Whether Judge Pinlac should be held administratively
liable for taking advantage of his obtain to obtain a loan
from JMOTC

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2. Whether Judge Pinlac is guilty for borrowing money from a


litigant in a case pending before his sala
3. Whether Judge Pinlac is guilty of willful failure to pay just
debt
Ruling of the Court:
1. NO. The claim that Judge Pinlac used the prestige of his
office to obtain the
loan from JMOTC is unsubstantiated. Sections 8 and 13,
Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the
Philippine Judiciary provides that:
Sec. 8. Judges shall not use or lend the prestige of the judicial
office to advance their private interests, or those of a member of
their family or of anyone else, nor shall they convey or permit
others to convey the impression that anyone is in a special
position improperly to influence them in the performance of judicial
duties.
Sec. 13. Judges and members of their families shall neither ask
for nor accept, any gift, bequest, loan or favor in relation to
anything done or to be done or omitted to be done by him or her in
connection with the performance of official duties.
Pursuant to the foregoing provisions, in order for a Judge to be
held liable under Sections 8 and 13, Canon 4 of the New Code of
Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, there must be
evidence first that would establish that private interests were
advanced using the prestige of judicial office or that the
acceptance, inter alia, of loans or favors was made in exchange
for anything to be done or omitted to be done by the Judge in
connection with the performance of official duties.
The Court finds that JMOTC failed to adduce substantial evidence
that would establish that Judge Pinlac used the prestige of his

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

office in negotiating the purchase on credit of animal feeds from


JMOTC or that the loan accommodation was extended to Judge
Pinlac in exchange for anything to be done or omitted to be done
by him in connection with his judicial functions. Verily, other than
self-serving testimonies of its witnesses, JMOTC failed to present
any other evidence that would prove its claim.
There is a dearth of evidence to support complainants affirmative
allegation that respondent took advantage of his position as
MTCC Judge when the initial negotiations of the purchase for the
animal feeds took place. Respondent claims that during the
negotiations for purchase of the feeds sometime in 2007, he was
not aware that Josefina M. Ongcuangco was one of the
incorporators of JMO Trading Corporation. Notably, in the criminal
cases, the private prosecutor proposed for admission and the
defense admitted that "Josefina M. Ongcuangco (also referred to
as Josephine Ongcuangco)" is the owner of JO Agricultural
Supply with office at Sanciangco Street, Cabanatuan City. JMO
Trading Corporation was not mentioned at all as one of the
corporations owned by Josefina M. Ongcuangco.
There is also no clear indication in the pertinent records of the
criminal cases that complainant was unduly favored by the
respondent when the latter started to purchase animal feeds in
2007. At the time, the prosecution had already rested its case.
Neither is there any showing in the records that respondent acted
with manifest partiality or bias against complainant from 2008
onwards, when respondent failed to pay his obligation. At the time,
the defense was presenting evidence and the prosecution was
given opportunity to cross examine the defense witnesses.
2. NO. Under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, borrowing money or
property from lawyers and litigants in a case pending before the
court is considered a serious charge for which a Judge may be
administratively sanctioned.

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The proscription against borrowing money or property from


lawyers and litigants in a case pending before the court is
imposed on Judges to avoid the impression that the Judge would
rule in favor of a litigant because the former is indebted to the
latter. In order for the said proscription to operate, it should first be
established that the Judge knows that the person or entity from
whom he or she is borrowing money or property is actually a
lawyer or litigant in a case pending before his or her sala.
It is true that Ongcuangco, in her personal capacity, instituted
several criminal cases for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 against Lazaro
in 2001 and that the same was raffled to Branch 1 wherein Judge
Pinlac was the Presiding Judge. However, in 2007, Judge Pinlac
transacted with JMOTC a corporation that has a personality
separate and distinct from its officers and stockholders for the
purchase on credit of animal feeds.
Further, during the initial negotiations for the purchase of animal
feeds, the representatives of JMOTC introduced themselves to
Austria, the manager of Judge Pinlacs hog farm, as
representatives of Legend Feeds. It was only during the initial
delivery that Judge Pinlac, through the invoice receipt, was
apprised that Legend Feeds was actually JMOTC.
In view of the foregoing, it would be unjust to administratively
penalize Judge Pinlac for obtaining a loan from JMOTC
notwithstanding that the latter is not a litigant in any pending case
in his sala. Moreover, JMOTC failed to adduce substantial
evidence that would establish that Judge Pinlac knew that
Ongcuangco, who is a litigant in several criminal cases then
pending before his sala, is the majority shareholder of either
Legend Feeds or JMOTC.
3. NO. Judge Pinlacs failure to pay his debt to JMOTC cannot
be characterized as willful. The mere failure of a Judge to pay a
loan he obtained on the due date despite written demands cannot

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

be instantly characterized as willful. The term "willful" means


voluntary and intentional.29 Thus, a Judges failure to pay a just
debt, as would constitute a serious charge under Section 8(6) of
Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, must not only be voluntary, but
also intentional, i.e., that the Judge no longer has any intention to
satisfy his obligation. The complainant must present substantial
evidence that would show that the respondent no longer intends to
fulfill his obligation. There must be circumstances that would
support the conclusion that the respondent no longer has any
intention to pay his debt.
Contrary to the Investigating Justices finding, the circumstances
of this case show that Judge Pinlac had every intention to pay his
debt to JMOTC. Judge Pinlacs inability to pay his debt to JMOTC
was due to the losses suffered by his hog farm, which eventually
ceased operations. Nevertheless, Judge Pinlac made partial
payments to JMOTC as follows:
(1) 50,000.00 on March 31, 2009, which was received by Galang;
(2) 50,000.00 on August 13, 2009, which was received by Royo;
and
(3) 400,000.00 given by way of a managers check dated October
4, 2012.

Judge Pinlac is, however, guilty of impropriety for failure to


pay his debt to JMOTC.
Propriety and appearance of impropriety are essential to the
performance of all the activities of a judge. Thus, Judges are
enjoined to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in
all of their activities.
Judge Pinlac does not deny having obtained a loan from JMOTC
on his purchases of animal feeds and that the same has yet to be
fully satisfied. Thus, there being no evidence that would establish
that Judge Pinlacs failure to pay his debt was intentional, he could
only be held liable for impropriety. Impropriety constitutes a light
charge, which, under Section 11(C) of Rule 140 of the Rules of
Court, carries with it the sanction of: (1) a fine of not less
than P1,000.00 but not exceeding P10,000.00 and/or; (2)
Censure; (3) Reprimand; and (4) Admonition with warning. The
Court deems it proper to impose the same penalty on Judge
Pinlac considering the amount of his unpaid obligation to JM OTC.
WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Renato D. Pinlac found
GUILTY of IMPROPRIETY and is FINED in the amount of
P10,000.00 and WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar
act shall be dealt with more severely.

Judge Pinlac even offered two residential parcels of land to


JMOTC as payment for his obligation, which, however, was
refused by Ongcuangco. As such, Judge Pinlac may have been
unable to pay his debt to JMOTC, but such inability cannot be
characterized as willful. The foregoing circumstances indubitably
show that Judge Pinlac had no intention to abscond from his
obligation to JMOTC.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

THE ACT OF MISAPPROPRIATING COURT -FUNDS


CONSTITUTES DISHONESTY AND GRAVE MISCONDUCT,
PUNISHABLE BY DISMISSAL FROM THE SERVICE EVEN ON
THE FIRST OFFENSE
OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATION
vs.
JUDGE ALEXANDER BALUT
FACTS: Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) conducted a
judicial audit and physical inventory of cases at the Municipal Trial
Courts (MTCs) of Bayombong and Solano, Nueva Vizcaya. Judge
Alexander S. Balut was the acting presiding judge in both courts.
Aside from the judicial audit, a financial audit was also conducted
in the MTCs of Bayombong and Solano as well as the MCTC of
Aritao-Sta. Fe.
In the MTC, Bayombong, where Judith En. Salimpade was Clerk
of Court II, the audit team found an unremitted amount
of P18,702.oo representing the court's collection from August 3,
2003 to August 18, 2003.
In sum, the shortages in the various funds incurred by Salimpade
as of August 31, 2003 totalled P2,057,378.59.
Salimpade, when asked about the shortages, explained that
Judge Balut, since 1995 had been getting money from the
JDF collections. She had given in to the requests of Judge Balut
out of fear of him. She also admitted that she lent her coemployees money which she took from her collections.
Parenthetically, in September 2003, Judge Balut turned
over P240,000.00 to Salimpade and the latter issued a
certification stating that the former had completely settled his
monetary accountability to the MTC, Bayombong. Judge Balut

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delivered to the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management


Office (CMO) OCA the certification and deposit slip evidencing the
turnover of the P240,000.00.
In the MTC, Solano, the spot cash count on the court's collection
disclosed that Eduardo Esconde, Clerk of Court, had an
unremitted/undeposited cash on hand amounting to P59,545.oo.
Esconde explained to the audit team that Judge Balut borrowed
various amounts from the collections. He stated that Judge Balut
started borrowing funds when the former was still the Clerk of
Court of MCTC, Aritao-Sta. Fe. He transferred to MTC, Solano, to
get out of the shadow of Judge Balut. But, much to his dismay,
Judge Balut was designated Acting Presiding Judge of MTC,
Solano and continued the practice of borrowing money from the
collections of the court.
In the MCTC, Aritao-Sta. Fe, the audit team found that Lydia
Ramos, Clerk of Court, succeeded Eduardo S. Esconde on July
16, 2000, without proper turnover of accountabilities. The team
also found that the amount ofP540.00, part of the JDF collections
from August 1, 2003 to August 21, 2003, remained undeposited at
the time of audit.
As of August 31, 2003, however, the amount of P846,710.00 was
unaccounted for by Mr. Esconde and Mrs. Ramos. Both denied
that the shortages incurred were of their own doing and they
instead pointed to Judge Balut as the offender.
Ramos related to the audit team the constant requests/orders of
Judge Balut to hand over to him money from the Fiduciary Fund
collections. In these instances, she requested Judge Balut to affix
his signature at the back portion of the withdrawal slips as the
cash recipient. However, not all of the transactions were
evidenced by an acknowledgement receipt.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

Aside from these, withdrawals from the Fiduciary Fund account


totalling P90,500.oo were also given to Judge Balut. On the face
of the slips of this class of withdrawals were notations such as
"Judge," "for Judge," "taken by Judge xxx" and "given to Judge"
written by Ramos.
On May 9, 2002, Judge Balut issued a Certification stating that his
accountability with the Fiduciary Fund collection of MCTC AritaoSta. Fe as of April 2002 amounted to .P207,774.42. However,
before the final report on the court's shortages was completed,
various amounts totalling P802,299.82 were deposited by Judge
Balut, Esconde and Ramos in the court's LBP Account No. 32510544-51, as restitution/payment of part of the shortage of P846,
710.00.
As of August, 2004, Ramos had fully settled the balance of her
accountability. On the other hand, Esconde still had a balance of
accountability in MCTC, Aritao-Sta. Fe of P58,100.oo which, as of
the time this case was submitted by the OCA for the Court's
consideration, has remained unsettled. (Emphases supplied)
In its Resolution, the Court ordered Judge Balut to pay a fine for
his failure to decide 33 cases and 101 motions without properly
requesting for an extension. The Court, however, did not rule on
the administrative liability of Judge Balut with respect to the result
of the financial audit for the reason that he was not given a chance
to present his side on the matter.
OCA sought reconsideration. CA recommended the dismissal of
the charges against Judge Balut for failure of the OCA to clearly
substantiate and prove the participation of Judge Balut in the
financial transactions of the courts. On his admission that he
borrowed money from the judiciary fund, the CA opined that Judge
Balut could no longer be penalized as he was previously fined by
the Court in its October 9, 2007 Resolution.

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ISSUE: W/N charges against Judge Balut must be dismissed


HELD: NO. The Court finds itself unable to agree with the
recommendation of the CA.
In administrative cases, the quantum of proof necessary is
substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind may accept as adequate to support a conclusion. The
standard of substantial evidence is justified when there is
reasonable ground to believe that respondent is responsible for
the misconduct complained of, even if such evidence is not
overwhelming or even preponderant.
Once again, the Court stresses that judges must adhere to the
highest tenets of judicial conduct. Because of the sensitivity of his
position, a judge is required to exhibit, at all times, the highest
degree of honesty and integrity and to observe exacting standards
of morality, decency and competence. He should adhere to the
highest standards of public accountability lest his action erode the
public faith in the Judiciary.
Judge Balut fell short of this standard for borrowing money from
the collections of the court. He knowingly and deliberately made
the clerks of court violate the circulars on the proper
administration of court funds. He miserably failed to become a role
model of his staff and other court personnel in the observance of
the standards of morality and decency, both in his official and
personal conduct.
The act of misappropriating court -funds constitutes
dishonesty and grave misconduct, punishable by dismissal
from the service even on the first offense. For said reason, the
respondent deserves a penalty no lighter than dismissal. This
Court has never tolerated and will never condone any conduct
which violates the norms of public accountability, and diminish, or
even tend to diminish, the faith of the people in the justice system.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

The fact that Judge Balut fully paid his cash liabilities will not
shield him from the consequences of his wrongdoings. His
unwarranted interference in the Court collections deserves
administrative sanction and not even the full payment of his
accountabilities will exempt him from liability. "It matters not that
these personal borrowings were paid as what counts is the fact
that these funds were used outside of official business."
Similarly, his nearly 22 years in the service would not serve to
mitigate his liability. His offense was not a single or isolated act
but it constituted a series of acts committed in a span of several
years. In other words, he was a repeated offender, perpetrating
his misdeeds with impunity not once, not twice, but several times
in three (3) different stations.
Time and time again, this Court has emphasized that "the judge is
the visible representation of the law, and more importantly, of
justice. It is from him that the people draw their will and awareness
to obey the law. For the judge to return that regard, he must be
the first to abide by the law and weave an example for others to
follow."
WHEREFORE, finding Judge Alexander Balut GUILTY of gross
misconduct, the Court hereby imposes upon him the penalty of
DISMISSAL from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement
benefits and with prejudice to re-employment in any branch of the
government, including government-owned and controlled
corporations, except the money value of accrued earned leave
credits.
Judge Balut is hereby ORDERED to cease and desist immediately
from rendering any order or decision, or from continuing any
proceedings, in any case whatsoever, effective upon receipt of a
copy of this resolution.

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NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE MCLE REQUIREMENT SHALL


NOT BE A GROUND FOR CITING A COUNSEL IN CONTEMPT
ATTY. LUCITA E. MARCELO, Complainant, v. JUDGE PELAGIA
J. DALMACIO-JOAQUIN, PRESIDING JUDGE, MUNICIPAL
TRIAL COURT IN CITIES, BRANCH 1, SAN JOSE DEL MONTE,
BULACAN, Respondent.
A.M. No. MTJ-14-1839, July 22, 2015
Facts: Complainant, as counsel for accused in three criminal
cases raffled off to respondent judge's sala, failed to appear
during the hearing. She reasoned that she was indisposed, and
conveyed her condition through a phone call to Randy Sarmiento,
Clerk of the Office of City Prosecutor of San Jose del Monte,
Bulacan to inform the assigned prosecutor and the trial court. She
also instructed her client, Manolito Capingol, through his sister, to
inform the trial court of her predicament. Respondent judge issued
an Order directing complainant to show cause "why she should
not be cited in contempt of court for not appearing in court despite
notice and causing delay in the proceedings." Complainant filed a
"Compliance and Manifestation" explaining the reason for her
absence during the hearing, attaching thereto a medical
certificate.chanrobleslaw
During the scheduled hearing, complainant verbally objected to
the show cause order for lack of basis, to which respondent judge
allegedly countered that "the issue was not [her] absence but the
failure to indicate in [her] 'Compliance and Manifestation' the
details regarding [her] third [Mandatory Continuing Legal
Education (MCLE)] compliance." Complainant stated that she had
the honest belief that as a retired prosecutor she was exempt from
the MCLE requirement in accordance with Department of Justice
(DOJ) Circular No. 50. In an Order of even date, respondent judge
directed complainant to submit her exemption certificate within 10

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

days, which was extended to 15 days upon complainant's motion.


Since she failed to obtain immediately a copy of the exemption
certificate, complainant wrote a letter addressed to the Clerk of
Court of the MTCC, protesting about respondent judge's "sudden
shift of focus from [her] absence on the hearing to [her] MCLE
Certification"; stating her belief that she was exempted from
completing the MCLE; and explaining why she could not submit
any Certificate of Exemption within the period given by respondent
judge, that is due to the MCLE Board meeting held only once a
month delaying the release of the Certificate of Exemption. The
Clerk of Court returned the letter to complainant reasoning that it
concerned a court matter.hanrobleslaw
Respondent judge issued an Order (1) expunging the Compliance
and Manifestation, (2) citing complainant in contempt for failing to
comply with the show cause order dated 21 January 2011, and (3)
imposing a fine of P2,000.
Complainant, through counsel, filed a motion for reconsideration,
which was denied.chanrobleslaw
Respondent judge issued an Order directing complainant to show
cause why she should not be ordered arrested for her failure to
pay the fine imposed on her.
Thereafter, complainant filed with the trial court a Compliance
maintaining that she "[had] not the slightest intention to defy lawful
court orders." Complainant reiterated the reason for her absence
during the 21 January 2011 hearing and her honest belief that she
was exempted from the MCLE requirement as a retired city
prosecutor pursuant to DOJ Circular No. 50. Complainant claimed
that "her absence in court and/or her failure to timely submit the
Certificate of MCLE Exemption does not fall within the ambit of the
enumerated acts in Section 3, Rule 71 which constitutes indirect
contempt."hanrobleslaw

Respondent judge issued an Order for the arrest of complainant


for non-payment of the fine. Complainant paid the P2,000 fine,
thereby lifting the warrant of arrest.
An administrative complaint was filed by Atty. Lucita E. Marcelo
against Judge Pelagia J. Dalmacio-Joaquin, Presiding Judge of
MTCC-San Jose del Monte for grave abuse of authority, grave
misconduct, and violation of Section 4(a), (b), and (c) of Republic
Act No. 6713 (RA 6713)
In her Complaint, complainant alleged that respondent judge
issued the contempt orders "out of her whims and caprices and
without any legal basis therefor."Complainant further alleged that
respondent judge "deprived her of the opportunity to defend
herself against her unjust orders by refusing to consider all the
explanation, compliance, and/or correspondence she filed as
expunged pleadings under the cloak of non-compliance with the
MCLE requirements." Complainant alleged that her nonappearance in just one hearing due to a justifiable reason or her
failure to indicate the details of her third MCLE Compliance does
not fall under any of the particular acts which constitute indirect
contempt under Section 3, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court.
In her Comment, respondent judge explained that she cites in
contempt only those lawyers or litigants who fail to submit
satisfactory explanations to show cause orders and only after
giving them sufficient time to submit explanations or compliances.
She admitted citing complainant in contempt since complainant
submitted an explanation or compliance which the trial court did
not consider filed or was ordered expunged from the records for
not being compliant with the MCLE requirement.
Respondent judge claimed that it was complainant who had the

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

propensity to do improper acts as a legal practitioner such as


sending a letter to the Clerk of Court asking her to reschedule a
hearing, when what should have been done was to submit a
timely motion for cancellation or postponement of hearing. In
another instance, complainant, instead of submitting a compliance
to the trial court's show cause order by way of pleading, sent a
letter-explanation which was not considered at all, since the show
cause order called for a formal pleading that conforms with the
prescribed rules.
Respondent judge further pointed out that complainant filed a
petition for certiorari before the Regional Trial Court of Malolos,
Bulacan challenging the show cause and contempt orders and the
P2,000 fine imposed by respondent judge for being issued with
grave abuse of authority. Respondent judge stressed that the
petition for certiorari was dismissed for being moot since
complainant already paid the fine.
Respondent judge alleged that complainant was impelled by
revenge in filing the administrative case because it was
respondent judge who initiated a financial audit in the MTCC-San
Jose del Monte, which resulted in the dismissal of complainant's
son, then acting clerk of court, who was found guilty of grave
misconduct, dishonesty, and gross neglect of duty.
ISSUE: Whether or not respondent judge is guilty of grave abuse
of authority.
HELD: YES. The records show that respondent judge directed
complainant to show cause why she should not be cited in
contempt for not appearing during the hearing. In her Compliance
and Manifestation, complainant explained that she was unable to
attend the scheduled hearing because she was unwell, which
condition was relayed to her client and the office of the prosecutor
for the information of the trial court. Complainant attached a
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medical certificate to support her explanation.


However, complainant's Compliance and Manifestation lacked the
number and date of issue of her MCLE Certificate of Compliance
or Exemption. For this reason alone, respondent judge admits
expunging the Compliance and Manifestation and eventually citing
complainant in contempt for failure to file a satisfactory
explanation for her non-appearance. Respondent judge did not
review or consider complainant's explanation for her absence
during the hearing.
In the interest of substantial justice, respondent judge should have
relaxed the application of Bar Matter No. 1922; accepted
complainant's Compliance and Manifestation; and should not have
expunged the same from the records. Besides, complainant was
not without reason for not indicating the MCLE information, that is,
her honest belief of her exemption from such requirement. At any
rate, complainant applied for a Certificate of Exemption and
completed the units for her third MCLE Compliance period. Yet,
her application for exemption remained pending when the
contempt order was issued. As noted by the OCA, the delay in the
issuance of the Certificate of Exemption should not be taken
against her.
Reviewing the records, we find that complainant exhibited respect
and obedience to the trial court's orders. There is clearly no
disobedience, much less defiance, on the part of complainant
against respondent judge's authority. In other words, there is no
contempt of court to speak of, which has been defined as "a
defiance of the authority, justice or dignity of the court; such
conduct as tends to bring the authority and administration of the
law into disrespect or to interfere with or prejudice parties litigant
or their witnesses during litigation." chanrobleslaw

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

While respondent judge has inherent contempt powers, the same


should be exercised judiciously, sparingly, and with utmost
restraint. Respondent judge miserably failed to exercise restraint.
She cited complainant in contempt on the sole ground that
complainant failed to file a satisfactory explanation for her nonappearance before the court. Yet, the records clearly show that
complainant filed a satisfactory explanation, albeit lacking the
required MCLE information.
Indeed, respondent judge demonstrated grave abuse of authority,
which has been defined as "a misdemeanor committed by a public
officer, who under color of his office, wrongfully inflicts upon any
person any bodily harm, imprisonment or other injury; it is an act
of cruelty, severity, or excessive use of authority." To repeat,
respondent judge strictly, albeit unreasonably, applied the
provisions of Bar Matter No. 1922 in expunging the Compliance
and Manifestation. Respondent judge equated the expunged
explanation to non-filing of a satisfactory explanation when in fact
complainant filed a sufficient explanation for her non-appearance.
We find unsubstantiated respondent judge's accusation of ill-will or
revenge as motive for the filing of this administrative complaint.
Respondent judge did not adduce any evidence to prove such
allegation.
On complainant's sending of letters addressed to the Clerk of the
trial court concerning court matters, we remind complainant to file
the appropriate pleadings or motions directly with the trial court.
WHEREFORE, we find respondent Judge Pelagia J. DalmacioJoaquin, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch
1, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, GUILTY of grave abuse of
authority and accordingly REPRIMAND her, with a STERN

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WARNING that a repetition of the same, or any similar infraction


in the future, shall be dealt with more severely.

TO BE HELD LIABLE FOR GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW,


THE JUDGE MUST BE SHOWN TO HAVE COMMITTED AN
ERROR THAT WAS GROSS OR PATENT, DELIBERATE OR
MALICIOUS
ARIEL "AGA" MUHLACH v. EXECUTIVE JUDGE (EJ) MA.
ANGELA ACOMPAADO-ARROYO, REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT, SAN JOSE CITY, CAMARINES SUR
A.M. No. RTJ-15-2439 (Formerly: OCA I.P.I. No. 12-3989-RTJ),
August 26, 2015
PEREZ, J.:

FACTS: Francisco Perico Dizon, et. al. filed a petition before the
MCTC of San Jose-Presentacion, Camarines Sur praying for the
exclusion of Ariel and Charlene Mae G. Muhlach (Spouses
Muhlach) from the list of voters of Precinct No. 10A, Brgy. San
Juan, San Jose, Camarines Sur. The case was docketed as Spec.
Pro. No. 80.

Hon. Angel A. Tadeo, MCTC, San Jose-Presentacion, Camarines


Sur voluntarily recused himself from hearing the case on the
ground that petitioner Edgar Malate is a cousin of his late motherin-law and Francisco Perico-Dazon is the son-in-law of the his
former clerk of court, Florecito V. Patrocinio.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

EJ Arroyo scheduled the raffle of the case and was eventually


raffled to Judge Ricky C. Begino (Judge Begino). The Office of the
Clerk of Court received a copy of the Order of Inhibition of Judge
Begino, which states that: An (sic) oral motion of the counsel of
the respondents, undersigned judge hereby inhibit (sic) himself
from further trying and ruling of this case to avoid any doubt as to
the impartiality of this court.

EJ Arroyo issued the assailed order which rendered ineffective the


order of inhibition of Judge Begino. It further directed Judge
Begino to continue to hear and decide the case. Judge Begino
proceeded with the hearing of the case and resolved and ruled
that the Court is not convinced of the merit being shown by
[Spouses Muhlach] for the Undersigned Judge (Judge for brevity)
to inhibit from hearing and deciding this case.

Judge Begino granted the petition for exclusion. Aggrieved,


complainant filed the instant administrative complaint against EJ
Arroyo. He accused EJ Arroyo of having issued the assailed
order, which rendered ineffective the order of inhibition of Judge
Begino, with abuse of authority and with gross ignorance of law
and procedure. Complainant contended that EJ Arroyo had no
authority to reverse Judge Begino's order inhibiting himself as
such power is vested solely in the Supreme Court.

EJ Arroyo explained that she noticed in Judge Begino's order of


inhibition that on its face, it was improper or defective. She
averred that she was not ignorant of Administrative Circular No. 1
dated 28 January 1998 which provided that the duty of the
executive judge is to appoint another trial judge under his/her

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supervision to handle the inhibited case or to elevate the matter to


the Supreme Court. EJ Arroyo further explained that the subject
case is a petition for exclusion of the names of Spouses Muhlach
from the list of voters which should be decided within ten days
from its filing.

She alleged that after Judge Begino decided the case in favor of
the petitioners and ordered the exclusion of Spouses Muhlach
from the voters list, Spouses Muhlach appealed the decision to
the RTC. It was raffled to Branch 40 presided over by Judge Noel
Paulite (Judge Paulite) who eventually rendered a decision
affirming the decision of Judge Begino.

Spouses Muhlach thereafter filed a Motion for the Inhibition of


Judge Paulite.

EJ Arroyo submits that should Judge Paulite grant the motion for
inhibition, a dilemma would arise because the case would be
assigned to Branch 58 where she is the presiding judge, there
being only two branches in RTC San Jose. She claimed that such
scenario would lead her to inhibit from the case because of the
administrative complaint filed against her. Consequently, the case
will be referred to the nearest RTC and raffled among the judges
in that jurisdiction. She opined that other delaying tactics may be
employed, and soon, it would already be elections day without the
case having decided. Finally, she averred that she had been a
judge for 11 years and this is the first time that an administrative
case has been filed against her.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

ISSUE: Whether or not EJ Arroyo can be held liable for ignorance


of the law and abuse of discretion.

hearing, would be meaningless if the ultimate decision would


come from a partial and biased judge. Certainly, a presiding judge
must maintain and preserve the trust and faith of the partieslitigants.

HELD: NO. The rule on inhibition and disqualification of judges is


set forth in Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules of Court, to wit:

Section 1. Disqualification of judges. - No judge or judicial officer


shall sit in any case in which he, or his wife or child, is pecuniarily
interested as heir, legatee, creditor or otherwise, or in which he is
related to either party within the sixth degree of consanguinity or
affinity, or to counsel within the fourth degree, computed
according to the rules of civil law, or in which he has been
executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or counsel, or in which
he has presided in any inferior court when his ruling or decision is
the subject of review, without the written consent of all parties in
interest, signed by them and entered upon the record.

A judge may, in the exercise of his sound discretion, disqualify


himself from sitting in a case, for just or valid reasons other than
those mentioned above.

The aforesaid rule enumerates the specific grounds upon which a


judge may be disqualified from participating in a trial. It must be
borne in mind that the inhibition of judges is rooted in the
Constitution, specifically Article III, the Bill of Rights, which
requires that a hearing is conducted before an impartial and
disinterested tribunal because unquestionably, every litigant is
entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of an impartial
judge. All the other elements of due process, like notice and

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We agree with EJ Arroyo that the inhibition of Judge Begino is


lacking in some elements. Judge Begino simply ruled that he is
inhibiting from the case to avoid any doubts as to the impartiality
of the court. Although voluntary inhibition is primarily a matter of
conscience and sound discretion on the part of the judge, such
should still comply with the provisions of the second paragraph of
Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules, that is, it should be based on
just or valid reasons. In the subject order, the reason for the
inhibition of the judge was not stated. Neither could it be
determined from the motion of the Spouses Muhlach's counsel
since the motion was done orally, in violation of Section 213 of the
same rule.

When EJ Arroyo declared that Judge Begino's order of inhibition


was ineffective, she was in a way, returning the case back to the
presiding judge for the latter to either cure the deficiency or take
cognizance of the case if he finds no basis for the motion. As EJ
Arroyo explained, she was aware that she had no authority to
revoke or disapprove the order of inhibition, as such is vested only
in the Supreme Court. It was for that reason that she used the
word "ineffective." Tersely put, EJ Arroyo did not reverse the
Order of Inhibition of Judge Begino. She correctly asked that the
Order be completed to comply with the Rule on Inhibition of
Judges.

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

When Judge Begino continued with the proceedings, it was a


manifestation and admission on his part that he can hear and
decide the case with the cold neutrality expected from an impartial
magistrate. His. subsequent ruling on the Urgent Omnibus Motion
filed by counsel for the Spouses Muhlach affirmed EJ Arroyo's
position that the earlier order issued on the basis of the oral
motion was defective. The assailed order of EJ Arroyo was issued
in the proper exercise of her administrative functions.

Moreover, to be held liable for gross ignorance of the law, the


judge must be shown to have committed an error that was gross
or patent, deliberate or malicious. Here, it was clearly established
that the only intention of EJ Arroyo was to ensure that the case is
decided expeditiously and within the period provided under the
law. There was no showing that she was moved by ill-will or
malicious intention to violate existing Court issuances. In fact, bad
faith may be attributed to the complainant for filing successive
motions for inhibition.

While it was pronounced in relation to the performance by judges


of their judicial functions, we find that in the matter of their
administrative duties, it can likewise be said that as a matter of
public policy, a judge cannot be subjected to liability for any of his
official acts, no matter how erroneous, as long as he acts in good
faith. 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.

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WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing premises, the instant


administrative complaint filed by Ariel "Aga" Muhlach against
Executive Judge Ma. Angela Acompafiado-Arroyo, Regional Trial
Court, San Jose City, Camarines Sur for ignorance of the law and
abuse of discretion is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.

RESPONSIBILITIES AND LIMITATIONS IN ACTING ON THE


MOTIONS FOR IMMEDIATE EXECUTION OF THE
JUDGMENTS.
A.M. No. RTJ-08-2102 (Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 07-2762RTJ), October 14, 2015
SUGNI REALTY HOLDINGS AND DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION, REPRESENTED BY ITS
CHAIRMAN/PRESIDENT, CYNTHIA CRUZ
KHEMANI, Complainant, v. JUDGE BERNADETTE S.
PAREDES-ENCINAREAL, [THEN IN HER CAPACITY AS
ACTING PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 10, REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT, IN DIPOLOG CITY], PRESIDING JUDGE, REGIONAL
TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 12, OROQUIETA CITY, Respondent.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
Antecedents: On September 25, 2001, the complainant instituted
the action for unlawful detainer against Spouses Rally and Noemi
Falame in the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Branch 2, of
Dipolog City. The MTCC rendered its decision in favor of the
complainant, which promptly filed aMotion for Execution Pending
Appeal. However, the MTCC did not resolve the Motion for
Execution Pending Appeal, and instead elevated the records to
the RTC in Dipolog City in view of the Falames' filing of

PROBLEM AREAS IN LEGAL ETHICS

ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

their Notice of Appeal. In the RTC, the appeal was assigned to


Branch 10, where respondent Judge was the Acting Presiding
Judge.6
On August 19, 2005, the complainant filed an Urgent Motion to
Dismiss Appeal, averring as grounds for dismissal the Falames'
failure to post the supersedeas bond, and to deposit the monthly
rental of P350,000.00.7 According to the complainant, however,
respondent Judge did not resolve its Urgent Motion to Dismiss
Appeal but instead issued the order dated September 26, 2005,
quoted as follows:
To stay execution of judgment pending appeal, the defendantsappellants may post supersedeas bond within 20 days from the
receipt of the copy of this order, in the aggregate amount of
THREE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND (P350,000.00) PESOS
per month beginning October 2, 2000 up to this date. The amount
fixed is pursuant to the decision rendered by the court a quo in
paragraph 2 of the dispositive portion (sic).
Further pending appeal, the same monthly amount shall be
deposited periodically as it falls due every month with the RTC
Clerk of Court of Dipolog City.8
The complainant, undaunted, filed an Urgent Motion To Resolve
and Grant Immediately,9 whereby it reminded respondent Judge to
resolve the previous motions. Ignoring the reminder, respondent
Judge issued the order whereby she denied the
complainant's Urgent Motion to Dismiss Appeal.
The complainant insists that the order was null and void because
respondent Judge had by then been relieved as the Acting
Presiding Judge of the issuing court. 11

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In her comment,12 respondent Judge explained that she did not


resolve the complainant's Motion for Execution Pending Appeal
because the motion was addressed to and filed in the MTCC; that
belying the allegation of delay, she stressed that there is no such
thing. Regarding the order denying the motion to dismiss,
Respondent Judge argued that she had the authority under item 2
of A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC to still issue the order. Respondent Judge
posited that the charges of corruption, bias, and partiality against
her were frivolous, despicable and allegations without proof.
On November 28, 2007, the Office of the Court Administrator
recommended the case to be re-docketed as a regular
administrative matter, and to refer the case to any of the Justices
of the Court of Appeals (CA) in the Cagayan de Oro City Station
for investigation, report and recommendation. 24
Report of the Investigating Justice
On July 24, 2008, this Court received from Justice Lloren the
entire records of the case,35 including his undated
report,36 whereby he recommended as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is respectfully
recommended that:
1) respondent be found guilty of violation of Supreme Court
circular A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC for the
issuance of the September 26, 2005 Order and be imposed a fine
of P 21,000.00;
2) the charge of gross ignorance of the law for the issuance of the
November 8, 2005 Order (denial of urgent motion to dismiss) be
dismissed for lack of merit; and

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

3) the charge of corruption, bias, and partiality be likewise


dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.37

Ruling of the Court


We AFFIRM the findings of Justice Lloren on the matter of the
order of September 26, 2005, but differ from his conclusion about
the order of November 8, 2005.
We further AFFIRM the recommendations to dismiss the charge
of unreasonable delay for being unfounded; and the charge of
corruption, bias and prejudice for lack of evidence.chanrobleslaw
I
In issuing the order of September 26, 2005, respondent Judge
disregarded the pertinent rule on the filing of the
supersedeas bond and monthly deposits
Respondent Judge was charged with gross ignorance of the law
or procedure, bias and prejudice on the basis that her order of
September 26, 2005 had effectively extended the Falames' period
for the posting of the supersedeas bond and for depositing the
monthly rental specified in the decision of the MTCC. In the
complainant's view, she had no authority to do so under the law
and jurisprudence. Justice Lloren found the charge warranted. He
concluded in his report that the issuance of the order of
September 26, 2005 did not accord with the law and
jurisprudence.
We concur with Justice Lloren's finding against respondent
Judge.

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Section 19, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court provides:


Section 19. Immediate execution of judgment; how to stay same.
- If judgment is rendered against the defendant, execution
shall issue immediately upon motion, unless an appeal has
been perfected and the defendant to stay execution files a
sufficient supersedeas bond, approved by the Municipal Trial
Court and executed in favor of the plaintiff to pay the rents,
damages, and costs accruing down to the time of the
judgment appealed from, and unless, during the pendency of
the appeal, he deposits with the appellate court the amount of
rent due from time to time under the contract, if any, as
determined by the judgment of the Municipal Trial Court. In
the absence of a contract, he shall deposit with the Regional Trial
Court the reasonable value of the use and occupation of the
premises for the preceding month or period at the rate determined
by the judgment of the lower court on or before the tenth day of
each succeeding month or period. The supersedeas bond shall be
transmitted by the Municipal Trial Court, with the other papers, to
the clerk of the Regional Trial Court to which the action is
appealed, x x x (bold emphasis supplied)
Respondent Judge could not sincerely insist that the order of
September 26, 2005 was regular. The actions she could or could
not take as an appellate judge in an ejectment case were fully
outlined in Section 19, supra. A rule as plain and explicit as
Section 19 is not liable to be misread or misapplied, but should
only be implemented without hesitation or equivocation. Her
issuance of the order of September 26, 2005 thus constituted,
gross ignorance of the law or procedure, for she was not a trial
judge bereft of pertinent experience on dealing with issues on
immediate execution in ejectment cases.
Gross ignorance of the law or procedure is a serious

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

charge.39 Such offense may be penalized with dismissal from the


service, or suspension from office without pay for more than three
months but not exceeding six months, or a fine of more than
P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00. 40 As penalty, therefore,
respondent Judge is fined in the amount of P21,000.00, and, in
addition, she is warned against a similar offense, or else she will
be more sternly dealt with.
This case presents the opportune occasion to remind judges of
the first level courts to always adhere to the mandate of Section
19, supra, by issuing writs of execution upon motion of the
plaintiffs in actions for ejectment whenever the defendants have
failed to stay execution. They should not leave to the appellate
courts the action on the motions for execution because that action
would be too late in the context of Section 19. The trial and
appellate judges should constantly be mindful of the summary
nature of the ejectments actions, and of the purpose underlying
the mandate for immediate execution, which is to prevent the
plaintiffs from being further deprived of their rightful
possession.41Otherwise, they stand liable for gross ignorance of
the law or procedure.
II
Respondent Judge was not guilty of unreasonable delay in
resolving the Motion for Execution Pending Appeal
The failure of respondent Judge to resolve in a timely manner
the Motion for Execution Pending Appeal the complainant had
filed on June 21, 2005 constituted delay. However, Justice Lloren
did not want her to be held to account for the delay because July
18, 2005, the day on which the motion would be heard, had
coincided with Law Day, an event that the Court had required the
entire Judiciary to observe. She thus felt constrained to cancel not
only the hearing of the complainant's motions but also the
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hearings in other cases set on said date.


If the delay could not be attributed to respondent Judge on the
basis of her plausible explanation, she was not guilty of
unreasonable delay.42
III
In issuing the order of November 8, 2005, respondent Judge
acted without authority; but she could not be held
accountable without proof of her malice, bad faith, fraud,
dishonesty and corrupt motives
Although respondent Judge supposedly relied on item 2 of A.M.
No. 04-5-19-SC to justify her issuance of the order of November 8,
2005 despite her being no longer the Acting Presiding Judge of
the issuing court, Justice Lloren recommended that she be fined in
the amount of P 21,000.00 for violating the guidelines for relieved
detailed judges set under items 5 and 6 of A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC.
We would readily join the recommendation of Justice Lloren. The
basic postulate is for all judges to follow the guidelines set by the
Court to ensure the just, speedy and inexpensive administration of
justice. The non-observance of the guidelines inevitably results in
unfairness and inefficiency. Respondent Judge had been definitely
aware of her relief as the detailed Presiding Judge of the issuing
court since October 6, 2005, the date she received via fax the
copy of Administrative Order 159-2005 dated October 3, 2005
revoking her designation as the Acting Presiding Judge of Branch
10 of the RTC. Her correct course of action would have been to
desist from taking any further action in the case, including denying
the complainant's Motion to Dismiss Appeal through the order of
November 8, 2005, until the specific guidelines set under items 5
and 6 of A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC were first complied with. But she
ignored these guidelines, particularly that which required that -

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

xxx the judge conducting the inventory shall cause the


issuance to the parties of a notice of
transfer/detail/assignment of the judge to which the case had
been assigned, with a directive for the plaintiff/s to manifest,
within five (5) days from receipt of such notice, whether or
not he/she desires that the transferred judge should decide
the case. The desire of the plaintiff, who may opt to have the
case decided by the new judge, shall be respected.
Nonetheless, respondent Judge's issuance of the order of
November 8, 2005 should not be considered as censurable
conduct in the absence of the substantial showing of her having
done so with malice, or in bad faith, or with fraud or dishonesty, or
with a corrupt motive. Considering that her good faith was
presumed, the complainant carried the burden to establish her
having acted with malice, or bad faith, or with fraud, or with
dishonesty, or with a corrupt motive. Yet, the complainant did not
discharge its burden. Moreover, her denial of the
complainant's Motion to Dismiss Appeal through the order of
November 8, 2005 could have also been characterized as an error
of judgment on her part. That characterization was far from
improbable because, after all, she was not an infallible functionary
of the Judiciary. Accordingly, she should not be disciplined.
IV
Charges of corruption, bias and partiality were not
substantiated
Justice Lloren's report acknowledged that the complainant did not
substantiate the charge of corruption against respondent Judge
after its lone witness did not appear at the scheduled hearings.
The complainant did not also substantiate its charge of bias and
partiality against her. Hence, Justice Lloren recommended the

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dismissal of such charges.


The recommendation is well-taken. Mere allegation of corruption,
bias and partiality is insufficient to establish the accusation.
Dismissal of the accusation should follow.
WHEREFORE, the Court: (a) FINDS and DECLARES respondent
Judge Bernadette Paredes-Encinareal guilty of gross ignorance of
the law or procedure for issuing the order dated September 26,
2005, and, accordingly, FINES her in the amount of P21,000.00
with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar act would be
dealt with more severely; (b) DISMISSES the charge of
unreasonable delay in resolving the complainant's Motion for
Execution Pending Appeal filed on June 14, 2005 for its lack of
merit; and (c) ABSOLVES respondent Judge Bernadette
Paredes-Encinareal of the charges of corruption, bias, and
partiality for lack evidence.
SO ORDERED.

UNDUE DELAY IN RESOLVING CASES AMOUNTS TO


NEGLIGENCE AND DERELICTION OF DUTY

OFFICE OF THE COURT


ADMINISTRATOR, Petitioner, v. RETIRED JUDGE FILEMON A.
TANDINCO, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT IN CITIES (MTCC),
CALBAYOG CITY, SAMAR AND RONALDO C. DIONEDA,
CLERK OF COURT OF THE MTCC, CALBAYOG CITY,
SAMAR, Respondent

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

A.M. No. MTJ-10-1760, November 16, 2015

6. Judge Lampasa failed to resolve motions and


incidents in thirty-two (32) civil cases

BRION, J.
7. Judge Lampasa failed to decide ten (10) criminal cases
FACTS: This administrative matter arose from the judicial audit
conducted by an audit team from the Office of the Court
Administrator at the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC),
Calbayog City, Samar, then presided by Judge Felimon S.
Tandinco, Jr. The judicial audit was done prior to Judge
Tandinco's retirement. Judge Tandinco was assisted in his court
by Judge Alma-Uy-Lampasa (Judge Lampasa). Thereafter, Judge
Lampasa's appointment was revoked.

Accordng to the records actually presented and examined by the


audit team - the MTCC, Calbayog City, Samar, had a total
caseload of 940 cases, consisting of 607 criminal and 333 civil
cases. Of these 940 cases audited, the audit team found that:

1. Judge Tandinco failed to resolve motions and


incidents in thirty (30) criminal cases.
2. Judge Tandinco failed to resolve motions and
incidents in sixty- seven (67) civil cases,
3. Judge Tandinco failed to decide forty-six (46) criminal
cases submitted for decision.
4. Judge Tandinco failed to decide twenty (20) civil cases
submitted for decision
5. Judge Lampasa failed to resolve motions and
incidents in ninety-six (96) criminal cases

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8. Judge Lampasa failed to decide eight (8) civil cases

Moreover, based on the Monthly Report of cases in the same


court submitted to the Statistical Report Division of the Court
Management Office for December 2009, the audit team
discovered that:

1. Judge Tandinco failed to decide twenty-four (24)


criminal cases submitted for decision,
2. Judge Tandinco failed to decide twelve (12) civil cases
submitted for decision

The audit team observed that many of the case folders were not
presented to them while the other case records were not accurate
due to the absence of the latest court orders. Records also
showed that neither Judge Tandinco nor Judge Lampasa
requested an extension of time within which to decide the cases
submitted before them.
Finally, the audit team reported that: several case records were
not chronologically arranged and lacked certain documents (i.e.,
certificates of arraignment, formal offer of evidence, writs of
execution); the case rollos/records of the cases that were jointly
tried lacked a mother record containing all documents; summons
were issued in criminal cases falling under the Rule on Summary
Procedure; there were no records indicating that the accused had

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

been arraigned in Criminal Cases Nos. 9548, 13719 and 13720;


the court's docket books needed updating; and the employees
should be reminded to wear their identification cards.

The Court docketed the judicial audit as an administrative case


against Judge Tandinco for gross incompetence, inefficiency,
negligence, and dereliction of duty. The Court also directed Judge
Lampasa and Ronaldo C. Dioneda (Dioneda), the Clerk of Court
of the MTCC, Calbayog City, Samar, to submit their written
explanation.

ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Tandinco, Judge Lampasa, and the


clerk of court shall be administratively liable

system.
This is embodied in Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the Code of
Judicial Conduct which states that a judge shall dispose of
the court's business promptly and decide cases within the
required periods; and in Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code
of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary (which
provides thatjudges shall perform all judicial duties, including
the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly, and with
reasonable promptness).10
No less than the Constitution requires that cases at the trial
court level be resolved within three (3) months from the date
they are submitted for decision, that is, upon the filing of the
last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the Rules of
Court or by the court itself.11 This three-month or ninety-day
period is mandatory12 and failure to comply can subject the
judge to disciplinary action.

HELD:

With respect to Judge Tandinco

YES. Judge Tandinco is liable. This Court has consistently


impressed upon the members of the Bench the need to decide
cases promptly and expeditiously, on the time-honored principle
that justice delayed is justice denied.
As frontline officials of the Judiciary, trial court judges should at all
times act with dedication, efficiency, and a high sense of duty and
responsibility as the delay in the disposition of cases is a major
culprit in the erosion of public faith and confidence in the judicial

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In the present case, Judge Tandinco did not deny the veracity of
the audit team's findings that he failed to decide several criminal
and civil cases submitted for decision, as well as the pending
motions and incidents submitted for resolution. The audit team's
report showed that the Court, through Administrative Order No.
152-2007 dated October 8, 2007, directed Judge Tandinco to
decide within six (6) months from notice all cases submitted for
decision. The Court further required him to submit to the OCA
monthly progress reports with attached copies of the decisions.
Judge Tandinco failed to do so.

As the presiding judge of the MTCC, Calbayog, City Samar, Judge


Tandinco had the duty to keep track of the development of the

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

cases pending before his sala and to take note of the cases that
were ripe for decision or resolution. More importantly, Judge
Tandinco had the sworn duty to decide the cases and to resolve
the matters without undue delay. If he had known that he could
not decide the cases within the reglementary period, he should
have requested additional time to decide the cases. Judge
Tandinco never did.

The Court, in several instances, has allowed extensions of time to


decide cases beyond the 90-day period. All that a judge needs to
do is to request from the Court an extension of time to decide the
cases, and to justify any request for additional time. However, in
the present case, the record does not show any attempt by Judge
Tandinco to request a reasonable extension of time to dispose of
the submitted cases and matters before him. Thus, his failure to
decide several cases and to resolve the motions and incidents
within the reglementary period, without strong and justifiable
reason, constitutes gross incompetence, inefficiency, negligence,
and dereliction of duty, warranting the imposition of administrative
sanctions.

With respect to Judge Lampasa

YES. Judge Lampasa is liable. The court find that her explanation
- the revocation of her designation was way beyond the
reglementary period to decide the cases - does not sufficiently
justify the delay in the disposition of the court's business. Based
on the OCA report, in almost two years of her designation as
Assisting Judge of the MTCC, Calbayog City, Samar, Judge
Lampasa still failed to resolve the motions and incidents in ninety-

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five (95) criminal cases and thirty-two (32) civil cases.


She also invokes her additional court assignments in two other
courts and a heavy caseload for the delay and failure to decide
cases already submitted for decision.
We find her explanation unsatisfactory. A heavy caseload or the
assignment of additional functions does not exonerate her.15 If
Judge Lampasa could not decide the cases within the
reglementary period, all she needed to do was to ask for
extension of time to decide them. This, she also failed to do.

Under Article VIII, Section 15(1) of the 1987 Constitution, judges


of the lower courts are mandated to resolve or decide matters and
cases within the reglementary period of ninety (90) days. This
mandate applies not only to the presiding judges assigned to each
court, but also to judges who are tasked to assist other judges in
the resolution of cases.
Considering that Judge Lampasa failed to resolve the motions and
incidents in ninety-five (95) criminal cases and thirty-two (32) civil
cases, and had belatedly resolved three (3) other civil cases, we
agree with the OCA that Judge Lampasa should likewise be held
administratively liable.

With respect to the clerk of Court

YES. Atty. Dioneda is liable. He submitted his compliance with an


attached chart of actions taken on the pending cases and motions
assigned to Judge Lampasa. However, he failed to offer any valid

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reason for failing to present the case records to the audit team. He
likewise failed to attach the copy of any order, resolution, or
decision on the said cases.
We also note the audit team's report that several case records
were not chronologically arranged and lacked certain documents
(i.e., certificates of arraignment, formal offer of evidence, writs of
execution); the court's docket books need updating, and the rollos
and records of the cases that were jointly tried lacked a mother
record containing all documents. These circumstances clearly
indicate poor management of the court docket and poor record
keeping.
Dioneda, whose responsibilities include ensuring that the case
records are safely kept and organized and are readily available
upon the request of the proper parties, was himself remiss in the
performance of his functions. His failure to immediately present all
the case records prevented the audit team from examining and
auditing the cases with accuracy. Branch clerk of courts must
realize that their administrative functions are vital to the prompt
and proper administration of justice. They play a big role in the
complement of the court and thus cannot be permitted to slacken
in their jobs under one pretext or another.
For Dioneda's failure to comply with the Court's Resolutions dated
April 26, 2010; February 7, 2011; and March 23, 2011,
respectively, we find him guilty of simple neglect of duty.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds retired


Judge Filemon A. Tandinco, Jr., then Presiding Judge of the
Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Calbayog City,

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Samar, GUILTY of GROSS INCOMPETENCE, INEFFICIENCY,


NEGLIGENCE, and DERELICTION OF DUTY. Accordingly, the
Court imposes on him a FINE in the amount of One Hundred
Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) to be deducted from his
retirement benefits.
The Court finds Judge Alnia Uy-Lampasa, then Presiding Judge of
the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, baramZumarraga, GUILTY of UNDUE DELAY IN RENDERING A
DECISION OR ORDER. Accordingly, the Court imposes upon her
a FINE in the amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00),
payable within thirty (30) days from notice.
The Court finds Ronaldo C. Dioneda, Clerk of Court of the MTCC,
Calbayog City, Samar, GUILTY ofSIMPLE NEGLECT OF
DUTY. Accordingly, the Court imposes on him a FINE in the
amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00), with a STERN
WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be
dealt with more severely.
GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW AND PROCEDURE; BIAS
AND PARTIALITY
Gaspar Bandoy v. Judge Jose Jacinto
AM No. RTJ-15-2399 Nov. 19, 2014
Mendoza, J
Facts: Complainant Bandoy alleged, that he was one of the
accused in a case of Serious Illegal Detention filed by one Romulo
De Jesus, which was raffled to Branch 44 of the RTC, Mamburao,
Occidental Mindoro, where respondent Judge Jacinto, Jr. was the
Assisting Presiding Judge. Bandoy claimed that the case was
initiated by De Jesus, Jr. to get back at him for being instrumental

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

in the filing of an earlier criminal complaint against him for Ballot


Switching, the same case.

Bandoy also averred that he was an election watcher of


former Mayor Joel Panaligan during the 2007 local elections, while
De Jesus, Jr., a teacher of their municipalitys public elementary
school, was one of the chairpersons of the Board of Election
Inspectors; that they were both assigned in Precinct 3-A of
Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro; that De Jesus, Jr. was rumored
to be closely associated with the rival mayoralty candidate,
Voltaire Anthony C. Villarosa, that in the said local elections, De
Jesus, Jr. was caught in the act of ballot switching, and as a result
of which, he was criminally charged and a warrant of arrest was
issued against him.

According to Bandoy, on August 20, 2007, De Jesus, Jr.


personally appeared before Provincial Prosecutor to file a criminal
case for Serious Illegal Detention against him and several others,
apparently while there was a standing warrant of arrest
against him.

Bandoy further claims that Judge Jacinto, Jr. committed


grave abuse of his authority by displaying manifest bias and
partiality in favor of De Jesus, Jr. when he granted several
postponements of De Jesus, Jr.s arraignment, which was reset
for seven times until De Jesus, Jr. entered a plea of not guilty
supposedly inside Judge Jacinto, Jr.s chambers.

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He claimed that Judge Jacinto, Jr. ordered the police


and the CIDG to re-arrest him and his co-accused even
though there was no warrant of arrest against them.

In his Comment, Judge Jacinto, Jr. denied being an ally of


the Villarosa clan. He also denied having a hand in the order to
arrest Bandoy and his co-accused.

Bandoy, in his Reply, brought to the attention of the Court


that Judge Jacinto, Jr., in order to thwart the enemies of his
supposed master, Mayor Villarosa, issued warrants of arrest
against ten individuals. He also divulged that the audit team
from the Court was personally assisted by Judge Jacinto, Jr.
and given accommodations in "Aroma Center," one of the
properties of Mayor Villarosa.

In his Rejoinder, Judge Jacinto, Jr. clarified that he indeed


issued warrants of arrest against ten individuals in connection with
a serious illegal detention case against them, but only after a
finding of probable cause by the public prosecutor handling it. He
reiterated that he merely affirmed the finding of probable cause,
which justified the issuance of the warrants of arrest as the charge
was a non-bailable offense. He likewise denied seeking any favor
from Mayor Villarosa to accommodate the audit team in their
property, the Aroma Family Hotel. He explained that the audit
team paid him a "courtesy call" where he assured the team of his
cooperation.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) did not give


credence to Bandoys allegation that Judge Jacinto, Jr. issued an
order for his arrest without a warrant and to the insinuation that
the Courts audit team was conveniently housed in Aroma Family
Hotel of the Villarosas for failure to present proof.33 The OCA
observed, however, that Judge Jacinto, Jr. never refuted the
allegations of leniency over the several resettings of the
arraignment of De Jesus, Jr. and that the arraignment was held in
his chambers, and as such found Judge jacinto GUILTY OF BIAS
AND PARTIALITY AND GROSS IGNORANCE OF LAW AND
PROCEDURE.

Issue: W/N respondent is guilty gross ignorance of law and


procedure as well as of bias and partiality?

Held: Yes. Rule 3.01, Canon 3 of the Code ofJudicial Conduct


mandates that a judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain
professional competence. Indeed, competence and diligence are
prerequisites to the due performance of judicial office.
Given the exacting standards required of magistrates in the
application of the law and procedure, the Court finds Judge
Jacinto, Jr. administratively guilty of gross ignorance of Rule 116
of the Revised Rules of Court, specifically Section 1(a) thereof
requiring arraignment of an accused to be made in open court, to
wit:
Section 1. Arraignment and plea, how made. (a) The accused
must be arraigned before the court where the complaint or
information was filed or assigned for trial. The arraignment shall
be made in open court xxx

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Thus, anything less than is required by Section 1(a) of


Rule 116 constitutes gross ignorance of the law. There is gross
ignorance of the law when the error committed by the judge
was "gross or patent, deliberate or malicious." It may also be
committed when a judge ignores, contradicts or fails to apply
settled law and jurisprudence because of bad faith, fraud,
dishonesty or corruption. Gross ignorance of the law or
incompetence cannot be excused by a claim of good faith.
Canon 2, Rule 2.01 and Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct
likewise emphasize that judges, as officers of the court, have the
duty to see to it that justice is dispensed with evenly and
fairly. Not only must they be honest and impartial, but they must
also appear to be honest and impartial in the dispensation of
justice. Judges should make sure that their acts are circumspect
and do not arouse suspicion in the minds of the public. When they
fail to do so, such acts may cast doubt upon their integrity and
ultimately the judiciary in general.
Here, the Court cannot fathom why the arraignment of De Jesus,
Jr. was postponed from 2007 to 2011 without appropriate action
coming from the court. Judge Jacinto, Jr. should have availed of
known legal remedies to compel De Jesus, Jr. to personally
appear for his arraignment, but he did not. The appearance of
leniency seemingly exhibited in favor of De Jesus, Jr. gives an
impression of bias and partiality that should be addressed and
corrected.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Judge Jose S.
Jacinto, Jr. GUILTY of Gross Ignorance of the Law and
Procedure and of Bias and Partiality. Accordingly, he is FINED
in the amount of Forty Thousand (P40,000.00) Pesos with a
STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act shall
be dealt with more severely.

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ATTY J.F. DE CHAVEZ

JUDGES: GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW; GROSS


MISCONDUCT.
A.M. NO. RTJ-16-2443 (FORMERLY OCA IPINO. 10-3521RTJ), January 11, 2016
ARMANDO M. BALANAY, Complainant, v. JUDGE JULIANA
ADALEM WHITE, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 5,
EASTERN SAMAR, Respondent.
DEL CASTILLO, J.:

FACTS: On September 20, 2010, complainant filed before the


Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) a verified AffidavitComplaint1 charging respondent with gross ignorance of the
law for allowing Isidoro N. Adamas, Jr. (Adamas) six furloughs
despite being charged with murder in Criminal Case No. 1007, a non-bailable offense. Worse, respondent granted
Adama's motions without requiring the prosecution to
comment or giving it opportunity to be heard thereon.
Complainant likewise charged respondent with serious
misconduct in precipitately dismissing Criminal Case No. 10-07
by declaring that the prosecution had no witnesses to present
when the records showed otherwise. According to the
complainant, the prosecution witnesses were not able to attend
the hearing on July 22, 2010 because they were not duly
notified. In fact, he and his son were willing to testify provided
they are placed under the witness protection program.
Complainant further claimed that respondent falsified the July
22, 2010 transcript of stenographic notes (TSN) in Criminal
Case No. 10-07. He averred that during the hearing held on said
date, the prosecution made a reservation to present additional
witnesses. Respondent, however, instructed her court

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stenographer, Prescila V. Mosende (Mosende), to delete from


said TSN such reservation and insert therein other statements
which were not made during the said hearing. In support of his
allegations, complainant submitted a piece of paper2 containing
respondent's handwritten notes that were incorporated in the
July 22, 2010 TSN.
Complainant sought the dismissal of respondent from the
service with forfeiture of her retirement benefits.
In her Comment,3 respondent admitted that she instructed
Mosende to correct the July 22, 2010 TSN to make it more
coherent and accurate. She claimed that the changes were
based on her own notes which Mosende adopted after verifying
them from the taped recordings of the proceedings. Respondent
maintained that the prosecution never made any reservation to
present additional witnesses.
Respondent explained that she granted Adamas six furloughs
based on the affidavits of desistance subscribed before
Prosecutor Raquel G. Kho (Prosecutor Kho) which were already
attached to the records of Criminal Case No. 10-07. She also
insisted that Adamas is not a flight risk because he voluntarily
surrendered himself to the police.
Respondent prayed for the dismissal of the complaint and that
complainant be cited for contempt.
On June 15, 2011, this Court referred this administrative matter
to the Court of Appeals, Cebu Station for raffle among the
Justices therein and for the Justice to whom this case would be
assigned to conduct an investigation and submit a report and
recommendation.

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Justice Maria Elisa Sempio Diy as the investigating officer found


Judge White guilty of gross ignorance of law but not of serious
misconduct for want of malicious intent. The OCA however
found Judge White guilty on all accounts specially so that there
has already been a previous administrative case against Judge
White.
ISSUE: WON Judge White is guilty of gross ignorance of the
law and serious misconduct
HELD: A fortiori, respondent is administratively liable for gross
ignorance of the law for granting ex parte motions to allow
Adamas temporary liberty without setting the same for hearing.
If hearing is indispensable in motions for bail, more so in this
case where the motions for the temporary liberty of Adamas
were filed without offering any bail or without any prayer that he
be released on recognizance. Besides, the reasons relied upon
in said motions to allow Adamas to attend the Sangguniang
Bayan sessions had already been rebuked by this Court. In
People v. Hon. Maceda, reiterated in Trillanes IV v. Judge
Pimentel Sr., this Court held that all prisoners whether under
preventive detention or serving final sentence cannot practice
their profession nor engage in any business or occupation or
hold office, elective or appointive, while in detention.
That the prosecution has already filed affidavits of desistance
and that, to the opinion of respondent, the accused is not a flight
risk, do not justify non-compliance with procedural rules. It is
basic that bail cannot be allowed without prior hearing. It is also
basic that litigious motions that do not contain a notice of
hearing are nothing but a useless piece of paper which the court
should not act upon. These rules are so elementary that not to
know them constitutes gross ignorance of the law.
We also agree with the OCA that there is substantial proof to
hold respondent liable for gross misconduct even if the altered

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TSN was not formally offered in evidence. Respondent admitted


in her Comment dated November 24, 2010 and Memorandum
dated May 1, 2013 that she instructed Mosende to make some
changes in the July 22, 2010 TSN.
A TSN is supposed to be a beautiful and exact recording of all
matters that transpired during a court proceeding.
Respondents act of directing her subordinate to alter the TSN
by incorporating therein statement pertaining to substantial
matters that were not actually made during the hearing
constitutes gross misconduct which warrants administrative
sanction.
For gross ignorance of the law and gross misconduct, the
respondent judge was suspended from office for one (1) year
without salary and other benefits, with a stern warning that the
Court will not hesitate to impose the supreme penalty of
dismissal from the service, with all its accessory penalties, in
case she commits the same or other similar acts.
JUDGE WHOSE CRIMINAL CONVICTION ON APPEAL MAY BE
SUSPENDED AND DISBARRED

Office of the Court Administrator vs Judge Ruiz


AM RTJ 13-2361 || Feb 2 2016

Facts: In April 29, 2013, Judge Ruiz was found guilty by the
Sandiganbayan of graft and malversation of public funds which he
committed while still a city mayor. His MR and MNT being denied,
he brought his case to the SC for review, then went on leave of
absence and applied for optional retirement, which is supposedly

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to take effect on December 2013. (The SC however did not acted


on his request because of his standing criminal convictions.)
Meanwhile, the Office of the Court Administrator recommended to
the SC that its report about Judge Ruiz conviction in the
Sandiganbayan be converted to a regular administrative complaint
against him for conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude.
Invoking the SCs inherent power of supervision over judges, the
OCA also recommended his preventive suspension.
In his comment dated Jan 2014, Judge Ruiz posited that the
administrative complaint against him is premature because when
it was filed, his Sandiganbayan convictions were not yet final. He
also argued that there was no more need to suspend him from
office because he should be considered already retired from
government service when he received the SC resolution dated
Nov 20, 2013 suspending him without pay and other monetary
benefits.

Issue 1: W/N the Court still has jurisdiction over Judge Ruiz after
his separation from the service
Yes. That a judge has retired or has otherwise been separated
from the service does not necessarily divest the Court of its
jurisdiction; the jurisdiction existing at the time of the filing of the
administrative complaint was not lost by the mere fact that the
respondent had ceased in office during the pendency of his case.
Nor does separation from office render a pending administrative
charge moot and academic. The Court retains jurisdiction either to
pronounce the respondent public official innocent of the charges
or declare him guilty thereof.
A contrary rule would be fraught with injustice and pregnant with
dreadful and dangerous implications. If innocent, respondent

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public official merits vindication of his name and integrity as he


leaves the government which he has served well and faithfully; if
guilty, he deserves to receive the corresponding censure and a
penalty proper and imposable under the situation. (Gallos v
Cordero, 1995)

Issue 2: W/N the SC can preventively suspend a judge while the


administrative complaint is still pending
Yes. The Court possesses the power to preventively suspend an
administratively charged judge until a final decision is reached,
particularly when a serious charge is involved and a strong
likelihood of guilt exists. This power is inherent in the Courts
power of administrative supervision over all courts and their
personnel as a measure to allow unhampered formal
investigation. It is likewise a preventive measure to shield the
public from any further damage that the continued exercise by the
judge of the functions of his office may cause.
Here, the SC placed the respondent under preventive suspension
because he is alleged to have committed transgressions
violations of RA 3019 and conviction of a crime involving moral
turpitude which are classified as serious under Section 8, Rule
140 of the Rules of Court.

Issue 3: W/N the acts committed by judges or justices prior to


their appointment to the judiciary may be a basis for disciplinary
measures by the SC
Yes. It is immaterial that the respondent was not yet a member of
the Judiciary when he allegedly committed the acts imputed to
him; judges may be disciplined for acts committed prior to their
appointment to the judiciary.

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The Rules of Court itself recognizes this situation, as it provides


for the immediate forwarding to the Supreme Court for disposition
and adjudication of charges against justices and judges before the
IBP, including those filed prior to their appointment to the judiciary.
It need not be shown that the respondent continued to do the act
or acts complained of; it is sufficient that the evidence on record
supports the charge/s against the respondent through proof that
the respondent committed the imputed act/s violative of Code of
Judicial Conduct and the applicable provisions of the Rules of
Court.

Issue 4: W/N Judge Ruiz is administratively liable


Yes. Viewed against the positive declarations of the prosecution
witnesses, which are supported by the documents on record, his
denial cannot stand. He even failed to substantiate his claim that
the charges against him had been politically motivated. Thus, by
substantial evidence, it is fully established that Judge Ruiz is
guilty of the charges. Considering the nature and extent of the
charges, he is now dismissed from service and disbarred.

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