July 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Court personnel; dishonesty and conduct prejudicial. A complaint was filed against the respondent alleging that he accepted employment as Chief Judicial Staff Officer of the Supreme Court, and thus received salaries and other benefits as such, while still remaining an active member and officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP).  The Court found that respondent was liable for gross dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.  His non-disclosure of the material fact that he was still employed as an active member of the PNP and receiving his monthly salaries during the period that he was already a Court employee is considered substantial proof that he tried to cheat/defraud both the PNP and the Court. Respondent transgressed the Constitution and the Civil Service law on the prohibition on dual employment and double compensation in the government service. Re: Gross violation of Civil Service Law on the prohibition against dual employment and double compensation in the government service committed by Mr. Eduardo V. Escala, etc. A.M. No. 2011-04-SC, July 5, 2011

Court personnel; effect of absences without approved leave. An administrative case was filed against Cabrera, a Utility Worker in the MTCC of Lipa City, who has failed to file his Daily Time Records (DTRs) and to seek leave for any of his absences. The Court held that pursuant to the Omnibus Rules on Leave, an employee’s absence without official leave for at least 30 working days warrants his separation from the service.  A public office is a public trust. Public officers must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with the utmost degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency.  By going on AWOL, Cabrera grossly disregarded and neglected the duties of his office. He failed to adhere to the high standards of public accountability imposed on all those in government service. Re: Dropping from the Rolls of Cornelio Reniette Cabrera, etc. A.M. No. P-11-2946. July 13, 2011

Court personnel; habitual tardiness. Respondent, a clerk of court of the RTC in Lucena City, was found to have been tardy in reporting for work more than ten times each month from July to October 2010.  Civil Service Memorandum Circular No. 23, Series of 1998 provides that “any employee shall be considered habitually tardy if he incurs tardiness, regardless of the number of minutes, ten (10) times a month for at least two (2) months in a semester or at least two (2) consecutive months during the year. Habitual tardiness is an administrative offense that seriously compromises work efficiency and hampers public service.  By being habitually tardy, respondent has fallen short of the stringent standard of conduct demanded from everyone connected with the administration of justice. The Clerk of Court plays a vital role in ensuring the prompt and sound administration of justice. Moral obligations, performance of household chores, traffic problems and health, domestic and financial concerns are not sufficient reasons to excuse habitual tardiness.  Re: Leave Division, Office of Administrative Services, OCA v. Francisco A. Pua, Jr. Clerk of Court V, RTC, Br. 55, Lucena City. A.M. No. P-11-2945. July 13, 2011

Court personnel; habitual tardiness. The Leave Division of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) reported on the tardiness incurred by respondent court stenographer. The OCA recommended that the case be redocketed as a regular administrative matter and that she be reprimanded for habitual tardiness with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar offense would warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty. Moral obligations, performance of household chores, traffic problems, health conditions, domestic and financial concerns are not sufficient reasons to excuse habitual tardiness. Respondent submitted an answer to the complaint acknowledging her infraction and begging the indulgence of the Court. The Court found the penalty of severe reprimand to be proper for her infraction. Office of the Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator vs. Leda O. Uri, etc. A.M. No. P-10-2852. July 27, 2011

Court personnel; misconduct. Respondent sheriff was  charged  with negligence and grave misconduct as he was allegedly negligent in levying upon a motor vehicle and proceeding with its auction sale without looking into the car’s Certificate of Registration to determine whether it was encumbered or not. The Court held that it was irrelevant for the complainant to argue that the respondent failed to check the car’s certificate of registration to determine if it was encumbered because the encumbrance, until foreclosed, will not in any way affect the judgment debtor’s rights over the property or exempt the property from the levy in any event.  A sheriff’s duty to execute a writ is simply ministerial and he is bound to perform only those tasks stated under the Rules of Court and no more.  Any interest a third party may have on the property levied upon by the sheriff to enforce a judgment is the third party’s responsibility to protect through the remedies provided under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. Golden Sun Finance Corporation, rep by Rachelle L. Marmito vs. Ricardo R. Albano, etc, A.M. No. P-11-2888. July 27, 2011

Court personnel; sheriff’s duty to give notice prior to demolition.  With respect to Sheriff Calsenia, the Court finds that he failed to strictly comply with the requirement of prior notice to vacate before demolition as required by the rules.  It is the duty of the sheriff to give notice of such writ and demand from the defendant to vacate the property within three days.  Only after such period can the sheriff enforce the writ by the bodily removal of defendant and his personal belongings.  The law discourages any form of arbitrary and oppressive conduct in the execution of an otherwise legitimate act.  Any act deviating from the procedure prescribed by the Rules of Court is tantamount to misconduct and necessitates disciplinary action. Spouses Sur and Rita Villa, et al. v. Presiding Judge Roberto L. Ayco, et al. A.M. No. RTJ-11-2284. July 13, 2011

Judge; gross ignorance of the law. Respondent Judge failed to conduct a pre-trial conference contrary to elementary rules of procedure which he should have known all too well considering his long years of service in the bench.  Such ignorance of a basic rule in court procedure, as failing to conduct pre-trial, sadly amounts to gross ignorance and warrants a corresponding penalty. As to the allegations of poor judgment and gross ignorance of basic legal principles in granting the motions for execution pending appeal for flimsy and unsupported reasons, the particular reasons relied upon by respondent judge for issuing the writ of execution pending appeal are so unreliably weak and feeble that it highlights the lack of knowledge of respondent judge with regard to the proper appreciation of arguments. Dire financial conditions of the plaintiffs supported by mere self-serving statements as “good reason” for the issuance of a writ of execution pending appeal does not stand on solid footing.  It does not even stand on its own. National Power Corporation, represented its President Cyril Del Callar vs. Judge Santos B. Adiong, Regional Trial Court, BR. 8, Marawi City, A.M. No. RTJ-07-2060. July 27, 2011

Judge; gross misconduct. Judge Rabang, a judge of the MTCC in Cotabato City, left the Philippines in May 2007 without an approved leave and has remained abroad and absent from his court for more than four years. Such attitude betrays his lack of concern for his office. He has abandoned his office and committed gross misconduct. The Code of Judicial Conduct decrees that a judge should administer justice impartially and without delay. A judge should likewise be imbued with a high sense of duty and responsibility in the discharge of his obligation to promptly administer justice. The trial court judges being the paradigms of justice in the first instance have been exhorted to dispose of the court’s business promptly and to decide cases within the required period because delay results in undermining the people’s faith in the judiciary from whom the prompt hearing of their supplications is anticipated and expected, and reinforces in the minds of the litigants the impression that the wheels of justice grind ever so slowly. Re: Application for indefinite leave and travel abroad of Pres. Judge Francisco P. Rabang III, MTCC, Cotabato City. A.M. No. 07-9-214-MTCC. July 26, 2011

Judge; undue delay in rendering a decision.  With respect to Judge Ayco, the Court stresses that the propriety or impropriety of the motion for reconsideration is judicial in nature and therefore, beyond the scope of this administrative proceedings. He however, cannot be excused for the delay in resolving complainants’ motion for reconsideration. Failure to decide a case or resolve a motion within the reglementary period constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants the imposition of administrative sanction against the erring judge.  Spouses Sur and Rita Villa, et al. v. Presiding Judge Roberto L. Ayco, et al. A.M. No. RTJ-11-2284. July 13, 2011

(Mon thanks Glaisa Po for assisting  in the preparation of this post.)