July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Legal/Judicial Ethics

Here are selected July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on criminal law and legal/judicial ethics.

Criminal Law

Accomplice. To hold a person liable as an accomplice, two elements must concur: (1) community of design, which means that the accomplice knows of, and concurs with, the criminal design of the principal by direct participation; and (2) the performance by the accomplice of previous or simultaneous acts that are not indispensable to the commission of the crime. In this case, Maliao facilitated the commission of the crime by providing his own house as the venue thereof. His presence throughout the commission of the heinous offense, without him doing anything to prevent the malefactors or help the victim, indubitably show community of design and cooperation, although he had no direct participation in the execution thereof. People of the Philippines vs. Jessie Maliao y Masakit, Norberto Chiong y Discotido and Luciano Bohol y Gamana, Jessie Maliao y Masakit(Accused-Appellant), G.R. No. 178058,  July 31, 2009.

Alibi.   The defense of alibi must fail, especially in light of the fact that two of the prosecution witnesses, BBB and DDD, positively identified accused-appellant as one of the malefactors of the crime. Positive identification, where categorical and consistent and without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses testifying on the matter, prevails over alibi and denial. These defenses, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.  People of the Philippines vs. Teodulo Villanueva, Jr., G.R. No. 187152.  July 22, 2009

BP 22. Under the present revised Rules, the criminal action for violation of BP Blg. 22 includes the corresponding civil action to recover the amount of the checks. It should be stressed, this policy is intended to discourage the separate filing of the civil action. In fact, the Rules even prohibits the reservation of a separate civil action, i.e., one can no longer file a separate civil case after the criminal complaint is filed in court. The only instance when separate proceedings are allowed is when the civil action is filed ahead of the criminal case. Even then, the Rules encourages the consolidation of the civil and criminal cases. Thus, where petitioner’s rights may be fully adjudicated in the proceedings before the court trying the BP Blg. 22 cases, resort to a separate action to recover civil liability is clearly unwarranted on account of res judicata, for failure of petitioner to appeal the civil aspect of the cases.  Anita Cheng vs. Souses William and Tessie Sy,  G.R. No. 174238, July 7, 2009.

Civil liability. The rule is that every person criminally liable is also civilly liable. Criminal liability will give rise to civil liability only if the felonious act or omission results in damage or injury to another and is the direct and proximate cause thereof. Every crime gives rise to (1) a criminal action for the punishment of the guilty party and (2) a civil action for the restitution of the thing, repair of the damage, and indemnification for the losses.

However, the reverse is not always true. Thus, the rule is that the acquittal of an accused of the crime charged will not necessarily extinguish his civil liability, unless the court declares in a final judgment that the fact from which the civil liability might arise did not exist. Courts can acquit an accused on reasonable doubt but still order payment of civil damages in the same case. It is not even necessary that a separate civil action be instituted. Sonny Romero y Dominguez vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 167546, July 17, 2009.

Conspiracy.  Conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime suggesting concerted action and unity of purpose among them.  For this purpose, overt acts of the accused may consist of active participation in the actual commission of the crime itself, or it may consist of moral assistance to his co-conspirators by being present at the time of the commission of the crime, or by exerting moral ascendancy over the other co-conspirators by moving them to execute or implement the conspiracy.

Indeed, jurisprudence dictates that mere presence at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission is not, by itself, sufficient to establish conspiracy at the time of its commission, but it is enough that the malefactors acted in concert pursuant to the same objective. Conspiracy is predominantly a state of mind as it involves the meeting of the minds and intent of the malefactors. The existence of the assent of minds of the co-conspirators may be inferred from proof of facts and circumstances which, taken together, indicate that they are parts of the complete plan to commit the crime.  People of the Philippines vs. Teodulo Villanueva, Jr., G.R. No. 187152,  July 22, 2009

Corpus delicti.  Corpus delicti refers to the fact that a crime has been actually committed. It does not refer to the autopsy report evidencing the nature of the wounds sustained by the victim nor the testimony of the physician who conducted the autopsy or medical examination. It is made up of two elements: (a) that a certain result has been proved and (b) that some person is criminally responsible for the act. While the autopsy report of a medico legal expert in cases of murder is preferably accepted to show the extent of injuries suffered by the victim, it is not the only competent evidence to prove the injuries and the fact of death. It may be proved by the testimonies of credible witnesses. People of the Philippines vs. Roger Perez and Danilo Perez, G.R. No. 179154,  July 31, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  chain of custody requirements.  In Malillin vs. People, the Supreme Court laid down the chain of custody requirements that must be met in proving that the seized drugs are the same ones presented in court: (1) testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence; and (2) witnesses should describe the precautions taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the item.  People of the Philippines Vs. Elsie Barba, G.R. No. 182420,  July 23, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; entrapment. In determining the occurrence of entrapment, two tests have been developed: the subjective test and the objective test. Under the “subjective” view of entrapment, the focus is on the intent or predisposition of the accused to commit a crime. Under the “objective” view, on the other hand, the primary focus is on the particular conduct of law enforcement officials or their agents and the accused’s predisposition becomes irrelevant. The government agent’s act is evaluated in the light of the standard of conduct exercised by reasonable persons generally and whether such conduct falls below the acceptable standard for the fair and honorable administration of justice.

Courts have adopted the “objective” test in upholding the validity of a buy-bust operation. In People vs. Doria, the Court stressed that, in applying the “objective” test, the details of the purported transaction during the buy-bust operation must be clearly and adequately shown, i.e., the initial contact between the poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer to purchase, and the promise or payment of the consideration until the consummation of the sale by the delivery of the illegal drug subject of the sale. The Court further emphasized that the “manner by which the initial contact was made, whether or not through an informant, the offer to purchase the drug, the payment of the ‘buy-bust’ money, and the delivery of the illegal drug, whether to the informant alone or the police officer, must be subject of strict scrutiny by courts to insure that law-abiding citizens are not unlawfully induced to commit an offense. People of the Philippines vs. Arsenio Cortez y Macalindong a.k.a. “Archie”, G.R. No. 183819,  July 23, 2009,

Dangerous Drugs Act;  non-compliance with procedure.  The prosecution justifies the failure of the buy-bust team to have the confiscated sachet photographed with the non-availability of a photographer. And it claims that no DOJ, as well as media representative, arrived at the time and after the buy-bust operation took place. Without passing on the merits of this claim, the Court finds that the integrity, as well as the evidentiary value of the confiscated item, was not shown to have been preserved.

While Yema claimed to have marked the plastic sachet at the police station, what was done to it afterwards remains unexplained.

And there is no showing that the substance allegedly confiscated was the same substance which was subjected to examination. As earlier mentioned, while during pre-trial appellant admitted the authenticity and due execution of the laboratory report, he denied that the specimen subject thereof was taken from him.

More. The request for forensic examination, together with the specimen, was delivered to the laboratory by a certain SPO4 D.R. Mercado (Mercado), who was not part of the buy-bust team, at 11:15 in the morning of October 10, 2003, a day after the conduct of the alleged buy-bust operation. There is no showing, however, under what circumstances Mercado, who did not take the witness stand, came into possession of the specimen.  The People of the Philippines vs. Gerald Librea y Camitan, G.R. No. 179937,  July 17, 2009.

Falsification of documents. Falsification of documents under paragraph 1, Article 172 in relation to Article 171 of the RPC refers to falsification by a private individual, or a
public officer or employee who did not take advantage of his official position, of public, private, or commercial documents. The elements of falsification of documents under paragraph 1, Article 172 of the RPC are:

1.    that the offender is a private individual or a public officer or employee who did not take advantage of his official position;

2.    that he committed any of the acts of falsification enumerated in Article 171 of the RPC; and

3.    that the falsification was committed in a public, official or commercial document. Rosario Panuncio vs. People of the PhilippinesG.R. No. 165678,  July 17, 2009.

Falsification of public documents.  Under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, for falsification of a public document to be established, the following elements must concur:

1.     That the offender is a public officer, employee, or notary public;

2.     That he takes advantage of his official position;

3.     That he falsifies a document by committing any of the following acts:

a)     Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature or rubric;

b)     Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate;

c)    Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made by them;

d)    Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;

e)    Altering true dates;

f)     Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning;

g)    Issuing in authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such original exists, or including in such copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original;

h)  Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry or official book.  Romeo D. Lonzanida vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 160243-52, July 20, 2009.

Illegal cutting of timber.  Section 68 of PD 705 clearly punishes anyone who shall cut, gather, collect or remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority. In this case, petitioner was charged by CENRO to supervise the implementation of the permit. He was not the one who cut, gathered, collected or removed the pine trees within the contemplation of Section 68 of PD 705. He was not in possession of the cut trees because the lumber was used by Teachers’ Camp for repairs. Petitioner could not likewise be convicted of conspiracy to commit the offense because all his co-accused were acquitted of the charges against them.

Petitioner may have been remiss in his duties when he failed to restrain the sawyers from cutting trees more than what was covered by the permit. As the Court of Appeals ruled, petitioner could have informed his superiors if he was really intimidated by Santiago. If at all, this could only make petitioner administratively liable for his acts. It is not enough to convict him under Section 68 of PD 705.

Neither could petitioner be liable under the last paragraph of Section 68 of PD 705 as he is not an officer of a partnership, association, or corporation who ordered the cutting, gathering, or collection, or is in possession of the pine trees.  Ernesto Aquino vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165448,  July 27, 2009

Impossible crime.  The requisites of an impossible crime are: (1) that the act performed would be an offense against persons or property; (2) that the act was done with evil intent; and (3) that its accomplishment was inherently impossible, or the means employed was either inadequate or ineffectual.  Gemma T. Jacinto vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 162540,  July 13, 2009.

Kidnapping with rape.  Even assuming arguendo that appellant entered an improvident plea of guilt when arraigned, there is no compulsion to remand the case to the trial court for further reception of evidence. While the Court has set aside convictions based on improvident pleas of guilt in capital offenses, which pleas had been the sole basis of the judgment, where the trial court receives evidence to determine precisely whether the accused erred in admitting his guilt, the manner in which the plea is made loses legal significance for the simple reason that the conviction is, independently of the plea, based on evidence proving the commission by the accused of the offense charged.

In the present case, even without the plea of guilt of appellant, the evidence presented by the prosecution supports his guilt beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of kidnapping with rape under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659. People of the Philippines vs. Renato Talusan y Panganiban, G.R. No. 179187, July 14, 2009.

Kidnapping with murder.  Appellants were eventually charged with and convicted of the special complex crime of kidnapping with murder, defined in the last paragraph of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code. In a special complex crime, the prosecution must prove each of the component offenses with the same precision that would be necessary if they were made the subject of separate complaints.

In the case at bar, kidnapping was not sufficiently proven. Although appellants bound and gagged Chua and transported him to Bulacan against his will, they did these acts to facilitate his killing, not because they intended to detain or confine him. As soon as they arrived at the locus criminis, appellants wasted no time in killing him. That appellants’ intention from the beginning was to kill the victim is confirmed by the conversation which Sumipo heard in the car in which Maritess said that a knife would be used to kill him so that it would not create noise. The subsequent demand for ransom was an afterthought which did not qualify appellants’ prior acts as kidnapping. The crime committed was thus plain Murder. The killing was qualified by treachery. The victim was gagged, bound, and taken from Quezon City to an isolated place in Bulacan against his will to prevent him from defending himself and to facilitate the killing. People of the Philippines vs. Pablo L. Estacio, Jr. and Maritess Ang, G.R. No. 171655, July 22, 2009.

Qualified theft.   The prosecution tried to establish the following pieces of evidence to constitute the elements of the crime of qualified theft defined under Article 308, in relation to Article 310, both of the Revised Penal Code: (1) the taking of personal property – as shown by the fact that petitioner, as collector for Mega Foam, did not remit the customer’s check payment to her employer and, instead, appropriated it for herself; (2) said property belonged to another − the check belonged to Baby Aquino, as it was her payment for purchases she made; (3) the taking was done with intent to gain – this is presumed from the act of unlawful taking and further shown by the fact that the check was deposited to the bank account of petitioner’s brother-in-law; (4) it was done without the owner’s consent – petitioner hid the fact that she had received the check payment from her employer’s customer by not remitting the check to the company; (5) it was accomplished without the use of violence or intimidation against persons, nor of force upon things – the check was voluntarily handed to petitioner by the customer, as she was known to be a collector for the company; and (6) it was done with grave abuse of confidence – petitioner is admittedly entrusted with the collection of payments from customers.

However, as may be gleaned from the aforementioned Articles of the Revised Penal Code, the personal property subject of the theft must have some value, as the intention of the accused is to gain from the thing stolen. This is further bolstered by Article 309, where the law provides that the penalty to be imposed on the accused is dependent on the value of the thing stolen.

In this case, petitioner unlawfully took the postdated check belonging to Mega Foam, but the same was apparently without value, as it was subsequently dishonored. Thus, the question arises on whether the crime of qualified theft was actually produced.  The Court must resolve the issue in the negative. Gemma T. Jacinto vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 162540,  July 13, 2009.

Rape;  delay in reporting rape.  The Court finds that with respect to the unexplained delay in reporting the alleged incident to the police authorities, the present petition is impressed with merit. It bears noting that AAA claimed to have reported the rape to her mother the day after it happened, the threat to her life notwithstanding. Oddly, however, it took more than two years before such alleged rape was reported to the police and the victim examined by a physician. The prosecution offered no reasonable or justifiable explanation for the delay nor presented AAA’s relative Tita FFF or the barangay captain who reported the matter to the police to shed light on this crucial matter.

The lone uncorroborated testimony of a complainant in a rape case suffices to warrant a conviction, provided that it is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Such testimony should not be received with precipitate credulity, however, but with the utmost caution.

After opening the entire criminal case for review and subjecting AAA’s testimony to judicial scrutiny, the Court finds her narrative tainted with ambiguity and deficiency on vital points.  People of the Philippines vs. Claro Jampas,  G.R. No. 177766,  July 17, 2009.

Robbery with homicide. Robbery with homicide is committed when a person is killed, either by reason or on occasion of the robbery. To sustain a conviction for robbery with homicide, the prosecution must prove the following elements: (1) taking of personal property belonging to another; (2) with intent to gain; (3) with the use of violence or intimidation against a person; and (4) on the occasion or by reason of the robbery, the crime of homicide, as used in its generic sense, was committed. A conviction requires certitude that the robbery is the malefactor’s main purpose and objective, and the killing is merely incidental to the robbery. The intent to rob must precede the taking of human life, but the killing may occur before, during, or after the robbery. People of the Philippines vs. Jojo Musa y Santos, et al., G.R. No. 170472, July 3, 2009.

Robbery with homicide.  Our criminal justice system takes the stand that the prosecution has the burden of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to discharge that burden, the accused need not present any evidence. From the foregoing, the prosecution must be able to establish the essential elements of robbery with homicide, to wit: (a) the taking of personal property with the use of violence or intimidation against a person; (b) the property belongs to another; (c) the taking is characterized by animo lucrandi; and (d) by reason of the robbery or on the occasion thereof, homicide (used in its generic sense) is committed.
Robbery with homicide.  Homicide is said to have been committed by reason or on the occasion of robbery if it is committed a) to facilitate the robbery or the escape of the culprit; b) to preserve the possession by the culprit of the loot; c) to prevent discovery of the commission of the robbery; or d) to eliminate witnesses to the commission of the crime.

Given the circumstances surrounding the instant case, we agree with the CA that appellants cannot be convicted of Robbery with Homicide. Indeed, the killing may occur before, during, or after the robbery. And it is immaterial that death would supervene by mere accident, or that the victim of homicide is other than the victim of robbery, or that two or more persons are killed. However, essential for conviction of robbery with homicide is proof of a direct relation, an intimate connection between the robbery and the killing, whether the latter be prior or subsequent to the former or whether both crimes are committed at the same time. People of the Philippines vs.. Leo Quemeggen, Juanito De Luna, G.R. No. 178205, July 27, 2009.

Smuggling. Smuggling is committed by any person who (1) fraudulently imports or brings into the Philippines any article contrary to law; (2) assists in so doing any article contrary to law; or (3) receives, conceals, buys, sells or in any manner facilitates the transportation, concealment or sale of such goods after importation, knowing the same to have been imported contrary to law.

There is no doubt that smuggling was committed in this case. The collective evidence on record shows that the Francisco, Ojeda and Lintag assisted in the unlawful importation of dutiable articles by facilitating their release from the Bureau of Customs without payment of proper duties and taxes. Having the power to order the physical examination of the subject importation, they intentionally did not do so despite the glaring irregularities found on the face of the documents (Formal Entry and Internal Revenue Declaration No. 118302, Invoice No. LPI/99-500 and Bill of Lading). They helped conceal the true nature of the cargo. Thereafter, the cargo, which had the appearance of having been legally imported through their help, was removed from customs premises and was being transported to an undisclosed location. Unfortunately for all the accused, said cargo, which was being guarded and escorted by PO3 Nadora, was intercepted by Presidential Anti-Smuggling Task Force (PASTF) Aduana.   Rene M. Francisco vs. People of the Philippines/Oscar A. Ojeda vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 177430/G.R. No. 178935, July 14, 2009.

Statutory rape. Under the law and prevailing jurisprudence, the “gravamen of the offense of statutory rape as provided under Article 335, paragraph 3 of the Revised Penal Code is the carnal knowledge of a woman below twelve years old.” “The only elements of statutory rape are: (1) that the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that such woman is under 12 years of age. It is not necessary to prove that the victim was intimidated or that force was used against her because in statutory rape the law presumes that the victim, on account of her tender age, does not and cannot have a will of her own.

The absence of spermatozoa in the victim’s genitalia does not negate rape, the slightest penetration even without emission being sufficient to constitute and consummate the offense. The mere touching of the labia of the woman’s pudendum or lips of the female organ by the male sexual organ consummates the act. Where the victim is a child, the fact that there was no deep penetration of her vagina and that her hymen was still intact does not negate the commission of rape. Furthermore, the absence of fresh lacerations in the hymen cannot be a firm indication that she was not raped. Hymenal lacerations are not an element of rape.  People of the Philippines vs. Benjie Resurrection, G.R. No. 185389, July 7, 2009.

Treachery. Treachery exists when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make. The events narrated by the prosecution eyewitnesses point to the fact that Fulgencio could not have been aware that he would be attacked by the appellants. There was no opportunity for him to defend himself, as appellants, suddenly and without provocation, stabbed him at the back and on the chest.  People of the Philippines vs. Roger Perez and Danilo Perez, G.R. No. 179154,  July 31, 2009.

Legal/judicial ethics

Attorney-client relationship. Respondent must have known that her act of constantly and actively communicating with complainant, who, at that time, was beleaguered with demands from investors of Multitel, eventually led to the establishment of a lawyer-client relationship. Respondent cannot shield herself from the inevitable consequences of her actions by simply saying that the assistance she rendered to complainant was only in the form of “friendly accommodations,” precisely because at the time she was giving assistance to complainant, she was already privy to the cause of the opposing parties who had been referred to her by the SEC.

Respondent also tries to disprove the existence of such relationship by arguing that no written contract for the engagement of her services was ever forged between her and complainant. This argument all the more reveals respondent’s patent ignorance of fundamental laws on contracts and of basic ethical standards expected from an advocate of justice. The IBP was correct when it said: The absence of a written contract will not preclude the finding that there was a professional relationship between the parties. Documentary formalism is not an essential element in the employment of an attorney; the contract may be express or implied. To establish the relation, it is sufficient that the advice and assistance of an attorney is sought and received in any matter pertinent to his profession.  Rolando B. Pacana, Jr. vs. Atty. Maricel Pascual-Lopez,  A.C. No. 8243, July 24, 2009.

Conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.  Perez claimed that her transactions with Agustin, Jr. had no relation to her position as court stenographer and that they were private in nature. The Court is not impressed. The image of the Judiciary is mirrored in the conduct of its personnel whether inside or outside the court. Thus, court personnel must exhibit a high sense of integrity not only in the performance of their official duties but also in their personal affairs. While there is nothing wrong in engaging in private business, caution should be taken to prevent the occurrence of dubious circumstances that may impair the image of the Judiciary. Every act of impropriety ultimately affects the dignity of the Judiciary, and the people’s faith in it. As the OCA correctly stated, Perez’s “activities dragged the Court into the fake receipts scam at the City Treasurer’s Office.” Perez must be held accountable. Liberty M. Toledo vs. Liza Perez, Court Stenographer III, Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC, Manila, A.M. No. P-03-1677 & A.M. No. P-07-2317, July 15, 2009.

Conflict of interest.  Given the situation, the most decent and ethical thing which respondent should have done was either to advise complainant to engage the services of another lawyer since she was already representing the opposing parties, or to desist from acting as representative of Multitel investors and stand as counsel for complainant. She cannot be permitted to do both because that would amount to double-dealing and violate our ethical rules on conflict of interest.  Rolando B. Pacana, Jr. vs. Atty. Maricel Pascual-Lopez,  A.C. No. 8243, July 24, 2009.

Dishonesty. Estonilo’s act of punching in another employee’s daily time card falls within the ambit of falsification. Worse, he did not do it for only one co-employee, but for two others. He made it appear as though his co-employees personally punched in their daily time cards. Estonilo also made Padilla’s daily time card reflect a log-in time different from the latter’s actual time of arrival, as well as made Bambilla’s daily time card falsely show that the latter was at the Supreme Court premises in BaguioCity when he was not there at all. It is patent dishonesty, which inevitably reflects on Estonilo’s fitness as an employee to continue in office and on the level of discipline and morale in the service.

Indeed, dishonesty is a malevolent act that has no place in the judiciary. We have defined dishonesty as the “(d)isposition to lie, cheat, deceive, or defraud; untrustworthiness; lack of integrity; lack of honesty, probity or integrity in principle; lack of fairness and straightforwardness; disposition to defraud, deceive or betray.”[14] Falsification of daily time records is an act of dishonesty, for which all three respondents must be held administratively liable under Rule XVII, Section 4 of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations (Civil Service Rules).

Under Rule XIV, Section 21 of the Civil Service Rules, falsification of official documents (such as daily time records) and dishonesty are both grave offenses. As such, they carry the penalty of dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in government service. Re: Unauthorized disposal of unnecessary and scrap materials in the Supreme Court Baguio Compound, and the irregularity on the bundy cards of some personnel therein, A.M. No. 2007-17-SC, July 7, 2009.

Dishonesty. Even assuming that the payment of P10,000.00 was made on behalf of the defendant, respondent acknowledged having received a total of P12,500.00 as sheriff’s expenses. The estimated expenses which he submitted to and were later approved by the RTC amounted to only P7,500.00, which reveals that complainant had, in fact, overpaid him by P2,500.00. While respondent was able to submit a Liquidation of Expenses dated August 30, 2005 in which he claimed to have spent P13,000.00, he was only able to present two receipts to prove his expenses: (1) P1,500.00 issued on June 6, 2005 as rent for the jeep hired to haul objects and (2)P2,000.00 issued on July 1, 2005 as guarding fee for two (2) tricycles. Notably, it does not appear that said liquidation was approved by the RTC. Respondent has undoubtedly violated Section 4, Canon I of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, which provides that court personnel shall not accept any fee or remuneration beyond what they receive or are entitled to in their official capacity. Respondent failed to substantiate that the expenses amounting to P9,500.00, without receipts to qualify the same, was actually incurred and duly accounted for.  Geronimo Francisco vs. Sebastian Bolivar, etc.,  A.M. No. P-06-2212, July 14, 2009.

Dishonesty.  Respondent was undeserving of the trust reposed in him. Instead of using the money for the bond of the complainant’s son, he pocketed it. He failed to observe candor, fairness and loyalty in his dealings with his client. He failed to live up to his fiduciary duties. By keeping the money for himself despite his undertaking that he would facilitate the release of complainant’s son, respondent showed lack of moral principles. His transgression showed him to be a swindler, a deceitful person and a shame to the legal profession.  Dolores C. Belleza vs. Atty. Alan S. Macasa, A.C. No. 7815, July 23, 2009.

Dishonesty.   Dishonesty is a serious offense which has no place in the judiciary. Each false entry in the DTR constitutes falsification and dishonesty. The falsification of a DTR constitutes fraud involving government funds. It bears stressing that the DTR is used to determine the salary and leave credits accruable for the period covered thereby. Falsifying one’s DTR to cover up absences or tardiness automatically results in financial losses to the government because it enables an employee to receive salary and earn leave credits for services which were never rendered.

Under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, dishonesty and falsification of official document are punishable with dismissal even for the first offense. However, the Court, in certain instances, has not imposed the penalty of dismissal due to the presence of mitigating factors such as the length of service, acknowledgment of the infractions, and remorse by the respondent. Judge Jaime L. Dojillo, Jr. vs. Concepcion Z. Ching, etc./Concepcion A. Ching vs. Judge Jaime L. Dojillo, Jr., etc., A.M. No. P-06-2245/A.M. No. MTJ-09-1741,  July 31, 2009.

Execution of judgment.  Sheriffs have an important role to play in the administration of justice cannot be overemphasized. They form an integral part, as they are called upon to serve writs, execute all the processes, and carry into effect the orders, of the court. When placed in their hands, it is their duty, in the absence of any instruction to the contrary, to proceed with reasonable celerity and promptness, to execute writs according to their mandate.

As noted by the OCA, no restraining order was issued by the appellate court on October 17, 2003 to excuse the delay in the execution of the writ. It was only on October 21, 2003 or four days later that the appellate court issued a temporary restraining order pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration. At all events, even if a writ is later ruled to be improvidently or improperly issued, the sheriff is not in a position to question it, as his duty in executing the same is purely ministerial.  Atty. Nelson T. Antolin, et al. vs. Judge Alex L. Quiroz, et al./Edwin V. Garrobo Vs. Judge Alex L. Quiroz, RTV, Pasig City,  A.M. No. RTJ-09-2186/A.M. No. RTJ-09-2187, July 14, 2009.

Exhaustion of judicial remedies.  The rule on exhaustion of judicial remedies does not erase the gross ignorance of the law that he exhibited. It is not a mandatory sine qua non condition for the filing of an administrative case in the way that it is required in the filing of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 and other similar rules in the Rules of Court. The filing of an administrative case is not an extraordinary remedy that demands that the lower court or tribunal be given every opportunity to review its finding. In fact, it is not a remedy at all required in the underlying case that was attended by gross ignorance to challenge or reverse the ruling in that case. It is a totally separate matter whose objective is to seek disciplinary action against the erring judge.  Prosecutor Robert M. Visbal  vs. Judge Wenceslao B. Vanilla, MTCC, Br. 2, Tacloban City, A.M. No. MTJ-06-1651, July 15, 2009.

Falsification. Although dishonesty through falsification of DTRs is punishable by dismissal, such an extreme penalty cannot be inflicted on an errant employee such as herein respondent, especially so in cases where there exist mitigating circumstances which could alleviate her culpability. Respondent has been Branch Clerk of Court for about ten (10) years and this is her first administrative complaint. The OCA recommended that respondent be suspended from the service for one (1) year without pay, with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely. Concerned Employees of the Municipal Trial Court of Meycauayan, Bulacan Vs. Larizza Paguio-Bacani, Branch COC II, MTC, Meycauayan, BulacanA.M. No. P-06-2217,  July 30, 2009.

Grave abuse of authority.  The power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts so as to preserve order in judicial proceedings as well as to uphold the administration of justice. The courts must exercise the power of contempt for purposes that are impersonal because that power is intended as a safeguard not for the judges but for the functions they exercise. Thus, judges have, time and again, been enjoined to exercise their contempt power judiciously, sparingly, with utmost restraint and with the end in view of utilizing the same for correction and preservation of the dignity of the court, not for retaliation or vindication. Respondent judge’s act of unceremoniously citing complainant in contempt is a clear evidence of his unjustified use of the authority vested upon him by law. Venancio Inonog vs. Judge Francisco B. Ibay, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 135, Makati City, A.M. No. RTJ-09-2175,  July 28, 2009.

Grave misconduct. We thus find petitioner guilty of grave misconduct. By his actuations, he violated the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics in the public service. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. Public servants must bear in mind this constitutional mandate at all times to guide them in their actions during their entire tenure in the government service.

Under the Civil Service Law and its implementing rules, grave misconduct is punishable by dismissal from service.  Atty. Emmanuel Pontejos vs. Hon. Aniano Desierto and Restituto Aquino, G.R. No. 148600, July 7, 2009.

Grave misconduct. Grave Misconduct is a malevolent transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer or employee which threatens the very existence of the system of administration of justice. Estonilo, Padilla, and Bambilla committed grave misconduct in unlawfully bringing scrap materials out of the court premises and using the court vehicle for the purpose, deviating from the established or definite rule of action.

Section 52(A)(3) of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service classifies grave as a grave offense punishable by dismissal for the first offense.  Re: Unauthorized disposal of unnecessary and scrap materials in the Supreme Court Baguio Compound, and the irregularity on the bundy cards of some personnel therein, A.M. No. 2007-17-SC, July 7, 2009.

Grave misconduct.    Under Section 8 of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, it is a serious charge to borrow money or property from lawyers and litigants in a case pending before the court. Under the same provision, an act that violates the Code of Judicial Conduct constitutes gross misconduct,[42] which is also a serious charge. In either instance, a serious charge is punishable by: 1) dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or controlled corporations, provided, however, that the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits; 2) suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three but not exceeding six months; or 3) a fine of more than P20,000 but not exceeding P40,000. Concerned Lawyers of Bulacan vs. Presiding Judge Pornillos, RTC Br. 10, Malolos City, A.M. No. RTJ-09-2183, July 7, 2009.

Grave misconduct.  We do not find respondents guilty of grave misconduct. Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer. And when the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule are manifest, the public officer shall be liable for grave misconduct. Respondents rightfully determined the occupation by the SPFMPCI members unauthorized (albeit on a different basis).  The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Ombudsman, Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, in her capacity as the Ombudsman vs. Rufino V. Maijares, Roberto G. Ferrera, Alfredo M. Ruba and Romeo Querubin. G.R. Nos. 170615-16.  July 9, 2009.

Gross ignorance of the law. Instead of first ruling whether the case fell under the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure, Judge Pangilinan immediately issued a warrant of arrest and fixed complainant’s bail at P2,000. There being no showing that complainant failed to appear in court when required by Judge Pangilinan, the warrant of arrest he issued had no legal basis.

Judge Pangilinan’s faux pas cannot be countenanced. For when a judge shows unfamiliarity with the fundamental rules and procedures, he contributes to the erosion of public confidence in the judicial system and is guilty of gross ignorance of the law and procedures. Lanie Cervantes vs.. Judge Heriberto M. Pangilinan, and Clerk of Court III Carmencita P. Baloco, etc., A.M. No. MTJ-08-1709, July 31, 2009.

Gross ineffiency. The Constitution mandates that all cases or matters filed before all lower courts shall be decided or resolved within 90 days from the time they are submitted for decision. Respondent repeatedly ignored this mandate. She also violated Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct which requires judges to dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required periods.

Failure to comply within the mandated period constitutes a serious violation of the constitutional right of the parties to a speedy disposition of their cases. The Court has always considered a judge’s delay in deciding cases within the prescribed period of three months as gross inefficiency.  Re: Report on the Judicial Audit in Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Jiminez-Sinacaban, Misamis Occidental/ Judge Pricilla Hernandez, A.M. No. 03-170-MCTC, July 14, 2009.

Gross inefficiency.  No less than the Constitution mandates that all cases or matters must be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission to the Supreme Court, and, unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all lower collegiate courts, and three months for all lower courts. In implementing this constitutional mandate, Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct exhorts in the section on “Competence and Diligence” that judges shall perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness. Failure to decide cases within the reglementary period, without strong and justifiable reason, constitutes gross inefficiency warranting the imposition of an administrative sanction on the defaulting judge. Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted at the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 55, Malabon City, A.M. No. 08-3-73-MeTC,  July 31, 2009.

Falure to decide cases.  Judge Pantanosas, Jr.’s explanation that the undecided cases were never brought to his attention during his incumbency deserves scant consideration. Proper and efficient court management is the responsibility of the judge, and he is the one directly responsible for the proper discharge of his official functions. It should be emphasized that the responsibility of making a physical inventory of cases primarily rests on the presiding judge. He ought to know the cases submitted to him for decision or resolution, and he is expected to keep his own record of cases so that he may act on them without undue delay. It is incumbent upon him to devise an efficient recording and filing system in his court so that no disorderliness can affect the flow of cases and their speedy disposition.

A judge cannot take refuge behind the inefficiency or mismanagement of his court personnel since proper and efficient court management is his responsibility. Court personnel are not the guardians of a judge’s responsibilities. The efficient administration of justice cannot accept as an excuse the shifting of the blame from one court personnel to another. A judge should be the master of his own domain and take responsibility for the mistakes of his subordinates. Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, Cagayan De Oro City, A.M. No. 02-8-207-MTCC, July 27, 2009.

Negligence. Respondent is guilty of simple neglect of duty, defined as “the failure to give attention to a task or the disregard of a duty due to carelessness or indifference,”[16] which is classified as a less grave offense under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service and punishable with suspension for one month and one day to six months for the first offense and dismissal for the second offense. Office of the Court Administrator vs. Officer-in-charge and Legal Researcher Nilda Cinco, RTC, Br. 28, Catbalogan, Samar, A.M. No. P-06-2219, July 13, 2009.

Negligence;  failure to file memorandum on appeal.  The appellant is duty-bound to submit his memorandum on appeal. Such submission is not a matter of discretion on his part. His failure to comply with this mandate or to perform this duty will compel the RTC to dismiss his appeal.

Respondent’s failure to file the required pleadings is per se a violation of Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.  Natividad Uy vs.. Atty. Braulio RG Tansisin, A.C. No. 8252,  July 21, 2009.

Negligence. A lawyer’s negligence in the discharge of his obligations arising from the relationship of counsel and client may cause delay in the administration of justice and prejudice the rights of a litigant, particularly his client. Thus, from the perspective of the ethics of the legal profession, a lawyer’s lethargy in carrying out his duties to his client is both unprofessional and unethical.

If his client’s case is already pending in court, a lawyer must actively represent his client by promptly filing the necessary pleading or motion and assiduously attending the scheduled hearings. This is specially significant for a lawyer who represents an accused in a criminal case.  Dolores C. Belleza vs. Atty. Alan S. Macasa, A.C. No. 7815, July 23, 2009.

Negligence.  When respondent accepted the amount of P50,000.00 from complainant, it was understood that he agreed to take up the latter’s case, and that an attorney-client relationship between them was established. From then on, it was expected that he would serve his client, herein complainant, with competence, and attend to her cause with fidelity, care and devotion.

The act of receiving money as acceptance fee for legal services in handling complainant’s case and subsequently failing to render such services is a clear violation of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Trinidad H. Camara, et al. vs. Atty. Oscar Amondy Reyes, A.C. No. 6121,  July 31, 2009.

Simple misconduct.  Misbehavior by court employees within and around their vicinity necessarily diminishes their dignity. Any fighting or misunderstanding becomes a disgraceful sight reflecting adversely on the good image of the Judiciary.

Indeed, the two are guilty of conduct unbecoming of court employee amounting to simple misconduct, classified as a less grave offense under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service which merits suspension for one month and one day to six months for the first offense, and dismissal for the second offense.

Under Section 53 of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, in the determination of the penalties to be imposed, the extenuating, mitigating, aggravating or alternative circumstances, among other considerations, may be taken into account. As recommended then, the length of service, the performance ratings, and the number of times an employee has been administratively charged may be considered. Re: Fighting incident between two(2) SC shuttle bus drivers, namely, Messrs. Edilbert L. Idulsa and Ross C. Romero, A.M. No. 2008-24-SC, July 14, 2009.

Simple misconduct.  Sheriff Jundarino’s duty is to implement the Writ of Execution dated 28 November 2007 at No. 2519 Granate St., Sta.Ana, Manila. Given Quilo’s assertions that his residence was actually at No. 2518 Granate St., San Andres Bukid, Manila, and that he was not even a party to Civil Case No. 158273-CV, the more prudent course of action for Sheriff Jundarino was to defer implementation of the said Writ until a determination by the MeTC of Quilo’s Motion to Quash the same. It bears to stress that said Motion was already scheduled for hearing on 28 March 2008, just a day after Sheriff Jundarino’s second visit to Quilo’s residence on 27 March 2008.

Without even considering whether Quilo’s residence is the same as the property involved in Civil Case No. 158273-CV, the Court finds that Sheriff Jundarino’s acts herein – i.e., his rude and inappropriate remarks and aggressive behavior during his visits to Quilo’s residence on 12 February 2008 and 27 March 2008 to implement the Writ of Execution issued in the aforementioned case; as well as his unreasonable insistence on implementing the said Writ on 27 March 2008 despite the fact that Quilo’s Motion to Quash the same was already set to be heard the very next day, 28 March 2008 – constitute simple misconduct.  Edgardo A. Quilo Vs. Rogelio G. Jundarino, Sheriff III, Metropolitan Trail Court, Branch 19, Manila, A.M. No. P-09-2644,  July 30, 2009.

Simple misconduct.  Mom-issuance of official receipt for stenpgraphic fees is simple misconduct. Gaspar R. Dutosme Vs. Atty. Rey D. Caayona, A.M. No. P-08-2578,  July 31, 2009.

Unauthorized practice of law.  Additionally, a judge should not permit a law firm, of which he was formerly an active member, to continue to carry his name in the firm name as that might create the impression that the firm possesses an improper influence with the judge which consequently is likely to impel those in need of legal services in connection with matters before him to engage the services of the firm. A judge cannot do indirectly what the Constitution prohibits directly, in accordance with the legal maxim,quando aliquid prohibitur ex directo, prohibitur et per obliquum or what is prohibited directly is prohibited indirectly.

By allowing his name to be included in the firm name “Bartolome Lelina Calimag Densing & Associates Law Offices” while holding a judicial office, he held himself to the public as a practicing lawyer, in violation of the Rules and the norms of judicial ethics.

Under Sections 9 and 11(B), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10 SC, unauthorized practice of law is classified as a less serious charge punishable by suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less than one nor more than three months, or a fine of more than P10,000 but not exceeding P20,000.  Atty. Florencio Alay Binalay vs. Judge Elias O. Lelina, Jr., A.M. No. P-08-2132, July 31, 2009.

Violation of lawyer’s oath.  Respondent violated Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which mandates lawyers to refrain from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. For, as the IBP found, he engaged in deceitful conduct by, inter alia, taking advantage of the complaint against CDO to advance his interest – to obtain funds for his BATAS Foundation and seek sponsorships and advertisements for the tabloids and his television program.

He also violated Rule 13.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

For despite the pendency of the civil case against him and the issuance of a status quo order restraining/enjoining further publishing, televising and broadcasting of any matter relative to the complaint of CDO, respondent continued with his attacks against complainant and its products. At the same time, respondent violated Canon 1 also of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which mandates lawyers to “uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes.” For he defied said status quo order, despite his (respondent’s) oath as a member of the legal profession to “obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities.”  Foodsphere, Inc. vs. Atty. Melanio L. Mauricio, Jr., A.C. No. 7199, July 22, 2009.