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LAGCAO vs.

LEE GAKO
A.M. No. RTJ-04-1840; August 2, 2007
CORONA, J.
On July 18, 2002, the Ofce of the Court Administrator (OCA) received the
complaint of oroteo, iosdado and !rsula "a#cao a#ainst respondent Jud#e
$reneo "ee %a&o, Jr' of the (e#ional )rial Court (()C), Ce*u City, +ranch ,'
Complainants are the re#istered o-ners of lot no' 102., a /,0/8 s0' m' parcel
of land situated in Capitol 1ills, Ce*u City' )hey 2led an e3ectment case
a#ainst the 4settlers4 occupyin# the lot sometime in 1..5' )he case -as 2led
in the 6unicipal )rial Court in Cities (6)CC), Ce*u City, +ranch 1, doc&eted as
civil case no' 78170' $n April 1..8, the 6)CC rendered a decision in favor of
complainants, orderin# defendant 4settlers4 to vacate the lot' On appeal to
the ()C of Ce*u, the decision -as afrmed' 1ence, in January 1..., the
6)CC issued a -rit of e8ecution' $n 9e*ruary 1..., this -as follo-ed *y an
order for the demolition of certain structures of the 4settlers4 -ho refused to
leave'
On 9e*ruary 22, 1..., *efore the demolition order could *e enforced, the
6)CC suspended its implementation for 120 days in deference to a -ritten
re0uest of then City 6ayor Alvin +' %arcia -ho cited humanitarian reasons
and as&ed for time to loo& for a relocation site for the 4settlers'4 )he court
#ranted this re0uest'
$n the meantime, the 4settlers4 or#ani:ed themselves and formed %reen
;asture 1omeo-ners Association, $nc' (association), a non<stoc& corporation'
On June 70, 1..., durin# the period of deferment of the demolition order, the
=an##unian# ;anlun#sod of Ce*u City passed Ordinance >o' 1552 entitled
4An Ordinance 9urther Amendin# Ordinance >o' 1?,? as amended *y
Ordinance >o' 1?8/ other-ise &no-n as the 1..? (evised @onin# Ordinance
of the City of Ce*u, *y $ncorporatin# therein a >e- istrict called =ociali:ed
1ousin# =ites'4 )his ordinance identi2ed su*3ect lot no' 102. as included in
the 4=ociali:ed 1ousin# =ites4 pursuant to (A 525. or the !r*an
evelopment and 1ousin# Act of 1..2' =u*se0uently, Ordinance >o' 18/7
-as approved on Au#ust 2, 2000 authori:in# the e8propriation of the lot'
)hereafter, the association 2led a complaint for in3unction, prohi*ition and
dama#es -ith prayer for the issuance of a -rit of preliminary in3unction in
the ()C of Ce*u a#ainst complainants' $t prayed that complainants and the
6)CC *e en3oined from e3ectin# its mem*ers and demolishin# their
structures' $n a resolution dated 6arch 25, 2000 penned *y respondent, the
()C of Ce*u #ranted the -rit of preliminary in3unction' )he complainantsA
motion for reconsideration -as denied in a resolution dated 6ay 22, 2000'
Complainants elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals (CA) via petition
for certiorari' )he CA, in a decision dated >ovem*er 1., 2001, set aside
respondentAs 6arch 25 and 6ay 22, 2000 resolutions' $t held that respondent
committed #rave a*use of discretion -hen he issued the -rit of preliminary
in3unction in the a*sence of a clear le#al ri#ht of the association'
(econsideration sou#ht *y the association -as denied' )hereafter, another
-rit of demolition -as issued' 1o-ever, on 9e*ruary 2?, 2002, respondent
issued a temporary restrainin# order ()(O) stoppin# the demolition
scheduled on that day'
6ean-hile, the association 2led an amended complaint dated 9e*ruary 18,
2002 alle#in# a supervenin# event (i'e', the su*se0uent sale of the lot to the
association) that -ould ma&e e8ecution of the decision of the 6)CC
ine0uita*le' $t also applied for another -rit of preliminary in3unction -hich
respondent denied in an order dated 6arch 1,, 2002' On 6arch 18, 2002,
respondent voluntarily inhi*ited himself from the case'
Complainants char#ed respondent -ith #ross i#norance of the la-, #rave
a*use of authority and #rave misconduct for issuin# a -rit of preliminary
in3unction in his 6arch 25, 2000 resolution and )(O in his 9e*ruary 2?, 2002
order' )hey ar#ue that respondent -as a-are that the 6)CCAs 3ud#ment -as
already 2nal and e8ecutory as in fact there -as already a -rit of e8ecution
and demolition order yet he still issued a -rit of preliminary in3unction'
6oreover, the )(O issued in his 9e*ruary 2?, 2002 order -as in *ra:en
de2ance of the CAAs rulin#'
$n his defense, respondent claimed that he issued the -rit of preliminary
in3unction *ecause there -as a Ce*u City Ordinance >o' 1552 convertin#
complainantsA lot no' 102. into a sociali:ed housin# site and ma&in# the
mem*ers of the association pro#ram *ene2ciaries under (A 525.' 1e
#ranted the -rit to prevent the demolition of the structures in the lot so as
not to render the main action of the association for in3unction, prohi*ition
and dama#es moot and academic'
)he OCA, in its evaluation dated Octo*er 2., 2007, statedB
6ay the issuance of City Ordinance >o' 1552 *e considered a supervenin#
event that -ould 3ustify the suspension or nulli2cation of the e8ecution of a
2nal and e8ecutory 3ud#mentC $t appears so'
$n the case of 4!rsula Ocdamia Javier, et al' vs' Court of Appeals and 1eirs of
"u: Javier,4 (%'(' >o' .?08?, July 21, 1..7), the =upreme Court de2ned -hat
constitutes supervenin# event that -ould 3ustify the suspension or
nulli2cation of a 2nal and e8ecutory 3ud#ment' =aid the Court' 4D)Ehe
supervenin# event 888 refers to facts and events transpirin# after the
3ud#ment or order had *ecome 2nal and e8ecutory' )hese circumstances
aFect or chan#e the su*stance of the 3ud#ment and render its e8ecution
ine0uita*le'4
)hus, the passa#e of City Ordinance >o' 1552 and City Ordinance >o' 18/7
may *e cate#ori:ed as a supervenin# event that -ould 3ustify the suspension
of the e8ecution of the decision in the e3ectment case'
Gven #rantin# ar#uendo that the passa#e of said ordinances could not *e
considered as supervenin# events, it is indu*ita*le that respondent 3ud#e
acted the -ay he did in deference to the -isdom of the =an##unian#
D;anlun#sodE -ho passed the Ordinances -ith its avo-ed purpose of 4to
provide a sociali:ed housin# pro3ect for the landless and lo-<income city
residents'4 )his is in fact a Constitutional #uarantee under =ec' ., Article H$$$B
4)he =tate shall, *y la-, Dunderta&e 888 aE continuin# pro#ram of ur*an land
reform and housin# -hich -ill ma&e availa*le at aForda*le cost decent
housin# and *asic services to underprivile#ed and homeless citi:ens in ur*an
centers and resettlement areas' 8884 As such, it can *e said that respondent
3ud#eAs misapplication of the rule, therefore, -as in response to this social
3ustice call'
+e that as it may, -e still 2nd respondent 3ud#e administratively lia*le for
issuin# a )(O in de2ance DofE the decision of the Court of Appeals' 1o-ever,
his lia*ility is miti#ated in vie- of the rulin# of the =upreme Court in the case
of 4>1A vs' (eyes4 and 4Javier vs' Court of Appeals4' Ihile respondent may
have erred in issuin# the )(O, such act -ould not constitute #ross i#norance
of the la- *ut mere misapplication thereof in the li#ht of the rulin# in the
said cases'
Ihile the OCA did not consider respondentAs act of issuin# a -rit of
preliminary in3unction in his 6arch 25, 2000 resolution as tantamount to
#ross i#norance of the la-, still it found him administratively lia*le for
i#norance of the la- -hen he issued a )(O in his 9e*ruary 2?, 2002 order in
de2ance of the CAAs decision' )hus, it recommended that respondent *e
suspended for t-o months for i#norance of the la- -ith a -arnin# that a
similar oFense shall *e dealt -ith more severely'
)he 2ndin#s and evaluation of the OCA are -ell<ta&en *ut -e modify the
desi#nation of the oFense and correspondin# penalty'
A patent disre#ard of simple, elementary and -ell<&no-n rules constitutes
#ross i#norance of the la-' Jud#es are e8pected to e8hi*it more than 3ust
cursory ac0uaintance -ith statutes and procedural la-s' )hey must &no- the
la-s and apply them properly in all #ood faith' )hey are e8pected to &eep
a*reast of prevailin# 3urisprudence' )o constitute #ross i#norance of the la-,
the acts complained of must not only *e contrary to e8istin# la- and
3urisprudence *ut should also *e motivated *y *ad faith, fraud, malice or
dishonesty'
A preliminary in3unction is an order #ranted at any sta#e of an action prior to
3ud#ment of 2nal order, re0uirin# a party, court, a#ency, or person to refrain
from a particular act or acts' $t is a preservative remedy aimed to protect the
complainantAs su*stantive ri#hts and interests durin# the pendency of the
principal action' $t is proper only -hen the plaintiF appears to *e entitled to
the relief demanded in the complaint' )hus, there are t-o conditions for the
issuance of a preliminary in3unctionB (1) a clear ri#ht to *e protected e8ists
prima facie and (2) the acts sou#ht to *e en3oined are violative of that ri#ht'
)he issuance of a -rit of preliminary in3unction is addressed to the sound
discretion of the court'
Ie a#ree -ith the OCA that respondent had le#al *asis in issuin# the -rit in
his 6arch 25, 2000 resolution' $t is true that complainants had in their favor a
2nal and e8ecutory decision *y the 6)CC -hich had *ecome immuta*le and
unaltera*le' 1o-ever, one of the e8ceptions to the principle of immuta*ility
of 2nal 3ud#ments is the e8istence of supervenin# events' =upervenin#
events refer to facts -hich transpire or ne- circumstances -hich develop
after the 3ud#ment ac0uires 2nality, renderin# its e8ecution un3ust and
ine0uita*le'
(espondent considered Ordinance >o' 1552 as one such supervenin# event
and -e do not thin& he committed #rave a*use of discretion in doin# so' )he
ordinance did include lot no' 102. as one of its sociali:ed housin# sites and
indicated the association as potential *ene2ciaries for *ein# occupants
thereof' )he implementation of the demolition order -ould have resulted in
the destruction of the structures on the lot *uilt *y the mem*ers of the
association -ho may *ecome entitled to the lot later on *y virtue of the
ordinance' An ordinance is presumed valid unless repealed or declared
invalid *y the courts'
Iith the fore#oin#, -e cannot say that respondent acted -ith *ias,
ar*itrariness or pre3udice in issuin# the -rit of preliminary in3unction'
+ias and partiality can never *e presumed'''' )he Court has to *e sho-n acts
or conduct of the 3ud#e clearly indicative of ar*itrariness or pre3udice *efore
the latter can *e *randed the sti#ma of *ein# *iased and partial' =imilarly,
*ad faith or malice cannot *e inferred simply *ecause the 3ud#ment or order
is adverse to a party'''' )here *ein# a*solutely no evidence to the contrary,
the presumption that the respondent has re#ularly performed his duties -ill
prevail'
At -orst, it -as an error of 3ud#ment or a de2ciency in prudence and
discretion -hich may *e corrected *y proper recourse to availa*le 3udicial
remedies' $n fact, the CA, in its >ovem*er 1., 2001 decision, set aside
respondentAs resolutions after complainants 2led a petition 0uestionin# it'
1o-ever,
DaEs a matter of pu*lic policy, not every error or mista&e of a 3ud#e in the
performance of his ofcial duties renders him lia*le' $n the a*sence of fraud,
dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a 3ud#e in his ofcial capacity do not
al-ays constitute misconduct althou#h said acts may *e erroneous'
(espondentAs issuance of a )(O in his 9e*ruary 2?, 2002 order -as a
diFerent matter' +y this time, there -as already a CA decision settin# aside
the in3unctive -rit that he had issued' Jet he persisted in issuin# a )(O -hich
had the same eFect as the -rit' )his act -as clearly an act in de2ance of the
CA decision' (espondent should have &no-n his place in the 3udicial
hierarchyB
888' $nferior courts must *e modest enou#h to consciously reali:e the
position that they occupy in the interrelation and operation of the inte#rated
3udicial system of the nation' Occupyin# as he does a court much lo-er in
ran& than the Court of Appeals, respondent 3ud#e o-es respect to the latter
and should, of necessity, defer to the orders of the hi#her court' )he
appellate 3urisdiction of a hi#her court -ould *e rendered meanin#less if a
lo-er court may, -ith impunity, disre#ard and diso*ey it'
)his utter disrespect for the 3ud#ment of a hi#her court constituted #rave
a*use of authority'
$t appears that this -as not respondentAs 2rst oFense' As the OCA
enumeratedB
$n Joselito (allos, et al' vs' Jud#e $reneo %a&o (A'6' >o' ()J<..<1/8/<AK 15
6arch 2000) respondent -as held lia*le for failin# to resolve the
complainantsA 6otion to (emove the Administrator, for chan#in# the date of
a hearin# -ithout notifyin# the complainants and ma&in# it appear in his
order that complainants and their counsel -ere presentK and for retaliatin#
a#ainst the steno#rapher -ho testi2ed a#ainst him' 9or these infractions, he
-as 2ned in the amount of ;10,000'00'
$n (onaldo +' @amora vs' Jud#e $reneo %a&o (()J ..<1/8/K 2/ Octo*er 2000),
respondent too& co#ni:ance of an in3unction case the su*3ect matter of -hich
are articles sei:ed *y the +ureau of Customs and #ranted the application for
issuance of a -rit of in3unction' 1e -as held #uilty of %ross $#norance of the
"a- and suspended for three (7) months'
$n *oth cases, he -as sternly -arned that the commission of similar acts in
the future -ould *e dealt -ith more severely' Ie -ill ta&e into consideration
the fact that, includin# this case, -e -ould have found respondent
administratively lia*le three consecutive times'
$ndiFerence or de2ance to the orders or resolutions of hi#her tri*unals may
*e punished -ith dismissal, suspension or 2ne as -arranted *y the
circumstances' )he penalty of suspension recommended *y OCA can no
lon#er *e imposed considerin# that respondent retired from the 3udiciary on
=eptem*er 20, 200?' 1avin# previously -arned him, -e deem it fair and
reasona*le to impose on him a 2ne of ;20,000 -hich is the ma8imum
amount that a division can impose'
(espondentAs retirement from ofce did not render the present
administrative case moot and academic' >either does it free him from
lia*ility' Complainants 2led the case on July 18, 2002, *efore respondent
retired from ofce' As such, the Court retains the authority to pursue the
administrative complaint a#ainst him' Cessation from ofce *ecause of
retirement does not -arrant the dismissal of the administrative complaint
2led a#ainst him -hile he -as still in the service' 1ence, the imposed 2ne
shall *e deducted from the proceeds of his retirement *ene2ts'
All mem*ers of the *ench are en3oined to *ehave at all times as to promote
pu*lic con2dence in the inte#rity and impartiality of the 3udiciary'
(espondentAs act of issuin# a )(O in *latant de2ance of a hi#her courtAs
decision failed to live up to such hi#h standards of 3udicial conduct'
I1G(G9O(G, Jud#e $reneo "ee %a&o, Jr' of the (e#ional )rial Court of Ce*u
City, +ranch ,, is here*y found %!$")J of #rave a*use of authority for defyin#
a decision of a hi#her court' 1e is ordered to pay a 9$>G in the amount of
)-enty )housand ;esos (;20,000), to *e deducted from his retirement
*ene2ts'
"et this resolution *e attached to the personal 2les of respondent'
=O O(G(G'