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PALE CANON 2 CASES intention of submitting the same at the soonest time; that after

submission of the said report and when the draft decision was
1. MONDALA v. JUDGE MARIANO being printed in final form, the computer bogged down and the
draft decision could no longer be retrieved. 4
EN BANC
Belando alleged that she is the permanent employee of the
[A.M. No. RTJ-06-2010. January 25, 2007.] local government of Makati City detailed to Branch 136; and
that she re-typed the final draft of the Amanetcase in the early
MARISSA R. MONDALA, Legal Researcher, Regional Trial
part of 2005 upon Mondala's instructions. 5
Court, Branch 136, Makati City, complainant, vs. JUDGE
REBECCA R. MARIANO, Regional Trial Court, Branch 136, Atty. Diaz claimed that the Amanet case was one of the cases
Makati City, respondent. turned over to him by Mondala on August 13, 2005; that
the Amanet case had been with Mondala for research since
DECISION
February 2005 while the latter served as Officer-in-Charge of
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J p: Branch 136; that the case remained pending up to the time
Mondala turned over the same to him on August 13, 2005. 6
This is an administrative matter concerning the letter-complaint
of Marissa R. Mondala, Legal Researcher of the Regional Trial Judge Mariano averred that Mondala should have called her
Court of Makati City, Branch 136, against Presiding Judge attention regarding the status of the subject case to enable her
Rebecca R. Mariano of the same court. 1 to address the situation; that Mondala's failure to inform her of
the status of the case showed her inefficiency and
In her letter, Mondala charged respondent judge with unworthiness as a public servant.
misrepresenting in her "Report of Pending Cases for January
2005" that she had already decided Civil Case No. 00-564 Judge Mariano insisted that the "quarrel" between her and
entitled "Amanet Inc. v. Eastern Telecommunications Mondala which transpired on August 22, 2005 prompted the
Philippines, Inc." when in fact the case was still with Mondala latter to write the letter-complaint; that Mondala is a perennial
for research and drafting of the decision. latecomer, a habitual absentee, and negligent in the
performance of her duties; that Mondala's disrespectful attitude
In her Comment, Judge Mariano denied Mondala's allegations and unprofessional conduct during the August 22, 2005
and insisted that at the time she prepared the monthly report, a encounter prompted her to ask for Mondala's detail to the
decision had actually been prepared in the Amanet case and it Office of the Clerk of Court of the Makati RTC. CacHES
was mere "oversight" on her part, not misrepresentation, when
she reported the status of the subject case as decided. The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), through Deputy
Notwithstanding this, Judge Mariano subsequently prepared Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepaño and Assistant Court
and signed "another decision" on the same case. 2 Administrator Antonio H. Dujua, made the following
recommendations, the dispositive portion of which states:
To support her allegations, Judge Mariano attached a
certification dated October 25, 2005 issued by Atty. Teodorico 1. That the instant case be converted into a regular
L. Diaz, present Branch 136 Clerk of Court, as well as the administrative matter and that Judge Rebecca R. Mariano be
affidavits executed by Prosecutor Teodoro Rey S. Riel, Jr., found liable for misrepresenting that she decided Civil
former Branch 136 Clerk of Court; Elvira L. Tablate, Clerk-in- Case No. 00-564 entitled " Amanet Inc. vs. Eastern
Charge of Civil Cases; and Ma. Theresa M. Belando, a Clerk Telecommunications Philippines, Inc." sometime in January
detailed to Branch 136. 3 2005 when such case had yet to be printed, signed by her, and
filed with the Clerk of Court as of March 7, 2005, such
In his affidavit, Atty. Riel claimed that he was the Clerk of Court misrepresentation partaking the nature of dishonesty, and be
of Branch 136 from April 1999 up to January 2005; that fined in the amount of P20,000.00;
the Amanet case was among those reported as decided for the
month of January 2005; that when the January 2005 report 2. That Judge Mariano be directed to explain in writing within
was being prepared, he was informed by the Clerk-in-Charge ten (10) days from notice why she should not be disciplined for
for Civil Cases that a decision had already been prepared and her failure to decide the following cases within the 90-day
was due for printing in final form; that Judge Mariano instructed reglementary period without any request for extension of time
him "to include the said case in the list of cases decided for the being filed by her, to wit:
month and to submit a copy of the decision later on since it
Case No. Title Date Date Due Status as
was still to be printed in final form."
Submitted of Dec.
For 2004
Tablate, Clerk-in-Charge for Civil Cases, stated in her affidavit
Decision
that when the January 2005 report was being prepared, the
decision in the Amanet case had already been drafted and was
CIVIL CASES
due for printing in final form; that upon the instruction of Judge
Mariano, Amanet was included in the list of cases decided for 1. 96-1626 Philam Insurance Co. June 29, Sept. 29, Pending
the month without attaching a copy thereof and with the v. Marathon, Inc. 2004 2004 Resolution
2. 91-980 Estate of Zulueta v. June 30, Sept. 30, - do - Mariano on August 22, 2005, this does not deny the fact that
Augusto Camara 2004 2004 Judge Mariano included an undecided case in the list of
decided cases in the January 2005 monthly report.
3. 02-546 BPI v. Milwaukee June 30, Sept. 30, - do -
Builders, Inc. 2004 2004 There is no merit in Judge Mariano's claim that
the Amanet case was included in the list of decided cases
4. 93-4083 Phil. Charter Ins. v. June 28, Sept. 28, - do - because at the time of the preparation of the report, a decision
Swissair 2004 2004 had already been prepared and was due for printing in final
form.
5. 98-460 Export Industry v. June 28, Sept. 28, - do -
Sps. Sy 2004 2004 A decision in a civil case is rendered only upon the signing by
the judge who penned the same and upon filing with the clerk
6. 01-754 Philam v. Geologistic June 25, Sept. 25, - do - of court. A judgment or final order determining the merits of the
2004 2004 case shall be in writing personally and directly prepared by the
judge, stating clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on
7. 00-564 Amanet v. Eastern June 18, Sept. 18, - do -
which it is based, signed by him, and filed with the clerk of
2004 2004
court. 8 What constitutes rendition of judgment is not the mere
8. 01-810 Jasper Ong v. HBI August 27, Nov. 27, - do - pronouncement of the judgment in open court but the filing of
Securities 2004 2004 the decision signed by the judge with the Clerk of Court. 9

9. M-5893 In Re: Guardianship of Sept. 20, Dec. 20, - do - It is elementary that a draft of a decision does not operate as
Minors Manguale 2004 2004 judgment on a case until the same is duly signed and delivered
to the clerk for filing and promulgation. 10Hence, rendition of
CRIMINAL CASES judgment is not effected and completed until after the decision
and judgment signed by the trial judge.
1. 01-2653 PP v. Simon Shamie, June 25, Sept. 25, - do -
et al. 2004 2004 In Echaus v. Court of Appeals, 11 we held:

2. 01-2299 PP v. Lemuel Patungalan June 25, Sept. 25, - do - Time honored and of constant observance is the principle
2004 2004 that no judgment, or order whether final or interlocutory,
has juridical existence until and unless it is set down in
3. 02-2787 PP v. Reynaldo Almerie June 23, Sept. 23, - do - writing, signed, and promulgated, i.e., delivered by the
2004 2004 Judge to the Clerk of Court for filing, release to the parties
and implementation, and that indeed, even after
4. 03-049 PP v. Wilma Cabe June 18, Sept. 18, - do - promulgation, it does not bind the parties until and unless
2004 2004 notice thereof is duly served on them by any of the modes
prescribed by law. . . . 12 (Emphasis supplied)
5. 02-1505 PP v. Alfredo Japon June 7, Sept. 7, - do -
2004 2004 The fact that Judge Mariano had not yet decided
the Amanet case in January 2005, is likewise pointed out in the
and affidavit of Tablate, Clerk-in-Charge for Civil Cases. The
records, on the other hand, show that Judge Mariano
3. That the Office of the Court Administrator be authorized to
submitted the January 2005 monthly report only on March 7,
constitute a team to conduct a judicial audit of Branch 136-
2005, 13 which means that it was only then when RTC-Branch
RTC, Makati City, to enable the said Office to determine the
136 initiated the printing of the decision in the Amanet case. 14
true state of this court's docket. 7
As correctly pointed out by the OCA, what the monthly report
The issues in the instant case are: whether Judge Mariano is
requires is a list of cases decided during the month covered
liable for misrepresentation when she included in the January
and not a list of cases with prepared drafts. Moreover, the list
2005 monthly report the case of " Amanet Inc. v. Eastern
of decided cases should pertain to those decided during the
Telecommunications Philippines, Inc." as among the decided
month for which the report is being submitted, the basis of
cases; and whether respondent judge made inaccurate entries
which is the seventh paragraph of Administrative Circular No.
in the monthly reports and failed to decide the other cases
4-2004. 15
within the 90-day reglementary period.

We agree with the findings of the OCA that Judge Mariano is


liable for misrepresenting that she had decided the case of " Thus, Judge Mariano misrepresented herself regarding the
Amanet Inc. v. Eastern Telecommunications Philippines, Inc." date of the promulgation of the decision in the Amanet case.
before it was drafted, printed and signed by her. While the January 2005 monthly report of Branch 136 was
submitted on March 7, 2005, the subject decision in
Granting arguendo, that Mondala was motivated by a desire for
the Amanet case had not yet been printed. Amanet had
revenge and harassment due to her quarrel with Judge
obviously not yet been decided in January 2005.
Judge Mariano is likewise guilty of other administrative business promptly and decide cases within the required period.
transgressions. DSITEH A judge should not pay mere lip service to the 90-day
reglementary period for deciding a case. 25
The January 2005 monthly report of Branch 136 reveals that
there were cases submitted for decision but remained A judge's failure to observe time prescription for the rendition of
undecided beyond the 90-day reglementary period without any judgments in derogation of an otherwise speedy administration
request for extension of time within which to decide the same of justice constitutes a ground for administrative sanction. The
being submitted. 16 Court is not unaware of, and certainly not without sympathy for,
the heavy caseload of most judges. Thus, as it has so often
The records show that Judge Mariano failed to request an stated on anumber of occasions, all that a judge has to do is to
extension of time to decide Civil Case Nos. 01-754 and M- request additional time to decide cases, and such requests, if
5893 and Criminal Case Nos. 01-2653, 01-2299, 02-2787, 03- meritorious, are almost invariably granted by the Court. 26
049 and 02-1505. Her request for extension of time to decide
was only with respect to Civil Case Nos. 00-465, 00-594, 99- It is desirable that a judge should at all times manifest fidelity to
936, 96-1626, 91-980, 02-546, 93-4083, 00-1022, 01-810 and the trust reposed in him. An adequate grasp of the codal and
98-960, which this Court granted by giving her additional 30 statutory provisions, not to mention the Constitution, as well as
days from September 30, 2004 within which to decide these legal doctrines, is necessary. That he should be impartial is
cases. 17 likewise a truism. Of equal importance, however, is the
promptness with which cases in his sala are disposed of. The
Despite the extended period, Judge Mariano still failed to people's faith in the administration of justice, especially those
decide Civil Case Nos. 96-1626, 91-980 and 93-4083. The who belong to the low income group, would be greatly impaired
December 2005 Monthly Report submitted by Judge Mariano if decisions are long in coming, more so from trial courts, which
shows that these cases remained undecided for more than a unlike collegiate tribunals where there is a need for extended
year from the extended period. 18 deliberation, could be expected to act with dispatch.
Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that delay still attends the
A number of other cases were decided more than a year from performance of the judicial task. It could amount to serious
the time these were submitted for decision without any request inefficiency, arising either from lack of skill in the handling of
for extension, as shown in the monthly reports for September, authoritative legal materials or lack of a proper system in the
October and November 2005. 19 In the monthly report for July handling of court business. For that matter, negligence, if
2005, Civil Case No. M-5893 and Criminal Case No. 02-2787 reckless in character, could amount to serious inefficiency. 27
did not have a status report and were not in the list of decided
cases for the same month. 20 Respondent judge in Yu v. Serrano 28 signed and submitted to
this Court conflicting monthly reports of pending cases. When
No less than the Constitution mandates that all cases or the attention of respondent Judge Serrano was called to the
matters must be decided or resolved within 24 months from inconsistencies in his reports, he contended that he signed the
date of submission for the Supreme Court, and, unless same without reviewing them as he relied solely on the reports
reduced by the Supreme Court, 12 months for all lower of pending cases prepared by his clerk of court. This fact, as
collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower well as the loss of the original copy of the decision in Criminal
courts. 21 Case No. 3994 and the records thereof, show at the very least
respondent Judge Serrano's gross neglect or inefficiency in the
In implementing this constitutional mandate, Sec. 5, Canon 6
performance of his duties as municipal judge. As stated by the
of the New Code of Judicial Conduct 22 exhorts in the section
Court in the analogous case of Tadiar v.
on "Competence and Diligence" that judges shall perform all
Cases, 29 "respondent could not use the clerk of court as the
judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved decisions,
scapegoat for his remissness and slothfulness."
efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness.
Office of the Court Administrator v. Panganiban 30 is likewise
Judges should therefore be prompt in the performance of their
instructive:
judicial duties for delay in the administration of justice is a
common complaint. They are enjoined to strictly comply with Respondent's failure to decide cases constitutes a violation of
the reglementary period of 90 days in disposing of a case Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which
submitted for decision. 23 requires judges to dispose of their court's business promptly
and decide cases within the period specified in the
In Request of Judge Roberto S. Javellana for Extension of
Constitution, i.e., three (3) months or ninety (90) days from the
Time to Decide, 24 we held that decision-making, among
filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum. This Canon is
others, is the primordial and most important duty of every
intended to implement the Constitution which makes it the duty
member of the bench. Judges have a sworn duty to administer
of trial courts to decide cases within three months, even as it
justice without undue delay, for justice delayed is justice
gives parties to a suit the right to the speedy disposition of their
denied. No less than the Constitution requires that a trial court
cases.
judge shall resolve or decide cases within 3 months after they
have been submitted for decision. In addition, the Code of Respondent judge knew of the cases pending resolution. In
Judicial Conductexhorts Judges to dispose of the court's fact, she had been reporting them to this Court in her monthly
reports. Nonetheless, she stated in her certificates of service of the serious charge of gross misconduct due to violations of
that she had no case submitted for decision within the 90 days the Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct and provisions of
preceding the submission of her certificate, in the honest belief Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 4-2004, as well as
that the salary which she collected on the basis of such of making untruthful statements in the monthly reports; and
certificates "had been justly earned notwithstanding the fact ordered to pay a FINE in the amount of P40,000.00 directly to
that there are submitted cases remaining for decision." This of this Court, with a stern warning that a commission of the same
course constitutes misconduct under Rule 140, § 1 of the or a similar offense will be dealt with more severely.
Rules of Court. As an officer of the court, she should conduct
herself strictly in accordance with the highest standards of
ethics.
Let a copy of this resolution be attached to respondent Judge's
Neither good faith nor long, unblemished and above average personal record. SHECcT
service in the judiciary can fully justify respondent judge's
lapses. The Court cannot countenance undue delay in the SO ORDERED.
disposition of cases which is one of the causes of the loss of
Puno, C.J., Quisumbing, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-
faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary and brings it
Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Tinga,
into disrepute. Nor can the Court turn a blind eye to what might
Chico-Nazario, Garcia and Velasco, Jr., JJ.,concur.
constitute gross misconduct because of the submission of false
certificates of service. 31 ||| (Mondala v. Mariano, A.M. No. RTJ-06-2010, [January 25,
2007], 541 PHIL 560-576)
Under Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 4-2004, the
penalty for judges and clerks of court who are responsible for
inaccurate entries in their monthly reports is to have their
salaries withheld. 32 However, the circumstances in the instant 2. FIDEL v. JUDGE CARAOS
case warrant a penalty under the Rules of Court as the entries
are not simply inaccurate or the result of mere oversight, but FIRST DIVISION
rather the product of a deliberate misrepresentation of the
status of Amanet and other undecided cases. Respondent [A.M. No. MTJ-99-1224. December 12, 2002.]
judge ought to be held administratively accountable for gross
misconduct in intentionally concealing the truth, i.e., in P/SINSP. OMEGA JIREH D. FIDEL, complainant, vs. JUDGE
misleading the Court regarding the date when she decided FELIX A. CARAOS, Municipal Trial Court, Candelaria,
theAmanet case and for making inaccurate entries in her Quezon, respondent.
monthly reports, a breach of the trust and confidence reposed
SYNOPSIS
by this Court upon members of the Judiciary.
Complainant P/SInsp. Omega Jireh D. Fidel, Chief of Police of
Under Sec. 1, Canon 2 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct,
Candelaria, Quezon, charged respondent Judge Felix
judges ought to ensure that not only is their conduct above
A. Caraos of the Municipal Trial Court of Candelaria, Quezon
reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a
with Grave Abuse of Authority, Grave Misconduct and Conduct
reasonable observer. Integrity is essential not only to the
Unbecoming of a Judge. Complainant averred that at 10:45 in
proper discharge of the judicial office but also to the personal
the evening of February 29, 1996, respondent judge, who was
demeanor of judges. 33
heavily drunk, went to the Municipal Police Station of
In the instant case, respondent was guilty of intentional Candelaria, utterred intemperate invectives and attempted to
misrepresentation of her records resulting in a breach of trust forcibly release one Natividad Braza from detention without
and confidence, amounting to the serious charge of gross any preliminary investigation or written order for the latter's
misconduct due to violations of the Canons of the Code of release. After due investigation, the investigating judge opined
Judicial Conduct and provisions of Supreme Court that the admission of respondent judge about being irritated
Administrative Circular No. 4-2004; as well as of making that evening and his utterance of "putang ina, putang
untruthful statements in the monthly reports, as provided in ina" connotes that he did not intend to curse any particular
Sec. 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court. 34 Taking into policemen at the scene and recommended that respondent
consideration the mitigating circumstances that this is her first judge should only be reprimanded with the stern warning that a
infraction and that the records do not show any administrative repetition of the same act would be dealt with more severely.
case filed against her concerning the same or similar charges, The Office of the Court Administrator, however, found that the
the proper penalty for her acts of deliberate misrepresentation actions committed by respondent judge fell beyond the norms
constituting gross misconduct is a fine of P40,000.00, with a expected of members of the bench, and recommended that
stern warning that a commission of the same or a similar respondent judge be meted a fine of P1,000.00 and sternly
offense will be dealt with more severely in the future, in warned that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with more
accordance with Sec. 11, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court. 35 severely.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Rebecca R. Mariano of the The Supreme Court affirmed the recommendation of the Office
Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 136, is found guilty of the Court Administrator. According to the Court, by losing his
cool and uttering intemperate language at the policemen on all those who don the judicial robe: that of being a "cerebral
duty regarding the release of detention prisoner Braza, man who deliberately holds in check the tug and pull of purely
respondent judge has overstepped the norm demanded of a personal preferences and prejudices which he shares with the
member of the bench. The Canons of Judicial Ethics mandates rest of his fellow mortals." While it may be true, as complainant
that a judge should so behave at all times as to promote public claims, that he meant no malice nor was he moved by evil
confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. intent, the absence of malice or purity of motive is not a license
When he took personal action in ensuring the temporary for him to resort to inflammatory words to articulate his
release of detention prisoner Braza even in the unholy hours, grievances. Complainant should bear in mind that he and, for
he has cast his integrity in a serious doubt. Although that matter, all judges, should always observe courtesy and
respondent judge may attribute his intemperate language to civility. He should be temperate, patient and courteous both in
human frailty, his noble position in the bench nevertheless conduct and in language.
demands from him courteous speech in and out of the court
because the observance of the Canon of Judicial Ethics does 3. ID.; ID.; A JUDGE'S BEHAVIOR, OFFICIAL OR
not end at the close of office hours nor is limited within the OTHERWISE, SHOULD BE FREE FROM THE APPEARANCE
performance of his official duties. The Court modified the fine OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL ACTIVITIES AND SHOULD BE
imposed to P5,000.00, instead of P1,000.00. BEYOND REPROACH. — The observance of the Canon of
Judicial Ethics does not end at the close of office hours nor is
SYLLABUS limited within the performance of his official duties. The Canon
of Judicial Ethics commands that a judge's behavior, official or
1. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; RESPONDENT JUDGE'S otherwise, should be free from the appearance of impropriety
ACT OF TAKING PERSONAL ACTION IN ENSURING THE in all activities and should be beyond reproach. For a judge's
TEMPORARY RELEASE OF A DETENTION PRISONER official life can not simply be detached from his personal life.
EVEN IN THE UNHOLY HOURS OF THE NIGHT HAS CAST We do not, however, call on judges to live "Saintly" lives when
A SERIOUS DOUBT ON HIS INTEGRITY; CASE AT BAR. — they don their judicial robes, for the "Saintly" lives exhibited by
A judge, as an advocate of justice and visible representation of men of old are not the sole parameter of the conduct of a
the law, must not only apply the law but must imbibe it in his magistrate. In commanding respect for the law, we stated
everyday living. Having accepted the exalted position of a in Cynthia Resngit-Marquez, et al. v. Judge Victor T. Llamas,
judge, both his personal and public life have been set apart Jr., "a magistrate has to live by the example of his precepts. He
from the average citizen. A judge's assumption of office is cannot judge the conduct of others when his own needs
viewed with utmost respect and reverence compatible with his judgment. It should not be 'do as I say and not what I do.' For
position as dispenser of justice. From him the people draw then the court over which he is called to preside will be a
their will and awareness to obey the law. He must be the first mockery, one devoid of respect.
to abide by the law and weave an example for others to follow.
The people's confidence in the judicial system, however, is DECISION
founded not only on the competence and diligence of the
members of the bench, but also on their integrity and moral YNARES-SANTIAGO, J p:
uprightness. The public will have faith in the administration of
justice only if they believe that the occupants of the bench An Affidavit-Complaint 1 was filed by P/SInsp. Omega Jireh
cannot be accused of arbitrariness in the exercise of their D. Fidel, Chief of Police of Candelaria, Quezon, charging
powers both in and out of the court. Accordingly, he must at all Judge Felix A. Caraos of the Municipal Trial Court of
times avoid even the slightest infraction of the law. By losing Candelaria, Quezon with Grave Abuse of Authority, Grave
his cool and uttering intemperate language at the policemen on Misconduct and Conduct Unbecoming of a Judge.
duty regarding the release of detention prisoner Braza,
Complainant avers that at 10:45 in the evening of February 29,
respondent judge has overstepped the norm demanded of a
1996, respondent judge, who was heavily drunk, went to the
member of the bench. The Canons of Judicial Ethics mandates
Municipal Police Station of Candelaria and attempted to
that a judge should so behave at all times as to promote public
forcibly release one Natividad Braza from detention without
confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
any preliminary investigation or written order for the latter's
When he took personal action in ensuring the temporary
release. Natividad Braza was charged before the MTC of
release of detention prisoner Braza even in the unholy hours,
Candelaria, Quezon with violation of Article 151 of the Revised
he has cast his integrity in a serious doubt. CHcTIA
Penal Code, in Criminal Case No. 4878. While at the police
2. ID.; ID.; JUDGES ARE DEMANDED TO BE ALWAYS station, respondent judge shouted invectives at the policemen
TEMPERATE, PATIENT AND COURTEOUS BOTH IN on duty, "PUTANG INA NINYONG MGA PULIS KAYO,
CONDUCT AND LANGUAGE. — Although, respondent judge NASAAN SI HEPE? HOY, ILABAS NINYO ITO NGAYON DIN,
may attribute his intemperate language to human frailty, his PUTANG INA NINYONG MGA PULIS. SINONG
noble position in the bench nevertheless demands from him MASUSUNOD DITO, MAYOR, PULIS, O JUDGE?"
courteous speech in and out of the court. Judges are
To support the allegation, complainant submitted the joint-
demanded to be always temperate, patient and courteous both
affidavit 2 of the policemen on duty and the affidavits of two
in conduct and in language. In Judge Antonio J. Fineza v.
detention prisoners who witnessed the incident.
Romeo P. Aruelo, we said: As a member of the bench he
should have adhered to that standard of behavior expected of
In his Comment, 3 respondent judge narrated that on February ina" connotes that he did not intend to curse any particular
29, 1996, at 5:30 in the afternoon, while he was watching his policemen at the scene. Judge Rosales thus recommends that
friends play lawn tennis at Tiaong, Quezon, a group of seven respondent judge should only be reprimanded with the stern
market vendors approached him. The market vendors pleaded warning that a repetition of the same act would be dealt with
with him to order the temporary release of a certain Natividad more severely. 5
Braza, also a market vendor.
On August 18, 1997, this case was referred to the Office of the
Respondent judge averred that after reading the complaint Court Administrator (OCA) for evaluation, report and
against Braza and finding that the case was covered by recommendation. The OCA found that the actions committed
the Rule on Summary Procedure, he acceded to their plea. He by respondent judge fell beyond the norms expected of
tried to get in touch with the Chief of Police of Candelaria, members of the bench, and recommended that respondent
Quezon by telephone but to no avail. He then tried to contact judge be meted a fine of P1,000.00 and sternly warned that a
the Candelaria Public Market Police Detachment and was able repetition of the same shall be dealt with more severely.
to talk to a certain Police Officer Limbo. Respondent judge
asked Officer Limbo to convey his message to the municipal We agree with the recommendation of the OCA.
jail warden for the temporary release of Braza pending the
preliminary examination of the latter's case scheduled the A judge, as an advocate of justice and visible representation of
following day. the law, must not only apply the law but must imbibe it in his
everyday living. Having accepted the exalted position of a
Respondent judge further narrated that at around 10:00 that judge, both his personal and public life have been set apart
evening, his wife woke him up and told him that there were two from the average citizen. A judge's assumption of office is
men outside their house. Seeing that they were among the viewed with utmost respect and reverence compatible with his
vendors who approached him earlier at the tennis court, he let position as dispenser of justice. From him the people draw
them in. The two men complained that Braza was not allowed their will and awareness to obey the law. He must be the first
to be released and that the jailer told them, "walang puedeng to abide by the law and weave an example for others to
magpalabas nito kundi si Mayor." follow. 6 The people's confidence in the judicial system,
however, is founded not only on the competence and diligence
Respondent judge disclosed that after he failed to get in touch of the members of the bench, but also on their integrity and
with the Candelaria Chief of Police through telephone, he moral uprightness. 7 The public will have faith in the
decided to proceed to the police station in Candelaria, Quezon administration of justice only if they believe that the occupants
that same evening. When he arrived there, he noticed that a of the bench cannot be accused of arbitrariness in the exercise
telephone was located beside the policemen who were then of their powers both in and out of the court. Accordingly, he
busy watching television and who did not even pay attention to must at all times avoid even the slightest infraction of the law.
him. Respondent judge admitted that this irritated him,
considering that earlier the policemen failed to answer his By losing his cool and uttering intemperate language at the
telephone call, so he uttered the words: "Bakit hindi ninyo policemen on duty regarding the release of detention prisoner
sinasagot ang telepono? Putangina! Kailangan pa ba nating Braza, respondent judge has overstepped the norm demanded
dagdagan yan? O alisin na dahil walang silbi, putangina! of a member of the bench. The Canons of Judicial Ethics
Paano na kung may emergency? O sunog? Nasaan na si mandates that a judge should so behave at all times as to
Hepe?" When he was told that the Chief of Police was out, he promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the
again asked: "Bakit ayaw ninyong palabasin si Braza? At bakit judiciary. 8 When he took personal action in ensuring the
wala daw puwedeng magpalabas sa kanya?" Eventually, temporary release of detention prisoner Braza even in the
respondent judge was able to facilitate the release of detention unholy hours, he has cast his integrity in a serious doubt.
prisoner Braza.
As the OCA aptly observed:

The atypical interest of respondent in the release of Braza is


This case was referred to Executive Judge Ricardo O. manifested by the fact that he went out of his way to travel
Rosales, Jr., RTC, Lucena City, for investigation, report and from Tiaong to Candelaria, Quezon despite the lateness of the
recommendation within sixty (60) days from receipt of the hour. His explanation is that he was piqued by his failure to get
records. 4 in touch with the Candelaria police by phone. We however
perceive that he was only angered by the fact that his verbal
After due investigation, Judge Rosales found no evidence to order was defied by the Candelaria police which is why he
support complainant's claim that respondent judge was proceeded to the next town to "assert" his authority. That he
intoxicated when he arrived at the Candelaria Police Station. shouted and cursed the policemen did not speak well of his
The mere appearance of respondent judge's hair in disarray judicial comportment. Aside from the fact that his behavior and
and reddish eyes is inadequate to prove the claim since, language were undignified, his impartiality and neutrality in
admittedly, respondent judge was roused from sleep and question became suspect. 9
immediately went straight to the police station. Judge Rosales
opined that the admission of respondent judge about being Although, respondent judge may attribute his intemperate
irritated that evening and his utterance of "putang ina, putang language to human frailty, his noble position in the bench
nevertheless demands from him courteous speech in and out SO ORDERED.
of the court. Judges are demanded to be always temperate,
patient and courteous both in conduct and in language. Davide, Jr., C.J., Vitug and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
In Judge Antonio J. Fineza v. Romeo P. Aruelo, 10 we said:
Carpio, J., is on official leave.
As a member of the bench he should have adhered to that
standard of behavior expected of all those who don the judicial ||| (Fidel v. Caraos, A.M. No. MTJ-99-1224, [December 12,
robe: that of being a "cerebral man who deliberately holds in 2002], 442 PHIL 236-245)
check the tug and pull of purely personal preferences and
prejudices which he shares with the rest of his fellow mortals."
3. EDANO v. JUDGE ASDALA
While it may be true, as complainant claims, that he meant no
malice nor was he moved by evil intent, the absence of malice EN BANC
or purity of motive is not a license for him to resort to
inflammatory words to articulate his grievances. Complainant [A.M. No. RTJ-06-1974. July 26, 2007.]
should bear in mind that he and, for that matter, all judges,
should always observe courtesy and civility. He should be (formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 05-2226-RTJ)
temperate, patient and courteous both in conduct and in
language. CARMEN P. EDAÑO, complainant, vs. JUDGE FATIMA G.
ASDALA, RTC Br. 87, Quezon City, and STENOGRAPHER
The observance of the Canon of Judicial Ethics does not end MYRLA DEL PILAR NICANDRO, RTC Br. 217, Quezon
at the close of office hours nor is limited within the performance City, respondents.
of his official duties. The Canon of Judicial Ethics commands
that a judge's behavior, official or otherwise, should be free DECISION
from the appearance of impropriety in all activities 11 and
should be beyond reproach. For a judge's official life can not PER CURIAM p:
simply be detached from his personal life. 12 We do not,
This administrative complaint was initiated by a handwritten
however, call on judges to live "Saintly" lives when they don
complaint to the Supreme Court, through Assistant Court
their judicial robes, for the "Saintly" lives exhibited by men of
Administrator Antonio H. Dujua dated March 28, 2005, by the
old are not the sole parameter of the conduct of a magistrate.
complainant Carmen P. Edaño charging Judge Fatima G.
In commanding respect for the law, we stated in Cynthia
Asdala, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 87,
Resngit-Marquez, et al. v. Judge Victor T. Llamas, Jr., 13 "a
of grave abuse of discretion and authority, and of conduct
magistrate has to live by the example of his precepts. He
unbecoming of a judge. A complaint was also lodged against
cannot judge the conduct of others when his own needs
Myrla Nicandro, a stenographer detailed in the same RTC
judgment. It should not be 'do as I say and not what I do.' For
branch, for usurpation of authority, grave misconduct and
then the court over which he is called to preside will be a
unauthorized solicitations. Upon receipt of the complaint, we
mockery, one devoid of respect."
referred it to Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Mariano
Time and again, we have emphasized that the conduct and C. del Castillo for investigation in order to ascertain the veracity
behavior of every one connected with an office charged with of the complainant's accusations and grievances. 1
the dispensation of justice, from the presiding judge to the
The complaint stemmed from a civil case for Support with a
sheriff and to the lowliest clerk, should be circumscribed with
prayer for Support Pendente Lite 2 filed by the complainant on
the heavy burden of responsibility. 14 For every court
behalf of her two minor children, Carlo and Jay-ar, against
personnel must be constantly reminded that any impression of
George Butler, who denies paternity of the children. Then
impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of
pairing judge, Teodoro A. Bay, issued an Order dated
official functions must be avoided. 15 They should always be
November 12, 1999, directing defendant Butler to provide
an example of integrity, uprightness and honesty. The
support pendente lite in the amount of P5,000 per month to be
reminder applies all the more to trial court judges because they
"delivered to the mother (the complainant herein) within the
are the judicial front-liners. They have the direct contact with
first five (5) days of each month." 3 A writ of execution was
the litigating parties. They are the intermediaries between
subsequently issued which included the garnishing of rental
conflicting interests and the embodiment of the people's sense
payments for the apartments in Cubao, Quezon City, which are
of justice. 16 Thus, their official conduct should be beyond
being managed by defendant Butler. It was at this juncture that
reproach.
respondent Judge Asdala took cognizance of the
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Judge case. cHSTEA
Felix A. Caraos of the Municipal Trial Court of Candelaria,
Due to the failure of defendant Butler to comply with the
Quezon, is found GUILTY of Conduct Unbecoming a Judge,
November 12, 1999 Order of the trial court, despite several
and is ordered to pay a FINE of Five Thousand Pesos
reprimands and orders to implement, complainant Edaño
(P5,000.00), with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the
moved to cite defendant Butler in contempt. On November 23,
same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely. ADHCSE
2004, respondent Judge Asdala found defendant Butler guilty
of indirect contempt and sentenced him to four (4) months As against respondent Myrla Nicandro, the complainant
imprisonment and a P30,000.00 fine. Subsequently a Bench alleges that the former subtracted certain amounts from the
Warrant was issued against defendant Butler. 4 P10,000 deposited by defendant Butler's daughter, Cristy,
before turning over the money to her. Allegedly, the amounts
On January 25, 2005, after privately meeting with defendant subtracted were given to the respondents. The complainant
Butler in her chambers, respondent Judge Asdala issued the likewise questions respondent Nicandro's discharge of the
following ex-parte Order: functions of Officer-in-Charge (OIC)/Acting Branch Clerk of
Court when the Supreme Court, through the Office of the Court
Following his knowledge of Bench Warrant against him, Administrator (OCA), did not approve her designation as such.
defendant George Butler, personally appeared before the
Presiding Judge and pleaded that the contempt fine imposed In her defense, respondent Judge Asdala avers that the recall
against him be reduced to P5,000.00 and that the Bench of the bench warrant and the reduction of the fine are matters
Warrant be recalled. of judicial discretion. She insists that, after the representation
of Mr. Butler of his financial inability to pay the original fine, the
The matter will be taken under advisement. amendment to her previous orders was more in keeping with
justice and fairness. Respondent Judge Asdala likewise denies
SO ORDERED. 5
the charges that she instigated a complaint against Atty.
The following ex-parte Order was also issued by respondent Alejandria. She points to the fact that the complainant herself
Judge Asdala: wrote a letter of apology dated November 19, 2004 to Atty.
Alejandria withdrawing her complaint and retracting the
In the highest interest of justice, the October 7, 2004 and statements made therein. As for the designation of respondent
November 26, 2004 6 Order finding the defendant guilty of Nicandro as OIC for administrative services in Branch 87,
indirect contempt is hereby reconsidered. As such, the fine is respondent Judge Asdala avers that the same was with the
reduced to P5,000.00 and the corresponding order of knowledge of the Executive Judge of Quezon City; and that as
imprisonment is set aside. presiding judge of Branch 87, she has the discretion and the
authority to appoint whoever has her trust and confidence.
SO ORDERED. 7 With regard to the decision to dismiss the civil case for support,
respondent Judge Asdala maintains that the proper remedy is
On February 1, 2005, defendant Butler paid the P5,000.00 to elevate the matter to the appellate court and not to file an
fine. 8 On March 22, 2005, respondent Judge Asdala administrative case against her.
dismissed complainant Edaño's suit on the ground of
insufficiency of evidence. 9 The case is now pending before Respondent Nicandro, for her part, denies misrepresenting
the CA after the appellate court ordered the trial court to give herself as OIC. She avers that she was acting under the
due course to the complainant's notice of appeal. designation made by respondent Judge Asdala, with the
knowledge of the Executive Judge. As for the other
In the complainant's letter-complaint, she laments the fact that accusations made by the complainant, respondent Nicandro
without notice, much less consent, respondent Judge Asdala insists that the same are blatant lies. She denies soliciting
met privately with defendant Butler in her chambers to discuss money from the complainant, and avers that it was in fact the
the finding of indirect contempt against the latter without any complainant who would frequently go to Branch 87 and borrow
hearing or minutes of the proceedings and without her or her money from the court personnel who, out of pity, would oblige
counsel's participation. As a result of the said private meeting, to lend her small amounts from time to time. She maintains
the fine was reduced from P30,000 to P5,000, the order of that at the time the complainant claimed the P10,000 deposited
imprisonment was deleted, and the Bench Warrant was by Butler, respondent Nicandro reminded her of her debts to
recalled. The complainant likewise alleges that respondent a number of court personnel — P400 to process server Lito de
Judge Asdala forced her to file a complaint for neglect of duty la Cruz, P100 to Sheriff Victor Yaneza, and P100 to court
against her own counsel, Atty. Rowena Alejandria, with the stenographer Elenita Ribaya. Respondent Nicandro allegedly
Public Attorneys' Office (PAO), as respondent Judge Asdala reminded the complainant that she owed respondent Judge
had a grudge against Atty. Alejandria. She likewise claims that Asdala P500 which the latter gave as payment for Sheriff's fee.
she was given P1,000 by respondent Judge Asdala for her The payment, however, was no longer accepted by the
silence. The complainant also faults respondent Judge Asdala respondent judge who, instead, directed respondent Nicandro
for ordering the support pendente lite to be deposited with the to use the same to buy snacks for the court staff. The same
Office of the Clerk of Court instead of being directly given to was corroborated by respondent Judge Asdala.
the complainant and for applying the money thus deposited to
the payment of the P5,000 fine instead of being given to the As stated in the Investigation Report and Recommendation of
complainant. Further, she questions the dismissal of the civil the Investigating Justice, the act of a judge done within his
case for support on the ground of insufficiency of evidence, judicial discretion, such as the reduction of fine for indirect
alleging that the basis of the findings is the testimony of Butler contempt, should not be subject to disciplinary action. In the
which was already stricken off the record as of January 28, instant complaint, however, the exercise of discretion by the
2001. CcTHaD respondent is not impugned. Rather, it is the conduct of
respondent Judge Asdala in meeting with defendant Butler
without notice or knowledge, much less the presence, of the
complainant or her representative that is assailed. The meeting must ensure that their "conduct, both in and out of the court,
was not an innocuous one for it resulted in the cancellation of maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal
the bench warrant, the revocation of the order of imprisonment profession and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of
and the significant reduction in the amount of fine from the judiciary." 16 In the same vein, the Code of Judicial
P30,000.00 to P5,000.00. Respondent Judge Asdala does not Conduct behooves all judges to avoid impropriety and the
deny the private meeting, much less explain its circumstances. appearance of impropriety in all their activities, as such is
As rightly observed by the Investigating Justice, the private essential to the performance of all the activities of a judge in
meeting was improper, to say the least. It deprived the order to maintain the trust and respect of the people in the
complainant of her right to be heard on matters affecting her judiciary. 17
vital interests. The secret meeting cannot but invite suspicion,
for no minutes or stenographic notes of the meeting have been In the case at bar, respondent Judge Asdala's actions as
presented, if any existed. Respondent judge cannot feign above discussed put into question the impartiality,
ignorance of the fact that our courts are courts of independence, and integrity of the process by which the
record. IHCESD questioned amended orders were reached. Her actions
miserably fell short in the discharge of her duty as an officer of
As the visible representation of the law and justice, judges, the court and as a living embodiment of law and justice.
such as the respondent, are expected to conduct themselves
in a manner that would enhance the respect and confidence of Further, respondent Judge Asdala, in insisting on the
the people in the judicial system. 10 The New Code of Judicial designation of respondent Nicandro as OIC, blithely and
Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary 11 mandates that judges willfully disregarded the Memorandum of this Court, through
must not only maintain their independence, integrity and the OCA, which approved the designation of Amy Soneja alone
impartiality; but they must also avoid any appearance of — and not in conjunction with respondent Nicandro — as
impropriety or partiality, which may erode the people's faith in OIC. 18 While the presiding judge, such as respondent Judge
the judiciary. Integrity and impartiality, as well as the Asdala, can recommend and endorse persons to a particular
appearance thereof, are deemed essential not just in the position, this recommendation has to be approved by this
proper discharge of judicial office, but also to the personal Court. Again, the respondent judge ought to know that the
demeanor of judges. 12 This standard applies not only to the Constitution grants this Court administrative supervision over
decision itself, but also to the process by which the decision is all the courts and personnel thereof. In the case at bar, despite
made. Section 1, Canon 2, specifically mandates judges to the Court's approval of Amy Soneja's designation, the
"ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that respondent judge allowed, if not insisted on, the continued
it is perceived to be so in the view of reasonable observers." discharge of the duties of OIC by respondent Nicandro.
Clearly, it is of vital importance not only that independence, Respondent Judge Asdala even had the gall to insist that as
integrity and impartiality have been observed by judges and presiding judge she has the authority and discretion to
reflected in their decisions, but that these must also appear to designate "anyone who works under her, as long as that
have been so observed in the eyes of the people, so as to person enjoys her trust and confidence." 19 Coming from a
avoid any erosion of faith in the justice system. 13 Thus, judge, such arrogance, if not ignorance, is inexcusable. The
judges must be circumspect in their actions in order to avoid memorandum from the OCA regarding the designation of court
doubt and suspicion in the dispensation of justice. To further personnel is no less an order from this Court. Court officials
emphasize its importance, Section 2, Canon 2 states: and personnel, particularly judges, are expected to comply with
the same. Respondent judge's gross insubordination cannot be
countenanced. EDIHSC

Sec. 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the This is not the first time that respondent Judge Asdala has
people's faith in the integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not been disciplined and penalized by this Court. She has been
merely be done but must also be seen to be done. found guilty of various administrative complaints in at least four
(4) other occasions. 20 In 1999, in Dumlao, Jr. v.
As early as June 6, 2003, OCA Circular No. 70-2003 has Asdala, 21 respondent Judge Asdala was admonished for
directed judges as follows: partiality. A year later, in Bowman v. Asdala, 22she was fined
P2,000.00 for grave abuse of discretion in nine (9) cases when
In view of the increasing number of reports reaching the Office she deliberately withheld and did not attach a copy of her order
of the Court Administrator that judges have been meeting with of inhibition which resulted in the non-transmittal of the records
party litigants inside their chambers, judges are hereby of the criminal cases. In 2005, in Manansala III v.
cautioned to avoid in-chambers sessions without the other Asdala, 23 she was likewise ordered to pay a fine of
party and his counsel present, and to observe prudence at P40,000.00, the highest fine that may be imposed for serious
all times in their conduct to the end that they only act offenses committed by judges and justices, 24 for gross
impartially and with propriety but are also perceived to be misconduct after she interfered with a case of a German
impartial and proper. 14 national who was then detained at the police station awaiting
inquest investigation. In the said case, respondent Judge
Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial
Asdala requested the German national's release from custody
office. It applies not only to "the decision itself but also to the
and asked for the amicable settlement of the case against the
process by which the decision is made." 15 As such, judges
latter. Compounding her transgressions, respondent Judge
Asdala likewise ordered her court's sheriff to engage the IN VIEW WHEREOF, judgment is hereby rendered:
assistance of policemen in order to retrieve the German
national's car so that it may be turned over to her custody. Just 1. Respondent Judge Fatima G. Asdala is found GUILTY of
last year, in 2006, in Request of Judge Fatima Gonzales- gross insubordination and gross misconduct unbefitting a
Asdala, RTC-Branch 87, Quezon City, for Extension of the member of the judiciary and is accordingly DISMISSED from
Period to Decide Civil Case No. Q-02-46950 & 14 the service with forfeiture of all salaries, benefits and leave
Others, 25 this Court once again imposed a fine of P11,000.00 credits to which she may be entitled.
on respondent judge for her repeated and unjustifiable failure
to render decisions within the prescribed period. Each penalty 2. Respondent Myrla Nicandro is found GUILTY of
imposed on her in the said cases came with a stern warning insubordination in assuming the position and discharging the
that the subsequent commission of the same or similar offense functions of OIC/Branch Clerk of Court without and in defiance
shall be dealt with more severely. Respondent Judge Asdala of proper authority and is accordingly SUSPENDED from the
has time and time again blatantly disregarded this stream of service for a period of sixty (60) days, without pay,
warnings. Such repeated infractions and heedless commencing on the day immediately following her receipt of a
transgressions can no longer be countenanced by this Court. copy of this Decision, with a warning that a repetition of the
As we have repeatedly stressed, "there is no place in the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely. The
judiciary for those who cannot meet the exacting standards of period of suspension shall not be chargeable against her leave
judicial conduct and integrity." 26 credits. Respondent Nicandro is likewise ordered to
immediately cease and desist from discharging the functions of
Be that as it may, the accusation that respondent Judge OIC/Branch Clerk of Court and from representing herself as
Asdala instigated the complainant to file a complaint against such.
Atty. Alejandria must be dismissed for lack of sufficient
evidence. Similarly, we agree with the Investigating Justice that Respondent Nicandro is likewise REPRIMANDED for conduct
the dismissal of the civil case for support cannot be a ground prejudicial to the best interest of the service and ordered to
for administrative complaint as the matter is on appeal with the abstain from transacting with party litigants other than for
CA and appeal is the appropriate remedy of the aggrieved official purposes. ADcSHC
party.
SO ORDERED.
Respondent Nicandro, on her part, has been accused of
Puno, C.J., Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-
usurping the functions of OIC. While she acted on the strength
Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales,
of the memorandum of respondent Judge Asdala designating
Azcuna, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, Garcia, Velasco,
her as such, it is undeniable that she is aware of the
Jr. andNachura, JJ., concur.
memorandum of this Court, through the OCA, approving Amy
Soneja's designation as OIC/Branch Clerk of Court. ||| (Edaño v. Asdala, A.M. No. RTJ-06-1974, [July 26, 2007],
Respondent Nicandro's continued exercise of the functions of 555 PHIL 195-206)
OIC after the disapproval of her designation is a clear defiance
of the instruction of this Court.

As to the charge of unauthorized solicitation, it is clear that


respondent Nicandro, at the very least, acted as "collection
agent" of the office staff with regard to the alleged amounts
owed by complainant. Such action on the part of respondent
Nicandro lacks the propriety and proper decorum expected of a
court personnel. This is not the first time that this Court had
censured respondent Nicandro's behavior in dealing with party
litigants. Early this year, on February 12, 2007, she was fined
for gross insubordination for her willful failure and indifference
to the orders of this Court despite having been found in
contempt for her refusal to comply with the said orders. She
was also reprimanded for willful failure to pay a just debt
despite repeated demands from the complainant
therein. 27 Such infractions are conduct highly prejudicial to
the best interest of the service. ITSCED

This Court has repeatedly stressed its unbending policy not to


tolerate or condone any act or omission that falls short of the
exacting norms of public office, especially on those expected to
preserve the image of the judiciary. Again, this Court will not
shirk from its responsibility of weeding out those who stain the
integrity and dignity of the judiciary.