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Conducto vs Monzon Date: July 2, 1998 Complainant: Jesus Conducto Respondent: Judge Iluminado Monzon Ponente: Davide Jr Facts:

Complainant filed a complaint with the Sangguniang Panlungsod of San Pablo City against Benjamin Maghirang, the barangay chairman of Barangay III-E of San Pablo City, for abuse of authority, serious irregularity and violation of law as Maghirang appointed his sister-in-law, Mrs. Florian Maghirang, to the position of barangay secretary in violation of Section 394 of the LGC. At the same time, complainant filed a complaint for violation of Article 244 RPC with the Office of the City Prosecutor against Maghirang, which was, however, dismissed on the ground that Maghirangs sister-in-law was appointed before the effectivity of the LGC, which prohibits a punong barangay from appointing a relative within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity as barangay secretary. The order of dismissal was submitted to the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon. Complainant obtained an Opinion from Dir. Jacob Montesa of the DILG declaring the appointment of Maghirang void. The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman dismissed the case but ordered Maghirang to replace his sister in law as barangay secretary. Later, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman granted the MR and ordered the filing of an information for unlawful appointment against Maghirang. With prior leave from the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman, the City Prosecutor filed, in Criminal Case No. 26240, a motion for the suspension of Maghirang pursuant to Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019. The judge denied the motion and ruled that since Maghirang was reelected as barangay chairman, the offenses committed during the previous term are not causes for removal. The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) recommended that the judge liable for ignorance of the law and that he be reprimanded with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely. The OCA said that it is well settled in Section 13 of RA 3019 that the court suspends any public officer against whom a valid information was filed against him. Issue: WON the judge was grossly ignorant of the law Held: Yes Ratio: All things considered, while concededly, respondent Judge manifested his ignorance of the law in denying complainants Motion for Suspension of Brgy. Chairman Maghirang, there was nothing shown however to indicate that he acted in bad faith or with malice. Be that as it may, it would also do well to note that good faith and lack of malicious intent cannot completely free respondent from liability. The findings and conclusions of the Office of the Court Administrator are in order. However, the penalty recommended, i.e., reprimand, is too light, in view of the fact that despite his claim that he has been continuously keeping abreast of legal and jurisprudential development [sic] in law ever since he passed the Bar Examinations in 1995, respondent, wittingly or otherwise, failed to recall that as early as 1967 in Ingco v. Sanchez this Court explicitly ruled that the re-election of a public official extinguishes only the administrative, but not the criminal, liability incurred by him during his previous term of office, thus:
The ruling, therefore, that -- when the people have elected a man to his office it must be assumed that they did this with knowledge of his life and character and that they disregarded or forgave his faults or misconduct if he had been guilty of any -- refers only to an action for removal from office and does not apply to a criminal case, because a crime is a public wrong more atrocious in character than mere misfeasance or malfeasance committed by a public officer in the discharge of his duties, and is injurious not only to a person or group of persons but to the State as a whole. This must be the reason why Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code, which enumerates the grounds for extinction of criminal liability, does not include reelection to office as one of them, at least insofar as a public officer is concerned. Also, under the Constitution, it is only the President who may grant the pardon of a criminal offense.

There is a whale of a difference between the two cases. The basis of the investigation which has been commenced here, and which is sought to be restrained, is a criminal accusation the object of which is to cause the indictment and punishment of petitioner-appellant as a private citizen; whereas in the cases cited, the subject of the investigation was an administrative charge against the officers therein involved and its object was merely to cause his suspension or removal from public office. While the criminal cases involves the character of the mayor as a private citizen and the People of the Philippines as a community is a party to the case, an administrative case involves only his actuations as a public officer as [they] affect the populace of the municipality where he serves. Then on 20 June 1969, in Luciano v. The Provincial Governor, et al.,[20] this Court likewise categorically declared that criminal liabilities incurred by an elective public official during his previous term of office were not extinguished by his re-election, and that Pascual v. Provincial Governor and Lizares v. Hechanova referred only to administrative liabilities committed during the previous term of an elective official. Petitioner's reliance on the loose language used in Pascual vs. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija that "each term is separate from other terms and that the reelection to office operates as a condonation of the officer's previous misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him therefor" is misplaced. The Court has in subsequent cases made it clear that the Pascual ruling (which dealt with administrative liability) applies exclusively to administrative and not to criminal liability and sanctions. Thus, in Ingco vs. Sanchez the Court ruled that the reelection of a public officer for a new term does not in any manner wipe out the criminal liability incurred by him in a previous term. Punishment for a crime is a vindication for an offense against the State and the body politic. The small segment of the national electorate that constitutes the electorate of the municipality of Antipolo has no power to condone a crime against the public justice of the State and the entire body politic. Reelection to public office is not provided for in Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code as a mode of extinguishing criminal liability incurred by a public officer prior to his reelection. On the contrary, Article 9 of the Anti-Graft Act imposes as one of the penalties in case of conviction perpetual disqualification from public office and Article 30 of the Revised Penal Code declares that such penalty of perpetual disqualification entails "the deprivation of the public offices and employments which the offender may have held, even if conferred by popular election." It is manifest then, that such condonation of an officer's fault or misconduct during a previous expired term by virtue of his reelection to office for a new term can be deemed to apply only to his administrative and not to his criminal guilt. As succinctly stated in then Solicitor General (now Associate Justice) Felix Q. Antonio's memorandum for the State, "to hold that petitioner's reelection erased his criminal liability would in effect transfer the determination of the criminal culpability of an erring official from the court to which it was lodged by law into the changing and transient whim and caprice of the electorate. This cannot be so, for while his constituents may condone the misdeed of a corrupt official by returning him back to office, a criminal action initiated against the latter can only be heard and tried by a court of justice, his nefarious act having been committed against the very State whose laws he had sworn to faithfully obey and uphold. A contrary rule would erode the very system upon which our government is based, which is one of laws and not of men." While diligence in keeping up-to-date with the decisions of this Court is a commendable virtue of judges -- and, of course, members of the Bar -- comprehending the decisions is a different matter, for it is in that area where ones competence may then be put to the test and proven. Thus, it has been said that a judge is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules; it is imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles and aware of well-settled and authoritative doctrines.[23] He should strive for excellence, exceeded only by his passion for truth, to the end that he be the personification of justice and the Rule of Law. Needless to state, respondent was, in this instance, wanting in the desired level of mastery of a revered doctrine on a simple issue.