A.M. No. 02-10-628-RTC             October 1, 2004
REPORT ON THE JUDICIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED IN THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 5, ILIGAN CITY
R E S O L U T I O N
Before this Court is the Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 5, Iligan City on May 29, 2002.
The Report states:
Based on the records actually presented to and examined by the audit team, the court has a caseload of two hundred thirty-three cases as of May 29, 2002 (129 criminal cases and 104 civil/other cases) . . .
. . .
The . . . cases submitted for decision are still within the reglementary period within which to decide except Civil Case No. 4681 entitled "Alferes vs. MCC" for Nullity of Certificate of Sale which was submitted for decision August 26, 2001 but remained unresolved as of audit date . . .
. . .
Also, there are cases with pending motion or incident which remain unresolved although still within the reglementary period . . .
. . .
There are likewise seven (7) cases without any further action and/or no further setting was undertaken by the court for a considerable length of time, to wit: Criminal Cases Nos. 8231, 8515, 7876 and 8955 and Civil Cases Nos. 5525, SP 5691 and SP 5858.
Further, Civil Cases Nos. 5431 and 5286 may already be archived in accordance with Administrative Circular No. 7-A-92, dated June 21, 1993, Re: Guidelines in the Archiving of Cases.
On the other hand, in Criminal Case No. 9384 entitled "People vs. A. Palomar" for Violation of PD 1866, the accused was arraigned on April 23, 2002. A motion for reinvestigation was filed by the accused on May 4, 2002 and one of his grounds in his motion for reinvestigation is that he was not yet arraigned. Considering that the prosecution did not object to the motion of the accused, the court allowed the same when it issued an Order dated May 17, 2002 directing the City Prosecutor to terminate the supposed reinvestigation within thirty (30) days. Is this not contrary to the rules considering that a motion for reinvestigation should be taken prior to arraignment of the accused? In this case, the accused was already arraigned.1
Based on said report, the Court, on December 9, 2002, directed Judge Maximino Magno-Libre, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 5 of Iligan City: (1) to explain his failure to decide within the reglementary period Civil Case No. 4681, entitled Alferes vs. MCC; (2) to inform the Court whether he has decided Criminal Case No. 8309 and Civil Cases Nos. 3716, 3999, 4371 and 5845 within the ninety-day period and resolved the pending motions or incidents in Civil Cases Nos. 4751, 5663, 5672, 5726 and 5917 within the reglementary period; (3) to submit to the Court certified copies of the decisions/resolutions in the cases aforementioned fifteen days from their promulgation; (4) to take immediate action in Criminal Cases Nos. 8231, 8515, 7876 and 8955 and Civil Cases Nos. 5525, SP 5691 and SP 5858; (5) to take appropriate action in Civil Cases Nos. 5431 and 5286; and (6) to explain why Criminal Case No. 9384, entitled People vs. A. Palomar for Violation of P.D. No. 1866 was still allowed to be reinvestigated notwithstanding the fact that the accused therein was already arraigned.2
In a letter dated February 27, 2003, Judge Libre submitted his explanation as follows:
2. That except in Civil Cases No. 3716 and Civil 06-3999 all the other cases mentioned in the said resolution had been terminated/resolved and issues or incidents had been acted upon by the undersigned, they are to wit:
|Case No.||Name & Nature of the Case||Date Resolved/Action Taken||Annex|
|1.||Civil Case No. 4681||Alfredo Alferez vs. Mla Cordage Co. For: Declaration of Nullity of Cert. of Sale & other related documents & Damages|
Decided based on Compromise Agreement last June 7, 2002
Note: After the parties have submitted their evidences in writing, counsel for the plaintiff informed the court that they are going to enter into compromise agreement which will be submitted to the court for approval. Parties eventually submitted their compromise agreement on June 7, 2002 which was approved by the Court on the same date.
|2.||Crim. Case No. 8309||People of the Phils. vs. Rudelino Ablin For: Violation of R.A. 6425|
Dismissed last October 2, 2002
|3.||Civil Case No. 4371||Development Bank of the Phils. vs. Alejo T. Uy For: Deficiency Claim with Prel. Attachment|
Decided last Nov. 20, 2002
|4.||Civil Case No. 5845|
Elpedio Kwan vs. Ellen Dumanhug
Decided based on the merits last November 26, 2002
|5.||Civil Case No. 4751|
Isabel Racasa vs. Iligan Light & Power Inc.
Decided on the merits on Nov. 26, 2002
|6.||Civil Case No. 5663|
Sultan Baguan M. Mamiscal & Adelaida L. Mamiscal vs. Gregorio T. Lluch & Sons, Inc. For: Rescission and Sum of Money with Damages
Motion filed by plaintiff seeking with leave to amend plaintiff’s complaint was resolved in an orders (sic) issued dated May 30, 2002 and April 11, 2002. This case was also set for pre-trial on March 31, 2003 as per order of the court dated Feb. 20, 2003
|"F" "G" &"H"|
|7.||Sp. Proc. No. 5672|
In the matter of the Intestate Estate of the Late Ana Tabimina Halibas v. Miguel Halibas
Dismissed last Sept. 9, 2002
|8.||Civil Case No. 5726|
Spouses Pimaco L. Dumaug & Virginia C. Dumaug For: Specific Performance with Prel. Injunction & Damages
The motion seeking admission for amended answer has been resolved in an order issued on May 30, 2002. The case is set for continuance of pre-trial on April 10, 2003 as per order of the court dated Feb. 18, 2002.
|"J" & "K"|
|9.||Civil Case No. 5917|
Lian Hong Co., Inc. rep. by Jason Sy vs. Sps. Constancio & Annette Baliog For: Collection of a Sum of Money
Decided last Nov. 29, 2002
|10.||Crim. Case No. 8231|
People of the Phils vs. Armando Monion alias Apiot, Ronilio Monion, et al.
Dismissed last July 8, 2002
|11.||Crim. Case No. 8515|
People of the Phils vs. Bobby Madarieta, et al. For: Robbery
Archived last Sept. 25, 2002
|12.||Crim. Case No. 7876|
People of the Phils vs. Manuel Agbu, Eric Ello, Danilo Saligumba, et al. For: Robbery
Pleaded guilty last Sept. 11, 2002
|13.||Crim. Case No. 8985|
People of the Phils vs. Regina Flores For: ESTAFA thru falsification of Private Document
Consolidated to RTC 02 on Sept. 11, 2002
|14.||Civil Case No. 5525|
Rosie Mañus, in her capacity as member of the Board of Director of Abalos Agro-Industrial Corp. vs. Abalos Agro Industrial Corp., Lucina A. Ferraren, Herminia Labarro, et al.
Dismissed last January 23, 2003
|15.||Sp. Proc. No. 5691|
In the matter of the Petition for allowance of will of Segundina Vitalis Benitez vs. Arturo Benitez For: Probate of Will
Probate of Will Granted last June 14, 2002
|16.||Sp. Proc. No. 5858|
In Re: Petition for cancellation of entry in the Birth Certificate of Walter Ala Sy Roa Simeon Roa, Jr. vs. The Local Civil Registrar of Iligan City
Probate of Will Granted last June 4, 2002
|17.||Civil Case No. 5431|
Paul Joseph B. Deleste & Cristina B. Deleste vs. Rajah Travel Corp. For: Damages
Dismissed last July 2, 2002
|18.||Sp. Civil Action No. 5286|
Employees of the Department & Environment & Natural Resources Community Environment & Natural Resources Office No. XII-A (DENR-CENRO XII-1A Iligan City) numbering to 139 rep. by Basher Mangodato, Mana Datumanong, Cayamura Abdulcarim & Redobor Pango vs. The Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) National Office of Diliman Quezon City
Dismissed last July 8, 2002
|19.||Crim. Case No. 9384|
People of the Phils vs. Palomar
Pleaded guilty last Sept. 16, 2002
In Civil Case No. 3966, entitled Rural Transit of Mindanao, Inc. vs. Lian Hong Company For: Damages and Civil Case No 3716, entitled Rogelio Villaruz vs. Rural Transit of Mindanao Inc. Counsel of the Plaintiff in Civil Case No. 3716 and counsel for the defendant in Civil Case No. 3966 has filed an ex parte motion for extension of time to file their memoranda. Court has granted the motion and they are given up to March 4, 2003 within which to file said memoranda, attached is the order dated Feb. 17, 2003 marked as Annex "W". However, whether the counsel will file the memoranda, undersigned Presiding Judge will decide the case immediately . . ."3
In the said letter, Judge Libre also asked for the understanding and compassion of this Court.4
In a Resolution dated August 6, 2003, the Court’s Second Division referred the said letter to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) for its evaluation, report and recommendation.5
In a Memorandum dated September 23, 2003, OCA’s Deputy Court Administrator Christopher O. Lock recommended that Judge Libre be directed to inform this Court whether he has already decided Civil Cases Nos. 3716 and 3999, to submit copies of the decisions thereof, and to further comply with the Resolution of December 9, 2002 which directed him to explain why he allowed the reinvestigation of Criminal Case No. 9384 despite the fact that the accused was already arraigned on April 23, 2002. He likewise requested that his office be allowed to submit its report and recommendation within thirty days from receipt of the full compliance of Judge Libre with the resolution of December 9, 2002.6
Judge Libre thereafter submitted his letter dated December 1, 2003 which states as follows:
Civil Case No. 3716 was already decided last March 31, 2003. Please take note that we don’t have a civil case docketed as No. 3999 raffled to our sala and registered in our docket of civil cases. What we have is Civil Case No. 3966 and this is also already decided last March 3, 2003. As to Criminal Case No. 9384, this was also already decided last September 16, 2002. In fact, the accused in this case after his conviction, applied for probation and this was given due course last September 19, 2002.
As a matter of fact, this matter was already reported by our Clerk of Court to the Office of the Court Administrator, as shown by the monthly reports hereto enclosed as Annexes "A" and "B". For Civil Cases Nos. 3716 and 3966 covered by Annex "A", this was covered by the report of March 2003, while for Criminal Case No. 9384 covered by Annex "B", this was covered by the monthly report of September 2002…7
The Court, through its Resolution dated February 4, 2004, noted the above quoted letter of Judge Libre. It also noted that Judge Libre has not complied with the Resolution dated December 9, 2002, which ordered him to explain why he allowed the reinvestigation of Criminal Case No. 9384 despite the fact that the accused had been arraigned.8
Judge Libre then submitted his letter dated March 23, 2004, stating as follows:
This is in reply to your communication in connection with the resolution of the Supreme Court dated February 4, 2004 that I explain why I allowed the reinvestigation of Criminal Case No. 9384 when the accused was already arraigned.
This did happen through inadvertence, because of the misrepresentation of the accused when he filed his motion for a reinvestigation. He alleged in paragraph 1 of his motion that he had not yet been arraigned. In fact, the attending fiscal confirmed this fact that the accused was not yet arraigned, for when she was sound (sic) off she even signified that she has no objection to the grant of reinvestigation. This fact is shown by the written motion of accused for reinvestigation, copy of which is hereto attached . . .
Because of the aforesaid misrepresentation and the added fact that the fiscal did not oppose the motion, but even acceded to the grant of reinvestigation, I issued the order granting the reinvestigation copy of which is hereto attached . . .
At any rate, the investigating fiscal also informed the undersigned that she overlooked the fact that the accused in this case was already arraigned . . .
Because of this development, this case was immediately tried and since the accused opted to withdraw his former plea of not guilty and entered a plea of guilty, judgment was rendered against him, but because the sentence that was promulgated carries a penalty of prision correctional (sic), he was granted probation.
Be that as it may, the undersigned respectfully submits that when he made the error in this regard, it was in good faith and this was being done not to cause unnecessary delay in the administration of justice. To be more candid, the inadvertence that was involved here was due to the fact that the undersigned is so saddled with so many cases, for he had been assigned to the only Commercial Court and The Special Intellectual Property Court in our multi sala set up.
I therefore respectfully pray that my inadvertence here will be treated with a degree of human consideration and leniency.9
On July 13, 2004, the OCA submitted its report, pertinent portions of which read as follows:
Careful scrutiny of the compliance of Judge Libre shows that he incurred delay in the disposition of the following cases, to wit: Civil Case Nos. 4681, 4371, 5845, 4751, Criminal Case No. 8309 and Spl. Proc. No. 5672. All other cases enumerated in the Resolution dated 9 December 2002 had already been acted upon by Judge Libre and had attached proofs of his compliance with the directives. With regard to Criminal Case No. 9384, we deem it more prudent and appropriate to remind Judge Libre to be more cautious and circumspect regarding motion seeking reinvestigation or of similar import in order to avoid any occurrence that may be looked upon as unprocedural if not irregular in the dispensation of justice.
Judges are mandated to decide cases within the reglementary period.
Failure to decide on time constitutes inefficiency and merits administrative sanctions. Under Sec. 9 (1), in relation to Sec. 11 (B) of the amended Rule 140 of the Rules of Court which took effect on October 1, 2001, the imposable penalty for undue delay in rendering a decision may either be (a) suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less than one (1) nor more than three (3) months; or (b) a fine of more than ₱10,000.00 but not exceeding ₱20,000.00. (Report on the Judicial audit conducted in the MTCC Branches 1, 2 and 3, Mandawe City, A.M. No. 02-8-188 MTCC, July 17, 2003).
Without any doubt, Judge Libre violated his mandate. He failed to decide the above cases submitted for decision within the required period for resolution. The Honorable Court have been sympathetic to request made by judges for extension of time for deciding cases and other incidents related thereto. He should have asked for an extension and such request is generally granted.
It has been noted however, that of the 233 cases pending at the RTC, Branch 5, Iligan City, as of the time of audit, Judge Libre incurred delay in deciding only six (6) cases which were then found submitted for decision. After having been appraised of the cases, Judge Libre proved to have acted with dispatch in order to comply with the directive of this Honorable Court by rendering judgments thereon though with incurred delay. It has also been noted that this is the first time that Judge Libre was found to have committed an infraction and is to compulsorily retire on October 10, 2004. The Honorable Court had in several cases considered attending circumstances in applying the corresponding penalty on erring judges. (Vicente Pichon vs. Judge Lucilo C. Rallos, etc., A.M. No. RTJ-02-1680, January 28, 2003; Re: Judicial Audit Report conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 17, Kidapawan City).10
The OCA then recommended that:
a) the compliance of Judge Maximino M. Libre, RTC, Branch 5, Iligan City be NOTED;
b) the report on the judicial audit in the RTC, Branch 5, Iligan City be redocketed as a regular administrative matter against Judge Libre and that he be held liable for inefficiency in the disposition of cases and be imposed a FINE of FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (₱5,000.00) with WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act(s) will be dealt with more severely;
c) Judge Libre be REMINDED to be more prudent and circumspect in the performance of his mandated duty as a dispenser of justice.11
We agree with the findings and recommendation of the OCA that respondent be fined the amount of ₱5,000.00 but not as to his negligence in granting the reinvestigation of Criminal Case No. 9384 after the arraignment of the accused therein.
Failure of a judge to decide and resolve cases on time is an outright disregard of the Code of Judicial Conduct which enjoins judges to dispose of their business promptly and decide cases within the required period.12 They are tasked to perform all their duties, including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness as prerequisites to the due performance of judicial office.13
When a judge assumes office, duties and restrictions are cast upon him that are peculiar to his position. He should be punctual in the performance of his duties, exhibit an industry and application commensurate with the duties imposed on him, and prompt in disposing all matters submitted to him.14
As we stated in Cadauan vs. Judge Alivia,15
Decision-making, among other duties, is the primordial duty of a member of the bench. The speedy disposition of cases in our courts is a primary aim of the judiciary so the ends of justice may not be compromised and the judiciary will be true to its commitment of providing all persons the right to a speedy, impartial and public trial and to a speedy disposition of cases.16
This is because delay in the disposition of cases erodes the faith and confidence of the people in the judiciary, lowers its standard and brings it into disrepute.17 As is often stated, justice delayed is justice denied. Thus, the periods within which decisions and resolutions should be rendered should not to be treated lightly.18
It is not uncommon for this Court, upon proper application and in meritorious cases, especially when difficult questions of law or complex issues are involved, to grant judges of lower courts additional time to decide beyond the 90-day period.19 All that a judge really needs to do, in cases of great difficulty, is to request for an extension of time over which the Court has, almost invariably, been sympathetic.20 Judge Libre, however, did not avail of such remedy, which only manifests his failure to be on top of the cases assigned to him.
The OCA observed, however, that out of the 233 cases pending before the sala of Judge Libre, only six cases were decided beyond the reglementary period. And after calling his attention on the matter, Judge Libre acted with dispatch and immediately resolved the said cases. This is also the first time that Judge Libre has committed any infraction throughout his career as a judge, which will end with his compulsory retirement on October 10, 2004.
For these reasons we agree with the recommendation of the OCA that the penalty for the delay of Judge Libre to render his decision should be mitigated accordingly and should be imposed a fine only in the amount of ₱5,000.00.21
Anent Criminal Case No. 9384, Judge Libre explains that the accused in Criminal Case No. 9384 stated in his motion for reinvestigation dated May 7, 2002 that he has not yet been arraigned. The fiscal also did not object with the motion as manifested by her signature in the accused’s written motion.22
Upon audit however, it was discovered that the accused was already arraigned on April 23, 2002.
Although it is unusual for a trial court to grant a reinvestigation after the accused had been arraigned, the Court has consistently allowed the trial court to grant reinvestigation, in the exercise of its sound discretion, even after arraignment.23
As succinctly explained by the former Justice Ricardo J. Francisco,24 to wit:
A motion for reinvestigation should, after the court had acquired jurisdiction over the case, be addressed to the trial judge and to him alone. Neither the Secretary of Justice, the State Prosecutor, nor the Fiscal may interfere with the Judge’s disposition of the case, much less impose upon the court their opinion regarding the guilt or innocence of the accused for the court is the sole judge of that.
Courts are, however, called upon to exercise great restraint in granting any reinvestigation with the consequent delay involved, since the weighing and evaluation of such evidence in defense of the accused against the State’s evidence is best left to its judgment and its verdict rather than to that of the prosecution. To ferret out the truth, trial is to be preferred to a reinvestigation.
WHEREFORE, Judge Maximino Magno-Libre is found guilty of delay in the disposition of cases and is hereby ordered to pay a FINE of Five Thousand Pesos (₱5,000.00).
Puno, Callejo, Sr., Tinga, and Chico-Nazario*, JJ., concur.
* On Leave.
1 Rollo, pp. 2-3.
2 Id., pp. 5-6.
3 Rollo, pp. 7-10.
4 Id., p. 10.
5 Id., p. 91.
6 Rollo, p. 93.
7 Id., p. 96.
8 Rollo, p. 168.
9 Id., pp. 169-170.
10 Rollo, pp. 178-179.
11 Id., p. 179.
12 Report on the Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of Cases in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 2, A.M. No. 00-3-48-MeTC, August 12, 2003, 408 SCRA 583.
13 Canon 6, Rule 5, New Code of Judicial Conduct which took effect on June 1, 2004.
14 Supra, Note No. 12.
15 A.M. No. RTJ-00-1595, October 24, 2000, 344 SCRA 175.
16 Id., p.177.
18 Danao vs. Judge Ginete, A.M. No. MTJ-03-1474, January 21, 2003, 395 SCRA 542.
19 Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Municipal Trial Court, Bocaue, Bulacan, A.M. No. 00-3-50-MTC, July 21, 2003, 407 SCRA 1.
20 Judicial Audit Report, Regional Trial Court, Branches 21, 35 & 36 and Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branches 1 & 2, Santiago City; Regional Trial Court, Branch 17, Ilagan, Isabela; Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, Cabarroguis, Quirino and Municipal Trial Court, Cauayan & Echague, Isabela., A.M. No. 98-3-119-RTC, October 18, 2000, 343 SCRA 427, 443.
21 Under Sec. 9(1) in relation to Sec. 11(B) of the amended Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, undue delay in rendering a decision carries the penalty of (a) suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less than one (1) nor more than three (3) months; or (b) fine of more than ₱10,000.00 but not exceeding ₱20,000.00.
22 Rollo, pp. 171-172.
23 See People vs. Calpito, G.R. No. 123298, November 27, 2003; Tan vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 128764, July 10, 1998, 292 SCRA 452.
24 Criminal Procedure, 1996, 3rd Edition, p. 165.
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