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A.M. No.

RTJ-09-2200 April 2, 2014 limits of her authority and effectively usurped and pre-empted the
(formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 08-2834-RTJ) rehabilitation receiver’s exercise of functions.

ANTONIO M. LORENZANA, Complainant, 4. The respondent ordered that the proceedings of the informal meetings
vs. be off-record so that there would be no record that she had favored
JUDGE MA. CECILIA I. AUSTRIA, Regional Trial Court, Branch 2, Batangas Equitable-PCI Bank (EPCIB).
City, Respondent.
5. The respondent had secret meetings and communications with EPCIB to
DECISION discuss the case without the knowledge and presence of SCP and its
6. The respondent appointed Gerardo Anonas (Anonas) as Atty. Gabionza’s
financial adviser and, at the same time, as her financial adviser to guide
We resolve in this Decision the administrative complaints filed by Antonio M.
her in the formulation and development of the rehabilitation plan, for a fee
Lorenzana (complainant) against Judge Ma. Cecilia I. Austria (respondent), Regional
of ₱3.5M at SCP’s expense. Anonas is also the cousin-in-law of the
Trial Court (RTC), Branch 2, Batangas City.
managing partner of Atty. Gabionza’s law firm.

The records show that the administrative complaints arose from the case "In the
7. The respondent encouraged EPCIB to raise complaints or accusations
Matter of the Petition to have Steel Corporation of the Philippines Placed under
against SCP, leading to EPCIB’s filing of a motion to create a management
Corporate Rehabilitation with Prayer for the Approval of the Proposed Rehabilitation
Plan," docketed as SP. Proc. No. 06-7993, where the respondent was the presiding
judge. The complainant was the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating
Officer of Steel Corporation of the Philippines (SCP), a company then under 8. When requested to conduct an evidentiary meeting and to issue a
rehabilitation proceedings. subpoena (so that SCP could confront EPCIB’s witnesses to prove the
allegation that there was a need for the creation of a management
committee), the respondent denied SCP’s requests and delayed the
i. Complaint
issuance of the order until the last minute.

In his verified complaint dated January 21, 2008, the complainant alleged that in
9. At the hearing of September 14, 2007, the respondent intimidated SCP’s
the course of SP. Proc. No. 06-7993, the respondent committed Gross Ignorance of
counsel, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio; blocked his every attempt to speak;
the Law, Grave Abuse of Authority, Gross Misconduct, Grave Incompetence,
refused to recognize his appearances in court; and made condescending
Irregularity in the Performance of Duty, Grave Bias and Partiality, Lack of
and snide remarks.
Circumspection, Conduct Unbecoming of a Judge, Failure to Observe the
Reglementary Period and Violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility, as
shown by the following instances: 10. The respondent failed to observe the reglementary period prescribed
by the Interim Rules of Procedure on Corporate Rehabilitation (Rules). She
approved the rehabilitation plan beyond the 180 days given to her in the
1. The respondent appointed Atty. Santiago T. Gabionza, Jr. as
Rules, without asking for permission to extend the period from the
rehabilitation receiver over SCP’s objections and despite serious conflict of
Supreme Court (SC).
interest in being the duly appointed rehabilitation receiver for SCP and, at
the same time, the external legal counsel of most of SCP’s creditors; he is
also a partner of the law firm that he engaged as legal adviser. 11. The respondent erroneously interpreted and applied Section 23, Rule 4
of the Rules (the court’s power to approve the rehabilitation plan) to
include the power to amend, modify and alter it.
2. The respondent conducted informal meetings (which she termed as
"consultative meetings" in her Order2dated May 11, 2007) in places outside
her official jurisdiction (i.e., a first class golf club, a hotel and sports club 12. The respondent took a personal interest and commitment to decide the
facilities in Metro Manila) and where she arbitrarily dictated the terms, matter in EPCIB’s favor and made comments and rulings in the proceedings
parameters and features of the rehabilitation plan she wanted to approve that raised concerns regarding her impartiality.
for SCP. She also announced in the meetings that she would prepare the
rehabilitation plan for SCP.
13. The respondent adamantly refused to inhibit herself and showed
special interest and personal involvement in the case.
3. The modified rehabilitation plan submitted by Atty. Gabionza is a replica
of what the respondent dictated to him. Thus, the respondent exceeded the
ii. Supplemental Complaint
The complainant likewise filed a supplemental complaint3 dated April 14, 2008 Rehabilitation of the Rules specifically states that the court may decide matters on
where he alleged that the respondent committed an act of impropriety when she the basis of affidavits and other documentary evidence.
displayed her photographs in a social networking website called "Friendster" and
posted her personal details as an RTC Judge, allegedly for the purpose of finding a
On the allegation of conflict of interest, she maintained that the allegations were not
compatible partner. She also posed with her upper body barely covered by a shawl,
proven and substantiated by evidence. Finally, the respondent also believed that
allegedly suggesting that nothing was worn underneath except probably a brassiere.
there was nothing improper in expressing her ideas during the informal meetings.

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) in its 1st Indorsement4 dated March 18,
b. Comment to April 14, 2008 Supplemental Complaint
2008, referred the complaints to the respondent for comment.

In her comment8 on the supplemental complaint, the respondent submitted that the
a. Comment to January 21, 2008 Complaint
photos she posted in the social networking website "Friendster" could hardly be
considered vulgar or lewd. She added that an "off-shouldered" attire is an
The respondent vehemently denied the allegations against her. While she admitted acceptable social outfit under contemporary standards and is not forbidden. She
that she crafted a workable, feasible rehabilitation plan best suited for SCP, she further stated that there is no prohibition against attractive ladies being judges; she
maintained that she did so only to render fairness and equity to all the parties to is proud of her photo for having been aesthetically made. Lastly, she submitted that
the rehabilitation proceedings. She also submitted that if indeed she erred in the ruling of the Court in the case of Impao v. Judge Makilala9 should not be applied
modifying the rehabilitation plan, hers was a mere error of judgment that does not to her case since the facts are different.
call for an administrative disciplinary action. Accordingly, she claimed that the
administrative complaints were premature because judicial remedies were still
On July 4, 2008, the complainant filed a reply,10 insisting that the respondent’s acts
of posting "seductive" pictures and maintaining a "Friendster" account constituted
acts of impropriety, in violation of Rules 2.01,11 2.0212 and 2.03,13 Canon 2 of the
The respondent also argued that the rules do not prohibit informal meetings and Code of Judicial Conduct.
conferences. On the contrary, she argued that informal meetings are even
encouraged in view of the summary and non-adversarial nature of rehabilitation
In a Resolution14 dated September 9, 2009, the Court re-docketed the complaints as
proceedings. Since Section 21, Rule 4 of the Rules6 gives the rehabilitation receiver
regular administrative matters, and referred them to the CA for investigation, report
the power to meet with the creditors, then there is all the more reason for the
and recommendation.
rehabilitation judge, who has the authority to approve the plan, to call and hold
meetings with the parties. She also pointed out that it was SCP which suggested
that informal meetings be called and that she only agreed to hold these meetings on The CA’s Report and Recommendation
the condition that all the parties would attend.
On November 13, 2009, Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison, the Investigating Justice,
As to her alleged failure to observe the reglementary period, she contended that she conducted a hearing, followed by the submission of memoranda by both parties. In
approved the rehabilitation plan within the period prescribed by law. She argued her January 4, 2010 Report and Recommendation,15 Justice Gonzales-Sison ruled
that the matter of granting extension of time under Section 11, Rule 4 of the that the complaints were partly meritorious. She found that the issues raised were
Rules7 pertains not to the SC, but to the rehabilitation court. judicial in nature since these involved the respondent’s appreciation of evidence.

The respondent likewise refuted the allegations of bias and partiality. First, she She also added that while the CA resolved to set aside the respondent’s decision in
claimed that her denial of the complainant’s motion for inhibition was not due to any the rehabilitation proceedings, it was not by reason of her ignorance of the law or
bias or prejudice on her part but due to lack of basis. Second, she argued that her abuse of authority, but because the rehabilitation plan could no longer be
decision was not orchestrated to favor EPCIB, as evidenced by the fact that EPCIP implemented in view of SCP’s financial predicament.
itself (as some other creditors did) promptly appealed her decision to the Court of
Appeals (CA). Third, she did not remove Atty. Gabionza as SCP’s rehabilitation On the allegation of grave bias and partiality in handling the rehabilitation
receiver because she disagreed that the grounds the complainant raised warranted proceedings, Justice Gonzales-Sison ruled that the complainant failed to present any
his removal. clear and convincing proof that the respondent intentionally and deliberately acted
against SCP’s interests; the complaint merely relied on his opinions and surmises.
She also found no merit to the allegation of conflict of interest. Lastly, she
maintained that the rest of the complainant’s allegations were not substantiated and On the matter of the respondent’s inhibition, she noted that in cases not covered by
corroborated by evidence. the rule on mandatory inhibition, the decision to inhibit lies within the discretion of
the sitting judge and is primarily a matter of conscience.
The respondent further alleged that she did not gravely abuse her authority in not
issuing a subpoena as Section 1, Rule 3 of the Interim Rules on Corporate
With respect to the respondent’s informal meetings, Justice Gonzales-Sison found 2) respondent Judge Ma. Cecilia I. Austria, Branch 2, Regional Trial Court,
nothing irregular despite the out-of-court meetings as these were agreed upon by Batangas City, Batangas, be found GUILTY of conduct unbecoming a judge
all the parties, including SCP’s creditors. She also found satisfactory the and for violation of Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial
respondent’s explanation in approving the rehabilitation plan beyond the 180-day Conduct;
period prescribed by the Rules.
3) respondent Judge Austria be FINED in the amount of Twenty Thousand
The foregoing notwithstanding, Justice Gonzales-Sison noted the respondent’s Pesos (Php20,000.00); and
unnecessary bickering with SCP’s legal counsel and ruled that her exchanges and
utterances were reflective of arrogance and superiority. In the words of the Justice
4) respondent Judge Austria be ADMONISHED to refrain from further acts
of impropriety with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or any
similar act will be dealt with more severely.19
Rather than rule on the manifestations of counsels, she instead brushed off the
matter with what would appear to be a conceited show of a prerogative of her
In arriving at its recommendation the OCA found that the respondent was not guilty
office, a conduct that falls below the standard of decorum expected of a judge. Her
of gross ignorance of the law as the complainant failed to prove that her orders
statements appear to be done recklessly and were uncalled for. xxx. Section 6[,]
were motivated by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption.
Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary states that:
judges shall maintain order and decorum in all proceedings before the court and be
patient, dignified and courteous in relation to litigants, witnesses, lawyers and The OCA also found that the charges of bias and partiality in handling the
others whom the judge deals in an official capacity. Judicial decorum requires rehabilitation proceedings were not supported by evidence. It accepted the
judges to be temperate in their language at all times. Failure on this regard respondent’s explanation in the charge of failure to observe the reglementary
amounts to a conduct unbecoming of a judge, for which Judge Austria should be period.
held liable.16
Lastly, the OCA maintained that the allegations of grave abuse of authority and
On the respondent’s Friendster account, she believes that her act of maintaining a gross incompetence are judicial in nature, hence, they should not be the subject of
personal social networking account (displaying photos of herself and disclosing disciplinary action. On the other hand, on allegations of conduct unbecoming of a
personal details as a magistrate in the account) – even during these changing times judge, violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code), lack of
when social networking websites seem to be the trend – constitutes an act of circumspection and impropriety, the OCA shared Justice Gonzales-Sison’s
impropriety which cannot be legally justified by the public’s acceptance of this type observations that the respondent’s act of posting seductive photos in her Friendster
of conduct. She explained that propriety and the appearance of propriety are account contravened the standard of propriety set forth by the Code.
essential to the performance of all the activities of a judge and that judges shall
conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the dignity of the judicial office. The Court’s Ruling

Finally, Justice Gonzales-Sison noted the CA’s May 16, 2006 Decision17 in CA-G.R. We agree with the recommendation of both Justice Gonzales-Sison and the OCA for
SP No. 100941 finding that the respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in the imposition of a fine on the respondent but modify the amount as indicated
ordering the creation of a management committee without first conducting an below. We sustain Justice Gonzales-Sison’s finding of gross ignorance of the law in
evidentiary hearing in accordance with the procedures prescribed under the Rules. so far as the respondent ordered the creation of a management committee without
She ruled that such professional incompetence was tantamount to gross ignorance conducting an evidentiary hearing. The absence of a hearing was a matter of basic
of the law and procedure, and recommended a fine of ₱20,000.00. She also due process that no magistrate should be forgetful or careless about.
recommended that the respondent be admonished for failing to observe strict
propriety and judicial decorum required by her office.
On the Charges of Grave Abuse of Authority;
Irregularity in the Performance of Duty; Grave
The Action and Recommendation of the OCA Bias and Partiality; and Lack of Circumspection

In its Memorandum18 dated September 4, 2013, the OCA recommended the It is well settled that in administrative cases, the complainant bears the onus of
following: proving the averments of his complaint by substantial evidence.20 In the present
case, the allegations of grave abuse of authority, irregularity in the performance of
RECOMMENDATION: It is respectfully recommended for the consideration of the duty, grave bias and partiality, and lack of circumspection are devoid of merit
Honorable Court that: because the complainant failed to establish the respondent’s bad faith, malice or ill
will. The complainant merely pointed to circumstances based on mere conjectures
and suppositions. These, by themselves, however, are not sufficient to prove the
1) the Report dated January 4, 2010 of Investigating Justice Marlene
accusations. "[M]ere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof."21
Gonzales-Sison be NOTED;
"[U]nless the acts were committed with fraud, dishonesty, corruption, malice or ill- The respondent approved the rehabilitation plan submitted by Atty. Gabionza,
will, bad faith, or deliberate intent to do an injustice, [the] respondent judge may subject to the modifications she found necessary to make the plan viable. The
not be held administratively liable for gross misconduct, ignorance of the law or complainant alleged that in modifying the plan, she exceeded her authority and
incompetence of official acts in the exercise of judicial functions and duties, effectively usurped the functions of a rehabilitation receiver. We find, however, that
particularly in the adjudication of cases."22 in failing to show that the respondent was motivated by bad faith or ill motives in
rendering the assailed decision, the charge of gross ignorance of the law against her
should be dismissed. "To [rule] otherwise would be to render judicial office
Even granting that the respondent indeed erred in the exercise of her judicial
untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the process
functions, these are, at best, legal errors correctible not by a disciplinary action, but
of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment."30
by judicial remedies that are readily available to the complainant. "An
administrative complaint is not the appropriate remedy for every irregular or
erroneous order or decision issued by a judge where a judicial remedy is available, To constitute gross ignorance of the law, it is not enough that the decision, order or
such as a motion for reconsideration or an appeal."23 Errors committed by him/her actuation of the judge in the performance of his official duties is contrary to existing
in the exercise of adjudicative functions cannot be corrected through administrative law and jurisprudence. It must also be proven that he was moved by bad faith,
proceedings but should be assailed instead through judicial remedies.24 fraud, dishonesty or corruption31 or had committed an error so egregious that it
amounted to bad faith.
On the Charges of Grave Bias and Partiality
In the present case, nothing in the records suggests that the respondent was
motivated by bad faith, fraud, corruption, dishonesty or egregious error in rendering
We likewise find the allegations of bias and partiality on the part of the respondent
her decision approving the modified rehabilitation plan. Besides his bare
baseless. The truth about the respondent’s alleged partiality cannot be determined
accusations, the complainant failed to substantiate his allegations with competent
by simply relying on the complainant’s verified complaint. Bias and prejudice cannot
proof. Bad faith cannot be presumed32 and this Court cannot conclude that bad faith
be presumed, in light especially of a judge’s sacred obligation under his oath of
intervened when none was actually proven.
office to administer justice without respect to the person, and to give equal right to
the poor and rich.25 There should be clear and convincing evidence to prove the
charge; mere suspicion of partiality is not enough.26 With respect to the action of the respondent in ordering the creation of a
management committee without first conducting an evidentiary hearing for the
purpose, however, we find the error to be so egregious as to amount to bad faith,
In the present case, aside from being speculative and judicial in character, the
leading to the conclusion of gross ignorance of the law, as charged.
circumstances cited by the complainant were grounded on mere opinion and
surmises. The complainant, too, failed to adduce proof indicating the respondent’s
predisposition to decide the case in favor of one party. This kind of evidence would Due process and fair play are basic requirements that no less than the Constitution
have helped its cause. The bare allegations of the complainant cannot overturn the demands. In rehabilitation proceedings, the parties must first be given an
presumption that the respondent acted regularly and impartially. We thus conclude opportunity to prove (or disprove) the existence of an imminent danger of
that due to the complainant’s failure to establish with clear, solid, and convincing dissipation, loss, wastage or destruction of the debtor-company’s assets and
proof, the allegations of bias and partiality must fail. properties that are or may be prejudicial to the interest of minority stockholders,
parties-litigants or the general public.33 The rehabilitation court should hear both
sides, allow them to present proof and conscientiously deliberate, based on their
On the Charges of Grave Incompetence
submissions, on whether the appointment of a management receiver is justified.
and Gross Ignorance of the Law
This is a very basic requirement in every adversarial proceeding that no judge or
magistrate can disregard.
We agree with the findings of the OCA that not every error or mistake of a judge in
the performance of his official duties renders him liable.27 "[A]s a matter of policy,
In SCP’s rehabilitation proceedings, SCP was not given at all the opportunity to
in the absence of fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a judge in his judicial
present its evidence, nor to confront the EPCIB witnesses. Significantly, the CA, in
capacity are not subject to disciplinary action even though such acts are
its May 16, 2006 decision, found that the respondent’s act of denying SCP the
opportunity to disprove the grounds for the appointment of a management
committee was tantamount to grave abuse of discretion. As aptly observed by
In the present case, what was involved was the respondent’s application of Section Justice Gonzales-Sison:
23, Rule 4 of the Rules, which provides:
[T]he acts of the respondent judge (Judge Austria) in creating a MANCOM without
Sec. 23. Approval of the Rehabilitation Plan. - The court may approve a observing the procedures prescribed under the IRPGICC clearly constitute grave
rehabilitation plan even over the opposition of creditors holding a majority of the abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction.34
total liabilities of the debtor if, in its judgment, the rehabilitation of the debtor is
feasible and the opposition of the creditors is manifestly unreasonable.29
Indeed, while a judge may not be held liable for gross ignorance of the law for every
erroneous order that he renders, this does not mean that a judge need not observe
due care in the performance of his/her official functions.35 When a basic principle of SECTION 6. Judges shall maintain order and decorum in all proceedings before the
law is involved and when an error is so gross and patent, error can produce an court and be patient, dignified and courteous in relation to litigants, witnesses,
inference of bad faith, making the judge liable for gross ignorance of the law.36 On lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity. Judges shall
this basis, we conclude that the respondent’s act of promptly ordering the creation require similar conduct of legal representatives, court staff and others subject to
of a management committee, without the benefit of a hearing and despite the their influence, direction or control.39
demand for one, was tantamount to punishable professional incompetence and
gross ignorance of the law.
A judge should always conduct himself in a manner that would preserve the dignity,
independence and respect for himself/herself, the Court and the Judiciary as a
On the Ground of Failure to Observe whole. He must exhibit the hallmark judicial temperament of utmost sobriety and
the Reglementary Period self-restraint.40 He should choose his words and exercise more caution and control
in expressing himself. In other words, a judge should possess the virtue of
On the respondent’s failure to observe the reglementary period prescribed by the
Rules, we find the respondent’s explanation to be satisfactory.
As held in De la Cruz (Concerned Citizen of Legazpi City) v. Judge Carretas,42 a
judge should be considerate, courteous and civil to all persons who come to his
Section 11, Rule 4 of the previous Rules provides:
court; he should always keep his passion guarded. He can never allow it to run
loose and overcome his reason. Furthermore, a magistrate should not descend to
Sec. 11. Period of the Stay Order. – xxx the level of a sharp-tongued, ill-mannered petty tyrant by uttering harsh words,
snide remarks and sarcastic comments.
The petition shall be dismissed if no rehabilitation plan is approved by the court
upon the lapse of one hundred eighty (180) days from the date of the initial Similarly in Attys. Guanzon and Montesino v. Judge Rufon,43 the Court declared that
hearing. The court may grant an extension beyond this period only if it appears by "although respondent judge may attribute his intemperate language to human
convincing and compelling evidence that the debtor may successfully be frailty, his noble position in the bench nevertheless demands from him courteous
rehabilitated. In no instance, however, shall the period for approving or speech in and out of court.
disapproving a rehabilitation plan exceed eighteen (18) months from the date of
filing of the petition.37
Judges are required to always be temperate, patient and courteous, both in conduct
and in language."
Under this provision, the matter of who would grant the extension beyond the 180-
day period carried a good measure of ambiguity as it did not indicate with
Accordingly, the respondent’s unnecessary bickering with SCP’s legal counsel, her
particularity whether the rehabilitation court could act by itself or whether Supreme
expressions of exasperation over trivial procedural and negligible lapses, her snide
Court approval was still required. Only recently was this uncertainty clarified when
remarks, as well as her condescending attitude, are conduct that the Court cannot
A.M. No. 00-8-10-SC, the 2008 Rules of Procedure on Corporate Rehabilitation, took
allow. They are displays of arrogance and air of superiority that the Code abhors.

Records and transcripts of the proceedings bear out that the respondent failed to
Section 12, Rule 4 of the Rules provides:
observe judicial temperament and to conduct herself irreproachably. She also failed
to maintain the decorum required by the Code and to use temperate language
Section 12. Period to Decide Petition. - The court shall decide the petition within one befitting a magistrate. "As a judge, [she] should ensure that [her] conduct is always
(1) year from the date of filing of the petition, unless the court, for good cause above reproach and perceived to be so by a reasonable observer. [She] must never
shown, is able to secure an extension of the period from the Supreme Court.38 show conceit or even an appearance thereof, or any kind of impropriety."44

Since the new Rules only took effect on January 16, 2009 (long after the Section 1, Canon 2 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct states that:
respondent’s approval of the rehabilitation plan on December 3, 2007), we find no
basis to hold the respondent liable for the extension she granted and for the
SECTION 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but
consequent delay.
that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.

On the Ground of Conduct

In these lights, the respondent exhibited conduct unbecoming of a judge and thus
Unbecoming of a Judge
violated Section 6, Canon 6 and Section 1, Canon 2 of the New Code of Judicial
On the allegation of conduct unbecoming of a judge, Section 6, Canon 6 of the New
Code of Judicial Conduct states that:
On the Ground of Impropriety
We are not unaware of the increasing prevalence of social networking sites in the available for public consumption, she placed herself in a situation where she, and
Internet – a new medium through which more and more Filipinos communicate with the status she holds as a judge, may be the object of the public’s criticism and
each other.45 While judges are not prohibited from becoming members of and from ridicule. The nature of cyber communications, particularly its speedy and wide-scale
taking part in social networking activities, we remind them that they do not thereby character, renders this rule necessary.
shed off their status as judges. They carry with them in cyberspace the same ethical
responsibilities and duties that every judge is expected to follow in his/her everyday
We are not also unaware that the respondent’s act of posting her photos would
activities. It is in this light that we judge the respondent in the charge of
seem harmless and inoffensive had this act been done by an ordinary member of
impropriety when she posted her pictures in a manner viewable by the public.
the public. As the visible personification of law and justice, however, judges are held
to higher standards of conduct and thus must accordingly comport themselves.47
Lest this rule be misunderstood, the New Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit
a judge from joining or maintaining an account in a social networking site such as
This exacting standard applies both to acts involving the judicial office and personal
Friendster. Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct recognizes that
matters.1âwphi1 The very nature of their functions requires behavior under
judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to freedom of expression. This right
exacting standards of morality, decency and propriety; both in the performance of
"includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and impart information
their duties and their daily personal lives, they should be beyond reproach.48 Judges
and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."46 Joining a social networking
necessarily accept this standard of conduct when they take their oath of office as
site is an exercise of one’s freedom of expression. The respondent judge’s act of
joining Friendster is, therefore, per se not violative of the New Code of Judicial
Imposable Penalty
Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, however, also imposes a
correlative restriction on judges: in the exercise of their freedom of expression, they Under Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-
should always conduct themselves in a manner that preserves the dignity of the SC, gross ignorance of the law or procedure is classified as a serious charge. Under
judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the Judiciary. Section 11(A) of the same Rule, a serious charge merits any of the following
This rule reflects the general principle of propriety expected of judges in all of their
activities, whether it be in the course of their judicial office or in their personal lives. 1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the
In particular, Sections 1 and 2 of Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or
prohibit impropriety and even the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities: 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;
SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all
of their activities.
2. Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than
three (3), but not exceeding six (6), months; or
SECTION 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 3. A fine of more than ₱20,000.00, but not exceeding ₱40,000.00.
that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.
On the other hand, conduct unbecoming of a judge is classified as a light offense
Based on this provision, we hold that the respondent disregarded the propriety and under Section 10, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court. It is penalized under Section
appearance of propriety required of her when she posted Friendster photos of 11(C) thereof by any of the following: (1) A fine of not less than ₱1,000.00 but not
herself wearing an "off-shouldered" suggestive dress and made this available for exceeding ₱10,000.00; (2) Censure; (3) Reprimand; and ( 4) Admonition with
public viewing. warning.

To restate the rule: in communicating and socializing through social networks, Judge Austria's record shows that she had never been administratively charged or
judges must bear in mind that what they communicate – regardless of whether it is found liable for any wrongdoing in the past. Since this is her first offense, the Court
a personal matter or part of his or her judicial duties – creates and contributes to finds it fair and proper to temper the penalty for her offenses.
the people’s opinion not just of the judge but of the entire Judiciary of which he or
she is a part. This is especially true when the posts the judge makes are viewable WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Ma. Cecilia I. Austria guilty of GROSS
not only by his or her family and close friends, but by acquaintances and the IGNORANCE OF THE LAW for which she is FINED Twenty-One Thousand Pesos
general public. (₱21,000,00). Judge Austria is likewise hereby ADMONISHED to refrain from further
acts of IMPROPRIETY and to refrain from CONDUCT UNBECOMING OF A JUDGE, with
Thus, it may be acceptable for the respondent to show a picture of herself in the the STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with
attire she wore to her family and close friends, but when she made this picture more severely. SO ORDERED.
A.M. No. RTJ-08-2152 January 18, 2010 In his Comment, Judge Cruz did not deny that he incurred delay in the disposition of
(Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 08-2846-RTJ) LRC Case No. R-5740. Instead, he begged the indulgence of the Court and claimed
that he was indisposed since the latter part of 2004. He narrated that in January
2005, he was diagnosed of diabetes; on November 3, 2005, the cataract on his left
eye was removed while that on his right eye was extracted on April 4, 2006; and on
October 26-28, 2007, he was hospitalized due to heart complications. Judge Cruz
also explained that the delay was partly due to heavy pressure of work.
GUNDRAN, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 152, Pasig City, Respondents.

On the other hand, Clerk of Court Gundran denied being remiss in his duties. He
claimed that in October 2007, he already instructed the clerk-in-charge to complete
the records of the case and to prepare the transmittal letter. Apparently, the clerk-
DEL CASTILLO, J.: in-charge encountered some difficulty in completing the records. He signed the
transmittal letter on February 28, 2008 only to discover that Judge Cruz has not yet
Courts exist to administer justice fairly and without delay. Our overriding concern is issued an order giving due course to the appeal. The records were eventually
to eradicate the impression formed in the minds of the litigants that the wheels of transmitted on March 28, 2008, or on the same day the order giving due course to
justice grind ever so slowly. We have always reminded the judges to dispose of the the appeal was issued by Judge Cruz. Clerk of Court Gundran also claimed that he
cases within the prescribed period of time because we do not want the truism - found it difficult to personally examine if the records have been completed and
justice delayed is justice denied - to lose its meaning or relevance. In the same transmitted on time due to the heavy court docket and the numerous reports that
context, we have constantly exhorted all court employees to be conscientious of needed to be prepared and submitted. Finally, he insisted that there was no
their duties and responsibilities considering that any indiscretion or transgression on deliberate intention to delay the transmittal of the records or to cause damage to
their part would impact negatively on the Court as an institution. the complainant.

The instant administrative case stemmed from a letter-complaint filed by In its Report and Recommendation dated October 13, 2008, the Office of the Court
complainant Luminza Delos Reyes (Delos Reyes) against respondents Judge Danilo Administrator stated that:
S. Cruz (Judge Cruz) and Clerk of Court V Godolfo R. Gundran (Clerk of Court
Gundran), both of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 152, for dereliction EVALUATION: Evidently, there were two delays incurred in this case. First is the
of duty. Specifically, Judge Cruz is charged with delay in the disposition of LRC Case delay in deciding the subject case and the second is the delay in the transmittal of
No. R-57401 while Clerk of Court Gundran is charged with failure to timely transmit the record of the case to the Court of Appeals.
the records of said case.
The delay in deciding the case is attributable solely to Judge Cruz. While we do not
In her letter-complaint dated March 13, 2008, complainant alleged that she is the condone such delay, we are inclined to consider in the instant matter his physical
defendant in LRC Case No. R-5740 pending before Branch 152 of the Regional Trial condition the deterioration of which is supported by several medical certificates and
Court of Pasig City. She claimed that on March 25, 2004, Judge Cruz issued an hospital records. He even availed of the Health and Welfare Plan of the Supreme
Order giving the parties 15 days within which to file their respective memorandum Court.
after which the case would be deemed submitted for decision. The parties complied;
hence, on April 9, 2004 the case was deemed submitted for decision.
The case of respondent Gundran, should, however, be treated differently. As Branch
Clerk, it is his duty to verify the completeness of the records that will be transmitted
However, it was only on July 30, 2007, or more than three years since the case was to the appellate court within thirty (30) days after perfection of the appeal. He
submitted for resolution, that a decision in the said case was rendered. cannot transfer the blame to his staff. Had he followed up his verbal instruction, if
Consequently, complainant argued that Judge Cruz incurred delay in disposing the there was any, he would not have incurred the delay.
case thus should be held administratively liable therefor.
Complainant also alleged that after receipt of the adverse decision, she timely filed
on September 6, 2007 a notice of appeal and paid the corresponding appeal and
RECOMMENDATION: Respectfully submitted for the consideration of the Honorable
docket fees. However, despite the lapse of more than six months from the time the
Court are our recommendations that:
appeal was filed, respondent Clerk of Court Gundran still failed to transmit the
records to the appellate court in violation of Section 10, Rule 41 of the Rules of
Court. 1. this case be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative matter;

On April 11, 2008, then Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepaño required Judge 2. the charges against Judge Danilo S. Cruz be DISMISSED with WARNING
Cruz and Clerk of Court Gundran to file their respective comment on the complaint. however that he should be cautious in observing periods for rendition of
Both respondents complied. judgment; and
3. respondent Clerk of Court Godofredo Gundran be SUSPENDED for one This Court has incessantly admonished members of the bench to administer justice
(1) month and one (1) day for simple neglect of duty. without undue delay, for justice delayed is justice denied. The present clogged
dockets in all levels of our judicial system cannot be cleared unless every magistrate
earnestly, painstakingly and faithfully complies with the mandate of the law. Undue
We find both respondents to be remiss in their duties.
delay in the disposition of cases amounts to a denial of justice which, in turn, brings
the courts into disrepute and ultimately erodes the faith and confidence of the public
As regards Judge Cruz, we find him grossly inefficient in failing to decide LRC Case in the judiciary.5
No. R-5740 within 90 days from the time it was submitted for decision. He should
be mindful that failure to resolve cases submitted for decision within the period
We also find unacceptable Judge Cruz’s justification that the delay was partly due to
fixed by law constitutes a serious violation of the constitutional right of the parties
heavy pressure of work. Precisely, a judge is mandated to resolve cases with
to the speedy disposition of their cases.2 Article VIII, Section 15(1) of the
dispatch. Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct6 categorically
Constitution succinctly provides that:
exhorts all judges to "perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved
decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness". In Report on the
SEC. 15. (1) All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this Constitution must Judicial Audit Conducted in the MTCC, Branch 2, Cagayan de Oro City,7 we declared
be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission for the that:
Supreme Court, and, unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all
lower collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower courts.
We are not unmindful of the burden of heavy caseloads heaped on the shoulders of
every trial judge. But that cannot excuse them from doing their mandated duty to
As such, lower courts are given a period of 90 days only within which to decide or resolve cases with diligence and dispatch. Judges burdened with heavy caseloads
resolve a case from the time it is submitted for decision.3 In this case, it is should request the Court for an extension of the reglementary period within which
undisputed that LRC Case No. R-5740 was submitted for decision on April 9, 2004 to decide their cases if they think they cannot comply with their judicial duty.
but the decision was rendered only on July 30, 2007 or more than three years Hence, under the circumstances, all that said judge needed to do was request for an
beyond the 90-day reglementary period. extension of time since this Court has, almost invariably, been considerate with
regard to such requests. x x x A heavy caseload may excuse a judge’s failure to
The reasons proffered by Judge Cruz for incurring delay in deciding the case within decide cases within the reglementary period but not their failure to request an
the prescribed period fail to persuade us. He claims that his illness primarily caused extension of time within which to decide the case on time.
the delay in the disposition. However, it has not escaped our attention that the case
was submitted for decision as early as April 2004 while Judge Cruz claimed to be We have always extended a sympathetic attitude towards judges. In fact, in recent
indisposed only towards the end of 2004. There was also no showing that years, we have exerted efforts towards improving their condition. In return, we
respondent judge was constantly ill from the time the case was submitted for expect them to likewise exert efforts towards improving the image of the judiciary.
resolution in April 2004 until the promulgation of the judgment in July 2007. He did It must be emphasized that the "honor and integrity of the judicial system is
not present any proof to show that he was absent from work for a prolonged period measured not only by the fairness and correctness of decisions rendered, but also
of time. Moreover, removal of cataract from both eyes does not entail prolonged by the expediency with which disputes are resolved".8 At this juncture, we remind
confinement. In fact, Judge Cruz claimed that he was admitted to the hospital only respondent judge that:
on October 26-28, 2007. At any rate, this confinement occurred long after the
rendition of the judgment in LRC Case No. R-5740.
Delay in the disposition of cases not only deprives litigants of their right to speedy
disposition of their cases, but also tarnishes the image of the judiciary.
Besides, granting that his illness hindered the efficient performance of his functions, Procrastination among members of the judiciary in rendering decisions and taking
all respondent judge had to do was to request for an extension of time within which appropriate actions on the cases before them not only causes great injustice to the
to decide the case. Judge Cruz, however, made no such request. In a similar parties involved but also invites suspicion of ulterior motives on the part of the
case,4 we held that: judge, in addition to the fact that it erodes the faith and confidence of our people in
the judiciary, lowers its standards and brings it into disrepute.9
Indeed, Judge Ubiadas’ illness could have adversely affected the performance of his
duties. Despite having just been subjected to a triple by-pass operation, he knew As regards respondent Clerk of Court Gundran, we find him guilty of simple neglect
fully well that he still had to act as the judge of four (4) RTC branches for two (2) of duty for failure to timely transmit the records of LRC Case No. R-5740. Section
months. If his illness had indeed seriously hampered him in the discharge of his 10, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court provides that:
duties, Judge Ubiadas could have requested this Court for additional time to
decide/resolve pending cases and incidents. His illness cannot be an excuse for his
SEC. 10. Duty of clerk of court of the lower court upon perfection of appeal. –
failure to render decisions or resolutions within the constitutionally prescribed
Within thirty (30) days after perfection of all the appeals in accordance with the
period, considering that he could have requested an extension or other relief from
preceding section, it shall be the duty of the clerk of court of the lower court:
this Court but he did not. It is incumbent upon him to dispose the cases assigned to
him without undue delay.
(a) To verify the correctness of the original records or the record on the instant case, there was undue delay of more than three years before the
appeal, as the case may be, and to make a certification of its decision in LRC Case No. R-5740 was rendered. We therefore find the penalty of fine
correctness;1avvphi1 of ₱11,000.00 as appropriate under the circumstances.

(b) To verify the completeness of the records that will be transmitted to On the other hand, Section 22, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and
the appellate court; Regulations classifies simple neglect of duty as a less grave offense punishable by
suspension of one month and one day to six months, if committed for the first time,
and by dismissal if committed for the second time. As such, we find the penalty of
(c) If found to be incomplete, to take such measures as may be required to
suspension of two months as appropriate under the circumstances.
complete the records, availing of the authority that he or the court may
exercise for this purpose; and
WHEREFORE, we find Judge Danilo S. Cruz of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City,
Branch 152, GUILTY of undue delay in rendering a decision in LRC Case No. R-5740
(d) To transmit the records to the appellate court.
and is hereby FINED the amount of ₱11,000.00. Likewise, Clerk of Court V Godolfo
R. Gundran of the same court is also GUILTY of simple neglect of duty and is hereby
If the efforts to complete the records fail, he shall indicate in his letter of transmittal meted the penalty of suspension of two months without salary and benefits. Both
the exhibits or transcripts not included in the records being transmitted to the are STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense will be dealt
appellate court, the reasons for their non-transmittal, and the steps taken or that with more severely.
could be taken to have them available.
The clerk of court shall furnish the parties with copies of his letter of transmittal of
the records [to] the appellate court.

Verily, the duty to verify the correctness and completeness of the records of the
case rests with the respondent. However, in this case, respondent Clerk of Court
Gundran relegated the performance of his job to another court employee without
any justifiable reason. We are likewise not persuaded by his contention that the
transmittal was delayed because the clerk-in-charge to whom he assigned the job
encountered some difficulty in completing the records. Section 10, Rule 41 of the
Rules of Court expressly provides that if the records are found to be incomplete,
measures should be taken to complete the records. In his comment, however, Clerk
of Court Gundran made no mention of any steps taken to complete the records. At
any rate, the failure to complete the records does not justify its non-transmittal.
Under the Rules, when the records cannot be completed, respondent should
"indicate in his letter of transmittal the exhibits or transcripts not included in the
records being transmitted to the appellate court, the reasons for their non-
transmittal, and the steps taken or that could be taken to have them
available".10 Finally, it has not escaped our notice that the records were eventually
transmitted only on March 28, 2008 or more than six months after complainant filed
her appeal, or about two weeks after the instant administrative complaint was filed.

We stress that clerks of court are essential judicial officers who perform delicate
administrative functions vital to the prompt and proper administration of justice.
Their duty is, inter alia, to assist in the management of the calendar of the court
and in all matters that do not involve discretion or judgment properly belonging to
the judge. They play a key role in the complement of the court, as their office is the
hub of adjudicative and administrative orders, processes and concerns. As such,
they are required to be persons of competence, honesty and probity, they cannot be
permitted to slacken on their jobs.11

Section 9, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court classifies undue delay in rendering a
decision or order as a less serious charge punishable by either (a) suspension from
office without salary and other benefits for not less than one nor more than three
months; or (b) a fine of more than ₱10,000.00 but not exceeding ₱20,000.00.12 In
A.M. No. MTJ-06-1623 September 18, 2009 On October 1, 2004 at past 6:00 p.m., Prosecutor Reyes accidentally met Judge
[Formerly OCA IPI No. 04-1635-MTJ] Reyes at the office of Police Inspector Jovita V. Icuin (Inspector Icuin), the Chief of
the Criminal Investigation Branch of the Pasig City Police Station. Judge Reyes was
there to inquire about her Branch Clerk of Court Timoteo Migriño (Migriño)7 who was
earlier arrested for alleged violation of Presidential Decree No. 1602 or the Anti-
Gambling Law. When Judge Reyes was informed that Migriño was already released
JUDGE JULIA A. REYES, Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 69, Pasig
on orders of Judge Jose Morallos, Judge Reyes asked Prosecutor Reyes to conduct
City, Respondent.
an inquest against Migriño for malversation on the basis of a photocopy of an
affidavit of a certain Ariel Nuestro, purportedly executed and sworn to before Judge
DECISION Reyes on September 15, 2004.8

PER CURIAM: Prosecutor Reyes informed Judge Reyes that the case of malversation may not
necessarily fall under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court9 on Arrest without
Professionalism, respect for the rights of others, good manners and right conduct Warrant and thus cannot be the subject of inquest. Prosecutor Reyes explained that
are expected of all judicial officers and employees, because the image of the inquest could not be conducted as it was already past 6:00 p.m. whereas inquest
judiciary is necessarily mirrored in their actions.1 proceedings could be conducted only until 6:00 p.m. unless authorized by the City
Prosecutor. She added that since the crime was allegedly committed in 2003,
Migriño would have to undergo preliminary investigation.10 Prosecutor Reyes
Five administrative cases against Judge Julia A. Reyes (Judge Reyes), Presiding continued:
Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Pasig City, Branch 69 and one
administrative case which Judge Reyes filed against her Branch Clerk of Court
Timoteo Migriño were consolidated and referred to Justice Romulo S. Quimbo, When she heard that if inquest is conducted he will be released for preliminary
consultant of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), for investigation, report investigation, she was fuming mad and directed me to conduct the preliminary
and recommendation, by this Court’s Resolutions of September 28, 20052 and investigation right then and there. It was really a surprise that a judge, a former
December 12, 2007.3 prosecutor at the Rizal Provincial Prosecution Office, would direct me to conduct
preliminary investigation at the station without giving the respondent (Mr. Migrino),
at least the mandatory 10-day period within which to prepare for an intelligent
Earlier, the Court preventively suspended Judge Reyes "effective immediately and answer/counter-affidavit.
until further orders," by Resolution of December 14, 2004 in A.M. No. 04-12-335-
MeTC, "Re: Problem Besetting MeTC, Branch 69, Pasig City."
She insisted that Mr. Migrino be detained on the weekend and the police detained
him. He was the subject of inquest on October 4, 2004, Monday and was ordered
Records show that Judge Reyes’ whereabouts have remained unknown. She was release for preliminary investigation by the City Prosecutor.
issued an Authority to Travel to the United States for the period from November 16
to 30, 2004. She appears to have left the country in December 2004 but there is no
record showing that she sought the Court’s permission therefor or filed any leave of xxxx
absence for December 2004.4
On October 5 and 6, 2004 I was not able to appear during the hearing of criminal
From an August 17, 2005 Certification from the Bureau of Immigration, the only cases in her sala but I made it a point to inform the Court by calling, through
entry in its database relative to the travel of Judge Reyes was her departure to an cellphone, one of her staff on the mornings of October 5 and 6. I was having severe
unknown destination through Korean Air Flight No. KE622 on December 28, 2004.5 headache and chest discomfort.

Due to her absence, the Court declared Judge Reyes as having waived her right to On October 11, 2004, I appeared at her sala to discharge my official function as
answer or comment on the allegations against her and to adduce evidence. public prosecutor assigned in her Court. Before the hearing started, she asked for
my Medical Certificate and I explained that to be candid, I did not personally see a
doctor but called [the doctor] to inform him of my condition and I was advised to
I. A.M. NO. MTJ-06- rest and take my regular medication. Surprisingly, and to my
1623 (PROSECUTOR ROMANA R. REYES v. JUDGE JULIA A. REYES) embarrassment, without any case for contempt filed and without being
included in the day’s calendar, she brought up the incident of October 1,
By letter-complaint of October 26, 2004,6 Assistant City Prosecutor Romana Reyes 2004. I explained to her that unless I had been authorized by the City Prosecutor
(Prosecutor Reyes), the public prosecutor assigned to Branch 69, charged Judge or Chief-Inquest, I could not conduct inquest and inquest proceedings are being
Reyes with grave abuse of authority and/or grave misconduct, the details of which held in my position as a Prosecutor under the Department of Justice. She
follow: insisted that I was "there as the Prosecutor assigned to this Court and who is
assigned at the same sala and you refused to conduct an inquest" forgetting her
constitutional law that there is separation of powers among the three branches of Verification from the Office of the Clerk of Court of the MeTC of Pasig City revealed,
government – legislative, executive and the judiciary. however, that there was no pending case against Prosecutor Reyes and that the
particular case numbers pertained to cases against 10 individuals for offenses
ranging from violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 6 to Reckless Imprudence resulting
She issued in open court an order requiring me to explain in writing within twenty-
in Damage to Property.14
four (24) hours why I should not be cited for contempt for my refusal to conduct the
inquest on October 1, 2004. I was all the more surprised when she gave the
following sweeping statement in open court: Prosecutor Reyes’ travails did not stop there, however. On October 27, 2004, at
around 10:30 a.m., she received copies of two Orders of October 11 and 13, 2004
of Judge Reyes directing Prosecutor Reyes in the later Order, to
"Don’t worry Prosec, I will not order your arrest today, because I know
that the Pasig City Police Officer at the Pasig Police Station, because your
house is located in front of the Pasig City Station, there is no one who will x x x show cause within 24 hours from receipt of this Order why she should not be
arrest you. I will still coordinate with the office of Gen. Aglipay to send me cited in contempt for her failure to submit her explanation to date and for her failure
a police officer who will take custody of you pending contempt to attend the proceedings of this Court without any explanation.
Considering the gravity of her responsibility as a Public Prosecutor, let warrant issue
The above-quoted statement, lifted from the transcript of stenographic notes of for her arrest. Bail is set atP2,000.00 per case, or a total of TWO HUNDRED THIRTY-
October 11, 2004 which is hereto attached as Annex "A" to "A-5", only shows that EIGHT THOUSAND PESOS ONLY (₱238,000.00).15(Emphasis and capitalization in the
she has already a pre-judgment of the contempt charge and no explanation, even if original; underscoring supplied)
submitted, will convince her to stop from declaring me with contempt.
On December 13, 2004, Prosecutor Reyes wrote another letter16 to the OCA
I was hospitalized at the Medical City on the night of October 11, 2004 until October charging Judge Reyes with Violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Knowingly
14, 2004 due to chest pain and the Court was informed of this fact. However[,] on Rendering an Unjust Judgment or Order, and Gross Ignorance of the Law or
October 13, 2004 when I was still confined, respondent issued an Order in open Procedure, as follows:
court stating:
On December 7, 2004, I arrived at the court room of MTC-Pasig City Branch 69 at
" x x x without any valid explanation except for the word that she is about 8:30 a.m. to discharge my duties as the trial prosecutor of the Branch. The
presently confined at the hospital, which is hearsay at the moment, in which hearing has not started, the Presiding Judge was not there yet and the litigants
case the same is just noted by the court. So for her failure to attend today’s have not been allowed to enter the courtroom. Hearing of cases on the Court does
proceedings, despite notice, as well as for her failure to attend the proceedings not promptly start at 8:30 a.m. but always been the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 9:30
yesterday as well as on October 5 and 6 without any valid explanation, and for her a.m. as the Presiding Judge, Julia A. Reyes, usually arrive past 8:30 a.m. and when
failure to give any explanation after the lapse of 24 hours from the time she was she arrive[s], she still order[s] the installation of her microphone and computer. In
ordered to show cause why she should not be cited in contempt in open court last the meantime, litigants are not allowed to enter the courtroom but have to wait
October 11, 2004, let warrant of arrest issue against the said Public Prosecutor. x x outside until they are allowed entry by the staff.
x Bail is set at P1,000.00 per case in which there is a total of 119 cases
delayed as a result of her absence since October 5 and October 6 as well as
I reviewed the court records to know if the parties had been notified of the
yesterday, October 12 and today, October 13. That means a bail of
scheduled hearings. After the recitation of the Centennial Prayer and before the
P119,000.00 as well as for two (2) counts of apparent contempt which
calendar of cases were called, Judge Julia Reyes called my attention and said that
consist of misbehavior of an officer of the Court in the performance of her
there was an Order of the Court for me to explain my failure to appear on October
official duties as well as for improper conduct tending directly or indirectly
5, 6, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 and up to now, I have not submitted my
to impede, obstruct, and degrade the administration of justice to which bail
explanation. I stood up and politely explained to her that the incidents she was
is set at P25,000.00 each, to set an example to the public especially, since
referring to was the subject of the case I filed against her for Certiorari, Prohibition
she is actually the Public Prosecutor presently assigned to this Court who
& Mandamus, before the Regional Trial Court – Pasig City and there was an Order
committed such apparent act of indirect contempt."11 (Emphasis in the
issued, a copy of the Order had been served on her, that any and all warrant of
original; underscoring supplied)
arrest issued by her would not be enforced and/or implemented by the police
agencies. She did not hear my reason and said that this is a new order and is not
In another letter dated October 29, 2004,12 Prosecutor Reyes informed the OCA that covered by the Order of Hon. Celso Lavina and she ordered that I be detained for
during the October 27, 2004 hearing for the issuance of a temporary restraining one (1) day at the Pasig City Police Headquarters. I moved for a five (5) minute
order in connection with her petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus recess to make a call to my lawyer and to fix myself as I was having palpitation
docketed as SCA-2732 before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, four police then. She denied my motion and ordered the start of the scheduled hearing of
officers served a warrant of arrest13 purportedly issued on October 11, 2004 by cases. She ordered the police officers to lock the door of the courtroom and not to
Judge Reyes pertaining to Criminal Case Nos. 02164-02173, all entitled "People v. let anyone go out or come in. This was the first time, during my assignment at her
Prosecutor Romana R. Reyes." branch, that the door of the court was locked and nobody is allowed to leave the
room or go inside. Though not convenient, as I was thinking of my health then, and I was finally released, over the written objection of Judge Julia Reyes in the copy of
the humiliation I felt in, again, being declared in contempt in open court and the Writ of Preliminary Prohibitory Mandatory Injunction and Court Order dated
ordered detained, I continued to discharge my duties as a trial prosecutor of the December 9, 2004, from the Pasig City Police Headquarters at about 7:00 p.m.
branch until after the more than 40 cases had been called.
x x x x17 (Underscoring supplied)
After the hearing of criminal cases and the case of contempt was called against Max
Soliven et al., I was informed by PO1 Sandy Galino, her security escort, that the
II. A.M. NO. MTJ-06-
police officers whom they have called for assistance were already outside the
courtoom and will be bringing me to the police station. They would not allow me to
leave the place unless I go with them at the Headquarters. When I was about to be
escorted out of the court room, my lawyer, Atty. Hans Santos and my sister, Asst.
Pros. Paz Yson, came and was bringing with them a certified copy of the Order of By Complaint of October 16, 2004,18 Migriño and Domingo S. Cruz charged Judge
Hon. Celso Lavina dated November 22, 2004 stating that any and all warrants Reyes with Gross Ignorance of the Law, Oppression, Abuse of Authority, and Illegal
issued by Judge Julia Reyes will not be enforced by any police agencies. My lawyer Arrest and Detention, the details of which follow:
showed the Order to PO1 Sandy Galino and a certain PO1 Villarosa and they said
that they are getting orders from Judge Julia Reyes. My lawyer then asked them if In July 2003, not long after her appointment as Presiding Judge, Judge Reyes began
they have a written Order from the Court, or a Warrant for my Arrest or a to exhibit "unexplained prejudice and hostility" towards Migriño. In fact, without any
Commitment Order but they replied in the negative. My lawyer further asked them reason at all, Judge Reyes told Atty. Reynaldo Bautista, the MeTC Clerk of Court,
if they are detaining me and they said no. that Migriño would be detailed at the Office of the Clerk of Court.19

xxxx On several occasions, the latest of which was on August 24, 2004, she barred
Migriño from entering the court premises and the staff room. During lunch break on
On or about 12:00 noon of December 9, 2004, I have just alighted from a car and October 1, 2004, Migriño, Deputy Sheriff Joel K. Agliam and Dandy T. Liwag were
she was standing infront of the building when she saw me. She immediately arrested without warrant upon orders of Judge Reyes as they were allegedly caught
followed me and shouted "Arrest her! Arrest her! To the guards on duty at the in flagrante delicto playing "tong-its." Police Officer 1 Sandy Galino (PO1 Galino),
entrance of the building. In the presence of so many persons in the lobby and in the security officer of Judge Reyes, arrested them and brought them to the Pasig
high pitch she made calls, through her cell phone, to several police officers telling City Police Station where they were detained by virtue of the affidavits20 of PO1
them that she caught an escaped convict, a fugitive from justice and needs a Galino and Judge Reyes.21
battery of police officers to make the arrest. I warned her to be careful with her
language considering that I did not escape but was released by Hon. Executive When an Order of Release22 was issued by Judge Morallos after the three posted
Judge Jose Morallos upon presentation of the Order dated November 22, 2004 of bail, Judge Reyes tried to prevent their release and insisted that she had a
Hon. Judge Celso Lavina, RTC-Pasig Br. 71. She continued, in the presence of complaint against Migriño for malversation of public funds, infidelity in the custody
people in the Lobby who had converged to see what was causing the commotion, of document and/or qualified theft and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt
that I am an escaped convict and should be detained at the Pasig City Police Practices Act23 allegedly committed in November 2002, and presented the
Headquarters. She further said that it was Judge Jose Morallos who facilitated my Affidavit24 of Ariel Nuestro and the Joint Affidavit25 she executed with court
escape last Tuesday, December 7, 2004. employees Remedios Diaz (Remedios) and Alma Santiano.

xxxx Complainant Atty. Domingo S. Cruz (Atty. Cruz), counsel of Migriño, et al.,
intervened and demanded from Inspector Icuin the immediate release of his clients
While questioning the propriety of the order of Direct Contempt, considering that since there was already an Order of Release. Atty. Cruz and Prosecutor Reyes also
there is an order of November 22, 2004 stating that any and all warrants she issued explained to Judge Reyes that Migriño could not be detained on the basis of an
will not be enforced or implemented, and that she has to issue the necessary alleged offense that occurred in 2002 yet, and that the alleged offense was not
Commitment Order for my detention, she slapped with me another seven (7) days covered by the rule on warrantless arrest.26 Migriño and Atty. Cruz continued:
of detention for Direct Contempt.
15. …Judge [Reyes] insisted that complainant Migriño must not be released as the
xxxx case is covered by the rule on warrantless arrest, the alleged offense of
malversation having been allegedly discovered only recently by respondent Judge
and staff, specifically at 4:30 P.M. of 01 October 2004. She then told Pros. Reyes to
At about 6:00 p.m., the Sheriff of Regional Trial Court-Pasig City, Branch 71 arrived
conduct an immediate Inquest/preliminary investigation.
and served a Writ of Preliminary Prohibitory and Mandatory Injunction with an
attached Order dated December 9, 2004 issued by Hon Judge Celso Lavina declaring
my detention illegal but the Headquarters would not release me until after they 16. It must be noted and emphasized that Nuestro subscribed and swore to his
have conferred with their superior officers. After conferring with the higher officials, Sinumpaang Salaysay before respondent Judge way back on September 15, 2004,
and it could not be said that the alleged offense of malversation of public funds was 41. To show that the respondent judge is using her contempt powers as a bludgeon
discovered only at 4:30 P.M. of October 01, 2004. What is certain is that respondent to clobber her perceived enemies, instead of using the same as a necessary tool for
Judge timed the alleged discovery to suit her purpose…27 (Emphasis and preserving the integrity of the court, the respondent issued another Order dated
underscoring supplied) October 14, 2004 ordering complainant Migriño to show cause why "he should not
be cited for at least 2,330 acts of indirect contempt". Repeat, two thousand three
hundred thirty. A copy of this Order is attached hereto as Annex "J".
Unable to convince Judge Reyes, Atty. Cruz left the office of Inspector Icuin, but
returned shortly with a warning that he would hold them responsible for illegal
arrest, arbitrary detention and abuse of authority unless Migriño was immediately The tyranny and despotism of the respondent judge is crystal clear in the following
released. Inspector Icuin finally ordered the release of Migriño. statements in said Order of October 14, 2004 (Annex "J"):

Migriño stayed in jail from October 1, 2004, a Friday, until he was released on Moreover, respondent committed at least 1,510 acts of indirect contempt with
October 4, 2004. Judge Reyes was determined to send Migriño back to jail, respect to the case of People vs. Marcos Rivera (Crim. Case No. 36172) which
however, by means of her contempt powers. In her October 4, 2004 Order, she remains pending in the docket of this court to date, when he failed to act on or set
stated: for arraignment to date, the said case filed herein on April 29, 1998. Considering
that a total of around 1,510 working days has lapsed from the said date of filing of
said case up to the time that said respondent was barred from entering the court
x x x Timoteo Migrino, Clerk of Court, Branch 69, Metropolitan Trial Court, Pasig
premises and the staff room on August 24, 2004, herein respondent is hereby
City, is hereby ordered to show cause within twelve (12) hours from receipt of this
ordered to show cause why he should not be cited for 1,510 acts of indirect
order why he should not be cited in contempt for the following acts: (1) illegal
contempt for all the working days that he failed to act on said case which appears to
gambling during office hours within the Court premises (2) infidelity in the custody
remain pending in the docket of this court to date."
of documents, (3) qualified theft and/or malversation for misappropriation of the
amount of PHP10,000.00 entrusted to him for "deposit" by one Ariel Nuestro in a
criminal case filed before this Court, (4) for violation of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft Even assuming for purposes of argument that the failure of the respondent to set
and Corrupt Practices Act, among others. He is likewise ordered to show cause why for arraignment the aforementioned case is contumacious, it was one continuing act
he should not be cited in contempt for openly defying to submit to undersigned with of omission, not 1,510 separate acts of commission.30 (Emphasis in the original;
respect to her complaint before the police authorities for the said crimes and/or underscoring supplied)
offenses which defiance appear to be "improper conduct tending directly or
indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice" under Rule
III. A.M. NO. MTJ-06-
71, Sec. 3(d) of the Rules of Court.
Set the hearing of this case on October 8, 2004 at 2:30 P.M. and said respondent is
directed to make his explanation on said date and time in open court with warning
By verified31 letter-complaint of March 11, 2004,32 Judge Reyes was charged by
that should he fail to attend said hearing despite due notice a warrant for arrest
complainants Armi M. Flordelisa et al. who are court employees at Branch 69, with
shall be issued.
the following acts: (1) residing in chambers; (2) borrowing money from staff; (3)
instructing the stenographer to collect a minimum amount for ex-parte cases; (4)
The Process Server of this Court with the assistance of a Sheriff of the Metropolitan frequently bringing some of her staff to her nighttime gimmick; (5) unethical
Trial Court of Pasig City, is directed to send a copy of this Order by personal service conduct; (6) conduct unbecoming a lady judge; (7) unfriendliness to litigants; (8)
to respondent TIMOTEO A. MIGRINO. Any officer of the law is likewise directed to anti-public service; (9) inability to control emotions during hearing; (10) uttering
assist said Process Server in the service of this Order to said respondent and invectives in front of staff and lawyers; (11) conducting staff meeting in an
is specifically directed to take custody of said respondent should he refuse to unsightly attire; and (12) gross inefficiency/laziness.
receive this Order and bring the same to this Court on October 8, 2004 at 2:00
P.M.28 (Capitalization in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)
According to complainants, it was of public knowledge at the Pasig City Hall of
Justice that Judge Reyes was residing in her chambers where a big aparador she
Significantly, while in the said Order of October 4, 2004, Judge Reyes found Atty. had placed therein was eventually removed after three Supreme Court lawyers
Cruz, Prosecutor Reyes, Inspector Icuin and PO3 Jimenez to have also committed investigated the matter. She continued to sleep in the chambers after going out for
contumacious acts, she singled out Migriño and directed him to explain why he evening "gimmicks" with some members of her staff. She would usually be fetched
should not be declared in contempt of court. by a certain Col. Miranda at 12 midnight and would return at 4:00 a.m.33

On October 8, 2004, Judge Reyes issued another Order29 giving her process server, On two separate occasions in May 2003, Judge Reyes instructed complainant Juliet
the MeTC sheriff and any officer of the law blanket authority to "take custody of Villar (Juliet), branch legal researcher, to act as her co-maker in her loan
[Migriño] should he refuse to receive this Order and bring him to this Court on applications. Within the same period, Judge Reyes, who allegedly needed money for
October 11, 13, 14 & 15, 2004 at 2:00 P.M." Complainants further narrated: an ID picture, borrowed ₱500 from Juliet who was forced to borrow the amount
from Miguelito Limpo (Limpo), branch process server, which amount remained
unpaid as of the filing of their complaint.34 Judge Reyes also borrowed ₱20,000 from ordered the stopping of the inventory to give way to it. On March 4, 2004, Judge
the "branch process server" who, however, did not execute any affidavit out of Reyes sent Leah a text message advising her to reset the hearings as she was
fear,35 as relayed by Maria Concepcion Lucero (Maria Concepcion), branch in-charge unavailable, but upon being informed by Remedios that there was a marriage to be
of civil cases.36 When Juliet informed Limpo of the plan of some staff members to solemnized that day, Judge Reyes immediately arrived and even attended the
petition for the removal of Judge Reyes, Limpo remarked, "Bago nyo ipatanggal wedding reception. In the months of December 2003 and January 2004, Judge
yun, hintayin nyo munang bayaran ako. Inutangan ako nyan ng ₱20,000.00, Reyes was able to solemnize 1646 and 1447 marriages, respectively.
isinanla ko pa yung alahas para lang may maipautang sa kanya."37
Complainants claimed that Judge Reyes was anti-public service. She instructed the
In her other affidavit,38 Juliet claimed that in October 2003, Judge Reyes stepped staff to lock the door entrance to the room occupied by the staff and not to answer
out of the chambers and told complainant Armi Flordeliza (Armie),39 Court phone calls during court hearings even if there were employees in the staff room to
Stenographer I, "Armie, ang hina mo naman sumingil sa ex-parte, buti pa si Leah. attend to calls and queries.48
Dapat pag tinanong ka kung magkano, sabihin mo at least ₱2,000.00" Since then all
ex-parte cases were assigned to court stenographer Leah Palaspas (Leah). Judge
Judge Reyes lacked the ability to control her emotions during hearings. In one
Reyes further remarked, "Sino pa ba ibang pwedeng pagkakitaan dito? O ikaw
hearing, she failed to maintain her composure and stormed out of the room while
Oswald, sheriff." The sheriff only smiled.
Assistant City Prosecutor Fernando Dumpit was still talking.49 Judge Reyes hurled
invectives in front of the staff and lawyers. On October 2, 2003, while with a lawyer
Complainants stated that Judge Reyes habitually invited her staff to go with her in friend from the Office of the Solicitor General, she remarked in front of her
night "gimmicks" from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. the following day, without regard to staff, "Alam mo na ang dami intriga dito; nireport ba naman na nakatira ako dito,
working days. This practice hampered the delivery of judicial services, as the ano kaya masama dun? Alam ko staff ko rin nagsumbong eh, PUTANG INA NILA,
employees who went out with her the previous night either went on leave or arrived PUTANG INA TALAGA NILA!"50
late the following day.40
Several times, Judge Reyes conducted staff meetings wearing T-shirt, slippers and
On December 23, 2003, upon the persistent request of Judge Reyes, Juliet joined faded "maong" folded a little below the knee, as if she was in her house.
her and company in a comedy bar in Quezon City and stayed there until 4:00 a.m. Oftentimes, she would wear the same clothes she wore the previous day, which
of December 24, 2003. Judge Reyes brought her employees to their respective showed that she resided in the chambers.51
homes and then went to sleep in her chambers.41
Judge Reyes was lazy and inefficient, as she delegated decision-writing to Juliet.
Maria Concepcion, in another affidavit, stated that on January 2, 2004, Judge Reyes Since her appointment, she was able to promulgate only three or four decisions of
repeatedly invited the staff for lunch at her residence. While inside her house, Judge her own writing.
Reyes insistently gave her a glass of red wine, from which she pretended to take a
sip, after which Judge Reyes consumed the remainder. Judge Reyes joined the rest
Complainants thus requested the conduct of judicial audit to determine her work
of the staff at the sala where they consumed "gin pomelo."42

Complainants depicted Judge Reyes as very unethical. One time, in the presence of
By Supplemental Complaint53 of January 28, 2005, Armie added:
a stranger, Judge Reyes uttered, "Ano kaya kung mag-hearing ako ng hubo’t hubad
tapos naka-robe lang, pwede kaya?"43 At one time, Armie overheard Judge Reyes
utter over the phone "Hayaan mo, Farah, pag natikman ko na siya, ipapasa ko sa 1. I was jailed on the strength of a warrant of arrest dated October 8, 2004 issued
iyo, ha ha ha!"44 by Judge Julia A. Reyes in connection with the ten (10) counts of Indirect Contempt
of Court charges which she had initiated against me for gross misconduct in office
and insubordination;
Judge Reyes exhibited conduct unbecoming a judge for repeatedly inviting her staff
and other court employees to join her to a drinking spree in the courtroom after
office hours on three consecutive Fridays in February 2004. On March 2, 2004, Juliet 2. The warrant of arrest of October 8, 2004 stemmed from my failure to attend the
arrived at the office at around 7:00 a.m. and saw Judge Reyes about to leave the hearing of an Indirect Contempt of Court charge she filed against me, then about to
office. Juliet was later informed by the guards and janitors that they saw an be heard on October 8, 2004 at 2:30 o’clock in the afternoon where I am supposed
inebriated Judge Reyes sleeping on the bench outside the office and found empty to explain my side;
bottles of alcoholic drinks in the garbage can.45
Judge Reyes was also unfriendly to litigants. On January 23, 2004 during the
inventory of cases, as a litigant attempted to verify the status of his case, Judge 5. I was served with a copy of the show cause Order dated October 4, 2004 signed
Reyes suddenly remarked, "Nag-iimbentaryo kami, bawal mag-verify. Pag hindi ka by Judge Reyes where I was informed that I committed acts constituting contempt
umalis, iko-contempt kita!" However, when an employee from another branch of court as defined by Rule 71, Section 3 (a) and (b) of the 1997 Rules of Civil
referred a couple to Judge Reyes for solemnization of marriage, Judge Reyes Procedure. On the basis of said show cause order, I was also directed by Judge
Reyes to appear on October 8, 2040 at 2:30 pm in court and to make further IV. A.M. NO. MTJ-06-
explanation with warning that should I fail to attend the hearing on said date 1627 (ANDREE K. LAGDAMEO v. JUDGE JULIA A. REYES)
despite due notice, a warrant for my arrest shall be issued by the court. Plain copy
of the Order dated October 4, 2004 is herewith attached and duly marked as Annex
Complainant Andree Lagdameo (Andree) is the private complainant in Criminal Case
No. 42030 for physical injuries pending before Branch 69. The case was originally
set for promulgation of judgment on May 19, 2004 but was cancelled and
6. For fear of being arrested, I did not attend the hearing of October 8, 2004, repeatedly reset – to July 13, 2004, September 14, 2004 and November 23, 2004.
despite notice, and hence, as earlier stated, a warrant of arrest dated October 8, Andree thus filed an Urgent Motion to Set Promulgation of Judgment,55 furnishing
2004 was issued by Judge Reyes against me; the OCA a copy thereof, which step, Andree believed, "must have courted [the
judge’s] ire."
7. I was apprehended and confined at the Pasig City Police Station, at Pariancillo,
Kapasigan, Pasig City to my great damage and prejudice and that of my family; Judge Reyes moved the promulgation date from November 23, 2004 to October 20,
2004, only to reset the same to October 16, 2004. After eight postponements,56 the
judgment was finally promulgated on December 7, 2004 during which Criminal Case
No. 42030 was first in the calendar of cases. Andree narrated:

11. What is worse is that Judge Reyes fixed the bail for my temporary liberty at two
hundred thousand (P250,000.00) pesos which to my mind is quite excessive and
violative of my constitutional right to bail;
However, before the start of court proceedings that day, there was a courtroom
drama which unfolded before the surprised eyes of all persons then inside the
courtroom. The Honorable Judge Julia A. Reyes ordered the arrest and detention of
Prosecutor Romana Reyes. Judge Reyes ordered her personal close-in-security,
14. Surprisingly, the warrant of arrest dated October 8, 2004 issued by Judge whom I later came to know to be PO1 Sandy Galino, and PO2 Rolando Lavadia, to
Reyes supposedly carries a docket number starting from Case Number 02154 up to implement her order. I was seated on the first bench and I had a clear view and
and including 02163 which correspond to ten (10) counts of Indirect Contempt of could clearly hear the proceedings. I heard Judge Reyes forbid Prosecutor Reyes
Court. However, the said case numbers does not pertain to a person of Armie M. from calling her lawyer under pain of another day of detention. I heard Judge Reyes
Flordeliza, nor with a case of Contempt of Court. Please see Certification signed by further order PO1 Galino and PO2 Lavadia to close the doors of the courtroom and
Atty. Reynaldo V. Bautista, Clerk of Court IV of the Office of the Clerk of Court, to prevent Prosecutor Reyes from leaving the same.
Metropolitan Trial Court, Pasig City – Annex "B," and a copy of the Warrant of Arrest
dated October 8, 2004 – Annex "C";
6. Judge Reyes then proceeded to order Leah Palaspas to promulgate judgment in
my case, Criminal Case No. 42030. I was so shocked by the intemperate and
xxxx derogatory words Judge Reyes used to describe my person in the aforesaid
judgment, so much so that I left the courtroom immediately after the reading
21. Be it noted that in November 8, 2004, herein complainant filed a Motion for because I was so afraid that my face would mirror my emotions and I might be
Reduction of Bail (Annex "D") from P250,000.00 to P50,000.00 in cash which cited for contempt, especially after witnessing Judge Reyes’ actions toward
was not acted upon; the reason why the herein complainant suffered for a longer Prosecutor Romana Reyes. I am a mere layman and I must indeed look puny to the
period inside the detention cell; high and mighty Judge Julia A. Reyes.

22. On the same date (November 8, 2004), a Subpoena (Annex "D-1") was served I was the complainant, not the accused, in the case and I cannot understand why
upon the herein complainant alleging that a hearing will be held in November 9, 10, the judge exhibited such kind of hostility against me in the judgment just
11 and 12. However, Judge Reyes never conduct[ed] the hearings in November 10, promulgated.
11 and 12, 2004 which constitute an oppression and violation of human rights and
grave misconduct; 7. I then waited for the termination of the court proceedings, to request for a copy
of the decision since I wanted to consult a lawyer regarding Judge Reyes’ affront on
23. In November 16, 2004, the 12th day the herein complainant was under the my person. I was barred from re-entering the court room by PO1 Sandy Galino, the
detention cell, was the day that I was released by posting a cash bond of armed personal security of Judge Reyes, pursuant to her orders.
P50,000.00 granted by Hon. Divina Gracia Lopez-Peliño, Pairing Judge of Branch 69,
Metropolitan Trial Court, Pasig City as evidenced by Official Receipt No. 21065408 xxxx
(Annex "E"); Order dated November 16, 2004 (Annex "F"); and Order of Release
(Annex "G")[.] (Emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied)54
9. I then went back to the courtroom of Branch 69, and found Leah Palaspas and
Alma Santiano, both employees of MTC Branch 69, together with PO1 Galino and
PO2 Lavadia, sitting in the now empty courtroom. I could hear the raised voice of officers identify themselves and the unit to which they belong. PO1 Galino replied "A
Judge Reyes emanating from her chambers. I asked Leah Palaspas for a copy of the wala, basta utos ni Judge ito doon ka na magpaliwanag at magtanong!"
decision, and to examine and photocopy some documents in the file folder of
Criminal Case No. 42030. She told me to wait as the folder was in the chamber of
18. A uniformed police officer carrying an armalite rifle, whose name I was not able
Judge Reyes. I pointed to her that the decision in this case had just been
to get, then arrived. PO1 Sandy Galino addressed the latter: "Pare, pag pumalag,
promulgated this morning and logically, the folder would be in the pile in front of
barilin mo." I never imagined that I – a simply citizen without any clout; a weak,
her. She insisted that it was in the judge’s chambers, and for me to wait.
educated, woman who merely sought the assistance of our courts to redress a
perceived grievance – would be treated like a common criminal in this fair Republic
10. I then stood and waited for about another half hour in the corridor fronting the of ours!
courtroom of Branch 69 after which, I again approached Leah Palaspas regarding
my request. She called a co-employee, whom I later came to know to be Ms.
I then continued to demand a written order regarding my arrest but Galino
Josefina Catacutan to accompany me to the photocopying machine. While waiting in
repeated, "Hindi na raw kailangan, sabe ni Judge" and proceeded to forcibly bring
line, I noticed that the decision promulgated that morning was not in the file. I
me out of the Justice Hall. When we reached the lobby I tried to go up to the office
pointed this out to Ms. Catacutan who proposed that we return to Ms. Palaspas and
of Executive Judge Morallos but PO1 Galino pulled me down the stairs.
ask for a copy.

11. Accompanied by Ms. Catacutan, I returned to the Branch 69 courtroom where
we found Ms. Palaspas standing in the corridor. I pointed out to her that a copy of
the decision was not in the file. She protested that it was almost noontime and that The fact of my arrest was then entered into the Blotter of the Pasig Station on Page
I should just come back in the afternoon. I pointed out to her that it was still ten 0393, Entry No. 1781, Date: Dec. 7, 2004 Time 12:30 PM which reads as follows:
minutes to twelve and it was just a matter of handing a copy of the decision to Ms.
Catacutan, and besides, I had been waiting since early morning. "Brought-in

12. Ms. Leah Palaspas turned her back on me and stepped into the courtroom where PO1 Sandy Galino y Abuyog, 33 years old, married of this station brought in one
Judge Reyes was sitting with Alma Santino, PO1 Galino and PO2 Lavadia and Andree Lagdameo y Kirkwood, legal age, widow, res of 237 Marne St. San Juan
declared "Eto ho Judge, las doce na ho e." Metro Mla. for direct contempt of court issued by Hon. Judge Julia Reyes of MTC B69
Pasig City. Order will follow."
13. I followed Ms. Palaspas inside the courtroom but had hardly stepped inside
when I stopped in my tracks as Judge Reyes shouted "Don’t try me, come back at (Attached as Annex "B")
1:00 PM, GET OUT! I was so shocked at the arrogance of Judge Reyes and the way
she shouted at me that I turned on my heels and left.

14. On my way out – probably out of sheer frustration at the way the judge treats
people who happened to have business in her court – I commented to Ms. Palaspas 20. At 5:00 PM of December 7, 2004, Atty. Atencia again demanded my release
who was standing beside me: "O baka ma contempt pa ako" and continued walking from detention since it was now the close of office hours and Judge Julia Reyes had
away. not issued any commitment order. Col. Galvan again refused and insisted that he
was following the orders of Judge Julia Reyes.

15. Either Ms. Palaspas told the respondent judge about my comment, or the judge
herself overheard me, when I reached the area in front of the door of the staff room xxxx
PO1 Sandy Galino suddenly grabbed my arm and prevented me from moving. When
I turned my head, I saw Judge Julia Reyes in the lobby fronting her courtroom 22. I was finally released from detention after 24 hours. My release is entered on
wagging her finger in the air and shouting, ‘HULIHIN NIYO YAN, IKULONG NINYO Page 0397 of the Pasig Police Blotter under Entry No. 1799, Date: December 08,
YAN!" – thus letting loose her armed gorilla on a hapless victim like me. 2004, Time: 12:30PM which reads as follows:

16. I instinctively struggled to free myself from the grip of PO1 Sandy Galino, all the "Released
while asking Judge Julia Reyes, "Bakit, hindi naman kita sinagot ah" who all the
while was viewing the scene with a smirk of satisfaction on her face.
In relation to Entry 1781 dated Dec. 7, 2004 one Andree Lagdameo was released
from the custody of this station physically and financially unmolested as attested by
17. I was able to momentarily free my hand and was able to call a lawyer friend on her signature below.
my mobile phone who then advised me to demand for any sort of written order to
justify my arrest and detention. I was also advised to demand that the arresting
Note: Detained w/o written commitment order and released w/o written released On February 18, 2004 at around 5:00 p.m., police officers arrived at Sebastian’s
order. residence and served on him and his wife Alicia (the couple) warrants of
arrest66 issued by Judge Reyes on October 28, 2003. After an overnight detention at
Camp Caringal in Quezon City, the couple was presented to the branch clerk of
court, and learned that the warrants of arrest were issued due to their failure to
appear in court on October 28, 2003 as directed in an August 15, 2003
Andree Lagdameo" Order67 which was not received by them or their counsel, Atty. Jaime Vibar.

(Attached as Annex "C") A perusal of the August 15, 2003 Order reveals that the same suffers from grave
infirmity. It reads:
x x x x57 (Emphasis, capitalization and italics in the original; underscoring supplied)
The unsigned Order dated May 9, 2000 is reiterated as follows:
Andree supplemented her December 22, 2004 Complaint to allege that she
58 59

finally received a copy of the Decision60 in Criminal Case No. 42030 on December "Accused through counsel, having been [sic] filed a Manifestation and Request for
16, 2004, several days after she was illegally detained, and only after she wrote a Remarking and Formal Offer of Exhibits." The Prosecution is given five (5) days
letter to Judge Reyes, furnishing then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. and the from receipt thereof within which to make its comment thereto."
OCA a copy thereof.61
Set the same for hearing on October 28, 2003, at 8:130 [sic] A.M.
When she read the Decision, she was shocked on noting that Judge Reyes used very
insulting language in referring to her as the therein private complainant. Judge
Send copies of this Order to the parties. (Emphasis supplied)
Reyes wrote that "[j]udging from the demeanor and character of the accused who
appears to be a quiet man with a pleasant disposition and that of the private
complainant who looks loud, rash and even vulgar in language in her dealings with The prior Order being unsigned, there was no factual or legal reason for Judge
the court personnel herein, this Court finds the version of the accused to be more Reyes to reiterate the same and set the case for further hearing, notably since the
credible."62 Judge Reyes made a misrepresentation for she merely relied on the case had long been submitted for decision.
records in writing the decision as she never had the chance to hear the testimonies
of the parties since Judge Alex Quiroz was the presiding judge when the case was
Judge Reyes did not lift the warrant of arrest, even after Atty. Vibar filed, pursuant
to the October 28, 2003 Order, a Motion for Reconsideration, Compliance and Entry
of Appearance.68
At the promulgation of judgment on September 7, 2004, the branch clerk of court
In an undated letter63 received by the OCA on October 4, 2004, Judge Reyes read only the decretal portion of the decision convicting the couple. Atty. Vibar
recommended that Migriño be separated from the service on charges of illegal requested a copy of the decision but Judge Reyes replied that the decision had not
gambling during office hours, qualified theft and/or infidelity in the custody of yet been printed but she could give him a diskette which Atty. Vibar refused. After
documents, and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. declaring that she would later re-promulgate the judgment and that the couple
should stay in court, Judge Reyes started calling out the other cases. Not wanting to
be part of the irregularity and due to other pressing commitments, Atty. Vibar left.
Upon the recommendation of the OCA, it appearing that this case emanated from
At around 11:40 a.m. inside the chambers, Judge Reyes read the judgment from a
the same incident of illegal gambling obtaining in A.M. No. MTJ-06-1624, the Court,
computer screen without giving the couple a written copy69 or computer print-out.
by Resolution of September 28, 2005,64 ordered the consolidation of the two cases.
Hence, the factual background of this case is reflected in the earlier discussed A.M.
No. MTJ-06-1624. The couple raised on appeal that the trial court failed to comply with the mandate of
Rule 12070 of the Rules of Court and Section 1471 of Article VIII of the Constitution
requiring that the decision must be written and signed by the judge with a clear
statement of the facts and the law on which the decision is based.72

By verified Complaint-Affidavit of April 22, 2005,65 complainant Florencio Sebastian,

Jr. (Sebastian) charged Judge Reyes with Grave Misconduct, Gross Ignorance of the
Law, Incompetence and Inefficiency arising from the procedings in Criminal Case
No. 19110, "People v. Florencio Sebastian, Jr., Alicia Ty Sebastian and Justo Uy," for By Consolidated Report of June 27, 2004,73 Retired Justice Romulo S. Quimbo
falsification of public document pending before Branch 69. evaluated the first five administrative cases, viz:
Migrino presented a certificate that there is no case against him pending with the MTJ-06-1623, p. 24.) she required an unconscionable amount of Php236,000.00 as
Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasig City. He admits, however, that a case for illegal bail knowing that it was practically impossible to meet.
gambling was filed against him. That the same may have been dismissed does not
totally exempt him from administrative liability considering that gambling within the
Complainant R[o]m[a]na R. Reyes charges respondent Judge with falsification of
court’s premises is proscribed by Administrative Circular No. 1-9974 issued by the
public documents. It appears that respondent Judge issued a warrant for the arrest
Supreme Court. His act of playing "tong-its" with two others within the court
of complainant. Since no case had been filed against complainant, respondent Judge
premises makes him punishable under said circular.
conveniently issued the warrant under Criminal Cases Nos. 02164 to 02173 (10
counts) which pertained to cases filed against various persons during the year
xxxx 1985. The Order of 13 October 2004 (Exhibit ["G"], Rollo, A.M. MTJ-06-1623)
conveniently omitted to show any case numbers.
The acts which appear to have been committed by respondent Judge against Ass’t.
City Prosecutor R[o]m[a]na A. Reyes and Andree K. Lagdameo were clearly The travails suffered by complainant Lagdameo likewise prove that respondent
unjustified and unwarranted. The respondent Judge’s orders to declare them in Judge was not guided by law or rule but rather by whim and caprice. The record
contempt and issuing warrants for their arrest betray an abysmal lack of does not show any reason why respondent Judge could order the arrest of
knowledge of the rules governing contempt. Her fixing an atrociously excessive complainant. Assuming that she had uttered the words "I am going because I may
bail is a clear manifestation that respondent Judge wanted to exhibit her authority be declared in contempt", this could not be the basis for declaring her in direct
and fixing such a ridiculous amount of bail was designed to prevent the contempt because the court was no longer in session and she ma[d]e the remark
complainants from obtaining temporary release. Her obvious ignorance of the rule outside the courtroom. It was not "misbehavior in the presence of or so near a court
governing contempt and the jurisprudence that mandates that it be exercised as a as to obstruct or interrupt the proceedings before the same". Neither could it be
protective not a vindictive power makes us wonder how, despite the rigorous considered disrespect towards the court. It is probably for this reason that
screening of candidates by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), a "lemon" such as the respondent Judge did not issue any commitment order but orally commanded the
respondent Judge managed to be nominated for appointment to such exalted police to arrest Lagdameo. As can be seen from excerpts from the police blotter
position. How she was able to elude the psychiatric and psychological tests under (Rollo, A.M. No. MTJ-06-1627, p. 9) Lagdameo was "brought in" on December 7,
which she went is remarkable for it resulted in the appointment of one grossly 2004 at 12:30 P.M. and was "released" on December 8, 2004, at 11[:]50 AM (ibid.
ignorant of the law and more importantly devoid of the temperament required of a p. 10). The same blotter states: "Note: Detained w/o written commitment
judicial arbiter. order & released w/o written released." [sic] (Emphasis and italics in the
In the two cases mentioned above (A.M. No. MTJ-06-1623 and A.M. No. 06-
1627), the acts of respondent Judge reveal a flaw in her psychological Respondent’s verbal order directed to members of the PNP to arrest and jail
makeup that disqualifies her from holding the position of Judge. She appears to be Lagdameo who languished in said jail for a day is clearly a violation of Article 124 of
unaware of the jurisprudence that has given meaning to the power of contempt. the Revised Penal Code and respondent Judge is a principal by inducement.

xxxx The complaint filed by three personnel of Br. 69 charges respondent Judge with
conduct unbecoming a judge which could be considered pecadillos and are covered
by circulars and other issuances of the Court and are punished by either fines or
The Order dated 13 October 2004 (Exhibit G, Rollo, p. 27, A.M. MTJ-06-
suspensions or admonitions.
1623), betrays not only her gross ignorance as regards the Rule on Contempt of
Court, but it also shows her capricious arrogance and despotic nature, the antithesis
of an ideal arbiter. It betrays a flaw in her psychological makeup that disqualifies Considering respondent Judge’s acts complained of by complainants R[o]mana R.
her from presiding a court and dispensing justice. Reyes and Andree K. Lagdameo, together with the acts committed by respondent
Judge and subject of other administrative cases assigned to the undersigned, there
can only be one conclusion that respondent Judge is suffering from some
Respondent inofficiously demanded that complainant conduct an inquest at the
undiagnosed mental aberration that makes her totally unfit to hold the position she
police station for the purpose of preventing the release of Timoteo Migrino who had
now occupies. Not only was her gross ignorance established but her resort to
earlier been arrested while allegedly engaged in illegal gambling and had posted the
falsification was also proved.
required bail. Notwithstanding the explanation of complainant Reyes that she was
not authorized to conduct said inquest outside her office and the crime of
malversation allegedly committed two years earlier could not be the proper subject The records show that respondent Judge was suspended and has abandoned her
of an inquest, respondent could not be denied. She demanded and the police office of presiding Judge. She did this probably because she felt guilty and could not
acquiesced to hold Migrino in jail over the weekend. find any justification for her actions so she fled.

The prosecution of Prosecutor Reyes was not based on any law or rule but was In A.M. No. MTJ-06-1624, the harassment and ill treatment of complainant
purely the whim and caprice of the respondent. After respondent Judge has held Migrino was clearly established. The fact that respondent Judge followed Migrino to
Prosecutor Reyes in contempt and ordered her arrest (Exhibit ["F"], A[.]M[.] No. the police station and demanded that he be kept in custody despite the Order of
Release issued by Judge Morallos upon Migrino’s filing his bail both clearly shows The administration of justice is a lofty function and is no less sacred than a religious
her to be whimsical and capricious. The continued detention of Migrino after he was mission itself. Those who are called upon to render service in it must follow that
ordered released under bond is likewise arbitrary and in violation of Article 124 of norm of conduct compatible only with public faith and trust in their impartiality,
the Revised Penal Code and respondent Judge is a principal by inducement. sense of responsibility, exercising the same devotion to duty and unction done by a
priest in the performance of the most sacred ceremonies of a religious liturgy.79
In OCA-IPI No. 04-2048-P, the record reveals that the respondent Migrino was
indicted for illegal gambling having been allegedly caught en flagrante by By judges’ appointment to the office, the people have laid on them their confidence
complainant Judge Julia A. Reyes. The record also reveals that a certificate was that they are mentally and morally fit to pass upon the merits of their varied
issued by the Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasig City that there is no contentions. For this reason, members of the judiciary are expected to be fearless in
pending case against Migrino. Even if we assume that the illegal gambling case their pursuit to render justice, to be unafraid to displease any person, interest or
which was filed against Migrino and for which he had to file his bond was dismissed, power, and to be equipped with a moral fiber strong enough to resist the
it still remains that Migrino was seen gambling within the court premises, an act temptations lurking in their office.80 Unfortunately, respondent Judge failed to resist
which is proscribed by Administrative Circular No. 1-9975 earlier the temptations of power which eventually led her to transgress the very law she
mentioned.76 (Emphasis partly in the original and partly supplied; italics in the swore to protect and uphold.
original; underscoring supplied)
To constitute gross ignorance of the law or procedure, the subject decision, order or
Justice Quimbo thereupon recommended that Judge Reyes be dismissed from the actuation of the judge in the performance of official duties should be contrary to
service with forfeiture of all her retirement benefits except accrued leave credits, if existing law and jurisprudence. Most importantly, the judge must be moved by bad
any, and with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption.81
government, including government-owned or controlled corporations and that
Migriño be fined in an amount equivalent to his one month salary.
Judge Reyes’ bad faith is clearly apparent from the above-related facts and
circumstances in the consolidated cases. This Court cannot shrug off her failure to
Meanwhile, in A.M. No. MTJ-06-1638, Justice Quimbo, by Report of September 25, exercise that degree of care and temperance required of a judge in the correct and
2006,77 reiterated his recommendation after coming up with the following prompt administration of justice, more so in these cases where her exercise of the
evaluation: power of contempt resulted in the detention and deprivation of liberty of Migriño,
Andree, Sebastian and Alicia, and endangered the freedom of the other
complainants. Tiongco v. Salao82 is instructive:
The complaint mentions acts of respondent Judge which are similar, if not identical
to those complained of in the following cases, to wit: A.M. No. MTJ-06-1623
(Prosecutor Romana R. Reyes vs. Judge Julia A. Reyes); A.M. No. MTJ-06-1624 Thus, the carelessness and lack of circumspection on respondent Judge’s part, to
(Timeteo A. Migrino, et al. vs. Judge Julia A. Reyes); A.M. No. MTJ-06-1625 (Armi say the least, in peremptorily ordering the arrest and detention of complainant,
Flordeliza, et al. vs. Judge Julia A. Reyes); A.M. No. MTJ-06-1627 (Andree warrant the imposition of a penalty on respondent Judge as a corrective measure,
Lagdameo vs. Judge Julia A. Reyes) which the undersigned had earlier investigated so that she and others may be properly warned about carelessness in the
and reported on. Our conclusion remains firm that respondent Judge is unfit to hold application of the proper law and undue severity in ordering the detention of
the position of Presiding Judge of a Metropolitan Trial Court. complainant immediately and depriving him of the opportunity to seek recourse
from higher courts against the summary penalty of imprisonment imposed by
respondent Judge.
In the present case, she is charged with ignorance because she had issued a bench
warrant against the complainant and his wife for their failure to appear on a date
that respondent Judge fixed for the continuation of the trial. While she may be It is also well-settled that the power to declare a person in contempt is inherent in
correct in assuming that she had the authority to issue such warrant, said act was all courts so as to preserve order in judicial proceedings and to uphold the
clearly unjustified. Firstly, it does not appear in the record of the case that administration of justice. Judges, however, are enjoined to exercise such power
complainant or his wife received notice of said hearing. Neither does it appear that judiciously and sparingly, with utmost restraint, and with the end view of utilizing
their counsel received a copy of the Order of 15 August 2003 which contained the the same for correction and preservation of the dignity of the court, and not for
said setting. Secondly, there was no longer any trial to speak of because the case retaliation or vindication. The salutary rule is that the power to punish for contempt
had already been submitted for decision and the complainant (accused therein) had for purposes that are impersonal, because that power is intended as a safeguard not
no longer any need for appearing.78 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) for the judges as persons but for the functions that they exercise. Only occasionally
should the court invoke the inherent power in order to retain that respect without
which the administration of justice must falter or fail.83 (Emphasis and underscoring

The Court finds that Judge Julia Reyes should indeed be dismissed from the service.
Being a dispenser of justice, Judge Reyes, a lady judge at that, should have
demonstrated finesse in her choice of words. In this case, the words used by her
As early as 1949, this Court emphasized that the administration of justice is a lofty was hardly the kind of circumspect language expected of a magistrate. The use of
vulgar and curt language does not befit the person of a judge who is viewed by the money, it must be borne in mind that she exerted moral ascendancy over her staff,
public as a person of wisdom and scruples.84 Remarks such as "Ano kaya kung mag- who may not have had the means but may have been forced to find a way in order
hearing ako ng hubo’t hubad tapos naka-robe lang, pwede kaya?"; "Hayaan mo, not to displease her.
Farah, pag natikman ko na siya, ipapasa ko sa iyo, ha ha ha!"; and "Alam mo na
ang dami intriga dito; nireport ba naman na nakatira ako dito, ano kaya masama
Judge Reyes’ comments like "Armie, ang hina mo naman sumingil sa ex-parte, buti
dun? Alam ko staff ko rin nagsumbong eh, PUTANG INA NILA, PUTANG INA TALAGA
pa si Leah. Dapat pag tinanong ka kung magkano, sabihin mo at least
NILA!" have no place in the judiciary.
₱2,000.00" and "Sino pa ba ibang pwedeng pagkakitaan dito? O ikaw
Oswald, sheriff" smack of commercialism. This is not expected of a judge, knowing
Those who don the judicial robe must observe judicial decorum which requires that the aim of the judiciary is to deliver speedy and inexpensive justice.90
magistrates to be at all timestemperate in their language, refraining from
inflammatory or excessive rhetoric or from resorting to the language of vilification.85
Respecting Judge Reyes’ failure to put into writing her judgment, she having merely
required the accused to read it from the computer screen in camera without the
Judge Reyes failed to heed this injunction, however. Her inability to control her presence of counsel, she violated the Constitution. She could have simply printed
emotions her act of walking out of the courtroom during hearings, and her shouting and signed the decision. Offering to a party’s counsel a diskette containing the
invectives at her staff and lawyers indicate her unfitness to sit on the bench. They decision when such counsel demands a written copy thereof is unheard of in the
betray her failure to exercise judicial temperament at all times, and maintain judiciary. A verbal judgment is, in contemplation of law, in esse, ineffective.91 If
composure and equanimity.861avvphi1 Judge Reyes was not yet prepared to promulgate the decision as it was not yet
printed, she could have called the case later and have it printed first. A party should
not be left in the dark on what issues to raise before the appellate court.
Judge Reyes’ questioned actions reflect her lack of patience, an essential part of
dispensing justice; and of courtesy, a mark of culture and good breeding. Her
demonstrated belligerence and lack of self-restraint and civility have no place in the It is a requirement of due process that the parties to a litigation be informed of how
government service.87 it was decided, with an explanation of the factual and legal reasons that led to the
conclusions of the court. The court cannot simply say that judgment is rendered in
favor of X and against Y and just leave it at that without any justification
The New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary (New Code of Judicial
whatsoever for its action. The losing party is entitled to know why he lost, so he
Conduct), which took effect on June 1, 2004, mandates:
may appeal to a higher court, if permitted, should he believe that the decision
should be reversed. A decision that does not clearly and distinctly state the facts
SEC. 6. Judges shall maintain order and decorum in all proceedings before the court and the law on which it is based leaves the parties in the dark as to how it was
and be patient, dignified and courteous in relation to litigants, witnesses, lawyers reached and is especially prejudicial to the losing party, who is unable to in point
and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity. Judges shall require the possible errors of the court for review by a higher tribunal.92
similar conduct of legal representatives, court staff and others subject to their
influence, direction or control.88
If judges were allowed to roam unrestricted beyond the boundaries within which
they are required by law to exercise the duties of their office, then the law becomes
Respecting Judge Reyes’ frequent nocturnal "gimmicks," suffice it to state that her meaningless. A government of laws excludes the exercise of broad discretionary
presence in the above-mentioned places impairs the respect due her, which in turn powers by those acting under its authority.93
necessarily affects the image of the judiciary. A judge is a visible representation of
the judiciary and, more often than not, the public cannot separate the judge from
In fine, this Court finds Judge Reyes unfit to discharge her functions as judge.
the judiciary. Moreover, her act of bringing some of her staff to her weekday
"gimmicks," that causes them to be absent or late for work disrupts the speedy
administration of service. She thus also failed to heed the mandate of the New Code WHEREFORE, Judge Julia A. Reyes, Presiding Judge, Metropolitan Trial Court,
of Judicial Conduct, viz: Branch 69, Pasig City, is DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all
retirement benefits except accrued leave credits, if any, and with prejudice to re-
employment in any branch of the government including government-owned or
SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all
controlled corporations.
of their activities.

Branch Clerk of Court Timoteo A. Migriño is, for violation of Administrative Circular
SEC. 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal
No. 1-99, by gambling in the court premises, FINED in the amount equivalent to
restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should
his one-month salary. He is WARNED that a repetition of the same act or the
do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way
commission of a similar offense will be dealt with more severely.
that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.89

As for Judge Reyes’ act of borrowing money from her staff, the same constitutes
conduct unbecoming a judge. While there is nothing wrong per se with borrowing
A.M. No. MTJ-10-1755, October 18, 2016
This allegation was confirmed by their caretaker in her Affidavit4 stating that Judge
Laron slept in the Antipolo house during weekends, picked up Melissa and her
children in the morning, and fetched them from school in the afternoon using either
his own or Melissa's car.
A.M. NO. MTJ-10-1756
In his July 2, 2008 Comment,5 Judge Laron averred that he had already confessed
his affair with Melissa to his wife. In his December 18, 2008 Comment,6 he claimed
MELISSA J. TUVILLO A.K.A MICHELLE JIMENEZ, Complainant, v. JUDGE that Melissa told him that she was a widow and explained that his relationship with
HENRY E. LARON, Respondent. her was an intimate emotional and personal attachment that did not involve any
sexual liaison.
Wilfredo subsequently filed an adultery case against Melissa and Judge Laron before
PER CURIAM: the City Prosecutor's Office of Makati but it was later dismissed for lack of probable
cause.7 Wilfredo's petition for review was also dismissed by the Department of
Justice8 for failure to comply with DOJ Circular No. 70 and for lack of reversible
This is a consolidation of two cases filed against Judge Henry Laron, Presiding Judge error.
of Branch 65, Metropolitan Trial Court, Makati City (MeTC). The first case arose from
the complaint of Wilfredo Tuvillo (Wilfredo) for immoral conduct, and the second The Complaint of Melissa Tuvillo
case from the complaint of Melissa Tuvillo (Melissa) for unexplained wealth and
This case was initiated by Melissa on May 14, 2008 when she wrote a letter to the
Court Administrator accusing Judge Leron of unexplained wealth and immorality. In
Wilfredo and Melissa Tuvillo are husband and wife. Wilfredo works as a seaman and
her letter, she asked that Judge Laron be investigated because based on his salary
is out of the country most of the time. Melissa is a businesswoman with several B.P.
as a judge, he could not have acquired their P9 million house. She also claimed that
Blg. 22 cases filed against her in the MeTC of Makati City. In her desire to have her
Judge Laron could not have afforded to buy several Lamarroza paintings, four
cases resolved, she approached the respondent Judge Henry Laron (Judge Laron).
Plasma televisions, expensive furniture, a Nissan Patrol, and to send his three
The respondent is married but his wife was in the United States at the time the
children to private schools. Her letter also bore her admission that she was his
events of this case transpired. Due to their frequent interaction with each other,
mistress for three years.
Melissa and Judge Laron became intimate with each other and their relationship
gave rise to these administrative cases.
In his July 21, 2008 Comment,10 Judge Laron explained how he was able to afford
The Complaint of Wilfredo Tuvillo and own the properties that Melissa claimed were beyond his means. He said that
he and his wife sold their townhouse for P1.7M and obtained a P3.2M loan from
On May 2, 2008, Wilfredo wrote a letter-complaint against Judge Laron to the Court Land Bank to cover the P4.4M construction cost of his house.11 The Nissan Patrol, a
Administrator for immorality and unacceptable wrongdoing. He submitted a 2001 model, was allegedly bought for P1.15M with money borrowed from his
Complaint-Affidavit1 where he alleged, among others, that his wife Melissa sought father's retirement proceeds.12 The Lamarroza paintings, accumulated through the
the help of Judge Laron for t resolution of the cases filed against her; that, in turn, years from 2004 to 200713 for a total value of P410,000.00, were purchased at a
Judge Laron asked money from Melissa and forced her to produce it whenever he low price because the artist was his wife's friend. The two (2) plasma televisions, on
needed it; that they lost all their savings and their two houses and lots because of the other hand, were gifts to them while the other two were purchased in 2000 and
Judge Laron's constant requests for money from Melissa; that Judge Laron would 2002. His children's tuition fees were covered by educational plans14and their
physically hurt Melissa when she could not produce the money he needed; and that furniture was part of his wife's commission as a dealer in his relative's furniture
Judge Laron "transgressed, intruded and besmirched the tranquility and sacredness shop.
of our marital union and family unity" To support his complaint, Wilfredo attached
Melissa's complaint-letter and her affidavit where she admitted having illicit In her July 31, 2008 Complaint-Affidavit,15 Melissa admitted that she had
relations with Judge Laron. approached Judge Laron when she needed help regarding the pending cases against
her. Her liaisons with Judge Laron started in November 2005 in his office (doon una
Wilfredo also submitted the Joint Affidavit of his two sons3 wherein they alleged: niya akong naangkin). She said that he slept in their house in Antipolo and was in
her Pasong Tamo condominium almost daily from August 2007 to January 2008. At
6. That sometime in the year 2007, we were living in our house in Antipolo city; We that time, Melissa was receiving a monthly allowance of US$2,000.00 from her
were surprised that certain Tito Henry Laron used to go to our house in Antipolo; He husband while Judge Laron would ask money from her every month and whenever
slept in our house twice or thrice a week specially during weekends; Nagtaka kami he needed it. She cited several occasions when she gave him money. Judge Laron
mga magkakapatid bakit natutulog si Tito Henry Laron sa bahay namin at sinusundo would hurt her physically and threaten to tell her husband about their relationship
na kami at ang mama namin tuwing umaga minsan gamit ang kanyang sasakyan every time she would refuse to give him money. To meet Judge Laron's demand for
minsan aming sasakyan ang ginagamit niya at sunduin kami sa school tuwing money, she said that she sold her house and lot in Taguig City and her two vehicles
hapon. - a Pajero and a Honda CRV. Yet, only two of her four pending cases were settled.
She also mentioned an incident in Judge Laron's office in April 2008 when a lawyer explain the source of the money he used to pay for the construction of his house
attempted to effect a reconciliation between her and Judge Laron. and the purchase of his vehicle, televisions and furniture. He also attached copies of
the educational plans of his children. On the other hand, Melissa failed to
Defense of Judge Laron substantiate her claim that Judge Laron, by his salary, could not afford to buy those
properties and send his children to private schools. For said reason, the Court
agrees with the OCA's recommendation that the complaint for unexplained wealth
In his October 27, 2008 Comment,16 Judge Laron related that Melissa was
against Judge Laron be dismissed.
introduced to him in November 2005 and that in December 2005, she informed him
about her B.P. Blg. 22 cases. He refuted the alleged sexual liaisons that happened in
his chambers by attaching affidavits of his staff who swore that the door to his
chambers was necessarily open because the air conditioner that supplied the cold
The charge of immorality, however, is a serious one covered by Section 8, Rule 140
air to the staff room, the telephones, the fax machine, the coffee maker, and the
of the Rules of Court. The penalty therefor includes dismissal from the service.
refrigerator were all in his chambers. He likewise denied that he had asked Melissa
Section 8 of Rule 140 provides:
for money or that she gave him money. He pointed out that Melissa could have
settled the cases against her by paying the complainants because she had the
Serious charges include:
money. The cases against her were violations of B.P. Blg. 22: two counts for
P20,000.00, two counts for P19,377.00, and two counts for P24,620.00. He also
mentioned that the threats and harassment against him started when he began 1. Bribery, direct or indirect;
avoiding her. 2. Dishonesty and violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law (R.A.
No. 3019);
A member of the staff of Judge Laron, Ma. Anicia Razon, related in her affidavit that 3. Gross misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct;
on April 16, 2008, a woman went inside the chamber of Judge Laron and started 4. Knowingly rendering an unjust judgment or order as determined by a
shouting and berating the judge.17 A man, who was then with her, pulled the competent court in an appropriate proceeding;
woman away and brought her out of the room. She, however, continued her 5. Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude;
outburst even when they were already along the corridor. Seven other staff 6. Willful failure to pay a just debt;
members executed a joint affidavit18 about the incident narrating that they ran to 7. Borrowing money or property from lawyers and litigants in a case pending
his chambers after they heard a woman shouting and then saw the woman berating before the court;
Judge Laron (minumura at inaalipusta) while the judge just remained quiet 8. Immorality;
(nanatiling tahimik). The woman's shouts were heard even in the courtroom. They 9. Gross ignorance of the law or procedure;
recounted that the woman told the judge: "IDEDEMANDA KITA!" to which the judge 10. Partisan political activities; and
retorted: "Idedemanda ka rin ng misis ko." 11. Alcoholism and/or vicious habits. [Emphasis supplied]

Imelda Laron, the wife of Judge Tuvillo, also executed an affidavit where she Moreover, members of the judiciary are essentially guided by Code of Judicial
recounted that sometime in January 2008, she lifted their home phone and heard a Conduct and the Canons of Judicial Ethics in their acts. Canon 4, Section 1 of the
conversation between her husband and another person.19 She confronted her Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that a judge should avoid impropriety and the
husband about what she overheard and they had a serious talk about Melissa. She appearance of impropriety in all activities. Judge Laron's conduct of carrying on an
also stated that after that incident, "nasty text messages with threats from different affair with a married woman is highly improper. Pertinently, Paragraph 3 of the
cellphone numbers were sent to me;" that their sons also received the same Canons of Judicial Ethics provides:
messages in their cell phones; and that her relatives in the province, whose
cellphone numbers were listed in her list of contacts, called her "about the 3. Avoidance of appearance of impropriety.
damaging text messages they received about my husband and the woman named
Michelle." A judge's official conduct should be free from the appearance of impropriety, and his
personal behavior, not only upon the bench and in the performance of official
The Office of the Court Administrator in its Report recommended the consolidation
duties, but also in his everyday life, should be beyond reproach.
of the two complaints as all the allegations in both were rooted on the alleged affair
between Judge Laron and Melissa.21 After its evaluation, the OCA recommended that The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a
Judge Laron be found guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge and be fined whiff of impropriety both in his professional and private conduct in order to preserve
P10,000.00, and that the case for unexplained wealth be dismissed for being the good name and integrity of the court.22 As the judicial front-liners, judges must
unsubstantiated. behave with propriety at all times as they are the intermediaries between conflicting
interests and the embodiments of the people's sense of justice. These most exacting
The Court's Ruling standards of decorum are demanded from the magistrates in order to promote
public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary.24 No position is
Unexplained Wealth more demanding as regards moral righteousness and uprightness of any individual
than a seat on the Bench.25cralawred As the epitome of integrity and justice, a
The charge of unexplained wealth was disputed by Judge Laron who was able to judge's personal behavior, both in the performance of his official duties and in
private life should be above suspicion. For moral integrity is not only a virtue but a The affidavit of Melissa, on the other hand, stated that:30
necessity in the judiciary.
1. I have been maintaining an illicit relation with the said Judge above-named
In these cases at bench, the conduct of Judge Laron fell short of this exacting since November 2005 until March 2008. Our relation is known among
standard. By carrying an affair with a married woman, Judge Laron violated the the personnel in the court's premises in Makati City.
trust reposed on his office and utterly failed to live up to noble ideals and strict 2. To support my complaint are the various text messages and videos, ATM
standards of morality required of the members of the judiciary.27 As the Court wrote cards, bank checks which I am willing to present in the proper forum.
in Re: Letter of Judge Augustus Diaz,28 "a judge is the visible representation of the [Emphasis supplied]
law and of justice. He must comport himself in a manner that his conduct must be
free of a whiff of impropriety, not only with respect to the performance of his official The illicit affair must have been known to the staff of the court because in their joint
duties but also as to his behavior outside his sala and as a private individual. His affidavit recounting the scene created by Melissa when she berated the judge in his
character must be able to withstand the most searching public scrutiny because the office, none of them attempted to stop her harangue which was highly disrespectful
ethical principles and sense of propriety of a judge are essential to the preservation of the judge's status. Judge Laron's inaction on the face of Melissa's verbal attack
of the people's faith in the judicial system." was a strong indication that they had a relationship which was more than official or
In these cases, both Judge Laron and Melissa admitted the affair. In the case filed
by Wilfredo, the July 2, 2008 Comment29 of Judge Laron reads: In finding Judge Laron guilty of immorality, the Court is guided by the ruling
in Geroy v. Calderon31where it was written:
1. Sometime in November 2005, Melissa Tuvillo was introduced to me. In
December 2005, Melissa approached me regarding problems about a
vehicular accident she was involved in. She later informed me about the The bottom line is that respondent failed to adhere to the exacting standards of
bouncing checks filed against her. At that time, I had been married for morality and decency which every member of the judiciary is expected to observe.
more than 17 years, and my wife was in the United States attending to her Respondent is a married man, yet he engaged in a romantic relationship with
ailing father. Melissa was likewise then without a husband and Mr. Tuvillo complainant. Granting arguendo that respondent's relationship with complainant
was out at sea. She was aware of my marital status and that I have three never went physical or intimate, still he cannot escape the charge of immorality, for
sons. We were both mature lonely people whose marriages had his own admissions show that his relationship with her was more than professional,
lessened sheen. She brought me a sense of soul connection, more than acquaintanceship, more than friendly.
understanding and great company. [Emphasis supplied]
As the Court held in Madredijo v. Loyao, Jr.;
2. On the week of the May 2007 elections, Melissa called and told me that her
husband Wilfredo died of illness in China. She even told me that the [I]mmorality has not been confined to sexual matters, but includes conduct
remains were cremated, that a padasal was held at Brgy. Pitogo, Makati inconsistent with rectitude, or indicative of corruption, indecency, depravity
City, the place of her husband. After that, she frequently asked for my and dissoluteness; or is willful, flagrant, or shameless conduct showing
presence and company, she even asked me to help her guide her four moral indifference to opinions of respectable members of the community
children, and we developed an intimate personal attachment to each and an inconsiderate attitude toward good order and public welfare. [Italics
other. She showered me with the affection I felt I needed, and I Supplied]
reciprocated. We however tried our best to be discreet and
sensitive to the sensibilities of those around us. Immorality under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-
SC dated September 11, 2001 on the discipline of Justices and Judges, is a serious
charge which carries any of the following sanctions: (1) dismissal from the service,
3. September of 2007 was a turning point. Imelda, my previously distant wife
forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may determine, and
became ever present. My wife was all over me, ever caring and loving. On
disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including
November 2007, I started to distance myself from Melissa.
government-owned or controlled corporations, provided, however, that the
forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits; (2) suspension
4. Around the first week of January 2008, Imelda would later hear of the from office without salary and other benefits for more than three but not exceeding
affair, she confronted me and I soon had to choose between the mother of six months; or (3) a fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00.
my three children, or Melissa, the woman who made me feel needed and
cared for. One look at my three sons made the choice plainly clear. I could The Court also finds Judge Laron guilty of gross misconduct for violating the Code of
not abandon my family. I confessed to the affair, and vowed that I Judicial Conduct. This is another serious charge under Rule 140, Section 8 of the
would immediately mend my ways. I started to exercise more self- Rules of Court. The illicit relationship started because Melissa sought the help of
discipline, and became more aware of my responsibilities to my family. I Judge Laron with respect to her pending B.P. Blg. 22 cases and, apparently, he
now persevere in keeping true to the straight and narrow path." entertained the request for assistance. Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct
[Emphases supplied] provides:
Rule 2.04.—A judge shall refrain from influencing in any manner the Judge Laron himself admitted his immorality and even prayed that he be forgiven
outcome of litigation or dispute pending before another court or and that no disciplinary action be taken against him.39 To disregard Judge Laron's
administrative agency. admission and grant his plea would mean a betrayal of the public trust.

Judge Laron admitted that Melissa had informed him about the f@ B.P. Blg. 22 WHEREFORE, finding Judge Henry Laron, Presiding Judge of Branch 65,
cases against-her one month after she was introduced to him. One of those cases Metropolitan Trial Court, Makati City, GUILTY of IMMORALITY and SERIOUS
was before Judge Laron himself. The case was dismissed upon agreement of the MISCONDUCT, the Court hereby metes him the maximum penalty
parties.33 Another case was pending before the sala of another judge which was of DISMISSAL from the service, with forfeiture of all benefits except accrued leave
provisionally dismissed.34 The situation highly smacked of impropriety because credits. He is likewise disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public
Judge Laron, at the very least, "aided" Melissa in a case pending before him and office, including government-owned or controlled corporations.
before another judge.
Another situation of impropriety was when Judge Laron asked money from Melissa
who was a litigant in a case pending before his court. This is also a serious charge The charge of Unexplained Wealth is DISMISSED for insufficient evidence.
under Section 8 Rule 140 of the Rules of Court. Wilfredo and Melissa alleged in their
complaints that Judge Laron continuously demanded money from Melissa which led SO ORDERED.
to the sale of their houses and vehicles. Melissa claimed that: Judge Henry Laron
was asking an amount of money on a monthly basis. In addition, he is also asking
me to purchased his medicines (Teveten, Forecad. I even shoulder the expenses of
his executive check-up (07-08 June 2007) and also the normal visitation, to his
doctor (Dr. Antonio Sibulo, St. Luke's Hospital) in which he kept all the receipt. He
was also asking for cell phone load, gasoline, and monthly groceries (Puregold).
Judge Henry Laron even ask for an allowance when he was sent to Canada (a total
of 2,000 US dollars) for a study grant last year.35 She further claimed that Judge
Laron would physically hurt whenever she could not give him money and this
averment was corroborated by her sons who stated in their affidavit that "he is
hurting physically our mother because we saw once our mother having maraming
paso, the result of the physical punishment made by Tito Henry Laron."36 Melissa
also submitted a photocopy of a Bank of Philippine Islands deposit slip US$200
deposited in the account of "Henry E. Laron."

All these conduct and behavior are contrary to the canons of judicial conduct and
ethics. Judges are held to higher standards of integrity and ethical conduct than
other persons not vested with public trust and confidence. Judges should uplift the
honor of the judiciary rather than bring it to disrepute. Demanding money from a
party-litigant who has a pending case before him is an act that this Court condemns
in the strongest possible terms. In the words of Velez v. Flores,38 such act corrodes
respect for the law and the courts, committed as it was by one who was tasked
administering the law and rendering justice.

Judge Laron's immorality and serious misconduct have repercussions not only on
the judiciary but also on the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) like
Wilfredo. While Wilfredo was working hard abroad to earn for his family, Judge
Laron was sleeping with his wife in his bed in his house and spending his hard-
earned dollars. What was even worse was the flaunting of the illicit relationship
before his young boys (aged 13 and 14) who related it to him upon his return from
abroad. This is the nightmare scenario of every OFW - to be confronted upon their
return with stories from their own children about the "other man or woman"
sleeping in their house while they were away enduring the bitter cold or searing
heat, homesickness, culture shock, and occasional inhumane treatment just to earn
the dollars for the food, shelter, clothing, and education of their family back home.
Under these circumstances, the Court finds itself unable to adopt the
recommendation of the OCA that Judge Laron be simply found guilty of conduct
unbecoming of a public official and be fined P10,000.00. The OCA's recommended
dismissal of the charge of immorality is not warranted by the evidence on hand.
A.M. No. MTJ-18-1908 (Formerly OCA IPI No. 14-2674-MTJ), January 16, (Frando), a first degree cousin of complainant, who witnessed the incident and
2018 narrated that it was complainant who held the dog chain and that she snapped it,
striking respondent on the head.13 When respondent got hold of the chain,
complainant hurriedly went inside her house and directed three (3) men with knives
to kill respondent. Upon seeing respondent's gun, however, they
retreated.14 Moreover, respondent dismissed the affidavits of Rabe and Ridao, who
ILOCOS SUR, Respondent.
he asserted were not physically present at the time of the incident, as well as that
of Alquiza, who was complainant's laborer.15 In fact, he had already filed a criminal
DECISION complaint16 for attempted homicide against complainant and Alquiza as a result of
the incident.17
In a letter18 dated November 11, 2014, complainant sought the dismissal of the
administrative complaint against respondent, explaining that respondent had not
This administrative case arose from a verified complaint1 for grave misconduct filed
intentionally caused her harm, and that whatever injury she sustained as a result of
by complainant Bernardita F. Antiporda (complainant) against respondent Judge
the incident was accidental. As such, she prayed that the charge against respondent
Francisco A. Ante, Jr. (respondent), Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in
be dropped in order "to restore the good relationship existing" between them.
Cities (MTCC) in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
However, in a Memorandum19 dated May 4, 2015, the Office of the Court
The Facts Administrator (OCA) denied complainant's request, as the mere desistance or
recantation of a complainant in an administrative complaint against any member of
Complainant alleged that between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning of March 2, 2014, the bench does not necessarily result in the dismissal thereof.20Instead, the OCA
she was in the backyard of a house located at Rizal St., Barangay III, Vigan City, referred the matter to Executive Judge Marita Bernales Balloguing (Judge
Ilocos Sur, when respondent, who was in the adjacent lot attending to his fighting Balloguing) of the Regional Trial Court of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, for investigation,
cocks, suddenly confronted her by saying, "Apay nga agkuskusilap ka? (Why are report, and recommendation.21
you glaring/pouting at me?)" Then, he approached her, slapped her face several
times, and whipped her with a dog chain. He also pointed a .45 caliber pistol at
In her Report22 dated March 30, 2016, Judge Balloguing found that complainant had
complainant, as well as her boarders and workers Clarinda Ridao (Ridao), Rosario
indeed sustained physical injuries inflicted by respondent. However, she believed
Rabe (Rabe), and Pedro Alquiza (Alquiza), who witnessed the incident.2
that it was complainant who held the steel chain, which she used to defend herself
when respondent approached her. Judge Balloguing also found that respondent had
Although complainant admitted having glared at respondent at the time, she a grudge against complainant because he reported the illegal renovation of her
explained that it was because she discovered that respondent had maliciously house to the authorities, opining that he could have instead advised her to secure
reported to the Office of the City Engineer of Vigan that her house was being the necessary building permit. She posited that this could have triggered
renovated without the necessary building permit inspite of the fact that she secured complainant's anger towards respondent, prompting her to glare at him at the time
one. She alleged that it was actually respondent who had building code violations, and date of the incident. On that note, Judge Balloguing further opined that
as the drainage pipes in his house were left exposed outside the firewall abutting respondent could have exercised maximum tolerance towards complainant, and
her property.3 rejected his explanation that he approached complainant simply to shake her hand,
pointing out that he did so in order to confront her for glaring at him.23
To bolster her allegations, complainant offered in evidence: (1) her Sworn
Statement dated March 3, 2014;4 (2) Police Blotter Report dated March 3, In a Supplemental Report24 dated November 15, 2016, Judge Balloguing
2014;5 (3) Medical Report dated March 3, 2014;6 (4) pictures of her body showing recommended that respondent be found guilty of acts unbecoming of a judge and
the hematoma caused by respondent;7 (5) pictures of the exposed drainage pipes be sanctioned with either a fine or suspension.25
from respondent's house;8 and (6) Sworn Statements of witnesses Alquiza, Rabe,
and Ridao.9 The OCA's Report and Recommendation

In defense,10 respondent claimed that it was complainant who attempted to kill him In a Memorandum26 dated July 17, 2017, the OCA, while concurring with Judge
by ordering Alquiza and two (2) others to attack him with bolos. He denied that he Balloguing's conclusions of fact, disagreed with respect to the recommended
slapped and whipped her with a dog chain, averring instead that it was she who penalty.
struck him with a steel chain. He also maintained that complainant harbored a
grudge against him for having reported her illegal house renovation to the Citing Judge Balloguing's findings, the OCA found that respondent's behavior during
Engineering Department of the City Hall of Vigan. Although complainant indeed the incident left much to be desired, having failed to exercise more tolerance and
secured a building permit therefor, she did so only after the renovation was self-restraint in dealing with complainant. Had he done so, he could have prevented
completed.11 the incident from further escalating. As such, respondent's infliction of physical
injuries on complainant amounts to grave misconduct, which contravenes the Code
In support of his defense, respondent submitted the affidavit12 of Misael Frando of Judicial Conduct.
Under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service
(RRACCS),28 grave misconduct is a grave offense punishable by dismissal from A judge should always conduct himself in a manner that would preserve the dignity,
service even on the first offense. However, respondent had been previously found independence and respect for himself/herself, the Court, and the Judiciary as a
administratively guilty of grave misconduct, acts unbecoming of a judge, whole. He must exhibit the hallmark judicial temperament of utmost sobriety and
oppression, and abuse of authority in A.M. No. MTJ-02-1411 (formerly OCA IPI No. self-restraint. He should choose his words and exercise more caution and control in
96-208-MTJ) entitled "Jocelyn Briones v. Judge Francisco A. Ante, Jr. " dated April expressing himself. In other words, a judge should possess the virtue
11, 2002 and was suspended for three (3) months, with a warning that a repetition of gravitas.33 Judges are required to always be temperate, patient, and courteous,
of the same shall be dealt with more severely. both in conduct and in language.34

In view thereof, the OCA initially observed that respondent should be dismissed In this case, the OCA, affirming the findings of Judge Balloguing, found that
from service with forfeiture of all benefits, except accrued leave credits, if any, and respondent's behavior towards complainant amounted to a conduct that the Court
with prejudice to reemployment in the government or any subdivision, agency or cannot countenance. Apart from being a display of arrogance, respondent's
instrumentality thereof, including government-owned and controlled corporations demeanor and actuations, which resulted in physical injuries to complainant, are in
and government financial institutions.30 However, in light of respondent's retirement direct contravention of the virtues of patience, sobriety, and self-restraint so
on November 7, 2017 and finding the extreme penalty of dismissal much too harsh, espoused by the Court and highly expected of a member of the judiciary.
considering his twelve (12) years in the judiciary, the OCA instead recommended Regardless of the reason for the incident, respondent, being a magistrate, should
that a fine of P100,000.00 be imposed, to be deducted from his retirement benefits have observed judicial temperament which requires him to be always temperate,
should the Court resolve this administrative matter after his retirement.31 patient, and courteous, both in conduct and in language.35

The Issue Before the Court Respondent's acts, therefore, constitute grave misconduct, which the Court defines
as "a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more
The sole issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not respondent should be held particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer."36 The
administratively liable. misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful
intent to violate the law, or a disregard of established rules, which must be proven
The Court's Ruling by substantial evidence,37 as in this case.

Canon 2 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct32 states that "[i]ntegrity is essential As aptly pointed out by the OCA, this is not the first administrative complaint
not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but also to the personal charging respondent with grave misconduct. In "Jocelyn Briones v. Judge Francisco
demeanor of judges." Thus, Sections 1 and 2 thereof provide: A. Ante, Jr.,"38 the Court suspended respondent for three (3) months on the charges
of grave misconduct, acts unbecoming of a judge, and abuse of authority for having
Section 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but hit complainant therein with a monobloc chair and shouted invectives at
that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer. her.39Thereat, respondent had already displayed "a predisposition to use physical
violence and intemperate language which reveals a marked lack of judicial
Section 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people's faith in temperament and self-restraint – traits which, aside from the basic equipment of
the integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not merely be done but must also be learning in the law – are indispensable qualities of every judge."40 Sadly, it seems
seen to be done. that respondent has not learned to mend his ways and hence, should be dealt with
the full force of the law.
Further, Sections 1 and 2 of Canon 4 thereof states:
Grave or gross misconduct is classified as a serious charge under Section 8 (3) of
CANON 4 Rule 140 of the Rules of Court:
Section 8. Serious charges. – Serious charges include:
Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the
activities of a judge. xxxx

Section 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of 3. Gross misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct[.]
impropriety in all of their activities.
Section 11 of the same Rule states that:
Section 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept
personal restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary Section 11. Sanctions. – A. If the respondent is guilty of a serious charge, any of
citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall the following sanctions may be imposed:
conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with the dignity of the 1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits
judicial office. 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
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 than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00. (Emphasis
and underscoring supplied)

Since respondent has, however, retired on November 7, 2017 and hence, could not
anymore be dismissed from service, the Court, instead, finds it proper to order the
forfeiture of all of his retirement benefits (except accrued leave credits), and
further, disqualify him from reinstatement or appointment to any public office,
including government-owned or controlled corporations.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Francisco A. Ante, Jr. is found GUILTY of Grave

Misconduct. Accordingly, considering respondent's retirement on November 7, 2017,
his retirement benefits are hereby FORFEITED, except accrued leave credits. He is
further DISQUALIFIED from reinstatement or appointment to any public office,
including government-owned or controlled corporations.

A.M. No. MTJ-04-1563 September 8, 2004 leave. Thus, he asserted that it was impossible for him to thereafter change the
(Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 02-1207-MTJ) resolution of the cases and it was likewise impossible for any member of his staff to
give complainant copies of said Decisions.3
LUCILA TAN, complainant,
vs. In a resolution dated December 2, 2002, the Court referred the complaint to the
Judge MAXWEL S. ROSETE, respondent. Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City for investigation, report
and recommendation.4
First Vice Executive Judge Edwin A. Villasor conducted several hearings on the
administrative case. Only complainant Lucila Tan testified for her side. She
presented as documentary evidence the copy of the unsigned Decision in Criminal
Case No. 59440 dated February 23, 2001 which was allegedly handed to her by a
Lucila Tan filed the instant complaint against Judge Maxwel S. Rosete, former Acting member of respondent judge’s staff.5 Respondent judge, on the other hand,
Presiding Judge, Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 58, San Juan, Metro Manila,1 for presented four (4) witnesses: Josefina Ramos, Rodolfo Cea (Buboy), Fernando B.
violation of Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Espuerta, and Joyce Trinidad Hernandez. His documentary evidence consists of the
Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019). affidavits of his witnesses,6 copy of the Motion for Reconsideration in Criminal Case
No. 59440,7 and various documents composed of the machine copy of the Order of
The complaint alleged that Lucila Tan was the private complainant in Criminal Case Arrest in Criminal Case No. 117219, machine copy of the letter dated December 29,
No. 59440 and Criminal Case No. 66120, both entitled People of the Philippines vs. 1997, machine copy of Certification dated Nov 13, 2000, front and dorsal sides of
Alfonso Pe Sy and pending before Branch 58, Metropolitan Trial Court of San Juan, Check No. QRH-0211804, Bank Statement dated March 31, 1998, Stop Payment
Metro Manila, then presided by respondent judge. Before the cases were decided, Order dated April 6, 1998, Current Account Inquiry, and Transaction Record, which
respondent judge allegedly sent a member of his staff to talk to complainant. They documents were allegedly given by complainant to respondent’s witness, Fernando
met at Sangkalan Restaurant along Scout Albano, near Timog Avenue in Quezon B. Espuerta.8
City. The staff member told her that respondent was asking for ₱150,000.00 in
exchange for the non-dismissal of the cases. She was shown copies of respondent The Investigating Judge summarized the testimonies of the witnesses as follows:
judge’s Decisions in Criminal Cases Nos. 59440 and 66120, both still unsigned,
dismissing the complaints against the accused. She was told that respondent judge
would reverse the disposition of the cases as soon as she remits the amount
demanded. The staff member allowed complainant to keep the copy of the draft
decision in Criminal Case No. 59440. Complainant, however, did not accede to 1. LUCILA TAN
respondent’s demand because she believed that she had a very strong case, well
supported by evidence. The criminal cases were eventually dismissed by respondent
Complainant Lucila Tan testified that she knew Respondent Judge because
she had a case in Branch 58, MeTC, San Juan, Metro Manila. She alleged
that, in September 1998, she filed two cases involving B.P. 22 and Other
Respondent judge, in his Comment, denied the allegations of complainant. He Deceits with the Prosecutor’s Office in Pasig. After resolution, the cases
instead stated that it was complainant who attempted to bribe him in exchange for were filed in the MeTC, San Juan. One case went to Branch 57 and the
a favorable decision. She even tried to delay and to derail the promulgation of the other one went to Branch 58, where Respondent Judge Rosete was the
decisions in Criminal Cases Nos. 59440 and 66120. Complainant also sought the Presiding Judge. Judge Quilatan was the Presiding Judge of Branch 57.
intervention of then San Juan Mayor, Jinggoy Estrada, to obtain judgment in her Upon advise of a friend, she moved for consolidation and the two cases
favor. Mayor Estrada allegedly talked to him several times to ask him to help were transferred to Judge Quilatan in Branch 57. Subsequently, in view of
complainant. The former even called him over the phone when he was in New the Motion for Inhibition filed by Complainant’s lawyer, Judge Quilatan
Zealand, persuading him to hold in abeyance the promulgation of the Decisions in inhibited himself and the two cases were transferred to the sala of
said cases. But he politely declined, telling him that there was no sufficient evidence Respondent Judge Rosete (TSN, pp. 9-16, Hearing of March 3, 2003).
to convict the accused, and moreover, he had already turned over the Decisions to After several hearings, the Clerk of Court, named Joyce, called up the
Judge Quilatan for promulgation. Respondent further stated that complainant kept Complainant and advised her to talk to San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada to
bragging about her close relations with Mayor Estrada who was her neighbor in seek for (sic) assistance. Joyce gave her the phone number of the Office of
Greenhills, San Juan, and even insinuated that she could help him get appointed to the Mayor (TSN, pages 17-18, Hearing of March 3, 2003).
a higher position provided he decides the suits in her favor. Respondent judge also Complainant then called up the Office of the Mayor but her call was
claimed that complainant offered to give cash for the downpayment of a car he was intercepted by Josie, the Mayor’s Secretary. When she told Josie why she
planning to buy. But he refused the offer. Finally, respondent judge denied that a called, the latter asked her if she wanted to meet the Judge and when
member of his staff gave complainant a copy of his draft decision in Criminal Case Complainant answered in the affirmative, Josie made arrangements for
No. 59440. He said that he had entrusted to Judge Quilatan his Decisions in Complainant to meet the Judge (TSN, pages 19-21, Hearing of March
Criminal Cases Nos. 59440 and 66120 before he left for New Zealand on study 3, 2003). Complainant called up the Office of the Mayor sometime in
November or late October 2000 and she met the Judge on November 10. page 43, Hearing of March 23, 2003). After that they left the Office of
She, Josie and Respondent Judge met at the Cravings Restaurant in the Mayor and Complainant was not able to approach Mayor Estrada again.
Wilson, San Juan (TSN, page 22, Hearing of March 3, 2003). During Since the Complainant was still carrying the Decision, and being afraid that
the meeting, Complainant "told the Judge regarding this matter, how this it will be promulgated already, she sought the advi[c]e of her friends. The
happened and that he will convince the Accused to pay me as soon as Complainant showed the decision to the Prosecutor in San Juan at that
possible" (TSN, page 23, Hearing of March 3, 2003). When she went to time (TSN, pages 44-45, Hearing of March 3, 2003). The Prosecutor
the restroom for a few minutes, Respondent Judge and Josie were left told the Complainant that she is going to meet with the Judge when he
alone. After she came back, they went home. On the way home, Josie told comes back from New Zealand. Complainant testified that, sometime in
her to give something to [the] Judge, "Sabi niya magbigay tayo ng kaunti April, in Sangkalan, Quezon City, a night life restaurant, she met
para bumilis iyong kaso mo" (TSN, page 24, Hearing of March 3, Respondent Judge Rosete. She was with two (2) Prosecutors. When she
2003). At first, Josie did not mention any amount but when the arrived at Sangkalan at about 8:30 in the evening, Judge Rosete was
Complainant asked her how much, the former mentioned Fifty Thousand already in the company of several men whom she got to know as Fernan
Pesos (₱50,000.00). Complainant asked for a lesser amount, Twenty and Buboy (TSN, pages 46-48, Hearing of March 3, 2003). After
Thousand Pesos (₱20,000.00) (TSN, page 25, Hearing of March 3, eating and drinking, the Complainant left at around 10:30 in the evening.
2003). When Josie agreed, she sent the amount of ₱20,000.00 to Josie While they were inside, Complainant claimed that she did not say anything
through her driver after two days (TSN, pages 26-27, Hearing of March at all and it was the Prosecutor who talked in her behalf. She was the one
3, 2003). When Josie received the money, the Clerk of Court, Joyce, also who paid all the bills which amounted to Six Thousand Pesos (₱6,000.00).
called her (Complainant) on that date. The Clerk of Court asked her if she When Complainant left, only they, three (3) girls, left while the Judge and
sent money. At first, Complainant denied it but the Clerk of Court said that his company were still there drinking. While Complainant was waiting for
Josie went there and there was money in the drawer (TSN, pages 28-29, her car outside, a man came over from behind (TSN, pages 49-50,
Hearing of March 3, 2003). After that, several hearings were on-going, Hearing of March 3, 2003). Complainant did not know him but she
and before the resolution, Joyce called up the Complainant again around asked the Prosecutor later after the man left. The Complainant said that
February 2001. Complainant was in Baguio when Joyce called saying that the man asked if he could have an advance, which she understood as a
she had an important thing to tell to (sic) the Complainant. After payment, and she told the Prosecutor. Complainant heard the Prosecutor
Complainant got back to Manila, Joyce called her again and said that she say that she already talked to the Judge. The man left and went back
will show Complainant something. When they were in Complainant’s car in inside the restaurant (TSN, page 51, Hearing of March 3, 2003).
San Juan, Joyce showed Complainant two unsigned Decisions of the Complainant said that when she did not give the money she was still
case[s]. After reading the Decisions, Complainant saw that the cases were scared because there will already be a promulgation and she did not know
dismissed and that it will be dismissed if she will not accede to Joyce’s whether it will be in her behalf (sic) or not. Complainant did not give
request (TSN, pages 30-33, Hearing of March 3, 2003). Complainant anything aside from the ₱20,000.00 because her case was very strong and
claimed that Joyce asked for Php 150,000.00 for each case. "Sabi niya it she had all the papers and evidence and that she promised them that she
[was] for Judge daw, kailangan daw ni Judge because he is leaving at that will give them after she was (sic) able to collect all the debts. Complainant
time" (TSN, page 34, Hearing of March 3, 2003). Complainant did not know the actual date of the promulgation but somebody from the
identified the copy of the Decision in Criminal Case No. 59440 for Other Office of Respondent Judge called her up in her house and told her not to
Deceits, dated 23 February 2001, which was marked as Exhibit "A" for the go to the promulgation. When Complainant asked why, "Sabi niya baka
Complainant (TSN, pages 35-38, Hearing of March 3, 2003). mapaiyak daw ako kasi alam na daw nila ang decision. Sabi niya ako na
Complainant further alleged "Sabi niya, if I will accede to that request of lang ang magdedeliver ng case ng promulgation." She received the
₱150,000.00 for each case then they will (sic) going to reverse the decision when she sent her driver to pick it up. The caller said that the
Decision" and "Si Judge daw" will reverse the Decision. Complainant met decision was unfavorable to her (TSN, pages 52-55, Hearing of March
with Joyce around February 2001 (TSN, page 39, Hearing of March 3, 3, 2003).
2003). Complainant further claimed that Joyce told her to go to Mayor
because he is a friend of the Judge. Complainant went again to the Office
of the Mayor to seek the Mayor’s help and she met the Mayor at his Office
in San Juan. The Mayor called up the Judge but he was not around so the
Clerk of Court, Joyce, was called. Joyce went to the Office of the Mayor and 1. JOSEFINA RAMOS
when she arrived, she said that the Judge was out of the country (TSN,
pages 40-41, Hearing of March 3, 2003). The Mayor asked for the She testified that she was the Private Secretary of Mayor Jinggoy Estrada,
phone number of Respondent Judge Rosete, which Joyce gave. Mayor the former Mayor of San Juan, Metro Manila, since he was Vice Mayor of
Estrada was able to get in touch with the Judge. While the Mayor was San Juan. In 2000 and 2001, she was already the Secretary of Mayor
talking in (sic) the phone with the Judge, Complainant was in front of the Jinggoy (TSN, page 7, Hearing of September 9, 2003). She met Lucila
Mayor (TSN, pages 42-43, Hearing of March 3, 2003). Complainant Tan when the latter went to the Mayor’s Office together with Tita Pat, the
heard the Mayor "because his voice is very loud." He said, "Judge, Saan sister of President Estrada, but she could no longer remember the year.
ka? Sabi niya New Zealand. When were you coming back? I do not know Lucila Tan went to the Office, together with Tita Pat, and they were seeking
what is the answer and then he said, you help my friend naswindler siya, the help of Mayor Jinggoy because they have a case. She did not know the
pabilisin mo ang kaso niya para matapos na kasi matagal na iyan" (TSN, case because they were talking to Mayor Jinggoy. She could no longer
remember how many times Lucila Tan went to the Office of Mayor Jinggoy Hearing of September 22, 2003). He recalled having met Lucila Tan
Estrada. She did not know what Lucila Tan wanted from Mayor Jinggoy sometime just before Christmas in October or November 2000. The first
Estrada or how close Lucila Tan was to him (TSN, pages 8-11, Hearing time he saw Lucila Tan was in a restaurant in Quezon City where she was
of September 9, 2003). She denied that she met Lucila Tan at the introduced to him by Fiscal Reyes. He went to the restaurant alone. He was
Cravings Restaurant and that she suggested to Lucila Tan to give Fifty invited by Judge Rosete because they had not been together for a long
Thousand Pesos (₱50,000.00) to Judge Rosete to speed up or facilitate her time and they were long time friends. They ate at the restaurant. When he
cases but that Lucila Tan agreed for only Twenty Thousand Pesos arrived, Judge Rosete and Buboy were already there. They stayed in the
(₱20,000.00). She claimed that she did not know what Lucila Tan was restaurant until 11:00 [eleven] o’clock in the evening (TSN, pages 47-49,
talking about regarding the money. There was no occasion that she Hearing of September 22, 2003). He met Lucila Tan in that restaurant
suggested or even intimated to Lucila Tan the idea of giving money to when Fiscal Reyes pointed him to Lucila Tan as Fernan of the Supreme
Judge Rosete. She denied that she met with Lucila Tan and Respondent Court. When he arrived there, Buboy and Judge Rosete were already there.
Judge at Cravings Restaurant along Wilson Street in San Juan, Metro Later, the three (3) girls arrived, namely: Fiscal Reyes, Lucila Tan and the
Manila. She identified her Sworn Statement, subscribed on February 5, sister of the Fiscal (TSN, page 50, Hearing of September 22, 2003).
2003, which was marked as Exhibit "1" (TSN, pages 12-16, Hearing of They ordered and ate but they were in a separate table. He recalled that
September 9, 2003). She denied that Lucila Tan gave anything to Judge Rosete paid for their bill because he saw him get a credit card and
her (TSN, page 17, Hearing of September 9, 2003). sign something. He did not know about Mrs. Tan but he saw Judge Rosete
sign and give to the waiter. The incident where he met Lucila Tan in the
restaurant in Quezon City came before the incident when she went to his
Office (TSN, pages 51-52, Hearing of September 22, 2003). He could
not remember the month when Lucila Tan went to his Office but he
He testified that his acquaintances usually call him "Buboy" and for about remembers that it was nearing Christmas in 2000. "Pumunta siya sa akin
two years or more he had no occupation. Two years before, he was a Clerk parang may ipinakiusap siya sa akin, katunayan nandito po dala ko." Lucila
III at Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 58, San Juan. He knows Lucila Tan Tan asked him to help her in her case with Alfonso Sy. "Meron siyang
because, when he "was still working as Clerk in San Juan, she approached inalok sa akin. Sabi bibigyan niya ako ng three hundred thousand pesos
me and asked if I can introduce her to Judge Rosete and eventually asked (₱300,000.00) para iabot kay Judge Rosete. Ang sagot ko nga sa kanya,
for a favorable decision against her case." He could not remember anymore hindi ganun ang aking kaibigan. Matagal na kaming magkaibigan niyan
when that was because "it was a long time ago" (TSN, pages 6-7, noong nagpapractice pa yan. Iyon ang sagot ko sa kanya." He told Judge
Hearing of September 22, 2003). It was when he was still with the Rosete about that and the latter got mad at him. In their second meeting,
MeTC, Branch 58, San Juan, Metro Manila. He met Lucila Tan at the Lucila Tan gave him papers. He presented a Motion for Reconsideration in
corridor of the Metropolitan Trial Court when she approached him and Criminal Case No. 59440, which was marked as Exhibit "3" (TSN, pages
asked if he can introduce her to Judge Rosete. He agreed to introduce 53-56, Hearing of September 22, 2003). He presented the papers
Lucila Tan to Judge Rosete but he was not able to actually introduce Lucila actually given to him by Lucila Tan. He claimed that the xerox copy was
Tan to Judge Rosete "because aside from the introduction, she wants me to the exact same document given to him by Lucila Tan when she went to his
ask Judge Rosete for a favorable decision against (sic) her case and I told Office. The other documents that Lucila Tan gave to him when she went to
her that Judge Rosete don’t (sic) like his staff (to) indulge on that kind of his Office were marked as Exhibit "4" and submarkings (TSN, pages 57-
transaction" (TSN, pages 8-9, Hearing of September 22, 2003). As far 63, Hearing of September 22, 2003). Lucila Tan told him the contents
as he knows, the meeting he had with Lucila Tan in the corridor of the of the documents and how the case against Alfonso Sy came about. When
Court in San Juan was "the first and the last time." When asked about the Lucila Tan asked him, he answered her that his friend (Respondent Judge)
claim of Lucila Tan that he approached her and demanded from her a sum was not like that and they had been together for a long time and it is not
of money to represent an advance payment for a favorable decision in her possible. When he told Judge Rosete about that, the latter got mad at him.
cases then pending before Judge Rosete, he answered "I don’t know about Lucila Tan also mentioned to him that she knew the son of the Chief
that, sir." (TSN, page 10, Hearing of September 22, 2003.) He Justice (TSN, pages 64-66, Hearing of September 22, 2003). Lucila
identified the Sworn Statement, subscribed on February 6, 2003, and Tan was insisting that he give Judge Rosete so that her case will win but he
confirmed and affirmed the truthfulness of the contents of the Affidavit, answered that his friend was not like that (TSN, pages 67-68, Hearing
which was marked as Exhibit "2" (TSN, pages 11-12, Hearing of of September 22, 2003).
September 22, 2003). He denied that he met the Complainant at
Sangkalan Restaurant around 8:30 in the evening of an unspecified
date (TSN, page 13, Hearing of September 22, 2003).

She testified that she was a government employee connected with the
Judiciary at the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 58, San Juan, Metro
Manila. She knew Complainant Lucila Tan because in the year 2000 she
He testified that he is a government employee employed at the Supreme had a case in their court. She first came to know Lucila Tan when the latter
Court with the position Budget Officer III since November 9, 1981. His first went to their Office with Ellen Sorio, the Branch Clerk of Court of Branch
job was Casual and he became Budget Officer in 1997 (TSN, page 46, 57, who introduced Lucila Tan to her. Ellen Sorio said, "may kaso ito sa
inyo, pinapasabi ni Mayor kay Judge" (TSN, pages 7-11, Hearing of The issue in this administrative case thus boils down to a determination of the
September 29, 2003). She did not say anything but Lucila Tan asked credibility of the parties’ evidence.
"may tumawag na ba sa Mayor’s Office?" and she said "yes, ma’am." After
that there was a hearing and the sister of former President Estrada went to
After a thorough evaluation of the testimonies of all the witnesses, as well as the
their Office looking for Judge Rosete. She told her that Judge Rosete was
documentary evidence presented by both parties, we find the complainant’s version
on a hearing and the former told her to tell Judge Rosete about the case of
more trustworthy. Not only did she testify with clarity and in full detail, but she also
Lucila "na pinakikiusap ni Mayor" (TSN, page 12, Hearing of September
presented during the investigation the unsigned copy of the draft decision of
29, 2003). She told Judge Rosete about the things that the sister of the
respondent judge in Criminal Case No. 59440 given to her by a member of his staff.
former President told her and that Judge Rosete said nothing. She denied
Said documentary evidence supports her allegation that a member of complainant’s
the testimony of Complainant on March 3, 2003 that, sometime in
staff met with her, showed her copies of respondent judge’s draft decisions in
November 2000, she (Joyce Hernandez) called up Lucila Tan by telephone
Criminal Cases Nos. 59440 and 66120, and demanded, in behalf of respondent
and said that she saw money stuffed inside the drawer of the Respondent
judge, that she pays ₱150,000.00 for the reversal of the disposition of said cases. It
in his Office and that she asked the Complainant whether the latter was the
would be impossible for complainant to obtain a copy of a judge’s draft decision, it
one who sent the money stuffed inside the drawer. What she remembers is
being highly confidential, if not through the judge himself or from the people in his
that Lucila Tan called her and asked if Josie went to their Office and she
office. And an ordinary employee in the court cannot promise a litigant the reversal
told Lucila Tan that Josie never went to their Office. She also denied that
of a case’s disposition if not assured by the judge who drafted the decision.
she called up Lucila Tan sometime in February 2001 and claimed that
Lucila Tan was the one who called her up and told her that she (Lucila Tan)
was going to show her something. Lucila Tan showed her a copy of the The respondent’s evidence did not overcome the facts proved by complainant. We
Decision and she was surprised when the former showed her the copy. note that the testimonies of two of respondent’s witnesses contradict each other.
When she asked where Lucila Tan got the copy, the latter did not answer Fernando Espuerta confirmed complainant’s claim that she met respondent judge
and said that Mayor Jinggoy wanted to talk to her (TSN, pages 13-16, and his two companions, Espuerta himself and Rodolfo Cea (Buboy), at Sangkalan
Hearing of September 29, 2003). She immediately went to the Office of Restaurant in Quezon City. Rodolfo Cea, on the other hand, denied that he met
the Mayor with Lucila Tan and Mayor Jinggoy talked to her. The Mayor complainant at Sangkalan Restaurant and swore that he never went out with
asked her where Judge Rosete was and she answered that he was in New respondent judge in non-office functions. The Investigating Judge observed:
Zealand on study leave. When the Mayor asked if she knew the telephone
number of the Judge, she gave him the telephone number in New Zealand. Thus, there is an apparent inconsistency in the testimony of the
She was present when the Mayor called up Respondent Judge and talked to Respondent Judge’s two witnesses, Rodolfo Cea and Fernando B. Espuerta,
him (TSN, page 17, Hearing of September 29, 2003). "He said ‘Pare regarding the incident at Sangkalan Restaurant in Quezon City where
ko, ano na itong kaso na pinakikiusap ko sa iyo?’ I don’t know what was Complainant claimed that she met Respondent Judge, a certain Fernan,
your answer(ed) [sic] to him, you were talking and then he said ‘ganun and Buboy, while she was with two Prosecutors. Fernando B. Espuerta
ba?’ then Mayor Jinggoy said ‘o sige, okay na’ and then we left the Office." testified that he was at Sangkalan Restaurant with Respondent Judge and
She denied that she gave two advance copies of the Decisions in Buboy (Rodolfo Cea), while the latter (Rodolfo Cea) denied that he met the
Complainant’s two cases inside the latter’s parked car in San Juan, Metro Complainant at Sangkalan Restaurant.10 (citations omitted)
Manila and claimed that Complainant was the one who showed her the
copy in their Office. She likewise denied the testimony of the Complainant
that she allegedly demanded Php150,000.00 for each of the two cases then Hence, we are more inclined to believe complainant’s version that she met with
pending before Branch 58, which were decided by Respondent Judge, in respondent judge and his companions at Sangkalan Restaurant sometime in April
return for a favorable decision (TSN, pages 18-21, Hearing of 2001.
September 29, 2003). She claimed that it was the Complainant who
offered to her. She identified her Sworn Statement, subscribed and sworn We have also observed that respondent judge has not been very candid with the
to on February 5, 2003, which was marked as Exhibit "5," and confirmed Court as regards the dates when he went to New Zealand and when he came back
and affirmed the truthfulness of all the contents thereof (TSN, pages 22- to the Philippines. Respondent asserts that he was already in New Zealand at the
25, Hearing of September 29, 2003).9 time when complainant claims that he met with her. However, the evidence he
presented only shows his New Zealand visa and the dates when he entered said
The Court is now faced with two opposing versions of the story. Complainant claims country.11 He did not show to the investigating body the dates when he left and
that respondent judge, through his staff, required her to pay the amount of returned to the Philippines. Apparently, he entered New Zealand on two dates:
₱150,000.00 for him to render judgment in her favor in the two criminal cases she March 4, 2001 and May 1, 2001. We may therefore infer that complainant was in
filed against Alfonso Pe Sy. Respondent judge, on the other hand, asserts that it the Philippines before May 1, 2001, which is consistent with complainant’s
was complainant who attempted to bribe him by offering to pay for the testimony, as well as that of Fernando Espuerta, that she met with respondent
downpayment of the car he was planning to buy, and she even sought the judge and his companions, Fernando and Buboy in April 2001.
intervention of then San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada to persuade him to rule for the
complainant in Criminal Cases Nos. 59440 and 66120. We have repeatedly admonished our judges to adhere to the highest tenets of
judicial conduct. They must be the embodiment of competence, integrity and
independence. Like Caesar’s wife, a judge must not only be pure but above
suspicion. This is not without reason. The exacting standards of conduct demanded
from judges are designed to promote public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary because the people’s confidence in the judicial system is
founded not only on the magnitude of legal knowledge and the diligence of the
members of the bench, but also on the highest standard of integrity and moral
uprightness they are expected to possess. When the judge himself becomes the
transgressor of any law which he is sworn to apply, he places his office in disrepute,
encourages disrespect for the law and impairs public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary itself. It is therefore paramount that a judge’s personal
behavior both in the performance of his duties and his daily life, be free from any
appearance of impropriety as to be beyond reproach.12

Respondent’s act of sending a member of his staff to talk with complainant and
show copies of his draft decisions, and his act of meeting with litigants outside the
office premises beyond office hours violate the standard of judicial conduct required
to be observed by members of the Bench. They constitute gross misconduct which
is punishable under Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, Respondent Judge Maxwel S. Rosete is SUSPENDED from

office without salary and other benefits for FOUR (4) MONTHS.