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A.M. No.

RTJ-09-2197

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Today is Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Baguio City SECOND DIVISION A.M. No. RTJ-09-2197 April 13, 2011 [Formerly OCA-I.P.I. No. 08-3026-RTJ] ANTONINO MONTICALBO, Complainant, vs. JUDGE CRESCENTE F. MARAYA, JR., Regional Trial Court, Branch 11, Calubian, Leyte, Respondent. DECISION MENDOZA, J.: This administrative case stemmed from a verified Complaint dated September 24, 2008 filed by complainant Antonino Monticalbo charging respondent Judge Crescente F. Maraya, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 11, Calubian, Leyte, with gross ignorance of the law, gross incompetence and grave abuse of authority thru false representation.
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Complainant Monticalbo is one of the defendants in a civil case for collection of a sum of money filed by Fatima Credit Cooperative against him and his wife before the 6th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Calubian-San Isidro, Leyte (MCTC).
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The case was dismissed by the said court in its February 1, 2008 Order on the ground that the representative of Fatima Credit Cooperative had no authority to prosecute the case. The MCTC, however, did not rule on the counterclaim of complainant Monticalbo for attorneys fees and litigation expenses. For said reason, he filed a motion for reconsideration which was, however, denied by the court.
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Aggrieved, complainant elevated the case to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 11, Calubian, Leyte (RTC), where his appeal was docketed as Civil Case No. CN-89. He then filed a motion for extension of time to file a memorandum on appeal, which was granted by respondent judge in his Order dated June 25, 2008.
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In his August 26, 2008 Order, respondent judge dismissed the appeal for having been filed out of time. He stated that: Under the rules on Summary Procedure which was applied to govern the proceedings of this case, a motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading. Being a prohibited pleading, it will not suspend the period of appeal. (Jaravata vs. CA G.R. No. 85467, April 25, 1990, 3rd Division). Since the appealed Order was received by counsel for the defendants-appellants on February 13, 2008, the notice of appeal, not a motion for reconsideration, should have been filed within a period of 15 days which lapsed on February 29, 2008. As the Notice of Appeal was filed on March 31, 2008, the appeal was, therefore, filed out of time and the appealed Order has become final and executory. The lapse of the appeal period deprives the courts of jurisdiction to alter the final judgment (Delgado vs. Republic, 164 SCRA 347).
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Complainant Monticalbo imputes the following errors on the part of respondent judge: (1) respondent erred in ruling that Civil Case No. CN-89 is covered by the Rules on Summary Procedure, considering that the total claim of the plaintiff in the said case exceeded P10,000.00; (2) respondent, motivated by bad faith and corruption, cited the non-existent case of Jaravata v. Court of Appeals in his questioned Order; and (3) respondent accepted bribes in the form of food from plaintiff cooperative in Civil Case No. CN-89, through Margarito Costelo, Jr., then Sheriff of the trial court presided over by respondent judge, and Chairman of the Board and President of the said cooperative. Complainant further avers that he personally witnessed the respondent judge enjoying a drinking spree with Costelo
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and his other male staff members in a nipa hut annexed to the building of the trial court during office hours in the afternoons of July 9, 2008, August 6, 2008 and September 10, 2008.
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In his Comment and Manifestations dated December 29, 2008, respondent judge refutes all the accusations hurled by complainant against him. He explains that he decided to dismiss complainants appeal because it was filed out of time under the Rules on Summary Procedure. This decision was made in the exercise of the appellate jurisdiction of the MCTC and of his sound discretion. Secondly, he argues that complainants accusation of bad faith and corruption is baseless and that the complaint was filed upon the urging of Atty. Alexander Lacaba, his counsel, in an attempt to get even with him (respondent judge) for having lost the appeal in the case. Lastly, respondent denies having participated in any drinking spree with his staff members or Costelo, who has been prohibited by his doctor from drinking alcoholic beverages. He claims that he only eats his meals in the nipa hut because he has to refrain from eating in public eateries for security reasons.
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The administrative complaint was re-docketed as a regular administrative matter and referred to the Executive Justice of the Court of Appeals, Cebu City Station, for raffle among the justices thereat for investigation, report and recommendation.
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On April 13, 2010, Associate Justice Edwin D. Sorongon issued his Report and Recommendation, the pertinent portion of which reads as follows: In sum, it is recommended that respondent Judge be ABSOLVED from the charge of grave misconduct and corruption. However, the citation of a non-existent case by the respondent Judge in his assailed order of dismissal is tantamount to a misrepresentation and therefore reflect poorly on his esteemed position as a public officer in a court of justice, it is therefore recommended that he be ADMONISHED AND STRICTLY WARNED that a repetition thereof will be more severely dealt with.
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The Court agrees with the findings of the Investigating Justice. Grave Misconduct and Bribery In order to merit disciplinary action, it must be established that respondents actions were motivated by bad faith, dishonesty or hatred or were attended by fraud, dishonesty or corruption. emphasized in the case of Balsamo v. Judge Suan,
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In the absence of such proof, the


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decision or order in question is presumed to have been issued in good faith by respondent judge. where the Court explained:

This was

The Court has to be shown acts or conduct of the judge clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice before the latter can be branded the stigma of being biased and partial. Thus, not every error or mistake that a judge commits in the performance of his duties renders him liable, unless he is shown to have acted in bad faith or with deliberate intent to do an injustice. Good faith and absence of malice, corrupt motives or improper considerations are sufficient defenses in which a judge charged with ignorance of the law can find refuge.
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In cases where a judge is charged with bribery or grave misconduct, bias or partiality cannot be presumed. Neither can bad faith or malice be inferred just because the judgment or order rendered by respondent is adverse to complainant.
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What constitutes bad faith has been expounded on in the case of Sampiano v. Judge Indar:

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Bad faith does not simply connote bad judgment or negligence; it imputes a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong; a breach of a sworn duty through some motive or intent or ill-will; it partakes of the nature of fraud. It contemplates a state of mind affirmatively operating with furtive design or some motive of self-interest or ill-will for ulterior purposes. Evident bad faith connotes a manifest deliberate intent on the part of the accused to do wrong or cause damage.
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Before a judge can be held liable for deliberately rendering an unjust judgment or order, one must be able to show that such judgment or order is unjust and that it was issued with malicious intent to cause injustice to the aggrieved party.
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Well-established is the rule in administrative proceedings that the burden of proof rests on the complainant,
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who must be able to support and prove by substantial evidence his accusations against respondent. Substantial evidence, the quantum of proof required in administrative cases, is that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Failure of the complainant to substantiate his claims will lead to the dismissal of the administrative complaint for lack of merit because, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the presumption that a judge has regularly performed his duties will prevail.
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In this case, complainant has nothing but mere assertions and conjectures to buttress his allegations of grave misconduct and bribery on the part of respondent who, if complainant is to be believed, accepted bribes of food and engaged in drinking sprees with court employees during office hours. Contrary to complainants statement, the Investigating Justice found that respondent was attending to his cases during the dates when he allegedly had those drinking sessions. Time and again, this Court has held that charges based on mere suspicion and speculation cannot be given credence. Complainant miserably failed to substantiate his allegations of grave misconduct and bribery. He merely alleged hollow suppositions to shore up his Complaint. Consequently, this Court has no other option except to dismiss the administrative complaint for lack of merit. Although the Court will never tolerate or condone any conduct, act or omission that would violate the norm of public accountability or diminish the peoples faith in the judiciary, it will not hesitate to protect an innocent court employee against any groundless accusation or administrative charge which has no basis in fact or law. Justice Quisumbing in the case of Francisco v. Leyva,
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As succinctly put by

This Court will not shirk from its responsibility of imposing discipline upon employees of the Judiciary. At the same time, however, neither will we hesitate to shield the same employees from unfounded suits that only serve to disrupt rather than promote the orderly administration of justice. Gross Ignorance of the Law Respondent judge can be held liable for gross ignorance of the law if it can be shown that he committed an error so gross and patent as to produce an inference of bad faith. In addition to this, the acts complained of must not only be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence, but should also be motivated by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty, and corruption.
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Complainant Monticalbo insists that respondent judge erred in ruling that his counterclaim for attorneys fees and litigation expenses was covered by the Rules on Summary Procedure which provides that a motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading and will not toll the running of the period to appeal. To support his argument, complainant points out that his claim exceeds the P10,000.00 limit set in the Rule on Summary Procedure. Complainant is mistaken. A cursory reading of Section 1 of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure clearly shows that complainants claim is covered by the said rule which reads: Section 1. Scope. This rule shall govern the summary procedure in the Metropolitan Trial Courts, the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, the Municipal Trial Courts, and the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in the following cases falling within their jurisdiction: A. Civil Cases xxx (2) All other cases, except probate proceedings, where the total amount of the plaintiffs claim does not exceed One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) or Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00) in Metropolitan Manila, exclusive of interest and costs. Evidently, the complainant has been consulting old books. The rule now, as amended by A.M. No. 02-11-09-SC, effective November 25, 2002, has placed the ceiling at P100,000.00. As such, the complainant has no basis in charging that respondents "knowledge of law fell so short" and that he was remiss in his obligation to be familiar with the law which "even law students these days know such x x x."
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For this reason, counsel for complainant is reminded to choose his words carefully and refrain from hurling insults at respondent judge especially if, as in this instance, he is obviously mistaken in his reading of the law. His use of insulting language and unfair criticism is a violation of his duty as a lawyer to accord due respect to the courts. Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires that "a lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others." Moreover, even assuming for the sake of argument that respondent judge erred in issuing the questioned order, he cannot be held liable for his official acts, no matter how erroneous, for as long as he acted in good faith.
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A judge is

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not required to be faultless because to demand otherwise would make the judicial office untenable for no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the administration of justice can be infallible. As a matter of policy, a judge cannot be subject to disciplinary action for his erroneous actions, unless it can be shown that they were accompanied by bad faith, malice, corrupt motives, or improper considerations.
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The complainant should have elevated his grievance to the higher courts. The filing of an administrative case against the judge is not an alternative to the other judicial remedies provided by law, neither is it complementary or supplementary to such actions.
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With regard to this matter, the case of Flores v. Abesamis

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is instructive:

As everyone knows, the law provides ample judicial remedies against errors or irregularities being committed by a Trial Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction. The ordinary remedies against errors or irregularities which may be regarded as normal in nature (i.e., error in appreciation or admission of evidence, or in construction or application of procedural or substantive law or legal principle) include a motion for reconsideration (or after rendition of a judgment or final order, a motion for new trial), and appeal. The extraordinary remedies against error or irregularities which may be deemed extraordinary in character (i.e., whimsical, capricious, despotic exercise of power or neglect of duty, etc.) are inter alia the special civil actions of certiorari, prohibition or mandamus, or a motion for inhibition, a petition for change of venue, as the case may be. Now, the established doctrine and policy is that disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions against Judges are not complementary or suppletory of, nor a substitute for, these judicial remedies, whether ordinary or extraordinary. Resort to and exhaustion of these judicial remedies, as well as the entry of judgment in the corresponding action or proceeding, are pre-requisites for the taking of other measures against the persons of the judges concerned, whether of civil, administrative, or criminal nature. It is only after the available judicial remedies have been exhausted and the appellate tribunals have spoken with finality, that the door to an inquiry into his criminal, civil or administrative liability may be said to have opened, or closed. Citation of non-existent case The Court now deals with the charge that respondent judge cited a non-existent case Jaravata v. Court of Appeals with case number CA G.R. No. 85467 supposedly promulgated on April 25, 1990 in his questioned Order. A search of available legal resources reveals that no such decision has been promulgated by the Supreme Court. Besides, Supreme Court docket numbers do not bear the initials, "CA G.R." And, it cannot be considered a CA case because the respondent is the "Court of Appeals." This undoubtedly runs counter to the standard of competence and integrity expected of those occupying respondents judicial position. A judge must be "the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence."
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The Code of Judicial Conduct also demands that he "be faithful to the

law and maintain professional competence."

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While a judge may not be disciplined for error of judgment without proof that it was made with a deliberate intent to cause an injustice, still he is required to observe propriety, discreetness and due care in the performance of his official duties.
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As such, he should always strive to live up to the strict standards of competence, integrity and
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diligence in public service necessary for one in his position. The case of Lacanilao v. Judge Rosete appropriately states that: "A judge should always be a symbol of rectitude and propriety, comporting himself in a manner that will raise no doubt whatsoever about his honesty. Integrity, in a judicial office is more than a virtue, it is a necessity."
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It is important to note that respondent did not offer any explanation for the incorrect citation of the said case in his Comment to the complaint against him. He should be admonished for his failure to address this issue, especially as it pertains to the proper execution of his office. Nonetheless, considering that this is the first time that respondent has been reported to have committed such carelessness, the Court will accord him leniency. WHEREFORE, the complaint for Grave Misconduct and Corruption is hereby DISMISSED. For citing a non-existent case, however, respondent judge is ADMONISHED to observe due care in the performance of his functions and duties and WARNED that a repetition thereof would be dealt with more severely. SO ORDERED. JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA Associate Justice

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WE CONCUR: ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Chairperson ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA Associate Justice ROBERTO A. ABAD Associate Justice DIOSDADO M. PERALTA Associate Justice

Footnotes
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Rollo, pp. 1-5. Id. at 9-11. Id. Id. at. 2. Id. at 12. Id. at 15. Id. at 16. Id. at 3. Id. Id. at 22. Id. at 23. Id. Id. at 38. Id. at 45. Ang v. Judge Asis, 424 Phil. 105, 115 (2002). Planas v. Reyes, 492 Phil. 288, 300 (2005), citing Osorio v. Judge Dizon, et al, 469 Phil. 819 (2004). 458 Phil. 11 (2003).

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Id. at 23, citing Abdula v. Guiani, 382 Phil. 757 (2000); Rallos v. Gako, Jr., 385 Phil. 4 (2000).); Calleja v. Santelices, 384 Phil. 595 (2000); Guillermo v. Reyes, Jr., 310 Phil. 176 (1995). Salcedo v. Bollozos, A.M. No. RTJ-10-2236, July 5, 2010, 623 SCRA 27, 44. A.M. No. RTJ-05-1953, December 21, 2009, 608 SCRA 597. Id. at 613, citing Planas v. Judge Reyes, 492 Phil. 288 (2005). Supra note 15 at 116, citing Naval v. Panday, 341 Phil. 656 (1997).

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Planas v. Judge Reyes, 492 Phil. 288, 301 (2005), citing Ong v. Judge Rosete, 484 Phil. 102 (2004). Office of the Court Administrator v. Lopez, A.M. No. P-10-2788, January 18, 2011.

Ever Emporium, Inc. v. Judge Maceda, 483 Phil. 323, 339 (2004), citing Atty. Rex J.M.A. Fernandez v. Court of Appeals Associate Justices Eubolo G. Verzola, Martin S. Villarama, Jr., and Mario L. Guaria III, 480 Phil. 1 (2004); Leonides T. Cortes v. Sandiganbayan Justices Minita V. Chico-Nazario, Ma. Cristina G. CortezEstrada and Rodolfo G. Palattao, 467 Phil. 155 (2004). De Jesus v. Guerrero, G.R. No. 171491, September 4, 2009, 598 SCRA 341, 350, citing Manalabe v. Cabie, A.M. No. P-05-1984, July 6, 2007, 526 SCRA 582, 589; Adajar v. Develos, 512 Phil. 9(2005); Ong v. Rosete, 484 Phil. 102 (2004); Datuin, Jr. v. Soriano, 439 Phil. 592(2002). Sarmiento v. Salamat, 416 Phil. 684, 694 (2001), citing Re: Report on the Judicial Audit, RTC Br. 117, Pasay City, 353 Phil. 190 (1998). Francisco v. Leyva, 364 Phil. 1, 4 (1999). Id. Ora v. Judge Almajar, 509 Phil. 595, 601 (2005), citing Joaquin v. Madrid, 482 Phil. 795 (2004). Ocampo v. Bibat-Palamos, A.M. No. MTJ-06-1655, March 6, 2007, 517 SCRA 480 487. Rollo, pp. 3 and 28. Supra note 18, citing Castaos v. Escao, Jr., 251 SCRA 174 (1995). Tan v. Judge Adre, 490 Phil. 555, 562 (2005), citing Villanueva-Fabella v. Lee, 464 Phil. 548 (2004).

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Sps. Daracan v. Judge Natividad, 395 Phil. 352, 365 (2000), citing Guerrero v. Villamor, 296 SCRA 88 (1998). Salcedo v. Bollozos, A.M. No. RTJ-10-2236, July 5, 2010, 623 SCRA 27, 42 citing Bello v. Diaz, 459 Phil. 214 (2003). 341 Phil. 299 (1997). Id. at 312. Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 1, Rule 1.01. Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3, Rule 3.01. Dipatuan v. Judge Mangotara, A.M. No. RTJ-09-2190, April 23, 2010, 619 SCRA 48, 56. Lacanilao v. Judge Rosete, A.M. No. MTJ-08-1702, April 8, 2008, 550 SCRA 542, 553.

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Id. at 552, citing Office of the Court Administrator v. Barron, 358 Phil. 12 (1998) and Capuno v. Jaramillo, A.M. No. RTJ-98-944, July 20, 1994, 234 SCRA 212, 232.

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