Lega Ethics Digest

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Office of the Court Administrator vs. Judge James V. Go and Clerk of Court Ma. Emer M. Rosales ( A.M. No. MTJ-07-1667, April 10, 2012) Facts: A judicial audit and physical inventory of pending cases was conducted by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) in Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Branch 2, Butuan City where the respondent Judge presides. The audit team found that Judge Go failed to take appropriate action on 1262 criminal cases and 32 civil cases. The audit team also noted the reports of some court officials and employees that Judge Go would always leave the court in the morning after finishing all hearings scheduled for the day and would return only on the following day. When the audit team confronted the judge, he replied that he leaves early to rest as he suffered a stroke before, and that being a judge, he is not required to render eight hours of service a day. The OCA required Judge Go to take appropriate action on the criminal cases and civil cases that have not been acted upon for a considerable length of time and to resolve cases and pending incidents or motions which has been remained unresolved beyond reglementary period. Judge Go was additionally ordered to render eight hours of service every working day pursuant to various circulars of the Court. The Court resolved to treat the judicial audit report as an administrative complaint for gross inefficiency and gross neglect of duty against Judge Go and his clerk of court, Ma. Elmer M. Rosales, and required them to comment within 15 days from notice. However respondent Judge instead wrote a letter denying all the allegations in the judicial report. In a Resolution, the Court directed Judge Go fully comply with the directives regarding the remaining cases that

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Transcript of Lega Ethics Digest

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Office of the Court Administrator vs. Judge James V. Go and Clerk of Court Ma. Emer M. Rosales

( A.M. No. MTJ-07-1667, April 10, 2012)

Facts:

A judicial audit and physical inventory of pending cases was conducted by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) in Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Branch 2, Butuan City where the respondent Judge presides. The audit team found that Judge Go failed to take appropriate action on 1262 criminal cases and 32 civil cases. The audit team also noted the reports of some court officials and employees that Judge Go would always leave the court in the morning after finishing all hearings scheduled for the day and would return only on the following day. When the audit team confronted the judge, he replied that he leaves early to rest as he suffered a stroke before, and that being a judge, he is not required to render eight hours of service a day.

The OCA required Judge Go to take appropriate action on the criminal cases and civil cases that have not been acted upon for a considerable length of time and to resolve cases and pending incidents or motions which has been remained unresolved beyond reglementary period. Judge Go was additionally ordered to render eight hours of service every working day pursuant to various circulars of the Court.

The Court resolved to treat the judicial audit report as an administrative complaint for gross inefficiency and gross neglect of duty against Judge Go and his clerk of court, Ma. Elmer M. Rosales, and required them to comment within 15 days from notice. However respondent Judge instead wrote a letter denying all the allegations in the judicial report.

In a Resolution, the Court directed Judge Go fully comply with the directives regarding the remaining cases that require his immediate action and submit for compliance. However, respondent judge again failed to comply with the Court’s directives.

Noting Judge Go’s deplorable failure to comply with the said directives, the OCA in a Memorandum recommended to the Court that Judge Go be dismissed from the service.

Issue:

Whether or not respondent Judge Go is still fit to continue as a member of the bench

Held:

Resolutions of this Court should not be treated lightly. As a judge, respondent must be the first to exhibit respect for authority Gaspar v. Adaoag teaches:

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Judges should respect the orders and decisions of higher tribunals much more so this Court from which all other courts should take their bearings. A resolution of the Supreme Court should not be construed as a mere request and should not be complied with partially, inadequately or selectively.

In Guerrero v. Judge Deray, the Court held that a judge “who deliberately and continuously fails and refuses to comply with the resolution of [the Supreme] Court is guilty of gross misconduct and insubordination.” This ruling was reiterated in Dela Cruz v. Vallart and Visbal v. Tormis. Also in Guerrero, this Court held that “indifference or defiance to the Court’s orders or resolutions may be punished with dismissal, suspension or fine as warranted by the circumstances.

In the present case the court found that Judge Go failed to heed the above pronouncements. He did not file the required comment to our show cause resolutions despite several opportunities granted him by this Court. His wilful disobedience and disregard to our show-cause resolutions constitutes grave and serious misconduct affecting his fitness and worthiness of the honour and integrity attached to his office. It is noteworthy that Judge Go was afforded several opportunities to explain his failure to decide the subject cases long pending before his court and to comply with the directives of this Court, but he has failed, and continuously refuses to heed the same. This continued refusal to abide by lawful directives issued by this Court is glaring proof that he has become disinterested to remain with the judicial system to which he purports to belong.

In view of the foregoing, the Court found that the dismissal of the respondent judge from service is indeed warranted. This Court has long maintained the policy of upholding competence and integrity in the administration of justice. Incompetence and inefficiency have no place in the judiciary. Respondent’s indifference to the charges against him only proves his lack of commitment to the duties of his office, making him unfit to continue in public service.

Wherefore, respondent Judge James V. Go is dismissed from service.

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Office of the Court Administrator vs. Judge Cander P.Indar(A.M. No. RTJ-10-2232, April 10, 2012)

Facts:

This case was originated from reports by the Local Civil Registrars of Manila and Quezon City to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) that they have received an alarming number of decisions, resolutions, and orders on annulment of marriage cases allegedly issued by Judge Indar in his capacity as Presiding Judge in RTC-Shariff Aguak and as acting Presiding Judge in RTC Cotabato. It was alleged that Judge Indar made it appear that the annulment cases underwent trial, when the records show no judicial proceedings occurred. 

To verify the allegations against Judge Indar, the OCA conducted a judicial audit in RTC-Shariff Aguak, where the Audit Team found that the list of cases submitted by the Local Civil Registrars of Manila and Quezon City do not appear in the records of cases received, pending or disposed by RTC-Shariff Aguak. Likewise, the annulment decisions did not exist in the records of RTC-Cotabato. The Audit Team further observed that the case numbers in the list submitted by the Local Civil Registrars are not within the series of case numbers recorded in the docket books of either RTC-Shariff Aguak or RTC-Cotabato. Moreover the judicial audit team also found out that Judge Indar affirmed in writing before the Australian Embassy the validity of a decision he allegedly rendered, when in fact that case does not appear in the court’s records. 

Issue: Whether Judge Indar is guilty of gross misconduct and dishonesty. Held: Public office is a public trust This constitutional principle requires a judge, like any other public servant and more so because of his exalted position in the Judiciary, to exhibit at all times the highest degree of honesty and integrity As the visible representation of the law tasked with dispensing justice, a judge should conduct himself at all times in a manner that would merit the respect and confidence of the people.  In Office of the Court Administrator v. Lopez, the Court explained the difference between simple misconduct and grave misconduct, thus: The Court defines misconduct as “a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behaviour or gross negligence by a public officer.” The misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, wilful intent to violate the law, or to disregard established rules, which must be established by substantial evidence. As distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law, or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be manifest in a charge of grave misconduct. 

The Court condemns Judge Indar’s reprehensible act of issuing Decisions that voided marital unions, without conducting any judicial proceedings. Such malfeasance not only makes a mockery of marriage and its life-changing consequences but likewise grossly violates the basic norms of truth, justice, and due process. Not only that, Judge Indar’s gross misconduct greatly undermines the people’s faith in the judiciary and betrays public trust and confidence in the

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courts. Judge Indar’s utter lack of moral fitness has no place in the Judiciary. Judge Indar deserves nothing less than dismissal from the service. The Court defines dishonesty as: “disposition 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 betrayal”. 

In this case, Judge Indar issued Decisions on numerous annulment of marriage cases when in fact he did not conduct any judicial proceedings on the cases. Not even the filing of the petitions occurred. Judge Indar made it appear in his Decisions that the annulment cases complied with the stringent requirements of the Rules of Court and the strict statutory and jurisprudential conditions for voiding marriages, when quite the contrary is true, violating Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which mandates that a judge “perform official duties honestly.” WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Judge Cader P. Indar, Al Haj, guilty of Gross Misconduct and Dishonesty for which he is DISMISSED from the service.

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Ramoncito and Juliana Luarca vs.Judge Ireneo B. Molato

(A.M. No TJ-08-1711, April23, 2012)

Facts: Spouses Ramoncito and Juliana Luarca (the Luarcas) and Jenny Agbay charged Judge

Ireneo B. Molato with conduct unbecoming a member of the judiciary.  They alleged that Judge Molato and his wife, Nilalina, enticed them to invest money in Lucky Socorro Investor and Credit Corporation (Lucky Corporation) of which Nilalina was president. These investments were to earn interest of 2.5% per month but the said corporation did not pay the said interest. 

 The Luarcas and Agbay asked Lucky Corporation to return their investments with the corresponding interests.   But Judge Molato and his wife failed to comply.  The Luarcas and Agbay were instead compelled to take land titles as collaterals for what were owed them.  Still Judge Molato and his wife did not settle their financial obligations.  

 Issue:  

Whether or not Judge Molato was, apart from being the husband of Lucky Corporation’s president, involved in its affairs.  Held:

There is no evidence in these cases that Judge Molato engaged in a private business, unduly mixing it up with his official work as judge.  Complainants were themselves unsure of the nature of Judge Molato’s involvement in Lucky Corporation.  They seem to connect him to it by the mere fact that the president of that corporation happens to be his wife. 

 It is unmistakable from complainants’ testimonies that Judge Molato never used the fact

of his being a judge to entice them into putting money into Lucky Corporation. Juliana Luarca said that she had decided to invest in that company even before she met the judge.  

Section 4 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees lays down the norms of conduct which every public official and employee shall observe in the discharge and execution of their official duties, specifically providing that they shall at all times respect the rights of others, and refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good

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morals, good customs, public policy, public order, and public interest.  Thus, any conduct contrary to these standards would qualify as conduct unbecoming of a government employee.[20] 

 Absent any showing that Judge Molato defrauded complainants of their money or

committed acts that detract from the dignity of his position, the mere fact that the corporation of which his wife was the president had difficulties meeting its obligations does not per se make him lacking in moral integrity and of questionable character as would make him liable for conduct unbecoming a judge.

 Of course, there is evidence that the corporation’s Board of Directors issued Resolution

1-2000 that authorized Judge Molato and three other persons to serve as the company’s alternate bank signatories, with their signatures appearing on the document.  But complainants presented no evidence that Judge Molato in fact performed such function for Lucky Corporation.  The complainants presented no company withdrawal slips or checks where his signature appears.  No evidence has been adduced that he was a stockholder of that corporation, proof that he engaged in private business without the Supreme Court’s consent, or served as one of its corporate or line officers. 

 Still, Judge Molato is to be reprimanded for agreeing to serve as one of Lucky

Corporation’s alternate bank signatories even if he may not have performed such service for the corporation.  He has no business agreeing to the performance of such service.  His offense constitutes a violation of Administrative Circular 5 which in essence prohibits public officials from performing or agreeing to perform functions or services outside of their official functions for the reason that the entire time of the officials and employees of the judiciary shall be devoted to their official work to ensure the efficient and speedy administration of justice.

 WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Judge Ireneo B. Molato of the Municipal

Trial Court, Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro, GUILTY of violation of Administrative Circular 5, dated October 4, 1988, and REPRIMANDS him for it.

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Fidela Benco and Teresita Bengco vs. Atty. Pablo S. Bernardo(A.C. No. 6368, June 13 2012)

Facts:

A complaint  for disbarment was filed by complainants Fidela G. Bengco and Teresita N. Bengco against respondent Atty. Pablo Bernardo (Atty. Bernardo) for deceit, malpractice, conduct unbecoming a member of the Bar and violation of his duties and oath as a lawyer.Atty. Pablo Bernardo with the help and in connivance and collusion with a certain Andres Magat [wilfully] and illegally committed fraudulent act with intent to defraud herein complainants Fidela G. Bengco and Teresita N. Bengco by using false pretenses, deceitful words to the effect that he would expedite the titling of the land belonging to the Miranda family of Tagaytay City who are the acquaintance of complainants herein and they convinced herein complainant[s] that if they will finance and deliver to him the amount of [P]495,000.00 as advance money he would expedite the titling of the subject land and further by means of other similar deceit like misrepresenting himself as lawyer of William Gatchalian, the prospective buyer of the subject land, and he is the one handling William Gatchalian’s business transaction and that he has contracts at NAMREA, DENR, CENRO and REGISTER OF DEEDS which representation he well knew were false, fraudulent and were only made to induce the complainant to give and deliver the said amount ([P]495,000.00) and once in possession of said amount, far from complying with his obligation to expedite and cause the titling of the subject land, [wilfully], unlawfully and illegally misappropriated, misapplied and converted the said amount to his personal use and benefit and despite demand upon him to return the said amount, he failed and refused to do so.

Issue:

Whether respondent Atty.Pablo Bernado is guilty of deceit, malpractice, conduct unbecoming a member of the Bar and Violation of Duties and Oath as a lawyer.

Held:

It cannot be overstressed that lawyers are instruments in the administration of justice.  As vanguards of our legal system, they are expected to maintain not only legal proficiency but also a high standard of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing.  In so doing, the people’s faith and confidence in the judicial system is ensured.  Lawyers may be disciplined – whether in their professional or in their private capacity – for any conduct that is wanting in morality, honesty, probity and good demeanor.

There is no question that the respondent committed the acts complained of.  He himself admitted in his answer that his legal services were hired by the complainants through Magat

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regarding the purported titling of land supposedly purchased.  While he begs for the Court’s indulgence, his contrition is shallow considering the fact that he used his position as a lawyer in order to deceive the complainants into believing that he can expedite the titling of the subject properties.  He never denied that he did not benefit from the money given by the complainants in the amount of P495, 000.00.

          The practice of law is not a business.  It is a profession in which duty to public service, not money, is the primary consideration.  Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a money-making venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits.  The gaining of a livelihood should be a secondary consideration.  The duty to public service and to the administration of justice should be the primary consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal interests or what they owe to themselves.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Pablo S. Bernardo is found guilty of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility.  Accordingly, he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for ONE (1) YEAR effective upon notice hereof.

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Rodrigo A. Molina vs. Atty. Ceferino R. Magat

(A.C.No.1900, June 13, 2012)

Facts:

The case stemmed from a complaint for disbarment filed by Rodrigo A. Molina (complainant) against Atty. Magat before the Court. The complaint alleged, that complainant filed cases of Assault Upon an Agent of a Person in Authority and Breach of the Peace and Resisting Arrest against one Pascual de Leon (de Leon) before the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Manila; that the counsel of record for accused de Leon in both cases was Atty. Magat; that a case for slight physical injuries was filed against him (Molina) by de Leon as a counter-charge and Atty. Magat was also the private prosecutor; that Atty. Magat subsequently filed a motion to quash the information on Assault upon an Agent of a Person in Authority on the sole ground of double jeopardy claiming that a similar case for slight physical injuries was filed in court by a certain Pat. Molina (Molina); that based on the record, no case of slight physical injuries was filed by Molina against de Leon; that Atty. Magat was very much aware of such fact as he was the counsel and private prosecutor on record of de Leon from the very start of the case way back on May 24, 1974; that Atty. Magat’s act of filing the Motion to Quash was a malicious act done in bad faith to mislead the court, thus, a betrayal of the confidence of the court of which he is an officer; and that Atty. Magat likewise committed willful disobedience of the court order when he appeared as counsel for de Leon on two (2) occasions despite the fact that he was suspended from the practice of law.

Issue:

Whether or not respondent Atty. Magat committed willful disobedience to court order when he appeared as counsel despite his suspension.

Held:

The practice of law is a privilege bestowed on those who show that they possess and continue to possess the legal qualifications for it. Indeed, lawyers are expected to maintain at all times a high standard of legal proficiency and morality, including honesty, integrity and fair dealing. They must perform their four-fold duty to society, the legal profession, the courts and their clients, in accordance with the values and norms of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Atty. Magat’s act clearly falls short of the standards set by the Code of Professional Responsibility, particularly Rule 10.01, which provides:

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Rule 10.01 – A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by any artifice.

In this case, the Court agrees with the observation of the IBP that there was a deliberate intent on the part of Atty. Magat to mislead the court when he filed the motion to dismiss the criminal charges on the basis of double jeopardy. Atty. Magat should not make any false and untruthful statements in his pleadings. If it were true that there was a similar case for slight physical injuries that was really filed in court, all he had to do was to secure a certification from that court that, indeed, a case was filed.

Furthermore, Atty. Magat expressly admitted appearing in court on two occasions despite having been suspended from the practice of law by the Court. 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 a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court and/or for corruptly or wilfully appearing as an attorney without authority to do so.

As stated, if Atty. Magat was truly moved by altruistic intentions when he appeared before the trial court despite having been suspended, he could have informed the Presiding Judge of his plight and explained why the party he was representing could not attend. On the contrary, Atty. Magat kept his silence and proceeded to represent his client as counsel.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Magat is suspended from the practice of law

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Emilia R. Hernandez vs. Atty. Venancio B. Padilla(A.C. No. 9387, June 20, 2012)

Facts:

A disbarment case was filed by Emilia Hernandez (complainant) against her lawyer, Atty. Venancio B. Padilla (respondent) of Padilla Padilla Bautista Law Offices, for his alleged negligence in the handling of her case. The records disclose that complainant and her husband were the respondents in an ejectment case filed against them with the Regional Trial Court of Manila (RTC).

Complainant claims that because respondent ignored the Resolution of the court with regard to their case, he acted with "deceit, unfaithfulness amounting to malpractice of law." Complainant and her husband failed to file an appeal, because respondent never informed them of the adverse decision. Complainant further claims that she asked respondent "several times" about the status of the appeal, but "despite inquiries he deliberately withheld" to the damage and prejudice of the spouses.

Respondent contended that he was not the lawyer of complainant and that he had never met complainant, because it was her husband who had personally transacted with him. According to respondent, he merely drafted a pleading that complainant’s husband asked from him. Respondent also claims that he filed a Memorandum of Appeal, because he "honestly believed" that this was the pleading required, based on what complainant’s husband said. Moreover, as proof that none of them ever intended to enter into a lawyer-client relationship, he also alleges that complainant’s husband never contacted him after the filing of the Memorandum of Appeal. However, the complainant pointed out in her Reply that respondent was her lawyer, because he accepted her case and an acceptance fee in the amount of P 7,000.

Issue: Whether or not there is an attorney-client relationship entered into by the parties as to

hold the respondent remiss in his duties as a counsel?

Held:

Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives rise to the duty of fidelity to the client’s cause. Once a lawyer agrees to handle a case, it is that lawyer’s duty to serve the client with competence and diligence. Respondent has failed to fulfill this duty to his client.

The obligations of lawyers as a consequence of their Canon 5 duty have been expounded in Dulalia, Jr. v. Cruz, It must be emphasized that the primary duty of lawyers is to obey the laws of the land and promote respect for the law and legal processes. They are expected to be in the forefront in the

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observance and maintenance of the rule of law. This duty carries with it the obligation to be well-informed of the existing laws and to keep abreast with legal developments, recent enactments and jurisprudence. It is imperative that they be conversant with basic legal principles. Unless they faithfully comply with such duty, they may not be able to discharge competently and diligently their obligations as members of the bar. Worse, they may become susceptible to committing mistakes.

Respondent, as counsel, had the duty to inform his clients of the status of their case. His failure to do so amounted to a violation of Rule 18.04 of the Code, which reads:

18.04 - A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to the client’s request for information.

If it were true that all attempts to contact his client proved futile, the least respondent could have done was to inform the CA by filing a Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance as counsel. He could have thus explained why he was no longer the counsel of complainant and her husband in the case and informed the court that he could no longer contact them is failure to take this measure proves his negligence.

Lastly, the failure of respondent to file the proper pleading and a comment in the ejectment case is negligence on Under 18.03 of the Code, a lawyer is liable for negligence in handling the client’s case, viz:

Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.

Lawyers should not neglect legal matters entrusted to them, otherwise their negligence in fulfilling their duty would render them liable for disciplinary action.29

Respondent has failed to live up to his duties as a lawyer. When a lawyer violates his duties to his client, he engages in unethical and unprofessional conduct for which he should be held accountable.30

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Venancio Padilla is found guilty of violating Rules 18.02, 18.03, 18.04, as well as Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Hence, he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law.

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Juvy P. Ciocon-Reer et.al, vs. Judge Antonio C.Lubao

(A.M. OCA IPI No. 09-3210-RTJ, June 20, 2012)

Facts:

Complainants are the plaintiffs for Unlawful Detainer, Damages, Injunction, etc., an appealed case from the Municipal Trial Court of General Santos City, Branch. Complainants alleged that Judge Lubao issued an Order directing the parties to submit their respective memoranda. Complainants further alleged that, a copy of the order was sent by registered mail to the defendants, which they should have received within one week. Complainants alleged that the 30-day period within which to submit memoranda has already expired. Since the defendants failed to submit their memorandum, complainants alleged that they should be deemed to have waived their right to adduce evidence and Judge Lubao should have decided the case. Yet, four months passed and Judge Lubao still failed to make his decision.

In his Comment, Judge Lubao explained that the parties were required to submit their respective memoranda. The Order was sent to the parties through registered mail. Judge Lubao alleged that the plaintiffs submitted their memorandum but the court did not receive the registry return card on the notice to the defendants. The branch clerk of court sent a letter-request to the Post Office of General Santos City asking for certification as to when the Order sent under Registry Receipt No. 690 was received by the defendants. However, the court did not receive any reply from the Post Office.

Judge Lubao further explained that for the greater interest of substantial justice, the defendants were given their last chance to submit their memorandum within 30 days from receipt of the order.

Judge Lubao then informed the Court that one of the complainants, Remberto C. Karaan, Sr. (Karaan) is engaging in the practice of law even though he is not a lawyer. Judge Lubao asked this Court to require Karaan to show cause why he should not be cited in contempt for unauthorized practice of law.

Karaan filed a supplemental complaint alleging that Judge Lubao’s failure to submit his comment on time to complainants’ administrative complaint is a violation of the existing rules and procedure which amount to gross ignorance of the law. As regards his alleged unauthorized practice of law, Karaan alleged that Judge Lubao was merely trying to evade the issues at hand.

Issue:

1. Whether or not Judge Lubao violated existing rules and procedure which amounts to gross ignorance of the law

2. Whether or not complainant Karaan is guilty of unauthorized practice of law

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Held

1. Not all administrative complaints against judges merit a corresponding penalty. In the absence of fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a judge in his judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary action. The Court that the remedy of the complainants in this case is judicial in nature. As the OCA stated, Karaan could not make assumptions as to when the defendants received the copy of Judge Lubao’s order without the registry return receipt. While Karaan claimed that he knew when one of the parties received a copy of the order, this claim was unsupported by evidence and was not in the records of the case when Judge Lubao issued Order giving the defendants their last chance to submit their memorandum. The records would also show that Judge Lubao had been very careful in his actions on the case, as his branch clerk of court even wrote the Post Office of General Santos City asking for certification as to when the Order sent under Registry Receipt No. 690, was received by the defendants. There was no evidence that Judge Lubao acted arbitrarily or in bad faith. Further, Judge Lubao could not be faulted for trying to give all the parties an opportunity to be heard considering that the records of the case would show that the court a quo summarily dismissed the case without issuing summons to the defendants.

2.In Cayetano v. Monsod,3 the Court ruled that "practice of law" means any activity, in or

out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. To engage in the practice of law is to perform acts which are usually performed by members of the legal profession. Generally, to practice law is to render any kind of service which requires the use of legal knowledge or skill. Here, the OCA was able to establish the pattern in Karaan’s unauthorized practice of law. He would require the parties to execute a special power of attorney in his favor to allow him to join them as one of the plaintiffs as their attorney-in-fact. Then, he would file the necessary complaint and other pleadings "acting for and in his own behalf and as attorney-in-fact, agent or representative" of the parties. The fact that Karaan did not indicate in the pleadings that he was a member of the Bar, or any PTR, Attorney’s Roll, or MCLE Compliance Number does not detract from the fact that, by his actions, he was actually engaged in the practice of law.

Under Section 3(e), Rule 71 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, a person "[a]ssuming to be an attorney or an officer of a court, and acting as such without authority," is liable for indirect contempt of court. Under Section 7 of the same rules, a respondent adjudged guilty of indirect contempt committed against a Regional Trial Court or a court of equivalent or higher rank.

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Leticia G. Jacinto vs. Judge Josephus Joannes H. Asis(A.M. No. MTJ-12-181, June 13, 2012)

Facts:

Jacinto is the plaintiff for unlawful detainer. During the pendency of that case, Judge Asis became the Presiding Judge of that court and started performing judicial functions. Judge Asis issued an Order submitting the said case for decision. Because of the failure of Judge Asis to promptly render judgment on the case, Jacinto filed the present Complaint against him. In his comment, Judge Asis alleged that he was diagnosed of an illness in his left eye and suffered a seizure and a mild stroke while in the conduct of a trial. He alleged that he was on an official leave while conducting the trial. Furthermore, he also alleged that was already very sick, which rendered him unable to act on the said case.

Issue: Whether or not Judge Asis is guilty of delay in resolving the civil case

Held:

Although respondent Judge Asis has a valid reason for not being able to decide the case within the 30-day reglementary period, as required by the Revised Rules on Summary Procedure, the same does not totally absolve him from administrative liability. Respondent Judge Asis himself admitted that his leave of absence was only for the months of September, October, and November in the year 2007; and yet, the Motion for Reconsideration was resolved on 19 October 2010, and the main case was decided on the merits on 26 October 2010 or after a protracted delay of three (3) years. It is worth noting that respondent Judge Asis acted on these pending matters only after he was directed by the Office of the Court Administrator to comment on the instant Complaint.

Accordingly, and at the very least, respondent Judge Asis should have requested for an extension of time to decide the case soon after he reported back to work. If he did so, he would have been able to apprise litigants as to the status of the case and the reason for the delay. However, he failed to do so. Judges are continuously reminded to resolve cases with dispatch to avoid any delay in the administration of justice. Thus, under Section 9 (1), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, undue delay in rendering a decision or order is considered a less serious charge.

WHEREFORE, Judge Josephus Joannes H. Asis is found GUILTY of undue delay in the disposition of the case.

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Fe D. Valdez vs. Judge Lizabeth G.Torres

(A.M. No. MTJ-11-1796, June 13, 2012)

Facts:

Complainant alleged that she bought comprehensive insurance policy for her motor vehicle from Prudential Guarantee & Assurance, Inc. (PGAI), through broker Tan; that she had fully paid her premium; that during the validity of her insurance, the insured motor vehicle was damaged; that the repair of the motor vehicle cost and PGAI and Tan refused to pay her claim despite several demands which prompted her to file a suit. Respondent proceeded to hear the case in accordance with the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure. Almost a year had passed but the case remained unresolved, prompting complainant to file a motion for immediate resolution of the case but despite several motion filed by the complainant, the case remained unresolved. Frustrated by the long wait for the resolution of her case, complainant filed the present administrative complaint against respondent, alleging unreasonable delay by the latter in the disposition of said case to the damage and prejudice of the former.

Issue:

Whether or not the respondent Judge is guilty of delay in resolving the civil case

Held:

The pleadings and evidence on record satisfactorily establish respondent’s guilt for the undue delay in resolving the said case.

As a general principle, rules prescribing the time within which certain acts must be done, or certain proceedings taken, are considered absolutely indispensable to the prevention of needless delays and the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial business. By their very nature, these rules are regarded as mandatory. Judges are oft-reminded of their duty to promptly act upon cases and matters pending before their courts. Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, directs judges to "dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required periods." Canons 6 and 7 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics further exhort judges to be prompt and punctual in the disposition and resolution of cases and matters pending before their courts, to wit:

6. PROMPTNESS

He should be prompt in disposing of all matters submitted to him, remembering that justice delayed is often justice denied.

7. PUNCTUALITY

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He should be punctual in the performance of his judicial duties, recognizing that the time of litigants, witnesses, and attorneys is of value and that if the judge is unpunctual in his habits, he sets a bad example to the bar and tends to create dissatisfaction with the administration of justice.

Administrative Circular No. 1 dated January 28, 1988 once more reminds all magistrates to observe scrupulously the periods prescribed in Section 15, Article VIII of the Constitution, and to act promptly on all motions and interlocutory matters pending before their courts.

Prompt disposition of cases is attained basically through the efficiency and dedication to duty of judges. If they do not possess those traits, delay in the disposition of cases is inevitable to the prejudice of litigants. Accordingly, judges should be imbued with a high sense of duty and responsibility in the discharge of their obligation to promptly administer justice.

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State Prosecutors II Josef Albert Comilang and Ma. VictoriaSunega-agman vs. Judge Medel Arnaldo Belen

(A.M. No. RTJ-10-2216, June 26, 2012)

Facts:

State Prosecutor Comilang appeared before Judge Belen of the RTC of Calamba City manifesting his inability to appear on Thursdays because of his inquest duties. He moved that all cases scheduled for hearing before Judge Belen be deferred because he was set to appear for preliminary investigation in the Provincial Prosecutor's Office on the same day.

Instead of granting the motion, Judge Belen issued his an Order requiring him to (1) explain why he did not inform the court of his previously-scheduled preliminary investigation and (2) to pay a fine.

Despite several motions filed by Prosecutor Comilang, the respondent Judge cited him in contempt for the alleged unsubstantiated, callous and reckless charges included in his motions.

State Prosecutor Comilang filed with CA petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction assailing the Judge decision. CA issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining Judge Belen from executing and enforcing his assailed Order and Decision. However, Judge Belen ignored the decision and cited Comilang of indirect contempt for his alleged failure to comply with the Order issued by the Respondent Judge.

State Prosecutor Comilang filed a complaint-affidavit before the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) charging Judge Belen with manifest partiality and malice, evident bad faith, inexcusable abuse of authority, and gross ignorance of the law in issuing the show cause orders, subpoenas and contempt citations, in grave defiance to the injunctive writ issued by the CA. State Prosecutor Comilang alleged that Judge Belen's acts were intended to harass, oppress, persecute, intimidate, annoy, vex and coerce him, and to place him in a disadvantageous and compromising position, as he was prosecuting the libel case instituted by herein complainant State Prosecutor Lagman against Judge Belen when he was still a practicing lawyer.

Issue:

Whether or not Judge Belen's actuations showed manifest partiality and bias, evident bad faith, grave abuse of authority and gross ignorance of the law warranting his dismissal from service

Held:

In the case of Pesayco v. Layague,21 the Court succinctly explained:

No less than the Code of Judicial conduct mandates that a judge shall be faithful to the laws and maintain professional competence. Indeed, competence is a mark of a good judge. A judge must

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be acquainted with legal norms and precepts as well as with procedural rules. When a judge displays an utter lack of familiarity with the rules, he erodes the public’s confidence in the competence of our courts. Such is gross ignorance of the law. One who accepts the exalted position of a judge owes the public and the court the duty to be proficient in the law. Unfamiliarity with the Rules of Court is a sign of incompetence. Basic rules of procedure must be at the palm of a judge’s hands.

Thus, this Court has consistently held that a judge is presumed to know the law and when the law is so elementary, not to be aware of it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. Verily, failure to follow basic legal commands embodied in the law and the Rules constitutes gross ignorance of the law, from which no one is excused, and surely not a judge.

This is because judges are expected to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural laws. They must know the laws and apply them properly in good faith as judicial competence requires no less. Moreover, refusal to honor an injunctive order of a higher court constitutes contempt, as in this case, where Judge Belen, in contumaciously defying the injunctive order issued by the CA .

Judge Belen's actuations, therefore, cannot be considered as mere errors of judgment that can be easily brushed aside. Obstinate disregard of basic and established rule of law or procedure amounts to inexcusable abuse of authority and gross ignorance of the law. Likewise, citing State Prosecutor Comilang for indirect contempt notwithstanding the effectivity of the CA-issued writ of injunction demonstrated his vexatious attitude and bad faith towards the former, for which he must be held accountable and subjected to disciplinary action.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Medel Arnaldo B. Belen, having been found guilty of grave abuse of authority and gross ignorance of the law, is DISMISSED from the service.