Martes, Mayo 08, 2012

Legal Ethics Digests


A.   LAWYER


1.    Duty to the Court/Negligence of a Lawyer

In Re: Vicente Y. Bayani
A.C. No. 5307. August 9, 2000

Facts: Atty. Vicente Bayani was the lawyer for the appellant in a criminal case. He failed to submit his proof of service in his appellant's brief which subsequently caused the inability of the appellee to file his own brief. The IBP was order to investigate on the matter and despite repeated notices, Bayani failed to submit the proof of service and his answer to the IBP's query. Hence, this administrative complaint.

Held: GUILTY. Atty. Bayani's failure to submit proof of service of appellant's brief and his failure to submit the required comment manifest willful disobedience to the lawful orders of the Supreme Court, a clear violation of the canons of professional ethics. It appears that Atty. Bayani has fallen short of the circumspection required of a member of the Bar. A counsel must always remember that his actions or omissions are binding on his clients. A lawyer owes his client the exercise of utmost prudence and capability in that representation. Further, lawyers are expected to be acquainted with the rudiments of law and legal procedure and anyone who deals with them has the right to expect not just a good amount of professional learning and competence but also a whole-hearted fealty to his client's cause. Having been remiss in his duty to the Court and to the Bar, Atty. Bayani was suspended from the practice of law for 3 months and until the time he complies with the Order of the Supreme Court to submit the required proof of service.

2.    Duty to Client/Accounting of Client’s Money/Negligence

Teodulfo B. Basas vs. Atty. Miguel I. Icawat

A.C. No. 4282. August 24, 2000


Facts: Atty. Miguel Icawat was the lawyer for Teodulfo Basas and some other laborers in their complaint against their employer. The NLRC rendered an adverse decision. Basas and his fellow workers, however, insisted that they appeal the decision. Atty. Icawat, however, failed to file the required memorandum of appeal. Basas filed an administrative complaint, also alleging that Atty. Icawat issued a receipt for an amount less than that which they had paid him.

Held: GUILTY. Respondent's failure to file the memorandum of appeal required by the NLRC Rules of Procedure reveals his poor grasp of labor law. Respondent practically admitted that he did not file the memorandum. His failure to file the memorandum clearly prejudiced the interests of his clients. Respondent manifestly fell short of the diligence required of his profession, in violation of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which mandates that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Rule 18.03 further provides that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. For his failure to issue the proper receipt for the money he received from his clients, respondent also violated Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that a lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client. The Court fined  Atty. Icawat in the amount of PhP 500, with a warning that a repetition of the same offense or a similar misconduct will be dealt with more severely.

3.    Duty of Lawyer to Client/Proper Conduct

Teodoro R. Rivera vs. Atty. Sergio Angeles
A.C. No. 2519. August 29, 2000

Facts: Atty. Sergio Angeles was the legal counsel of Teodoro Rivera and 2 others in a civil case. Rivera and his 2 co-plaintiffs received a favorable decision. Atty. Angeles received almost PhP 50,000 from one of the defendants in the case as partial fulfillment of the judgement against the latter. Atty. Angeles, however, never told his clients of the amount he had received and never remitted the same to him, leaving them to discover such fact on their own. Rivera and his co-plaintiffs filed an administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty. Angeles.

Held: GUILTY. Atty. Angeles was not disbarred but the Court ruled that his act amounted to serious misconduct. The Court has repeatedly stressed the importance of integrity and good moral character as part of a lawyer’s equipment in the practice of his profession. For it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence. The Court is not oblivious of the right of a lawyer to be paid for the legal services he has extended to his client but such right should not be exercised whimsically by appropriating to himself the money intended for his clients.  There should never be an instance where the victor in litigation loses everything he won to the fees of his own lawyer. For deceit in dealing with his client, Atty. Angeles was suspended from the practice of law for 1 year.

Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. vs. Attys. Antonio M. Llorente and Ligaya P. Salayon
A.C. No. 4690. August 29, 2000

Facts: Attys. Antonio Llorente and Ligaya Salayon were election officers of the COMELEC and held the position of Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively for the Pasig City Board of Candidates. The respondents helped conduct and oversee the 1995 elections. Then Senatorial candidate Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. alleged that the respondents tampered with the votes received by them by either adding more votes for particular candidates in their Statement of Votes (SoV) or reducing the number of votes of particular candidates in their SoV. Pimentel filed an administrative complaint for their disbarment. Respondents argued that the discrepancies were due to honest mistake, oversight and fatigue. Respondents also argued that the IBP Board of Governors had already exonerated them from any offense and that the motion for reconsideration filed by Pimentel was not filed in time.

Held: GUILTY. Respondents do not dispute the fact that massive irregularities attended the canvassing of the Pasig City election returns.  The only explanation they could offer for such irregularities is that the same could be due to honest mistake, human error, and/or fatigue on  the part of the members of the canvassing committees who prepared the SoVs. There is a limit, we believe, to what can be construed as an honest mistake or oversight due to fatigue, in the performance of official duty.  The sheer magnitude of the error renders the defense of honest mistake or oversight due to fatigue, as incredible and simply unacceptable. Indeed, what is involved here is not just a case of mathematical error in the tabulation of votes per precinct as reflected in the election returns and the subsequent entry of the erroneous figures in one or two SoVs but a systematic scheme to pad the votes of certain senatorial candidates at the expense of the petitioner in complete disregard of the tabulation in the election returns. A lawyer who holds a government position may not be disciplined as a member of the bar for misconduct in the discharge of his duties as a government official. However, if the misconduct also constitutes a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility or the lawyer’s oath or is of such character as to affect his qualification as a lawyer or shows moral delinquency on his part, such individual may be disciplined as a member of the bar for such misconduct. Here, by certifying as true and correct the SoVs in question, respondents committed a breach of Rule 1.01 of the Code which stipulates that a lawyer shall not engage in “unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.” By express provision of Canon 6, this is made applicable to lawyers in the government service.  In addition, they likewise violated their oath of office as lawyers to “do no falsehood.” The Court found the respondents guilty of misconduct and fined them PhP 10,000 each and issued a stern warning that similar conduct in the future will be severely punished.

4.    Misrepresentation and Non-payment of IBP Dues


Soliman M. Santos, Jr. v. Atty. Francisco R. Llamas

A.C. No. 4749. January 20, 2000

Facts: Complaint for misrepresentation and non-payment of bar membership dues. It appears that Atty. Llamas, who for a number of years now, has not indicated the proper PTR and IBP OR Nos. and data in his pleadings. If at all, he only indicated “IBP Rizal 259060” but he has been using this for at least 3 years already. On the other hand, respondent, who is now of age, averred that he is only engaged in a “limited” practice of law and under RA 7432, as a senior citizen, he is exempted from payment of income taxes and included in this exemption is the payment of membership dues.

Held: GUILTY. Rule 139-A requires that every member of the Integrated Bar shall pay annual dues and default thereof for six months shall warrant suspension of membership and if nonpayment covers a period of 1-year, default shall be a ground for removal of the delinquent’s name from the Roll of Attorneys. It does not matter whether or not respondent is only engaged in “limited” practice of law. Moreover, the exemption invoked by respondent does not include exemption from payment of membership or association dues.
            In addition, by indicating “IBP Rizal 259060” in his pleadings and thereby misprepresenting to the public and the courts that he had paid his IBP dues to the Rizal Chpater, respondent is guilty of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides: Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. His act is also a violation of Rule 10.01 which provides that: A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; nor mislead or allow the court to be misled by any artifice.
            Lawyer was suspended for 1 year or until he has paid his IBP dues, whichever is later.

B.   JUDGES

1.    Gross Ignorance of the Law

·         Improper Imposition of the Punishment of Contempt
Flaviano B. Cortes v. Judge Felina Bangalan
A.M. No. MTJ-97-1129. January 19, 2000

Facts: Complainant was one of the co-accused in an adultery case filed before the sala of respondent Judge Bangalan. In a letter-complaint, he moved for the voluntary inhibition of respondent judge on the ground that the latter cannot be impartial over the criminal case because complainant previously filed an opposition to the appointment of respondent as RTC judge.
            For this, respondent judge issued an order citing Complainant in direct contempt of court, averring further that his pleading contained derogatory, offensive or malicious statements "equivalent to misbehavior committed in the presence of or so near a court or judge as to interrupt the proceedings before the same within the meaning of Rule 71. When complainant appealed said order in the same court, after posting a notice of appeal, respondent judge ordered him to submit a record on appeal. Upon failure to do so, respondent judge issued a warrant of arrest against Complainant for which he was arrested and jailed for 1 day with a fine of P10.00.
            Thus, Complainant charges respondent judge with gross ignorance of the law, oppressive conduct and abuse of authority when the latter held him in contempt of court on account of the statements he made in his letter-complaint which statements, complainant insists, are absolutely privileged in nature. Complainant further alleges that he filed a notice of appeal from the order of contempt but respondent directed him to submit a record on appeal despite the fact that the same is not required under the rules.

Held: GUILTY. Judge B was fined in the amount equivalent to 1-month salary with a stern warning that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with more seriously. The Court said that while it is true that the complainant attached the administrative letter-complaint in his letter for respondent judge to inhibit in the criminal case, it was used merely to support his contention in his motion for inhibition. A judge is bound never to consider lightly a motion for his inhibition that questions or puts to doubt, however insignificant, his supposed predilection to a case pending before him. Furthermore, the alleged offensive and contemptuous language contained in the letter-complaint was not directed to the respondent court.
A judge may not hold a party in contempt of court for expressing concern on his impartiality even if the judge may have been insulted therein. While the power to punish in contempt is inherent in all courts so as to preserve order in judicial proceedings and to uphold the due administration of justice, judges, however, should exercise their contempt powers judiciously and sparingly, with utmost restraint, and with the end in view of utilizing their contempt powers for correction and preservation not for retaliation or vindication.
Anent the charge of gross ignorance of the law in requiring complainant to submit a record on appeal, we find the respondent judge's order to be not it accord with the established rule on the matter. Contempt proceedings is not one of those instances where a record on appeal is required to perfect an appeal. Thus, when the law is elementary, so elementary, not to know it constitutes gross ignorance of the law.

·         Payment of Docket Fees in Election Cases

Alfredo B. Enojas v. Judge Eustaquio Z. Gacott, Jr.
A.M. No. RTJ-99-1513. January 19, 2000

Facts: Judge Gacott is being administratively charged in this case with serious misconduct, inefficiency and gross ignorance of the law. This complaint arose when respondent Judge dismissed an election case on the ground of non-payment of docket fees, although the case was had been previously admitted and was deemed properly filed by the original Judge (inhibited himself due to relationship to one’s of the parties) whom Judge Gacott replaced. Jugde G issued the dismissal order relying on a case (Manchester vs. CA) which states that -  a case is deemed commenced only upon the payment of the proper docket fees. To his opinion, the required fees in this case was not yet paid by the protestant. Hence, this complaint charging him primarily with gross ignorance of the law.

Held: GUILTY. Based on the facts and circumstances attendant to the case, the election protest  was properly filed. In fact, the original Judge already made an order that from the deposit given by the protestant for the expenses of reopening the questioned ballots, an amount shall be allocated for the payment of the required fees. More importantly, the Court held that the Manchester ruling relied upon by respondent Judge does not apply to election cases. In a latter case ( Pahilan), the evil sought to be avoided in the Manchester case does not exist in election cases. Truth is, the filing fee in an election case is fixed and the claim for damages, to which the docket fees shall be made to apply, is merely ancillary to main cause of action and is not even determinative of the court’s jurisdiction.
            While it is true that not every error or mistake of a judge renders him administratively liable, in this case, it is clear that the respondent judge was in utter disregard of established rules amounting to gross ignorance of the law. The Pahilan case was decided long before the respondent made a ruling on the election case. Thus, the respondent judge was duty bound to adhere to, and apply the recent ruling, and he cannot feign ignorance thereof, because the Code of Judicial Ethics requires him to be an embodiment of, among other things, judicial competence. On e of the principal duties of a judge is to be abreast with law and jurisprudence since the administration of justice requires continuous study of the law and jurisprudence. A perusal of the challenge order reveals that respondent judge failed to live up to what is expected of him as a dispenser of justice.

·         Granting of Bail

Romulo Tolentino v. Judge Policarpio S. Camano, Jr.
A.M. RTJ-00-1522 January 20, 2000

Facts: Respondent Judge is being charged with gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of discretion, grave abuse of authority, violation of Canons 1, 2, and 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and incompetence in connection with granting bail to the accused in a criminal case for child abuse.
            The complaint alleges that respondent Judge granted bail while pending the holding of a preliminary investigation. The defense moved to quash the information against the accused on the alleged absence of a preliminary investigation. Consequently, respondent Judge ordered that a preliminary investigation be had by the state prosecutor. During the pendency of this, he granted bail in favor of the defendant after several notices of hearing to the state prosecutor to which the latter failed to appear. After such grant, complainant herein now accuses respondent of denying the prosecution  the chance to adduce evidence to show that the guilt of the accused was strong and that bail should not have been granted in his favor.

Held: NOT GUILTY. There was no denial of due process. It was not necessary to hold hearing so that the prosecution could show that evidence of guilt of the accused was strong since a preliminary investigation had been ordered by the court. At that point, bail was still a matter of right. Respondent judge, knowing that bail was indeed a matter of right at that stage, nevertheless set the hearing for the petition for bail four times. However, complainant failed to appear and present evidence to show that the guilt of the accused was strong. It thus appears that complainant is actually the one who was remiss in the performance of his duties. Considering that the case was referred to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for preliminary investigation, the accused could be considered as entitled to bail as a matter of right. Thus, respondent judge’s decision granting bail to the accused was proper and in accordance with law and jurisprudence.

·         Issuance of an Order of Release

Jesusa Santiago vs. Judge Eduardo Jovellanos
Margarita Sanchez vs. Judge Eduardo Jovellanos
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1289. August 1, 2000

Facts: Jesusa Santiago and Margarita Sanchez were complainants in two different criminal cases before the MTC of San Ildefonso, Bulacan and the RTC of Rosales, Pampanga, respectively. The suspects in each of the criminal cases were caught by authorities and detained. However, both suspects were released by order of Judge Eduardo Jovellanos, presiding judge of the MCTC of Alcala-Bautista, Pangasinan. The complainants questioned both Orders for Release issued by Judge Jovellanos, alleging that the requirements for the bailbond had not been fulfilled and that the said judge had no jurisdiction to order the release.

Held: GUILTY. There are two defects in the Orders for Release signed by Judge Jovellanos. First, in both cases, the detainees had not registered the bailbond in accordance with the Rules of Criminal Procedure. One may not be given provisional liberty if the bailbond is not registered with the proper office. Secondly, Judge Jovellanos did not have jurisdiction to order the release of the detainees. The Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that when a suspect is arrested outside of the province, city or municipality where his case is pending, he may either apply for bail with the court where his case is pending or with any RTC in the province, city or municipality where he was arrested. If a RTC judge is not available, he may apply for bail with any MTC or MCTC in the place where he was arrested. In this case, Judge Jovellanos entertained motions for bail and ordered release for suspects whose cases were not pending in his court nor were they arrested within his jurisdiction. As an advocate of justice and a visible representation of the law, a judge is expected to keep abreast with and be proficient in the interpretation of our laws. A judge should be acquainted with legal norms and precepts as well as with statutes and procedural rules. Unfamiliarity with the Rules of Court is a sign of incompetence which goes against Canon 3, specifically Rule 3.01, of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Having accepted the exalted position of a judge, Judge Jovellanos owes the public and the court he sits in proficiency in the law.  He must have the basic rules at the palm of his hands as he is expected to maintain professional competence at all times. Judge Jovellanos was suspended for 1 year without pay issued the warning that similar conduct in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

·         Grant of a Motion for Reconsideration

Gloria Lucas v. Judge Amelia A. Fabros

A.M. No. MTJ-99-1226. January 31, 2000

Facts : Complainant Lucas was the defendant in an ejectment case pending before respondent judge.  She alleges that Judge Fabros granted the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration after the case had been dismissed the case for failure of plaintiff and her counsel to appear at the Preliminary Conference. She averred that it is elementary, under Section 19(c) of the Rules of Summary Procedure, that a motion for reconsideration is prohibited, but respondent judge, in violation of the rule, granted the motion for reconsideration. She added that, notwithstanding the fact that the respondent herself had pointed out in open court that the case is governed by the Rules on Summary Procedure, the judge ordered the revival of the case out of malice, partiality and with intent to cause an injury to complainant. Thus, the instant complaint, charging respondent judge with Gross Ignorance of the Law and Grave Abuse of Discretion
           
Held: NOT GUILTY.   The SC held that respondent judge not guilty of gross ignorance of the law and grave abuse of discretion. 
            As a rule, a motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading under Section 19 of the Revised Rule  on Summary Procedure. This rule, however, applies only where the judgment sought to be reconsidered is one rendered on the merits. Here, the order of dismissal issued by respondent judge due to failure of a party to appear during the preliminary conference is obviously not a judgment on the merits after trial of the case. Hence, a motion for the reconsideration of such order is not the prohibited pleading contemplated under Section 19 (c) of the present Rule on Summary Procedure. Thus, respondent judge committed no grave abuse of discretion, nor is she guilty of ignorance of the law, in giving due course to the motion for reconsideration subject of the present

·         Imposition of Proper Penalty

Felicidad Dadizon vs. Judge Aniceto Lirios
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1295. August 1, 2000

Facts: Felicidad Dadizon was the complainant in a prosecution for Falsification of a Public Document (Art. 172, RPC) which was tried and decided by Judge Aniceto Lirios of the MTC of Naval, Biliran. Judge Lirios convicted the accused, Pablo Suzon, and sentenced him to a straight penalty of 7 months imprisonment and imposed a PhP 1,000 fine. Dadizon questioned the punishment meted by the said judge, alleging that the straight penalty of 7 months is way below the penalty provided by law. Judge Lirios defended his decision, stating that he had to appreciate the mitigating circumstance that Suzon was already 70 years of age.

Held: GUILTY. As judge of thirty-three (33) years, respondent should have known that the Indeterminate Sentence Law provides for the imposition of a prison sentence in the minimum and maximum term for offenses punishable by the Revised Penal Code or the special laws. The offense committed was Falsification by a Private Individual and Use of Falsified Document punishable under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code which provides for a penalty of imprisonment of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods (ranging from 2 years, 4 months and 1 days to 6 years) and a fine of not more than Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00). Respondent Judge appreciated one (1) mitigating circumstance (old age), which is merely an ordinary mitigating circumstance. The imposition of a straight penalty of seven (7) months by respondent Judge is clearly erroneous. While a judge may not always be subjected to disciplinary action for every erroneous order or decision he renders, that relative immunity is not a license to be negligent or abusive and arbitrary in performing his adjudicatory prerogatives. It is true that a judge may err in fixing the minimum and maximum terms of an indeterminate sentence. However, the unawareness of or unfamiliarity with the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law and duration and graduation of penalties merit disciplinary action from reprimand to removal. Every judge should know that in applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law for offenses penalized under the Revised Penal Code, the indeterminate sentence should have a fixed minimum and maximum. And when the law is so elementary, not to know it or to act as if one does not know it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. Judge Aniceto Lirios was fined in the amount of PhP 5,000 and issued stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely by the Court.

·         Application of Rules of Procedure

Alfonso C. Ortiz vs. Judge Alex L. Quiroz
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1259 August 4, 2000

Facts: Alfonso Ortiz initiated a criminal complaint against Inocencia Hernandez for malicious mischeif and grave threats. The case was assigned to Judge Alex Quiroz, presiding judge of Branch 69 of the MTC of Pasig City. Before trial, however, Judge Quiroz ruled that the case would be governed by ordinary rules of procedure rather than the summary rules of criminal procedure because the case fell within the exceptions in P.D. 1508. Ortiz filed an administrative complaint against Judge Quiroz, arguing that the summary rules not the ordinary rules should be followed for his case.

Held: GUILTY. Under the Revised Penal Code, grave threats is penalized with imprisonment of 1 month and 1 day to 6 months (arresto mayor) and a fine not exceeding PhP 500, if the threat is not subject to a condition (Article 282). Malicious mischief, on the other hand, is penalized with imprisonment of 2 months and 1 day to 6 months (arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods) if the value of the damage caused exceeds PhP 1,000 (Article 329). In this case, the alleged damage to complainant was estimated to be PhP 50,000. Thus, the subject criminal cases should have been tried under the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure, considering that such rule is applicable to criminal cases where the penalty prescribed by law for the offense charged is imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding PhP 1,000 or both, irrespective of other imposable penalties, accessory or otherwise or of the civil liability arising therefrom [Section 1 B(4), Revised Rule on Summary Procedure]. Respondent judge, therefore, erred in applying the ordinary rules of procedure instead of the rules of summary procedure. A judge has a duty to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with the statutes and procedural rules. In fact, the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that judges must be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence. He must have the basic rules at the palm of his hand and be proficient in the interpretation of laws and procedural rules. Judge Quiroz was reprimanded, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act would be dealt with more severely.

·         Issuance of a Writ of Execution

Teresita Jason vs. Judge Briccio Ygana
A.M. No. RTJ-00-1543. August 4, 2000

Facts: Teresita Jason was the defendant in an ejectment case before the MTC of Pasig City. Having received an adverse judgement, Jason appealed the decision to Branch 153 of the RTC of Pasig City, presided by Judge Briccio Ygana. Respondent judge affirmed the decision of the MTC and subsequently issued a Writ of Execution for the judgement. The Sheriff of Branch 153 executed upon some personal properties of Jason and gave a Notice to Vacate. Jason filed an administrative complaint against Judge Ygana, arguing that the Writ of Execution should have been issued by the court of origin and not the appellate court.

Held: GUILTY. The case should have been remanded back to the MTC for execution. The rule is that if the judgment of the metropolitan trial court is appealed the regional trial court and the decision of the latter is itself elevated to the Court of Appeals, whose decision thereafter become final, the case should be remanded through the regional trial court to the metropolitan trial court for execution. The only exception is the execution pending appeal which is not evident from the records of this case. A judge is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules; it is imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles. Canon 4 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics requires that the judge should be studious of the principles of law. Canon 18 mandates that he should administer his office with due regard to the integrity of the system of the law itself, remembering that he is not a depository of arbitrary power, but a judge under the sanction of law.  Judge Ygana was fined PhP 10,000 for gross ignorance of the law.

·         Conducting Hearings for Probation

Carlos B. Creer vs. Judge Concordio Fabillar
A.M. No. MTJ-99-1218. August 14, 2000

Facts: Respondent Judge Concordio Fabillar, acting presiding judge of the 9th MCTC of Giporlos-Quinapundan, Eastern Samar, convicted Carlos Creer of grave coercion. Creer appealed the conviction to the RTC where it was affirmed. Creer subsequently filed a Motion for Reconsideration. Creer was then apprehended and jailed by order of Judge Fabillar. Creer alleged that respondent judge made him sign an application for probation which the said judge denied. The RTC subsequently reversed the conviction of Creer and ordered his release. Creer filed an administrative complaint against Judge Fabillar, charging the latter with gross ignorance of the law for conducting hearings for probation despite his pending appeal.

Held: GUILTY. The rule is that no application for probation shall be entertained or granted if the defendant has perfected the appeal from the judgment of conviction. At the time complainant applied for probation, an appeal had already been perfected. Although respondent Judge eventually denied the application, the fact still remained that he had acted on it by asking the probation officer to conduct a post-sentence investigation instead of outrightly denying the same as so explicitly mandated by the law. Observance of the law, which he is bound to know and sworn to uphold, is required of every judge. When the law is sufficiently basic, a judge owes it to his office to know and to simply apply it; anything less than that would be constitutive of gross ignorance of the law. Judge Fabillar was suspended from service for 6 months without pay and ordered to pay a PhP 20,000 fine. He was further warned with the most severe penalty for another infraction by him.

·         Order of Acquittal
Fredesminda Dayawon v. Judge Maximino A. Badilla
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1309.  September 6, 2000

Facts: Ms. Fredesminda Dayawon charged Judge Maximino A. Badilla of the Municipal Trial Court of Pili, Camarines Sur, with "Gross Ignorance of the Law and Incompetence" relative to Criminal Case for estafa.
Complainant averred that respondent Judge acquitted the accused and declared her to only be liable civilly, despite Alamos’ admittance in open court that she had received the subject goods from complainant to be sold on commission basis with the obligation to remit the proceeds of the sale or to return the items, if unsold, but had failed to comply seasonably therewith despite demand. Complainant stressed that these admissions, together with the finding that the accused had acted in bad faith, were clearly sufficient to convict the accused of the crime of estafa. 

Held: GUILTY. A judge is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules; so long as he remains on the bench, it is imperative that he continues to be conversant with the basic law and maintain the desired professional competence.
The Court finds it fit, however, to reduce the recommended fine of P5,000.00 to P2,000.00 considering that no nefarious motive on the part of respondents judge has been shown.

·         Issuance of Hold Departure Order
Re: Hold-Departure Order Dated August 9, 1999 Issued by Judge Salvador B. Mendoza, MCTC, Poro-San Francisco-Tedela-Pilar, Poro, Cebu Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Salvador B. Mendoza
A.M. No. 00-1281-MTJ.  September 14, 2000

Facts: MTC Judge Mendoza issued a Hold Departure Order in Criminal Case No. T-1806, entitled "People of the Philippines v. Arnie Pena Osabel." pending before him in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Poro-San Francisco-Tedela-Pilar, Poro, Cebu. The Secretary urged the Court Administrator to look into the fact that the order in question was issued in violation of Supreme Court Circular No. 39-97 dated June 19, 1997.

Held: GUILTY. Circular No. 39-97 limits the authority to issue hold-departure orders to the Regional Trial Courts in criminal cases within their exclusive jurisdiction.
Canon 3, Rule 3.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct exhorts judges to be "faithful to the law and maintain professional competence."  The Court has not been remised in reminding judges to exert diligent efforts in keeping abreast with developments in law and jurisprudence. Needless to state, the process of learning the law and the legal system is a never-ending endeavor, hence, judges should always be vigilant in their quest for knowledge so they could discharge their duties and responsibilities with zeal and fervor.

2.  Habitual Tardiness


Antonio Yu-Asensi  vs. Judge Francisco D. Villanueva

A.M. No. MTJ-00-1245. January 19, 2000

Facts: Complainant charges Judge Villanueva for serious misconduct and/or inefficiency particularly violating the Canons of Judicial Ethics on promptness and punctuality. Judge V had been consistently late for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours during scheduled hearings, thus delaying the cause of complainant where he was the plaintiff in a reckless imprudence case. Due to his tardiness, C's lawyer had also been compelled to extend trial even beyond the prescribed period provided for by law.

Held: GUILTY. Habitual tardiness amounts to serious misconduct and inefficiency in violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics. Several SC Circulars have been issued which enjoin judges to be punctual in the performance of their judicial duties, recognizing that the time of litigants, witnesses, and attorneys are of value, and that if the judge is not punctual in his habits, he sets a bad example to the bar and tends to create dissatisfaction in the administration of justice. Furthermore, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates:  "A judge shall dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the required periods."

3. Gross Inefficiency and Duty/Liability over Court Personnel


Atty. Martin Pantaleon v. Judge Teofilo Guadiz
A.M. No. RTJ-00-1525 January 25, 2000

Facts: In this case, respondent Judge is charged with Gross Inefficiency, Neglect and Delay in Elevating the Records of Civil Case No. 88-2187, to which the complainant was the plaintiff’s counsel. After receiving an adverse decision, complainant filed a Notice of Appeal within the reglementary period and consequently, respondent Judge issued an order for the transmittal of the records of the case to the appellate court. However, despite constant follow-up by counsel, three years have passed and the records of the case have not been transmitted.
            In his Answer, respondent judge contends that the court stenographer misplaced the transcript of the testimony of one of the witnesses, hence the record could not be transmitted to the Court of Appeals. He further averred that complainant should have invited his attention by filing the proper motion or by writing a personal letter informing him of the non-transmittal of the records within three months from the date of his order of transmittal.

Held: GUILTY. A judge cannot hide behind the incompetence of his subordinates. He should be the master of his own domain and take responsibility for the mistakes of his subjects.
            The non-transmission of the records by reason of inefficiency of the staff cannot exonerate respondent judge from administrative liability. As administrative officer of the court, a judge is expected to keep a watchful eye on the level of performance and conduct of the court personnel under his immediate supervision who are primarily employed to aid in the administration of justice as required by Canon 3, Rule 3.09 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
            In the case of Re: Judge Fernando Agdamag, the Court stated: “he (judge) sits not only to judge litigated cases with the least possible delay but that his responsibilities include being an effective manager of the court and its personnel. He is presumed to be cognizant of his responsibilities as a worthy minister of the law. At the very least, he is expected to keep abreast with his docket.”
            Certainly, a delay of three years in the transmission of court records to the appellate court, where only a period of 30 days is required, is inexcusable.

Acting Judge Reynaldo B. Bellosilo v. Dante dela Cruz Rivera, Sheriff III, Branch 34, Metropolitan Trial Court, Quezon City

A.M.  No. P-00-1424.  September 25, 2000

              
Dante dela Cruz Rivera, Sheriff III, Branch 34, Metropolitan Trial Court, Quezon City vs. Acting Judge Reynaldo B. Bellosilo, Branch 34, Metropolitan Trial Court, Quezon City.
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1316.  September 25, 2000

Facts: Sheriff Dante Rivera allegedly falsified his Personal Data Sheet. For this, respondent Judge accused him of dishonesty and subsequently prevented him from reporting for work. Afterwhich, respodent Judge filed an administrative complaint against the sheriff.

Held: GUILTY. A judge has no authority or power to prevent an employee from reporting for work. If indeed complainant Rivera committed falsification in the accomplishment of his personal data sheet, the most that Judge Bellosillo could have done was to file an administrative charge against complainant Rivera, which he later on did but after the complainant Rivera filed an administrative charge against him (Judge Bellosillo) for conduct unbecoming.
While a judge may have supervision over his employees, he should not however exercise his authority over them in an oppressive or despotic manner. Judge Bellosillo should have realized that it is the Supreme Court which has the authority to discipline/dismiss his subordinate. The most that he can do is merely to file an administrative complaint against the erring employee.

4.    Impartiality and Impropriety of a Judge

·         Issuance of Conflicting Orders
Daniel & Suprema Dumo v. Judge Romeo V. Perez
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1242 January 20, 2000

Facts: Spouses Dumo filed this administrative complaint against respondent Judge Perez for gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of discretion and patent partiality.
            Respondent MTC Judge issued a Writ of Execution to enforce the decision of a case involving quieting of title and recovery of ownership of real property. However, said writ was returned unsatisfied because the herein complainants was the actual owners and occupants of the questioned property without being impleaded in the original case. Subsequently, respondent Judge issued an order stating that complainants shall not be affected by said writ because they were not made parties to the case. Despite such order, he moved on to issue a Writ of Possession in favor of the original plaintiff (Espinas). As a consequence, Espinas used such Writ of Possession against the herein complainants in order to eject them from their property and deprived them from the enjoyment of the same.
            The crux of this controversy therefore is the issuance of respondent Judge of conflicting orders, which according to complainants, showed patent partiality over Espinas, the original plaintiff in the case for quieting of title.

Held: GUILTY. First of all, respondent Judge is guilty of ignorance of the law. As a municipal trial court judge, he obviously had no jurisdiction over the action for quieting of title and recovery of ownership filed by Espinas against the original defendants. It must be stressed that the case was NOT for ejectment over which MTC’s have original jurisdiction, but for quieting of title and/or ownership falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of regional trial courts. The question of jurisdiction if so basic and elementary a matter that a judge’s ignorance of it is simply inexcusable.
            Secondly, the judge’s act of issuing conflicting orders is likewise inexcusable. After declaring that the Writ of Execution cannot be made enforceable against herein complainants as they were not made parties to the case, he reversed  himself nevertheless by issuing the Writ of Possession. Under said writ of possession, it was patent that he was contradicting his previous ruling by ordering therein “to eject all adverse occupants,” which of course, was so broad to affect all persons including herein complainants. The issuance of said writ gave rise to the suspicion of partiality or bias in favor of Espinas.
            The presumptions of regularity and good faith in the performance of judicial functions on respondent’s part are negated by the circumstances of record. While a judge cannot be made liable for any criminal, civil, or administrative charge for an erroneous decision rendered in good faith and in the absence of fraud, it is imperative that he should have basic knowledge of the law. Judges must keep abreast of the laws and jurisprudence to be able to render justice and maintain public confidence in our legal system.
            More importantly, judges should not only be impartial but should also appear impartial. Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that: “a judge should also avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.” A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. (Rule 2.01, Canon 2).

Leopoldo G. Dacera, Jr. vs. Judge Teodoro A. Dizon
A.M. No. RTJ-00-1573. August 2, 2000

Facts: Leopoldo Dacera, Jr. was the complainant in a prosecution for Qualified Theft filed with Branch 37 of the RTC of General Santos City with Judge Teodoro Dizon presiding. The prosecutor later filed a Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that Dacera had executed and signed an Affidavit of Desistance from pursuing the prosecution. Dacera, however, opposed the Motion to Dismiss, alleging that Judge Dizon had unduly influenced him to sign the Affidavit of Desistance and that he had not been fully appraised of the consequences of his actions in doing so. The Supreme Court assigned an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals to investigate into the matter.

Held: NOT GUILTY. The investigation did not find any conclusive evidence that Judge Dizon was personally biased in favor of either party in the disposition of the case in question. It must be noted that respondent judge did not actually dismiss the case upon motion of the prosecutor and even voluntarily inhibited himself upon motion of Dacera to disqualify him. However, the investigation did reveal that Judge Dizon had made telephone calls to Dacera and even had discussions with him inside his chambers in order to verify the truth about the Affidavit of Desistance. While there is no clear proof of malice, corrupt motives or improper considerations, the acts of respondent in calling and meeting with the complainant still leave much to be desired and are deserving of reprimand. A judge is not only required to be impartial; he must also appear to be impartial. Fraternizing with litigants tarnishes this appearance. Canon II of the Code of Judicial Conduct basically provides that judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities and should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. It is clear that the acts of the respondent judge have been less than circumspect. He should have kept himself free from any appearance of impropriety and should have endeavored to distance himself from any act liable to create an impression of indecorum. The complaint filed by Dacera against Judge Dizon, Jr., was dismissed for lack of merit. However, respondent Judge was admonished to refrain from making calls to any parties-litigant and/or counsel with cases pending in his sala and sternly warned that a repetition of the same will be dealt with more severely.

William R. Adan vs. Judge Anita Abucejo-Luzano
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1298. August 3, 2000

Facts: William Adan was the complainant in 2 criminal cases for Grave Oral Defamation tried and decided by Judge Anita Abucejo-Luzano of the MCTC of Lopez Jaena, Misamis Occidental. Respondent judge convicted the accused and sentenced them accordingly. Upon Motion for Reconsideration, however, respondent judge reversed her decision and rendered a judgement for acquittal. Adan questioned the reversal of the conviction, alleging that Judge Abucejo-Luzano had modified her judgement because having received new information from the accused, she conducted a personal ocular inspection of the place where the crime was committed without the presence of the parties involved.

Held: GUILTY. Respondent Judge should have known that an ex-parte ocular inspection without notice to nor presence of the parties and after the case had already been decided was highly improper. If respondent Judge had entertained doubts that she wished to clarify after the trial had already terminated, she should have ordered motu proprio the reopening of the trial for the purpose, with due notice to the parties, whose participation therein is essential to due process. Thus, it is error for the judge to go alone to the place where the crime was committed and make an inspection without previous knowledge or consent of the parties. The conduct of the ex-parte inspection, the result of which apparently influenced her to reconsider her earlier decision, was highly improper as she, in effect, admitted additional evidence without giving the prosecution a chance to object to its introduction or to controvert the same. Her actions show an ignorance of the law and proper procedure to be followed for a situation such as this. Furthermore, respondent judge has opened herself to charges of partiality and bias by meeting with the accused privately. No matter how noble her intentions may have been, it was improper for respondent judge to meet the accused without the presence of complainant. Respondent Judge has failed to live up to the norm that judges should not only be impartial but should also appear impartial. She thus violated Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which provides that a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities. Judge Abucejo-Luzano was fined PhP 10,000 and issued a stern warning that any similar act in the future will be dealt with more severely.

5.    Gross Misconduct amounting to Violation of a Constitutional Right/ Serious/Grave Misconduct


Atty. NapoleonS. Valenzuela v. Judge Reynaldo Bellosillo
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1241 January 20, 2000

Facts: Respondent Judge is being charged with gross violation of the constitutional right of subject accused to assistance by counsel of her own choice, gross misconduct, oppression, partiality and violation of the Code of Judicial Ethics.
            In a BP 22 case, Judge allegedly granted bail to the accused despite not being accompanied and represented by her counsel at that time. It appears that Judge granted bail without the assistance of the counsel of record, Atty. Valenzuela and he even suggested that the latter should be replaced by another counsel. Aghast by such decision, Atty. V filed his Notice of Withdrawal, in conformity with his client’s decision, Meriam Colapo. Subsequently, he filed the instant administrative complaint against respondent Judge. To support his position, he attached an Affidavit allegedly executed by his client Colapo. However, during the hearing of the case, he failed to present Colapo as Witness as she was allegedly out of the country although she was willing to testify at that time.

Held: NOT GUILTY. On the issue of granting bail without the assistance of counsel, the Court held that it was valid and sufficiently based on the Manifestation filed by Atty. Valenzuela. With regard to the alleged act of respondent Judge suggesting to the accused that she should change her counsel (complainant Atty. V) and recommending a different lawyer, the Court found that the evidence adduced by the complainant was insufficient to substantiate the charges against him. The only evidence offered by complainant was the Affidavit of his client Meriam Colapo, and it cannot be the basis of a finding of guilt even in an administrative case. The complainant’s failure to present his principal witness, in the absence of other evidence to prove his charges was fatal and said Affidavit cannot be given credence and is inadmissible without the said affiant being placed on the witness stand.
            The employment or profession of a person is a property right within the constitutional guaranty of due process of law. This applies also to Judges. Respondent judge cannot therefore be adjudged guilty of the charges against him without affording him a chance to confront the said witness, Meriam Colapo. Otherwise, his right to due process would be infringed.

Erlinda Sy vs. Danilo Norberte

A.M. No. 00-1398-P. August 1, 2000


Facts: In her civil case versus Antoinetta Galvez, complainant Erlinda Sy obtained a writ of preliminary attachment against all properties of the former. She alleged, however, that respondent Danilo Norberte, Sheriff of Branch 125 of the RTC of Kalookan City, tipped off Galvez about the said writ. She further alleged that Norberte actively assisted Galvez in the removal of her personal property from the latter's residence. Sy filed a complaint with Branch 125 of the RTC of Kalookan City which was submitted for investigation.

Held: GUILTY. The investigation revealed that Norberte was positively identified and seen by the complainant Sy and 2 other witnesses in the act of helping Galvez remove her personal property from her residence. Norberte's alibi did not prove to be credible. The offense of serious or grave misconduct refers to such misconduct that shows the element of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rules. In tipping off and assisting Galvez, Norberte's actions are an attempt to circumvent a valid court order. Even if Norberte did not tip off Galvez, his mere presence at the scene is punishable. Being an officer of the Court, respondent sheriff should have refrained from actuations though innocent and in good faith which may result in suspicion of impropriety and may consequently taint the good image of the judiciary. The nature and responsibilities of officers of the judiciary are not mere idealistic sentiments but true working standards and attainable goals that should be matched with actual deeds. They are expected to serve with the highest degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency and to conduct themselves with propriety and decorum at all times. Norberte was suspended for 1 month without pay and issued the warning that similar conduct in the future will be punished more severely.

In Re: Procedure adopted by Judge Daniel Liangco
(A.M. No. 99-11-158-MTC.  August 1, 2000)

Facts: RTC Judge Pedro Sunga of San Fernando, Pampanga received information about irregularities in the disposition of jueteng cases before the MTC's of the said region. Upon investigation, Judge Sunga discovered that of the 55 jueteng cases filed in July 1999, 53 were assigned to Branch 1 of the MTC of San Fernando presided by Judge Daniel Liangco. Noting that statistical improbability that 53 out of 55 jueteng cases should be assigned to only 1 Branch, Judge Sunga demanded a written explanation as to how such a situation had come about. In his letter, Judge Liangco explained that it has been his practice to automatically take over all jueteng cases without the need for raffling. The reason he cited is that the accused in such cases are deprived of their liberty and that by automatically assigning these cases to his branch, the accused can file motions for bail and the same can be entertained immediately without waiting for the raffle. In short, because of the need for provisional liberty, all jueteng cases are considered to be automatically raffled to his branch so that he may entertain motions for bail and the accused can be immediately released upon filing of the bond. The Supreme Court ordered further investigation of the case and placed Judge Liangco on preventive suspension.

Held: GUILTY. Judge Liangco clearly violated Supreme Court Circular No. 7 which provides: "All cases filed with the Court in stations or groupings where there are two or more branches shall be assigned or distributed to the different branches by raffle. No case may be assigned to any branch without being raffled." There is no connection at all between respondent’s alleged desire to facilitate the release of such accused on bail and his questionable act of retaining the records of the cases for direct assignment to his own sala.  For after granting bail to the accused, his alleged purpose of immediately extending provisional liberty to the accused shall already have been served. There is thus no need or justification to retain the records of the cases and consider them “raffled off” to his own sala. The questioned acts of respondent Judge Liangco constitute a clear breach of his duty as a judge.  The Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that:  A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” Respondent judge’s manner of automatically assigning jueteng cases to its own branch without the benefit of raffle, casts doubt on his integrity as a judge and erodes the confidence of the people in the judicial system. A judge’s official conduct and his behavior in the performance of judicial duties should be free from the appearance of impropriety and must be beyond reproach. Judge Liangco was suspended from service for 6 months without pay and issued the warning that similar conduct in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

6. Neglect of Duty/Abuse of Authority

Zenaida S. Beso v. Judge Juan Daguman

A.M. No. MTJ-99-1211. January 28, 2000

Facts: In a Complaint-Affidavit dated December 12, 1997, Zenaida S. Beso charged Judge Juan J. Daguman, Jr. with solemnizing marriage outside of his jurisdiction and of negligence in not retaining a copy and not registering the marriage contract with the office of the Local Civil Registrar.
In his comment, the respondent judge alleged that the marriage of the complainant had to be solemnized in Calbayog City though outside his territory as municipal Judge of Sta. Margarita, Samar because : 1) physically indisposed and unable to report to his station in Sta. Margarita; 2) complainant said she had to fly abroad that same day; 3)  that for the parties to go to another town for the marriage would be expensive and would entail serious problems of finding a solemnizing officer and another pair of witnesses or sponsors;  4) if they failed to get married on August 28, 1997, complainant would be out of the country for a long period and their marriage license would lapse and necessitate another publication of notice;  5) if the parties go beyond their plans for the scheduled marriage, complainant feared it would complicate her employment abroad.

Held:  GUILTY. The authority of a judge to solemnize marriage is only limited to those municipalities under his jurisdiction. Clearly, Calbayog City is no longer within his area of jurisdiction. Additionally, there are only three instances, as provided by Article 8 of the Family Code, wherein a marriage may be solemnized by a judge outside his chamber[s] or at a place other than his sala, and the circumstances of this case do not fall in any of these exceptions.
Moreover, as solemnizing officer, respondent Judge neglected his duty when he failed to register the marriage of complainant to Bernardito Yman. Such duty is entrusted upon him pursuant to Article 23 of the Family Code which provides:

"It shall be the duty of the person solemnizing the marriage to furnish either of the
contracting parties the original of the marriage certificate referred to in Article 6
and to send the duplicate and triplicate copies of the certificates not later than
fifteen days after the marriage, to the local civil registrar of the place where the
marriage was solemnized. xxx"

            Lastly, a judge is charged with exercising extra care in ensuring that the records of the cases and official documents in his custody are intact. There is no justification for missing records save fortuitous events. The records show that the loss was occasioned by carelessness on respondent Judge’s part. This Court reiterates that judges must adopt a system of record management and organize their dockets in order to bolster the prompt and efficient dispatch of business. It is, in fact, incumbent upon him to devise an efficient recording and filing system in his court because he is after all the one directly responsible for the proper discharge of his official functions.

7.    Prompt Disposition of Cases/ Inefficiency/Abuse of Authority

State Prosecutor Romulo Tolentino vs. Judge Nilo Malanyaon
A.M. No. RTJ-99-1444. August 3, 2000

Facts: Judge Nilo Malanyaon, presiding judge of Branch 30 of the RTC of Camarines Sur, dismissed 5 separate criminal cases for lack of evidence and also refused to issue warrants of arrest on the ground of lack of probable cause. Acting State Prosecutor for Camarines Sur Romulo Tolentino assailed the orders for dismissal and the refusal to issue the warrants for arrest alleging that Judge Malanyaon had abused his authority and knowingly rendered unjust orders. Tolentino also complained that several motions had been filed before respondent judge and have yet to be resolved and decided upon.

Issues: (1) Did Judge Malanyaon exercise grave abuse of discretion and act in excess of jurisdiction in dismissing the criminal cases?
            (2) Was Judge Malanyaon guilty of unreasonable delay for failing to act on the motions filed by State Prosecutor Tolentino?

Held: (1) NO. The allegations that respondent judge had violated Canons 1, 2 and 3 of the Canons of Judicial Conduct are without merit. Good faith and absence of malice, corrupt or improper consideration are sufficient defenses protecting a judicial officer charged with ignorance of the law and promulgation of an unjust decision from being held accountable for errors of judgment on the premise that no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the administration of justice can be infallible. There is no proof of grave abuse of discretion. These charges were dismissed by the Court.
              (2) YES. The motions/incidents were left unacted upon from 3 to 5 months and were still pending when the administrative complaint was filed against respondent. Respondent should be aware of his duties as an arbiter of justice.  Under Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge shall dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the required periods.  While the prosecutor in this case is not without fault, the respondent cannot escape responsibility for his inaction of the pending motions before him.  Even assuming arguendo that the various motions filed by the prosecutor were considered to be mere scraps of paper or without merit, the judge must nevertheless resolve on those matters promptly by granting or denying them.  It is the duty of the judge to rule upon the motions filed before him even if his actions are merely to deny them. Respondent judge was found guilty for his failure to resolve pending motions and/or incidents and, accordingly, a penalty of reprimand was imposed upon him with the warning that a repetition of the same or similar violation will be dealt with a more severe penalty by the Court.

Juan Luzarraga vs. Hon. Amaro M. Meteoro
A.M. No. 00-1572. August 3, 2000

Facts: Juan Luzarraga was the plaintiff in a civil case assigned to Branch 41 of the RTC of Camarines Norte. After the said plaintiff had rested his case and presented his evidence, the case was transferred to the newly-created Branch 64 of the RTC of Camarines Norte, presided by Judge Amaro Meteoro. It was only 2 years later that Judge Meteoro proceeded with the presentation of the defendant's evidence. The case was finally submitted for decision a year later. After an elapse of more than 7 months without a decision on the case, Luzarraga filed an administrative complaint against Judge Meteoro. Respondent judge pleaded for the understanding and compassion of the Court, citing that his branch had more than 300 cases pending before it, that he had trouble recruiting and training competent personnel and that he had suffered a stroke.

Held: GUILTY. More than one year had already elapsed since the submission of the case and respondent Judge has not decided the same despite the Motion for Early decision filed the complainant. The Court has consistently held that the failure of a judge to decide a case within the required period is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency and non-observance of said rule is a ground for administrative sanction against the defaulting judge. Rule 3.05 of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct admonishes all judges to dispose of the court's business promptly and to decide cases within the periods fixed by law. The failure to render a decision within the 90-day period constitutes serious misconduct in derogation of the speedy administration of justice. When circumstances arise that would prevent the judge from disposing a case within the reglementary period, all that he has to do is to file an application with the Court asking for a reasonable extension of time within which to resolve the case. However, the record of this administrative matter does not show that respondent made an attempt to make such a request. Instead, he preferred to keep the case pending, thereby inviting suspicion that something sinister or corrupt is afoot. That he was burdened with a heavy case load and is a stroke victim, serve only to mitigate the penalty, not to exonerate him. Judge Meteoro was fined P20,000 with the warning that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with more severely. He was further directed to decide the subject case within a non-extendible period of 30 days from receipt of resolution, and to submit to the Office of the Court Administrator a copy of his decision within 10 days from promulgation thereof.

Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Branches 87 and 98, Quezon City
A.M. No. 99-11-423-RTC. August 16, 2000

Facts: On September 15 to 17, 1999, the Office of the Court Administrator conducted an audit and physical inventory of pending cases in Branches 87 and 98 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, presided over by Judge Elsie Ligot-Telan and Judge Justo M. Sultan, respectively. The audit team reported that Judge Ligot-Telan had a well-managed docket. Judge Sultan, however, was a different story. Of the 57 cases submitted for decision, 34 were already beyond the reglementary period, some of which involve detention prisoners. It was observed that the said branch gave the least preference to cases submitted for decision, and it has no effective docket system and recording of cases. In fact, the Branch Clerk of Court had not submitted the required docket and inventory of cases for a number of years. Records did not show that Judge Sultan ever requested for an extension of time within which to decide the cases submitted before him.

Held: GUILTY. The Court reiterates that failure to decide cases within the required period is inexcusable and constitutes gross inefficiency which is a ground for administrative sanction against the defaulting judge, either by a fine or suspension from the service, depending on factors that tend to aggravate or mitigate his liability. This is in accordance with the mandate that the judge shall dispose of the business of the court promptly and decide cases within the prescribed periods. Conformably, the rules require the courts to decide cases ready for decision within 3 months from date of submission. The Court is not unmindful of the Herculean task trial judges are faced with the perennial clogged dockets of the lower courts. However, this should not be an excuse for them to abdicate their duty to dispense justice. Judges must adopt a system of record management and organize their dockets in order to bolster the prompt and efficient dispatch of business. Furthermore, if the caseload of the judge prevents the disposition of cases within the reglementary periods, he should ask this Court for a reasonable extension of time to dispose of the cases involved. This is to avoid or dispel any suspicion that something sinister is going on. The Court fined Judge Sultan PhP 20,000 to be taken from his retirement benefits.

Dominga D. Quillal-Lan vs. Judge Alicia L. Delos Santos
A.M. No. MTJ-00-1269. August 24, 2000

Facts: The daughter of complainant Dominga Quillal-Lan was the defendant in a Forcible Entry case before Judge Alicia Delos Santos of the MTC of Digos, Davao del Sur. The complainant alleges that respondent judge failed to decide the case within the mandatory 30-day period as provided by the Rules on Summary Procedure. Judge Delos Santos avers that she was on sick leave and therefore could not be expected to decide upon the case within the said period.

Held: GUILTY. There is no doubt that a case of Forcible Entry falls within the Rules of Summary Procedure and as stated therein, must be decided within 30-days. Respondent should have rendered judgment in the forcible entry case before she went on leave. Delay in the disposition of cases covered by the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure defeats the very purpose of said rule, which is the expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases. Failure to decide such cases on time renders the rationale for the rule meaningless and inutile. Respondent appears to be remiss in her duties as judge when she failed to render judgment in the case as mandated by the rules. Under Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, she is required to dispose of the court’s business promptly and to decide cases within the required time frame. We have time and again reminded judges to comply with the rules regarding the period to decide cases, in pursuance of the Court’s oft-repeated policy of speedy disposition of quality justice for all. Judge Delos Santos was fined PhP 1,000 and issued a warning that similar conduct in the future will be dealt with more severely.

Cob C. Dela Cruz v. Judge Rodolfo M. Serrano
A.M. No. RTJ-00-1582.  September 4, 2000

Facts: Complainant contends, among others,  that it took one (1) year and five (5) months instead of three months to render a decision in civil case.  The civil case was submitted for decision on April 1996, but the decision thereon was only promulgated on October 8, 1997.

Held: GUILTY. It is not disputed that it took respondent Judge one (1) year and five (5) months, after Civil Case No. 908 was submitted for decision, to decide it which is way beyond the three-month period mandated by the Constitution.
Section 15 (1) of Article VIII of the Constitution provides that all cases filed before the lower courts must be decided or resolved within three (3) months from date of submission.  The Code of Judicial Conduct likewise provides that a judge “should administer justice impartially and without delay” [Rule 1.02.] and directs a judge to “dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required periods.” [Rule 3.05.]
It is an oft-repeated maxim that justice delayed is often justice denied.  Thus, any delay in the administration of justice may result in depriving the litigant of his right to a speedy disposition of his case and will ultimately affect the image of the judiciary.  A delay in the disposition of cases amounts to a denial of justice, brings the court into disrepute and ultimately erodes public faith and confidence in the judiciary.

Rolando Sulla v. Hon. Rodolfo C. Ramos
A.M No. MTJ-00-1319.  September 27, 2000

 

Facts: Dr. Rolando A. Sulla charging respondent Judge Rodolfo C. Ramos, presiding judge of the Municipal Trial Court of Jaro, Leyte, with unreasonable delay or refusal to render a decision in criminal Case No. 8121.  The case was submitted for decision in April 1997.  But as of May 21, 1999, date of complainant’s letter, and despite constant requests for its early resolution, respondent Judge Ramos has not rendered any decision in the said case.

Held: GUILTY. This Court has consistently impressed upon judges the need to decide cases promptly and expeditiously pursuant to Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Section 15(1) and (2), Article VIII of the Constitution. Judges are presumed to be aware of Rule 3.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which calls for a judge to be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence. Rule 3.05 admonishes all judges to dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the period fixed by law.

8.    Negligence/Incompetence of a Judge

Norma Esguerra vs. Judge Guillermo Loja

A.M. No. RTJ-00-1523. August 15, 2000


Facts: Norma Esguerra was the complainant in a criminal case for Falsification of a Public Document tried before Judge Guillermo Loja of Branch 26 of the RTC of Manila. Complainant alleged that Judge Loja failed to decide the case within the 90-day reglementary period and further accused him of falsifying his certificate of service in order to make it appear that he had decided the case. Judge Loja countered by stating that he had indeed decided upon the case but rather, the decision was just not dated.

Held: GUILTY. A careful study of the facts shows that Judge Loja is guilty only of SIMPLE NEGLIGENCE and not of the administrative complaint filed against him. There is no clear proof that the respondent judge falsified his certificate of service simply because his decision was dated. Even assuming that there was a slight delay in deciding the case, it must be taken into consideration that Judge Loja has a heavy case load (almost 800 cases pending) and that this is the first offense by a judge who provided long and consistent service to the Judiciary. The Court fined Judge Loja PhP 2,000 and issued a warning that similar conduct in the future will be more severely punished.

9. Duty of Court Employees

Marta Bucatcat v. Edgar Bucatcat and Gene Jaro
A.M. No. P-93-985. January 28, 2000

Facts:Marta T.Bucatcat (complainant) charged her husband, Edgar Y. Bucatcat, and Gene S. Jaro (respondents), Court Interpreter respectively, of the Third Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Gandara, Samar, with immorality.  Complainant avers that she is the legal wife of respondent Bucatcat. She claims that respondents are having an illicit relationship with each other. Moreover, respondents allegedly have two (2) children together and that respondent Jaro, at the time of the filing of the letter-complaint, was pregnant with their third child. 

Held: GUILTY. There is sufficient evidence to hold respondents liable for immorality for
 maintaining an illicit relationship with each other. Every employee of the judiciary should
 be an example of integrity, uprightness and honesty. Like any public servant, he must exhibit the highest sense of honesty and integrity not only in the performance of his official duties but  in his personal and private dealings with other people, to preserve the court’s good name and standing.  It cannot be overstressed that the image of a court of justice is mirrored in the conduct, official and otherwise, of the personnel who work thereat, from the judge to the lowest of its personnel. Court  employees have been enjoined to adhere to the exacting standards of morality and decency in their professional and private conduct in order to preserve the good name and integrity of courts of justice.
Respondents DISMISSED from service.

JUNE 1998-1999


A.   JUDGES

1.    Good Faith in Rendering Decisions

Atty. Antonio T. Guerrero v. Hon. Adriano Villamor (296 SCRA 88)

Facts:  Carlos and his counsel, Guerrero, charged respondent with gross ignorance of the law and knowingly rendering an unjust judgment after they lost a civil and a criminal case tried by respondent.  They were also thwarted on appeal.  However, in the pleadings before the CA, they used abusive language in describing the respondent’s acts, hence, respondent judge cited them for direct contempt, which was later set aside by the SC.

Held:  Case dismissed.  The order of direct contempt may only be considered as an error of judgment. A judge may not be administratively charged for mere errors of judgment, in the absence of showing of any bad faith, malice or corrupt purpose.  Moreover, judges cannot be held to account criminally, civilly, or administratively for an erroneous decision rendered by them in good faith.

·         Impartiality

Re: Inhibition of Judge Eddie R. Rojas (292 SCRA 306)

Facts:  Atty. Rojas was appointed a  judge.  One of the criminal cases he inherited was one in which he acted as prosecutor.  He explained that his delay in inhibiting himself from presiding on that case was because it was only after the belated transcription of the stenographic notes that he remembered that he handled that case.  He also says that the counsels did not object and he never held “full-blown” hearings anyway.

Held:  Judge is filed & reprimanded.  The Rules of Court prevent judges from trying cases where they acted as counsel without the consent of the parties. This prevents not only a conflict of interest but also the appearance of impropriety on the part of the judge.  A judge should take no part in a proceeding where his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.  He should administer justice impartially & without delay.  The prohibition does not only cover hearings but all judicial acts (e.g. orders, resolutions) some of which Judge Rojas did make.

Carlito D. Lazo v. Judge Antonio V. Tiong (300 SCRA 214)

Facts:  Judge Tiong was accused of failing to inhibit himself in a criminal case because he was related within the fourth degree of affinity to the accused. The judge claims he did so in the hopes that his presence would allow the parties to settle amicably.

Held: Judge reprimanded. A judge should take no part in a proceeding where his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.  Also, Rule 137, Rules of Court, provides that no judge or judicial officer shall sit in any case in which he, inter alia, is related to either party within the sixth degree pf consanguinity or affinity, or to counsel within the fourth degree computed according to the rules of the civil law. Under this provision, the Presiding Judge is mandated to disqualify himself from sitting in a case.  He cannot exercise his discretion whether to inhibit himself or not.

2.    Speedy Administration of Justice

Baltazar D. Amion v. Judge Roberto S. Chiongson (301 SCRA 614)

Facts:  A is a policeman charged with murder.  During the trial, J ordered that he be represented by counsel de officio because A’s attorney was ill. A then charged J with ignorance of the law & oppression because the fact that the counsel de officio did not know the particulars of the case meant that A would be denied due process.

Held:  Complaint dismissed.  The Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that a judge should administer justice impartially and without delay.  A judge should always be imbued with a high sense of duty & responsibility in the discharge of his obligation to promptly administer justice.  In this case, the reason J appointed a FLAG lawyer was because A’s lawyer had postponed several hearings because he was ill or out of town.  Also, A had various lawyers during the said case who always postponed the hearings for various reasons such as illness, lack of knowledge of the case or unavailability for trial.  These are all legal but clearly dilatory means used by the complainant to delay the case for 4 years.  J should be commended for his efforts to expedite the case.

Fe T. Bernardo v. Judge Amelia A. Fabros (307 SCRA 28)

Facts: B accused F of inaction in an unlawful detainer case for 7 months when the rules on summary procedure call for a decision in 30 days. F does not deny the inaction but says B has no standing as she is only the attorney-in-fact of the plaintiffs to the civil case.

Held: FINED. Judges must decide cases expeditiously, especially in summary proceedings. She should either ask for additional time to decide or devise an efficient filing system to expedite decision. Finally, standing or personal interest of the complainant is immaterial in administrative cases which involves the public good.

Dolores Gomez v. Judge Rodolfo A. Gatdula (293 SCRA 433)

Facts:  Gomez is the complainant in 2 different criminal cases before Judge Gatdula.  When she petitioned the SC to change the venue of 1 of the cases, Respondent suspended the scheduled hearings in both cases.  When required by the SC to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him, he delayed his comment thereto.  He eventually explained that the suspension of hearing was made because the request for change of venue was pending in the SC.

Held:  Judge Gatdula acted vindictively & oppressively, apparently irked by the request of petitioner.  He need not have suspended both hearings as the change of venue only involved one case.  His delay in commenting on the change of venue also effectively delayed both cases by 5 months.  His acts are not free from the appearance of impropriety, let alone beyond reproach, as required by Canon 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.

Re: Cases Left Undecided by Judge Narciso M. Bumanlag, Jr. (306 SCRA 50)

Facts: Upon retirement, B left 7 criminal and 3 civil cases undecided within the 90-day period required by section 15, Article VIII of the Constitution. He said his failure was due to a serious illness.

Held: FINED. Members of the bench have a duty to administer justice without undue delay. Failure to do so within the reglementary period constitutes a neglect of duty warranting administrative penalties. If hindered by illness, a judge should inform the Office of Court Administrator and ask for additional time to decide in order to avoid the sanctions. However, if there is no malice or bad faith, and the judge is prevented by factors beyond his control, the penalty will be mitigated.

Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court – Branch 24, Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur; Branch 2, Isabela, Basilan; and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Labason, Zamboanga del Norte (303 SCRA 208)

Facts: Judge Apostol had a backlog of 280 cases. Also, there had been no actions on 268 other cases assigned to him. Judge says he has constant medical problems and no legal researchers to help him. These and the peace and order problems in his locality prevent him from expediting.

Held: Fined for gross neglect of duty. The Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge should administer justice without delay and dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the reglementary periods. If his health problems were preventing him from doing his duty, he should have retired early so a healthier successor could act on the case load.

Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Branch 68 of Camilang, Tarlac (305 SCRA 61)

Facts: Judge R was due for compulsory retirement. The OCA found that he had many pending cases, some of which were undecided beyond the 90-day period.

Held: FINED but penalty mitigated. Rule 3.05 of Canon 3 enjoins all judges to attend promptly to the business of the court and decide cases within the time fixed by law. A judge is mandated to render judgment not more than ninety (90) days from the time the case is submitted for decision. Failure to render the decision within the prescribed period of ninety (90) days from submission of a case for decision constitutes serious misconduct and gross inefficiency. However, since after being reminded of this, Judge R cleared most of his docket (even those not overdue for decision) before retiring, the fine is mitigated.

Atty. Raula A. Sanchez v. Judge Augustine A. Vestil (298 SCRA 1)

Facts: Complainant charged RTC Judge Vestil with falsifying his monthly certificate of service submitted to the SC by stating that he has no pending case submitted for decision or resolution that has gone beyond the NINETY (90) day period allowed by law when in fact there were numerous civil & criminal cases  which the respondent failed to resolve within the said period. Respondents say most of the cases were either inherited & substantially heard by other judges, or that they require further study or whose stenographic notes were yet to be transcribed – and these are excepted from being included the certificate by a proviso contained therein.

Held:  Respondent Judge suspended and fined.  Judges are mandated to decide cases seasonably.  Judges who cannot comply with such mandate should ask for additional time, explaining in their request the reasons for the delay.  Neither the proviso nor the fact that notes are to be transcribed is a valid defense for not deciding within the required time.  The SC has consistently held that the failure of a judge to decide a case within the required period is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency & the non-observance of said rule is ground for administrative sanction against the defaulting judge.


B. LAWYERS

1.    Assisting in the Speedy Administration of Justice

Eternal Gardens Memorial Park Corporation vs. Court of Appeals (293 SCRA 622)

Facts:  Judgment was rendered against the petitioner ordering it to reconvey the cemetery to the rightful owners.  Despite the final decision of the SC, petitioner was able to prevent the execution for 17 years, and thus render the judgment ineffectual.  They filed several petitions and motions for reconsideration with the trial court and the CA despite the fact that it would never prosper as the trial court’s decision had long become final before the said petitions were filed.

Held:  Petition denied.  While lawyers owe their entire devotion to the interest of the client and zeal in the defense of their client’s right, they are also officers of the court, bound to exert every effort to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice.  They should not misuse the rules of procedure to defeat the ends of justice or unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse court processes.  The facts and the law should advise them that a case such as this should not be permitted to be filed to merely clutter the already congested judicial dockets.  They do not advance the cause of law or their clients by commencing litigations that for sheer lack of merit do not deserve the attention of the courts.

·         Duty to Protect Client’s Interest

Development Bank of the Philippines and Asset Privitization Trust v. Court of Appeals and Continental Cement Corporation (302 SCRA 362)

Facts:  CCC filed an injunction suit to prevent the DBP and APT from foreclosing on its mortgages.  During trial, DBP & APT were unable to appear for cross-examining CCC’s witnesses because the respective counsels were unprepared, unavailable or ill.  The lower court decided this as a waiver, hence judgment was rendered for CCC. DBP & APT filed this petition alleging denial of due process.

Held: Petition denied.  There can be no denial of due process where a party had the opportunity to participate in the proceedings but did not do so. Counsel for APT was absent on several occasions because of withdrawal of previous counsel, unreadiness to conduct the cross-examinations and serious illness. The withdrawal of APT’s previous counsel in the thick of the proceedings would be a reasonable ground to seek postponement of the hearing. However, such necessitates a duty on the part of the new counsel to prepare himself for the next scheduled hearing. The excuse that it was due to the former counsel’s failure to turn over the records of the case to APT, shows the negligence of the new counsel to actively recover the records of the case. Counsel should have taken adequate steps to fully protect the interest of his client, rather than pass the blame on the previous counsel. A motion to postpone trial on the ground that counsel is unprepared for trial demonstrates indifference and disregard of his client’s interest. A new counsel who appears in a case in midstream is presumed and obliged to acquaint himself with all the antecedent processes and proceedings that have transpired prior to his takeover. Also, even if counsel had been ill with dengue, he chose not to notify his co-counsels who could have conducted the cross-examination.

2.    Falsehood/Forum-shopping/Dilatory Tactics

Ban Hua U. Flores v. Atty. Enrique S. Chua (306 SCRA 465)

Facts: Chua was charged with many offenses. The evidence was found to support the charges that he notarized a forged deed of sale, that he caused to be published an advertisement of a SEC decision in order to bring ridicule and shame upon a corporation, that he filed a civil case knowing that the reliefs he prayed for were probably granted in the SEC case – thus belying his certification against forum shopping. He has also been previously reprimanded for bribing a judge and for consistently using dilatory tactics to prolong a litigation.

Held: DISBARRED. He has thus violated Rules 10.01, 12.02, 12.04 (foisting or commission of falsehood, forum-shopping and causing in court proceedings), Canon 19 (failing to resort to lawful means in representing his client), 27, 3.01 and 13.02 (causing undue publication of a pending action). He had an active role in committing fraud since he falsely stated that the person making the deed of sale appeared before him and stated that the same was his free act and deed- when evidence shows the signature was forged; also, he prolonged a family dispute by using dilatory tactics and placing an advertisement in order to ridicule his opponents – in violation of Rule 1.04 that lawyers should encourage their clients to end a controversy by a fair settlement. A lawyer must uphold the integrity of the profession. He brings honor to it by honesty and fair dealing and by performing his duties to society, the bar, the courts and his clients.

3.    Good Moral Character

Tomas Cabulisan v. Judge Adrian N. Pagalilauan (297 SCRA 593)

Facts:  Cabulisan filed an administrative complaint against respondent for grave misconduct committed as follows : (1) peeping into the bathroom where Marilyn C. Dumayas, a public health nurse, and daughter of the owner of the house where he was boarding, was then taking a bath; (2) having a mistress in the neighboring town; and (3) allowing local practitioners to write decisions for him.

Held:  Respondent filed for voyeurism, other charges dismissed for lack of evidence.  People who run the judiciary, particularly justices and judges, must not only be proficient in both the substantive and procedural aspects of the law, but more importantly, they must possess the highest degree on integrity and probity and an unquestionable moral uprightness both in their public and private lives.  By committing the acts in question, respondent violated the trust reposed in him and utterly failed to live up to the noble ideals and rigid standards of morality required in the judicial profession.
             
Victoriano P. Resurreccion v. Atty. Ciriaco C. Sayson (300 SCRA 129)

Facts:  respondent was accused of having appropriated for his own benefit the amount of P 2, 5000.00 representing the amount which was delivered by the Resurreccion to the respondent as compensation or settlement money of a case for homicide thru reckless imprudence.  Sayson did not turn over the amount to his client, the Complainant in the criminal case,  forcing Resurreccion to pay the same amount again.  Sayson was later convicted for estafa.

Held:  Sayson DISBARRED.  Good moral character is not only a condition precedent to admission to the legal profession, but it must also remain extant in order to maintain one’s good  standing in that exclusive and honored fraternity.  Acts of moral turpitude (i.e. done contrary to justices, honesty & good morals) such as estafa or falsification render one unfit to be a member of the legal proession. Also, Sayson’s acts of delaying the hearings before the OSG and the IBP reinforce this view.


4.    Abuse of Authority


Rosalia Villaruel, et al v. Grapilon, et al: In the Matter of the Petition to Remove Atty. Jose A. Grapilon as President, IBP (302 SCRA 138)

Facts: G was accused of 16 IBP employees who sought his removal as IBP President for: Immorality, questionable disbursements of funds, dishonesty, failure to turn over IBP donations from private individuals, refusal to turn over records and money pertaining to the Employees’ Loan Savings Association, Appropriation of Office Property, Extending loans to IBP employees, oppression/harassment, appointment of unworthy employees and relatives and organization of a secret society. The issue regarding legal ethics is whether the SC can assume jurisdiction or should it be considered a labor dispute under the jurisdiction of the NLRC.

Held: Charges dropped. All the accusations of the petitioners were either unsubstantiated or refuted by controverting evidence. As to the issue of jurisdiction, the SC has previously assumed administrative jurisdiction over the IBP president. If the petitioners allege that the IBP terminated them as an act of reprisal and with malice or bias, this would constitute gross abuse of authority and serious misconduct – warranting the use of the SC’s supervisory powers over the IBP. Lastly, even if there was no wrongful act, G is ordered to transfer the funds of the savings and loan association to an account in their name to prevent the appearance and suspicion of impropriety.

5.    Gross Ignorance of the Law


Jesus Conducto vs. Judge Iluminado C. Monzon (291 SCRA 619)

Facts:  Respondent judge was charged with gross ignorance of the law.  He refused to suspend the mayor  due to criminal charges against the latter for the crime of unlawful appointment.  The judge opined that an official cannot be suspended for something that has happened in a previous term.  Settled jurisprudence says this only applies to administrative, not criminal cases. 

Held:  Fined for P5000.  While judges should not be disciplined for inefficiency on account merely of occasional mistakes or errors of judgment, it is imperative that they be conversant with basic legal principles.  A judge is called upon to exhibit more than just cursory acquaintance with the statutes and procedural rules; it is imperative that he be conversant  with the basic legal principles and aware of well-settled and authoritative doctrines.  Also, if he did the act deliberately, he violated Canon 18 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics directs a judge to administer his office with due regard to the integrity of the system of the law itself, remembering that he is not a depository of arbitrary power, but a judge under the sanction of law.  An RTC judge cannot overturn a settled doctrine laid down by the Supreme Court, otherwise, litigation would be endless.

6.    Gross Immoral Conduct


Julieta B. Narag vs. Atty. Dominador M. Narag (291 SCRA 451)

Facts: Atty. Narag’s spouse filed a petition for disbarment in the IBP alleging that her husband courted one of his students, later maintaining her as a mistress and having children by her.  Atty. Narag claims that his wife was a possessive, jealous woman who abused him and filed the complaint out of spite.  IBP disbarred him, hence, this petition.

Held:  Narag failed to prove his innocence because he failed to refute the testimony given against him and it was proved that his actions were of public knowledge and brought disrepute and suffering to his wife and children.  Good moral character is a continuing qualification required of every member of the bar.  Thus, when a lawyer fails to meet the exacting standard of moral integrity, the Supreme Court may withdraw his or her privilege to practice law.  (Canons 1&7, Rule 7.03, Code of Ethics for Lawyers) It is not only a condition precedent to the practice of law, but a continuing  qualification for all members.  Hence when a lawyer is found guilty of gross immoral conduct, he may be suspended or disbarred.  Grossly immoral means it must be so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree or committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the common sense of decency.  As a lawyer, one must not only refrain from adulterous relationships but must not behave in a way that scandalizes the public by creating a belief that he is flouting those moral standards.

Remedios Tapucar vs. Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar (293 SCRA 331)

Facts: Respondent was previously dismissed as CFI judge for maintaining and cohabiting with his mistress.  Despite this, he later married the same woman and had children with her.  He even made statements displaying contempt for the SC and mocking the law and said court.  Petitioner, his lawful wife, filed a letter-complaint for disbarment against her husband.  IBP disbarred him.

Held: Disbarred (ratio is the same as the Narag case).  A judge is a visible representation of the law and, more importantly of justice.  Ordinary citizens consider him as a source of strength that fortifies their will to obey the law.  A judge should avoid the slightest infraction of the law in all actuations, lest it be a demoralizing example to others. Likewise, an attorney is also invested with public trust.  As officers of the court, lawyers must ensure the faith and confidence of the public that justice is administered with dignity and civility.  A high degree of moral integrity is expected of a lawyer in the community where he resides.  The Court may disbar or suspend a lawyer for misconduct whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, in honesty, probity, and good demeanor, thus proving unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.  The power to disbar, however, is one to be exercised with great caution and only in a clear case of misconduct which seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and a member of the bar.  Keeping a mistress, entering into another marriage while a prior one subsists, as well as abandoning and/or mistreating complainant and their children, show his disregard of family obligations, morality and decency, the law and the lawyer’s oath.  Such gross misbehavior over a long period of time clearly shows a serious flaw in respondent’s character, his moral indifference to scandal in the community, and his outright defiance of established norms.

·         Gross Misconduct

Erlinda Alonto-Frayna v. Judge Abdulmajid Astih (300 SCRA 199)

Facts:  Judge Asith did not act on the case of the herein complainant for over 2 years despite the orders and directives of the Office of the Court Administrator to resolve it without delay.  In addition, when asked to explain his actions before the SC, respondent failed to reply.

Held: A Judge who deliberately and continuously refuses to comply with the resolution of the SC is guilty of gross misconduct & insubordination.  It is gross misconduct & even without outright disrespect for the SC for the respondent judge to exhibit indifference to the resolutions requiring him to comment on the accusations contained in the complaint against him.  Furthermore, failure to render a decision beyond the 90 day period from its submission constitutes serious misconduct to the detriment of the honor & integrity of his office & in derogation of a speedy administration of justice.

Romulo F. Manuel v. Judge Demetrio d. Calimag (307 SCRA 657)

Facts: M charged C with selling him a stolen car, for which he was arrested.

Held: CASE DISMISSED. No evidence to substantiate the charges. The SC also said that to warrant dismissal for misconduct, it must be shown that the misconduct is serious and has a direct relation to his official duties amounting to misadministration, or intentional neglect and failure to discharge said duties. The judicial acts complained of must be so corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law.

Felicidad L. Oronce, et al. v. Court of Appeals, et. al. (298 SCRA 133)

Facts:  During a dispute over land, Flaminiano illegally took possession of the property in litigation using abusive methods.  She was aided by her husband, a lawyer.  The illegal entry took place while the case was pending in the CA & while a writ of preliminary injunction was in force.

Held:  Atty. Flaminiano’s acts of entering the property without the consent of its occupants & in contravention of the existing writ or preliminary injunction & making utterances showing disrespect for the law & this Court, are unbecoming of a member of the Bar.  Although he says that they “peacefully” took over the property, such “peaceful” take-over cannot justify defiance of the writ of preliminary injunction that he knew was still in force.  Through his acts, he has flouted his duties as a member of the legal profession. Under the Code of Professional Responsibility, he is prohibited from counseling or abetting “activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.”

Re: Leaves of Absence Without Approval of Judge Eric T Calderon, Municipal Trial Court Judge of Calumpit, Bulacan (302 SCRA 92)

Facts: Administrative case against Judge C for incurring leaves of absence for an almost straight period of 3 years. His excuse is that he was suffering from a lingering illness of malignant hypertension. However, despite the fact that medical certificates were presented in his favor, most were made by his personal doctor (an orthopedic doctor). Also, the tests given by the Court physician contradict the diagnosis given by his doctor.

Held: Guilty of gross misconduct and abandonment of office, judge dismissed. Judge C should have been more conscious of his court duties, as well as more cautious of his actuations, than he has shown in the performance of his functions and the discharge of his responsibilities to the Court and the citizenry. Further, he should have been aware that, in frequently leaving his station, he has caused great disservice to many litigants and has denied them speedy justice. From the record it could be fairly concluded that he had habitually abandoned his sala for no justifiable excuse at all. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitor , that the Court may impose its authority upon erring judges whose actuations, on their face, would show gross incompetence, ignorance of the law, or misconduct, is patently applicable to the instant case.

Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals (296 SCRA 171)

Facts: Petitioner filed a case for recission against the Quetulios and Abadillas alleging that the former sold the land that had already been expropriated. The Quetulios did not file an answer, but at the hearing on the motion for default, co-defendant Hernando was permitted by the judge to appear as counsel for the defendants and file an answer.

Held:  Case reinstated.  Evidently, when respondent Hernando  appeared before the trial court and filed the Answer/Motion to dismiss, he was still under suspension from the practice of law.  A suspended lawyer, during his suspension, is certainly prohibited from engaging in the practice of law, and if he does so, he may be disbarred.  The reason is that, his continuing to practice the profession during his suspension constitutes a gross misconduct  and a willful disregard of the suspension order, which should be obeyed though how erroneous it may be until set aside.

·         Impropriety

Flaviano B. Cortes v. Judge Emerito M. Agcaoili (249 SCRA 423)

Facts:  Respondent was charged with impropriety and gross ignorance of the law.  In a case for illegal logging, he dismissed the case and returned illegally cut timber to the defendants because the search warrant was invalid. He was also seen in eating and drinking in the company of said defendants, and this supposedly influenced his decision.

Held: Judge Agcaoili is fined and suspended. Respondent erred in returning the seized articles – even though the warrant was invalid, illegal articles (illegally cut lumber) are not returned to the possessor. He also violated Canon 2, Rule 2.01 of the Code of Judicial Ethics – i.e. to avoid impropriety or even or even the appearance of impropriety. Even though it was not proven that he was influenced by the defendants (the dismissal was proper), he should not have fraternized with litigants who had a pending case before him. To do so erodes public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judiciary.  A judge must avoid even the semblance of impropriety.

Carlos Dionisio v. Hon. Zosimo V. Escano (302 SCRA 411)

Facts: E posted an advertisement for waitresses and singers to work at his restaurant at the RTC bulletin board. He also conducted interviews for this in his sala. He was later caught when a reporter from “Hoy Gising!” taped an interview which revealed that he intended to operate a drinking pub with scantily clad waitresses.

Held: SUSPENDED. Rules 2.00, 5.02 and 5.03 provide that a judge should avoid impropriety and even the appearance of impropriety. He should also refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on the court’s impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of judicial activities, or increase involvement with lawyers and litigants. He should also manage financial interests so as to minimize the number of cases giving grounds for disqualification. Finally, the halls of justice should not be used for unrelated purposes.

Benalfre J. Galang v. Judge Abelardo H. Santos (307 SCRA 582)

Facts: S was a judge and the publisher/columnist for a tabloid; he was also a writer for another paper. G charges him with using his columns to ventilate his views. He has repeatedly  used insulting and inflammatory language against the governor and the provincial prosecutor and legal adviser.

Held: JUDGE DISMISSED. While S has the right to free speech, his writing of vicious editorials compromise his duties as judge in the impartial administration of justice. They reflect both on his office and on the officers he ridicules. The personal behavior of a judge in his professional and everyday life should be free from the appearance of impropriety. Improper conduct erodes the public confidence in the judiciary.

Benjamin Sia Lao vs. Hon. Felimon C. Abelila III (295 SCRA 267)

Facts:  in a family dispute over a parcel of land, respondent judge committed acts of forcible entry, attempted to deny complainant of possession despite a lease in the latter’s favor.  He also gave firearms to his men in order to assault complainant’s workers.  Respondent also fled from police when called in for questioning.

Held:  Respondent DISMISSED. A judge is the visible representation of the law and the embodiment of the people’s sense of justice and that, accordingly, he should constantly keep himself away from any act of impropriety, not only in the performance of his official duties but also in his everyday actuations.  No other position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than perhaps a seat in the judiciary.  A judge must be the first to abide by the law and to weave an example for the others to follow.

Spouses Benedicto & Rose Godinez v. Hon. Antonio Alano and Sheriff Alberto Ricardo Alano (303 SCRA 259)

Facts: G charged A with committing irregularities in a civil case for sum of money. In said case, a writ of preliminary attachment was issued and the effects seized were kept in Judge A’s house. The court investigator found that the writ was improperly issued because the allegations of fraud and attempts to abscond in the affidavit were bare assertions and not substantiated by the facts.

Held: FINED. The writ was issued in error. But in order to merit a disciplinary sanction, the error or mistake committed by a judge should be patent, gross, malicious, deliberate, or done in bad faith. Absent a clear showing that the judge has acted arrantly, the issue becomes judicial in character and would not properly warrant the imposition of administrative punishment. Judge A is fined for storing the effects in his house and their intent to charge storage fees. Judges should avoid impropriety of the appearance of impropriety.

Gregorio & Teresita Lorena v. Judge Adolfo Encomienda (302 SCRA 632)

Facts: Spouses Lorena were evicted from the property of Judge E’s brother. They refused to vacate. The mayor invited the parties to a conciliation meeting but they still refused. The owners allowed them to stay on the condition that they sign a written promise to leave after the grace period. When L refused, E phoned him and tried to convince him to sign. L still refused, E then said: “mga tarantado, mabulok kayo sa kalabos!” and slammed the phone down. L accuses E and his conspirators of abuse of authority for later throwing them in jail.

Held: REPRIMANDED. Although the charges against E were refuted by evidence, the serious nature of the tasks of judges requires them to be circumspect in both their public and their private dealings. As they are “expected to rise above human frailties” they must, in all their activities, avoid not only impropriety but even the appearance of impropriety. Hence, E should not have called L by [hone – which gave the impression of undue pressure and influence. He should not have cursed L over the phone as a judge’s behavior must be beyond reproach.

Office of the Court Administrator vs. (Judge) Florentino S. Barron (297 SCRA 376)

Facts:  Judge Barron was arrested during an entrapment operation when he tried to solicit bribes from an American national in exchange for ruling in the latter’s favor in a pending case.

Held:  Judge dismissed.  A judge should always be a symbol of rectitude and propriety, comporting himself in a manner that will raise no doubt whatsoever about his honesty.  The conduct of respondent shows that he can be influenced by monetary considerations.  His act of demanding and receiving money from a party-litigant constitutes serious misconduct in office.  It is this kind of gross and flaunting misconduct, no matter how nominal the amount involved, which erodes the respect for the law and the courts.

Sarah B. Vedana vs. Judge Eudarlo B. Valencia (295 SCRA 1)

Facts:  Complainant is the court interpreter and a relative of respondent judge.  She claims that he kissed and fondled her when she went to his sala to inform him that the cases for the day were ready for trial.

Held:  Respondent guilty of violating Canons 2, 3 and 22 of the Code of Judicial Ethics.  The Code 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.  A public official is also judged by his private morals.  A judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times.  A judge’s official life can not simply be detached or separated from his personal existence.

 

·         Negligence

Corazon T. Reontoy v. Atty. Liberato R. Ibadlit (302 SCRA 604)

Facts: On January 28, 1998 the SC found Ibadlit administratively liable and suspended him from the practice of law for 1 year for failing to appeal within the reglementary period the decision rendered against his client. His reason was, an appeal would only be futile. SC declared that it was highly improper for him to have adopted such opinion. SC said that a lawyer was without authority to waive his client’s right to appeal and that his failure to appeal within the reglementary period constituted negligence and malpractice, proscribed by Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides “(a) lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.” This is a motion for reconsideration.

Held: Suspension lowered to 2 months – his arguments are partly persuasive, he believed in good faith that his client’s case was weak and that she accepted his explanation that the adverse decision was not worth appealing anymore. Besides, it was only several years later that she complained when no more relief was available to her. Also, complainant had reasonable opportunity to hire another counsel for a second opinion whether to appeal from the judgment or file a petition for relief, that he did not commit to handle his client’s case on appeal and that the testimonies of complainant and her brother were unpersuasive. This is also his first offense.

People of the Philippines v. Sevilleno ( 304 SCRA 519)

Facts: In a criminal case for rape with homicide, the accused pleaded guilty. However, the 3 PAO lawyers assigned as counsel de officio did not perform their duty. The first did not advise his client of the consequences of pleading guilty, the second left the courtroom during trial and thus did not cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. The third postponed the presentation of evidence for the defense, and when he did appear, he said he would rely solely on the plea in the mistaken belief that it would lower the penalty to reclusion perpetua.

Held: Case remanded. Canon 18 required every lawyer to serve his client with utmost dedication, competence and diligence. He must not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in this regard renders him administratively liable.  In this case, the defense lawyers did not protect, much less uphold, the fundamental rights of the accused.

N.B. Case remanded because of error by the judge in not using searching questions to find if the plea was made knowingly.

Rodolfo P. Velasquez v. CA & PCIB (GR No. 124049, June 30, 1999)

Facts: As an incident in the main case, V appointed his counsel as attorney-in-fact to represent him at the pre-trial. Counsel failed to appear, hence V was declared in default. The order of default was received by counsel but no steps were taken to have it lifted or set aside.

Held: Binding on V. V was also guilty of negli8gence because after making the special power of attorney, he went abroad and paid no further attention to the case until he received the decision. Thus, no FAME which will warrant a lifting of the order.

 

·         Property Under Litigation

Regalado Daroy vs. Esteban Abecia

Facts:  Daroy was plaintiff in a forcible entry case.  He hired Abecia as his lawyer and won.  To satisfy the award for damages, a parcel of land of the defendant was sold to Daroy at an execution sale.  The land was then sold to Daroy’s relative, who then sold it to Abecia’s wife.  He now claims that these sales are void because Abecia forged his signature on the deeds of sale.  IBP disbarred Abecia.

Held:  Reversed.  The evidence shows that Daroy was a party to the sale at the time ot was made and did not “discover” it 9 years later as he claimed.  He was not defrauded <real issueà the parties thought that because the land had been acquired at a public sale to satisfy a judgment in a case in which respondent was complainant’s counsel, the latter could not acquire the land.  The parties made this arrangement to circumvent Art. 1491 of the Civil Code which prevents  lawyers from acquiring property and rights that may be the object of any litigation in which they may take by virtue of their profession.  The prohibition in Art. 1491 does not apply to the sale of a parcel of land acquired by a client to satisfy a judgment in his favor, to his attorney was not the subject of the litigation.  While judges, prosecuting attorneys, and others connected with the administration of justice are prohibited from acquiring “property or rights in litigation or levied upon in execution” the prohibition with respect to attorneys in the case extends only to “property and rights that may be the object of any litigation in which they may take part by virtue of their profession.”

·         Qualifications

Ruferto Gutierrez and Maritess Passion vs. Judge Estanislao S. Belan
(294 SCRA 1)

Facts:  Concerned citizens of Binan Laguna charged respondent MTC judge with conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.  They claim he committed perjury for failure to disclose a previous charge for two criminal offenses in his written application to the JBC.

Held:  Judge is dismissed.  Every prospective appointee to the judiciary must apprise the appointing authority of every matter bearing on his fitness for judicial office, including such circumstances as may reflect  on his integrity and probity.  These are qualifications specifically required of appointees to the judiciary by Article VIII, Sec. 7(3) of the Constitution.  The act of concealing the two criminal cases against him is a clear proof of his lack of the said qualification and renders him unworthy to sit as a judge- even if he was ultimately acquitted. He is not being chastened for having had a pending criminal case at the time of his application for a judicial position but for his dishonesty and misrepresentation in the process of seeking that office.

·         Unlawful Conduct

Cleto Docena vs. Atty. Dominador Q. Limon (295 SCRA 262)

Facts: Respondent was petitioner’s lawyer in a civil case.  During that case, he asked the petitioners to post a supersedeas bond to stay execution of the appealed decision.  Petitioners forwarded the money to Limon.  Later, the case was decided in their favor.  They were unable to recover the money because the clerk of court said no such bond had ever been filed.  IBP suspended him for one year.  Hence this petition.

Held:  Disbarred (see Canon 1.01 and 16.01).  Respondent’s allegation that the money was payment of his fees was overcome by other evidence.  The law is not a trade nor craft but a profession.  Its basic ideal is to render public service and to secure justice for those who seek its aid.  If it has to remain an honorable profession and attain its basic ideal, lawyers should not only master its tenets and principles but should also, by their lives, accord continuing fidelity to them.  By extorting money from his client through deceit, Limon has sullied the integrity of his brethren in the law and has indirectly eroded the people’s confidence in the judicial system. He is disbarred for immoral, deceitful and unlawful conduct.

Victor Nunga v. Atty. Verancio Viray (306 SCRA 487)

Facts: N accused V of notarizing documents without a commission. It appears that in 1987 and 1991 he notarized deeds of sale of property between the bank he works for and his minor son. At those times, he was not commissioned as a notary public.

Held: SUSPENDED. Notarization is invested with public interest because3 it converts a private document into a public one. Notarizing without commission is a violation of the lawyer’s oath to obey the laws (the Notarial Law) and by making it appear that he is so authorized is a deliberate falsehood which violates the lawyer’s oath and Rule 1.01 (CPR) that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

Atty. Prudencio Penticostes v. Prosecutor Diosdado Ibañez (304 SCRA 281)

Facts: Pascual was sued for non-remittance of SSS benefits. She gave the contested amount to respondent, who was supposed to forward the same to the SSS and drop the charges. Respondent did not forward the amount. He only remitted the amount after his complaint for misconduct was filed with the IBP.

Held: REPRIMANDED. A high sense of morality, honesty and fair dealing is expected and required of a member of the bar. Rule 1.01 provides that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. While Pascual may not strictly be considered a client of respondent, the rules relating to a lawyer’s handling of funds of a client is still applicable, thus, lawyers are bound to promptly account for money or property received by them on behalf of their clients and failure to do so constitutes professional misconduct. Also, even if he was acting as a prosecutor, Canon 6 provides that these canons shall apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks.

·         Attorney’s Fees

Renato S. Ong & Francia N. Ong v. Court of Appeals, Inland Trailways, Inc. & Philtranco Service Enterprise, Inc. (301 SCRA 387)

Facts:  Renato Ong was injured during a vehicular collision. He was awarded damages by the trial court.  On appeal, the CA, the awards for actual damages, moral damages & attorney’s fees were reduced because (1) the cost & feasibility of corrective surgery had not been adduced in evidence, (2) the document relied upon to prove actual damages was not formally offered in evidence and (3) no evidence but the bare assertion of counsel was put forward to prove damages for unearned income.

Held:  Attorney’s fees is an indemnity for damages ordered by a court to be paid by the losing party to the prevailing party, based on any of the cases authorized by law.  It is payable not to the lawyer but to the client, unless the 2 have agreed that the award shall pertain to the lawyer as additional compensation or as part thereof.  The Court has established a set of standards in fixing the amount of attorney’s fees. Counsel’s performance, however, does not justify the award of 25 percent attorney’s fees.  The nature of the case was not exceptionally difficult, and his handling of the case was sorely inadequate, as shown by his failure to follow elementary norms of civil procedure & evidence.  It is well-settled that such award is addressed to sound judicial discretion and subject to judicial control.

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