Category: TIPS FOR JUDGES


TIP 0015: THE CASE OF JUDGE JAIME I. INFANTE, RTC BRANCH 38, ALABEL, SARANGANI.

 

=================

 

 

DISPOSITIVE:

 

       

WHEREFORE, we FIND AND DECLARE Judge Jaime I. Infante guilty of gross ignorance of the law and the rules; and, accordingly, FINE him in the amount of P20,000.00, with a stern warning that a repetition of the offense or the commission of another serious offense will be more severely dealt with.

 

          Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Court Administrator for proper dissemination to all trial judges.

 

            SO ORDERED.

 

=================

 

 

Republic of thePhilippines

Supreme Court

Manila

                                                                                     

FIRST DIVISION

 

 

ATTY. FRANKLIN G.  GACAL,      

                Complainant,     

 

 

 

                – versus

 

 

JUDGE JAIME I. INFANTE, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 38, IN ALABEL, SARANGANI,

              Respondent.

   A.M. No. RTJ- 04-1845

   [Formerly A.M. No. IPI No. 03-1831-RTJ] 

 

   Present:

CORONA, C.J.,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BERSAMIN,

DELCASTILLO, and

VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.

 

   Promulgated:

 

     October 5, 2011

   

x—————————————————————————————–x

 

D E C I S I O N

 

 

BERSAMIN, J.:

 

          It is axiomatic that bail cannot be allowed to a person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable with reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, without a hearing upon notice to the Prosecution. Any judge who so allows bail is guilty of gross ignorance of the law and the rules, and is subject to appropriate administrative sanctions.

 

Atty. Franklin Gacal, the private prosecutor in Criminal Case No. 1136-03 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Alabel, Sarangani entitled People v. Faustino Ancheta, a prosecution for murder arising from the killing of Felomino O. Occasion, charges Judge Jaime I. Infante, Presiding Judge of Branch 38 of the RTC to whose Branch Criminal Case No. 1136-03 was raffled for arraignment and trial, with gross ignorance of the law, gross incompetence, and evident partiality, for the latter’s failure to set a hearing before granting bail to the accused and for releasing him immediately after allowing bail.

 

Antecedents

 

On March 18, 2003, Judge Gregorio R. Balanag, Jr. of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Kiamba-Maitum, Sarangani issued a warrant for the arrest of Faustino Ancheta in connection with a murder case. Judge Balanag did not recommend bail. Ancheta, who had meanwhile gone into hiding, was not arrested. Upon review, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, acting through Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Alfredo Barcelona, Jr., affirmed the findings and recommendation of Judge Balanag on the offense to be charged, and accordingly filed in the RTC an information for murder on April 21, 2003 (Criminal Case No. 1136-03), but with a recommendation for bail in the amount of P400,000.00. Criminal Case No. 1136-03 was raffled to Judge Infante’s Branch.

 

          On April 23, 2003, Judge Infante issued twin orders, one granting bail to Ancheta, and another releasing Ancheta from custody.

 

On April 25, 2003, Atty. Gacal, upon learning of the twin orders issued by Judge Infante, filed a so-called Very Urgent Motion For Reconsideration And/Or To Cancel Bailbond With Prayer To Enforce Warrant Of Arrest Or Issue Warrant Of Arrest Anew Or In The Alternative Very Urgent Motion For This Court To Motu Prop[r]io Correct An Apparent And Patent Error (very urgent motion).

 

          In the hearing of the very urgent motion on April 29, 2003, only Atty. Gacal and his collaborating counsel appeared in court. Judge Infante directed the public prosecutor to comment on the very urgent motion within five days from notice, after which the motion would be submitted for resolution with or without the comment. Ancheta, through counsel, opposed, stating that the motion did not bear the conformity of the public prosecutor.

 

At the arraignment of Ancheta set on May 15, 2003, the parties and their counsel appeared, but Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Barcelona, Jr., the assigned public prosecutor, did not appear because he was then following up his regular appointment as the Provincial Prosecutor of Sarangani Province. Accordingly, the arraignment was reset to May 29, 2003.

 

On May 21, 2003, Judge Infante denied Atty. Gacal’s very urgent motion on the ground that the motion was pro forma for not bearing the conformity of the public prosecutor, and on the further ground that the private prosecutor had not been authorized to act as such pursuant to Section 5, Rule 110, of the Rules of Court. Judge Infante directed that the consideration of the bail issue be held in abeyance until after the public prosecutor had submitted a comment, because he wanted to know the position of the public prosecutor on  Atty. Gacal’s very urgent motion having been filed without the approval of the public prosecutor.[1][1]

 

          On May 29, 2003, the public prosecutor appeared, but did not file any comment. Thereupon, Atty. Gacal sought authority to appear as a private prosecutor. The public prosecutor did not oppose Atty. Gacal’s request. With that, Atty. Gacal moved for the reconsideration of the grant of bail to Ancheta. In response, Judge Infante required the public prosecutor to file his comment on Atty. Gacal’s motion for reconsideration, and again reset the arraignment of the accused to June 20, 2003.[2][2]

 

          On June 4, 2003, the public prosecutor filed a comment, stating that he had recommended bail as a matter of course; that the orders dated April 23, 2003 approving bail upon his recommendation and releasing the accused were proper; and that his recommendation of bail was in effect a waiver of the public prosecutor’s right to a bail hearing.

By June 20, 2003, when no order regarding the matter of bail was issued, Atty. Gacal sought the inhibition of Judge Infante on the ground of his gross incompetence manifested by his failure to exercise judicial power to resolve the issue of bail.

 

In his motion for inhibition,[3][3] Atty. Gacal insisted that the issue of bail urgently required a resolution that involved a judicial determination and was, for that reason, a judicial function; that Judge Infante failed to resolve the issue of bail, although he should have acted upon it with dispatch, because it was unusual that several persons charged with murder were being detained while Ancheta was let free on bail even without his filing a petition for bail; that such event also put the integrity of Judge Infante’s court in peril; and that although his motion for reconsideration included the alternative relief for Judge Infante to motu proprio correct his apparent error, his refusal to resolve the matter in due time constituted gross ignorance of law. 

 

          Atty. Gacal contended that Judge Infante was not worthy of his position as a judge either because he unjustifiably failed to exercise his judicial power or because he did not at all know how to exercise his judicial power; that his lack of judicial will rendered him utterly incompetent to perform the functions of a judge; that at one time, he ordered the bail issue to be submitted for resolution, with or without the comment of the public prosecutor, but at another time, he directed that the bail issue be submitted for resolution, with his later order denoting that he would resolve the issue only after receiving the comment from the public prosecutor; that he should not be too dependent on the public prosecutor’s comment considering that the resolution of the matter of bail was entirely within his discretion as the judge;[4][4] and that the granting of bail without a petition for bail being filed by the accused or a hearing being held for that purpose constituted gross ignorance of the law and the rules.[5][5]

 

          Finally, Atty. Gacal stated that Judge Infante and the public prosecutor were both guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act[6][6] for giving undue advantage to Ancheta by allowing him bail without his filing a petition for bail and without a hearing being first conducted.[7][7]

 

          On July 9, 2003, Judge Infante definitively denied Atty. Gacal’s very urgent motion.

 

          On August 5, 2003, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCAd) received from the Office of the Ombudsman the indorsement of the administrative complaint Atty. Gacal had filed against Judge Infante (CPL-M-03-0581 entitled Gacal v. Infante, et al.), forwarding the records of the administrative case for appropriate action to the Supreme Court as the exclusive administrative authority over all courts, their judges and their personnel.[8][8]

 

          On August 21, 2003, then Court Administrator Prebitero J. Velasco, Jr. (now a Member of the Court) required Judge Infante to comment on the administrative complaint against him, and to show cause within 10 days from receipt why he should not be suspended, disbarred, or otherwise disciplinarily sanctioned  as a member of the Bar for violation of Canon 10, Rule 10.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility pursuant to the resolution of the Court En Banc in A.M. No. 02-9-02-SC dated September 17, 2002.[9][9]

 

          On October 6, 2003, the OCAd received Judge Infante’s comment dated September 22, 2003, by which he denied any transgression in the granting of bail to Ancheta, stating the following:

 

2.  At the outset, as a clarificatory note, accused Faustino Ancheta is out on bail, not because he applied for bail duly granted by the court but because he posted the required bail since in the first place the Fiscal recommended bail, duly approved by the Undersigned, in the amount of P400,000.00. Underscoring is made to stress the fact that accused Ancheta had actually never filed an application for bail. Perforce, the court had nothing to hear, grant or deny an application/motion/petition for bail since none was filed by the accused.

 

3.  Thus, the twin Orders dated April 23, 2003 are exactly meant as an approval of the bailbond (property) posted by accused Ancheta, it being found to be complete and sufficient. They are not orders granting an application for bail, as misconstrued by private prosecutor.  (Certified true machine copy of the twin Orders dated April 23 marked as Annex-2 and 2-a are hereto attached)

 

4.  On April 25, 2003, private complainant in the cited criminal case, thru counsel (the Gacal, Gacal and Gacal Law Office), filed a “Very Urgent Motion for Reconsideration or in the alternative Very Urgent Motion for this Court to Moto Propio Correct an Apparent Error”, praying that the twin Orders dated April 23, 2003 be reconsidered. (Certified machine copy of the said urgent motion marked as Annex 3 is hereto attached)

 

5. On April 29, 2003, during the hearing on motion, the private complainant and his counsel (private prosecutor) appeared. The Fiscal was not present. The court nonetheless ordered the Fiscal to file his comment/s on the said motion. The accused thru private counsel in an open court hearing opposed the subject motion inasmuch as the same bears no conformity of the Fiscal. In that hearing, the court advised the private prosecutor to coordinate and secure the conformity of the Fiscal in filing his motion.  (Certified machine copy of the Order dated April 29, 2003, marked as Annex 4 is hereto attached.)

 

6.  On May 15, 2003, the scheduled date for the arraignment of accused Ancheta, the parties and private prosecutor appeared.  Again, the 1st Asst. Provincial Fiscal, Alfredo Barcelona, Jr., failed to appear who, being the next highest in rank in their Office, was processing his application for regular appointment as Provincial Fiscal of Sarangani Province.  He was then the Acting Provincial Fiscal – Designate in view of the appointment of former Provincial Fiscal Laureano T. Alzate as RTC Judge inKoronadalCity.  Due to the absence of the Fiscal and the motion for reconsideration then pending for resolution, the scheduled arraignment was reset to May 29, 2003, per Order dated May 15, 2003, (certified machine copy of which marked as Annex 5 is hereto attached).

 

7.  On May 21, 2003, the Undersigned resolved to deny for being pro forma the pending motion for reconsideration. As held in the Order of denial, it was found that the private prosecutor was not duly authorized in writing by the provincial prosecutor to prosecute the said criminal case, nor was he judicially approved to act as such in violation of Section 5, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. The bail issue, however, was held in abeyance until submission of the comment thereon by the Fiscal as this Presiding Judge would like then to know the position of the Fiscal anent to the cited motion without his approval. The arraignment was reset to June 20, 2003.  Again, the private prosecutor was orally advised to coordinate and secure the approval of the Fiscal in filing his motions/pleadings.  (Certified machine copy of the Order dated May 21, 2003 marked as Annex 6 hereto attached)

 

8.  On June 4, 2003, the Fiscal finally filed his “Comment on the Very Urgent Motion for Reconsideration filed by private complainant thru counsel (private prosecutor).  Consistently, the Fiscal in his comment recommended bail as a matter of course and that he claimed that Orders dated April 23, 2003 approving bail upon his recommendation are proper, waiving in effect his right for a bail hearing.  (Certified true machine copy of the Fiscal’s comment marked as Annex-7 is hereto attached).[10][10]  

 

          Under date of February 16, 2004, the OCAd recommended after investigation that the case be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter, and that Judge Infante be fined in the amount of  P20,000.00,[11][11] viz:

 

EVALUATION:  The 1987 Constitution provides that, all persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when the evidence of guilt is strong, shall before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law (Sec. 13, Art. III).

 

The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that, no person charged with a capital offense or offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment shall be admitted to bail when the evidence is strong, regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution (Sec. 7, Rule 114).

 

With the aforequoted provisions of the Constitution and the Rules of Criminal Procedure as a backdrop, the question is:  Can respondent judge in granting bail to the accused dispense with the hearing of Application for Bail?

 

The preliminary investigation of Criminal Case No. 03-61, entitled Benito M. Occasion vs. Faustino Ancheta for Murder was conducted by Judge Gregorio R. Balanag, Jr., of MCTC, Kiamba-Maitum, Sarangani.  Finding the existence of probable cause that an offense of Murder was committed and the accused is probably guilty thereof, he transmitted his resolution to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, together with the records of the case, with No Bail Recommended.  Upon review of the resolution of the investigating judge by the OIC of the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Sarangani, he filed the information for Murder against accused Faustino Ancheta but a bail of P400,000.00 for the provisional liberty of the latter was recommended. Relying on the recommendation of the Fiscal, respondent judge granted the Application for Bail of the accused.

 

The offense of Murder is punishable by reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death (Art. 248, RPC).  By reason of the penalty prescribed by law, Murder is considered a capital offense and, grant of bail is a matter of discretion which can be exercised only by respondent judge after the evidence is submitted in a hearing.  Hearing of the application for bail is absolutely indispensable before a judge can properly determine whether the prosecution’s evidence is weak or strong (People vs. Dacudao, 170 SCRA 489).  It becomes, therefore, a ministerial duty of a judge to conduct hearing the moment an application for bail is filed if the accused is charged with capital offense or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.  If doubt can be entertained, it follows that the evidence of guilt is weak and bail shall be recommended.  On the other hand, if the evidence is clear and strong, no bail shall be granted.

 

Verily, respondent judge erred when he issued an order granting the application for bail filed by the accused (Annex “C”) based merely on the order issued by the Fiscal (Annex “A”) recommending bail of  P400,000.00 for the provisional liberty of the accused without even bothering to read the affidavits of the witnesses for the prosecution. Respondent judge cannot abdicate his right and authority to determine whether the evidence against the accused who is charged with capital offense is strong or not.

 

After the respondent judge has approved the property bond posted by the accused, the complainant, as private prosecutor filed a Motion for Reconsideration and/or Cancel Bailbond or in the alternative, Very Urgent Motion to Moto Proprio correct an Apparent Error.  On the hearing of the Motion on 29 April 2003, the Fiscal was absent but he (the Fiscal) was given five (5) days from receipt of the order within which to file his comment and, with or without comment the incident is deemed submitted for resolution and, hearing of the Motion was reset to May 15, 2003.  But the Fiscal again failed to appear on said date and, the arraignment of the accused was set on 29 May 2003.  On 21 May 2003, respondent judge resolved to deny the Motion on the ground that the private prosecutor was not authorized in writing by the Chief of the Prosecution’s Office or the Regional State Prosecutor to prosecute the case, subject to the approval of the court, pursuant to Sect. 5, Rule 110 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

 

The need for an authority in writing from the Chief of the Prosecution’s Office or Regional State Prosecutor to the Private Prosecutor to prosecute the case, subject to the approval of the court, contemplates of a situation wherein there is no regular prosecutor assigned the court, or the prosecutor assigned, due to heavy work schedule, cannot attend to the prosecution of pending criminal cases to expedite disposition of the case.  This provision of the Rules of Criminal Procedure does not prevent the offended party who did not reserve, waive nor institute separate civil action, from intervening in the case through a private prosecutor.

 

Intervention of the offended party in Criminal Action – Where the civil action for recovery of civil liability is instituted in the criminal action pursuant to Rule 11, the offended party may intervene by counsel in the prosecution of the offense (Sec. 16, Rule 110 [Supra]).

 

When a criminal action is instituted, the civil action for recovery of civil liability arising from the offense charged shall be deemed instituted with the criminal action unless the offended party waives civil action, reserves the right to institute it separately or institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action (Sec. 1 (a), Rule 111 [Supra]).

 

The offended party in Criminal Case No. 1136-03 did not reserve his right to institute separate civil action, he did not waive such right and did not file civil action prior to the criminal action, so the offended party may under the law intervene as a matter of right. 

 

The authority to intervene includes actual conduct of trial under the control of the Fiscal which includes the right to file pleadings.  According to respondent judge, he advised the private prosecutor to coordinate with the fiscal and secure his approval in accord with the mandate of Section, 5, Rule 110 of the Revised Rule of Criminal Procedure:  On this point, respondent judge again erred.  The right of the offended party to intervene is conferred by law and the approval of the Fiscal or even the court is not all necessary (Sec. 1 (a), Rule 111, [Supra]).  Respondent Judge, however, is correct when he stated that the motions filed by the private prosecutor should be with the conformity of the Fiscal.

 

Respondent judge’s errors are basic such that his acts constitutes gross ignorance of the law.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Respectfully recommended for the consideration of the Honorable Court is the recommendation that the instant I.P.I. be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter and respondent Judge be held ordered to pay a fine of P20,000.00.  

 

          On March 31, 2004,[12][12] the Court directed that the administrative case be docketed as a regular administrative matter.

 

On December 01, 2004,[13][13] the Court denied Atty. Gacal’s ancillary prayer to disqualify Judge Infante from trying Criminal Case No. 1138-03 pending resolution of this administrative matter.

 

Ruling

 

          We approve and adopt the findings and recommendation of the OCAd, considering that they are well substantiated by the records. We note that Judge Infante did not deny that he granted bail for the provisional release of Ancheta in Criminal Case No. 1138-03 without conducting the requisite bail hearing.

 

I

Bail hearing was mandatory

in Criminal Case No. 1138-03

 

Judge Infante would excuse himself from blame and responsibility by insisting that the hearing was no longer necessary considering that the accused had not filed a petition for bail; that inasmuch as no application for bail had been filed by the accused, his twin orders of April 23, 2003 were not orders granting an application for bail, but were instead his approval of the bail bond posted; and that Atty. Gacal’s very urgent motion and other motions and written submissions lacked the requisite written conformity of the public prosecutor, rendering them null and void.

 

          We cannot relieve Judge Infante from blame and responsibility.

 

The willingness of Judge Infante to rely on the mere representation of the public prosecutor that his grant of bail upon the public prosecutor’s recommendation had been proper, and that his (public prosecutor) recommendation of bail had in effect waived the need for a bail hearing perplexes the Court. He thereby betrayed an uncommon readiness to trust more in the public prosecutor’s judgment than in his own judicious discretion as a trial judge. He should not do so.

 

          Judge Infante made the situation worse by brushing aside the valid remonstrations expressed in Atty. Gacal’s very urgent motion thusly:

 

       This Court is not unaware that the charge of murder being a capital offense is not bailable xxx

xxxx

         The phrase “xxx application for admission to bail xxx” is not an irrelevant but a significant infusion in the cited rule (section 8), the plain import of which is that bail hearing is preceded by a motion/petition for admission to bail filed by a detained accused himself or thru counsel.

The peculiar feature of the instant case, however, is the absence of a petition/motion for admission to bail filed by the herein accused. On the contrary, it is the consistent position of the fiscal to recommend bail since the prosecution evidence being merely circumstantial, is not strong for the purpose of granting bail. xxx. This court believes that bail hearing, albeit necessary in the grant of bail involving capital offense, is not at all times and in all instances essential to afford the party the right to due process especially so, when the fiscal in this case was given reasonable opportunity to explain his side, and yet he maintained the propriety of grant of bail without need of hearing since the prosecution evidence is not strong for the purpose of granting bail.

 

         Further, while it is preponderant of judicial experience to adopt the fiscal’s recommendation in bail fixing, this court, however, had in addition and in accord with Section 6(a) of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, evaluated the record of the case, and only upon being convinced and satisfied that the prosecution evidence as contained in the affidavits of all the prosecution witnesses, no one being an eye-witness are merely circumstantial evidence, that this court in the exercise of sound discretion allowed the accused to post bail.

xxxx 

The convergence of the foregoing factors – absence of motion for admission to bail filed by the accused, the recommendation of the fiscal to grant bail, the pro forma motion of the private prosecutor for lack of prior approval from the fiscal and this court’s evaluation of the records – sufficiently warrants the grant of bail to herein accused.[14][14]

 

 

          Judge Infante specifically cited judicial experience as sanctioning his adoption and approval of the public prosecutor’s recommendation on the fixing of bail. Yet, it was not concealed from him that the public prosecutor’s recommendation had been mainly based on the documentary evidence adduced,[15][15] and on the public prosecutor’s misguided position that the evidence of guilt was weak because only circumstantial evidence had been presented. As such, Judge Infante’s unquestioning echoing of the public prosecutor’s conclusion about the evidence of guilt not being sufficient to deny bail did not justify his dispensing with the bail hearing.

 

Judge Infante apparently acted as if the requirement for the bail hearing was a merely minor rule to be dispensed with. Although, in theory, the only function of bail is to ensure the appearance of the accused at the time set for the arraignment and trial; and, in practice, bail serves the further purpose of preventing the release of an accused who may be dangerous to society or whom the judge may not want to release,[16][16] a hearing upon notice is mandatory before the grant of bail, whether bail is a matter of right or discretion.[17][17] With more reason is this true in criminal prosecutions of a capital offense, or of an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. Rule 114, Section 7 of the Rules of Court, as amended, states that: “No person charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment when the evidence of guilt is strong, shall be admitted to bail regardless of the stage of criminal action.”

 

          In Cortes v. Catral,[18][18] therefore, the Court has outlined the following duties of the judge once an application for bail is filed, to wit:

 

  1. In all cases whether bail is a matter of right or discretion, notify the prosecutor of the hearing of the application for bail or require him to submit his recommendation (Section 18, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended);

 

  1. Where bail is a matter of discretion, conduct a hearing of the application for bail regardless or whether or not the prosecution refuses to present evidence to show that the guilt of the accused is strong for the purpose of enabling the court to exercise its sound discretion (Sections 7 and 8, id);

 

  1. Decide whether the guilt of the accused is strong based on the summary of evidence of the prosecution;

 

  1. If the guilt of the accused is not strong, discharge the accused upon the approval of the bail bond (Section 19, id); otherwise, the petition should be denied. [emphasis supplied]

 

 

II

Judge Infante disregarded rules and guidelines

in Criminal Case No. 1138-03

 

Ostensibly, Judge Infante disregarded basic but well-known rules and guidelines on the matter of bail. 

 

1.

In case no application for bail is filed,

bail hearing was not dispensable

    

 

Judge Infante contends that a bail hearing in Criminal Case No. 1138-03 was not necessary because the accused did not file an application for bail; and because the public prosecutor had recommended bail.

 

          Judge Infante’s contention is unwarranted.

          Even where there is no petition for bail in a case like Criminal Case No. 1138-03, a hearing should still be held. This hearing is separate and distinct from the initial hearing to determine the existence of probable cause, in which the trial judge ascertains whether or not there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty of the crime. The Prosecution must be given a chance to show the strength of its evidence; otherwise, a violation of due process occurs.[19][19]

 

The fact that the public prosecutor recommended bail for Ancheta did not warrant dispensing with the hearing. The public prosecutor’s recommendation of bail was not material in deciding whether to conduct the mandatory hearing or not. For one, the public prosecutor’s recommendation, albeit persuasive, did not necessarily bind the trial judge,[20][20] in whom alone the discretion to determine whether to grant bail or not was vested. Whatever the public prosecutor recommended, including the amount of bail, was non-binding. Nor did such recommendation constitute a showing that the evidence of guilt was not strong. If it was otherwise, the trial judge could become unavoidably controlled by the Prosecution.

 

Being the trial judge, Judge Infante had to be aware of the precedents laid down by the Supreme Court regarding the bail hearing being mandatory and indispensable. He ought to have remembered, then, that it was only through such hearing that he could be put in a position to determine whether the evidence for the Prosecution was weak or strong.[21][21] Hence, his dispensing with the hearing manifested a gross ignorance of the law and the rules.

 

2.

Public prosecutor’s failure to oppose

application for bail or to adduce evidence

did not dispense with hearing

                                               

 

That the Prosecution did not oppose the grant of bail to Ancheta, as in fact it recommended bail, and that the Prosecution did not want to adduce evidence were irrelevant, and did not dispense with the bail hearing. The gravity of the charge in Criminal Case No. 1138-03 made it still mandatory for Judge Infante to conduct a bail hearing in which he could have made on his own searching and clarificatory questions from which to infer the strength or weakness of the evidence of guilt. He should not have readily and easily gone along with the public prosecutor’s opinion that the evidence of guilt, being circumstantial, was not strong enough to deny bail; else, he might be regarded as having abdicated from a responsibility that was his alone as the trial judge.

 

Judge Infante’s holding that circumstantial evidence of guilt was of a lesser weight than direct evidence in the establishment of guilt was also surprising. His training and experience should have cautioned him enough on the point that the lack or absence of direct evidence did not necessarily mean that the guilt of the accused could not anymore be proved, because circumstantial evidence, if sufficient, could supplant the absence of direct evidence.[22][22] In short, evidence of guilt was not necessarily weak because it was circumstantial.

 

Instead, Judge Infante should have assiduously determined why the Prosecution refused to satisfy its burden of proof in the admission of the accused to bail. Should he have found that the public prosecutor’s refusal was not justified, he could have then himself inquired on the nature and extent of the evidence of guilt for the purpose of enabling himself to ascertain whether or not such evidence was strong. He could not have ignored the possibility that the public prosecutor might have erred in assessing the evidence of guilt as weak.[23][23] At any rate, if he found the Prosecution to be uncooperative, he could still have endeavored to determine on his own the existence of such evidence,[24][24] with the assistance of the private prosecutor.

 

3.

Judge Infante’s granting of bail without a hearing was

censurable for gross ignorance of the law and the rules

 

          Every judge should be faithful to the law and should maintain professional competence.[25][25] His role in the administration of justice requires a continuous study of the law and jurisprudence, lest public confidence in the Judiciary be eroded by incompetence and irresponsible conduct.[26][26]

 

In that light, the failure of Judge Infante to conduct a hearing prior to the grant of bail in capital offenses was inexcusable and reflected gross ignorance of the law and the rules as well as a cavalier disregard of its requirement.[27][27] He well knew that the determination of whether or not the evidence of guilt is strong was a matter of judicial discretion,[28][28] and that the discretion lay not in the determination of whether or not a hearing should be held, but in the appreciation and evaluation of the weight of the Prosecution’s evidence of guilt against the accused.[29][29] His fault was made worse by his granting bail despite the absence of a petition for bail from the accused.[30][30] Consequently, any order he issued in the absence of the requisite evidence was not a product of sound judicial discretion but of whim and caprice and outright arbitrariness.[31][31]

 

III

Imposable Penalty

 

          We next determine the penalty imposable on Judge Infante for his gross ignorance of the law and the rules.

 

The Court imposed a fine of P20,000.00 on the respondent judge in Docena-Caspe v. Bugtas.[32][32] In that case, the respondent judge granted bail to the two accused who had been charged with murder without first conducting a hearing. Likewise, in Loyola v. Gabo,[33][33] the Court fined the respondent judge in the similar amount of P20,000.00 for granting bail to the accused in a murder case without the requisite bail hearing. To accord with such precedents, the Court prescribes a fine of P20,000.00 on Judge Infante, with a stern warning that a repetition of the offense or the commission of another serious offense will be more severely dealt with.

 

          WHEREFORE, we FIND AND DECLARE Judge Jaime I. Infante guilty of gross ignorance of the law and the rules; and, accordingly, FINE him in the amount of P20,000.00, with a stern warning that a repetition of the offense or the commission of another serious offense will be more severely dealt with.

 

          Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Court Administrator for proper dissemination to all trial judges.

 

            SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

 

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

 

 

WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

Chairperson

 

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO    MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

         Associate Justice                                          Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 


 


[1][1]   Rollo, pp. 44 – 45.

[2][2]   Id., p. 4.

[3][3]   Id., pp. 121-123.

[4][4]   Rollo, pp 1 -8 , 6.

[5][5]   Id., pp. 67 -70, 70.

[6][6]   Id., p. 70.

[7][7]   Id.

[8][8]   Id., p. 67.

[9][9]   Id., p. 90.

[10][10]         Id., pp. 94-103 (bold emphasis is in the original text).

[11][11]         Id., pp. 205-212.

[12][12]         Id., p. 213.

[13][13]         Id., p. 224. 

[14][14]         Id., pp. 22-23 (bold emphasis supplied).

[15][15]         Id., pp. 101-102.

[16][16]         Basco v. Rapatalo, A.M. No. RTJ-96-1335, March 5, 1997, 269 SCRA 220.

[17][17]         Te v. Perez, A.M. No. MTJ-00-1286, January 21, 2002, 374 SCRA 130; Bangayan v. Butacan, A.M. No. MTJ-00-1320, November 22, 2000, 345 SCRA 301, 306.

[18][18]         A.M. No. RTJ-97-138, September 10, 1997, 279 SCRA 1, 18.

[19][19]         Directo v. Bautista, A.M. No. MTJ-99-1205, November 29, 2000, 346 SCRA 223.

[20][20]         Marzan-Gelacio v. Flores, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1488, June 20, 2000, 334 SCRA 1, 9.

[21][21]         Marzan-Gelacio v. Flores, supra.

[22][22]         Gan v. People, G.R. No. 165884, April 23, 2007, 521 SCRA 550.

[23][23]         Marzan-Gelacio v. Flores, supra, Note 20.

[24][24]         Te v. Perez, AM No. MTJ-00-1286, January 21, 2002, 374 SCRA 130.

[25][25]         Rule 3.01, Code of Judicial Conduct.

[26][26]         Taborite v. Sollesta, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1388, August 12, 2003, 408 SCRA 602.

[27][27]         Bantuas v. Pangadapun, RTJ-98-1407, July 20, 1998, 292 SCRA 622.

[28][28]         Aleria, Jr. v. Velez, G.R. No. 127400, November 16, 1998, 298 SCRA 611

[29][29]         Gimeno v. Arcueno, Sr., A.M. No. MTJ-94-981, November 29, 1995, 250 SCRA 376.

[30][30]         Delos Santos-Reyes v. Montesa, Jr., A.M. No. RTJ-93-983, August 7, 1995, 247 SCRA 85.

[31][31]         Baylon v. Sison, AM No. 92-7-360-0, April 6, 1995, 243 SCRA 284.

[32][32]         AM RTJ-03-1767, March 28, 2003, 400 SCRA 37.

[33][33]         A.M. No. RTJ-00-1524, January 26, 2000, 323 SCRA 348.

TIP 0014: THE CASE OF JUDGE MANOLITO Y. GUMARANG

 

SOURCE: ERNESTO Z. ORBE VS. JUDGE MANOLITO Y. GUMARANG, PAIRING JUDGE, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT, IMUS, CAVITE (A.M. NO. MTJ-11-1792, 26 SEPTEMBER 2011) SUBJECTS: SMALL CLAIM CASES;  CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT. (BRIEF TITLE: ORDE VS. JUDGE GUMARANG).

 

===============================

 

DISPOSITIVE:

 

WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Manolito Y. Gumarang, Municipal Trial Court, Imus, Cavite, GUILTY of Undue Delay in Rendering a Decision and Violation of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, and is hereby ORDERED to pay a fine of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) and WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

===============================

 

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST

 

 

SMALL CLAIM CASE FILED BY POBRE WAS ASSIGNED TO JUDGE GUMARANG ON FEB 9, 2010. IT WAS RESET TO MARCH 4 THEN RESET TO MARCH 11 THEN TO MARCH 25 AND THEN TO APRIL 15. DID JUDGE GUMARANG VIOLATE THE SMALL CLAIMS RULE?

 

 

YES. HE FAILED TO RESOLVE THE CASE WITHIN 5 DAYS FROM THE TIME IT WAS ASSIGNED TO HIM.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

JUDGE GUMARANG ARGUED THAT THE 5 DAYS REFER TO FIVE CALENDAR DATES WHEN THE CASE WAS SET FOR HEARING AND NOT FIVE CONSECUTIVE DAYS. IS HIS ARGUMENT CORRECT?

 

 

NO. THE RULE SAYS 5 DAYS. THERE IS NO ROOM FOR FURTHER INTERPRETATION; IT DOES NOT REQUIRE RESPONDENT’S EXERCISE OF DISCRETION.  HE IS DUTY-BOUND TO ADHERE TO THE RULES AND DECIDE SMALL CLAIMS CASES WITHOUT UNDUE DELAY.

 

 

Thus, the intent of the law in providing the period to hear and decide cases falling under the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, which is within five (5) days from the receipt of the order of assignment, is very clear.  The exigency of prompt rendition of judgment in small claims cases is a matter of public policy.  There is no room for further interpretation; it does not require respondent’s exercise of discretion.  He is duty-bound to adhere to the rules and decide small claims cases without undue delay.

………………………..

 

Time and again, we have ruled that when the rules of procedure are clear and unambiguous, leaving no room for interpretation, all that is needed to do is to simply apply it. 

 

XXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

WHAT IS HIS PENALTY?

 

 

UNDER THE RULES HIS ACT CONSTITUTES UNDUE DELAY IN RENDITION OF JUDGMENT. THE PENALTY IS, INTER ALIA, A FINE OF MORE THAN P10,000.00. BUT SINCE THE SMALL CLAIMS CASE RULE IS NEW, SC DEEMED IT PROPER TO IMPOSE FINE OF P5,000.00.

 

 

Section 9 (1), Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended, provides that undue delay in rendering a decision or order is classified as a less serious charge, which is punishable by suspension from office, without salary and other benefits for not less than one (1) or more than three (3) months; or a fine of more than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00.  Considering that the Rule on small claims is a new rule, and that this is respondent judge’s first violation of the rule, we deem it proper to impose a fine in the amount of P5,000.00.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

CAN JUDGE GUMARANG INVOKE AS DEFENSE GOOD FAITH OR LACK OF MALICE?

 

 

NO BECAUSE THE RULES VIOLATED WERE BASIC PROCEDURAL RULES.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

IF A JUDGE FAILS TO APPLY ELEMENTARY RULES OF PROCEDURE WHAT IS HIS LIABILITY?

 

 

HE IS LIABLE FOR GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW AND PROCEDURE.

 

 

         Time and again, we have ruled that when the rules of procedure are clear and unambiguous, leaving no room for interpretation, all that is needed to do is to simply apply it.  Failure to apply elementary rules of procedure constitutes gross ignorance of the law and procedure.  In the instant case, neither good faith nor lack of malice will exonerate respondent, as the rules violated were basic procedural rules.

 

 

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

WHAT IS THE INTENT OF THE LAW IN PROVIDING A 5 DAY DEADLINE IN RESOLVING SMALL CLAIMS CASES?

 

 

THE EXIGENCY OF PROMPT RENDITION OF JUDGMENT IN SMALL CLAIMS CASES IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC POLICY.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE AND ESSENCE OF THE RULE OF PROCEDURE FOR SMALL CLAIMS CASES?

 

 

TO ENHANCE  ACCESS TO JUSTICE, ESPECIALLY BY THOSE WHO CANNOT AFFORD THE HIGH COSTS OF LITIGATION PARTICULARLY  IN CASES OF RELATIVELY SMALL VALUE AND TO IMPROVE PERCEPTION OF JUSTICE.

 

 

Judge Gumarang must have missed the very purpose and essence of the creation of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, as his interpretation of the Rule is rather misplaced.  It is, therefore, imperative to emphasize what the Court sought to accomplish in creating the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, to wit:

 

x x x Thus, pursuant to its rule-making power, the Court, under the present Constitution, can adopt a special rule of procedure to govern small claims cases and select pilot courts that would empower the people to bring suits before them pro se to resolve legal disputes involving simple issues of law and procedure without the need for legal representation and extensive judicial intervention. This system will enhance access to justice, especially by those who cannot afford the high costs of litigation even in cases of relatively small value.  It is envisioned that by facilitating the traffic of cases through simple and expeditious rules and means, our Court can improve the perception of justice in this country, thus, giving citizens a renewed “stake” in preserving peace in the land. x x x[1][6]

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

WHAT IS THE RATIONALE BEHIND THE RULE?

 

 

THE TIME AND EXPENSE REQUIRED BY ORDINARY LEGISLATION IS DISPROPORTIONATE TO THE AMOUNT INVOLVED. THUS IT DISCOURAGE JUST RESOLUTION OF THE DISPUTE.

 

 

XXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE RULE?

 

 

THERE ARE NO LAWYERS, NO FORMAL PLEADINGS AND NO STRICT LEGAL RULES OF EVIDENCE.

 

 

        The theory behind the small claims system is that ordinary litigation fails to bring practical justice to the parties when the disputed claim is small, because the time and expense required by the ordinary litigation process is so disproportionate to the amount involved that it discourages a just resolution of the dispute.  The small claims process is designed to function quickly and informally.  There are no lawyers, no formal pleadings and no strict legal rules of evidence.[2][7]

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

IS POSTPONEMENT ALLOWED?

 

 

ONLY ONE AND ONLY UPON PROOF OF PHYSICAL INABILITY OF THE PARTY TO APPEAR.

 

 

        The need for prompt resolution of small claims cases is further emphasized by Section 19 of the Rule, which provides that:

 

SEC. 19. Postponement When Allowed. — A request for postponement of a hearing may be granted only upon proof of the physical inability of the party to appear before the court on the scheduled date and time. A party may avail of only one (1) postponement.

 

 

          In the instant case, it is noteworthy to mention that the postponements were not attributed to any of the parties to the case.  The numerous postponements, which in some instances were upon respondent’s initiative, were uncalled for and unjustified, considering that it was already established that all efforts for amicable settlement were futile.  Thus, the postponements were clear violation of the Rule and defeat the very essence of the Rule.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE REQUIREMENT THAT CASES BE DECIDED WITHIN THE REGLEMENTARY PERIOD?

 

TO PREVENT DELAY IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE BECAUSE JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED.

 

 

        We cannot countenance undue delay in the disposition of cases or motions, especially now when there is an all-out effort to minimize  if not totally eradicate  the problem of congestion long plaguing our courts.  The requirement that cases be decided within the reglementary period is designed to prevent delay in the administration of justice.  For obviously, justice delayed is justice denied.  Delay in the disposition of cases erodes the faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary, lowers its standards, and brings it into disrepute.[3][8]

 

===============================

 

 

 

Republic of thePhilippines

Supreme Court

Manila

 

 

                                                        THIRD DIVISION

                         

ERNESTO Z. ORBE,                                                                                               

                          Complainant,

 

 

 

versus

 

 

 

JUDGE MANOLITO Y. GUMARANG, Pairing Judge, Municipal Trial Court, Imus, Cavite,

                           Respondent.                                   

A.M. No.  MTJ-11-1792

[Formerly OCA I.P.I No. 10-2294-MTJ]

      

      Present:

 

PERALTA, J., Acting Chairperson,

ABAD,

PEREZ,*

MENDOZA, and

PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.

 

Promulgated:

 

        September 26, 2011

x—————————————————————————————x

 

 

DECISION

 

 

PERALTA, J.:

 

 

          Before us is an administrative complaint[4][1] filed by complainant Ernesto Z. Orbe (Orbe) against Judge Manolito Y. Gumarang (respondent), Pairing Judge, Municipal Trial Court (MTC), Imus,Cavite for Violation of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases and the Code of Judicial Conduct.

 

          The antecedent facts are as follows:

 

 

          Orbe is the plaintiff of a small claims case docketed as Civil Case No. ICSCC 09-65 entitled E.Z. Orbe Tax Accounting Services, thru, Ernesto Z. Orbe v. L.G.M. Silver Star Credit Corporation, represented by Librado Montano, filed before the MTC of Imus,Cavite, presided by Judge Emily A. Geluz.

 

          During the hearing of the case onFebruary 9, 2010, the parties failed to reach an amicable settlement.  On the same day, the case was assigned to respondent Judge Manolito Y. Gumarang, Assisting Judge of the MTC of Imus,Cavite, for the continuation of the trial.

 

          Complainant alleged that the case was scheduled for hearing onMarch 4, 2010, but was postponed by respondent toMarch 11, 2010because of power interruption.  OnMarch 11, 2010, again the hearing was reset by respondent Judge Gumarang toMarch 25, 2010as he was due for medical check-up.  OnMarch 25, 2010, respondent conducted another Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR), and again reset the hearing toApril 15, 2010when the parties failed to reach an amicable agreement.

 

          Complainant argued that Judge Gumarang violated the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases for failure to decide the civil case within five (5) days from receipt of the order of reassignment.

 

          On August 2, 2010, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) directed Judge Gumarang to submit his comment on the complaint against him.[5][2]

 

          In his Comment[6][3] datedSeptember 13, 2010, Judge Gumarang explained that as Assisting Judge in the MTC of Bacoor,Cavite, he tried small claims cases only on Thursdays.  He admitted that he failed to decide the case within five (5) working days from receipt of the order, as mandated by the Rule.  However, he pointed out that the Rule needed clarification since, as in his case, the five (5) working days should be construed to refer to five (5) calendared trial dates falling on Thursdays only, considering that he allotted only one day, that is Thursday, to hear and try small claims cases.

 

          On May 10, 2011, the OCA, in its Memorandum,[7][4] recommended that the instant matter be redocketed as a regular administrative complaint. It likewise found Judge Gumarang guilty of Gross Ignorance of the Law, but recommended that he be fined in the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) only for  violating the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases.

 

          We agree with the findings and recommendation of the OCA.

 

          Indeed, Section 22 of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases clearly provided for the period within which judgment should be rendered, to wit:

Section 22. Failure of Settlement – If efforts at settlement fail, the hearing shall proceed in an informal and expeditious manner and be terminated within one (1) day. Either party may move in writing to have another judge hear and decide the case. The reassignment of the case shall be done in accordance with existing issuances.

 

            The referral by the original judge to the Executive Judge shall be made within the same day the motion is filed and granted, and by the Executive Judge to the designated judge within the same day of the referral. The new judge shall hear and decide the case within five (5) days from the receipt of the order of reassignment.[8][5]

 

 

          In this case, it is undisputed that it took more than two (2) months for respondent to render a decision on the subject case as he himself admitted the series of postponements which occurred during the pendency of the case. His lone argument was that he hears small claims cases on Thursdays only, hence, he claimed that, in his case, the period of five (5) working days being referred to by Section 22 of the Rule should pertain only to Thursdays.

 

          We are unconvinced.

 

          Judge Gumarang must have missed the very purpose and essence of the creation of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, as his interpretation of the Rule is rather misplaced.  It is, therefore, imperative to emphasize what the Court sought to accomplish in creating the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, to wit:

 

x x x Thus, pursuant to its rule-making power, the Court, under the present Constitution, can adopt a special rule of procedure to govern small claims cases and select pilot courts that would empower the people to bring suits before them pro se to resolve legal disputes involving simple issues of law and procedure without the need for legal representation and extensive judicial intervention. This system will enhance access to justice, especially by those who cannot afford the high costs of litigation even in cases of relatively small value.  It is envisioned that by facilitating the traffic of cases through simple and expeditious rules and means, our Court can improve the perception of justice in this country, thus, giving citizens a renewed “stake” in preserving peace in the land. x x x[9][6]

 

 

          The theory behind the small claims system is that ordinary litigation fails to bring practical justice to the parties when the disputed claim is small, because the time and expense required by the ordinary litigation process is so disproportionate to the amount involved that it discourages a just resolution of the dispute.  The small claims process is designed to function quickly and informally.  There are no lawyers, no formal pleadings and no strict legal rules of evidence.[10][7]

 

          Thus, the intent of the law in providing the period to hear and decide cases falling under the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, which is within five (5) days from the receipt of the order of assignment, is very clear.  The exigency of prompt rendition of judgment in small claims cases is a matter of public policy.  There is no room for further interpretation; it does not require respondent’s exercise of discretion.  He is duty-bound to adhere to the rules and decide small claims cases without undue delay.

 

          The need for prompt resolution of small claims cases is further emphasized by Section 19 of the Rule, which provides that:

 

SEC. 19. Postponement When Allowed. — A request for postponement of a hearing may be granted only upon proof of the physical inability of the party to appear before the court on the scheduled date and time. A party may avail of only one (1) postponement.

 

 

            In the instant case, it is noteworthy to mention that the postponements were not attributed to any of the parties to the case.  The numerous postponements, which in some instances were upon respondent’s initiative, were uncalled for and unjustified, considering that it was already established that all efforts for amicable settlement were futile.  Thus, the postponements were clear violation of the Rule and defeat the very essence of the Rule.

 

           Time and again, we have ruled that when the rules of procedure are clear and unambiguous, leaving no room for interpretation, all that is needed to do is to simply apply it.  Failure to apply elementary rules of procedure constitutes gross ignorance of the law and procedure.  In the instant case, neither good faith nor lack of malice will exonerate respondent, as the rules violated were basic procedural rules.

 

          We cannot countenance undue delay in the disposition of cases or motions, especially now when there is an all-out effort to minimize  if not totally eradicate  the problem of congestion long plaguing our courts.  The requirement that cases be decided within the reglementary period is designed to prevent delay in the administration of justice.  For obviously, justice delayed is justice denied.  Delay in the disposition of cases erodes the faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary, lowers its standards, and brings it into disrepute.[11][8]

 

          Section 9 (1), Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended, provides that undue delay in rendering a decision or order is classified as a less serious charge, which is punishable by suspension from office, without salary and other benefits for not less than one (1) or more than three (3) months; or a fine of more than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00.  Considering that the Rule on small claims is a new rule, and that this is respondent judge’s first violation of the rule, we deem it proper to impose a fine in the amount of P5,000.00.

 

          WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Manolito Y. Gumarang, Municipal Trial Court, Imus, Cavite, GUILTY of Undue Delay in Rendering a Decision and Violation of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, and is hereby ORDERED to pay a fine of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) and WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

                                             ROBERTO A. ABAD  

                                                Associate Justice

 

 

 

   JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ                          JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA 

             Associate Justice                                        Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE

Associate Justice

 

 

 


 


[1][6]           A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC, RULE OF PROCEDURE FOR SMALL CLAIMS CASES, EFFECTIVEOCTOBER 1, 2008, p. 34.  (Emphasis supplied.)

[2][7]           Rollo, p. 36.

[3][8]           Visbal v. Sescon, 456 Phil. 552, 558-559 (2003).

*               Designated additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., per Special Order No. 1102 datedSeptember 21, 2011.

[4][1]           Rollo, pp. 1-4.

[5][2]           Id. at 43.

[6][3]           Id. at 41-42.

[7][4]           Id. at 45-47.

[8][5]           Emphasis supplied.

[9][6]           A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC, RULE OF PROCEDURE FOR SMALL CLAIMS CASES, EFFECTIVEOCTOBER 1, 2008, p. 34.  (Emphasis supplied.)

[10][7]          Rollo, p. 36.

[11][8]          Visbal v. Sescon, 456 Phil. 552, 558-559 (2003).

TIP 0013: THE CASE OF JUDGE EDWIN G. LARIDA, JR.

 

SOURCE: ATTY. EMMANUEL R. ANDAMO VS. JUDGE EDWIN G. LARIDA, JR., CLERK OF COURT STANLEE D. CALMA AND LEGAL RESEARCHER DIANA G. RUIZ, ALL OF  REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 18 TAGAYTAY CITY (G.R. NO. RTJ-11-2265, 21 SEPTEMBER 2011, MENDOZA, J.) SUBJECTS: FILING FRIVOLOUS COMPLAINT AGAINST COURT PERSONNEL; GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW; ISSUANCE OF WRIT OF POSSESSION AS MINISTERIAL DUTY. (BRIEF TITLE: ATTY. ANDAMO VS. JUDGE LARIDA).

========================

DISPOSITIVE:

WHEREFORE, as recommended by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, the complaint against respondents Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr., Clerk of Court Stanlee D. Calma and Legal Researcher Diana G. Ruiz, all of Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Tagaytay City, for gross ignorance of the law is DISMISSED for utter lack of merit.

 

Complainant Atty. Emmanuel R. Andamo is hereby ordered to SHOW CAUSE why he should not be subjected to disciplinary action for filing a frivolous and baseless complaint against the respondent judiciary personnel, within ten (10) days from receipt hereof.

 

SO ORDERED

========================

 

SUBJECTS/ DOCTRINES/ DIGESTS:

 

WHAT IS MEANT BY THE MINISTERIAL CHARACTER OF THE JUDICIAL DUTY TO ISSUE WRITS OF POSSESSION?

 

 

AFTER ALL THE REQUISITE ELEMENTS FOR ISSUANCE OF A WRIT OF POSSESSION, WHICH ARE: (1) CONSOLIDATION OF OWNERSHIP IN THE MORTGAGOR’S NAME; AND (2) ISSUANCE TO MORTGAGOR OF A NEW TCT, SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY ESTABLISHED, THE TRIAL COURT HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO ISSUE THE WRIT PRAYED FOR. IT CANNOT WITHHOLD, SUSPEND, OR OTHERWISE DENY THIS RELIEF FROM PETITIONER.

 

 

The ministerial character of judicial duty to issue writs of possession in extrajudicial foreclosure proceedings is explained in the case of Saguan v. Philippine Bank of Communications. [1][32] Thus:

 

A writ of possession is an order enforcing a judgment to allow a person’s recovery of possession of real or personal property.  An instance when a writ of possession may issue is under Act No. 3135, as amended by act No. 4118, on extrajudicial foreclosure of real estate mortgage.  Sections 6 and 7 provide, to wit:

 

            Section 6.  Redemption.—In all cases in which an extrajudicial sale is made under the special power herein before referred to, the debtor, his successors-in-interest or any judicial creditor or judgment creditor of said debtor or any person having a lien on the property subsequent to the mortgage or deed of trust under which the property is sold, may redeem the same at anytime within the term of one year from and after the date of the sale; and such redemption shall be governed by the provisions of section four hundred and sixty-four hundred and sixty-six, inclusive, of the Code of Civil Procedure, in so far as these are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act.

 

            Section 7.  Possession during redemption period.—In any sale made under the provisions of this Act, the purchaser may petition the Court of First Instance of the province or place where the property or any part thereof is situated, to give him possession thereof during the redemption period, furnishing bond in an amount equivalent to the use of the property for a period of twelve months, to indemnify the debtor in case it be shown that the same was made without  violating the mortgage or without complying with the requirements of this Act.  Such petition shall be made under oath and filed in [the] form of the ex-parte motion in the registration or cadastral proceedings if the property is registered, or in special proceedings in case of property registered under the Mortgage Law or under section one hundred and ninety-four of the Administrative Code, or of any other real property encumbered with a mortgage duly registered in the office of any register of deeds in accordance with any existing law, and in each case the clerk of court shall, upon the filing of such petition, collect the fees specified in paragraph eleven of section one hundred and fourteen of Act Number Four hundred and ninety-six, and the court shall , upon approval of the bond, order that a writ of possession issue, addressed to the sheriff of the province in which the property is situated, who shall execute said order immediately.

 

From the foregoing provisions, a writ of possession may be issued either (1) within the one-year redemption period, upon the filing of a bond, or (2) after the lapse of the redemption period, without need of a bond.

 

Within the redemption period the purchaser in a foreclosure sale may apply for a writ of possession by filing for that purpose an ex-parte motion under oath, in the corresponding registration or cadastral proceeding in the case of property covered by aTorrenstitle.  Upon the filing of an ex-parte motion and the approval of the corresponding bond, the court is expressly directed to issue the order for a writ of possession.

 

On the other hand, after the lapse of the redemption period, a writ of possession may be issued in favor of the purchaser in a foreclosure sale as the mortgagor is now considered to have lost interest over the foreclosed property.  Consequently, the purchaser, who has a right to possession after the expiration of the redemption period, becomes the absolute owner of the property when no redemption is made. In this regard, the bond is no longer needed.  The purchaser can demand possession at any time following the consolidation of ownership in his name and the issuance to him of a new TCT.  After consolidation of title in the purchaser’s name for failure of the mortgagor to redeem the property, the purchaser’s right to possession ripens into the absolute right of a confirmed owner.  At that point, the issuance of a writ of possession, upon proper application and proof of title, to a purchaser in an extrajudicial foreclosure sale becomes merely a ministerial function.  Effectively, the court cannot exercise its discretion.

 

Therefore, the issuance by the RTC of a writ of possession in favor of the respondent in this case is proper.  We have consistently held that the duty of the trial court to grant a writ of possession in such instances is ministerial, and the court may not exercise discretion or judgment.  The propriety of the issuance of the writ was heightened in this case where the respondent’s right to possession of the properties extended after the expiration of the redemption period, and became absolute upon the petitioners’ failure to redeem the mortgaged properties. [Underscoring supplied]

 

Simply put, after all the requisite elements for issuance of a writ of possession, which are: (1) consolidation of ownership in the mortgagor’s name; and (2) issuance to mortgagor of a new TCT, shall have been duly established, the trial court has no choice but to issue the writ prayed for. It cannot withhold, suspend, or otherwise deny this relief from petitioner.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

JUDGE LARIDA JR. DID NOT GRANT IMMEDIATELY COMPLAINANT’S URGENT MOTION FOR ISSUANCE OF WRIT OF POSSESSION. HE RULED THAT COMPLAINANT HAD YET TO PRESENT EVIDENCE TO ESTABLISH HIS ENTITLEMENT TO THE WRIT. CAN HE BE HELD LIABLE FOR GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW?

 

 

NO. JUDGE LARIDA JR.’S FAITHFULLY ADHERED TO HIS JUDICIAL DUTY TO REVIEW THE CASES, SERVE DUE PROCESS TO ALL PARTIES CONCERNED, AND TO EVENTUALLY DECIDE THE PETITIONS BASED SOLELY ON LAW AND EVIDENCE.

 

 

In this case, Judge Larida Jr. denied complainant’s “Urgent Ex-Parte Joint Motion for Early Resolution of Ex-Parte Joint Petition for the Issuance of Writs of Possession” in TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141 precisely because CRBC had yet to present evidence to establish its entitlement to the writs prayed for.[2][33] As it was, complainant negatively reacted to Judge Larida Jr.’s directive and accused him of gross ignorance of the law for not instantly resolving the petitions, for ruling that his client had yet to present evidence and for recognizing Atty. Anarna’s appearance as oppositor’s counsel.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

WHEN CAN A JUDGE BE HELD LIABLE FOR GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW?

IF IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT HE COMMITTED AN ERROR SO GROSS AND PATENT AS TO PRODUCE AN INFERENCE OF BAD FAITH. IN ADDITION TO THIS, THE ACTS COMPLAINED OF MUST NOT ONLY BE CONTRARY TO EXISTING LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE, BUT SHOULD ALSO BE MOTIVATED BY BAD FAITH, FRAUD, DISHONESTY, AND CORRUPTION.[3][34]

 

 

It is settled that a judge can be held liable for gross ignorance of the law if it can be shown that he committed an error so gross and patent as to produce an inference of bad faith. In addition to this, the acts complained of must not only be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence, but should also be motivated by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty, and corruption.[4][34]

 

The reasons cited by complainant, far from constituting gross ignorance of the law, actually reflect respondent Judge Larida Jr.’s faithful adherence to his judicial duty to review the cases, serve due process to all parties concerned, and to eventually decide the petitions based solely on law and evidence. Be that as it may, respondent Judge Larida, Jr. has nothing more to do with these cases since his detail to RTC, Branch 74,MalabonCity.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

WHAT MUST BE DONE TO A LAWYER WHO FILES AN UNFOUNDED COMPLAINT?

 

 

HE MUST BE SANCTIONED. FILING OF BASELESS COMPLAINT IS CONTEMPTUOUS.

 

 

 

 “A lawyer who files an unfounded complaint must be sanctioned because, as an officer of the court, he does not discharge his duty by filing frivolous petitions that only add to the workload of the judiciary. Such filing of baseless complaints is contemptuous of the courts.”[5][41]

 

========================

 

Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

 

THIRD DIVISION

 

ATTY. EMMANUEL R. ANDAMO,

                                   Complainant,

 

 

 

– versus –

 

 

 

 

JUDGE EDWIN G. LARIDA, JR., CLERK OF COURT STANLEE D. CALMA and

LEGAL RESEARCHER

DIANA G. RUIZ,

all of  Regional Trial Court,

Branch 18 Tagaytay City,

                                    Respondents.

 

A.M. No. RTJ-11-2265

[Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 08-2986-RTJ]

 

Present:

 

VELASCO, JR., J., Chairperson,

PERALTA,

ABAD,

MENDOZA, and

PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Promulgated:

 

       September 21, 2011

 

x ————————————————————————————— x

 

D E C I S I O N

 

MENDOZA, J.:

 

Doubtless, the Court will never tolerate or condone any conduct, act or omission that would violate the norm of public accountability or diminish the people’s faith in the judiciary. However, it will not hesitate to protect innocent court employees against any baseless accusation or administrative charge that only serve to disrupt rather than promote the orderly administration of justice.[6][1]

           

 

At bench is an administrative case against respondents Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr. (Judge Larida, Jr.), Clerk of Court Stanlee D. Calma (Atty. Calma) and Legal Researcher Diana G. Cruz (LR Ruiz), all of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 18,TagaytayCity.

 

 

The Facts:

 

 

            In a Letter-Complaint dated August 26, 2008,[7][2] complainant Atty. Emmanuel R. Andamo (complainant), counsel for Cavite Rural Banking Corporation (CRBC), charged Judge Larida, Jr., Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz with ignorance of the law.

 

          The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) summarized the letter-complaint and its attachments as follows:

 

I.         Four (4) Petitions for issuance by the Clerk of Court of Certificates of Sale under Act 3135, as amended:

 

  1. Cavite Rural Banking Corporation, petitioner, Freddie P. Magno, mortgagor, filed on 28 December 2005 – (Re:  application for extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage, 19 March 2003);

 

2.  Cavite Rural Banking Corporation, petitioner, Sps. Sixto & Norma Tolentino, mortgagors, filed on 28 December 2005 – (Re:  application for extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage, 19 March 2003);

 

  1. Cavite Rural Banking Corporation, petitioner, Sps. Jonathan & Yolanda Peñaranda, mortgagors, filed on 28 December 2005 – (Re:  application for extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage, 01 October 2001);

 

4.   Cavite Rural Banking Corporation, petitioner, Celia Bay, mortgagor, filed on 28 December 2005 – (Re:  application for extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage, 19 March 2003);

 

 

 

II.        Four (4) Ex-parte Joint Petitions for the issuance by the Honorable Trial Court of Writs of Possession under Act 3135, as amended:

 

 

  1. TG-05-1103, 08 August 2005, Sps. Babestil & Sancha Pendatum, mortgagors;

 

2.   TG-05-1104, 24 November 2005, Josefina Villanueva, mortgagor;

 

3.   TG-05-1105, 08 August 2005, Sps. Josefa Desipeda & Roqueno Calderon, mortgagors;

 

  1. TG-05-1141, 28 December 2005, Norma Malabanan, mortgagor;

 

Complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo avers that the aforementioned Petitions have long been pending before the above-mentioned court saying that the ongoing hearings of said cases may be further extended by the respondent Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr.

 

Anent TG-05-1103 and TG-05-1105, complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo argues that respondent Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr. committed an error when he recognized the appearance and participation of Atty. Ireneo Anarna as lawyer for the oppositors to the said petitions in the hearings thereof, and thereafter gave due course to the two oppositions filed, both dated 15 November 2005.  Respondent Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr. committed another error when he failed to require the oppositors and Atty. Anarna the required guaranty bonds as mandated by Section 47 of Republic Act 8791.

 

Likewise, complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo bewails the issuance by respondent Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr. of the Order dated 10 July 2008 in TG-05-1141 which denied complainant’s Ex Parte Joint Motion for Early Resolution of Ex-Parte Joint Petitions for the Issuance of Writs of Possession (in TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141) by ruling that the petitioner has yet to present evidence besides marking of exhibits.  Complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo considers the said Order as contrary to Sections 7 and 8 of Act 3135 which mandates, among others, that the trial court shall issue the Writ of Possession regardless of opposition thereto.

 

In addition, complainant Emmanuel B. Andamo accuses respondent Diana Ruiz, as then Officer-in-Charge and Acting Clerk of Court, and Atty. Stanlee Calma, as the incumbent Clerk of Court, for not having “lifted a finger, say, by placing the docket of those eight (8) long pending cases beside the other dockets already placed on the Hon. Court’s working table by way of requesting his Honor for instruction or reminding his Honor of the urgency of action thereon, and notwithstanding Mrs. Ruiz[’s] acknowledged receipt of the written instruction of the Hon. Supreme Court Administrator, dated November 17, 2005 as to how to act thereon….

 

Furthermore, complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo implicated Atty. Ireneo Anarna, charging the latter of ignorance on the provisions of Act 3135 and for obstruction of justice for filing misplaced oppositions to non-litigious ex-parte petitions for issuance of Writ of Possession and for not submitting the required oppositor’s bond.[8][3]

 

 

          The Joint Comment of respondents Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz dated October 3, 2007was also summarized by the OCA, viz:

Respondents Calma and Ruiz aver that complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo mainly charges them for the non-issuance of certificates of sale in the abovementioned extra-judicial foreclosure proceedings which were filed by Pepito Abueg as Acting Manager of petitioner Cavite Rural Banking Corporation.  Respondents Calma and Ruiz declare that in all the aforesaid applications for foreclosure, were undated certificates of sale signed by then Deputy Sheriff Victor Hernandez, and Clerk of Court Analiza Luna. However, these certificates do not bear the signature of approval of then Assisting Judge (and eventually Deputy Court Administrator) Reuben P. Dela Cruz.

 

Likewise, respondents Calma and Ruiz stress that there is an Order in an undocketed case, entitled Cavite Rural Banking Corporation (then Cavite Development Bank), mortgagee v. Sps. Jonathan Peñaranda, Sps. Simon and Petronila Peji, Celia M. Bay, Sixto and Norma Tolentino and Freddie Magno, mortgagors.  This Order was issued by then Judge Reuben Dela Cruz on17 March 2004, the dispositive portion of which reads:

 

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the applications for extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage of Spouses Jonathan and Yolanda Peñaranda; Spouses Simon and Petronila Peji; Celia M. Bay; Spouses Sixto and Norma Tolentino; and Freddie Magno are hereby DENIED for failure to comply with the requirements thereto.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respondents Calma and Ruiz argue that the aforesaid applications for foreclosure, including the petition for issuance of certificates of sale, were properly brought before and deliberated by the court.  Hence, taking into consideration the issuance of the17 March 2004Order which they cannot alter or modify, respondents Calma and Ruiz aver that any issuance of certificates of sale on the subject applications for foreclosure cannot be done.

 

Respondents Calma and Ruiz further explicate that in a copy of the 17 March 2004Order, there appears a signature over a handwritten name “Sibano J. Sibero” dated “3-17-04.” Thus suggesting that he received a copy of said Order in behalf of Cavite Rural Banking Corporation. Hence, respondents Calma and Ruiz chide complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo for not mentioning in his complaint the 17 March 2004 Order.  Furthermore, assuming ex gratia argumenti that complainant Emmanuel  R. Andamo is not aware of said Order, respondents Calma and Ruiz still blame complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo that it took him almost seven (7) years before he made a follow up on the petitions for issuance of certificates of sale. If only their attention were called, respondents Calma and Ruiz aver that they would have searched for the records and inform complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo about the Order.

 

In addition, respondents Calma and Ruiz call as an unfair accusation complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo’s imputation that they were the reason for the issuance of the10 July 2008Order.  Respondents Calma and Ruiz argue that said Order is a judicial action and an exercise of discretion by the court to which they, being merely the Clerk of Court and the Legal Researcher, respectively, do not have any control.  Moreover, they point out that the said Order was also given in the other petitions of complainant where there is no oppositor, thus, rendering complainants’ perception as unfounded.

 

Lastly, while complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo charges respondents Calma and Ruiz with gross ignorance of Act No. 3135, respondents Calma and Ruiz find it ironic that complainant Emmanuel R. Andamo misses the entire point of the issuance of the 17 March 2004 Order which states complainant’s failure to show compliance with the same Act No. 3135.[9][4]

 

 

          After perusing the records, the OCA found that the allegations in the complaint and the defenses raised by respondents Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz presented conflicting factual issues that could not be categorically resolved merely on the basis of the records submitted. Judge Larida, Jr. even failed to submit his Comment on the matter. The OCA then pointed out the necessity for a formal investigation where the complainant and the respondents would be given the opportunity to adduce their respective evidence. Thus, it recommended that the administrative complaint against respondents be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative case, and the same be REFERRED to a Justice of the Court of Appeals (CA) for investigation, report and recommendation within sixty (60) days from receipt of the records.

 

In the Resolution dated January 19, 2011,[10][5] the Court resolved to: (1) note the letter-complaint of Atty. Emmanuel R. Andamo against respondents Judge Larida, Jr., Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz, for gross ignorance of the law relative to LRC Case Nos. 05-1105, 05-1104, 05-1103, and 05-1141 for the issuance of writs of possession under Act 3135, as amended, and the joint comment dated October 3, 2007 of respondents Clerk of Court and Legal Researcher; (2)  re-docket the instant administrative complaint; (3) refer this case to a Justice of the CA for investigation, report and recommendation within sixty (60) days from receipt of the records, and direct the Presiding Justice of the CA to raffle the case among the incumbent Justices of the CA who shall conduct the investigation and submit the required report and recommendation; and (4) note the Report dated June 18, 2010 of the OCA.

 

          The case was eventually assigned to CA Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier (Justice Lazaro-Javier) who, as directed by the Court, conducted the corresponding investigation on the complaint.

 

          Notably, during the initial stage of the proceedings, Judge Larida, Jr. filed his Motion with Leave of Court to Admit Comment[11][6] dated April 14, 2011.[12][7] The same was granted in the interest of substantial justice.[13][8] In         his Comment, respondent Judge Larida, Jr. denied that he delayed               the resolution of complainant’s petitions for issuance of writs of     possession in TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141. He claimed that he was unaware of unacted foreclosure proceedings pending before the Office of the Clerk of Court of RTC-Br. 18, Tagaytay City; that he never talked to complainant about the cases in his chambers; that it was only out of prudence and propriety that he acknowledged the oppositions to complainant’s four (4) petitions as the said oppositions were necessarily part of the proceedings; and that he eventually set the petitions for hearing since there was a need for complainant to present evidence to support his entitlement to the four (4) writs prayed for.

 

          Judge Larida, Jr. also informed the Court that per Supreme Court Resolution dated November 18, 2008,[14][9] he was detailed as Assisting Judge of RTC, Branch 74,MalabonCity.

 

          During the hearing on April 14, 2011, the parties agreed to submit their affidavits with attachments to constitute their testimony subject to cross-examination.[15][10]

 

          Complainant did not submit an affidavit and opted to adopt his Letter-Complaint as his direct testimony. He further submitted several documentary evidence.[16][11]

          For his part, Judge Larida, Jr. submitted his Judicial Affidavit dated April 18, 2011. He essentially iterated therein his allegations in his Comment. He also offered various documentary evidence[17][12] to refute the charges against him.

 

Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz likewise submitted their undated Joint Affidavit.

 

Atty. Calma emphasized that then Assisting Judge Reuben dela Cruz had long denied complainant’s undocketed petitions for extrajudicial foreclosure in CRBC v. Magno, in his Order of March 17, 2004. The grounds for the said denial were: (1) non-payment of entry fees; (2) non-assignment of docket numbers; (3) absence of proofs of service to the sheriff and the parties; (4) non-attachment of photocopies of the official receipts to the cases; and (5) non-payment of sufficient amount of docket fees. Atty. Calma also disclosed that he was no longer connected with the judiciary as he had opted to engage in the private practice of law.

 

Aside from those previously submitted exhibits, Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz presented the following: (1) Application for Extra-Judicial Foreclosure filed in CRBC v. Magno;[18][13] (2) Application for Extra-Judicial Foreclosure filed in CRBC v. Spouses Tolentino;[19][14] (3) Application for Extra-Judicial Foreclosure filed in CRBC v. Jonathan and Yolanda Peñaranda;[20][15]              (4) Application for Extra-Judicial Foreclosure filed in Celia M. Bay;[21][16]       (5) Certificate of Sale for the auctioned property of Freddie P. Magno;[22][17]     (6) Unsigned printed name of Assisting Judge Reuben dela Cruz;[23][18]            (7) Certificate of Sale for the auctioned property of Sps. Tolentino;[24][19]           (8) Unsigned printed name of Assisting Judge Reuben dela Cruz;[25][20]             (9) Certificate of Sale for the auctioned property of Jonathan and Yolanda Peñaranda;[26][21] (10) Unsigned printed name of Assisting Judge Reuben dela Cruz;[27][22] (11) Certificate of Sale for the auctioned property of Celia Bay;[28][23] (12) Unsigned printed name of Assisting Judge Reuben dela Cruz;[29][24] (13) Order of Judge Reuben Dela Cruz dated March 17, 2004;[30][25] (14) Certification dated June 7, 2004 by Judge Reuben dela Cruz;[31][26] (15) Comment dated October 3, 2007 filed before the OCA;[32][27] and (16) Joint Affidavit of respondent Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz.[33][28]

The Acting Presiding Judge of RTC, Branch 18, TagaytayCity, submitted a status report and certified copies of the pertinent documents in LRC Case Nos. TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141.[34][29]

 

 After the formal offer of evidence and the admission of the exhibits, the parties were required to file their respective memoranda. Only respondent Judge Larida, Jr. complied.

 

Accordingly, in her Report and Recommendation dated July 25, 2011, Justice Lazaro-Javier recommended that Judge Larida, Jr., Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz be EXONERATED of the charges against them for ignorance of the law.  In sum, Justice Lazaro-Javier found that:

 

Complainant’s charge of gross ignorance of the law against respondents remains unfounded and unsubstantiated. The evidence which complainant submitted, instead of helping his cause, showed that it was he who was stubbornly remiss in his duties to his client and to the court, as well. The evidence likewise showed that contrary to complainant’s accusation, respondents in fact strictly complied with applicable laws, rules, and jurisprudence pertaining to issuance of writs of possession or allowance of extrajudicial foreclosure.  Verily, complainant has, among others, unjustly inconvenienced and mentally tortured respondents by dragging them into this unnecessary battle.  Precious time, energy and expense were wasted when the same could have been beneficially used for some other lawful purpose beneficial to the interest of public service. [Emphasis supplied]

 

          Now, the Court resolves.

 

After a thorough study of the case, the Court agrees with the evaluation and recommendation of Justice Lazaro-Javier.

 

          Notably, respondents are all charged with gross ignorance of the law for their alleged acts or omissions, as follows:

 

 

Name

 

Cases

 

Acts or Omission Charged

 

Judge Edwin Larida,  Jr. LRC No. TG-05-1103 Issuing Order datedAugust 9, 2005which set the petition for hearingOctober 21, 2005

 

  LRC No. TG-05-1105 Issuing Order datedAugust 11, 2005which set the petition for hearing onOctober 21, 2005

 

  LRC Nos. TG-05-1103 and TG-05-1105 a) Recognizing the appearance of Atty. Ireneo Anarna as oppositors’ counsel;

 

b)       Not requiring the oppositors therein to file guaranty bonds pursuant to Section 47 of RA 8791.

 

  LRC No. TG-05-1141 For issuing Order dated10 July 2008denying the Ex Parte Joint Motion for Early Resolution of Ex-Parte Joint Petitions for the Issuance of Writs of Possession in LRC Nos. TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141 on the ground that CRBC had yet to present

evidence besides marking of exhibits.

 

 

 

 

 

Atty. Stanlee  Calma             

and

Legal Researcher Diana Ruiz

  For not having “lifted a finger, say, by placing the docket of those eight (8) long pending cases beside the other dockets already placed on the Hon. Court’s working table by way of requesting his Honor for instruction or reminding his Honor of the urgency of action thereon, and notwithstanding Mrs. Ruiz[‘s] acknowledged receipt of the written instruction of the Hon. Supreme Court Administrator, dated November 17, 2005 as to how to act thereon.”

 

 

 

As to respondent

Judge Edwin Larida, Jr.

 

 

According to complainant, it was Judge Larida Jr.’s ministerial duty under Act 3135, specifically Sections 7[35][30] and 8[36][31] thereof, to issue the writs of possession in TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141. This being so, there was no need for him to still require applicant to present evidence as condition for granting them.  The fact that he did, nonetheless, was a clear defiance of his ministerial duty and rendered him guilty of gross ignorance of the law.

 

Complainant is mistaken.

 

The ministerial character of judicial duty to issue writs of possession in extrajudicial foreclosure proceedings is explained in the case of Saguan v. Philippine Bank of Communications. [37][32] Thus:

 

A writ of possession is an order enforcing a judgment to allow a person’s recovery of possession of real or personal property.  An instance when a writ of possession may issue is under Act No. 3135, as amended by act No. 4118, on extrajudicial foreclosure of real estate mortgage.  Sections 6 and 7 provide, to wit:

 

            Section 6.  Redemption.—In all cases in which an extrajudicial sale is made under the special power herein before referred to, the debtor, his successors-in-interest or any judicial creditor or judgment creditor of said debtor or any person having a lien on the property subsequent to the mortgage or deed of trust under which the property is sold, may redeem the same at anytime within the term of one year from and after the date of the sale; and such redemption shall be governed by the provisions of section four hundred and sixty-four hundred and sixty-six, inclusive, of the Code of Civil Procedure, in so far as these are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act.

 

            Section 7.  Possession during redemption period.—In any sale made under the provisions of this Act, the purchaser may petition the Court of First Instance of the province or place where the property or any part thereof is situated, to give him possession thereof during the redemption period, furnishing bond in an amount equivalent to the use of the property for a period of twelve months, to indemnify the debtor in case it be shown that the same was made without  violating the mortgage or without complying with the requirements of this Act.  Such petition shall be made under oath and filed in [the] form of the ex-parte motion in the registration or cadastral proceedings if the property is registered, or in special proceedings in case of property registered under the Mortgage Law or under section one hundred and ninety-four of the Administrative Code, or of any other real property encumbered with a mortgage duly registered in the office of any register of deeds in accordance with any existing law, and in each case the clerk of court shall, upon the filing of such petition, collect the fees specified in paragraph eleven of section one hundred and fourteen of Act Number Four hundred and ninety-six, and the court shall , upon approval of the bond, order that a writ of possession issue, addressed to the sheriff of the province in which the property is situated, who shall execute said order immediately.

 

From the foregoing provisions, a writ of possession may be issued either (1) within the one-year redemption period, upon the filing of a bond, or (2) after the lapse of the redemption period, without need of a bond.

 

Within the redemption period the purchaser in a foreclosure sale may apply for a writ of possession by filing for that purpose an ex-parte motion under oath, in the corresponding registration or cadastral proceeding in the case of property covered by aTorrenstitle.  Upon the filing of an ex-parte motion and the approval of the corresponding bond, the court is expressly directed to issue the order for a writ of possession.

 

On the other hand, after the lapse of the redemption period, a writ of possession may be issued in favor of the purchaser in a foreclosure sale as the mortgagor is now considered to have lost interest over the foreclosed property.  Consequently, the purchaser, who has a right to possession after the expiration of the redemption period, becomes the absolute owner of the property when no redemption is made. In this regard, the bond is no longer needed.  The purchaser can demand possession at any time following the consolidation of ownership in his name and the issuance to him of a new TCT.  After consolidation of title in the purchaser’s name for failure of the mortgagor to redeem the property, the purchaser’s right to possession ripens into the absolute right of a confirmed owner.  At that point, the issuance of a writ of possession, upon proper application and proof of title, to a purchaser in an extrajudicial foreclosure sale becomes merely a ministerial function.  Effectively, the court cannot exercise its discretion.

 

Therefore, the issuance by the RTC of a writ of possession in favor of the respondent in this case is proper.  We have consistently held that the duty of the trial court to grant a writ of possession in such instances is ministerial, and the court may not exercise discretion or judgment.  The propriety of the issuance of the writ was heightened in this case where the respondent’s right to possession of the properties extended after the expiration of the redemption period, and became absolute upon the petitioners’ failure to redeem the mortgaged properties. [Underscoring supplied]

 

Simply put, after all the requisite elements for issuance of a writ of possession, which are: (1) consolidation of ownership in the mortgagor’s name; and (2) issuance to mortgagor of a new TCT, shall have been duly established, the trial court has no choice but to issue the writ prayed for. It cannot withhold, suspend, or otherwise deny this relief from petitioner.

 

In this case, Judge Larida Jr. denied complainant’s “Urgent Ex-Parte Joint Motion for Early Resolution of Ex-Parte Joint Petition for the Issuance of Writs of Possession” in TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141 precisely because CRBC had yet to present evidence to establish its entitlement to the writs prayed for.[38][33] As it was, complainant negatively reacted to Judge Larida Jr.’s directive and accused him of gross ignorance of the law for not instantly resolving the petitions, for ruling that his client had yet to present evidence and for recognizing Atty. Anarna’s appearance as oppositor’s counsel.

 

It is settled that a judge can be held liable for gross ignorance of the law if it can be shown that he committed an error so gross and patent as to produce an inference of bad faith. In addition to this, the acts complained of must not only be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence, but should also be motivated by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty, and corruption.[39][34]

 

The reasons cited by complainant, far from constituting gross ignorance of the law, actually reflect respondent Judge Larida Jr.’s faithful adherence to his judicial duty to review the cases, serve due process to all parties concerned, and to eventually decide the petitions based solely on law and evidence. Be that as it may, respondent Judge Larida, Jr. has nothing more to do with these cases since his detail to RTC, Branch 74,MalabonCity.

 

At any rate, the filing of this administrative complainant is not the proper remedy for complainant.  Complainant should have sought relief from higher courts.  The filing of an administrative case against the judge is not an alternative to the other judicial remedies provided by law; neither is it complementary or supplementary to such actions. As regards this matter, the case of Atty. Flores v. Hon. Abesamis[40][35] is enlightening:

 

As everyone knows, the law provides ample judicial remedies against errors or irregularities being committed by a Trial Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction. The ordinary remedies against errors or irregularities which may be regarded as normal in nature (i.e., error in appreciation or admission of evidence, or in construction or application of procedural or substantive law or legal principle) include a motion for reconsideration (or after rendition of a judgment or final order, a motion for new trial), and appeal. The extraordinary remedies against error or irregularities which may be deemed extraordinary in character (i.e., whimsical, capricious, despotic exercise of power or neglect of duty, etc.) are inter alia the special civil actions of certiorari, prohibition or mandamus, or a motion for inhibition, a petition for change of venue, as the case may be.

 

Now, the established doctrine and policy is that disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions against Judges are not complementary or suppletory of, nor a substitute for, these judicial remedies, whether ordinary or extraordinary. Resort to and exhaustion of these judicial remedies, as well as the entry of judgment in the corresponding action or proceeding, are pre-requisites for the taking of other measures against the persons of the judges concerned, whether of civil, administrative, or criminal nature. It is only after the available judicial remedies have been exhausted and the appellate tribunals have spoken with finality, that the door to an inquiry into his criminal, civil or administrative liability may be said to have opened, or closed.

 

Complainant also held against Judge Larida, Jr. his alleged failure to require oppositors to post guaranty bonds in TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141. Complainant invokes Section 47 of Republic Act (R.A) No. 8791.[41][36]

 

Clearly, the provision cited by complainant refers to restraint of foreclosure proceedings which requires posting of bond by one who seeks it.  It does not apply to the present case wherein the subject properties had already been foreclosed and sold at public auction.  Thus, petitioner’s insistence for imposition of guaranty bonds on the oppositors in TG-05-1103, TG-05-1104, TG-05-1105, and TG-05-1141 is misplaced.  On this score too, Judge Larida, Jr. cannot be accused of gross ignorance of the law for not imposing these bonds in the cases mentioned.

 

As to respondents

Atty. Calma and

LR Ruiz

 

 

Records bear out that as early as March 17, 2004, then Assisting Judge Reuben dela Cruz of RTC Branch 18, TagaytayCity, under Order[42][37] of even date, had already denied CRBC’s petitions in CRBC v. Spouses Peñaranda, thus:

 

Hence, it is very evident, therefore, that there is no payment of the entry fees; there are no docket numbers assigned and stamped on the cases; there are no proofs of service of the notices of the Sheriff to the parties, particularly the mortgagors; there are no xerox copies of the official receipts attached to the cases, except Spouses Peñaranda; and that official receipts issued do not cover the correct amounts and entries for each pertinent book of accounts, in violation of RA 3135, as amended and the issuances of the Supreme Court.

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the application for extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage of Spouses Jonathan and Yolanda Peñaranda, Spouses Simon and Petronila Peji;CeliaM.Bay; Spouses Sixto and Norma Tolentino and Freddie Magno are hereby DENIED for failure to comply with the requirements thereto.

 

SO ORDERED. [Italics supplied]

 

 

It is worth noting, too, that there were no pending motions for reconsideration filed or other incidents initiated by complainant in the subject cases to warrant their entry in the court calendar.  As a matter of fact, complainant does not deny that the assailed Order dated March 17, 2004had long attained finality.  For Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz to put them back in the court calendar, for no cogent reason at all, is obviously improper.

 

Finally, the trial court, through then Assisting Judge Reuben dela Cruz, had already spoken when it denied the petitions in CRBC v. Spouses Peñaranda. As stated, it was beyond Atty. Calma and LR Ruiz to order the trial court what to do next with these cases. At that time, complainant had plain, speedy, and adequate remedies available to him under the rules.  He could have filed a motion for reconsideration or a petition for certiorari from the Order of denial datedMarch 17, 2004 but he did not. What complainant failed to do as a judicial remedy, he cannot revive through an administrative complaint against these court employees. It bears pointing out that it was only onAugust 26, 2008 or more than four years since the Order ofMarch 17, 2004 was issued when the complainant unfairly turned his ire on these innocent and helpless respondents by wrongly accusing them in this administrative case.

 

          Clearly, this is a frivolous and baseless complaint. The respondents cannot be held liable for judiciously performing their sworn duty to observe and follow court proceedings as provided by the Rules. Complainant apparently filed this complaint primarily to divert the attention of his client from his shortcomings as its counsel, if not to simply harass the respondents. At this juncture, the Court finds it worth quoting again the conclusion of the Investigating Justice Lazaro-Javier, to wit:

 

Complainant’s charge of gross ignorance of the law against respondents remains unfounded and unsubstantiated.  The evidence which complainant submitted, instead of helping his cause, showed that it was he who was stubbornly remiss in his duties to his client and to the court, as well. The evidence likewise showed that contrary to complainant’s accusation, respondents in fact strictly complied with applicable laws, rules, and jurisprudence pertaining to issuance of writs of possession or allowance of extrajudicial foreclosure.  Verily, complainant has, among others, unjustly inconvenienced and mentally tortured respondents by dragging them into this unnecessary battle.  Precious time, energy and expense were wasted when the same could have been beneficially used for some other lawful purpose beneficial to the interest of public service. [Emphases supplied]

 

 

A repeat of this cannot be tolerated.

 

This administrative charge seeks to cast doubt on the integrity of respondent judge, the judicial personnel and the court which they represent, in flagrant abdication of the bounden responsibility of a lawyer to observe and maintain the respect due to courts of justice. “As an officer of the court, a lawyer has the sworn duty to assist in, not to impede or pervert, the administration of justice.”[43][38] “Lawyers must always keep in perspective the thought that since lawyers are administrators of justice, oath-bound servants of society, their first duty is not to their clients, as many suppose, but to the administration of justice; to this, their clients’ success is wholly subordinate; and their conduct ought to and must be scrupulously observant of law and ethics.”[44][39] 

 

A lawyer is an officer of the courts; he is, “like the court itself, an instrument or agency to advance the ends of justice.” His duty is to uphold the dignity and authority of the courts to which he owes fidelity, “not to promote distrust in the administration of justice.” Faith in the courts a lawyer should seek to preserve. For, to undermine the judicial edifice “is disastrous to the continuity of government and to the attainment of the liberties of the people.”[45][40]

 

 

 “A lawyer who files an unfounded complaint must be sanctioned because, as an officer of the court, he does not discharge his duty by filing frivolous petitions that only add to the workload of the judiciary. Such filing of baseless complaints is contemptuous of the courts.”[46][41]

 

WHEREFORE, as recommended by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, the complaint against respondents Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr., Clerk of Court Stanlee D. Calma and Legal Researcher Diana G. Ruiz, all of Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Tagaytay City, for gross ignorance of the law is DISMISSED for utter lack of merit.

 

Complainant Atty. Emmanuel R. Andamo is hereby ordered to SHOW CAUSE why he should not be subjected to disciplinary action for filing a frivolous and baseless complaint against the respondent judiciary personnel, within ten (10) days from receipt hereof.

 

SO ORDERED

 

 

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

Chairperson

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA                      ROBERTO A. ABAD

               Associate Justice                                  Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE

Associate Justice     

 


 


[1][32] G.R. No. 159882,November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 390, 394-397.

[2][33] Rollo, p. 17

[3][34] Monticalbo v. Judge Maraya, supra note 1.  

[4][34] Monticalbo v. Judge Maraya, supra note 1.  

[5][41] Dela  Victoria v. Orig-Maloloy-On, A.M. No. P-07-2343,August 14, 2007, 530 SCRA 1, 11.

[6][1] Monticalbo v. Judge Maraya, A.M. No. RTJ-09-2197,April 13, 2011.  

[7][2] Rollo, pp. 1-8.

[8][3]Id. at 114-116.

[9][4]Id. at 116-117.

[10][5]Id. at 124-125.

[11][6]Id. at 128-129

[12][7]Id. at 130-132.

[13][8]Id. at 142.

[14][9]  Id. at 119-120.

[15][10]Id. at 140.

[16][11] Exhs. “A” to “A-6,” “B,” “B-1,” and “B-1-a,” “C” to “C-3,” “D” to “D-4,” “E,” “F” to “F-6-a,” “G” to “G-3-a,” “H” to “H-4-a,” “I” to “I-7-a,” “J” to “J-2,” “K” to “K-2,” “L,” “M,” “N,” “O,” “P,” “Q,” to “X.” 

[17][12] Exhs. “1” (with submarkings), “2” (with submarkings), “3” (with submarkings), “4,” “4-a,” “5” (with submarkings), “6” (with submarkings), “7” (with submarkings), unmarked status report.

[18][13] Exh. “8.”

[19][14] Exh. “9.”

[20][15] Exh. “10.”

[21][16] Exh. “11.”

[22][17] Exh. “12.”

[23][18] Exh. “12-a.”

[24][19] Exh. “13.”

[25][20] Exh. “13-a.”

[26][21] Exh. “14.”

[27][22] Exh. “14-a.”

[28][23] Exh. “15.”

[29][24] Exh. “15-a.”

[30][25] Exh. “16.”

[31][26] Exh. “17.”

[32][27] Exh. “18.”

[33][28] Exh. “19.”

[34][29] Rollo, pp. 154-202.

[35][30] Section 7. Possession during redemption period.—In any sale made under the provisions of this Act, the purchaser may petition the Court of First Instance of the province or place where the property  or any part thereof is situated, to give him possession thereof during the redemption period, furnishing bond in an amount equivalent to the use of the property for a period of twelve months, to indemnify the debtor in case it be shown that the sale was made without violating the mortgage or without complying with the requirements of this Act.  Such petition shall be made under oath and filed in [the] form of an ex-parte motion in the registration or cadastral proceedings if the property is registered, or in special proceedings in the case of property registered under the Mortgage Law or under section one hundred and ninety-four of the Administrative Code, or of any other real property encumbered with a mortgage duly registered in the office of any register of deeds in accordance with any existing law, and in each case the clerk of court shall, upon the filing of such petition, collect the fees specified in paragraph eleven of section one hundred and fourteen of Act Numbered Four hundred and ninety-six, as amended by Act Numbered Twenty-eight hundred and sixty-six and the court shall, upon approval of the bond, order that a writ of possession issue, addressed to the sheriff of the province in which the property is situated, who shall execute said order immediately.

[36][31] Section 8.  The debtor may, in the proceedings in which possession was requested, but not later than thirty days after the purchaser was given possession, petition that the sale be set aside and the writ of possession cancelled, specifying the damages suffered by him, because the mortgage was not violated or the sale was not made in accordance with the provisions hereof, and the court shall take cognizance of this petition in accordance with the summary procedure provided for in section one hundred and twelve of Act Numbered Four hundred and ninety-six; and if it finds the complaint of the debtor justified, it shall dispose in his favor of all or part of the bond furnished by the person who obtained possession.  Either of the parties may appeal from the order of the judge in accordance with section fourteen of Act Numbered Four hundred and ninety-six; but the order of possession shall continue in effect during the pendency of the appeal.

[37][32] G.R. No. 159882,November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 390, 394-397.

[38][33] Rollo, p. 17

[39][34] Monticalbo v. Judge Maraya, supra note 1.  

[40][35] 341 Phil. 299, 312-313 (1997).

[41][36] Section 47.  Foreclosure of Real Estate Mortgage.—In the event of foreclosure, whether judicially or extra-judicially, of any mortgage on real estate which is security for any loan or other credit accommodation granted, the mortgagor or debtor whose real property has been sold for the full or partial payment of his obligation shall have the right within one year after the sale of the real estate, to redeem the property by paying the amount due under the mortgage deed, with interest thereon at rate specified in the mortgage, and all the costs and expenses incurred by the bank of institution from the sale and custody of said property less the income derived therefrom. However, the purchaser of the auction sale concerned whether in a judicial or extra-judicial foreclosure shall have the right to enter upon and take possession of such property immediately after the date of the confirmation of the auction sale and administer the same in accordance with law.  Any petition in court to enjoin or restrain the conduct of foreclosure proceedings instituted pursuant to this provision shall be given due course only upon the filing by the petitioner of a bond in an amount fixed by the court conditioned that he will pay all the damages which the bank may suffer by the enjoining or the restraint of the foreclosure proceeding.  Notwithstanding act 3135, juridical persons whose property is being sold pursuant to an extrajudicial foreclosure, shall have the right to redeem the property in accordance with this provision until, but not after, the registration of the certificate of foreclosure sale with the applicable Register of Deeds which in no case shall be more than three (3) months after foreclosure, whichever is earlier.  Owners of property that has been sold in a foreclosure sale prior to the effectivity of this Act shall retain their redemption rights until their expiration.

[42][37] Rollo, pp. 105-108.

[43][38] Cordova v. Hon. Labayen, 319 Phil. 273, 287 (1995).

[44][39] Cruz v. Aliño-Hormachuelos,  A.M. No. CA-04-38,March 31, 2004, 426 SCRA 573, 581.

[45][40]Id. at 580.

[46][41] Dela  Victoria v. Orig-Maloloy-On, A.M. No. P-07-2343,August 14, 2007, 530 SCRA 1, 11.