February 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected February 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Administrative proceedings; compromise agreements. The compromise agreement between complainant and respondent, or the fact that complainant already forgave respondent, does not necessarily warrant the dismissal of the administrative case. Three reasons justify the continuation of the administrative matter despite the compromise agreement or the forgiveness. One, the Court’s disciplinary authority is not dependent on or cannot be frustrated by the private arrangements entered into by the parties; otherwise, the prompt and fair administration of justice, as well as the discipline of court personnel, will be undermined. Two, public interest is at stake in the conduct and actuations of the officials and employees of the Judiciary. Accordingly, the efforts of the Court in improving the delivery of justice to the people should not be frustrated and put to naught by any private arrangements between the parties. And, three, the Court’s interest in the affairs of the Judiciary is a paramount concern that bows to no limits. Benigno B. Reas v. Carlos M. Relacion, A.M. No. P-05-2095. February 9, 2011.

Administrative Proceedings; substantial evidence. Bayani was charged with dishonesty for failure to disclose in her Personal Data Sheet that she was previously admonished in an administrative case. Bayani invoked good faith as her defense. The Court ruled that while her defense of good faith may be difficult to prove as clearly it is a question of intention, a state of mind, erroneous judgment on the part of Bayani does not, however, necessarily connote the existence of bad faith, malice, or an intention to defraud. In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to warrant disciplinary sanctions.  Substantial evidence is defined as relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Thus, after much consideration of the facts and circumstances, while the Court has not shied away in imposing the strictest penalty to erring employees, neither can it think and rule unreasonably in determining whether an employee deserves disciplinary sanction. Bayani was admonished and warned that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant the imposition of a mere severe penalty. Re: Anonymous Complaint against Ms. Hermogena F. Bayani for Dishonesty, A.M. No. 2007-22-SC. February 1, 2011.

Attorney; gross misconduct. While respondent’s five-year suspension from the practice of law on account of an earlier administrative case was still in effect, she appeared and actively participated in at least three cases where she misrepresented herself as “Atty. Leizl Tanglao” when in fact her name is Luna B. Avance. She then refused to heed two orders from the SC for her to answer the new charge against her for which  she was found guilty of indirect contempt and fined in the amount of P30,000. However, the respondent failed to pay the fine imposed. In view of the foregoing, the Court found the respondent unfit to continue as a member of the bar. As an officer of the court, it is a lawyer’s duty to uphold the dignity and authority of the court. The highest form of respect for judicial authority is shown by a lawyer’s obedience to court orders and processes.  Here, respondent’s conduct evidently fell short of what is expected of her as an officer of the court as she obviously possesses a habit of defying the Court’s orders.  Failure to comply with Court directives constitutes gross misconduct, insubordination or disrespect which merits a lawyer’s suspension or even disbarment.  Teresita D. Santeco v. Atty. Luna B. Avance, A.C. No. 5834. February 22, 2011.

Attorneys; plagiarism. The rule exonerating judges from charges of plagiarism applies also to lawyers. Although as a rule they receive compensation for every pleading or paper they file in court or for every opinion they render to clients, lawyers also need to strive for technical accuracy in their writings.  They should not be exposed to charges of plagiarism in what they write so long as they do not depart, as officers of the court, from the objective of assisting the Court in the administration of justice. In matter of the charges of plagiarism, etc. against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo, A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC. February 8, 2011.

Attorney; willful disobedience of lawful orders of court. Respondent willfully disobeyed the Court when she continued her law practice despite the five-year suspension order against her and even misrepresented herself to be another person in order to evade said penalty. Thereafter, when she was twice ordered to comment on her continued law practice while still suspended, nothing was heard from her despite receipt of two Resolutions from this Court. Neither did she pay the P30,000.00 fine imposed in the September 29, 2009 Resolution. Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court a member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from office as an attorney for gross misconduct and/or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court. In repeatedly disobeying the Court’s orders, respondent proved herself unworthy of membership in the Philippine Bar.  Worse, she remains indifferent to the need to reform herself.  Clearly, she is unfit to discharge the duties of an officer of the court and deserves the ultimate penalty of disbarment. Teresita D. Santeco v. Atty. Luna B. Avance, A.C. No. 5834. February 22, 2011.

Court personnel; dishonesty. In her Personal Data Sheet, Bayani stated that she was never convicted of any administrative offense, when in fact in 1995, she was admonished, in a Memorandum issued by the Office of Administrative Services – Office of the Court Administrator (OAS-OCA) but signed by then Chief Justice Narvasa,  for being remiss in the performance of her duties. Bayani explained that it was due to her understanding that there was no conviction on the administrative case against her, because she was merely admonished and warned therein. The Court ruled that Bayani is not guilty of dishonesty. Dishonesty is defined as intentionally making a false statement in any material fact, or practicing or attempting to practice any deception or fraud in securing his examination, registration, appointment or promotion. Thus, dishonesty, like bad faith, is not simply bad judgment or negligence. Dishonesty is a question of intention. In ascertaining the intention of a person accused of dishonesty, consideration must be taken not only of the facts and circumstances which gave rise to the act committed by the respondent, but also of his state of mind at the time the offense was committed, the time he might have had at his disposal for the purpose of meditating on the consequences of his act, and the degree of reasoning he could have had at that moment.  While Bayani made an erroneous judgment in choosing not to disclose her previous infraction, she cannot be blamed for believing that such was irrelevant to: (1) question no. 25 – for this incident had long been resolved and is no longer pending;  and (2) question no. 27 – for clearly being admonished and warned for being remiss in the performance of her duties do not necessarily equate to conviction as question no. 27 seeks to determine. Re: Anonymous Complaint against Ms. Hermogena F. Bayani for Dishonesty, A.M. No. 2007-22-SC. February 1, 2011.

Court personnel; falsification. Respondent court personnel, in apparent collusion with the presiding judge of their court (who passed away before the case was decided),  falsified court records and made it appear that a public prosecutor appeared during the supposed hearings of a number of cases for annulment of marriage, when, in truth, the prosecutors who supposedly appeared were either on leave or had already been re-assigned to another station. Falsification of an official document such as court records is considered a grave offense. It also amounts to dishonesty. Under Section 23, Rule XIV of the Administrative Code of 1987, dishonesty (par. a) and falsification (par. f) are considered grave offenses warranting the penalty of dismissal from service upon commission of the first offense. Furthermore, falsification of an official document is punishable as a criminal offense under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code and dishonesty is an impious act that has no place in the judiciary. Respondents were found guilty of falsification of official documents and dishonesty and were dismissed from service. Vivian T. Dabu, Asst. Provincial Prosecutor v. Eduardo Roden E. Kapunan, Presiding Judge, Branch 51 and Acting Judge, Branch 52, et al., A.M. No. RTJ-00-1600. February 1, 2011.

Court personnel; simple misconduct. The salary check of the complainant was inadvertently surrendered to respondent. However, respondent failed to immediately return the check to complainant. Respondent’s failure to immediately return complaint’s salary check was improper and constituted misconduct. Misconduct is a transgression of some established rule of action, an unlawful behavior, or gross negligence by a public officer. The misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law, or disregard of long-standing rules, which must be established by substantial evidence. Otherwise, the misconduct is only simple. That respondent did not maliciously or deliberately take complainant’s salary check rendered him liable only for simple misconduct.   Under Section 52 (B) (2), Rule IV, of the Revised Uniform Rules On Administrative Cases In the Civil Service, simple misconduct is a less grave offense with a penalty ranging from suspension for one month and one day to six months for the first offense, and dismissal for the second offense. Benigno B. Reas v. Carlos M. Relacion, A.M. No. P-05-2095. February 9, 2011.

Court personnel; simple neglect of duty. . Respondent sheriff enforced the writ of execution and evicted the complainant without the required prior notice to vacate. The requirement of a notice to vacate is based on the rudiments of justice and fair play. A notice be served on the person against whom the judgment for the delivery or restitution of real property is rendered and all persons claiming rights under him. It is only when such persons resist after service of notice and demand to vacate that the sheriff can forcibly enforce the writ by bodily removing them from the premises. Failure to observe the requirements of Section 10(c), Rule 39 of the Rules of Court constitutes simple neglect of duty, which is a less grave offense punishable by one (1) month and one (1) day to six (6) months suspension. Manuel P. Calaunan v. Reynaldo B. Madolaria, Sheriff IV, RTC, Branch 217, Quezon City, A.M. No. P-10-2810. February 8, 2011.

Judge; delay in disposition of cases. Complainant is the private complainant in a BP 22 case before the sala of respondent judge. Even as the case was covered by the Rules on Summary Procedure, Respondent judge constantly postponed hearings without valid cause. Respondent judge is liable for delay in the disposition of cases tantamount to inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of his official duties. Although the postponement of a hearing in a civil or criminal case may at times be unavoidable, the Court disallows undue or unnecessary postponements of court hearings, simply because they cause unreasonable delays in the administration of justice and, thus, undermine the people’s faith in the Judiciary, aside from aggravating the financial and emotional burdens of the litigants. For this reason, the Court has enjoined that postponements and resettings should be allowed only upon meritorious grounds, and has consistently reminded all trial judges to adopt a firm policy against improvident postponements. Yet, respondent judge postponed five hearings for lack of material time without bothering to state the specific causes why his court lacked material time. He also reset four hearings supposedly upon the agreement of the parties, which the complainant credibly denied because that was prejudicial to his interest. Respondent judge cited the absence of the public prosecutor in one hearing and of the PAO lawyer in two hearings as justifications for the cancellation of the hearings. Such excuses for delay were not credible, however, for he could have summoned a relief prosecutor and a relief PAO attorney, or made arrangements for their attendance pursuant to the Court’s Circular 1-89 (dated January 19, 1989) to avoid unnecessary postponements. Daniel G. Sevilla v. Judge Francisco S. Lindo, Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 55, Malabon City, A.M. No. MTJ-08-1714. February 9, 2011.

Judge; delay in disposition of cases. Respondent judge failed to resolve a motion within the prescribed period. Respondent judge insisted that the delay was not intentional but simply brought about by sheer volume of work in his sala. Respondent judge is guilty of undue delay in resolving a motion. The Court has consistently held that failure to decide cases and other matters within the reglementary period constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants the imposition of administrative sanction against the erring magistrate. Delay in resolving motions and incidents pending before a judge within the reglementary period of ninety (90) days fixed by the Constitution and the law is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency. The Court finds no merit in Respondent judge’s explanation that the reason for the delay in resolving the motion was the pressure from equally urgent matters in connection with the 800 pending cases before his sala. Firstly, he is duty-bound to comply with the above-cited rules under the Canons in the Code of Judicial Conduct, and the administrative guidelines laid down by this Court. Secondly, the Court is not unmindful of the circumstances that may delay the speedy disposition of cases assigned to judges, Respondent judge should have seasonably filed a request for an extension to resolve the subject motion. For failing to do so, he cannot evade administrative liability. Pio Angelia v. Judge Jesus L. Grageda, RTC, Branch 4, Panabo City, A.M. No. RTJ-10-2220. February 7, 2011.

Judge; failure to comply with SC directives and circulars. Respondent judge failed to file the required comment as required by  the Supreme Court’s show cause resolution in a pending administrative case against him despite several opportunities given to him. Compliance with the rules, directives and circulars issued by the Court is one of the foremost duties that a judge accepts upon assumption to office. The obligation to uphold the dignity of his office and the institution which he belongs to is also found in Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct under Rule 2.01 which mandates a judge to behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Under the circumstances, the conduct exhibited by respondent judge constitutes no less than clear acts of defiance against the Court’s authority.  His conduct also reveals his deliberate disrespect and indifference to the authority of the Court, shown by his failure to heed our warnings and directives. Respondent judge’s actions further disclose his inability to accept the Court’s instructions.  Moreover, his conduct failed to provide a good example for other court personnel, and the public as well, in placing significance to the Court’s directives and the importance of complying with them. Respondent judge was held administratively liable. Judge Napoleon E. Inoturan, RTC, Branch 133, Makati City v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., MCTC, Valladolid, San Enrique-Pulupandan, Negros Occidental/Sancho E. Guinanao v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., MCTC, Valladolid, San Enrique-Pulupandan, Negros Occidental, A.M. No. MTJ-01-1362/A.M. No. MTJ-11-1785. February 22, 2011.

Judge; gross ignorance of the law. Respondent, a MTC judge, conducted a preliminary investigation and found probable cause to hold the complainant for trial for the crime of direct assault. The conduct of preliminary investigation by respondent judge was in direct contravention of A.M. No. 05-8-26-SC, which took effect on 3 October 2005, amending Rules 112 and 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure by removing the authority to conduct  preliminary investigations from judges of the first level courts. Thus, under Section 2 of Rule 112, only the following officers are authorized to conduct preliminary investigations: (a) Provincial or City Prosecutors and their assistants; (b) National and Regional State Prosecutors; and (c) Other officers as may be authorized by law. Clearly, MTC judges are no longer authorized to conduct preliminary investigation. The complainant is charged with direct assault with an imposable penalty of 2 years, 4 months and 1 day to 6 years. It was therefore incumbent upon respondent judge to forward the records of the case to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for preliminary investigation, instead of conducting the preliminary investigation himself. When a law or a rule is basic, judges owe it to their office to simply apply the law. Anything less is gross ignorance of the law. Judges should exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with the statutes and procedural rules, and should be diligent in keeping abreast with developments in law and jurisprudence. Respondent judge is guilty of gross ignorance of the law. Lydelle L. Conquilla v. Judge Lauro G. Bernardo, MTC, Bocaue, Bulacan, A.M. No. MTJ-09-1737. February 9, 2011.

Judge; gross ignorance of the law. Complainant filed a Motion for Inhibition against respondent judge. Complainant alleged that during the hearing of the Motion for Inhibition, respondent became very emotional, coerced her to testify without the assistance of counsel and demanded a public apology from her; and that while she requested to refer the motion to the Executive Judge, respondent interrogated her relentlessly following which he issued an Order finding her guilty of Direct Contempt and was detained for 19 days. Respondent judge is guilty of gross ignorance of the law. The penalty for direct contempt if imprisonment is imposed should not, as Section 1 of Rule 71 provides, exceed 10 days.  In this case, Complainant was detained for 19 days or 9 days more than the limit imposed by the Rules. Moreover, Respondent judge did not fix the bond, in violation of the same Section 2 of Rule 71, which complainant could have posted had she desired to challenge the order. And on the same day the Order was issued, respondent ordered the confinement of complainant to the provincial jail. Josephine Jazmines Tan v. Judge Sibanah E. Usman, RTC, Branch 29, Catbalogan, Samar, A.M. No. RTJ-11-2666. February 15, 2011.

Judge; gross ignorance of the law. Respondent judge, acting as an investigating judge, issued orders archiving several criminal cases instead of forwarding them to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for review and appropriate action (this rule is prior to the amendments introduced by A.M. No. 05-8-26-SC removing from judges of first level courts the authority to conduct preliminary investigations).   The Court found the respondent judge liable for gross ignorance of the law. A judge owes it to himself and his office to know basic legal principles by heart and to harness that knowledge correctly and justly, failing which public’s confidence in the courts is eroded. In issuing the orders archiving the criminal cases, respondent judge failed to consider that he was acting not as a trial judge but an investigating judge of an MTC whose actions were thus governed by Section 5, Rule 112 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure on preliminary investigations.  He ought to have known that after conducting preliminary investigation on the criminal cases, it was his duty to transmit his resolution thereon to the provincial or city prosecutor for appropriate action. His failure to do so betrays an utter lack of familiarity with the Rules. The complaint against respondent is for gross ignorance of the law in which the acts complained of must not only be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence; it must have been motivated by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption the presence of which in the present case is not clear.  Be that as it may, such leeway afforded a judge does not mean that he should not evince due care in the performance of his adjudicatory functions. Sanctions are still in order as such lapses in judgment cannot be countenanced. As the Court has repeatedly stressed, a judge, having applied for the position and appointed as such, is presumed to know the law. Thus, when the law is so elementary, not to be aware of it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. Rene C. Ricablanca v. Judge Hector B. Barillo, A.M. No. MTJ-08-1710. February 15, 2011.

Judge; gross inefficiency. It took respondent judge more than two years to decide an ejectment case after it was declared submitted for resolution. The delay in deciding a case within the reglementary period constitutes a violation of Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct which mandates judges to perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with promptness. In line with   jurisprudence, respondent judge is liable for gross inefficiency for his failure to decide a case within the reglementary period. Judge Napoleon E. Inoturan, RTC, Branch 133, Makati City v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., MCTC, Valladolid, San Enrique-Pulupandan, Negros Occidental/Sancho E. Guinanao v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., MCTC, Valladolid, San Enrique-Pulupandan, Negros Occidental, A.M. No. MTJ-01-1362/A.M. No. MTJ-11-1785. February 22, 2011.

Judge; gross misconduct. Respondent judge made or allowed many unreasonable postponements that inevitably delayed the proceedings and prevented the prompt disposition of the case out of manifest bias in favor of the accused. Thus, he flagrantly violated the letter and spirit both of Rule 1.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which enjoined all judges to administer justice impartially and without delay; and of Canon 6 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, which required him as a trial judge “to be prompt in disposing of all matters submitted to him, remembering that justice delayed is often justice denied.” That his conduct proceeded from his bias towards the accused rendered his acts and omissions as gross misconduct. It is settled that the misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law, or disregard of long-standing rules, which must be established by substantial evidence; otherwise, the misconduct is only simple. Daniel G. Sevilla v. Judge Francisco S. Lindo, Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 55, Malabon City, A.M. No. MTJ-08-1714. February 9, 2011.

Judges; plagiarism. SC Associate Justice Castillo was accused of plagiarism in connection with the decision he wrote for the Court in the case entitled “Vinuya v. Romulo” (G.R. No. 162230). The Court dismissed the charges against Justice Castillo. Plagiarism, a term not defined by statute, has a popular or common definition.  To plagiarize, says Webster, is “to steal and pass off as one’s own” the ideas or words of another.  Stealing implies malicious taking.  Black’s Law Dictionary, the world’s leading English law dictionary quoted by the Court in its decision, defines plagiarism as the “deliberate and knowing presentation of another person’s original ideas or creative expressions as one’s own.”  The presentation of another person’s ideas as one’s own must be deliberate or premeditated—a taking with ill intent. While the academic publishing model is based on the originality of the writer’s thesis, the judicial system is based on the doctrine of stare decisis, which encourages courts to cite historical legal data, precedents, and related studies in their decisions.  The judge is not expected to produce original scholarship in every respect. Citing published articles or work of a number of legal writers, the Court ruled that a judge writing to resolve a dispute, whether trial or appellate, is exempted from a charge of plagiarism even if ideas, words or phrases from a law review article, novel thoughts published in a legal periodical or language from a party’s brief are used without giving attribution.  Judges are free to use whatever sources they deem appropriate to resolve the matter before them, without fear of reprisal.  This exemption applies to judicial writings intended to decide cases for two reasons: the judge is not writing a literary work and, more importantly, the purpose of the writing is to resolve a dispute.  As a result, judges adjudicating cases are not subject to a claim of legal plagiarism. In matter of the charges of plagiarism, etc. against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo, A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC. February 8, 2011.

Judge; propriety. Respondent judge issued a warrant of arrest of the complainant for direct assault. Upon learning about the warrant, complainant alleged that she called respondent judge’s wife, who said she would help in having the bail reduced to P6,000.00 and would have the case for direct assault against herein complainant dismissed provided herein complainant cancel the wife’s debt of P35,000.00 and provided that complainant loan the wife an additional amount of P50,000.00. Respondent judge denied any knowledge of the loan. Though the Court ruled that the complainant failed to substantiate her claim, nevertheless, the Court notes that although respondent judge denies knowledge of such transaction between his wife and complainant, respondent judge did not categorically deny his wife’s debt to complainant. Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct stresses the importance of propriety and the appearance of propriety to the performance of all the activities of a judge. Respondent judge should bear in mind that judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities. Furthermore, judges and members of their families are prohibited from asking for or accepting any gift, bequest, loan or favor in relation to anything done or to be done or omitted to be done by him in connection with the performance of judicial duties. Lydelle L. Conquilla v. Judge Lauro G. Bernardo, MTC, Bocaue, Bulacan, A.M. No. MTJ-09-1737. February 9, 2011.

Judge; violation of SC rules, directives, and circulars. Respondent judge granted bail even in the absence of any written application. Respondent judge invokes the constitutional right of the accused to bail and Section 17(c), Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which does not require that a person be charged in court before he or she may apply for bail. To his mind, there was already “a constructive bail given that only the papers were needed to formalize it.” The Court held that respondent judge is guilty of a less serious charge of violation of Supreme Court rules, directives and circulars under Sec. 9, Rule 140. Sec. 17, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure allows that any person in custody who is not yet charged in court “may apply for bail with any court in the province, city or municipality where he is held.” However, in the case at bar, despite the absence of any written application, respondent judge verbally granted bail to the accused.   Moreover, in clear departure from Sec. 14 of Rule 114, respondent judge verbally ordered the clerk of court to accept the cash deposit as bail, to earmark an official receipt for the cash deposit, and to date it the following day. The bail should be deposited in the nearest collector of internal revenue or provincial, city or municipal treasurer. Worse, respondent judge did not require the accused to sign a written undertaking containing the conditions of the bail under Sec. 2, Rule 114 to be complied with by the accused.  Immediately upon receipt by the clerk of court of the cash deposit of PhP 30,000 from the accused, respondent judge ordered the police escorts to release the accused without any written order of release.  In sum, there was no written application for bail, no certificate of deposit from the BIR collector or provincial, city or municipal treasurer, no written undertaking signed by the accused, and no written release order. As regards the insistence of respondent judge that such may be considered as “constructive bail,” there is no such species of bail under the Rules. Despite the noblest of reasons, the Rules of Court may not be ignored at will and at random to the prejudice of the rights of another. Procedural rules have their own wholesome rationale in the orderly administration of justice. Justice has to be administered according to the Rules in order to obviate arbitrariness, caprice, or whimsicality. In this case, the reason of respondent judge is hardly persuasive enough to disregard the Rules. Gaudencio B. Pantilo III v. Judge Victor A. Canoy, A.M. No. RTJ-11-2262. February 9, 2011.

Judge; undue delay. Complainant filed a Motion for Execution Pending Appeal before the sala of the respondent judge. From the filing of the Motion, a period of more than five (5) months had to pass before the respondent judge finally directed a writ of execution be issued. However, the Court ruled that respondent judge is not administratively liable due to the defective notice of hearing in complainant’s motion. First.  Rather than being addressed to the adverse party, the notice of hearing in complainant’s motion was directed to the Branch Clerk of Court.  Such gaffe actually contradicts a basic purpose of the notice requirement—i.e., to inform an adverse party of the date and time of the proposed hearing. Second.  The notice of hearing did not specify a date and time of hearing.  The notice is merely an instruction for the clerk of court to submit the motion “for the consideration and approval” of the trial court “immediately upon receipt” or “at any time convenient” with the said court. Jurisprudence had been categorical in treating a litigious motion without a valid notice of hearing as a mere scrap of paper. An important aspect of the above judicial pronouncement is the absence of any duty on the part of the court to take action on a motion wanting a valid notice of hearing.  Accordingly, a judge may not be held administratively accountable for not acting upon a “mere scrap of paper.”  To impose upon judges a positive duty to recognize and resolve motions with defective notices of hearing would encourage litigants to an unbridled disregard of a simple but necessary rule of a fair judicial proceeding. Marciano Alcaraz v. Judge Fatima Gonzales-Asdala, Regional Trial Court, Branch 87, Quezon City, A.M. No. RTJ-11-2272. February 16, 2011.

Judge; undue delay. During a judicial audit, it was discovered that there were many pending cases before the sala of the respondent judge which were awaiting resolution but were already beyond the reglementary period. The Supreme Court is aware of  the heavy caseloads heaped on the shoulders of every trial judge.  But such cannot excuse him from doing his mandated duty to resolve cases with diligence and dispatch.  Judges burdened with heavy caseloads should request the Court for an extension of the reglementary period within which to decide their cases if they think they cannot comply with their judicial duty. Corollarily, a heavy caseload may excuse a judge’s failure to decide cases within the reglementary period but not their failure to request an extension of time within which to decide the case on time.  Hence, all that respondent judge needs to do is request for an extension of time over which the Court has, almost customarily, been considerate. Moreover, it is not enough that he pens his decision; it is imperative to promulgate the same within the mandated period.  The lack of staff that will prepare and type the decision is equally inexcusable to justify the delay in the promulgation of the cases. Failure to render decisions and orders within the mandated period constitutes a violation of Rule 3.05, Canon 3, of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which then makes respondent judge liable administratively.  Section 9, Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court classifies undue delay in rendering a decision or order as a less serious charge punishable under Section 11 (B) of the same Rule. Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 56, Mandaue City, Cebu, A.M. No. 09-7-284-RTC. February 16, 2011.

(Mon thanks Rachel T. Uy for her help in preparing this post.)

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