Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 19

COMPLAINT OF EMIL MEDENILLA, PEDRO ANONUEVO, JERICHO INOCENTES,

CARLITO SALOMON AND ATTY. JESUS F. ACPAL AGAINST JUSTICE SOCORRO


B. INTING OF THE COURT OF APPEALS.

RESOLUTION
Complainant officers and trustees of Katarungan Village Homeowners Association,
Inc., (the Association) of Barangay Poblacion, Muntinlupa City, namely, Emil
Medenilla (PRO), Pedro Anonuevo (trustee), Jericho Inocentes (trustee), Carlito
Salomon (trustee), and Atty. Jesus F. Acpal (village administrator), filed a complaintaffidavit[1] dated September 30, 2011 against Justice Socorro B. Inting of the Court of
Appeals (CA) for grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority, and conduct
unbecoming of a Court of Appeals Justice in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct
and Code of Professional Responsibility.
The complaint-affidavit alleges in substance that two sets of candidates, one from
the Pagbabago Party and the other from the Balisado Performance Team, competed
in the June 19, 2011 elections of their Association's officers and trustees. The
Pagbabago group won the positions of President, Secretary, Treasurer, Auditor, and
PRO while the Balisado group won only the seats of the Vice-President and Business
Manager.[2] For the Board of Trustees, however, eight from the Balisado group,
including Justice Inting, won the majority of the 14 positions of trustees. The
Pagbabago group won the remaining six positions. [3]
Complainants further alleged that, soon after the winners took their oath of office,
Justice Inting committed the following wrongful acts:
a) During the July 9, 2011 monthly regular meeting of the Association's board of
trustees and officers, someone introduced a resolution that authorized its President,
Fiscal Leoncio D. Suarez, Jr. and Treasurer, Jose A. Abundo, to transact business with
its banks. Justice Inting opposed the passage of the resolution, however, claiming
that the newly elected officers and trustees had not as yet properly assumed their
offices in view of the required 60-day turn-over transition from the outgoing officers
provided in Section 6, Rule 11 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of
Republic Act 9904 (R.A. 9904)[4] although these rules did not suppose to take effect
yet.[5]
b) Justice Inting joined some members of the association in filing complaints of grave
abuse of authority, among others, against its newly elected officers before, the
Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) [6] where her impartiality might
reasonably be questioned should the case reach the CA where she worked. [7]
c) Justice Inting and other trustees of the Association prodded Evangeline Bersabe,
its accountant, to disobey the President's order for her to surrender the association
documents and keys in her possession.[8]
d) Justice Inting and others in the Board of Trustees supposedly passed Resolution
2011-21, entitled Strengthening the Internal Control and Disbursement Policies of
the Association,[9] when such matter did not appear in the August 27, 20 U special
meeting agenda or in its minutes. Nobody proposed such a resolution and the board
did not deliberate or vote on it. Since only Justice Inting was the only lawyer in the

group, complainants conclude that she prepared that resolution and manipulated
her supporters in the board.
e) Justice Inting used her title as justice of the CA to justify the supposed board
action.[10] When her group displayed tarpaulins announcing the implementation of
the challenged board resolution, the Association's security personnel removed and
seized the tarpaulins. Reacting to this, Justice Inting went to the Association's office
and, standing on the middle of the street, questioned what the security personnel
did. Complainants alleged that she arrogantly said on that occasion that she was a
CA Justice, conveying the message that her action was proper and cannot be
questioned.[11]
f) Justice Inting and her cohorts usurped the general and management powers of the
Association's President to reassign or reshuffle its employees to other positions or to
perform other duties and responsibilities.[12]
g) She violated Rule 5.01 (d) [13] and Rule 5.10[14] of Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial
Conduct when she joined the political party of her group and contributed to its party
funds. Complainants point out that the elections for the board of trustees and
officers of the Association had become so politicized that she, as a CA Justice, ought
not to have taken part in them since they detracted from the dignity of that court. [15]
In her December 2, 2011 comment,[16] Justice Inting assails the complaint as
motivated by ill will, malice, and a desire to prevent her from fulfilling her duties as
member of the Association's board of trustees. [17] It was unavoidable, she says, that
she and the others in the board had to institute their action against complainants
even if there was a chance that the matter could go up to the CA where she worked.
But, since she was involved in the case in her personal capacity as a trustee of the
Association, she simply would have to inhibit herself voluntarily if such matter be
assigned to her Division.[18]
Justice Inting claims that the action they filed with the HLURB was not altogether
groundless since the HLURB even granted their application for a cease and desist
order against complainants' group. [19] She rejects as baseless the charge that the
Association's elections partake of political activities. And, although she was active in
the affairs of the Association, she excelled in her work as Justice of the CA as borne
by its records.[20]
In their reply of January 10, 2010,[21] complainants contend that Justice Inting
appeared before the HLURB in her personal capacity since she had not been
personally aggrieved by complainants' action nor had they violated her rights.
[22]
They claim that the HLURB cease and desist order appeared questionable, given
a report that it was issued because Justice Inting used her influence as a Justice of
the appellate court and because her schoolmates at that agency helped her. [23]
The issue before the Court is whether or not there is sufficient basis to warrant
further administrative investigation of the complaint against Justice Inting.
Here, the main thrust of the complaint against Justice Inting is that, as Justice of the
CA, she should have desisted from joining the elections for the officers and members
of the Board of Trustees of her homeowners association and gotten embroiled in the
issues that animated the two groups which shared the powers of the association,
thus getting drawn into a bitter litigation.

But joining the judiciary does not mean that a judge should live the life of a hermit.
The Code of Judicial Ethics does not bar him from joining associations or institutions
that promote the common good. To be sure, no social or moral considerations
prevent him from taking active part in organizations that aim to promote the welfare
of his family or community, like a homeowners association.
Perchance, serious issues could develop even within socially desirable organizations
but it cannot be on account of such a risk that the judge should stay off from all
forms of human associations. He does not, by becoming a judge, cease to be a
human being cast off from the society of men. Such society is his natural habitat. It
is membership in questionable organizations or actively engaging in the operation of
business organizations while serving as judge that he is enjoined to avoid. [24]
As a trustee of her village's homeowners association, Justice Inting has the right to
stand her ground on any legitimate issue that might arise in the course of the
discharge of her duties. She could of course be wrong on those issues but it is not
for this that she can be subjected to administrative action. None of those issues are
related to her work as Justice of the CA.
Essentially, complainants want the Court to resolve by their present action some of
the very issues that they raise against her in the HLURB case. But this is not a
function of this administrative case. Only when she purposely uses her position as
Justice of the CA to get an advantage over or cause prejudice to others can she be
administratively sanctioned. As it happens, there is no clear allegation in the
complaint in this case that establishes this. The allegations about her using her
judicial rank to her advantage in the HLURB case are admittedly speculative.
The closest to her invoking her judicial rank was when she stood on the middle of
the street to confront the village security personnel who removed and seized the
posters that the Board of Trustees put up to announce the need for the Association
to comply with its resolution enjoining compliance with the internal controls and
disbursement policies that it had enacted. It is plain that those security personnel
used raw force to silence the voice of the Board of Trustees expressed through those
posters. And, assuming that Justice Inting mentioned the fact that she was a Justice
of the CA when she confronted the security personnel, she appears to have done so
spontaneously to show that she knew what she was talking about or to discourage
those security personnel from using physical force against her that they seemed
quite capable of.
While it is the Court's duty to investigate every allegation of wrong-doing against
judges and other court personnel, it is also its duty to protect them from frivolous
charges.[25]cralaw
WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the present administrative complaint against
Justice Socorro B. Inting of the Court of Appeals for want of substance.
SO ORDERED."
[A.M. No. MTJ-07-1691 : November 27, 2007]
OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR VS. JUDGES ANATALIO S.
NECESARIO, BR. 2; GIL R. ACOSTA, BR. 3; ROSABELLA M. TORMIS, BR. 4;
AND EDGEMELO C. ROSALES, BR. 8, ALL-OF THE MTCC, CEBU CITY

FORMERLY A.M. NO. 07-7-04-SC.- RE: JUDICIAL AUDIT ON THE


SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGES BY FOUR BRANCHES OF THE MTCC AND
ONE BRANCH OF THE RTC OF CEBU CITY

"A.M. No. MTJ-07-1691 (Office of the Court Administrator vs. Judges Anatalio S.
Necesario, Br. 2; Gil R. Acosta, Br. 3; Rosabella M. Tormis, Br. 4; and Edgemelo C.
Rosales, Br. 8, all-of the MTCC, Cebu City) formerly A.M. No. 07-7-04-SC- Re: Judicial
Audit on the Solemnization of Marriages by Four Branches of the MTCC and One
Branch of the RTC of Cebu City.- The Court Resolved, upon the recommendation of
the Office of the Court Administrator, to
(a) REQUIRE Judges Anatalio S. Necesario, Gil R. Acosta, Rosabella M. Tormis and
Edgemelo C. Rosales, all of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Branches 2, 3,
4, and 8, respectively, Cebu City, to COMMENT on the findings stated in the
Supplemental Report of the Office of the Court Administrator dated August 14, 2007,
within fifteen (15) days from notice;
(b) DIRECT the Process Servicing Unit to FURNISH the aforementioned judges with
a copy of the aforesaid Supplemental Report;
(c) REQUIRE the following court personnel to SHOW CAUSE, within fifteen (15)
days from notice, why no disciplinary action should be taken against them for their
participation in violating the law on marriage, which constitute grave misconduct
and dishonesty, and IMPLEAD them in this administrative matter:
(1) Celeste P. Retuya, Clerk III, MTCC, Br. 6, Cebu City;
(2) Corazon P. Retuya, Court Stenographer, MTCC, Br. 6, Cebu City;
(3) Rhona F. Rodriguez, Administrative Officer I, Office of the Clerk of Court,
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Cebu City;
(4) Emma D. Valencia, Court Stenographer III, RTC, Br. 18, Cebu City;
(5) Marilou Cabanez, Court Stenographer, MTCC, Br. 4, Cebu City;
(6) Desiderio S. Aranas, Process Server, MTCC, Br. 3, Cebu City;
(7) Rebecca Alesna, Court Interpreter, MTCC, Br. 1, Cebu City; and
(8) Helen Mongagaya, Court Stenographer, MTCC, Br. 4, Cebu City.
(d) REFER to the OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY OMBUDSMAN FOR THE VISAYAS, for
appropriate action, the matter involving the violation of the law on marriage by Ms.
Filomena C. Lopez, Local Civil Registrar of Barili, Cebu, and Ms. Veronica S.
Longakit, former Local Civil Registrar of Liloan, Cebu;
(e) DIRECT the Process Servicing Unit to FURNISH the Office of the Deputy
Ombudsman for the Visayas with a copy of the Supplemental Report of the Office of
the Court Administrator dated August 14, 2007;
(f) REQUIRE Judge Geraldine Faith A. Econg, RTC, Br. 9, Cebu City,
to COMMENTwithin fifteen (15) days from notice, on the statement of Antonio
Flores, a member of her staff, that the court personnel of said court receive an
amount in excess of the P300.00 solemnization fee paid for by couples whose
marriages are solemnized by her, which amount goes to the court's "sinking fund";
(g) BAR INDEFINETELY Antonio "Boy" Borces from entering the premises of the

Cebu City Palace of Justice, unless allowed in writing by the Executive Judge of the
RTC, Cebu City; and
(h) DIRECT, under pain of contempt, the Chief Security Officer of the Cebu City
Palace of Justice, to ensure strict compliance of the above directive." Puno, C.J., and
Quisumbing, J., on official leave.
TOBIAS VS LIMSIACO This administrative case stemmed from the complaint filed
by complainant Florenda V. Tobias against respondent Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr.,
Presiding Judge of the Fourth Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Valladolid-San
Enrique-Pulupandan, Negros Occidental. Complainant charged respondent with
corruption for allegedly offering package deals to litigants who plan to file cases in
his court
In her verified Complaint[1] dated June 6, 2007, complainant alleged that
respondent Judge Limsiaco, Jr. offers package deals for cases filed in the court where
he presides. She stated that sometime in June 2006, she requested her sister, Lorna
V. Vollmer, to inquire from the Fourth MCTC of Valladolid-San Enrique-Pulupandan,
Negros Occidental about the requirements needed in filing an ejectment case. Court
Stenographer Salvacion Fegidero[2] allegedly proposed to Vollmer that for the sum
of P30,000.00, respondent would provide the lawyer, prepare the necessary
pleadings, and ensure a favorable decision in the ejectment case which they
contemplated to file against the spouses Raymundo and Francisca Batalla. Fegidero
allegedly required them to pay the initial amount of P10,000.00 and the remaining
balance would be paid in the course of the proceedings. It was made clear that they
would not get any judicial relief from their squatter problem unless they accepted
the package deal.
Further, complainant alleged that on June 23, 2006, Lorna Vollmer,
accompanied by Salvacion Fegidero, delivered the amount of P10,000.00 to
respondent at his residence. Subsequently, an ejectment case was filed in
respondents court, entitled Reynold V. Tobias, represented by his Attorneyin-fact
Lorna V. Vollmer v. Spouses Raymundo Batalla and Francisca Batalla, docketed as
Civil Case No. 06-007-V.[3] Respondent allegedly assigned a certain Atty. Robert G.
Juanillo to represent the complainant in the ejectment case. Complainant stated that
respondent, however, immediately demanded for an additional payment
of P10,000.00. She allegedly refused to give the additional amount and earned the
ire of respondent. She asked her sister, Lorna Vollmer, to request Atty. Robert Juanillo
to voluntarily withdraw as counsel,[4] which he did on April 16, 2007. Complainant
also asked Vollmer to withdraw the case.[5] Respondent granted the Motion to
Withdraw as Counsel on April 23, 2007 and the Motion to Withdraw Case onMay 3,
2007.[6]
In his Comment,[7] respondent denounced the allegation that he offers
package deals to prospective litigants as malicious, baseless and a lie. He denied
that he demanded from complainant the additional payment of P10,000.00. He
alleged that he does not know complainant and she is a total stranger to him.
Respondent attached to his Comment the Affidavit [8] dated September 29,
2007 of Atty. Robert G. Juanillo, who stated therein that he received as counsel of
the complainant in the ejectment case the sum of P10,000.00 from complainants
sister, Lorna Vollmer. From the P10,000.00, he paid filing fees and miscellaneous
fees in the amount of P3,707.00, while the remaining balance of P6,293.00 was paid
to him for his services, consisting of the preparation and filing of the complaint for
ejectment, including acceptance fee.

Respondent also attached to his Comment the Affidavit [9] dated September
29, 2007 of Court Stenographer Salvacion B. Fegidero, denying the allegation that
she offered a package deal to complainants sister, Lorna Vollmer. She declared that
the allegations of complainant were malicious and unfair, and that complainant and
her sister could have been misled by some people who lost cases in the said court.

Meanwhile, the ejectment case was assigned to Judge Herminigildo S.


Octaviano, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Bago City, Negros Occidental, in view of
respondents inhibition on July 30, 2007.[10]
On February 20, 2008, the Court issued a Resolution, [11] which noted the
Report of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on the complaint against
respondent. Due to the conflicting allegations of the parties, the OCA opined that a
formal investigation was necessary to afford the parties opportunity to substantiate
their respective claims and to determine the alleged participation of court employee
Salvacion Fegidero. Upon recommendation of the OCA, the Court referred
the complaint to Executive Judge Frances V. Guanzon, Regional Trial
Court, Bago City, Negros Occidental for investigation, report and recommendation
within 60 days from receipt thereof.
On May 20, 2008, the parties were summoned for a formal investigation
before Investigating Judge Frances V. Guanzon. Those who appeared before the
Investigating Judge were complainant Florenda V. Tobias, respondent Judge Manuel
Q. Limsiaco, Jr., Court Stenographer Salvacion Fegidero and respondents witness,
Atty. Robert Juanillo. Complainants witness, Lorna Vollmer, did not attend the
investigation, because per information of complainant, Vollmer was in Germany and
she was expected to be back in the country in December 2008.
In his Report dated June 2, 2008, Investigating Judge Guanzon stated that
complainant testified that it was her sister, Lorna Vollmer, who informed her about
the alleged package deal through long distance telephone call. Complainant testified
that she met Salvacion Fegidero only after the filing of the instant administrative
complaint and that she did not talk with her even once. [12] Complainant further
claimed that she had no personal dealings with respondent or with Salvacion
Fegidero, and that she met respondent only after the filing of the ejectment case. [13]
Moreover, complainant testified that respondent neither personally
received from her the initial payment of P10,000.00 for the alleged package deal
nor personally asked from her for an additional payment of P10,000.00.[14] It was her
sister, Lorna Vollmer, who told her through telephone about the demand for an
additional P10,000.00, but she (complainant) did not send the money.[15]
Complainant testified that she was the one who went to the house of Atty.
Robert Juanillo, bringing with her the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel prepared by
respondent for Atty. Juanillo to sign.[16]
Respondent and Court Stenographer Salvacion Fegidero categorically
denied the accusation that they had a package deal with Lorna Vollmer.
Respondent testified that he met and talked with Vollmer when she went to his court
to inquire about the filing of an ejectment case against the spouses Raymundo and
Francisca Batalla. Respondent advised Vollmer that since there was no lawyer
in Valladolid, Negros Occidental, she had to choose the nearest town lawyer as it
would lessen expenses in transportation and appearance fee, and respondent
mentioned the name of Atty. Robert Juanillo.[17] Moreover, respondent testified that
Vollmer, together with her husband and Salvacion Fegidero, went to his house once

to ask him for the direction to the house of Atty. Robert Juanillo. Respondent denied
that he received the amount of P10,000.00 from Vollmer.[18]
Further, respondent testified that he met with complainant after the
ejectment case was filed, when she went to his court and told him that she was
withdrawing the services of Atty. Robert Juanillo. Respondent admitted that he
prepared the motion for the withdrawal of appearance of Atty. Juanillo, since
respondent wanted to help complainant as she said it was urgent, but respondent
did not charge her.[19]
Atty. Robert Juanillo testified that he received the amount of P10,000.00
from Lorna Vollmer at the Municipal Court of Valladolid, Negros Occidental. From the
amount, he paid filing fees amounting to P3,707.00 to the Clerk of Court of the
Municipal Circuit Court of Valladolid-Pulupandan and San Enrique, which payment
was evidenced by five official receipts. Atty. Juanillo testified that the balance
of P6,293.00 was payment for his legal services.
Court Stenographer Salvacion Fegidero denied that she was involved in the
alleged package deal complained of by Florenda Tobias. She testified that she met
Lorna Vollmer for the first time when Vollmer went to the court in Villadolid and
asked if there was a lawyer in Valladolid, because she was intending to file an
ejectment suit. She referred Vollmer to respondent Judge Limsiaco, since there was
no lawyer in the Municipality of Valladolid, Negros Occidental. The courtroom
of Valladolid, Negros Occidental consists only of one room where everybody holds
office, including respondent. She saw respondent talk with Vollmer for 15 minutes,
but she did not hear what they were talking about. [20]
Investigating Judge Guanzon found that the complainant did not have
personal knowledge of the alleged package deals to litigants who file cases in the
court of respondent. The allegations in the Complaint were all based on the
information relayed to complainant though telephone by her sister, Lorna Vollmer.
During the investigation, complainant admitted that respondent did not personally
receive from her the amount of P10,000.00 as payment for the alleged package
deal, and respondent did not ask from her an additional P10,000.00.
According to Investigating Judge Guanzon, the only person who could have
shed light on the alleged offer of package deals to litigants was Lorna Vollmer,
complainants sister. Unfortunately, Vollmer was not present during the investigation.
Per manifestation of complainant, Vollmer was then in Germany and she was
expected to return to thePhilippines in December 2008. Hence, the complaint of
corruption was unsubstantiated.
Nevertheless, Investigating Judge Guanzon stated that although the alleged
offer of package deals by respondent to litigants was unsubstantiated, it was
improper for respondent to talk to prospective litigants in his court and to
recommend lawyers to handle cases. Likewise, Judge Guanzon found respondents
act of preparing the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel of Atty. Robert Juanillo to be
improper and unethical.
Investigating Judge Guanzon recommended the dismissal of the
administrative complaint against respondent as regards the alleged offer of package
deals to litigants who plan to file cases in his court. However, Judge Guanzon
recommended that respondent be reprimanded for talking to a prospective litigant
in his court, recommending the counsel to handle the case, and preparing the
Motion to Withdraw as Counsel of Atty. Robert Juanillo, which pleading was filed in
respondents court and was acted upon by him.
In a Resolution dated August 4, 2008, the Court referred the Report of
Investigating Judge Guanzon to the OCA for evaluation, report and recommendation
within 30 days from notice.

The OCA found respondents acts, consisting of (1) advising Lorna Vollmer
about the ejectment case she was about to file before his court; (2) recommending
Atty. Robert Juanillo as counsel of the complainant in the ejectment case; and (3)
helping complainant to prepare the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel, to be violative of
the rules on integrity,[21] impartiality,[22] and propriety[23] contained in the New Code
of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary. The OCA recommended that the case
be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter and that respondent be found
guilty of gross misconduct constituting violations of the New Code of Judicial
Conduct and be fined in the amount ofP20,000.00.
In a Resolution dated February 25, 2009, the Court required the parties to
manifest whether they were willing to submit the case for decision, on the basis of
the pleadings/records already filed and submitted, within 10 days from notice.
On August 18, 2010, the Court issued a Resolution resolving to inform the
parties that they are deemed to have submitted the case for resolution on the basis
of the pleadings/records already filed and submitted, considering that they have not
submitted their respective manifestations required in the Resolution dated February
25, 2009, despite receipt thereof on April 1, 2010.
The Court agrees with the findings of Investigating Judge Guanzon that
complainant failed to prove by substantial evidence her allegation that respondent
offers package deals to prospective litigants in his court.
However, the investigation revealed that respondent committed acts
unbecoming of a judge, in particular, talking to a prospective litigant in his court,
recommending a lawyer to the litigant, and preparing the Motion to Withdraw as
Counsel of Atty. Robert Juanillo, which pleading was filed in his court and was acted
upon by him. The conduct of a judge should be beyond reproach and reflective of
the integrity of his office. Indeed, as stated by the OCA, the said acts of respondent
violate Section 1 of Canon 2 (Integrity), Section 2 of Canon 3 (Impartiality), and
Section 1 of Canon 4 (Propriety) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the
Philippine Judiciary,[24] thus:
CANON 2 INTEGRITY
Integrity is essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office
but also to the personal demeanor of judges.
SECTION 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above
reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable
observer.
CANON 3IMPARTIALITy Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of
the judicial office. It applies not only to the decision itself but also to the
process by which the decision is made.
SEC. 2. Judges shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of court,
maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal profession
and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of the judiciary. CANON 4
PROPRIETy Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the
performance of all the activities of a judge.
SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the
appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.
SEC. 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges
must accept personal restrictions that might be viewed as

burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and


willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way
that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.
The
aforementioned
acts
of
respondent
constitute
gross
misconduct. Misconduct means a transgression of some established and definite rule
of action, willful in character, improper or wrong behavior. [25] Gross has been defined
as out of all measure, beyond allowance; flagrant; shameful; such conduct as is not
to be excused.[26] Respondents act of preparing the Motion to Withdraw the
Appearance of Atty. Juanillo as counsel of complainant is inexcusable. In so doing,
respondent exhibited improper conduct that tarnished the integrity and impartiality
of his court, considering that the said motion was filed in his own sala and was acted
upon by him.
Gross misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct is a
serious charge under Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court. [27] Under Section 11,
Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, the sanctions against a respondent guilty of a serious
charge may be any of the following:
1.

Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the


benefits as the Court may determine, and disqualification
from reinstatement or appointment to any public office,
including
government-owned
or
controlled
corporations; Provided, however, That the forfeiture of
benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits;

2.

Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for


more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months; or

3.

A
fine
of
more
exceeding P40,000.00.

than P20,000.00

but

not

In imposing the proper sanction against respondent, the Court takes note
that respondent had been found guilty of grave misconduct in A.M. No. MTJ-031509[28] and was fined P20,000.00, with a warning against repetition of the same or
similar act. Moreover, per verification from court records, respondent compulsorily
retired from the service onMay 17, 2009.
WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., former Presiding
Judge of the Fourth Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Valladolid-San EnriquePulupandan, Negros Occidental, is found GUILTY of gross misconduct for which he
is FINED in the amount of Twenty-five Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00). The Office of
the Court Administrator is DIRECTED to deduct the fine of P25,000.00 from the
retirement benefits due to Judge Limsiaco, Jr.
Sy vs dinoppol
We resolve in this Decision the Verified Complaint, dated March 11, 2008,
[1]
filed by Victoriano Sy against Judge Oscar E. Dinopol of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 24, Koronadal City, South Cotabato, for Conduct Unbecoming a
Member of the Judiciary and for Gross Ignorance of the Law, in relation to Civil Case
No. 1403-24, entitled Sps. Victoriano Sy and Loreta Sy v. Metrobank, for Annulment
and/or Declaration of Nullity of Real Estate Mortgage, and Misc. Case No. 144024, entitled Metrobank v. Sps. Victoriano Sy, et al., for Issuance of a Writ of
Possession.
The Antecedents Facts

The facts are set out in the memorandum/report, dated May 25, 2009, [2] of the Office
of the Court Administrator (OCA), and are summarized below.
The Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company (Metrobank) was the mortgagee
in good faith and for value of twenty-three (23) parcels of land all located in
Koronadal City. The mortgagors were Marvella Plaza Hotel, Sprinter Lumber,
Hardware and Auto Parts, Inc. and/or Sps. Victoriano Sy and Loreta Cabaies-Sy
and/or Sps. Vicente and Antonia Mandanas.
Metrobank foreclosed the mortgage for violation of the terms and
conditions of the mortgage agreement. At the public auction on August 31, 1998,
the mortgaged parcels of land were sold to Metrobank as the highest
bidder. Metrobank was issued a certificate of sale which was registered on
September 18, 1998 with the Register of Deeds of South Cotabato. The mortgagors
failed to redeem the 23 parcels of land within the redemption period.
Thereafter, Sps. Victoriano and Loreta Sy, and Sprinter Lumber, Hardware and Auto
Parts, Inc. filed with the RTC, Branch 24, Koronadal City, presided over by Judge
Dinopol, a complaint against Metrobank for Annulment and/or Declaration of Nullity
of Real Estate Mortgage, Extrajudicial Foreclosure Proceedings and Certificate of
Sale, with Damages and Attorneys Fees and with prayer for the Issuance of a
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Preliminary Injunction, docketed as Civil
Case No. 1403-24.
On April 16, 2004, Judge Dinopol inhibited himself from further acting on the
case[3] on the ground that he received a call, on April 12, 2004, from a ranking
officer of the Philippine Judicial Academy, interceding in behalf of the defendant
bank and an earlier call (July 2003) from a ranking personnel of the OCA, appealing
in behalf of the plaintiffs. He claimed he wanted to avoid being charged with
partiality either way he acted on the case.
On September 15, 2005, Metrobank filed with the RTC, South Cotabato, a Petition for
the Issuance of a Writ of Possession over the parcels of land subject of the
foreclosed mortgage against Marvella Plaza Hotel, Sprinter Lumber, Hardware and
Auto Parts, Inc., and/or Sps. Victoriano and Loreta Sy, and/or Sps. Vicente and
Antonia Mandanas, docketed as Misc. Case No. 1440-24, [4] and assigned to the RTC,
Branch 24, Koronadal City, presided by Judge Dinopol.
On July 13, 2006, Judge Dinopol issued an Order granting the petition, [5] and
issued the writ of possession on July 21, 2006.[6]
Meanwhile, or on May 22, 2006, Sprinter Lumber, Hardware and Auto Parts, Inc. filed
with the RTC, Branch 8, Marawi City, a petition, entitled In the Matter of: Petition for
the Declaration of State of Suspension of Payments with Approval of Proposed
Rehabilitation Plan, docketed as Corp. Case No. 1585-06. [7]
On June 26, 2006, the RTC, Branch 8, Marawi City, issued an Order [8] staying
the enforcement of all claims against the debtor, its guarantors and sureties not
solidarily liable with the debtor. The same court subsequently approved the
rehabilitation plan.
In the meantime, Sheriff Conrado B. Dapulang, Jr. proceeded to implement
the writ of possession issued by Judge Dinopol, but it was returned unsatisfied in
view of the stay order issued by the RTC, Branch 8, Marawi City, in Corp. Case No.
1585-06.[9]
Consequently, the respondents in Misc. Case No. 1440-24 filed a Motion to
Suspend Proceedings due to the issuance of the stay order and the approval of the
rehabilitation plan by the Rehabilitation Court, and a motion for inhibition on
grounds of bias and partiality on the part of Judge Dinopol. Judge Dinopol denied the
motions in an Order dated February 11, 2008, and directed Deputy Sheriff Ricardo G.
Publico to re-implement the writ of execution of July 31, 2006.[10]

Shortly thereafter, Sy filed the present administrative complaint [11]charging


Judge Dinopol of gross ignorance of the law and conduct unbecoming a member of
the judiciary.
Gross Ignorance of the Law
Sy alleged in his complaint that while Civil Case No. 1403-24 (in which he and his
wife sought the declaration of nullity of the foreclosure proceedings against
Metrobank) was pending before Judge Dinopols sala, the judge inhibited himself from
acting on the case. This notwithstanding, and to Sys surprise, Judge Dinopol still
handled Misc. Case No. 1440-24, a petition for the issuance of a writ of possession
filed by Metrobank, a matter closely intertwined with Civil Case No. 1403-24. Judge
Dinopol then issued an order granting Metrobank the right to possess the foreclosed
properties.[12]
Sy further alleged that despite the issuance by the RTC, Branch 8, Marawi City, of a
stay order[13] and the approval of the rehabilitation plan, as well as the pendency of
Metrobanks petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) Twenty-Third Division in
Cagayan De Oro City (CA G.R. SP No. 01824) assailing the validity of the stay order,
Judge Dinopol ordered that the writ of possession be implemented. [14]
Conduct Unbecoming of a Judge
Sy claimed in relation with his charge that while Civil Case No. 1403-24 was pending
in Judge Dinopols sala, the judge asked him for commodity loans in the form of
construction materials to be used in the construction of the judges house. The
transaction was evidenced by delivery receipt no. 15178 (March 8, 2005), [15] and
charge invoices no. 9817 (March 8, 2005) for P16,000.00,[16] no. 9826 (March 9,
2005) for P850.00,[17] and no. 9838 (March 10, 2005) for P780.00.[18]
Sy further claimed that aside from the commodity loans, Judge Dinopol obtained
cash loans from him on various occasions between December 2, 2005 to July 14,
2006, in the total amount of P121,000.00, and Judge Dinopol borrowed from him his
Suzuki Multi-cab and returned it after the judge was suspended in September
2007. Sy
presented
disbursement
vouchers,
official
receipts
and
an
acknowledgement to prove his claim.[19]
Judge Dinopols Comment
In a 1st indorsement dated March 18, 2008, [20] the OCA required Judge
Dinopol to comment on the complaint, which he did on April 21, 2008. [21]
Judge Dinopol denied Sys accusations. He stressed that he inhibited himself
from Civil Case No. 1403-24 on April 16, 2004 and had not acted on the case since
then; nobody intervened and pleaded in behalf of Metrobank after Misc. Case No.
1440-24 was filed. He was not aware nor had he been given notice that Metrobank
filed a petition before the CA (CA G.R. SP No. 01824), nor did he receive any order
from the appellate tribunal enjoining him to desist from performing or acting on the
incidents pending in Misc. Case No. 1440-24.
Judge Dinopol denied that he committed any breach of procedural rules that could
be characterized as gross ignorance of the basic rules of civil procedures. He
maintained that Sy did not allege any specific actuations of deceit, malice or intent
to cause injury to Sy, and that he had acted fairly and objectively. He added that he
observed the requirements of the Code of Professional Responsibility as a lawyer,
relative to his handling of Misc. Case No. 1440-24.
With respect to the alleged accommodations he received from Sy at the time his
house was under construction, Judge Dinopol claimed that when he obtained the
commodity loans from Sy in March 2005, he had already inhibited himself from
handling Civil Case No. 1403-24; he did so on April 16, 2004. He explained that Misc.
Case No. 1440-24 was filed only on September 15, 2005, and was assigned to his
sala on September 22, 2005. He denied that he received from Sy cash loans in the

amount of P121,000.00.He also denied borrowing Sys Suzuki Multi-cab and claimed
that it was Rogelio Villanueva who borrowed it.
Judge Dinopol countered that it was Sy who acted with sinister design and employed
deceit and cunning to frustrate the administration of justice in the cases he
handled.In a Resolution dated July 15, 2009, the Court resolved to: (1) note Sys
complaint and Judge Dinopols answer/comment; (2) re-docket the complaint as a
regular administrative matter; and (3) require the parties to manifest whether they
were willing to submit the matter for resolution on the basis of the pleadings. The
Court also noted the OCA Report dated May 25, 2009, [22] which found no basis for the
charge of ignorance of the law on the part of Judge Dinopol, but found him liable for
conduct unbecoming a judge.
The Courts Ruling
The OCA evaluation is well-founded. Judge Dinopol cannot be disciplined for
ignorance of the law and of procedure in his handling of Civil Case No. 1403-24
(for Annulment and/or Declaration of Nullity of Real Estate Mortgage) filed by Sps.
Victoriano and Loreta Sy against Metrobank, as he inhibited himself from the case,
nor in his handling of Misc. Case No. 1440-24 (Petition for the Issuance of a Writ of
Possession) filed by Metrobank against Sps. Victoriano Sy, et al., because of the
essential nature of the proceeding itself.
In issuing the writ of possession and in directing its re-implementation when it was
returned unsatisfied the first time it was enforced, Judge Dinopol acted in
accordance with the rules and jurisprudence on the matter.
As the Court held in Santiago v. Merchants Rural Bank of Talavera, Inc.,[23] the
proceeding in a petition for the issuance of a writ of possession is ex-parte and
summary in nature. It is brought for the benefit of one party only and may be
granted even without notice to the mortgagor, in this case, complainant
Sy. Moreover, the duty of the court to grant a writ of possession is a ministerial
function. The court does not exercise its official discretion or judgment. [24] Judge
Dinopol, before whom the petition for the issuance of a writ of possession was filed,
had no discretion on whether to issue the writ of possession or not. It cannot be said,
therefore, that Judge Dinopol exposed himself or exhibited bias in favor of
Metrobank when he issued the writ of possession.
Further, regardless of whether there is a pending suit for the annulment of
the mortgage or the foreclosure itself, the purchaser is entitled to a writ of
possession, without prejudice of course to the eventual outcome of the annulment
case. Once the writ of possession is issued, the trial court has no alternative but to
enforce the writ without delay.[25]
From another perspective, a stay order only affects claims filed against the
assets and properties belonging to a debtor. Properties that have already been
foreclosed, and those whose titles have already passed on to the winning bidder are
no longer considered properties of the debtor.[26] In such case, it is a ministerial duty
on the part of the trial court to grant a possessory writ over the foreclosed
properties.[27]
Clearly, Judge Dinopol was well within his authority and committed no impropriety in
directing the re-implementation of the writ of execution in Misc. Case No. 1440-24.
On the other hand, we cannot say the same thing with regard to Sys charge
of conduct unbecoming against Judge Dinopol. The latters denial of having
committed the acts complained of flies in the face of indications in the records and
documentary evidence that he obtained commodity loans from Sy in the form of
building materials for the construction of his house in Koronadal City. There was also
Sys claim of cash loans to Judge Dinopol on various occasions, between December 2,
2005 and July 14, 2006, amounting to P121,000.00, as well as the loan of Sys Suzuki
Multi-cab to the Judge.

The commodity loans were evidenced by receipts [28] indicating delivery of


construction materials to Judge Dinopols residence. The cash loans appear to have
been covered by disbursement vouchers,[29] and the borrowed multicab is the
subject of an acknowledgement[30] from Judge Dinopols driver Rogelio Villanueva.
There is substantial evidence showing that Judge Dinopol obtained the commodity
loans from Sy. The judge himself admitted that he wrote Sy, on March 4, 2005,
regarding the purchase of materials for his house which was then under
construction, although he claimed that it was his wife who transacted with Sy and it
was Sy himself who offered to deliver the materials to his residence. [31] Judge
Dinopol pleaded innocence regarding the commodity loans or even the cash loans
saying that the transaction with Sy regarding the construction materials occurred
when there was no case pending in his sala where Sy was a party.
The above disclaimer notwithstanding, we find Judge Dinopol to have committed a
serious impropriety in his or his familys financial or business dealings with Sy.
Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct in relation to a judges impartiality
provides, inter alia, as follows:
Sec. 2. Judges shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of court,
maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal profession
and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and the judiciary.
Sec. 3. Judges shall, so far as is reasonable, so conduct themselves as to
minimize the occasions on which it will be necessary for them to be
disqualified from hearing or deciding cases.
Judge Dinopol violated the above provisions when he received
accommodations from Sy for the building materials he needed for the construction
of his house. He compromised his position as a judge. Although at the time he and
his family had business dealings with Sy there was no pending case involving the
businessman, he should have been more circumspect in securing the construction
materials. The sphere of Sys business operations was within his territorial
jurisdiction. As the OCA aptly noted, it is neither impossible nor remote that a case
might be filed in his court with complainant as a party. In such a case, his
(respondent) business and financial dealings with complainant would create a doubt
about his fairness and impartiality in deciding the case and would tend to corrode
the respect and dignity of the court.[32]
In addition, we find that Judge Dinopol also violated Section 1 of Canon 1,
Canon 2 and Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.
Section 1 of Canon 1 highlights the independence of a judge in performing
his official duties, thus:
SEC. 1. Judges shall exercise the judicial function independently on
the basis of their assessment of the facts and in accordance with a
conscientious understanding of the law, free of any extraneous
influence, inducement, pressure, threat or interference, direct or
indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.
Canon 2 requires a judge to promote integrity in the discharge of
his official functions:
Integrity is essential not only in the proper discharge of the judicial
office but also to the personal demeanor of judges.
SEC. 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above
reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in view of a reasonable
observer.
SEC. 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the
peoples faith in the integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not
merely be done but must also be seen to be done.
Moreover, Canon 4 mandates a judge to observe and maintain
proper decorum and its appearance in his public office:

Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the


performance of all the activities of a judge.
SEC. 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of
impropriety in all of their activities.
By his own admissions, Judge Dinopol failed to observe these ethical
standards. In his Answer/Comment, Judge Dinopol admitted that he talked with Sy
on several occasions to discuss Misc. Case No. 1440-24. [33] Judge Dinopol also
admitted that Sy, in at least two instances, requested him to delay the resolution of
the writ of possession.[34] Judge Dinopols actions no doubt created the inference that
at some point, he acceded to Sys requests to delay the proceedings. This conclusion,
is in fact, bolstered by Judge Dinopols knowledge that the counsel for Metrobank was
instructed to immediately secure the order for the issuance of the writ of possession.
[35]
Regardless of the representations allegedly made to him by Sy, Judge Dinopol
should have immediately issued the writ of possession in Metrobanks favor.
From these inappropriate actions, we find that Judge Dinopol compromised not only
his impartiality in handling Misc. Case No. 1440-24 but also his independence and
integrity as a judge. His actions no doubt diminished public confidence and public
trust in him as a judge. His actions gave the public the impression and the
appearance that he can be influenced by extraneous factors - other than the legal
arguments and the court evidence in discharging his judicial functions.
In addition, we find that Judge Dinopol committed impropriety in talking
with litigants outside court proceedings. His improper conduct was further
aggravated by the fact that these conversations took place in the absence of the
opposing litigants and/or the opposing counsel. In Agustin v. Mercado,[36] we
declared that employees of the court have no business meeting with litigants or their
representatives under any circumstance. In Re: Affidavit of Frankie N. Calabines,
[37]
the Court minced no words in explaining that such unethical conduct
constitutes a brazen and outrageous betrayal of public trust. [38] The Court further
declared in the said case:
x x x The Court cannot overemphasize the need for honesty and
integrity on the part of all those who are in the service of the
judiciary. x x x
The image of a court as a bastion of justice depends to a large
extent on the personal and official conduct of its employees. Thus,
from the judge to the lowest clerk, judicial personnel have the
sacred duty to maintain the good name of the Judiciary.
All employees in the judiciary should be examples of responsibility,
competence and efficiency. As officers of the court and agents of
the law, they must discharge their duties with due care and utmost
diligence. Any conduct they exhibit tending to diminish the faith of
the people in the judiciary will not be condoned.[39]
Certainly, these responsibilities become more exacting when one occupies
the position of a judge. Time and again, we have emphasized that judges are
expected to conduct themselves in a manner that would enhance respect and
confidence of the people in the judicial system.[40] The New Code of Judicial Conduct
for the Philippine Judiciary mandates that judges must not only maintain their
independence, integrity and impartiality; they must also avoid any appearance of
impropriety or partiality, which may erode the peoples faith in the Judiciary.
[41]
These standards apply not only to the decision itself, but also to the
process by which the decision is made.[42]

Without a doubt, Judge Dinopol is liable for gross misconduct in office and deserves
to be sanctioned under the above findings. His track record as a judge, in this
regard, is far from exemplary. He is a repeat offender, as demonstrated by the
following cases where we penalized him for questionable conduct:
First, in A.M. No. RTJ-06-1969 decided on June 15, 2006, Judge Dinopol was found
guilty of gross ignorance of the law and was fined P20,000.00. [43]
Second, in A.M. No. RTJ-06-2020 decided on September 20, 2006, he was found
guilty of gross ignorance of the law and abuse of authority, and was
fined P20,000.00.[44]
Third, in A.M. No. RTJ-06-2003 decided on August 23, 2007, he was found liable for
undue delay in rendering a decision or order and for violating the clear provisions of
A.M. No. 01-1-07-SC, and was fined P11,000.00.[45]
Fourth, in A.M. OCA IPI No. 05-2173-RTJ decided on August 28, 2006, he was strongly
admonished, even as the complainant desisted from pursuing the complaint against
the judge for gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of authority and discretion. [46]
And more recently, in A.M. No. RTJ-07-2052 decided on March 30, 2009, Judge
Dinopol had been reminded and warned against entertaining litigants outside court
premises.[47]
Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court classifies gross misconduct
constituting a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct as a serious charge. Under
Section 11 of the same Rule, the respondent found guilty of a serious charge may be
meted any of the following sanctions:
1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the
Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or reappointment to
any public office;
2. Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than
three (3) months but not exceeding six (6) months; or
3. A fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00.
Considering his repeated infractions and numerous breaches of the
standard ethical conduct demanded of judges, we find Judge Dinopol unfit to
discharge the functions of a judge. We impose upon him the severest penalty of
dismissal from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, excluding
accrued leave benefits, and disqualification from reinstatement or reappointment to
any public office, including government-owned or controlled corporations. [48]
Lastly, as we sanction Judge Dinopol, we remind the members of the bench
that:
[a]lthough every office in the government service is a
public trust, no position exacts a greater demand on moral
righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the
[J]udiciary. A magistrate of the law must compose himself at all
times in such a manner that his conduct, official and otherwise,
can bear the most searching scrutiny of the public that looks up to
him as the epitome of integrity and justice.[49]
WHEREFORE, premises considered, Judge Oscar E. Dinopol, Regional Trial
Court,
Branch
24,
Koronadal
City,
is
declared GUILTY
OF
GROSS
MISCONDUCT and is hereby DISMISSED from the service, with FORFEITURE of all
benefits, except accrued leave credits, if any, with prejudice to his re-employment in
any branch or service of the government, including government-owned and
controlled corporations.
Tabora vs carbonnel

The Case
This administrative case arose from an Affidavit-Complaint dated 17 October 2006
filed by Caridad S. Tabisula (Tabisula) against Judge Mona Lisa T. Tabora (Judge
Tabora), Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court (RTC), San Fernando City, La Union,
Branch 26, and Alfredo V. Lacsamana, Jr. (Lacsamana), Officer-in-Charge, Branch
Clerk of Court (OIC-BCOC) of the same court. Tabisula charged Judge Tabora with (1)
violation of Section 3(e)[1] of Republic Act No. 3019[2] (RA 3019) or the Anti-Graft and
Corrupt Practices Act; (2) violation of Section 1, Canon 3 [3] and Section 2, Canon
5[4] of A.M. No. 03-05-01-SC[5] or the New Code of Judicial Conduct; (3) violation of
Republic Act No. 6713[6] (RA 6713) or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for
Public Officials and Employees; and (4) gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of
authority, oppression, serious neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best
interest of the service. Further, Tabisula charged Lacsamana with (1) violation of
Sections 3(e)[7] and (f)[8] of RA 3019; (2) violation of Articles 226[9] and 315(3)(c)[10] of
Act No. 3815[11] or the Revised Penal Code; and (3) violation of Sections 5(a), [12] (d),
[13]
and (e)[14] of RA 6713.
The FactsIn her Affidavit-Complaint dated 17 October 2006 submitted to the Office
of the Court Administrator (OCA), Tabisula stated that she was the plaintiff in Civil
Case No. 6840 entitled Caridad S. Tabisula v. Rang-ay Rural Bank, Inc. for specific
performance with accounting and damages. This case was raffled to the RTC of San
Fernando City, La Union, Branch 26 presided by Judge Tabora. Tabisula narrated that
due to the prolonged absence of Judge Tabora caused by a serious illness, Judge
Antonio A. Carbonell (Judge Carbonell), now retired but then pairing/vice-executive
judge of the RTC of San Fernando City, La Union, Branch 27, took over and heard the
case from the beginning up to its termination.Later, Tabisula found out that a
decision had already been rendered by Judge Carbonell so she requested from
Lacsamana a copy of the decision. However, despite several requests, Lacsamana
allegedly refused to furnish Tabisula with a copy of the decision upon the instruction
of Judge Tabora, who at that time had already reported back to work.Tabisula sent a
Letter-Request dated 24 August 2006 addressed to the RTC asking Judge Tabora to
direct Lacsamana to give a copy of the decision rendered by Judge
Carbonell.However, instead of granting the request, Judge Tabora issued an Order
dated 30 August 2006, informing Tabisula that an Order dated 8 August 2006 was
issued by the RTC requiring the parties to submit their respective memorandum
within 15 days from receipt of the Order. Also, Judge Tabora informed Tabisula that
even if the pairing judge was the one who heard the case from beginning to end, the
prerogative of rendering the decision still rests entirely on the presiding judge.

On 18 September 2006, Judge Tabora rendered a decision in the case adverse to


Tabisula. Tabisula then wrote a Letter dated 2 October 2006 to Judge Carbonell
requesting for a copy of his decision. On 9 October 2006, Judge Carbonell replied to
Tabisulas letter and attached a copy of his decision which favored Tabisula.
Tabisula then filed this case against Judge Tabora for maliciously and deliberately
changing, altering and reversing a validly rendered decision of a court of equal and
concurrent jurisdiction. Tabisula added that this has caused her undue injury since
the defendant in Civil Case No. 6840, Rang-Ay Rural Bank Inc., represented by its
President, Ives Q. Nisce, was allegedly a relative of Judge Taboras husband.
Tabisula also charged Lacsamana for alleged manifest partiality, evident bad faith,
and gross inexcusable negligence for refusing to furnish a copy of the decision
rendered by Judge Carbonell despite several verbal and written demands.
In an undated Comment submitted to the OCA, Lacsamana clarified that his official
designation is Sheriff IV and he was only designated as OIC-BCOC by Judge Tabora

on 1 August 2006. Lacsamana explained that Judge Carbonell handed him a copy of
his decision in Civil Case No. 6840 on 11 August 2006. However, that day being a
Friday, Lacsamana was able to submit the decision to Judge Tabora only on the next
working day, 14 August 2006. Judge Tabora informed him to just leave a copy of the
decision at her table. From then on, Lacsamana had no more knowledge of what
happened to the decision.
Lacsamana added that he was the one who received Tabisulas Letter dated 24
August 2006 addressed to Judge Tabora. Lacsamana reasoned that he was not the
person in charge of releasing decisions, orders, and other documents relative to a
pending case and it was not within his functions to release a decision without the
presiding judges authority.
Judge Tabora then filed her Comment dated 26 February 2007 with the OCA. Judge
Tabora indicated that she underwent surgery on 15 May 2006 and was later
diagnosed with a serious illness. Prior to her surgery, she conducted a hearing in
Civil Case No. 6840 on 21 April 2006. However, the same had been reset due to the
absence of Tabisulas counsel.
On 18 May 2006, Tabisula filed a Motion for the pairing judge to hear Civil Case No.
6840 on the basis of Judge Taboras absence. On 26 May 2006, while Judge Tabora
was on leave, Judge Carbonell proceeded to hear the testimony of the lone witness
for the defendant in the case without first issuing an order granting the motion filed
by Tabisula.
On 13 June 2006, Judge Tabora reported back to work. However, on 19 June 2006,
Judge Carbonell still acted on the formal offer of evidence by the defendants and
issued an Order submitting the case for resolution.
On 8 August 2006, in the course of her inventory of court records, Judge Tabora
noticed that Civil Case No. 6840 had been submitted for decision on 19 June 2006 by
Judge Carbonell. Since the 90-day period for rendering a decision was soon to
expire, she immediately issued an Order dated 8 August 2006 directing the parties
to submit their respective memorandum.
Three days later, on 11 August 2006, Judge Carbonell issued in Civil Case No. 6840 a
decision which was received by Lacsamana. On 14 August 2006, Lacsamana turned
over a copy of the decision to Judge Tabora.
After receipt of the decision, Judge Tabora immediately went to Judge Carbonell and
informed him that she issued an Order dated 8 August 2006 requiring the parties to
submit their respective memorandum. Judge Carbonell immediately cut her off and
told her to just recall her earlier order.
Judge Tabora then carefully studied the entire records of the case and found out that
Judge Carbonells decision was not in accordance with the facts of the case and the
applicable law and appeared to have unjustly favored Tabisula.
Judge Tabora also wondered how Tabisula came to know of the
unpromulgated decision of Judge Carbonell. Judge Carbonells decision was never
officially released to any of the parties and did not form part of the records of the
case.
Judge Tabora pointed out that it was Judge Carbonell who directly furnished Tabisula
with a copy of his decision a month after the decision of Judge Tabora had already
been released to the parties. Also, Tabisulas insistence for the release of Judge

Carbonells decision made her determined to exercise her judicial independence


since such decision would result in a miscarriage of justice.
Judge Tabora also clarified that the defendant in Civil Case No. 6840 was a bank, a
corporate entity with a distinct personality. She was not disqualified from sitting in
the case since under Section 1, Rule 137[15] of the Rules of Court her husbands
relation with the banks representative was remote or way beyond the
6th degree. Thus, the relationship has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the
case. Judge Tabora prayed that the complaint be dismissed for lack of merit.
On 14 August 2007, the OCA submitted its Report finding no sufficient and factual
legal basis to hold Judge Tabora and Lacsamana liable for any of the charges filed by
Tabisula. The OCA stated that Judge Tabora, in rendering her own decision in Civil
Case No. 6840, was well within her power to decide the case since she had full
authority over all cases pending in her official station. As for Lacsamana, the OCA
found that he could not be faulted for his failure to comply with Tabisulas request
since he was only obeying the lawful order of Judge Tabora, his superior. Also, Judge
Carbonells decision in Civil Case No. 6840 was not even promulgated and did not
form part of the official records of the case. Thus, there was no prior existing valid
decision.
The OCA also found that there is a need to scrutinize the actuations of Judge
Carbonell since he overstepped the bounds of his authority as pairing judge for
Branch 26 and has shown unusual interest in the disposition of Civil Case No. 6840.
The OCA recommended that:
(1) that the instant complaint be DISMISSED as against
respondents Judge Mona Lisa T. Tabora and OIC Branch Clerk of
Court Alfredo V. Lacsamana for lack of merit;
(2)
that the COMMENT of respondent Judge be considered
as a complaint against Judge Antonio A. Carbonell, and that Judge
Carbonell be furnished with a copy of such comment and, be in
turn REQUIRED to COMMENT thereon.
In a Resolution dated 1 October 2007, the Court resolved to (1) dismiss the
administrative complaint against Judge Tabora and Lacsamana for lack of merit; and
(2) consider the Comment dated 26 February 2007 of Judge Tabora as a complaint
against Judge Carbonell and require Judge Carbonell to file his Comment within 10
days from notice.
In his Comment dated 29 October 2007, Judge Carbonell admitted the facts of the
case as stated by Judge Tabora in her Comment dated 26 February 2007 from the
time he took over Civil Case No. 6840 until he submitted his decision to OIC-BCOC
Lacsamana. However, he disagreed with Judge Taboras contention that the decision
he rendered in Civil Case No. 6840 was not validly promulgated and released to the
parties. Judge Carbonell maintained that the act of filing the decision with the clerk
of court already constituted a rendition of judgment or promulgation and not its
pronouncement in open court or release to the parties.
Judge Carbonell added that he was not aware of what subsequently transpired after
he turned over the records of the case but admitted that after receipt of the letterrequest of Tabisula asking for a copy of his decision, he immediately responded by
furnishing Tabisula with a copy.

Judge Carbonell further stated that the instant administrative matter does not
involve him. The dispute was originally between Tabisula against Judge Tabora and
Lacsamana. The only issue between him and Judge Tabora was a divergence of legal
opinion.
Thereafter, Tabisula filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated 27 November 2007 on
the Courts Resolution dated 1 October 2007. Tabisula stated that the Court erred in
dismissing the complaint she filed against Judge Tabora and Lacsamana.
In a Letter dated 5 March 2008, Lacsamana and seven other employees of the RTC
of San Fernando City, La Union, Branch 26, wrote the OCA and narrated their
negative experience toward a co-employee, Olympia Elena O. Dacanay-Queddeng
(Queddeng), Legal Researcher II of the same court. In the same letter, they also
gave their support in an unrelated administrative complaint filed by Judge Tabora
against Queddeng.
In a Resolution dated 25 June 2008, the Court referred the case to the OCA for
evaluation, report and recommendation.
The OCAs Report and Recommendation
On 18 September 2008, the OCA submitted its Report finding Judge Carbonell guilty
of simple misconduct for violating Section 2, Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial
Conduct. The OCA reiterated that Judge Carbonell overstepped the bounds of his
authority as pairing judge of Branch 26 when he prepared the decision in Civil Case
No. 6840 and furnished Tabisula with a copy of such decision. As a result, Judge
Carbonell created the impression that he had taken a special interest in the case.
The OCA recommended that:
(1) the Motion for Reconsideration dated November 27, 2007 of
Mrs. Caridad S. Tabisula on the Resolution dated October 1, 2007,
be DENIED for lack of merit;
(2)
this case be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative
matter and Judge Antonio A. Carbonell be FINED in the amount of
Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) to be deducted from the
retirement benefits that he may receive; and
(3)
the Letter dated March 5, 2008 of Alfredo Lacsamana,
Jr., Court Sheriff, and seven (7) other employees of RTC, Branch
26, San Fernando City, La Union, against Mrs. Olympia DacanayQueddeng, Legal Researcher, same court, be DETACHED from the
records of this administrative matter and the same be included in
A.M. No. P-07-2371 (Office of the Court Administrator vs. Ms.
Olympia Elena D. Queddeng, Court Legal Researcher II, RTC,
Branch 26, San Fernando, La Union).
The Courts Ruling
The Court finds the report of the OCA well-taken.
The authority of a pairing judge to take cognizance of matters of another branch in
case the presiding judge is absent can be found in two circulars issued by the Court:
(1) Circular No. 7[16] effective 23 September 1974 and (2) Circular No. 1998[17] effective 18 February 1998.
Judge Carbonell, as the pairing judge of the RTC of San Fernando City, La Union,
Branch 26, assumed cognizance of Civil Case No. 6840 upon Judge Taboras leave of
absence in May 2006 due to a serious illness. Judge Carbonell fulfilled his duties by

conducting hearings in the said case from May until June 2006. On 13 June 2006,
Judge Tabora reported back to work as presiding judge of Branch 26. However, even
though Judge Carbonell knew that Judge Tabora had already re-assumed her duties,
he still issued an Order submitting the case for resolution on 19 June 2006 and even
submitted a written decision to OIC-BCOC Lacsamana on 11 August 2006.
Clearly, Judge Carbonell fell short of the exacting standards set in Section 2, Canon
3[18] of the New Code of Judicial Conduct which states:
CANON 3
IMPARTIALITY
Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial
office. It applies not only to the decision itself but also to
the process by which the decision is made.
SEC. 2. Judges shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out
of court, maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the
legal profession and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of
the judiciary. (Emphasis supplied)
Lower court judges play a pivotal role in the promotion of the peoples faith in the
judiciary. They are front-liners who give human face to the judicial branch at the
grassroots level in their interaction with litigants and those who do business with the
courts. Thus, the admonition that judges must avoid not only impropriety but also
the appearance of impropriety is more sternly applied to them. [19]
As correctly observed by the OCA, Judge Carbonell should have sought the
conformity of Judge Tabora in rendering his own decision to the case as a matter of
judicial courtesy and respect. Judge Carbonell tried justifying his act by reasoning
that the act of filing a decision with the clerk of court already constituted a rendition
of judgment or promulgation. We find this explanation unsatisfactory. Judge
Carbonell had no authority to render a decision on the subject civil case. As clearly
laid down in Circular No. 19-98, the pairing judge shall take cognizance of all cases
until the assumption to duty of the regular judge. Since Judge Tabora was already
present and performing her functions in court, it was improper for Judge Carbonell to
have rendered a decision in Civil Case No. 6840 without the approval of the regular
presiding judge.
Also, Judge Carbonell should have extended the same judicial deference in referring
the letter of Tabisula requesting for a copy of his decision to Branch 26 for
appropriate action. Instead, Judge Carbonell directly furnished Tabisula with a copy
knowing fully well that she was the plaintiff in the subject case. Judge Carbonell not
only disregarded the functions of the clerk of court as custodian of court records but
also undermined the integrity and confidentiality of the court.
For violating Section 2, Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, we find Judge
Carbonell guilty of simple misconduct. Simple misconduct has been defined as an
unacceptable behavior that transgresses the established rules of conduct for public
officers.[20] We adhere to the OCAs recommendation of a fine of P10,000.00 to be
deducted from Judge Carbonells retirement benefits which have been withheld
pursuant to the Courts Resolution dated 24 September 2008, which granted the
payment of his disability retirement benefits subject to the withholding
of P200,000.00 pending final resolution of the administrative cases against him.
Further, we adopt the other recommendations of the OCA in its Report dated 18
September 2008. We deny for lack of merit the Motion for Reconsideration dated 27
November 2007 filed by Tabisula on this Courts Resolution dated 1 October
2007. We also direct the OCA to detach from the records of this administrative

matter the Letter dated 5 March 2008 of Lacsamana and seven other employees of
the RTC of San Fernando City, La Union, Branch 26, against Queddeng, Legal
Researcher of the same court. The Letter is to be included in A.M. No. P-07-2371
entitled Office of the Court Administrator v. Ms. Olympia Elena D. Queddeng, Court
Legal Researcher II, RTC, Branch 26, San Fernando, La Union.

wages as money claims against the Estate, in a labor case


entitled Constancia Amar, et.(sic) al. versus Hacienda Fanny and
Dioscoro Rubin, RAB Case Nos. 1092-81 and A-593-81, both
consolidated and numbered as 0104-82, which was then pending
and decided by Labor Arbiter Ricardo T. Octavio;

WHEREFORE, we deny the Motion for Reconsideration dated 27 November 2007


filed by Caridad S. Tabisula for lack of merit. We find respondent Judge Antonio A.
Carbonell, former Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, San Fernando City, La Union,
Branch 27, GUILTY of simple misconduct and FINE him P10,000.00, to be deducted
from his retirement benefits which have been withheld pursuant to the Courts
Resolution dated 24 September 2008.
We DIRECT the Office of the Court Administrator to detach from the records of this
administrative matter the Letter dated 5 March 2008 of Alfredo Lacsamana, Jr. and
seven other employees of the Regional Trial Court, San Fernando City, La Union,
Branch 26, against Olympia Dacanay-Queddeng, Legal Researcher of the same court
and include the Letter in A.M. No. P-07-2371 entitled Office of the Court
Administrator v. Ms. Olympia Elena D. Queddeng, Court Legal Researcher II, RTC,
Branch 26, San Fernando, La Union.

SO ORDERED.
Ruben vs Aguirre
In a verified complaint, dated June 14, 2003,[1] filed before the Office of the
Court Administrator (OCA), Mansueta T. Rubin (complainant) charged Judge Jose Y.
Aguirre, Jr.[2] of Graft and Corruption, Betrayal of Public Trust, Grave Abuse of
Authority of a Judge, Manifest Bias and Partiality, and Violation of Judicial Conduct. In
her verified complaint, the complainant alleged:

That the aforesaid consolidated labor cases were decided and


became final and executory and the judgment was already
satisfied and paid for personally by Dioscoro Rubin when he was
still alive in the amount of P44,000.00 in the form of check which
was given to Atty. Corral, counsel for the claimants, through Atty.
Rogelio Necessario, counsel for Hacienda Fanny and Dioscoro
Rubin x x x.
C
That respondent Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion and
grave abuse of authority by ordering the aforesaid Estate to pay
P205,125.00 upon a Motion based on a non-existing final or
executory decision, which order was illegal and improper and
without any notice and/or hearing accorded to the Estate through
its then Judicial [Administrator] Feliciano Rubin. x x x x
D

That Complainant is the widow of the late Feliciano Rubin who


was appointed as the Judicial Administrator of the Estate of the
Spouses Dioscoro Rubin and Emperatriz Rubin;

The labor case decided by Labor Arbiter Oscar Uy awarded the


claimants in the amount of P205,125.00, which decision was
appealed by Judicial Administrator Feliciano Rubin and was
ordered rema[n]ded and decided by Labor Arbiter Octavio in the
consolidated cases with the reduction of the award in the amount
of P62,437.50. The judgment amount was further reduced after
an audit in the amount of P44,000.00. x x x x

III

II

That Complainant, during the lifetime of her husband, Feliciano


Rubin, who is the aforesaid Judicial Administrator, had witnessed
and experienced that her husband and their family were victims
of Graft and Corruption, Grave Injustice amounting to Violation of
the Constitution, Betrayal of Public Trust, Grave Misconduct,
Grave Abuse of Authority, Gross Ignorance of Law, Conduct
Unbecoming of a Judge or Judicial Magistrate, Manifest Bias and
Partiality, and Violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, on the
part of the respondent Judge committed during the conduct of the
proceedings in Special Proceeding No. 28, Intestate Estate of the
Spouses Dioscoro Rubin and Emperatriz Rubin, and in Civil Case
No. 184, an Annulment of Adoption pending before him, as
follows:
A
The respondent Judge, by way of devious schemes and clever
machinations extorted money from the aforesaid Estate by
lending expertise in connivance with other lawyer in pursuing an
alleged claim against the Estate allegedly intended for workers

That respondent Judge had threatened the Judicial Administrator


and threatened to be cited for contempt if he will not pay the said
labor claims, further threatened to sell the properties if he will not
pay the said labor claims, and likewise threatened that he would
order the x x x properties of the Estate to be sold at public
auction if the said claim will not be paid. x x x x The evident
purpose of the respondent Judge was to cause harassment and
anxiety against the then Judicial Administrator which made his
health condition deteriorate so fast that facilitated his death.
F
That Complainants deceased husband who was the Administrator
of the said Estate was forced to pay the amount ordered by the
respondent Judge which was deposited in court but which was
ordered released by the same respondent Judge [b]ecause the
money claim ordered to be paid by respondent Judge had already
been paid and satisfied by Administrator Feliciano Rubin,
naturally no recipient would claim the amount nor anybody can

be found from the records of the case or that no laborer came


forward to claim that he had not been paid of his money claim;
G
The respondent Judge was grossly ignorant of the law when he
ordered the change of Administrator after the then Judicial
Administrator Feliciano Rubin refused to follow the invalid and
unlawful orders of the respondent Judge, as he ordered his Clerk
of Court, Atty. Gregorio A. Lanaria to act as Special Administrator
of the Estate with orders to sell the properties of the Estate to
satisfy the outstanding claim or obligations of the Estate, which
was part of the clever scheme of respondent Judge to extort
money from the Estate x x x.
H
That respondent Judge had extended unwarranted benefit,
advantage and preference to the newly appointed Judicial
Administratrix of the Estate, Aileen Rubin, through his manifest
bias and partiality and evident bad faith towards the late
Administrators wife, complainant herein, and the surviving heirs,
especially in his conduct of the proceedings involving the Estate
and the Annulment of Adoption case. Respondent Judge even
appointed Aileen Rubin as Administratrix of the Estate whose
legal personality is still the subject of the Annulment of Adoption
case, and even pronounced that under the eyes of the law Aileen
Rubin is the sole and legal heir of the aforesaid Estate thus
prejudging the cases before him even if the proceedings are still
pending;
I
That respondent Judge ordered his appointed Administratrix,
Aileen Rubin, to enter into the Estate, and having entered therein,
she and her cohorts ransacked the premises, took out records,
personal belongings of the deceased Feliciano Rubin, then
Administrator of the Estate, and his wife, the complainant herein
x x x.[3]
The complainant submitted documentary evidence to support the above allegations.
[4]

In his Comment, Judge Aguirre claimed that the complaint contained malicious and
scurrilous allegations that smacked of harassment. The complaint was filed by the
disgruntled complainant who mistakenly believed that she should be appointed as
the Judicial Administratrix of the Estate of the late Spouses Dioscoro and Emperatriz
Rubin, instead of Aileen Rubin, the adopted child of the deceased spouses. Judge
Aguirre asserted that his appointment of Aileen Rubin as Special Administratrix was
affirmed by the Court of Appeals [5] (CA) and by the Supreme Court.[6]
He also asserted that the complainant had confused two labor cases. [7] Only the
amount of P44,000.00 was paid as separation pay in RAB Case No. VI-0104-82. In
RAB Case No. A-593-81, Judge Aguirre issued orders to compel Mr. Feliciano Rubin,
the former Administrator of the Estate of the late Spouses Dioscoro and Emperatriz
Rubin, to pay lawful and valid claims against the estate. Judge Aguirre emphasized
that he had already been penalized by the Supreme Court for delaying the

enforcement of the final and executory decision of the National Labor Relations
Commission (NLRC) against the estate of the late spouses Dioscoro and Emperatriz
Rubin.
Judge Aguirre submitted his own documentary evidence to corroborate his
allegations.[8]
In its report, the OCA recommended that the case be docketed as a regular
administrative case considering the varying positions taken by the parties, and
considering, too, the failure of Judge Aguirre to explain in his Comment why he
invited Mr. Feliciano Rubin to see him personally in court.
In the Resolution dated March 17, 2004,[9] the Court referred the case to
Justice Josefina Guevarra-Salonga (Investigating Justice) for investigation, report and
recommendation.
The Investigating Justice found that except for the charge of Conduct
Unbecoming of a Judge and Violation of Judicial Conduct, the other charges against
Judge Aguirre were bereft of factual and legal basis. [10] The Investigating Justice
found that Judge Aguirre committed an impropriety when he sent a letter to Mr.
Feliciano Rubin to discuss and to expedite a possible extra-judicial settlement of the
estate of the deceased Spouses Rubin.[11] The Investigating Justice explained:
[H]is act of sending a letter to a party litigant for a personal
conference, however motivated, does not validate his action and
the damning implications it may generate to the [J]udiciary this is
especially so since the content of said letter can constitute as an
act of fraternizing with party-litigants. It must be emphasized that
in-chambers sessions without the presence of the other party and
his counsel must be avoided. The prohibition is to maintain
impartiality. Being a judicial front-liner who has a direct contact
with the litigating parties, the respondent judge should conduct
himself beyond reproach.[12]
The Investigating Justice ruled that Judge Aguirre violated Canon 2 of the Code of
Judicial Conduct which states that a judge should avoid impropriety and the
appearance of impropriety in all activities. The Investigating Justice recommended
that Judge Aguirre be reprimanded with a stern warning that a repetition of the same
or similar act shall be dealt more severely.
The Courts Ruling
We find the findings of the Investigating Justice to be well-taken.
First, the complainants claims of alleged devious schemes, clever
machinations, and connivance employed by Judge Aguirre to extort money from the
Estate of the Spouses Dioscoro and Emperatriz Rubin are unsupported by evidence.
A perusal of the documents submitted by both parties shows that the orders issued
by Judge Aguirre to compel Mr. Feliciano Rubin to settle the money claims filed
against the Estate of the Spouses Dioscoro and Emperatriz Rubin in RAB Case No. A593-81 were lawful. The orders were issued to enforce a final and executory decision
of the NLRC in the case; we even previously penalized Judge Aguirre for his failure to
promptly act on the motions filed by the laborers in RAB Case No. A-593-81, for the
enforcement of the final NLRC decision.[13]
In addition, the evidence on record also refutes the complainants claim that the
money claims in RAB Case No. A-593-81 had been previously settled. The records

show that what Mr. Feliciano Rubin actually paid was a claim for separation pay in
RAB Case No. VI-0104-82 an illegal dismissal case; the money claims in RAB Case
No. A-593-81 pertained to the payment of wage differentials.

Under the circumstances, Judge Aguirres act was improper considering that
he opened himself to suspicions in handling the case. His action also raised doubts
about his impartiality and about his integrity in performing his judicial function.

Second, we find no evidence supporting the allegation of bias and partiality when
Judge Aguirre appointed Ms. Aileen Rubin as Judicial Administratrix of the estate of
her adopting parents. Notably, the propriety of the order of her appointment by
Judge Aguirre was upheld, on appeal, by the CA in its Decision dated July 19,
2002[14] and its Resolution dated September 26, 2002,[15] and by this Court in its
Resolution of December 11, 2002.[16]

We take note that the complained act was committed before the New Code
of
Judicial
Conduct
took
effect
on June
1,
2004.
Under
the
circumstances, Judge Aguirre isliable under the provisions of the Code of Judicial
Conduct and the Canons of Judicial Ethics. [25] Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct
provides that [a] judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety
in all activities. Carrying the same guiding principle is Canon 3 of the Canons of
Judicial Ethics which states, [a] judges official conduct should be free from the
appearance of impropriety, and his personal behavior, not only upon the bench and
in the performance of judicial duties, but also in his every day life, should be beyond
reproach.
In Rosauro v. Kallos,[26] we ruled that impropriety constitutes a light charge.
Section 11(C) of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court [27] provides the following sanctions if
the respondent is found guilty of a light charge:
C. If the respondent is guilty of a light charge, any of the following
sanctions shall be imposed:

Third, in Guerrero v. Villamor,[17] we held that a judge cannot be held liable


for an erroneous decision in the absence of malice or wrongful conduct in rendering
it. We also held that for liability to attach for ignorance of the law, the assailed order,
decision or actuation of the judge in the performance of official duties must not only
be erroneous but must be established to have been motivated by bad faith,
dishonesty, hatred, or some other like motive. [18] The complainant failed to prove
any of these circumstances in this case. We find no evidence of corruption or
unlawful motive on the part of Judge Aguirre when he made the said appointment.
Although the appointment by Judge Aguirre of his branch clerk of court as
Special Administrator for the Estate of the Spouses Dioscoro and Emperatriz Rubin
was erroneous for having violated a standing Court circular and for being contrary to
existing jurisprudence,[19] we find that the appointment was made in good faith.
Good faith connotes an honest intention to abstain from taking unconscientious
advantage of another.[20] In this regard, Judge Aguirres good faith is strengthened by
evidence showing that the appointment of his branch clerk of court was prompted
by the continued refusal of Mr. Feliciano Rubin to settle the money claims filed
against the estate in RAB Case No. A-593-81. The records show that Mr. Feliciano
Rubin did not obey the several orders issued by Judge Aguirre to settle the money
claims, and that an administrative case was even filed against Judge Aguirre for his
failure to rule on the laborers motion in RAB Case No. A-593-81.
Despite these findings, we find that Judge Aguirre committed an impropriety when
he sent a letter, in his official letterhead, to Mr. Feliciano Rubin to discuss a matter
pending before his own court.
In Agustin v. Mercado,[21] we declared that employees of the court
have no business meeting with litigants or their representatives
under
any circumstance.
This prohibitionis more compelling when it
involves
a judge who, because of his position, must strictly adhere to the highest tenets of
judicial conduct;[22] a judge must be the embodiment of competence, integrity and
independence.[23] As we explained in Yu-Asensi v. Villanueva:[24]
..[W]ithin the hierarchy of courts, trial courts stand as an
important and visible symbol of government especially considering that as
opposed to appellate courts, trial judges are those directly in contact with
the parties, their counsel and the communities which the Judiciary is
bound to serve. Occupying as he does an exalted position in the
administration of justice, a judge must pay a high price for the honor
bestowed upon him. Thus, a judge must comport himself at all times in
such manner that his conduct, official or otherwise, can bear the most
searching scrutiny of the public that looks up to him as the epitome of
integrity and justice. x x x it is essential that judges, like Caesar's wife,
should be above suspicion.

1. A fine of not less than P1,000.00 but not


exceeding P10,000.00 and/or;
2. Censure;
3. Reprimand;
4. Admonition with warning.
The Investigating Justice recommended the penalty of reprimand with stern
warning. In light of Judge Aguirres death, however, we resolve to impose a fine
of P5,000.00 instead. Jurisprudence holds that the death of the respondent in an
administrative case, as a rule, does not preclude a finding of administrative liability,
save for recognized exceptions.[28] None of the exceptions applies to the present
case.[29]
The P5,000.00 fine shall be taken from the amount of P50,000.00 which we
previously retained/withheld from Judge Aguirres retirement benefits due to the
administrative cases filed against him.[30]
WHEREFORE, we find Judge Jose Y. Aguirre, Jr. guilty of impropriety, in violation of
Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Canon 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
We hereby impose a fine of P5,000.00 which shall be deducted from the P50,000.00
withheld from his retirement benefits.
SO ORDERED.
Reyes vs doque
The Facts
In her Verified Complaint, Susan O. Reyes (Reyes) charged respondent Judge Manuel
N. Duque (Judge Duque) of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 197, Las Pias City (RTCBranch 197), with Impropriety, Corruption and Gross Misconduct. Reyes alleged that
she was a party-in-intervention in Land Registration Case No. 06-005 entitled In re:
Petition of Philippine Savings Bank for Issuance of a Writ of Possession under Act No.
3135 over Properties covered by TCT Nos. T-85172 and T-84847 filed by the
Philippine Savings Bank (bank) against the spouses Carolyn Choi and Nak San Choi
(spouses Choi). In a Decision dated 6 November 2006, Judge Duque granted the
motion for the issuance of a writ of possession in favor of the bank and ordered the
spouses Choi and all those claiming rights under them to vacate the properties
covered by TCT Nos. T-85172, T-84848, and T-84847 situated in BF Resort Village,

Talon 2, Las Pias. On 13 August 2007, Reyes filed an Urgent Petition for Lifting
and Setting Aside of Writ of Possession and Quashal of Notice to Vacate claiming
that she bought the subject property covered by TCT No. T-85172 from the spouses
Choi and that she was in actual possession of the property with full knowledge of the
bank.
At the hearing of Reyes petition, Atty. Herminio Ubana, Sr., (Atty. Ubana) the lawyer
of Reyes, introduced her to Judge Duque who allegedly gave Reyes 30 days to settle
matters with the bank. Reyes was unable to re-negotiate with the bank. On the first
week of December 2007, Reyes allegedly received a phone call from Judge Duque
and the latter instructed Reyes to go to his house and bring some money in order
that he can deny the pending motion to break open. As she did not have the money
yet, Reyes allegedly told Judge Duque that she would see him the following day as
her allotment might arrive by that time. The following day, when her allotment
arrived, Reyes went to the PNB Cubao Branch in Quezon City to withdraw P20,000.
She, her secretary, and driver went to the house of Judge Duque at No. 9 CRM
Corazon, BF Almanza, Las Pias. The son of Judge Duque opened the gate. At his
house, Judge Duque demanded P100,000. Reyes gave him P20,000 and she asked
for time to give him the balance. After a week, Atty. Ubana called Reyes telling her
that Judge Duque was asking for her and waiting for the balance he demanded. On
21 December 2007, Reyes went to the house of Judge Duque with P18,000 on hand.
Judge Duque allegedly scolded her for not bringing the whole amount of P80,000.
Reyes explained that she had difficulty raising the amount. Judge Duque locked the
main door of his house and asked Reyes to step into his office. Judge Duque pointed
to a calendar posted on the wall and pointed to December 26 as the date when she
should complete the amount. All of a sudden, Judge Duque held the waist of Reyes,
embraced and kissed her. Reyes tried to struggle and free herself. Judge Duque
raised her skirt, opened her blouse and sucked her breasts. He touched her private
parts and attempted to have sexual intercourse with Reyes. Reyes shouted for help
but the TV was too loud. As a desperate move, Reyes appealed to Judge Duque
saying: kung gusto mo, huwag dito. Sa hotel, sasama ako sayo. Judge Duque
suddenly stopped his sexual advances and ordered Reyes to fix her hair.
In his Comment,[1] Judge Duque averred that since the complaint of Reyes was filed
after he retired on 21 February 2008, he was no longer under the jurisdiction of the
Office of the Court Administrator (OCA). He denied the charges hurled against him
and claimed the allegations were fabricated, false and malicious.
In its Report dated 26 June 2008, [2] the OCA found that Reyes actually filed four
identical complaints. First, Reyes filed a complaint dated 16 January 2008 duly
subscribed on 23 January 2008. Reyes was directed to comply with the requirement
of verification and she complied by filing on 20 February 2008 verified complaints
with the Office of the Chief Justice and the OCA. On 12 March 2008, Reyes filed for
the third time another verified complaint with the OCA which was a mere reiteration
of her previous complaints.The OCA opined that the jurisdiction of the Court at the
time of the filing of the complaint was not lost by the mere fact that Judge Duque
had ceased to be in office during the pendency of the case. Thus, as recommended
by the OCA, the case was referred to a Court of Appeals Justice [3] for investigation,
report and recommendation per Resolution dated 6 August 2008. [4]
Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Justice
On the charge of graft and corruption, Reyes presented photocopies of P1,000 bills
to prove that Judge Duque demanded and received money from her in consideration
of a favorable ruling. The Investigating Justice, however, found no compelling
evidence to corroborate Reyes accusation as it was doubtful whether these were the
same bills used to pay off Judge Duque.[5]
On the charge of impropriety and gross misconduct, the Investigating Justice opined
that the act of Judge Duque in embracing and kissing Reyes, sucking her breasts and
touching her most intimate parts were certainly acts of lewdness that were

downright obscene, detestable, and unwelcome. These acts were established by


substantial evidence. The Investigating Justice, however, stated that Reyes
description of the sexual assault could not be deemed as attempted rape. [6]
The Investigating Justice found Judge Duque guilty of impropriety and gross
misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and recommended
the imposition of fine of P40,000 which should be deducted from the retirement
benefits of Judge Duque.
Report of the Court Administrator
In his Memorandum,[7] the Court Administrator[8] confirmed that Judge Duque
compulsorily retired from the judiciary on 21 February 2008. He opined that the
conduct of Judge Duque bore the marks of impropriety and immorality. The actions
of Judge Duque fell short of the exacting standards for members of the judiciary.
Judge Duque failed to behave in a manner that would promote confidence in the
judiciary. The Court Administrator recommended that a P40,000 fine be imposed on
Judge Duque which should be deducted from his retirement benefits.
The Courts Ruling
We agree with the recommendation of both the Investigating Justice and the OCA
for the imposition of a fine of P40,000 on Judge Duque.
First, on the question of jurisdiction as Judge Duque is no longer a member of the
judiciary having retired from the service on 21 February 2008, the records show that
Reyes filed four similar complaints against Judge Duque. A complaint dated 18
January 2008 addressed to then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno and subscribed on 19
February 2008 was received by the OCA on 20 February 2008 [9] and by the Office of
the Chief Justice also on 20 February 2008, [10] or one day before the date of
retirement of Judge Duque. A similar complaint subscribed on 19 February 2008 was
received by the OCA on 12 March 2008. [11] An identical complaint addressed to the
OCA and subscribed on 23 January 2008 was filed and received by the OCA on 25
January 2008.[12] As pointed out by the OCA, Judge Duque was inadvertently sent a
copy of the complaint that was filed and received on 12 March 2008. [13] The filing of
similar and identical complaints on different dates was due to the directive of the
OCA requiring that the complaint be verified or that the original copy of the verified
complaint be filed.[14] Nonetheless, it is clear from the records that Reyes filed her
intended complaint before Judge Duque retired. Consequently, the Court no doubt
has jurisdiction over this administrative case.
On the charge of graft and corruption, the Investigating Justice and the OCA found
insufficient evidence to sustain Reyes allegation that Judge Duque demanded and
received money from her in consideration of a favorable ruling. Thus, this charge
should be dismissed for being unsubstantiated.
On the charge of impropriety and gross misconduct, and after a thorough
investigation conducted by the Investigating Justice, it was established, and Judge
Duque admitted, that Reyes went to his house. [15] Substantial evidence also pointed
to Judge Duques liability for impropriety and gross misconduct when he sexually
assaulted Reyes.[16] There is no need to detail again the lewd acts of Judge Duque.
The Investigating Justices narration was sufficient and thorough. The Investigating
Justice likewise observed that Judge Duque merely attempted to destroy the
credibility of Reyes when he insinuated that she could be a woman of ill repute or a
high class prostitute or one whose moral value is at its lowest level. However, no
judge has a right to solicit sexual favors from a party litigant even from a woman of
loose morals.[17] In Tan v. Pacuribot,[18] this Court further stressed:

We have repeatedly reminded members of the Judiciary to so


conduct themselves as to be beyond reproach and suspicion, and
to be free from any appearance of impropriety in their personal
behavior, not only in the discharge of their official duties but also in
their everyday lives. For no position exacts a greater demand on
the moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a
seat in the Judiciary. Judges are mandated to maintain good moral
character and are at all times expected to observe irreproachable
behavior so as not to outrage public decency. We have adhered to
and set forth the exacting standards of morality and decency,
which every member of the judiciary must observe. A magistrate is
judged not only by his official acts but also by his private morals, to
the extent that such private morals are externalized. He should not
only possess proficiency in law but should likewise possess moral
integrity for the people look up to him as a virtuous and upright
man.
Judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their
activities.[19] Judges should conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with the
dignity of the judicial office.[20] Judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to freedom
of expression, belief, association and assembly, but in exercising such rights, they
should always conduct themselves in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of
the judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. [21]
The conduct of Judge Duque fell short of the exacting standards for members of the
judiciary. He failed to behave in a manner that would promote confidence in the
judiciary. Considering that a judge is a visible representation of the law and of
justice,[22] he is naturally expected to be the epitome of integrity and should be
beyond reproach. Judge Duques conduct indubitably bore the marks of impropriety
and immorality. He failed to live up to the high moral standards of the judiciary and
even transgressed the ordinary norms of decency of society. Had Judge Duque not
retired, his misconduct would have merited his dismissal from the service.
WHEREFORE,
we
find
respondent
Judge
Manuel
N.
Duque GUILTY of IMPROPRIETY and GROSS MISCONDUCT. We FINE him P40,000
to be deducted from his retirement benefits.
SO ORDERED.
Capco-Umali vs Villarante, AM No RTJ-08-2124, 27 Sept 2009

By Complaint-Affidavit of April 25, 2007[1] filed with the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA), Judge Rizalina Capco-Umali (Judge Capco-Umali) charged Judge
Paulita Acosta-Villarante[2] (Judge Acosta-Villarante) with violation of the New Code of
Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary[3] (New Code of Judicial Conduct), Canon
2, Section 2[4] and Canon 4, Sections 1 and 2.[5]
The facts which spawned the filing of Judge Capco-Umalis complaint are not
disputed.
Judge Acosta-Villarante wrote a Memorandum of March 27, 2007[6] addressed to
Executive Judge Maria Cancino-Erum of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of MandaluyongCity. The Memorandum, copies of which were furnished the Offices of
the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, the Judicial and
Bar Council, Representative Benhur Abalos, Mayor Neptali Gonzales II, the City

Prosecutor of Mandaluyong, the Clerk of Court of Mandaluyong RTCs, and the other
judges of MandaluyongCity, reads:

This refers to that unfortunate incident which occurred during the


first meeting of RTC Judges ever [sic] held on March 23, 2007
(Friday) under your executive judgeship where the newly
appointed vice executive Judge Rizalina Capco-Umali marred the
event by conduct very unbecoming of a judge by uttering
unsavory remarks and epithets or words of the same import
designed to humiliate the undersigned in the presence of fellow
judges and assistant clerk of court Atty. Leynard Dumlao,
coupled with her attempt to inflict physical harm to the
undersigned which you, as the newly appointed executive Judge,
miserably failed to control and dominate and opted to take a
passive stance.

The conduct of the newly appointed vice executive judge does not
speak well of her being a judge who is expected to conduct herself
in a way that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.
While the meeting of the judges is an ideal forum for the exchange
of ideals and information, and to promote camaraderie among
judges in the interest of public service, there is no assurance that
the uncalled for incident on March 23, 2007 will not be repeated.
It is therefore moved that the holding of monthly meeting of
judges be suspended. (Underscoring supplied)
On account of the underlined statements of Judge Acosta-Villarante in her abovequoted Memorandum, Judge Capco-Umali filed a complaint for libel docketed as I.S.
No. 07-7732-D,[7] before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Mandaluyong City.
Judge Acosta-Villarante countered by also filing an Administrative Complaint
of April 26, 2007 charging Judge Capco-Umali with violation of Canon 4, Sections 1
and 2[8] of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, and a complaint for Grave Oral
Defamation and Grave Threats, docketed as I.S. No. 07-71846-E, [9] before the Office
of the City Prosecutor, Mandaluyong City.
By 1st Indorsement of August 1, 2007,[10] the administrative complaints were
referred to the OCA.
The details of Judge Capco-Umalis complaint are contained in her Complaint-Affidavit
for Libel as follows:
After having been designated by the Supreme Court a[s] the new
Executive Judge and Vice-Executive Judge, Regional Trial Court,
Mandaluyong City, Judge Maria A. Cancino-Erum and the Vice
Executive Judge (complainant) together with Executive Judge
Ofelia Colo of the Metropolitant [sic] Trial Court Br. 59 agreed to
pay a courtesy call/visit to May[o]r Neptali Boyet Gonzales II, City
Mayor of Mandaluyong City. The visit took place at noontime
of March 15, 2007 (Thursday). After briefing the Mayor [about] the

purpose of our visit, he warmly and graciously entertained us.


Until the conversation was shifted to the topic of local allowance.
Such being the topic, Judge Maria A. Cancino-Erum showed to the
Mayor the payroll for the month of April 2007 for early approval
considering that most judges would take their vacation. Perusing
intently the payroll Mayor Gonzales noticed the disparity in figures
(amount) as to the allowance received by each Judges. He noticed
that respondent Villarante was receiving additional three thousand
pesos (P3,000) on top of her regular allowance as Executive Judge;
and additional five thousand pesos (Php5,000) on top of her
allowance as Acting Judge of Br. 209. He also noticed that I [Judge
Capco-Umali] and Executive Judge Maria A. Cancino-Erum received
additional two thousand pesos (P2,000) each on top of our regular
allowances. Asking us as to why and as to where those additional
allowances come from, complainant told the mayor that TERRE,
the one preparing the payroll told us (I and Executive Judge Erum)[
about the P2,000 allowance.]
Executive Judge Maria A. Cancino-Erum for her
part informed the Mayor, thus: Sabi po ni Judge
Villarante nirequest daw niya po iyon sa inyo
approved nyo, at pinirmahan niya ang payroll.
Tinanggap naman po naming [sic] nitong
February.
But as regards the additional P3,000 (as Executive Judge) and
P5,000 (as Acting Judge) of Judge Villarante, we told the Mayor
that we have no knowledge as to how they come about Wala
akong alam na request, wala akong inaprove, at lalong wala akong
pangdagdag. Walang pondo. Iyon ngang mga tao ko, hindi ko
maincreasan. E, kayo mga judges kayo, syempre pirma na lang
ako pag prisinta sa akin an[g] payroll.
The Mayor summoned LOIDA, her staff and
directed the latter to retrieve the previous
payrolls including the 2006 payrolls. He also said
that ang laki naman ng increase ng Executive
Judge, lalo na ang sa Acting, hindi naman
ganyan yan ah. Pero in case na naaprove ko yan,
ibibigay na natin yan sa bagong Executive Judge
at iyong dating Executive Judge, balik sa dati
niyang tinatanggap.
Come, March 23, 2007 (Friday) Monthly Judges Meeting hosted by
the newly designated Executive Judge Maria A. Cancino-Erum. The
meeting was going smoothly until the topic of local allowance had
been touched. Reporting to the body what transpired during the
courtesy call at the Mayors Office on March 15, 2007, when the
matter of giving to the new executive judge the increased
allowances of Executive Judge Paulita B. Acosta-Villarante and that
the latter would revert back [sic] to the authorized amount for
Executive Judges was discussed, respondent Villarante was
angered and blurted out addressing the new Executive Judge,
thus:
Kayo, simula ng maupo sa pwesto, wala ng
ginawa kundi kutkutin at maghanap ng evidencia

para
ako
masira,
nagsusumbong,
nagmamanman. Wala naman pakialaman sa
allowance kanya kanya yan dapat.[]
Having personal knowledge of the conversation that transpired at
the Mayors Office on March 15, 2007, and much aware that
respondents accusations were baseless, complainant felt obliged
to come to the rescue of the embattled Judge Maria A. CancinoErum and to refute respondents misplaced tirade by stating matter
of fact the truth and what I saw and heard. For his part, Judge
Carlos A. Valenzuela who admitted his presence during the
courtesy call confirmed the truthfulness of complainants report
and also confirmed the transfer of Executive Judges allowance to
the new Executive Judge thus: Totoo ang sinabi ni Judge Umali
nandoon ako, ililipat nga allowance sa bagong Executive Judge at
ang dating Executive Judge will receive former amount. While
complainant is still enlightening her fellow Judges of the real facts
that transpired at the Mayors Office, the respondent kept talking
too and even shouting at the top [of] her voice towards
complainant visibly irked by complainants revelation on the
matter.
Respondent
even
called
complainant
a
liar (sinungaling) repeatedly[;] when complainant demanded
from respondent her basis for saying that complainant is a liar,
respondent was not able to answer it but continued calling
her sinungaling. Even telling her to stop talking because her
(complainant) voice is so sharp to her ear (nakakahiwa boses
mo). Respondent continued verbally attacking complainant with
words connoting malicious imputations of being an incorrigible liar
and of being in cahoots with Judge Maria A. Cancino-Erum in
peddling lies [that] the complainant got upset by the verbal
aggression made by Judge Villarante that she told the latter,
thus: Matanda ka na, halos malapit ka na sa kamatayan
gumagawa ka pa ng ganyan, madadamay pa kami. Judge
Villarante fought back: Bog, sana mangyari sa iyo, bog!.
Complainant welcomed the challenge, thus: handa akong
mamatay kahit anong oras dahil wala akong ginagawang masama.
At said instance complainant once more prompted Judge
Villarante as to her authority or basis in the increase in the payroll,
and Judge Villarante answered: May nag-oofer nga!.More heated
exchanges ensued because Judge Villarante kept o[n]
saying sinungaling to the complainant. Thereafter, cooler heads
intervened. Judge Edwin Sorongon brought respondent out of the
room while Atty. Leynard Dumlao [was] pacifying the complainant.
[11]
(Emphasis partly in the original and partly supplied;
underscoring supplied; italics in the original)
By Comment of May 28, 2007,[12] Judge Acosta-Villarante denied that she wrote the
Memorandum to maliciously impute a crime, vice or defect on Judge Capco-Umali as
she merely requested for the suspension of the holding of the monthly meeting of
judges to avoid a repetition of the incident and to afford the parties an opportunity
to cool off.
In causing the circulation of the Memorandum, Judge Acosta-Villarante explained
that she had an obligation to bring to the attention of concerned officials the

personal demeanor of another member that would put the Judiciary in constant
public scrutiny and disrespect. Her version of the incident goes:
After taking up the first agenda of the meeting x x x, the agenda
on allowances of Judges was called to be taken up.
Whereupon, Complainant
manifested as follows:

requested

to

take

the

floor

and

Judge P.A. Villarante:


mga kapwa kong Hukom, bago natin talakayin
ang agenda ng allowances, maari bang ipaabot
ko sa kaalaman ng lahat na may tumawag ng
aking kaalaman at pansin na mayroon diumanong Hukom ng RTC na nagpahiwatig sa
Tanggapan ng City Mayor na di-umano hindi ko
hini-hearing o dinidinig ang mga asunto ng RTC,
Br. 209, na sakup ng aking designasyon bilang
Acting Presiding Judge, na may kaugnayan sa
ating pag-uusapan na allowances. Pinatunayan
ko na hindi tutoo at pawang kasinungalingan
ang bintang sa pamamagitan ng Minutes of
Court Hearings at Certification ng Branch Clerk
of Court ng RTC, Br. 209. Mga kasama sa
Judiciary, nakikiusap ako na iwasan natin ang
nakakasirang bagay na hindi totoo x x x[.]
x x x Ugnay sa representation sa pagtaas ng
allowance ng Judges sa local Government ay
napagbigyan naman. Pakiusap ko, huwag
naman siraan ang kapwa x x x, at iba pa.
On the matter, a Judge in the group made a comment to
wit: x x x upang maiwasan ang hindi pagkakaunawaan ng
isat isa sa atin, hinihiling ko sa bawat isa sa atin na kung
ano ang tinatanggap ng sino man sa atin, huwag ng
questionin x x x at iba pa.
at that juncture Judge Capco-Umali stood up and in a mode of
anger pointing a finger against herein Complainant, she
repeatedly said in a loud voice:

x x x Judge Umali magpakatao at makinig ka


naman para makapagunawaan tayo, nakakahiya
na ito x
to which she became more angry and shouted
x x x Judge ako! Judge ako x x x!.
as she was pounding her breast continuously with her fist;
because of the shock and fright generated by the unruly behavior
of respondent, complainant did not clearly comprehend the rest of
her berating statements made against her in the process
When respondent Judge Umali already appeared to be more
uncontrollable in her decorum, complainant then in fear took steps
to get out of the place with Judge Sorongon then tending her on
her shoulder assisted her in haste towards the exit door; and when
about to step out of the exit door, complainant turning her face on
the then commotion at her back she saw Respondent Judge Umali
still berating her and in the act of catching her at the back but on
the then timely intervention of Atty. Leynard Dumlao who then was
close at complainants back, prevented respondent to reach her
who then hastily moved to the safety of her courtroom still with
the assistance of Judge Sorongon, thus complainant got out of the
wrath of respondent Judge Umali.[13] (Italics and underscoring in
the original)
In her May 22, 2007 Comment,[14] Judge Capco-Umali, admitting having uttered the
remarks matanda ka na, halos malapit ka na sa kamatayan gumagawa ka pa ng
ganyan, madadamay pa kami to Judge Acosta-Villarante, explained that it was due
to exasperation as Judge Acosta-Villarante called her an incorrigible liar
or sinungaling. Alsoadmitting having uttered Judge ako! Judge ako!, she explained
that it was to remind Judge Acosta-Villarante that she deserved respect and
courtesy, for while she was speaking on the topic of allowances, Judge AcostaVillarante kept interrupting her by making interjections and unnecessary comments.
In her June 8, 2007 Reply, [15] Judge Acosta- Villarante, admitting calling Judge
Capco-Umali sinungaling, explained that she was only constrained by the situation,
adding that Judge Capco-Umali is a pathological liar.
In its March 5, 2008 Report and Recommendation,[16] the OCA made the following
evaluation:

Matanda ka na! Mamamatay ka na!... at iba pa


na may kahalintulad.
On the impropriety of the unruly and disrespect behavior and
conduct of Judge Capco-Umali in the presence of fellow-judges and
others, a Judge tried to say something in an effort to appease her
unruliness, but she kept on unkindly berating herein Complainant
who was then speechless out of her shock on her unexpected
behavior.
Regaining a bit of composure and wit, Complainant appealed to
the respondent in this manner:

The admissions made by the concerned Judges anent the


allegations they hurled against each other provide for the
strongest evidence to establish their individual liability.
Time and again, the Court has constantly reminded Judges that as
magistrates of the law, they must comport themselves at all times
in such a manner that their conduct, official or otherwise, can bear
the most searching scrutiny of the public that looks up to them as
epitome of integrity and justice. They must be the first to abide by
the law and weave an example for others to follow. They must
studiously avoid even the slightest infraction of the law (Alumbres
vs. Caoibes, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1431, January 23, 2002). The actions

of the respondent Judges fell short of this exacting ethical


standard demanded from the members of the Judiciary.
Section 1, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the
Philippine Judiciary (A.M. [No.] 03-05-01-SC, [effective] 01 June
2004) enunciates the rule that [J]udges shall avoid impropriety
and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.
Judge Capco-Umali failed to live up to the standard of
propriety entrenched in the aforequoted code of conduct. While,
she might have been provoked by Judge Acosta-Villarantes referral
to her as a liar, she should have maintained her composure
instead of shouting back at a fellow judge. She should have
exercised self-restraint instead of reacting in such a very
inappropriate manner considering that she is in the presence of
fellow Judges and other employees of RTC, Mandaluyong City. She
should have put more consideration and effort on preserving the
solemnity of the said meeting, and on giving those who are
present the courtesy and respect they deserved. It was held
in Quiroz vs. Orfila (272 SCRA 324 [1997]) that [f]ighting between
court employees during office hours is disgraceful behavior
reflecting adversely on the good image of the judiciary. It displays
a cavalier attitude towards the seriousness and dignity with which
court business should be treated. Shouting at one another in the
workplace and during office hours is arrant discourtesy and
disrespect not only towards co-workers, but to the court as
well. The behavior of the parties was totally unbecoming members
of the judicial service.
Judge Capco-Umali, however, does not bear this responsibility
alone. Judge Acosta-Villarante should also be required to
answer for her failure to observe the basic norm of propriety
demanded from a judge in relation with the aforementioned 23
March 2007 incident. At the outset, it was Judge Acosta-Villarantes
unseemly behavior, calling Judge Capco-Umali sinungalingin front
of their fellow Judges that initiated the altercation between the two
Judges. Judge Acosta-Villarante should have been more
cautious in choosing the words to address the already volatile
situation with Judge Capco-Umali.
Judge Acosta-Villarante also repeated the uncalled for conduct
when she wrote the memorandum dated 27 March 2007 and
caused its circulation. If indeed the memorandum was produced
strictly to allow the parties to cool off and avoid a repetition of the
incident, on this ground alone, there was no need to mention the
alleged misbehavior
of Judge Capco-Umali during the
meeting. The memorandum was thus written as a medium
for retaliation against Judge Capco-Umali.
Judge Acosta-Villarante cannot also use as justification in writing
and circulating of the memorandum the claim that she has an
obligation to bring to the attention of concerned officials the
personal demeanor of another member that would put the
Judiciary in constant public scrutiny and disrespect pursuant to her
oath of office. As a Judge, respondent Acosta-Villarante is aware
that there are proper avenues for ventilation of grievance against
anyone in government service. Moreover, the termination of the

conflict between her and Judge Capco-Umali (through the


suggestion of giving the parties opportunity for cooling off) is
clearly not what she is up to for what she did only worsened the
situation (with the filing of several complaints and countercomplaints).
An act complained of anchored on a violation of Code of Judicial
Conduct, may only constitute a serious charge under Section 8 of
Rule 140 of the Rules of Court if the same amounts to gross
misconduct. The respective acts for which the herein respondents
have been charged do not amount to gross misconduct. Thus, the
charges against them cannot be considered serious.
Nevertheless, respondents should be held administratively
liable for violation of Section 1, Canon 4 of the New Code
of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary. Under Section
11(B) in relation to Section 9 (A) of Rule 140, as amended by A.M.
No. 01-8-10-SC, violation of Supreme Court rules constitutes a less
serious charge. Respondents, therefore, may be sanctioned with:
[1] suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not
less than (1) nor more than three (3) months; or [2] a fine of more
than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00.
In the case of Judge Capco-Umali, however, the imposable penalty
should be tempered because it is clear from the record that she
was dragged into the tiff by an act of provocation. [17] (Italics in the
original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Thus, for violating Section 1, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct which is
a less serious charge under Section 11(B) in relation to Section 9 (A) of Rule 140, as
amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, the OCA recommended that Judges Capco-Umali
and Acosta-Villarante be fined in the amount of P11,000 and P16,000, respectively.
The Court finds the evaluation of the complaints by the OCA well-taken.
Courts are looked upon by the people with high respect. Misbehavior by
judges and employees necessarily diminishes their dignity. Any fighting or
misunderstanding is a disgraceful occurrence reflecting adversely on the good
image of the Judiciary.[18] By fighting within the court premises, respondent
judges failed to observe the proper decorum expected of members of the
Judiciary. More detestable is the fact that their squabble arose out of a mere
allowance coming from the local government.
Under Rule 140, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC [19] (September 11, 2001), a
violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct is classified as a serious charge only if it
amounts to gross misconduct. Since, as correctly found by the OCA, the same does
not constitute gross misconduct, it should be considered only as a violation of
Supreme Court rules, directives and circulars, which is classified as a less serious
charge, in which case, any of the following sanctions may be imposed: (1)
suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less than one nor
more than three months; or (2) a fine of more than P10,000 but not
exceeding P20,000.The Court finds, however, that Judges Capco-Umali and AcostaVillarante should each be fined P11,000.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judges Rizalina T. Capco-Umali and Paulita B. AcostaVillarante GUILTY of violation of Section 1, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial
Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, for which they are each FINED in the amount of
Eleven Thousand (P11,000) Pesos.

In view of the retirement of Judge Paulita B. Acosta-Villarante, the Fiscal


Management and Budget Office, Office of the Court Administrator is ordered to
DEDUCT the amount of Eleven Thousand Pesos (P11,000) from her retirement
benefits.

Judge Rizalina T. Capco-Umali, who is still in the service, is STERNLY


WARNED that a repetition of similar acts will be dealt with more severely. The same
stern warning applies to retired Judge Paulita B. Acosta-Villarante in her capacity as a
member of the Bar.
SO ORDERED.