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Legal Ethics Case Digest

A.M. No. RTJ-96-1336 July 25, 1996 JOCELYN TALENS-DABON, complainant, vs. JUDGE HERMIN E. ARCEO, respondent. Facts: Complainant, Jocelyn C. Talens-Dabon, Clerk of Court V of the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando Pampanga, charged Judge Hermin E. Arceo, the Executive Judge thereat with gross misconduct. The complaint was later amended to include immorality. One afternoon, the respondent called up the complainant to report to his room. Because of the news about the respondents reputation of sexual harassment, complainant had been cautious in entering the room of the respondent making sure that all exits from the room are all open. Inside the room, respondent gave a poem to the complainant showing his affection to the complainant which the complainant was offended for the poem expresses of sexual desires of the respondent towards the complainant. Out of disgust, complainant quickly tried to exit the room but was locked and then the respondent came behind her then kissed her and almost raped her. Thus, came this complaint against the respondent. Issue: Whether or not respondent has violated Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: The Court held, the integrity of the Judiciary rests not only upon the fact that it is able to administer justice but also upon the perception and confidence of the community that the people who run the system have done justice. At times, the strict manner by which we apply the law may, in fact, do justice but may not necessarily create confidence among the people that justice, indeed, is served. Hence, in order to create such confidence, the people who run the judiciary, particularly judges and justices, must not only be proficient in both the substantive and procedural aspects of the law, but more importantly, they must possess the highest integrity, probity, and unquestionable moral uprightness, both in their public and private lives. Only then can the people be reassured that the wheels of justice in this country run with fairness and equity, thus creating confidence in the judicial system. With the avowed objective of promoting confidence in the Judiciary, we have the following provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct: Canon I Rule 1.01: A Judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence. Canon II Rule 2.00: A Judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities. Rule 2.01: A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartially of the judiciary. The Court has adhered and set forth the exacting standards of morality and decency which every member of the judiciary must observe. A magistrate is judged not only by his official acts but also by his private morals, to the extent that such private morals are externalized. He should not only possess proficiency in law but should likewise possess moral integrity for the people look up to him as a virtuous and upright man. The Court also stressed that, all trial judges should endeavor to conduct themselves strictly in accordance with the mandate of existing laws and the Code of Judicial Ethics that they be exemplars in the communities and the living personification of justice and the Rule of Law. 1

WHEREFORE, Judge Hermin E. Arceo is hereby DISMISSED from the service for gross misconduct and immorality prejudicial to the best interests of the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and with prejudice to re-employment in any branch of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations. A.M. No. RTJ-99-1461 - June 26, 2001 RICARDO DELA CRUZ, Complainant, vs. HON. HERMINIA M. PASCUA, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 25, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, respondent. Facts: In the instant administrative complaint, filed with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), complainant Dela Cruz alleges that respondent judge committed falsification when she issued the order dated August 28, 1995 deferring the hearing of Sp. Proc. Case No. 0743-T until further orders. In her order, she stated that a " Petition by Appeal on Certiorari " was filed with this Court by Nena Ocaa and Nelson Cuaresma questioning her (respondent judge's) order denying their motion for intervention. According to them, they did not file such petition with this Court. Respondent judge must be referring to the appeal by certiorari of Ocaa and Cuaresma to the COMELEC. Complainant also alleges that respondent judge violated Section 17 (par. 1), Rule 35 of the Rules of Procedure of the COMELEC by delaying the disposition of his election protest. On December 26, 1995, she issued an order directing motu propio that the election protest be archived, stating that "this Court cannot take action on this case because of the fact that Nena Ocaa and Nelson Cuaresma have gone to the Supreme Court . . ." Because the case was archived, there was a delay of more than six (6) months from the time the hearing was deferred on August 28, 1995 up to the time the records were retrieved from the archives and set again for hearing on February 29, 1996. Issue: Whether or not respondent has violated Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: The Court held, pursuant to this Court Administrative Circular No. 7-A-92, as amended, a judge may order that a civil case be archived only in the following instances: "a) When the parties are in the process of settlement, in which case the proceedings may be suspended and the case archived for a period not exceeding ninety (90) days. The case shall be included in the trial calendar on the day immediately following the lapse of the suspension period. b) When an interlocutory order or incident in the civil case is elevated to, and is pending resolution/decision for an indefinite period before a higher court which has issued a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction. c) When defendant, without fault or neglect of plaintiff, cannot be served with summons within six (6) months from issuance of original summons." None of the above instances is present in this case. By issuing the said orders, respondent judge was negligent in her duties, tantamount to inefficiency, which, in turn, caused the undue delay in the disposition of complainant's election protest. Her conduct violates Section 17(1), Rule 35 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure which provides: "The court shall decide the election contest within thirty (30) days from the date it is submitted for decision, but in every case within six (6) months after its filing, and shall declare who among the parties has been elected, or in a proper case, that none of them has been legally elected. The party who in the judgment has been declared elected shall have the right to assume the office as soon as the judgment becomes final." 2

The period that complainant's protest was dormant can be reckoned from August 28, 1995, when respondent judge issued her order postponing the hearing of the election protest, up to February 8, 1996, when she ordered that the records be retrieved from the archives and that the election protest be revived. Clearly, the hearing of the election protest was delayed for almost six months, all because of respondent judge's negligence in the performance of her duties which bears on her efficiency. Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates, among others, that a judge should perform his official duties with DILIGENCE. The same Canon specifically provides that a judge should maintain professional competence and decide cases within the required periods. This Court has ruled that inefficient judges are equally impermissible in the judiciary as the incompetent and dishonest ones. Any of them tarnishes the image of the judiciary or brings it to public contempt, dishonor or disrespect and must then be administratively dealt with and punished accordingly. All told, this Court views the conduct of respondent judge improper and censurable. She should have remembered that she is presumed to be conscious of her duties under the Code of Judicial Conduct. Indeed, as a member of the Bench, she should be the embodiment of competence and assiduousness in her responsibilities. Unfortunately, respondent judge failed to live up to this standard. By issuing the orders in question, she evidently manifested inefficiency and overtly transgressed basic mandatory rules adopted to assure the expeditious resolution of cases. A.M. No. MTJ-04-1563 September 8, 2004 LUCILA TAN, complainant, vs. Judge MAXWEL S. ROSETE, respondent. Facts: The complaint alleged that Lucila Tan was the private complainant in Criminal Case No. 59440 and Criminal Case No. 66120, both entitled People of the Philippines vs. Alfonso Pe Sy and pending before Branch 58, Metropolitan Trial Court of San Juan, Metro Manila, then presided by respondent judge. Before the cases were decided, respondent judge allegedly sent a member of his staff to talk to complainant. They met at Sangkalan Restaurant along Scout Albano, near Timog Avenue in Quezon City. The staff member told her that respondent was asking for P150,000.00 in exchange for the non-dismissal of the cases. She was shown copies of respondent judges Decisions in Criminal Cases Nos. 59440 and 66120, both still unsigned, dismissing the complaints against the accused. She was told that respondent judge would reverse the disposition of the cases as soon as she remits the amount demanded. The staff member allowed complainant to keep the copy of the draft decision in Criminal Case No. 59440. Complainant, however, did not accede to respondents demand because she believed that she had a very strong case, well supported by evidence. The criminal cases were eventually dismissed by respondent judge. Respondent judge, in his Comment, denied the allegations of complainant. He instead stated that it was complainant who attempted to bribe him in exchange for a favorable decision. As the investigation ensued, and during presentation of evidences, it was found out that the evidence presented by the complainant is more trustworthy than the evidence presented by the respondent due to conflicting statements of respondents witnesses. Issue: Whether or not respondent violated Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: After a thorough evaluation of the testimonies of all the witnesses, as well as the documentary evidence presented by both parties, we find the complainants version more trustworthy. Not only did she testify with clarity and in full detail, but she also presented during the investigation the unsigned copy of the draft decision of respondent judge in 3

Criminal Case No. 59440 given to her by a member of his staff. Said documentary evidence supports her allegation that a member of complainants staff met with her, showed her copies of respondent judges draft decisions in Criminal Cases Nos. 59440 and 66120, and demanded, in behalf of respondent judge, that she pays P150,000.00 for the reversal of the disposition of said cases. It would be impossible for complainant to obtain a copy of a judges draft decision, it being highly confidential, if not through the judge himself or from the people in his office. And an ordinary employee in the court cannot promise a litigant the reversal of a cases disposition if not assured by the judge who drafted the decision. We have repeatedly admonished our judges to adhere to the highest tenets of judicial conduct. They must be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence. Like Caesars wife, a judge must not only be pure but above suspicion. This is not without reason. The exacting standards of conduct demanded from judges are designed to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary because the peoples confidence in the judicial system is founded not only on the magnitude of legal knowledge and the diligence of the members of the bench, but also on the highest standard of integrity and moral uprightness they are expected to possess. When the judge himself becomes the transgressor of any law which he is sworn to apply, he places his office in disrepute, encourages disrespect for the law and impairs public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary itself. It is therefore paramount that a judges personal behavior both in the performance of his duties and his daily life, be free from any appearance of impropriety as to be beyond reproach. Respondents act of sending a member of his staff to talk with complainant and show copies of his draft decisions, and his act of meeting with litigants outside the office premises beyond office hours violate the standard of judicial conduct required to be observed by members of the Bench. They constitute gross misconduct which is punishable under Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court. Respondent Judge Maxwel S. Rosete is SUSPENDED from office without salary and other benefits for FOUR (4) MONTHS. A.M. No. MTJ-96-1110, June 25, 2001 Mamba vs. Garcia Facts: On August 23, 1996, a complaint for violation of Presidential Decree No.1866 (illegal possession of firearms) was filed against a certain Renato Bulatao by the Cagayan Provincial Police Command before the sala of respondent Judge Dominador L. Garcia of the Municipal Trial Court, Tuao, Cagayan. Respondent set the preliminary investigation on September 4, 1996, but the same was subsequently postponed and reset to October 23, 1996 as respondent was not present, although the complaining officer, P/Sr. Inspector Danny F. Salvador, appeared in court. On October 23, 1996, the preliminary investigation was again reset to October 30, 1996. On October 29, 1996, the accused, Renato Bulatao, complained to the NBI that at the scheduled preliminary investigation on September 4, 1996, P/Sr. Inspector Salvador demanded P30,000.00 from him in consideration of the withdrawal of the criminal case against him. According to Bulatao, the demand was reiterated by Salvador and respondent judge on October 23, 1996. As Bulatao told them that he could not afford it, the amount was reduced to P6,000.00. Based on Bulataos report, the NBI set out to entrap Salvador and respondent judge. The NBI gave Bulatao 12 pieces of P500.00 marked bills amounting to P6,000.00, which the latter would give to Salvador and respondent the next day. Accordingly, at about 7 o'clock in the morning of the following day, October 30, Bulatao met the NBI operatives in the house of Francisco Mamba, Sr., former representative of the 3rd District of Cagayan, where the entrapment was planned. Bulatao was given a tape recorder to record his conversation with whoever will receive the money. At 9 a.m., Bulatao went to the Municipal Trial Court and waited for his case to be called. At 10:30 a.m., respondent went out of his chambers and talked to SPO2 Jonathan Santos and SPO4 Carlos Poli, representatives of P/Sr. Inspector Salvador in the preliminary investigation. Respondent then called Bulatao and led him and the two police officers to the office of the MTC court personnel. Inside, respondent 4

asked Bulatao if he had the money with him. When he answered in the affirmative, respondent took them to his chambers and left them there as he proceeded to his sala. After handing the money to the police officers, Bulatao went out of respondent's chambers. Upon his signal, the NBI operatives waiting outside respondent's court then rushed to the judge's chambers and arrested the two police officers after recovering 11 pieces of P500.00 marked bills in their possession. Issue: Whether or not respondent is guilty of violating Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: In this case, the acts of the respondent judge were clearly improper as he facilitated, if not participated in, the obviously unauthorized/illegal transaction between the two (2) police officers and the accused Renato Bulatao for the settlement/dismissal of the latter's criminal case, in consideration of a sum of money, particularly since the offense charged against Bulatao is a grievous one and that it is one which is not allowed by law to be compromised. Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to avoid not only impropriety but even the appearance of impropriety in all their conduct. This includes not taking an undue interest in the settlement of criminal cases pending before them as this may compromise the integrity and impartiality of their office. As the visible representation of the law and of justice, their conduct must be above reproach and suspicion. By acting as an accomplice to P/Sr. Inspector Salvador, respondent judge violated not only the law but also the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A.M. NO. RTJ-06-2014 March 4, 2009 NILDA VERGINESA-SUAREZ, Complainant, vs. JUDGE RENATO J. DILAG AND COURT STENOGRAPHER III CONCEPCION A. PASCUA, Respondents. Facts: Administrative Matter No. RTJ-06-2014 stemmed from the Complaint-Affidavit dated November 25, 2005 and Letter dated January 11, 2006 filed before the OCA by Suarez against Judge Dilag and Pascua allegedly for collecting P30,000.000 from litigants in consideration of favorable judgments in cases for annulment or declaration of nullity of marriage. Suarez supported her accusation with a sworn statement of a certain Belen Trapane who allegedly paid the amount of P30,000.00 to Pascua to obtain a favorable judgment in an action for declaration of nullity of marriage lodged before the court presided by Judge Dilag. She also attached an anonymous letter addressed to former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., which stated that Judge Dilag charged the amount of P30,000.00 for a favorable judgment in every annulment case. Suarez further pointed out the existence of conflicting decisions rendered by Judge Dilag on several cases. The OCA observed that the controversies between the parties were replete with substantial factual issues, and so it recommended a formal administrative inquiry. As a result of the inquiry they found that Judge Dilag is liable for: (1) "gross misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct" for signing conflicting decisions in the Pancho, Tomboc, and Del Rosario cases; (2) "gross ignorance of the law and procedure" in handling Joyce Moreno v. Alvin Moreno and Eliodoro Perez v. Adelita Perez; and (3) "gross negligence and inefficiency" for failing to administer proper supervision over his staff when a fake registry return receipt was effected in Cayabyab v. Cayabyab and entries of judgment were effected in Joyce Moreno v. Alvin Moreno, Angelito and Yolanda Roldan, and Dinoso v. Corpuz. The Investigating Justice also found Pascua guilty of the administrative charges of graft and corruption. Issue: 5

Whether or not respondent is guilty of violating Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: A judge is the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence to uphold and maintain public confidence in the legal system. Thus, while he is expected to keep abreast of developments in law and jurisprudence, he is presumed to have more than a cursory knowledge of the rules of procedure. Not every error is indicative of ignorance, for if committed in good faith, no administrative sanction is imposed. Good faith, however, inheres only within the parameters of tolerable judgment. It does not apply where the issues are so simple and the applicable legal procedures evident and basic as to be beyond possible margins of error. In the case at bench, respondent Judge failed to follow basic legal procedures which are not excusable but renders him liable to administrative sanction for gross ignorance of the law and procedure. Respondent judge argued that the insinuations of the OCA that malice and fraud attended the dispositions of these cases have not been sufficiently proven. The argument fails. In the case of Ora vs. Judge Almajar [A.M. No. MTJ-05-1599, October 14, 2005], the Supreme Court, while finding that there was no allegation that respondent judge therein was motivated by bad faith, malice or corruption, nevertheless, held him administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law. The pertinent portions of the decision read: Respondent judge is charged with gross ignorance of the law. However, to warrant a finding of gross ignorance of the law, the error must be so gross and patent as to produce an inference of bad faith. The acts complained of must not only be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence, but were also motivated by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty, and corruption. For to hold a judge administratively accountable for every erroneous order or decision he renders would be intolerable. In the case at bar, there was no allegation whatsoever that respondent judge was motivated by bad faith, malice or corruption when he issued the premature warrant of arrest. Be that as it may, however, we hold him administratively liable for his unfamiliarity with the rules on the conduct of preliminary investigations. We have always exhorted judges to be conversant with basic legal norms and precepts as well as with statutes and procedural rules. They are expected to follow developments in the law and to apply them. Having accepted the exalted position of a judge, whereby he judges his fellowmen, the judge owes it to the public who depend on him, and to the dignity of the court he sits in, to be proficient in the law. Thus, the Code of Judicial Conduct requires a judge to be faithful to the law and be the embodiment of professional competence. Considering that Judge Dilag had already been administratively sanctioned in Ma. Teresa De Jesus v. Judge Renato J. Dilag wherein he was fined in the amount of P30,000.00 for gross ignorance of the law, Judge Dilags already grave offenses are further aggravated. Therefore, this Court imposes upon Judge Dilag the extreme administrative penalty of dismissal from the service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, excluding accrued leave benefits, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or controlled corporations. A.M. No. MTJ-05-1616 October 17, 2007 MARY JANE VALLENTOS JAMIN, Complainant, vs. JUDGE MANUEL A. DE CASTRO, MCTC, JAGNA and GARCIA-HERNANDEZ, BOHOL, Respondent. Facts: The instant administrative case stemmed from a complaint for rape filed by herein complainant Mary Jane Vallentos Jamin (Jamin, for short) against Judge Manuel A. de Castro of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Jagna and Garcia-Hernandez, Bohol. A waitress/entertainer in a bar charged the respondent with rape. That the rape incident allegedly occurred in the early evening of March 29, 2005 at the bodega of a videoke bar located at the public market of Guindulman, Bohol where she was then employed as a 6

waitress and this is evidenced by her narration of the incident and corroborated by her coworker. But after sometime complainant recanted her statement. In his counter-affidavit dated April 21, 2005, respondent judge denied the charge of rape and described the filing thereof as a malicious attempt by some people who had been harassing him to destroy his reputation and image as a judge. While not denying his presence at the videoke bar on the night of March 29, 2005, respondent judge explained that he went to the place not to drink or sing, "but only to see the interior lay-out of the newly constructed bar" owned by his junior process server and the latters wife. He admitted, however, having teased and hugged both Jamin and Ybaez, but in the spirit of fun. Meanwhile, the OCA submitted a Report, styled as Memorandum 11 dated April 7, 2006. In it, the OCA, while expressing its inability to pin down the respondent judge for rape, nonetheless found the latter guilty of gross misconduct and immorality, acting as he did beyond the tolerable bounds of decency, morality and propriety. The report thus recommended that the respondent judge be dismissed from the service with the usual accessory penalties attached to dismissal. Disbarment, after due proceedings, was also recommended. The OCA would later submit a supplemental Report dated October 23, 2006 to inform the Court that the complainant personally came to the office of Senior Deputy Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepao to report, under oath, the threat made by the driver of Judge de Castro, a certain "Awe" Tubig, should she pursue the rape case against the respondent judge which may ultimately result in the denial of his retirement benefits. The OCA also informed the Court that the complainant, when asked, confirmed the veracity of the allegations in her affidavit-complaint filed against the respondent judge with the Bohol Provincial Prosecutors Office. Issue: Whether or not respondent is guilty of violating Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: Time and again, the Court has adhered to the exacting standards of morality and decency which every member of the judiciary is expected to observe. As a dispenser of justice, a magistrate is judged not only by his official acts but also by his private morals, to the extent that such private morals are externalized. He should not only possess proficiency in law but should likewise possess moral integrity, for the people look up to him as a virtuous and upright man. We said so in a slew of cases, notably in Castillo v. Calanog, thus: The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his performance of his judicial duties but also to his behavior outside his sala and as a private individual. There is no dichotomy of morality; a public official is also judged by his private morals. The Code dictates that a judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times a judges official life cannot simply be detached or separated from his personal existence. Thus: Being the subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen. A judge should personify integrity and exemplify honest public service. The personal behavior of a judge, both in the performance of his official duties and in private life should be above suspicion. On the whole, all roads logically lead to the conclusion that the respondent judge has indeed failed to behave in such a way that will promote confidence and respect for the judiciary. He deported himself in a manner most unbecoming a judge as a model of moral uprightness. We need not repeat the narration of the lustful acts committed by him, in order to conclude that he is indeed unworthy to remain in office. The audacity under which the same were committed and the seeming impunity with which they were perpetrated shock ones sense of morality. A.M. No. RTJ-09-2175, July 28, 2009 7

VENANCIO INONOG, Complainant, vs. JUDGE FRANCISCO B. IBAY, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 135, Makati City, Respondent. Facts: The present administrative case stemmed from the Sinumpaang Salaysay of Venancio P. Inonog, filed with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on April 26, 2005, charging Judge Francisco B. Ibay of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 135, Makati City with gross abuse of authority. The complaint involved an incident in the Makati City Hall basement parking lot for which respondent judge cited complainant in contempt of court because complainant parked his superiors vehicle at the parking space reserved for respondent judge. Respondent judge initiated the proceeding for indirect contempt by issuing an order dated March 18, 2005 directing the complainant to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt. On the same day respondent judge issued another order, finding complainant guilty of contempt and sentenced him to suffer imprisonment for a period of five (5) days and to pay a fined of P1,000.00. Issue: Whether or not respondent is guilty of violating Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: The power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts so as to preserve order in judicial proceedings as well as to uphold the administration of justice. The courts must exercise the power of contempt for purposes that are impersonal because that power is intended as a safeguard not for the judges but for the functions they exercise. Thus, judges have, time and again, been enjoined to exercise their contempt power judiciously, sparingly, with utmost restraint and with the end in view of utilizing the same for correction and preservation of the dignity of the court, not for retaliation or vindication. Respondent judges act of unceremoniously citing complainant in contempt is a clear evidence of his unjustified use of the authority vested upon him by law. Besides possessing the requisite learning in the law, a magistrate must exhibit that hallmark of judicial temperament of utmost sobriety and self-restraint which are indispensable qualities of every judge. Respondent judge himself has characterized this incident as a "petty disturbance" and he should not have allowed himself to be annoyed to a point that he would even waste valuable court time and resources on a trivial matter. Considering that this is not the first time that respondent judge committed the same offense and in Nuez, which had similar factual antecedents as the case at bar, the Court already saw fit to impose upon him a fine in the amount of P40,000.00, it is proper to impose on him the same penalty in this case. A.M. No. RTJ-09-2183 July 7, 2009 [formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 05-2346-RTJ] CONCERNED LAWYERS OF BULACAN, Petitioners, vs. PRESIDING JUDGE VICTORIA VILLALON-PORNILLOS, RTC, BRANCH 10, MALOLOS CITY, BULACAN, Respondent. Facts: Some "Concerned Lawyers of Bulacan," denominating themselves as such, filed a fivepage Anonymous Administrative Complaint of August 31, 2005 against Presiding Judge Victoria Villalon-Pornillos (respondent) of Branch 10 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos City. Petitioners imputed upon respondent various charges of graft and corruption in the form extorting millions of pesos in exchange for a favorable decision, immorality by having amorous relationship with his driver and bodyguards, and, malfeasance and misfeasance in 8

the performance of her duty as a judge by causing undue delay in resolving cases brought before her sala. The OCA conducted an investigation and found out that petitioner is not guilty of all charges against her except the last charge and additional violation of the code of borrowing money from lawyers and assigning a non-lawyer as ex-parte. Issue: Whether or not respondent is guilty of violating Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: The Court held, Judges are mandated to "perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness." Prompt disposition of the courts business is attained through proper and efficient court management, and a judge is remiss in his duty as court manager if he fails to adopt a system of record management. Respondent defied the duties to "dispose of the courts business promptly and decide cases within the required periods," to "diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain professional competence in court management, and facilitate the performance of the administrative functions of other judges and court personnel," and to "organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient dispatch of business, and require at all times the observance of high standards of public service and fidelity." A judge being expected to keep his own record of cases so that he may act on them promptly without undue delay, it is incumbent upon him to devise an efficient recording and filing system in his court so that no disorderliness can affect the flow of cases and their speedy disposition. Proper and efficient court management is as much his responsibility. As the judge is the one directly responsible for the proper discharge of official functions, he/she is charged with exercising extra care in ensuring that the records of the cases and official documents in his/her custody are intact. Hence, the necessity of adopting a system of record management and of organization of dockets in order to bolster the prompt and efficient dispatch of business. WHEREFORE, Judge Victoria Villalon-Pornillos, Presiding Judge of Branch 10 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos City, is found guilty of violating paragraph 7, Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court (borrowing money from a lawyer in a case pending before her court) which is also a gross misconduct constituting violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, aggravated by, inter alia, undue delay in rendering decisions or orders, and violation of Supreme Court rules, directives and circulars. She is DISMISSED from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, with prejudice to reemployment in any government agency or instrumentality. Immediately upon service on her of this decision, she is deemed to have vacated her office and her authority to act as judge is considered automatically terminated. A.M. No. MTJ-04-1535 March 12, 2004 DR. CONRADO T. MONTEMAYOR, complainant, vs. JUDGE JUAN O. BERMEJO, JR., Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 3, Manila, respondent. Facts: The instant administrative case traces its roots from an unlawful detainer case filed by Benjamin and Desmond T. Montemayor against Lolita Marco. The case was raffled to Metropolitan Trial Court Judge, Hon. Juan O. Bermejo, Jr. (Judge Bermejo), the respondent herein. In the instant complaint, Dr. Montemayor asserts that the respondent Judge failed to decide the case within the period provided under Section 11, Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules of Court) which is within 30 days. He alleges that Judge Bermejo "did not bother to check defendants preposterous claim that she received a copy of the Judgment only on December 5, 2002, even if it was released more than forty-five (45) days earlier on October 16, 2002." He stresses that even if the defendant received a copy of the Judgment on 9

December 5, 2002, still, Judge Bermejo should have reckoned the period to appeal from the time the defendants counsel received a copy of the Judgment and not when the defendant received it herself. What is more, the registry return card showing the date the defendants counsel received a copy of the Judgment was missing from the records. Dr. Montemayor adds that the Order dated January 6, 2003 giving due course to the defendants appeal and requiring the latter to post a supersedeas bond within 10 days from receipt thereof was released by registered mail more than one month later on February 11, 2003, and personal service thereof was made on April 9, 2003, or more than three months after the issuance thereof. The motive for the belated service was purportedly to give the defendant more time to post a supersedeas bond. Dr. Montemayor also faults the respondent Judge for granting the defendants Urgent Motion for Extension to post a supersedeas bond in violation of Section 13, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. Moreover, Judge Bermejo did not resolve the three (3) Motions for Execution and two (2) Motions to Require Defendants Counsel to Inform the Court the Date He Received a Copy of the Judgment. Dr. Montemayor also avers that Judge Bermejo prevented the transmittal of the records of the case to the appellate court within 15 days from the perfection of the appeal in violation of Section 6, Rule 40 of the Rules of Court. According to him, it was only after the respondent Judge received the defendants supersedeas bond that the former issued the Order dated May 5, 2003 directing the Branch Clerk of Court to transmit the records of the case to the appellate court. The respondent Judge maintains that he is not liable for delay in the rendition of judgment. In essence, he argues that since the Order deeming the case submitted for resolution was issued on September 23, 2002, the rendition of judgment on October 10, 2002 was made within the mandatory 30-day period. Issue: Whether or not respondent is guilty of violating Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: Section 11, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court provides a period of 30 days for the court to render judgment in forcible entry and unlawful detainer cases. This period shall be counted from the receipt of the affidavits and position papers, or the expiration of the period for filing the same. Section 11, Rule 70 echoes Section 10 of the Rule on Summary Procedure which governs unlawful detainer cases, among others. The latter provision similarly mandates the resolution of such cases within 30 days after receipt of the last affidavits and position papers, or the expiration of the period for filing the same. Clearly, the reckoning point from which the mandatory period for rendition of judgment should be computed is the receipt of the last affidavits and position papers of the parties, or the expiration of the period for filing the same, as provided by the Rules, not from the issuance of the order by the judge deeming the case submitted for resolution. The reckoning point is fixed by law, not by the judge. A judge cannot by himself choose to prolong the period for deciding cases beyond that authorized by the law. The records do not reveal when the parties received Judge Bermejos Order requiring them to submit their respective affidavits and position papers. Assuming, however, that the court received the defendants Position Paper on August 14, 2002, as respondent Judge claims, judgment should have been rendered on September 13, 2002. Instead, the decision was dated October 10, 2002, or nearly a month after the lapse of the mandatory period for rendition of judgment and almost two months from the receipt of the defendants Position Paper. Plainly, Judge Bermejo is guilty of delay and, thus, administratively liable. ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds respondent Judge Juan O. Bermejo, Jr., of Branch 3 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila guilty of delay in the rendition of judgment in violation of Rules 1.02 and 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct for which he is fined the amount of P5,000.00. Respondent Judge is also declared guilty of impropriety in violation of Canon 2 of said Code and is fined the amount of P10,000.00.


Note: A supersedeas bond, also known as a defendant's appeal bond, is a type of surety bond that a court requires from an appellant who wants to delay payment of a judgment until the appeal is over.

A.M. No. RTJ-94-1195. February 26, 1997 Spouses ROMEO P. NAZARENO and ELISA A. NAZARENO, complainants, vs. JUDGE ENRIQUE M. ALMARIO, respondent. Facts: Sometime in 1990, when respondent was about to retire from service talked to Elisa that he is nearing his retirement and he needs a lot of money. Since sps. Nazareno has a pending criminal case in the trial court of the respondent, respondent asked for an amount of money and in one occasion asked for the payment of the food of his staffs and friends Christmas party. The amount being an estimate of P50,000.00 all in all. Petitioner felt aggrieved filed a complaint against the respondent. In his defense, he denied all the allegations. Issue: Whether or not respondent is guilty of violating Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: After a close and careful study of the records of the proceedings before investigating Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the Court finds sufficient evidence to find respondent Judge Enrique M. Almario liable for gross dishonesty and misconduct. His conduct undoubtedly is unbecoming a member of the bench. The time honored rule is that a public official whose duty is to apply the law and dispense justice, be he a judge of a lower court or tribunal or a justice of the appellate courts, should not only be impartial, independent and honest but should be believed and perceived to be impartial, independent and honest. It has to be stressed once more to all who are sworn to render decisions in actual controversies that a decision which correctly applies the law and jurisprudence will nevertheless be subject to questions of impropriety when rendered by a magistrate or tribunal believed to be less than impartial and honest. It is thus the duty of members of the bench to avoid any impression of impropriety to protect the image and integrity of the judiciary which in recent times has been the object of criticism and controversy. In the present case, respondent's denial of the charges leveled by complainants that he had asked for and accepted food contributions on at least two (2) occasions from litigants (herein complainants) is contradicted by his own witnesses, Roldan Alcantara and Jose R.. Salvadora, Jr., who are both employees of the court. Nothing in the testimonies of these two (2) court employees shows any motivation other than to tell the truth. On the charge of having accepted P20,000.00 from the Nazareno spouses and receiving cash in exchange for his salary check which he never gave to Mrs. Nazareno, the Court agrees with the conclusions of Justice Morales that complainant Elisa Nazareno had convincingly proven having given: a) P10,000.00 to respondent judge on two (2) occasions and b) cash for respondent's salary check. As correctly observed by Justice Morales, the testimony of Mrs. Nazareno was undented even when subjected to an extended cross examination by respondent judge. In sum, the Court finds the charges of gross misconduct and conduct unbecoming a judge as having been sufficiently substantiated. Judge Enrique M. Almario deserves no less than the penalty of dismissal from the service.


However, based on the records of this case, respondent judge had already compulsorily retired in July 1995. The proper penalty, therefore, in lieu of his removal from office, is forfeiture of all his retirement benefits. WHEREFORE, respondent former Judge Enrique M. Almario is hereby found GUILTY of gross misconduct and dishonesty, while in office. The Court hereby ORDERS the FORFEITURE of all leave and retirement benefits to which he may be entitled WITH PREJUDICE to reemployment in the government service, including government owned or controlled agencies or corporations. A.M. No. RTJ-02-1699. October 15, 2003 VERNETTE UMALI-PACO, BERNARDINO D. NG, ORLANDO H. HABITAN and JOSEPHINE F. ANDRADA, complainants, vs. REINATO G. QUILALA, sued in his capacity as the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court - Branch 57, Makati City, AIDA C. LOMUGDANG, officer-in-charge and LILIA N. BATU, Court Stenographer of the same Branch, respondents. Facts: Complainants filed an administrative complaint against Judge Reinato G. Quilala, acting clerk of court Aida C. Lomugdang and court stenographer Lilia N. Batu of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 57, of Makati City. Acting on the recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), the Court docketed the complaint as a regular administrative matter which it then referred to Associate Justice Edgardo F. Sundiam of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and recommendation. Complainants were officers of the Philippine Retirement Authority, the defendant in an action for specific performance, entitled "Philippine Retirement Authority Members Association Foundation, Inc., (PRAMA) vs. Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), docketed Civil Case No. 01-112. Complainants charged respondent judge with bias and partiality on various occasions, among which was when respondent judge, during the hearing on plaintiffs application for a writ of preliminary injunction, led and coached Ramon Collado, a witness for PRAMA, and instructed the latters counsel on what questions to ask. On 06 March 2001, respondent judge issued an order granting the motion of PRAMA to set the case for hearing without giving the counsel for PRA an opportunity to oppose it. On 20 March 2001, at the hearing on the prayer of PRAMA for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction, respondent judge remarked that he could very well issue the writ ex parte, impressing upon the plaintiff that he was in a position to resolve the application without having to hear the evidence for defendant PRA. In the same hearing, respondent judge unceremoniously interrupted Atty. Vernette Umali-Paco, the collaborating counsel for PRA and one of herein complainants, while Atty. Umali-Paco was explaining a matter propounded by the court. Complainants further averred that during the hearing on the afternoon of 19 February 2001, respondent judge delegated to his acting clerk of court Aida C. Lomugdang, who was not a member of the bar, the task of receiving evidence from the parties, as well as of ruling on any objections which might be proffered thereon, thereby ignoring Section 9, Rule 30, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure which requires (1) that the parties agree to the delegation in writing, (2) that the clerk of court be a member of the bar, and (3) that the clerk of court would not issue rulings on any objections which might be interposed. The non-compliance with the procedural rules was alleged to have been obliterated from the certified transcript of stenographic notes where, in connivance with respondent judge, respondent stenographer Lilia N. Batu had made it to appear that the session was presided over by Judge Quilala himself. In the assailed stenographic notes, the statements issued by Lomugdang were shown to have been made by Judge Quilala although the judge was neither present nor even in his chambers during the hearing. Issue: Whether or not respondent has violated Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: 12

With respect to the charge that respondent judge left his chambers on the afternoon of 19 February 2001 and that he delegated to acting clerk of court Aida C. Lomugdang, who was not even a lawyer, the task of receiving evidence for the parties, the pertinent rules of procedure indeed were obviously ignored. Section 9, Rule 30, of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides: Sec. 9. Judge to receive evidence; delegation to clerk of court. --- The judge of the court where the case is pending shall personally receive the evidence to be adduced by the parties. However, in default or ex parte hearings, and in any case where the parties agree in writing, the court may delegate the reception of the evidence to its clerk of court who is a member of the bar. The clerk of court shall have no power to rule on objections to any question or to the admission of exhibits, which objections shall be resolved by the court upon submission of his report and the transcripts within ten (10) days from termination of the hearing. The rule is unequivocal and admits of no further discussion; neither agreement by the parties nor their acquiescence can justify its violation. Respondent stenographer Lilia N. Batu, likewise, was also remiss, albeit without any apparent ill-motive, in her duty to accurately record the proceedings before the court. The afternoon session was clearly separate from the morning hearing. A transcript of stenographic notes should be a faithful and exact recording of all matters that transpire during a court proceeding. The Court cannot with certitude pass upon the various other claims of complainants, such as respondent judges refusal to recuse himself from the case, his contempt orders, and the like, which are appurtenant to Civil Case No. 01-112 and not to this administrative matter. WHEREFORE, the Court finds (a) respondent Judge Reinato G. Quilala guilty for conduct unbecoming a judge and of violating Section 9, Rule 30, of the Rules of Court, and he is hereby penalized with a fine of Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos; (b) respondent acting clerk of court Aida C. Lomugdang guilty of having acted in contravention with the rules on the reception by her, albeit upon the directive of respondent judge, of evidence without herself being a member of the bar, and she is hereby SEVERELY REPRIMANDED; and (c) respondent stenographer Lilia N. Batu to have been remiss in her duty to accurately reflect the circumstances surrounding the proceedings in the afternoon hearing of 19 February 2001, and she is ADMONISHED to henceforth be circumspect in her duties. Respondents are each warned against committing any further infraction on their part. A.M. No. 2360-MJ August 31, 1981 SPOUSES TEODORICO MARFIL and TEODORA ESPAOLA, complainants, vs. JUDGE ORLANDO CUACHON, 5th Municipal Circuit Court of Isabela, MOISES PADILLA, Negros Occidental, respondents. Facts: Respondent Judge was the wife whose aunt filed a case of illegal squatting against complainant before the latters MCC trial court. Respondent then take cognizance of the case and according to respondent conducted his preliminary investigation then issued an arrest warrant against the complainant, thus, the complainant was arrested and was detained. Complainant, after learning the respondent is impartial due to his ties to the complainant against the complainant, filed a motion to quash the criminal action instituted against the complainant and due to inaction of the respondent to the motion to quash, complainant filed complaint against the respondent for being impartial. In his defense, he avers that upon know that he was related to the complainant against Marfil, he set a hearing for an amicable settlement between parties then he announced in court his motion to inhibit himself from the case. Issue: Whether or not respondent Judge violated the Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? 13

Held: The Court held the complaint is meritorious. Paragraph 1, Section 1, Rule 137 of the Revised Rule of Court clearly provides, no judge or judicial officer shall sit in any case in which he, or his wife or child, is peculiarily interested as heir, legatee, creditor or otherwise, or in which he is related to either party within the sixth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or to counsel within the fourth degree, computed according to the rules of the civil law, or in which he has been executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or counsel, or in which he has presided in any inferior court when his ruling or decision is the subject of review, without the written consent of an parties in interest, signed by them and entered upon the record. Strict compliance with the stringent rule on disqualification on account of relationship between the judge and one of the parties serves not only to protect the rights of the parties and assure an impartial administration of justice but also to prevent erosion of the people's confidence in the judiciary. It is in the essence of due process that a judge, sitting in a case, be at all times wholly free, impartial and independent. It is an admitted fact that the aggrieved party in Criminal Case No. 449 is the aunt of respondent's wife. However, notwithstanding such relationship and the above-quoted prohibition, respondent took cognizance of the case, conducted a preliminary examination, issued a warrant of arrest by virtue of which complainant was detained and set the case for hearing on February 12, 1980. These actuations of respondent Judge opened to question his ability to act with the cold neutrality of an impartial Judge. Respondent judge is hereby REPRIMANDED with warning that a repetition of similar act will be dealt with more severely. A.M. No. MTJ-95-1063 February 9, 1996 ALFONSO C. CHOA, complainant, vs. JUDGE ROBERTO S. CHIONGSON, respondent. Facts: Respondent judge was the presiding judge for a perjury case filed by the estranged wife of the complainant who is co-habiting with another woman who he has two children. The case stemmed from the application of the complainant for naturalization stating in the application, with notarization, the place where he lives and living with his wife and stating also the name of their two children where in fact he does not live there anymore and even his family does not live there anymore. Instead the truth is he is now living with another woman whom he has two children. Thus, the lawful wife of the complainant filed a perjury case against the complainant where the judge take cognizance and after due trial found complainant guilty and imposed a penalty of six months and one of imprisonment of prision correctional. Complainant then filed a complaint against the respondent judge alleging that respondent judge is not impartial considering that respondent judge and complainants lawful wife are next-door neighbor and lives in the same subdivision, thus, can be the basis of question of his impartiality to the case. That the respondent Judge is guilty of Grave Misconduct, Gross Bias and Partiality, and Knowingly Rendering An Unjust Judgment when he intentionally failed to divulge the next-door-neighbor relationship between him and the family of Leni Ong Choa and to disqualify himself from sitting in the criminal case on such ground as part of the grand design and preconceived intention to unjustly convict the complainant of the crime charged without due process. Issue: Whether or not respondent judge has violated Canon 3 of being partial to the case on the basis of his being next-door neighbor to the complainants wife? Held: The Court held the complaint is without merit. The charge that respondent Judge and Leni Choa are nieghbors appears to be petty under the circumstances. Granting that they are indeed next-door neighbors does not necessarily mean that respondent Judge has violated 14

Rule 137 of the Rules of Court for Disqualification of Judges. Nowhere in said Rule is it ordained that being the neighbor of a party litigant is reason enough for the Judge to disqualify himself from hearing the former's case. WHEREFORE, for want of merit, the instant complaint is DISMISSED. A.M. No. MTJ-06-1623 September 18, 2009 [Formerly OCA IPI No. 04-1635-MTJ] PROSECUTOR ROMANA R. REYES, Complainant, vs. JUDGE JULIA A. REYES, Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 69, Pasig City, Respondent. Facts: The case stemmed from an order given by the respondent to the complainant to conduct a preliminary investigation against Branch Clerk of Court Timoteo Migrio (Migrio) who was earlier arrested for alleged violation of Presidential Decree No. 1602 or the AntiGambling Law but was already released by virtue of a court order from Judge Jose Morallos. The complainant did not follow the order contending that the order given was against the Rules on Criminal Procedure. But the respondent arrogantly insist the order and scolded complainant in front of police officers and that the acts of the complainant is a disobedience to a lawful order of a judicial officer. Because of the said incident complainant has been a recipient of series of harassment charges by the respondent such as being cited for contempt during a court hearing for disobedience to alleged lawful order of a judicial officer of the court in relation to the order to conduct a preliminary investigation, misbehavior of an officer of the Court in the performance of her official duties as well as for improper conduct tending directly or indirectly to impede, obstruct, and degrade the administration of justice which the respondent issued a warrant of arrest for the complainant and set the bail at P119K due to alleged 119 cases delayed. Fortunately, the complainant was able to secure an injunction against her arrest from another judge but despite the issued injunction respondent still pursued for the arrest of the complaint to the point that she ordered the guards to arrest the complainant to her embarrassment. Thus, this complaint. A.M. No. MTJ-06-1624 [Formerly OCA IPI No. 04-1636-MTJ] TIMOTEO A. MIGRIO and DOMINGO S. CRUZ, Complainants, vs. JUDGE JULIA A. REYES, Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court in Pasig City, Branch 69, Respondent. Facts: Complainant is a Branch Clerk of Court which for whatever reason earns the ire of the respondent judge. Sometime during lunch break complainant and his co-employees were playing game of cards or tong-its and while playing respondent judge ordered their warrantless arrest, by her police escort, alleging that complainant was caught inflagrante delicto. The complainant was detained for two days and was released on the order of Judge Morallos thru the counsel of the complainant. Respondent judge insisted that complainant Migrio must not be released as the case is covered by the rule on warrantless arrest. Because of the release respondent charged the complainant with an additional complaint of illegal gambling during office hours, infidelity in the custody of documents, qualified theft and/or malversation for misappropriation of the amount of PHP10,000.00 entrusted to him for "deposit, for violation of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, among others. A.M. No. MTJ-06-1625 [Formerly OCA IPI No. 04-1630-MTJ] 15

ARMI M. FLORDELIZA, JULIET C. VILLAR and MA. CONCEPCION LUCERO, all of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 69, Pasig City, Complainants, vs. JUDGE JULIA A. REYES, Presiding Judge Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 69, Pasig City, Respondent. Facts: By verified letter-complaint of March 11, 2004, Judge Reyes was charged by complainants Armi M. Flordelisa et al. who are court employees at Branch 69, with the following acts: (1) residing in chambers; (2) borrowing money from staff; (3) instructing the stenographer to collect a minimum amount for ex-parte cases; (4) frequently bringing some of her staff to her nighttime gimmick; (5) unethical conduct; (6) conduct unbecoming a lady judge; (7) unfriendliness to litigants; (8) anti-public service; (9) inability to control emotions during hearing; (10) uttering invectives in front of staff and lawyers; (11) conducting staff meeting in an unsightly attire; and (12) gross inefficiency/laziness. Respondent upon learning of these complaints against her, suspected that the source of information came from the complainant, thus, as retaliatory act, respondent filed ten (10) counts of Indirect Contempt of Court charges against complainant for gross misconduct in office and insubordination then issued an arrest warrant for the complainant which causes complainants detention in jail for three days until she was able to post a bail of P50K of the total P250K amount of bail set by the respondent judge. A.M. No. MTJ-06-1638 [Formerly OCA IPI No. 05-1746-MTJ] FLORENCIO SEBASTIAN, JR., Complainant, vs. HON. JULIA A. REYES, Presiding Judge, Metropolitan Trial Court, Pasig City, Branch 69, Respondent. Facts: By verified Complaint-Affidavit of April 22, 2005, complainant Florencio Sebastian, Jr. (Sebastian) charged Judge Reyes with Grave Misconduct, Gross Ignorance of the Law, Incompetence and Inefficiency arising from the procedings in Criminal Case No. 19110, "People v. Florencio Sebastian, Jr., Alicia Ty Sebastian and Justo Uy," for falsification of public document pending before Branch 69. Because of the criminal case mentioned the complainant and his wife were arrested on the basis of unsigned order of the respondent. Moreover, on the day of the hearing of the abovementioned case, Judge Reyes read the judgment from a computer screen without giving the couple a written copy or computer printout while inside her chamber. The couple raised on appeal that the trial court failed to comply with the mandate of Rule 120 of the Rules of Court and Section 14 of Article VIII of the Constitution requiring that the decision must be written and signed by the judge with a clear statement of the facts and the law on which the decision is based. Issue: Whether or not respondent has violated Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Ethics? Held: The Court held the administration of justice is a lofty function and is no less sacred than a religious mission itself. Those who are called upon to render service in it must follow that norm of conduct compatible only with public faith and trust in their impartiality, sense of responsibility, exercising the same devotion to duty and unction done by a priest in the performance of the most sacred ceremonies of a religious liturgy. By judges appointment to the office, the people have laid on them their confidence that they are mentally and morally fit to pass upon the merits of their varied contentions. For this reason, members of the judiciary are expected to be fearless in their pursuit to render justice, to be unafraid to displease any person, interest or power, and to be equipped with a 16

moral fiber strong enough to resist the temptations lurking in their office. Unfortunately, respondent Judge failed to resist the temptations of power which eventually led her to transgress the very law she swore to protect and uphold. To constitute gross ignorance of the law or procedure, the subject decision, order or actuation of the judge in the performance of official duties should be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence. Most importantly, the judge must be moved by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption. Judge Julia A. Reyes, Presiding Judge, Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 69, Pasig City, is DISMISSED from the service.

A.M. No. MTJ-91-517 March 11, 1994 NIMFA ALBOS, complainant, vs. JUDGE EUGENIO ALABA, respondent. RESOLUTION VITUG, J.: On 04 February 1991, complainant Nimfa Albos filed with the Office of the Court Administrator a sworn letter-complaint, charging respondent Judge Eugenio Alaba with misconduct, oppression and gross inefficiency. The antecedents: On 27 August 1990, Nimfa Albos filed with the Municipal Trial Court ("MTC") of Tanauan, Leyte, a complaint for grave oral defamation against one Rebecca Songalia. Sometime in October, 1990, the complainant, accompanied by her mother, went to the MTC to verify the status of the case. The two were told by the Clerk of Court that the complaint was "not yet signed" by the respondent judge. Forthwith, they went to see the respondent judge himself to inquire about it. The latter reportedly reacted by throwing the complaint on top of his table and by exclaiming, "(h)ere they are; I am returning them to you anyway, they are useless. You will lose in your case." The complainant hired a lawyer. The latter filed the complaint against Songalia with, instead, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Leyte. Acting thereon, Assistant Prosecutor Yolanda Paganda filed the corresponding information with the MTC of Tanauan (Criminal Case No. 4486). On 14 January 1991, the complainant, through counsel, filed a motion asking respondent Judge Alaba to inhibit himself from trying the case. The respondent refused to act on the motion and even allegedly challenged the complainant's counsel to a fight. The judge subsequently dismissed the case. In his comment, respondent Judge Alaba denied the allegations of the complainant and sought to justify his questioned conduct on the case. This Court, in its resolution, dated 13 February 1992, resolved to refer the case to Executive Judge Fortunato B. Operario of the Regional Trial Court of Tacloban, Leyte, for investigation, report and recommendation. When Judge Operario retired, Acting Executive Judge Getulio M. Francisco took over the case. On 16 April 1993, the latter submitted his findings and observations, as well as his recommendation, thus: FINDINGS AND OBSERVATIONS A Criminal Case for Grave Oral Defamation was filed by herein complainant Nimfa M. Albos against Rebecca Songalia with the Municipal Trial Court of Tanauan, Leyte. The complaint was filed on August 27, 1990 through the investigator of the INP (now PNP) of Tanauan, Leyte. The complaint was not entered in the docket book of the Municipal Trial Court of Tanauan, Leyte because Judge Eugenio Alaba then was conducting lectures in different barangays of Tanauan, Leyte regarding the Barangay Justice Law.


Subsequently, Nimfa M. Albos sought the assistance of the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor which conducted a preliminary investigation. The inquest prosecutor Yolanda Dagandan filed the corresponding information with the Municipal Trial Court of Tanauan, Leyte for Grave Oral Defamation against Rebecca Songalia which was docketed as Criminal Case No. 4486. After the arraignment, pre-trial was conducted by the Court on January 17, 1991. Thereafter, the parties agreed that the trial on the merits be set for February 13 and 14, 1991. The prosecution then was represented by Sgt. Gonzaga of the PNP of Tanauan, Leyte. Before February 13, 1991, the private prosecutor, Atty. Custodio Caete, filed a Motion to Inhibit Judge Eugenio Alaba. The Judge, however, did not act on the motion on the ground that the Motion allegedly failed to comply with Sec. 16 in relation to Sec. 5, Rule 110 of the New Rules on Criminal Procedure. When the case was called for trial on February 13, 1991, the complainant Nimfa M. Albos did not appear but the officer of the PNP of Tanauan, Leyte who appeared for the prosecution was present. The private prosecutor Atty. Custodio Caete did not appear. The accused and her counsel, Atty. Benedicto Ortega, were present. For failure on the part of the complainant and her counsel to appear despite notice the defense moved for the dismissal of the case invoking the constitutional right of the accused to a speedy trial. Judge Eugenio Alaba, however, reminded the defense counsel that the case was set for two (2) days, that is, on February 13 and 14, 1991. The Court then denied the verbal motion for dismissal but told the parties that the case would be called again on the following day, February 14, 1991. When the case was called again on the following day, February 14, 1991, the accused and her counsel were present and ready. Although the public prosecutor appeared, the complainant was not around. The public prosecutor moved that the case be called later as he was waiting for the complainant who told her mother that she would appear in Court, to which the Court granted the same. Later, when the case was called again the complainant failed to appear, for which the counsel for the defense, Atty. Benedicto Ortega, reiterated his motion made the day before for the dismissal of the case invoking again the constitutional right of the accused to a speedy trial. This time the Court granted the Motion and dismissed the case. For not favorably acting on the motion of the private prosecutor that Judge Eugenio Alaba inhibit himself in trying the case and, ultimately, dismissing the case, the complainant in said criminal case No. 4486 filed his administrative case against Judge Eugenio Alaba, for Grave Misconduct, Conduct Unbecoming of a Municipal Trial Court Judge, Oppression and Gross Inefficiency. The cause of all this trouble is the failure on the part of respondent Judge Eugenio Alaba to inhibit himself from acting on the case despite the motion for inhibition filed by the private prosecutor Atty. Custodio Caete. Respondent Judge Eugenio Alaba contended that the motion should bear the approval of the public prosecutor arguing that the private prosecution shall always be under the supervision and control of the public prosecutor. Although it is conceded that the prosecution in criminal cases shall be under the supervision and control of the public prosecutor, and also that it is for the presiding Judge to determine if he inhibits himself when there is a motion for inhibition on the ground of an alleged partiality or bias, yet it would have been safer and convenient for him to inhibit himself in that case to avoid suspicion. As the time-honored maxim goes, "A Judge, like Cesar's wife, must not only be above reproach but also above suspicion." RECOMMENDATION From the above facts there is no grave Misconduct or Conduct Unbecoming of a Municipal Trial Judge nor is there Oppression or Gross Inefficiency on the part of respondent Judge Eugenio Alaba. For his failure to inhibit himself, despite the Motion for Inhibition filed by the private prosecutor only on the basis that the motion did not bear the conformity of the public prosecutor, respondent Judge Eugenio Alaba should be admonished to be more cautious and extra careful in his official actuations as presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court of Tanauan, Leyte, with a warning that a repetition of the same in the future would be dealt with more severely. In this Court's resolution of 22 July 1993, the matter was further referred to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation, report and recommendation. Deputy Court Administrator Bernardo P.


Abesamis, with the concurrence of Court Administrator Ernani Cruz-Pao, submitted a memorandum, dated 14 January 1994, to the following effect: Re: Adm. Matter No. MTJ-91-517 (Nimfa Albos vs. Judge Eugenio Alaba, MTC, Tanauan, Leyte) This refers to the complaint of Nimfa Albos, charging Judge Eugenio Alaba with grave misconduct, conduct unbecoming of a judge, oppression and inefficiency. Complainant claims that on August 27, 1990, she filed a signed complaint for grave oral defamation prepared by the PNP investigator, accompanied by the affidavit of his witness, Alberto Babao. On October 20, 1990, when no action was taken thereon, she and her mother went to court to verify its status. Informed that the same was not yet signed by respondent, they approached him but he threw the papers on top of the table declaring that they were anyway useless. The incident forced her to hire a lawyer. Another complaint was presented before the Provincial Prosecutor of Leyte and this time an information was filed in respondent's court docketed as Crim. Case No. 4486. Subsequently, on January 17, 1991, her lawyer filed a motion to inhibit, but it was never acted upon by respondent. They were scolded by him, instead. In his comment (pp. 26-28, rollo) respondent contended that he came to know of the complaint for grave oral defamation only when he received a copy of this instant complaint. He was informed by his clerk of court that the complaint was withdrawn by complainant herself, thus, it was not signed. The first time he saw complainant was on January 21, 1991, when she inquired about the status of the motion for inhibition. She advised her to see the clerk of court and then proceeded to the courtroom. Thereafter, his clerk of court showed him a notice of appearance filed by Atty. Custodio Caete and a motion for inhibition, without the conformity of the public prosecutor. Nonetheless, he waited for Atty. Custodio on the date stated in the pleading but he never appeared. On February, 12, 1991, when complainant went to the court, she was informed that the trial will proceed as scheduled on February 13 and 14. She never appeared on both dates. Hence, the case was dismissed. By a resolution En Banc, dated 13 February 1992 (p. 53, id.) this matter was referred to Executive Judge Fortunato S. Operario, for investigation, report and recommendation. In his report (pp. 247-249, id.), Judge Getulio M. Francisco, who was designated to act on the case due to the retirement of Judge Operario found that: 1) the complaint was not docketed because respondent Judge Alaba was then conducting lectures in the different barangays of Tanauan, Leyte regarding the Barangay Justice Law; 2) for not favorably acting on the motion to inhibit and ultimately dismissing the case, this administrative complaint was filed against respondent. For respondent's "failure to inhibit himself, despite the Motion for Inhibition filed by the private prosecutor only on the basis that the motion did not bear the conformity of the public prosecutor . . . ," Judge Francisco recommended that respondent "be admonished to be more cautious and extra careful in his official acts." The report and recommendation of Investigating Judge Francisco, did not discuss respondent's failure to sign the complaint for grave oral defamation, except his finding that the reason thereof was because respondent has been conducting lectures. In this regard, respondent's lectures regarding the Barangay Law, may not be a valid reason for not attending to his judicial functions. Assuming that he cannot sign the subject complaint because it was not subscribed before him, complainant should have been notified of such defect.


All the foregoing considered, it is recommended that respondent Judge Eugenio Alaba be reprimanded and admonished to exercise more diligence in the performance of his official duties with a warning that the commission of similar offense will be dealt with more severely. We find the foregoing memorandum of the Office of the Court Administrator, which confirms, by and large, the findings and recommendations of Executive Judge Getulio M. Francisco, to be satisfactory and well taken. 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. While he must exercise great prudence and utmost caution in considering and evaluating a challenge to his impartiality, he is expected, nevertheless, to act with good dispatch. Any delay, let alone an inaction, on his part can only fuel, whether justified or not, an intensified distrust on his capability to render dispassionate judgment on the case. True, the respondent judge cannot be said to have been completely out of line in conducting lectures to various barangay units on the rudiments of the Barangay Law. After all, judges are, and they should be, encouraged to engage in any lawful enterprise that may help bring about an improved administration of justice. But, be that as it may, judges must not allow themselves to be thereby distracted from the performance of their judicial tasks which must remain at all times to be their foremost and overriding concern. WHEREFORE, respondent judge is hereby REPRIMANDED, and he is ADMONISHED to observe greater assiduity in giving priority to his official duties than he has heretofore evidently shown. SO ORDERED.