JUDGES; A judge should administer justice without delay, dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the required periods.
FACTS: In pursuance of the Court's policy to conduct a judicial audit of all cases pending before the sala of retiring judges, the Office of the Court Administrator conducted judicial audit at Branch 24 of the Regional Trial Court of Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur. The presiding judge of this court is Judge Sergio Apostol who was on leave of absence when the audit team arrived in his court. The audit report disclosed that Judge Apostol failed to decide 51 cases within the reglementary period and to act upon more than 500 cases pending in his sala. On his explanation, Judge Apostol said that part of the 280 cases inherited by him has been resolved. Furthermore, the disposition of the 268 cases was brought about by his bad health. He further explained that the peace and order in their place and the absence of the clerk of court and researcher should be taken into consideration. The Office of the Court Administrator (OCAD) submitted a report finding Judge Apostol administratively liable and recommended that he be fined in the amount of P20,000 for failure to decide and act on the cases within the reglementary period.
HELD: As provided for by Canon 1, Rule 1.02 and Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge shall administer justice without delay and dispose of the courts business promptly and decide cases within the required periods. Justice delayed is often justice denied. Any delay in the administration of justice not only results in depriving the litigant of his right to a speedy disposition of his case but it also negatively affects the image of the judiciary. In the case of Judge Apostol, he had failed to live up to his bounden duty as a judge and should be administratively dealt with accordingly. He should opted for early retirement when it became apparent that he could no longer perform his duties as a judge because of his failing health. However, Judge Apostol was ordered to pay only P10,000 for gross neglect of duty rather than P20,000 as recommended by the Office of the Court Administrator to lessen the burden of the judge caused by his illness. [ Re: Report on the Judicial Audit in the RTC Branch 24, Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur; Branch 2, Isabela, Basilan; and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Labason, Zamboanga del Norte; AM No. 98-1-12-RTC; February 17, 1999---EN BANC; Quisumbing, J.]
JUDGES; The serious nature of the tasks of judges required them to be circumspect in both their public and their private dealings. As they are "expected to rise above human frailties," they must, in all of their activities, avoid not only impropriety but even the appearance of impropriety.
FACTS: An ejectment case was filed by Herminio Encomienda, brother of respondent Judge Encomienda against spouses Gregorio and Teresita Lorena before the MTCC. The trial court rendered a decision against the latter, which decision was affirmed by the Regional Trial Court. A writ of execution was issued but was returned unsatisfied because of the refusal of the Lorenas to vacate the premises. A writ of demolition was issued and after implementing the same, it was reported that Gregorio allegedly started to build another structure on the subject land and further refused to leave the premises. Subsequently, the complainants were brought to the police station were they were detained for three days. Complainants alleged that the Encomiendas and one police officer helped and conspired with one another in unlawfully placing them in jail. They further claimed that Judge Encomienda called them in the telephone urging them to sign certain papers. The latter refuted the claims of the Lorenas. He asserted that his only participation was his telephone conversation with Gregorio Lorena assuring the latter that there was nothing wrong in signing the document containing the personal request to be allowed to stay in the premises. The Court Administrator recommended the dismissal of the charge of grave abuse of authority but advised the respondent judge to be more prudent and more circumspect in his action and utterances.
ISSUE: Whether on not the act of Judge Encomienda is proper.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. Although the charge of grave abuse of authority was not proven, respondent judge can not be completely exonerated. He had admitted having spoken to Gregorio Lorena on the phone in order to assist his brother's family. The Lorenas can not be blamed if they believe at the time that judge Encomienda was somehow responsible for their arrest and detention. Whatever his intentions were, he should have avoided talking to Gregorio. In doing so, respondent steered away from the heavy responsibility of judges to be circumspect in their public and private dealings. As the Court has stated, a judge is human, but is expected to rise above human frailties. Considering that a judge is the visible representation of the law, and more important, of justice, his official conduct, as well as his personal behavior should always be beyond reproach. Wherefore, respondent Judge Encomienda was thereby reprimanded for failing to exercise greater care and circumspection in his actions. [Spouses Gregorio Lorena and Teresita Lorena vs. Judge Adolfo Encomienda; A.M. No. MTJ-99-1177, February 8, 1999, THIRD DIVISION --- Panganiban, J.]
JUDGES; The primordial duty of judges is to decide cases justly and expeditiously. Indeed, justice delayed is justice denied.
FACTS: Arnulfo Tauro was the complaining witness in Criminal Cases No. 92-109346, 92-109347 and 92-109348 raffled to RTC Br. 43, Manila, presided by Hon. Judge Angel V. Colet. Tauro filed a complaint against Judge Colet allegedly for failure to decide the aforesaid cases within the reglementary period of 90 days. Tauro testified that the presentation of evidence by both parties has been terminated in the early part of December, 1995, after postponements and re-settings, aggravated by the non-punctuality of the Honorable Judge, who often comes to court late and sometimes absent which caused the said cases to be considerably delayed. It appeared that the case was decided on May 6, 1997. Judge Colet admits that he failed to decide the said cases within the prescribed period but pleads for leniency. He attributed the delays in the hearings of the cases to private prosecutor's and defense counsel's motion for postponement or non-appearance, and for the record's mismanagement. Subsequently, the Office of the Court Administrator found the respondent-judge guilty of having failed to perform his duty to decide cases within the period of 90 days.
ISSUE: Whether or not the respondent-judge should be administratively sanctioned.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative. Judges are mandated to dispose the courts' business promptly and decide cases within the required period. Accordingly, they have been consistently reminded that delay in the disposition of cases ordinarily constituted gross inefficiency and, as such, is deemed inexcusable. However, should the resolution of a case within the reglementary period prove to be unlikely, they may ask this court for a reasonable extension of time to prepare a decision. In the present case, respondent judge never asked for extension, for he forgot that the cases were pending. As respondent himself admits, the charge against him cannot be justified by the claim that he totally forgot the cases after he was transferred to other stations. In this light, members of the bench are reminded that they are required to organize their courts so as to bolster the prompt and efficient dispatch of business. A judge is expected to keep his own record of cases so that he may act on them promptly without undue delay. [Arnulfo B. Tauro vs. Judge Angel V. Colet; AM No. RTJ-99- 1434; April 29,1999; THIRD DIVISION--- Panganiban, J.]
JUDGES; In the absence of bad faith, or willful intention to prejudice a party litigant, or any showing that the Judge was impelled by some ulterior ends or ill motives, the administrative liability for his delay in deciding cases before him, especially when such delay is beyond his control, is entitled to mitigation.
FACTS: On August 17, 1998, upon reaching the compulsory retirement age of 70 years, Judge Narciso Bumanglag retired as Presiding Judge of the MTCC, Davao City. In view of his retirement, the Office of the Court Administrator directed the Branch Clerk of Court of the said MTCC to conduct an inventory and submit a report on the cases submitted for decision before the respondent judge who did not decide the same before his retirement. Subsequently, the Branch Clerk of Court reported that respondent judge left seven criminal cases and three civil cases undecided within the 90-day reglementary period, in violation of sec. 15, Art. VIII of the Constitution of the Philippines. In his comment, respondent judge explained that his failure to act on and decide subject cases submitted for his decision was due to his illness. He explained that he underwent a surgical operation for prostatic carcinoma and was prescribed complete bed rest for two months. Although the said operation was successful, he was not fully recovered and had to submit himself for periodic check-up every three months. Thereafter, the Office of the Court Administrator recommended that respondent judge be fined P 20,000.00. On a later date, however, the OCAD recommended a reduction of the fine to P 5,000.00.
ISSUE: Whether or not the recommendation of the OCAD for the reduction of fine against respondent judge is proper.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. The court finds deserving of due consideration, the explanation of respondent judge for leaving ten undecided cases before his retirement from the service. Serious illness may justify the inability of a judge to perform his official duties and functions. But then, when the judge was hindered by a grave malignancy, it was incumbent upon him to request for additional time to decide the cases which he could not seasonably act upon and decide. For failing to do so, respondent judge has to suffer the consequences of his omission. Considering, however, that his failure to decide subject cases was by reason of serious illness beyond his control, the court is of the sense that the recommended P 5,000.00 is too much, and a fine of P 2,000.00 should suffice the premises. As ratiocinated by the court, in the absence of bad faith, or willful intention to prejudice a party litigant, or nay showing that the Judge was impelled by some ulterior ends or ill motives, the administrative liability for his delay in deciding cases before him, especially when such delay is beyond his control, is entitled to mitigation. [Re: Cases left undecided by Judge Narciso Bumanglag; A.M. No. 98-10-138-MTCC; April 21, 1999; En Banc--- Purisima, J.]
DUTY OF A LAWYER; A lawyer is without authority to waive his client's right to appeal and that his failure to appeal within the prescribed period constitutes negligence and malpractice.
FACTS: On January 28, 1998, the Supreme Court issued a resolution holding respondent Atty. Liberato Ibadlit administratively liable. The latter was suspended from the practice of law for one year for failing to appeal within the reglementary period the decision rendered against his client, complainant Corazon Reontoy, in Civil Case No. 2805. In his motion for reconsideration, respondent argued that he believed in good faith that his client's case was weak and that the complainant wholeheartedly accepted his explanation that the adverse decision was not worth appealing anymore. Respondent further claimed that complainant had reasonable opportunity to hire another counsel for a second opinion whether to appeal from the judgement or file a petition for relief.
HELD: The Supreme Court declared that it was highly improper for the respondent to have adopted his opinion that to appeal the decision would be futile. A lawyer is without authority to waive his client's right to appeal and that his failure to appeal within the prescribed period constituted negligence and malpractice, proscribed by Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides "(a) lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. In the case at bar, finding the arguments of respondent Atty. Liberato Ibadlit to be without merit, the Supreme Court resolved to imposed a penalty of two months suspension from the practice of law with warning that he should be more attentive to and solicitous of the welfare of his clients. [Reontoy vs. Ibadlit, Adm. Case CBD No. 190; February 04, 1999; Second Division---Bellosillo, J.]
NOTARIZING DOCUMENTS WITHOUT COMMISSION TO DO SO; Performing a notarial without authorization or commission to do so is a violation of the lawyer's oath to obey the laws, more specifically, the Notarial Law. Also, by making it appear that he is duly commissioned when he is not, he is, for all legal intents and purposes, indulging in deliberate falsehood, which the lawyer's oath similarly proscribes.
FACTS: In his complaint, Victor Nunga seeks the disbarment of respondent Venancio Viray on the ground of grave misconduct for notarizing documents without a commission to do so. After issues were joined, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines conducted an investigation. The report showed that respondent Viray notarized a deed of absolute sale when he was not duly commissioned as notary public as of that date. Respondent for his part alleged that from 1965 to date, he was always commissioned as notary public. According to respondent, there was no year in his practice of law that he was not commissioned as notary public. He further explained that in the alleged documents, he had PTR for that purpose and therefore, he would not have obtained a commission without the PTR. Thereafter, the Board of governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines recommended that respondent's commission as a notary public be revoked and that he be suspended from the practice of law for three months.
ISSUE: Whether or not respondent Viray is guilty of grave misconduct.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative. Respondent knew that he could not exercise the powers or perform the duties of a notary public unless he was duly appointed as such pursuant to the Notarial Law (Chapter 11, Title IV, Book I, Revised Administrative Code). He tried to impress upon the investigating commissioner that since "1965 to date", he has always been commissioned as a notary public. Yet, he was unable to rebut complainant's evidence that he was not so commissioned for the years in question. Where the notarization of a document is done by a member of the Philippine Bar, at a time when he has no authorization or commission to do so, the offender may be subjected to disciplinary action. For one, performing a notarial without authorization or commission to do so is a violation of the lawyer's oath to obey the laws, more specifically, the Notarial Law. Then, too, by making it appear that he is duly commissioned when he is not, he is, for all legal intents and purposes, indulging in deliberate falsehood, which the lawyer's oath similarly proscribes. These violations fall squarely within the prohibition of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides: "A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct." [Nunga vs. Viray; ADM. Case No. 4758; April 30, 1999; En Banc--- Davide, Jr., J.]
COURT PERSONNEL; Those connected with the dispensation of justice bear a heavy burden of responsibility. Clerks of court in particular must be individuals of competence, honesty, and probity, charged as they are with safeguarding the integrity of the court and its proceedings.
FACTS: In the course of hearing on a motion to withdraw rental deposits held in civil case no. 128131-CV, respondent Gerardo Rivota, then Branch Clerk of court, admitted that he deposited in his personal account the rentals in the total amount of P 170,199.54, which the defendant in the aforecited civil case had consigned in court. Respondent alleged that he deposited the rentals in his personal account on the insistence of the said defendant and without objection from the plaintiff; that the amount was later paid by him to the plaintiff; and that in depositing the rentals in his personal account, he realized he committed a "blunder" but was made in good faith. Subsequently, upon the recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator, respondent Rivota was dismissed from the service.
ISSUE: Whether or not respondent branch clerk of court is guilty of grave misconduct which is a ground for his dismissal.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative. Circular no. 13-92 requires that rental deposits should be deposited immediately upon receipt by the clerk of court in the government bank; that the deposit should be made in the name of the court in which the case is pending; and that the clerk of court keep the passbook, informing the executive judge of the name of the bank, the branch thereof, and the account number. The fact that the circular is addressed to executive judges and clerk of courts does not excuse other court personnel, like respondent branch clerk of court, from non-compliance with it. In the present case, respondent had no excuse for his failure to turn over the rentals received by him. That none of the parties in the said civil case complained against respondent is of no moment. For the fact is that, as a result of respondent's use of the rentals for personal gain, public trust was violated and public confidence in the judiciary was placed in serious danger. Public office is indeed a public trust. Clerks of court must be individuals of competence, honesty and probity, charged as they are with safeguarding the integrity of the court and its proceedings. [Executive Judge Rangel-Roque vs. Rivota; A.M. No. P-97-1253; February 02, 1999; En Banc--- Per Curiam]
CLERK OF COURT; The administration of justice is a sacred task. By the very nature of their duties and responsibilities, all those involved in the administration of justice, from the highest official to the lowliest clerk, must faithfully adhere to, hold inviolate, and invigorate the principle that a public office is a public trust.
FACTS: In a memorandum dated September 23, 1996, Senior Chief Staff Officer Antonio Soria of the Office of the Court Administrator reported the results of the financial audit conducted on the accounts of Clerk of Court Zenaida Garcia of MTC, Barotac, Iloilo. It revealed that Ms. Garcia has been considered AWOL and that her whereabouts have not been known. The audit report further disclosed that Ms. Garcia has unremitted collections that properly belongs to the Fiduciary, General and Judiciary Development Funds. The OCA declared that Zenaida Garcia's misappropriation of the funds for her personal benefit constitutes dishonesty which is punishable both administratively and criminally. It then recommended that (a) she be dismissed from the service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and leave credits and be disqualified for reemployment in the government service; and (b) the OCA through the Fiscal Management Office be directed to "make representations" with the Office of the Ombudsman for the expeditious disposition of the preliminary investigation and the initiation in the proper court, if warranted, of appropriate criminal proceedings against her.
HELD: The Supreme Court fully agreed with the OCA that Zenaida Garcia should be dismissed from the service. In misappropriating public funds, abandoning her office and never reporting back to work, she openly disregarded the public trust character of her office. The Supreme Court had said before, and reiterates it here, that the administration of justice is a sacred task. By the very nature of their duties and responsibilities, all those involved in the administration of justice, from the highest official to the lowliest clerk, must faithfully adhere to, hold inviolate, and invigorate the principle solemnly enshrined in sec. 1 of Article XI of the Constitution that a public office is a public trust. All public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people; serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice; and lead modest lives. The Court condemns and will never countenance any conduct, act or omission on the part of all those involved in the administration of justice which will violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or tend to diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary. [Report of the Financial Audit conducted on the accounts of Clerk of Court Zenaida Garcia, MTC, Barotac, Iloilo; A.M. No. 97-1-03-MTC; February 15, 1999; En Banc--- Per Curiam]
STENOGRAPHER; The conduct and behavior of everyone connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice is circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility.
FACTS: The case concerns Darlene Jacoba, stenographer of Branch 14, Regional Trial Court, Manila. Records at the Administrative Services Division of the Office of the Court Administrator revealed that Jacoba began incurring unauthorized absences on July 1997. Through the presiding judge of Branch 14, Judge Inocencio Maliaman, the OCA asked her to explain why she should not be dealt with administratively. However, Jacoba did not respond to OCA, thereby prompting the latter to asked for Judge Maliaman's recommendation regarding the matter. Specifically, Judge Maliaman was asked whether or not Jacoba should be dropped from the service for having been absent without official leave. Subsequently, Judge Maliaman recommended that Jacoba be dropped from the service.
HELD: There is no doubt that Jacoba has been remiss in her duties as court stenographer, to the detriment of the service. This falls within the purview of sec. 35, Rule XVI of the Omnibus Rules on Civil Service, which provides: "officers and employees who are absent for at least thirty days without approved leave are considered on Absence Without Leave (AWOL) and shall be dropped from the service after due notice". It has been repeatedly held that the conduct and behavior of everyone connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice is circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility. The Court cannot countenance any act or omission on the part of all those involved in the administration of justice which would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary. [Re: Absence Without Leave (AWOL) of Darlene Jacoba, stenographer, RTC, Branch 14, Manila; A.M. No. 98-8-246-RTC; February 15, 1999; En Banc---Quisumbing, J.]
STENOGRAPHER; Public officers must serve the people with utmost responsibility and efficiency. Public office is a public trust.
FACTS: Atty. Carmelina Ceniza-Guevarra, Branch Clerk of Court of Branch 48, RTC, Puerto Princesa City filed a complaint for gross insubordination against Celerina Magbanua, Court stenographer of the same branch for the latter's unjustifiable refusal to report for duty, to sign a receipt for office equipment in her care, and to transcribe her stenographic notes despite several directive to do so. The Supreme Court ordered the arrest and detention of Magbanua until she shall have transcribed all the stenographic notes she had yet to submit. Magbanua moved for reconsideration and explained that even before her arrest, she was already reconstructing her notes for transcription but a flash flood occurred at the office of Branch 48 which soaked her notes. However, such reason was belied by Judge Amor Reyes, former presiding judge of Branch 48, who contended that the said stenographic notes were stored inside a cabinet and were not at all damaged by the flood. Consequently, the Office of the Court Administrator recommended Magbanua's dismissal from the service, with forfeiture of all leave credits and retirement benefits, with prejudice to her reinstatement in the government service.
ISSUE: Whether or not Magbanua is administratively liable.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative. Magbanua had untranscribed stenographic notes for eighteen cases, with hearing dates as far back as November 7, 1972. Yet, she blames her failure to transcribe her notes on a flood that occurred more than two decades later in November 1995 which allegedly destroyed her notes. Prior to this, she failed to transcribe her notes notwithstanding repeated orders for her to do so, without any justifiable reason. This is the height of negligence. No less than the Constitution mandates that public officers serve the people with utmost responsibility and efficiency. Public office is indeed a public trust and Magbanua has without a doubt violated this trust by her failure to fulfill her duty as a court stenographer. [Guevarra vs. Magbanua; AM. No. P-94-1107; March 3,1999; SECOND DIVISION--- Quisumbing, J.]