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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
A.M. No. RTJ-12-2326
January 30, 2013
(Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 11-3692-RTJ)
GEOFFREY BECKETT, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE OLEGARIO R. SARMIENTO, JR., Regional Trial Court, Branch 24, Cebu
City, Respondent.
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:
In all questions relating to the care, custody, education and property of the children, the latter's
welfare is paramount. This means that the best interest of the minor can override procedural rules
and even the rights of parents to the custody of their children. Since, in this case, the very life and
existence of the minor is at stake and the child is in an age when she can exercise an intelligent
choice, the courts can do no less than respect, enforce and give meaning and substance to that
choice and uphold her right to live in an atmosphere conducive to her physical, moral and intellectual
development.1 x x x
The Case
This case arose from a complaint filed by Geoffrey Beckett charging Judge Olegario R. Sarmiento,
Jr. of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu City, Branch 24, with gross ignorance of the law,
manifest partiality and dereliction and neglect of duty allegedly committed in relation to Sp. Proc. No.
18182-CEB, entitled Geoffrey Beckett v. Eltesa Densing Beckett, while pending before that court.
The Antecedent Facts
Geoffrey Beckett (Beckett or Complainant), an Australian national, was previously married to Eltesa
Densing Beckett (Eltesa), a Filipina. Out of the marriage was born on June 29, 2001, Geoffrey
Beckett, Jr. (Geoffrey, Jr.).
In his Complaint-Affidavit,2 Beckett alleged that their union was, from the start, far from ideal. In fact,
according to him, they eventually separated and, worse still, they sued each other.
In 2006, Eltesa filed a case against Beckett for violation of Republic Act No. (RA) 7610, otherwise
known as the Violence against Women and Children Act, followed by a suit for the declaration of
nullity of their marriage, docketed as Civil Case No. CEB -32254. Both cases ended in the sala of

Judge Olegario Sarmiento, Jr. (respondent or Judge Sarmiento). For his part, Beckett commenced
criminal charges against Eltesa, one of which was for adultery.
The couples initial legal battle ended when Judge Sarmiento, on September 25, 2006 in Civil Case
No. CEB-32254, rendered judgment3 based on a compromise agreement in which Eltesa and
Beckett agreed and undertook, among others, to cause the dismissal of all pending civil and criminal
cases each may have filed against the other. They categorically agreed too that Beckett shall have
full and permanent custody over Geoffrey, Jr., then five (5) years old, subject to the visitorial rights of
Eltesa.
Thereafter, Beckett left for Australia, taking Geoffrey, Jr. with him. As with his three other children
from previous relationships, so Beckett alleged, he cared and provided well for Geoffrey, Jr.
Moreover, as agreed upon, they would come and see Eltesa in Cebu every Christmas.
In 2007, Beckett obtained a divorce from Eltesa in Australia. This notwithstanding, the yearly
Christmas visits continued. In the 2010 visit, Beckett consented to have Geoffrey, Jr. stay with Eltesa
even after the holidays, provided she return the child on January 9, 2011. January 9 came and went
but Geoffrey, Jr. remained with Eltesa, prompting Beckett to file a petition against Eltesa for violation
of RA 7610. Docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 18182-CEB,4this petition was again raffled to the sala of
Judge Sarmiento. And because Geoffrey remained in the meantime in the custody of Eltesa, Beckett
later applied in Sp. Proc. No. 18182-CEB for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.
Beckett further relates that, during the March 1, 2011 conference on the application for habeas
corpus, Geoffrey, Jr., then nine (9) years old, displayed inside the courtroom hysterical conduct,
shouting and crying, not wanting to let go of Eltesa and acting as though, he, the father, was a total
stranger. Despite Geoffrey Jr.s outburst, Judge Sarmiento issued an Order 5, dated March 1, 2011,
directing inter alia the following: (1) Eltesa to return Geoffrey, Jr. to Beckett; and (2) Beckett to bring
the child in the pre-trial conference set for March 15, 2001.
For some reason, the turnover of Geoffrey, Jr. to Beckett did not materialize.
Beckett also alleged that while waiting for the March 15, 2011 pre-trial conference to start, he saw
one Helen Sy, purportedly a close friend of Eltesa, enter Judge Sarmientos chambers. Then, during
the conference itself, Eltesa moved for reconsideration of the courts March 1, 2011 Order, praying
that it be set aside insofar as it directed her to return the custody of Geoffrey, Jr. to Beckett. To this
partial motion, Beckett requested, and was granted, a period of five (5) days to file his
comment/opposition. Additionally, Beckett sought the immediate implementation of the said March 1,
2011 Order. But instead of enforcing said order and/or waiting for Becketts comment, Judge
Sarmiento, in open court, issued another order giving Eltesa provisional custody over Geoffrey, Jr.
and at the same time directing the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to
conduct a social case study on the child.
Weeks later, or in the March 30, 2011 setting, Beckett moved for the reconsideration of the judges
March 15, 2011 Order, on the main contention that Judge Sarmiento can no longer grant provisional
custody to Eltesa in light of the adverted judgment on compromise agreement. Also, according to
him, during this March 30 proceeding, respondent judge conversed with Eltesa in Cebuano, a dialect

which neither the former nor his counsel understood, and which they (respondent and Eltesa)
persisted on using despite requests that they communicate in English or Filipino. Becketts lawyer
then asked that he be allowed to confer in private with his client for a few minutes but when they
returned to the courtroom, the proceedings had already been adjourned.
As his motion for reconsideration had remained unresolved as of June 13, 2011, Beckett filed on that
day an urgent motion to resolve. Several hearings on the case were postponed because of the
belated submission by the DSWD of the case study report requested by respondent judge.
It is upon the foregoing factual backdrop that Beckett has instituted the instant complaint, docketed
as A.M. OCA IPI No. 11-3692- RTJ, later redocketed as A.M. No. RTJ-12-2326. As argued,
respondent is liable for (1) gross ignorance of the law for granting Eltesa provisional custody over
Geoffrey Jr.; and (2) partiality by committing acts of serious misconduct and irregularities in the
performance of official duties, such as but not limited to allowing one Helen Sy to enter his chambers
before the March 15, 2011 hearing, his habit of conversing with Eltesa in the local dialect and for
adjourning a hearing while he was conferring with his counsel in private. Beckett predicates his
charge of dereliction and neglect of duty on respondents alleged failure to resolve his motion for
reconsideration of the March 15, 2011 order giving provisional custody of his child to his mother.
In his answer in response to the 1st Indorsement dated July 14, 2011 of the Office of the Court of
Administrator (OCA), respondent judge denied complainants allegations of partiality and of being
biased against the latter, particularly describing his order granting Eltesa provisional custody as
proper. In this regard, respondent judge averred that, per his Order of March 30, 2011, he deferred
action on Becketts motion for reconsideration of the courts March 15, 2011 Order pending
submission of the Social Case Study Report, while the June 21, 2011 Order denying Becketts said
motion for reconsideration was based on that Social Case Study Report 6 of Social Welfare Officer
Clavel Saycon, DWSD- Region VII, who recommended that Geoffrey, Jr. be in the care and custody
of the mother. As an added observation, respondent judge stated that Beckett did not cry "Bias"
when he (respondent) approved the compromise agreement in Civil Case CEB 32254 and when he
later urged Beckett to commence habeas corpus proceedings. Attached to the letter-answer are the
case study reports submitted by the DSWD regional office, one of which was prepared by
psychologist Christine V. Duhaylungsod,7 who elicited from Geoffrey, Jr. the following information:
that (1) complainant always leaves him to the care of his older half-brother or his fathers girlfriends;
(2) he was at one time sent out of the house by one of complainants girlfriends and he had to stay in
the garage alone; and (3) he never wanted to stay with complainant whom he feared and who once
locked him in his room without food. In their respective reports, Dr. Obra and Dr. Saycon, a
psychiatrist, both strongly recommended that custody over Geoffrey, Jr. be given to Eltesa.
Respondent judge also denied knowing one Helen Sy adverted to in the basic complaint and
explained in some detail why he spoke at one instance to Eltesa in Cebuano. He closed with a
statement that he issued his assailed Orders in good faith and that he had, as sought by
complainant, inhibited himself from further hearing SP Proc. No. 18182-CEB.
In the Agenda Report dated March 8, 2012, the OCA regards the complaint meritorious insofar as
the charges for gross ignorance of the law is concerned given that respondent judge issued his
March 15, 2011 Order granting provisional custody in favor of Eltesa despite the existence of the

judicial compromise. The OCA, thus, recommended that respondent judge be adjudged liable for
gross ignorance of the law and fined with stern warning. The inculpatory portions of the OCAs
evaluation report pertinently read:
x x x A compromise agreement that is intended to resolve a matter already under litigation is
normally called a judicial compromise. Once it is stamped with judicial imprimatur, it becomes more
than a mere contract binding upon the parties. x x x It has the force of and effect of any other
judgment. x x x Thus, a compromise agreement that has been made and duly approved by the court
attains the effect and authority of res judicata x x x.
xxxx
The pertinent portion of the judgment on Compromise Agreement x x x, which granted and
transferred permanent custody of Geoffrey, Jr. to the herein complainant is unequivocal. Moreover,
the same order even allowed complainant to bring with him Geoffrey, Jr. to Australia. Thus, in
granting Geoffrey, Jr.s custody to his mother in an Order issued on 15 March 2011 on a mere Motion
for Partial Reconsideration, respondent judge violated a basic and fundamental principle of res
judicata. When the law is elementary, not to be aware of it constitutes gross ignorance thereof. After
all, judges are expected to have more than just a modicum of acquaintance with the statutes and
procedural rules. Hence, the respondent judge is guilty of gross ignorance of the law.8
The OCA, however, effectively recommends the dismissal of the charge of manifest partiality and
other offenses for want of sufficient substantiation, noting that the complainant has failed to adduce
substantial evidence to overcome the presumption of regularity in the performance of judicial duties.
Anent the charge of Manifest Partiality, this Office finds the same not supported by substantial
evidence. In administrative proceedings, the complainant bears the onus of establishing, by
substantial evidence, the averments in his complaint. Complainant failed to present substantial
evidence to show the alleged partiality and ignorance of respondent judge, Mere suspicion that a
judge is biased is not enough. Bare allegations of partiality will not suffice in the absence of clear
showing that will overcome the presumption that the judge dispensed justice without fear or favor.9
The Court also notes that, contrary to complainants pretense, respondent judge had acted on his
motion for reconsideration of the contentious March 15, 2011 Order.
The OCAs recommendation for the dismissal of the complaint insofar as it charges respondent
judge with manifest partiality and dereliction and neglect of duties is well-taken. The Court cannot
presume partiality and serious misconduct and irregularities based on circumstances alleged in the
complaint. Moreover, for serious misconduct to obtain, the judicial act/s complained of should be
corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law or persistent disregard of well-known legal
precepts.10 Nothing in the records tends to suggest that respondent judge was actuated by malice or
corrupt motives in issuing his disputed March 15, 2011 order granting Eltesa custody of Geoffrey, Jr.
despite the adverted compromise agreement.
The Issue

The remaining issue then boils down to whether or not respondent Judge Sarmiento is guilty of
gross ignorance of the law.
The Courts Ruling
Gross ignorance of the law on the part of a judge presupposes an appalling lack of familiarity with
simple rules of law or procedures and well-established jurisprudence which tends to erode the public
trust in the competence and fairness of the court which he personifies. Not to know the law as basic,
almost elementary, as the Rules of Court, or acting in disregard of established rule of law as if he
were not aware of the same constitutes gross ignorance whence no one is excused, especially an
RTC judge.11
Complainant has charged respondent judge with gross ignorance of the law. He states in this regard
that respondent judge, in arbitrary defiance of his own Decision of September 25, 2006 which
constitutes res judicata or a bar to him to pass upon the issue of Geoffrey, Jrs. custody, granted, via
his March 15, 2011 Order, provisional custody over Geoffrey, Jr. to Eltesa. The Decision adverted to
refers to the judgment on compromise agreement.
The Court cannot go along with complainants above posture.
Respondent judge, in granting provisional custody over Geoffrey, Jr. in favor of his mother, Eltesa,
did not disregard the res judicata rule. The more appropriate description of the legal situation
engendered by the March 15, 2011 Order issued amidst the persistent plea of the child not to be
returned to his father, is that respondent judge exhibited fidelity to jurisprudential command to accord
primacy to the welfare and interest of a minor child. As it were, the matter of custody, to borrow from
Espiritu v. Court of Appeals,12 "is not permanent and unalterable and can always be re-examined and
adjusted." And as aptly observed in a separate opinion in Dacasin v. Dacasin, 13 a custody agreement
can never be regarded as "permanent and unbending," the simple reason being that the situation of
the parents and even of the child can change, such that sticking to the agreed arrangement would
no longer be to the latters best interest. In a very real sense, then, a judgment involving the custody
of a minor child cannot be accorded the force and effect of res judicata.
Now to another point. In disputes concerning post-separation custody over a minor, the well-settled
rule is that no child under seven (7) years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the
court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise. 14 And if already over 7 years of age, the childs
choice as to which of his parents he prefers to be under custody shall be respected, unless the
parent chosen proves to be unfit.15 Finally, in Perez v. Court of Appeals,16 We held that in custody
cases, the foremost consideration is always the welfare and best interest of the child, as reflected in
no less than the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child which provides that "in all actions
concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law,
administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary
consideration."17
In the light of the foregoing, respondent judge cannot be held guilty of the charges hurled by the
complainant against him for the reason that absent a finding of strong reasons to rule otherwise, the
preference of a child over 7 years of age as to whom he desired to live with shall be respected.

Moreover, custody, even if previously granted by a competent court in favor of a parent, is not, to
reiterate, permanent. In Espiritu,18 We ruled that:
x x x The matter of custody is not permanent and unalterable. If the parent who was given custody
suffers a future character change and becomes unfit, the matter of custody can always be reexamined and adjusted x x x. To be sure, the welfare, the best interests, the benefit, and the good of
the child must be determined as of the time that either parent is chosen to be the custodian. x x x
1wphi1

As Rosalind and Reginald Espiritu in Espiritu,19 Geoffrey, Jr., at the time when he persistently refused
to be turned over to his father, was already over 7 years of age. As such, he was very much capable
of deciding, based on his past experiences, with whom he wanted to stay. Noteworthy too are the
results of the interviews which were reflected in the three reports previously mentioned, excerpts
from which are hereunder quoted, to wit:
x x x In so far as Geoffrey, Jr.s account of experience, being with his fathers custody is something
that he is afraid of and something he does not want to happen again. However, being with his
mother is the one (sic) he is looking to (sic) and aspires.20
xxxx
x x x Being in the custody of his mother is something (sic) he feel (sic) secure and protected and this
is manifested in the childs craving for his mothers presence all the time and the desire to be always
with her that even (sic) he sleeps he wants his mother to embrace and hug him and cries when he
wakes up and he cannot see his mother.21
xxxx
x x x He locked me in the room. He always leave (sic) me. x x x they keep fighting, Daddy and his
girlfriend ... they'll get angry with (sic) me ... I'm scared with (sic) Daddy.22
xxxx
Meanwhile, Ms. Barbo (the caregiver or yaya of Geoffrey, Jr.), expressed peculiarities, "Sa Daddy
niya, he dd (sic) not fear his mom. Sa mommy niya, he fear (sic) his dad." 23
With these, We see no reason to sustain the charge against respondent judge for gross ignorance of
the law. For clearly, absent any evidence to the contrary, Geoffrey, Jr. chose to live with his mother
for a reason, which respondent judge, consistent with the promotion of the best interest of the child,
provisionally granted through the issuance of the disputed March 15, 2011 Order. In fact, in issuing
the disputed Order, respondent judge rectified an error previously made when he handed out the
Judgment on Compromise Agreement in 2006.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the complaint is hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Adm. Case No. 6475

January 30, 2013

FE A. YLAYA, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. GLENN CARLOS GACOTT, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
For the Court's consideration is the disbarment complaint1 tiled by Fe A. Ylaya (complainant) against
Atty. Glenn Carlos Gacott (respondent) who allegedly deceived the complainant and her late
husband, Laurentino L. Ylaya, into signing a "preparatory" Deed of Sale that the respondent
converted into a Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of his relatives.
After the submission of the respondent's comment to the complaint, the Court referred the complaint
to the Commission on Bar Discipline ofthe Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation,
evaluation and recommendation.
The complainant alleged that she and her late husband are the registered owners of two (2) parcels
of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title ( TCT) Nos. 162632 and 162633 located at Barangay
Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa City. Prior to the acquisition of these properties, TCT No. 162632
(property) was already the subject of expropriation proceedings filed by the City Government of
Puerto Princesa (City Government) on May 23, 1996 against its former registered owner, Cirilo
Arellano. The expropriation case was filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Palawan and
Puerto Princesa, Branch 95, and was docketed as Civil Case No. 2902. The RTC already fixed the
price and issued an order for the City Government to deposit P6,000,000.00 as just compensation
for the property.2
The respondent briefly represented the complainant and her late husband in the expropriation case
as intervenors for being the new registered owners of the property. The complainant alleged that the
respondent convinced them to sign a "preparatory deed of sale" for the sale of the property, but he
left blank the space for the name of the buyer and for the amount of consideration. The respondent
further alleged that the deed would be used in the sale to the City Government when the RTC issues
the order to transfer the titles.3 The respondent then fraudulently without their knowledge and
consent, and contrary to their understanding converted the "preparatory deed of sale" into a Deed
of Absolute Sale dated June 4, 2001,4 selling the subject property to Reynold So and Sylvia Carlos
So for P200,000.00.5
The complainant denied that she and Laurentino were paid the P200,000.00 purchase price or that
they would sell the property "for such a measly sum" when they stood to get at least P6,000,000.00
as just compensation.6

The complainant also claimed that the respondent notarized the Deed of Absolute Sale dated June
4, 2001 even though Reynold and Sylvia (his mothers sister) are his uncle and his aunt,
respectively.7
The respondent denied all the allegations in the complaint.8
The respondent argued that the complainants greed to get the just Compensation 9 caused her to file
this "baseless, unfounded and malicious" disbarment case.10 He claimed that the sale was their
voluntary transaction and that he "simply ratified the document." 11 He also claimed that Reynold and
Laurentino had originally jointly purchased the properties from Cirilo Arellano on July 10, 2000; that
they were co-owners for some time; and that Laurentino subsequently sold his share to Reynold
under a Deed of Absolute Sale dated June 4, 2001. 12
The respondent specifically denied asking the complainant and her late husband to execute any
"preparatory deed of sale" in favor of the City Government. 13 He also denied that the Deed of
Absolute Sale contained blanks when they signed it.14 That he filed for the spouses Ylaya and
Reynold an opposition to the just compensation the RTC fixed proved that there was no agreement
to use the document for the expropriation case.15 He also argued that it was clear from the document
that the intended buyer was a natural person, not a juridical person, because there were spaces for
the buyers legal age, marital status, and citizenship, 16 and he was even constrained to file a
subsequent Motion to Intervene on behalf of Reynold because the complainant "maliciously
retained" the TCTs to the subject properties after borrowing them from his office. 17 Lastly, he denied
violating the Rules on Notarial Practice.18
On September 4, 2006, the respondent filed a Motion to Resolve or Decide the Case dated August
24, 2006 praying for the early resolution of the complaint.19
On December 5, 2006, the complainant filed an Ex Parte Motion to Withdraw the Verified Complaint
and To Dismiss the Case dated November 14, 2006.20
On February 28, 2008, the complainant executed an Affidavit21 affirming and confirming the
existence, genuineness and due execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale notarized on March 6,
2000;22 the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) dated April 19, 2000;23 and the Deed of Absolute Sale
notarized in 2001.24 The respondent submitted this Affidavit to the IBP as an attachment to his Motion
for Reconsideration of April 21, 2008.25
The IBPs Findings
In her Report and Recommendation dated November 19, 2007, IBP Commissioner Anna Caridad
Sazon-Dupaya found the respondent administratively liable for violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01 (A
lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct) and Canon 16 ("A
lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession)
of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and Section 3(c), Rule IV of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC (2004
Rules on Notarial Practice).26 She recommended his suspension from the practice of law for a period
of six (6) months.27

In its Resolution No. XVIII-2007-30228 dated December 14, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors
adopted the IBP Commissioners finding, but increased the penalty imposed to two (2) years
suspension and a warning:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED,
with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner [in] the
above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A"; and, finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, and
considering respondents violations of Canon 1, [Rule] 1.01 and Canon 16 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and Rule IV, Sec. 39(c) of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC (2004 Rules on Notarial
Practice), Atty. Glenn Carlos Gacott is hereby SUSPENDED from practice of law for two (2) years
with a Warning that commission of a similar offense will be dealt with more severely. [emphases
supplied]
On May 8, 2008, the respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated April 21, 2008, attaching,
among others, a copy of the complainants Affidavit dated February 27, 2008, admitting the
existence, genuineness and due execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale between Cirilo and
Laurentino; the MOA between Laurentino and Reynold; the Deed of Absolute Sale between
Laurentino and Reynold; and the Compromise Agreement between Reynold and the complainant
dated November 14, 2006 for the expropriation case.29
On September 4, 2008, the respondent filed a Manifestation with the Supreme Court, requesting that
the IBP be directed to resolve his Motion for Reconsideration. 30
By Resolution No. XIX-2010-545 dated October 8, 2010, 31 the IBP Board of Governors denied the
respondents Motion for Reconsideration for failing to raise any new substantial matter or any cogent
reason to warrant a reversal or even a modification of its Resolution No. XVIII-2007-302. 32
On March 14, 2012, the respondent filed a Petition for Review (on appeal) assailing the IBPs
findings, as follows:33
a) In conveniently concluding that the Deed of Absolute Sale was pre-signed and
fraudulently notarized without requiring Fe Ylaya to adduce evidence in a formal hearing
thus, violated the respondents right to due process as he was not able to cross-examine her.
This is not to mention that the complainant failed to offer corroborative proof to prove her
bare allegations;
b) In sweepingly and arbitrarily disregarded/skirted (sic) the public documents (MOA and 2
other DOAS) duly executed by the parties therein and notarized by the respondent;
c) In totally ignoring the complainants Affidavit admitting the genuineness and due execution
of the Deed of Absolute Sale in issue;
d) In arbitrarily concluding the absence of co-ownership by Reynold So and Fe Ylaya of the
subject lots despite the existence of a notarized MOA clearly showing the co-ownership of
Ylaya and So; and

e) In finding the respondent/appellants act of notarizing the DOAS as contrary to the notarial
rules.
The Issues
From the assigned errors, the complainant poses the following issues:
(1) whether the IBP violated the respondents right to due process; and
(2) whether the evidence presented supports a finding that the respondent is administratively
liable for violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 16 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, and Section 3(c), Rule IV of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC.
The Courts Ruling
We set aside the findings and recommendations of the IBP Commissioner and those of the IBP
Board of Governors finding the respondent liable for violating Canon 1, Rules 1.01 and Section 3(c),
Rule IV of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC.34
We however hold the respondent liable for violating Canon 16 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility for being remiss in his obligation to hold in trust his clients properties. We likewise
find him liable for violation of (1) Canon 15, Rule 15.03 for representing conflicting interests without
the written consent of the represented parties, thus, violating the rule on conflict of interests; and (2)
Canon 18, Rule 18.03 for neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him.
a. Due process violation
The most basic tenet of due process is the right to be heard. Denial of due process means the total
lack of opportunity to be heard or to have ones day in court. As a rule, no denial of due process
takes place where a party has been given an opportunity to be heard and to present his case; 35 what
is prohibited is the absolute lack of opportunity to be heard.
The respondent claims that the IBP violated his right to due process because he was not given the
"amplest opportunity to defend himself, to cross examine the witness complainant, to object to the
admissibility of documents or present controverting evidence" 36 when the IBP rendered its conclusion
without requiring the complainant to adduce evidence in a formal hearing and despite the absence of
corroborative proof. He insists that these defects rendered the complainants allegations as hearsay,
and the IBPs report, recommendation or resolution null and void.
Although the respondent failed to have a face-to-face confrontation with the complainant when she
failed to appear at the required mandatory conference on October 6, 2005, 37 the records reveal that
the respondent fully participated during the entire proceedings and submitted numerous pleadings,
including evidence, before the IBP. He was even allowed to file a motion for reconsideration
supported by his submitted evidence, which motion the IBP considered and ruled upon in its
Resolution No. XIX-2010-545 dated October 8, 2010.38

In Alliance of Democratic Free Labor Organization v. Laguesma, 39 we held that due process, as
applied to administrative proceedings, is the opportunity to explain ones side. In Samalio v. Court of
Appeals,40 due process in an administrative context does not require trial-type proceedings similar to
those in courts of justice. Where the opportunity to be heard, either through oral arguments or
through pleadings, is accorded, no denial of procedural due process takes place. The requirements
of due process are satisfied where the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to
explain their side of the controversy at hand.
Similarly, in A.Z. Arnaiz Realty, Inc. v. Office of the President,41 we held that "due process, as a
constitutional precept, does not always, and in all situations, require a trial-type proceeding. Litigants
may be heard through pleadings, written explanations, position papers, memoranda or oral
arguments. The standard of due process that must be met in administrative tribunals allows a certain
degree of latitude[, provided that] fairness is not ignored. It is, therefore, not legally objectionable for
being violative of due process, for an administrative agency to resolve a case based solely on
position papers, affidavits or documentary evidence submitted by the parties." 42
In this case, the respondents failure to cross-examine the complainant is not a sufficient ground to
support the claim that he had not been afforded due process. The respondent was heard through his
pleadings, his submission of alleged controverting evidence, and his oral testimony during the
October 6, 2005 mandatory conference. These pleadings, evidence and testimony were received
and considered by the IBP Commissioner when she arrived at her findings and recommendation,
and were the bases for the IBP Boards Resolution.
Moreover, "any seeming defect in the observance of due process is cured by the filing of a motion for
reconsideration. A denia of due process cannot be successfully invoked by a party who has had the
opportunity to be heard on his motion for reconsideration. Undoubtedly in this case, the requirement
of the law was afforded to the respondent."43
We also note that the respondent, on a Motion to Resolve or Decide the Case dated August 24,
2006, submitted his case to the IBP for its resolution without any further hearings. The motion, filed
almost one year after the mandatory conference on October 6, 2005, significantly did not contain any
statement regarding a denial of due process. In effect, the respondent himself waived his crossexamination of the complainant when he asked the IBP Board of Governors to resolve the case
based on the pleadings and the evidence on record. To quote his own submission:
1. On June 30, 2004, a complaint was filed in this case;
2. On October 19, 2004, the respondent filed his comment with all its attachments denying
all the allegations in the complaint;
3. On June 23, 2005, the respondent filed his position paper. On April 28, 2006, the
respondent also filed his supplemental position paper. By contrast, up to this date, the
complainant/petitioner has not filed her verified position paper thus, waived her right to file
the same;

4. There being no other genuine issues to be heard in this case as all the defenses and
counter-arguments are supported by documentary evidence, it is most respectfully prayed
that the instant case be resolved on its merits or be ordered dismissed for lack of merit
without further hearing;
5. Further, considering that there is an on-going case in Branch 52 of the Regional Trial
Court of Palawan in Civil Case No. 2902 for Expropriation involving the same property, and
such fact was deliberately omitted by the complainant in her Verified Complaint as shown in
the certification of non-forum shopping, the outright dismissal of this case is warranted,
hence, this motion; and
6. This is meant to expedite the termination of this case. 44 (underscore ours; italics supplied)
Finally, we note Section 11, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court which provides that:
No defect in a complaint, notice, answer, or in the proceeding or the Investigators Report shall be
considered as substantial unless the Board of Governors, upon considering the whole record, finds
that such defect has resulted or may result in a miscarriage of justice, in which event the
Board shall take such remedial action as the circumstances may warrant, including invalidation of
the entire proceedings.
In this case, the IBP Commissioners findings were twice reviewed by the IBP Board of Governors
the first review resulted in Resolution No. XVIII-2007-302 45 dated December 14, 2007, affirming the
IBP Commissioners findings, but modifying the penalty; the second review resulted in Resolution
No. XIX-2010-545 dated October 8, 2010,46denying the respondents motion for reconsideration. In
both instances, the IBP Board of Governors found no defect or miscarriage of justice warranting a
remedial action or the invalidation of the proceedings.
We emphasize that disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis in that they are neither
purely civil nor purely criminal; they involve investigations by the Court into the conduct of one of its
officers,47 not the trial of an action or a suit.
Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they
do not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the conduct
of one of its officers. Not being intended to inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution.
Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein. It may be initiated by the Court motu
proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or
not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its
disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations
as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession and the
proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by their
misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and
responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. In such posture, there can thus be no occasion
to speak of a complainant or a prosecutor. [emphases deleted]

The complainant in disbarment cases is not a direct party to the case but a witness who brought the
matter to the attention of the Court.48 Flowing from its sui generis character, it is not mandatory to
have a formal hearing in which the complainant must adduce evidence.
From all these, we find it clear that the complainant is not indispensable to the disciplinary
proceedings and her failure to appear for cross-examination or to provide corroborative evidence of
her allegations is of no merit. What is important is whether, upon due investigation, the IBP
Board of Governors finds sufficient evidence of the respondents misconduct to warrant the exercise
of its disciplinary powers.
b. Merits of the Complaint
"In administrative cases against lawyers, the quantum of proof required is preponderance of
evidence which the complainant has the burden to discharge." 49 Preponderance of evidence means
that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a whole, superior to or has a greater weight than that of
the other. It means evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief compared to
the presented contrary evidence.
Under Section 1, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, in determining whether preponderance of evidence
exists, the court may consider the following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case; (b) the
witnesses manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to
which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, and the probability or
improbability of their testimony; (c) the witnesses interest or want of interest, and also their personal
credibility so far as the same may ultimately appear in the trial; and (d) the number of witnesses,
although it does not mean that preponderance is necessarily with the greater number.50 By law, a
lawyer enjoys the legal presumption that he is innocent of the charges against him until the contrary
is proven, and that as an officer of the court, he is presumed to have performed his duties in
accordance with his oath.51
The IBP Commissioner set out her findings as follows:
The undersigned, after a careful evaluation of the evidence presented by both parties, finds that the
charges of the complainant against the respondent are worthy of belief based on the following:
First, the allegation of the respondent that Reynold So was actually co-owner of spouses Ylanas
(sic) in the properties subject of the Deed of Sale between Felix Arellano and Spouses Ylanas (sic) is
hard to believe despite the presentation of the Memorandum of Agreement.
It is elementary in Rules of Evidence that when the contents of a written document are put in issue,
the best evidence would be the document itself. In the Deed of Sale between Felix Arellano and
Spouses Ylanas (sic), the buyer of the subject properties is only Laurentino L. Ylaya married to Fe A.
Ylaya. The document does not state that Reynold So was likewise a buyer together with Laurentino
Ylaya, or that the former paid half of the purchase price.

Also, it is hard for this Commission to believe that Reynold So, assisted by a lawyer at that and who
allegedly paid half of the purchase price, would not insist for the inclusion of his name in the Deed of
Sale as well as the Transfer Certificate of Title subsequently issued.
The Memorandum of Agreement between the spouses Ylaya and Reynold So produced by the
respondent cannot overturn the belief of this Commission considering that the Memorandum of
Agreement was executed more than a month AFTER the Deed of Sale between Felix Arellano and
the Ylayas was notarized. This is not to mention the fact that the complainant denied ever having
executed the Memorandum of Agreement. A close examination of the signatories in the said
Memorandum of Agreement would reveal that indeed, the alleged signatures of the complainant and
her husband are not the same with their signatures in other documents.
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Memorandum of Agreement is valid, thereby making
Laurentino Ylaya and co-owner Reynold So co-owners of the subject properties (Please see Annex
"B" of respondents Comment), this Commission finds it hard to believe Laurentino Ylaya would sell it
to Reynold So for P200,000 x x x when his minimum expenses for the purchase thereof is
already P225,000.00 and he was expecting to receiveP7,000,000.00, more or less. That would
mean that if Reynold So and the complainant were co-owners, theP7,000,000.00 would then be
equally divided among them at P3,500,000.00 each, far above the P200,000.00 selling price
reflected in the pre-signed Deed of Sale.
As to the second issue, this Commission believes that the respondent committed serious error in
notarizing the Deed of Sale and the Memorandum of Agreement between his uncle Reynold So and
Laurentino Ylaya based on Rule IV, Section 3 (c) of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC which provides as follows:
"Sec. 3. Disqualifications a notary public is disqualified from performing a notarial act if he:
(a) x x x.
(b) x x x.
(c) is a spouse, common-law partner, ancestor, descendant, or relative by affinity or
consanguinity of the principal within the fourth civil degree."
The defense therefore of the respondent that he did not violate the aforementioned Rule becausehis
uncle Reynold So, the buyer is not the principal in the Subject Deed of Sale but the seller Laurentino
Ylaya (please see page 3 of the respondents Supplemental Position Paper) is misplaced. Clearly,
both the buyer and the seller in the instant case are considered principals in the contract entered
into.
Furthermore, if we are to consider the argument of the respondent that his uncle was not a principal
so as to apply the afore-quoted provision of the Rules, the respondent still violated the Rules when
he notarized the subject Memorandum of Agreement between Laurentino Ylaya and his uncle
Reynold So. Clearly, both complainant and Reynold So were principal parties in the said
Memorandum of Agreement.52

The respondent argues that the IBP Commissioners findings are contrary to the presented
evidence, specifically to the MOA executed by Laurentino and Reynold acknowledging the existence
of a co-ownership;53 to the complainants Ex Parte Motion to Withdraw the Verified Complaint and To
Dismiss the Case dated November 14, 2006 where she stated that the parties have entered into a
compromise agreement in Civil Case No. 2902, and that the disbarment complaint arose from a
misunderstanding, miscommunication and improper appreciation of facts; 54 to her Affidavit dated
February 27, 200855 affirming and confirming the existence, genuineness and due execution of the
Deed of Absolute Sale notarized on March 6, 2000;56 and to the Deed of Absolute Sale notarized in
2001.57
In all, the respondent claims that these cited pieces of evidence prove that this administrative
complaint against him is fabricated, false and untrue. He also points to Atty. Robert Peneyra, the
complainants counsel in this administrative case, as the hand behind the complaint. 58 According to
the respondent, Atty. Peneyra harbors ill-will against him and his family after his father filed several
administrative cases against Atty. Peneyra, one of which resulted in the imposition of a warning and
a reprimand on Atty. Peneyra.59
Reynold, in his Affidavit dated October 11, 2004, confirms that there was a co-ownership between
him and Laurentino; that Laurentino decided to sell his half of the property to Reynold because he
(Laurentino) had been sickly and in dire need of money to pay for his medical bills; that Laurentino
agreed to the price of P200,000.00 as this was almost the same value of his investment when he
and Reynold jointly acquired the property; and that the sale to Reynold was with the agreement and
consent of the complainant who voluntarily signed the Deed of Sale. 60
After examining the whole record of the case, we agree with the respondent and find the evidence
insufficient to prove the charge that he violated Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and Section 3(c), Rule IV of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC. Specifically, (1) the evidence
against the respondent fails to show the alleged fraudulent and deceitful acts he has taken to
mislead the complainant and her husband into signing a "preparatory deed of sale" and the
conversion into a Deed of Absolute Sale dated June 4, 2001 in favor of Reynold; and (2) no
prohibition exists against the notarization of a document in which any of the parties interested is the
notarys relative within the 4th civil degree, by affinity or consanguinity, at that time the respondent
notarized the documents.
In her Report and Recommendation,61 the IBP Commissioner concluded that the respondent is liable
for deceit and fraud because he failed to prove the existence of a co-ownership between Laurentino
and Reynold; in her opinion, the signatures of the complainant and of her husband on the MOA "are
not the same with their signatures in other documents." 62
We do not agree with this finding. While the facts of this case may raise some questions regarding
the respondents legal practice, we nevertheless found nothing constituting clear evidence of the
respondents specific acts of fraud and deceit. His failure to prove the existence of a co-ownership
does not lead us to the conclusion that the MOA and the Deed of Absolute Sale dated June 4, 2001
are spurious and that the respondent was responsible for creating these spurious documents. We
are further persuaded, after noting that in disregarding the MOA, the IBP Commissioner failed to

specify what differences she observed in the spouses Ylayas signatures in the MOA and what
documents were used in comparison.
Apart from her allegations, the complainants pieces of evidence consist of TCT Nos. 162632 and
162633;63 her Motion for Leave to Intervene in Civil Case No. 2902 dated May 17, 2000; 64 the RTC
order in Civil Case No. 2902 dated November 6, 2000 fixing the price of just compensation; 65 the
Deed of Absolute Sale dated June 4, 2001;66the spouses Ylayas Verified Manifestation dated
September 2, 2002, filed with the RTC in Civil Case No. 2902, assailing the Motion to Deposit Just
Compensation filed by the respondent on behalf of Reynold and manifesting the sale between
Laurentino and Reynold;67 the Provincial Prosecutors Subpoena to the complainant in connection
with the respondents complaint for libel;68 the respondents complaint for libel against the
complainant dated August 27, 2003;69 the complainants Counter Affidavit dated March 26, 2004
against the charge of libel;70and the respondents letter to the Provincial Attorney of Palawan dated
April 5, 2004, requesting for "official information regarding the actual attendance of Atty. ROBERT Y.
PENEYRA" at an MCLE seminar.71
We do not see these documentary pieces of evidence as proof of specific acts constituting deceit or
fraud on the respondents part. The documents by themselves are neutral and, at the most, show the
breakdown of the attorney-client relationship between the respondent and the complainant. It is one
thing to allege deceit and misconduct, and it is another to demonstrate by evidence the specific acts
constituting these allegations.72
We reiterate that in disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof is on the complainant; the Court
exercises its disciplinary power only if the complainant establishes her case by clear, convincing,
and satisfactory evidence.73Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one
side is, as a whole, superior to or has a greater weight than that of the other party. When the pieces
of evidence of the parties are evenly balanced or when doubt exists on the preponderance of
evidence, the equipoise rule dictates that the decision be against the party carrying the burden of
proof.74
In this case, we find that the complainants evidence and the records of the case do not show the
respondents deliberate fraudulent and deceitful acts. In the absence of such proof, the complaint for
fraud and deceit under Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility must perforce
be dismissed.
We note that the respondent has not squarely addressed the issue of his relationship with Reynold,
whom the complainant alleges to be the respondents uncle because Reynold is married to the
respondents maternal aunt.75 However, this is of no moment as the respondent cannot be held liable
for violating Section 3(c), Rule IV of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC because the Deed of Absolute Sale dated
June 4, 200176 and the MOA dated April 19, 200077 were notarized by the respondent prior to the
effectivity of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC on July 6, 2004. The notarial law in force in the years 2000 - 2001
was Chapter 11 of Act No. 2711 (the Revised Administrative Code of 1917) which did not contain the
present prohibition against notarizing documents where the parties are related to the notary public
within the 4th civil degree, by affinity or consanguinity. Thus, we must likewise dismiss the charge for
violation of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC.

c. Liability under Canons 15, 16 and 18 We find the respondent liable under Canon 15, Rule 15.03
for representing conflicting interests without the written consent of all concerned, particularly the
complainant; under Canon 16 for being remiss in his obligation to hold in trust his clients properties;
and under Canon 18, Rule 18.03 for neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him.
Canon 15, Rule 15.03 states:
A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given
after a full disclosure of the facts. [emphasis ours]
The relationship between a lawyer and his client should ideally be imbued with the highest level of
trust and confidence. Necessity and public interest require that this be so. Part of the lawyers duty to
his client is to avoid representing conflicting interests. He is duty bound to decline professional
employment, no matter how attractive the fee offered may be, if its acceptance involves a violation of
the proscription against conflict of interest, or any of the rules of professional conduct. Thus, a lawyer
may not accept a retainer from a defendant after he has given professional advice to the plaintiff
concerning his claim; nor can he accept employment from another in a matter adversely affecting
any interest of his former client. It is his duty to decline employment in any of these and similar
circumstances in view of the rule prohibiting representation of conflicting interests. 78
The proscription against representation of conflicting interest applies "even if the lawyer would not be
called upon to contend for one client that which the lawyer has to oppose for the other, or that there
would be no occasion to use the confidential information acquired from one to the disadvantage of
the other as the two actions are wholly unrelated."79 The sole exception is provided in Canon 15,
Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility if there is a written consent from all the
parties after full disclosure.
Based on the records, we find substantial evidence to hold the respondent liable for violating Canon
15, Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The facts of this case show that the
respondent retained clients who had close dealings with each other. The respondent admits to acting
as legal counsel for Cirilo Arellano, the spouses Ylaya and Reynold at one point during the
proceedings in Civil Case No. 2902.80 Subsequently, he represented only Reynold in the same
proceedings,81 asserting Reynolds ownership over the property against all other claims, including
that of the spouses Ylaya.82
We find no record of any written consent from any of the parties involved and we cannot give the
respondent the benefit of the doubt in this regard. We find it clear from the facts of this case that the
respondent retained Reynold as his client and actively opposed the interests of his former client, the
complainant. He thus violated Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
We affirm the IBP Commissioners finding that the respondent violated Canon 16. The respondent
admits to losing certificates of land titles that were entrusted to his care by Reynold. 83 According to
the respondent, the complainant "maliciously retained" the TCTs over the properties sold by
Laurentino to Reynold after she borrowed them from his office. 84 Reynold confirms that the TCTs
were taken by the complainant from the respondents law office.85

The respondent is reminded that his duty under Canon 16 is to "hold in trust all moneys and
properties of his client that may come into his possession." Allowing a party to take the original TCTs
of properties owned by another an act that could result in damage should merit a finding of legal
malpractice. While we note that it was his legal staff who allowed the complainant to borrow the
TCTs and it does not appear that the respondent was aware or present when the complainant
borrowed the TCTs,86 we nevertheless hold the respondent liable, as the TCTs were entrusted to his
care and custody; he failed to exercise due diligence in caring for his clients properties that were in
his custody.
We likewise find the respondent liable for violating Canon 18, Rule 18.03 for neglecting a legal
matter entrusted to him. Despite the respondents admission that he represented the complainant
and her late husband in Civil Case No. 2902 and that he purportedly filed a Motion for Leave to
Intervene in their behalf, the records show that he never filed such a motion for the spouses Ylaya.
The complainant herself states that she and her late husband were forced to file the Motion for
Leave to Intervene on their own behalf. The records of the case, which include the Motion for Leave
to Intervene filed by the spouses Ylaya, support this conclusion.87
Canon 18, Rule 18.03 requires that a lawyer "shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and
his negligence in connection [therewith] shall render him liable." What amounts to carelessness or
negligence in a lawyers discharge of his duty to his client is incapable of an exact formulation, but
the Court has consistently held that the mere failure of a lawyer to perform the obligations due his
client is per se a violation.88
In Canoy v. Ortiz,89 we held that a lawyers failure to file a position paper was per se a violation of
Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Similar to Canoy, the respondent clearly failed
in this case in his duty to his client when, without any explanation, he failed to file the Motion for
Leave to Intervene on behalf of the spouses Ylaya. Under the circumstances, we find that there was
want of diligence; without sufficient justification, this is sufficient to hold the respondent liable for
violating Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
d. The Complainants Ex Parte Motion to Withdraw the Verified Complaint and to Dismiss the Case
and her Affidavit
We are aware of the complainants Ex Parte Motion to Withdraw the Verified Complaint and To
Dismiss the Case dated November 14, 200690 and her Affidavit91 affirming and confirming the
existence, genuineness and due execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale notarized on March 6,
2000.92 The complainant explains that the parties have entered into a compromise agreement in Civil
Case No. 2902, and that this disbarment complaint was filed because of a "misunderstanding,
miscommunication and improper appreciation of facts"; 93 she erroneously accused the respondent of
ill motives and bad intentions, but after being enlightened, she is convinced that he has no personal
or pecuniary interests over the properties in Civil Case No. 2902; that such misunderstanding was
due to her unfamiliarity with the transactions of her late husband during his lifetime. 94 The
complainant now pleads for the respondents forgiveness, stating that he has been her and her late
husbands lawyer for over a decade and affirms her trust and confidence in him. 95 We take note that
under their Compromise Agreement dated November 14, 2006 for the expropriation case, 96 the

complainant and Reynold equally share the just compensation, which have since increased
to P10,000,000.00.
While the submitted Ex Parte Motion to Withdraw the Verified Complaint and to Dismiss the Case
and the Affidavit appear to exonerate the respondent, complete exoneration is not the necessary
legal effect as the submitted motion and affidavit are immaterial for purposes of the present
proceedings. Section 5, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court states that, "No investigation shall be
interrupted or terminated by reason of the desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution,
withdrawal of charges, or failure of the complainant to prosecute the same."
In Angalan v. Delante,97 despite the Affidavit of Desistance, we disbarred the respondent therein for
taking advantage of his clients and for transferring the title of their property to his name. In Bautista
v. Bernabe,98 we revoked the lawyers notarial commission, disqualified him from reappointment as a
notary public for two years, and suspended him from the practice of law for one year for notarizing a
document without requiring the affiant to personally appear before him. In this cited case, we said:
Complainants desistance or withdrawal of the complaint does not exonerate respondent or put an
end to the administrative proceedings. A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless
of interest or lack of interest of the complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts
borne out by the record, the charge of deceit and grossly immoral conduct has been proven. This
rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or
disbarment is not a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a
defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private
grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. They are undertaken
for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice
in them. The attorney is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court. The
complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the attorneys alleged misconduct
is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may
have in the proper administration of justice.99
In sum, in administrative proceedings against lawyers, the complainants desistance or withdrawal
does not terminate the proceedings. This is particularly true in the present case where pecuniary
consideration has been given to the complainant as a consideration for her desistance. We note in
this regard that she would receiveP5,000,000.00, or half of the just compensation under the
Compromise Agreement,100 and thus agreed to withdraw all charges against the respondent. 101 From
this perspective, we consider the complainants desistance to be suspect; it is not grounded on the
fact that the respondent did not commit any actual misconduct; rather, because of the consideration,
the complainant is now amenable to the position of the respondent and/or Reynold.
e. Procedural aspect
We remind all parties that resolutions from the IBP Board of Governors are merely recommendatory
and do not attain finality without a final action from this Court. Section 12, Rule 139-B is clear on this
point that:
Section 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors.

xxxx
(b) If the Board, by the vote of a majority of its total membership, determines that the respondent
should be suspended from the practice of law or disbarred, it shall issue a resolution setting forth its
findings and recommendations which, together with the whole record of the case, shall forthwith be
transmitted to the Supreme Court for final action.
1wphi1

The Supreme Court exercises exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the practice of law.102 It exercises
such disciplinary functions through the IBP, but it does not relinquish its duty to form its own
judgment. Disbarment proceedings are exercised under the sole jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,
and the IBPs recommendations imposing the penalty of suspension from the practice of law or
disbarment are always subject to this Courts review and approval.
The Penalty
In Solidon v. Macalalad,103 we imposed the penalty of suspension of six ( 6) months from the practice
of law on the respondent therein for his violation of Canon 18, Rule 18.03 and Canon 16, Rule 16.01
of the Code of Professional Responsibility. In Josefina M. Anion v. Atty. Clemencio Sabitsana,
Jr.,104 we suspended the respondent therein from the practice of law for one (1) year, for violating
Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Under the circumstances, we find
a one (1) year suspension to be a sufficient and appropriate sanction against the respondent.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we set aside Resolution No. XVIII-.2007-302 dated December
14, 2007 and Resolution No. XIX-2010-545 dated October 8, 2010 of the IBP Board of Governors,
and find respondent Atty. Glenn Carlos Gacott GUILTY of violating Rule 15.03 of Canon 15, Canon
16, and Rule 18.03 of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. As a penalty, he is
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year, with a WARNING that a repetition of the
same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice
A.C. No. 6760

January 30, 2013

ANASTACIO N. TEODORO III, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. ROMEO S. GONZALES, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
We resolve this disbarment complaint against Atty. Romeo S. Gonzales for violation of the Code of
Professional Responsibility for the forum shopping he allegedly committed.

In his complaint,1 Anastacio N. Teodoro Ill related that Atty. Gonzales acted as counsel of Araceli
Teodoro-Marcial in two civil cases that the latter filed against him. The first ccise, Special Proceeding
No. 99-95587,2 involved the settlement of the intestate estate of Manuela Teodoro. While the
settlement proceeding was pending, Atty. Gonzales assisted
Teodord-Marcial in filing Civil Case No. 00-99207,3 for Annulment of Document, Reconveyance and
Damages, without indicating the special proceeding earlier tiled. The tiling of the civil cases,
according to Anastacio, was a deliberate act of forum shopping that warrants the disbarment of Atty.
Gonzales.
Atty. Gonzales admitted that he assisted Teodoro-Marcial in tiling the two cases. He asserted,
however,, that he did not violate the forum shopping rule as the cases were not identical in terms of
parties, subject matter and remedies. Atty. Gonzales also opined that the complainant only filed the
disbarment case to harass him.4
The Investigating Commissioners Findings
In our Resolution5 dated March 13, 2006, we referred the disbarment complaint to the Commission
on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation. In his Report and Recommendation6 dated July 5, 2010, Commissioner Caesar R.
Dulay found Atty. Gonzales administratively liable for forum shopping.
According to Commissioner Dulay, both Special Proceeding No. 99-95587 and Civil Case No. 0099207 hinged on the same substantial issue, i.e., on whether Manuela held the Malate property in
trust for Carmen Teodoro-Reyes, Donato T. Teodoro, Jorge I. Teodoro and Teodoro-Marcial.
In Special Proceeding No. 99-95587, Carmen, Donato, Jorge I. Teodoro, Jorge T. Teodoro and
Teodoro-Marcial claimed that they are the heirs of Manuela. During her lifetime, Manuela was the
registered owner of a parcel of land located in Malate, Manila. According to the heirs, Manuela held
the lot in trust for them, but she sold it to Anastacio and Rogelio Ng. Thus, the heirs prayed for the
issuance of letters of administration so that Manuelas properties could be inventoried and settled in
accordance with law.
In Civil Case No. 00-99207, the heirs of Manuela claimed to be the beneficiaries of a trust held by
Manuela over the same parcel of land contested in Special Proceeding No. 99-95587. They alleged
that during her lifetime, Manuela sold a portion of this land to Anastacio. They asked the trial court to
annul the Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Manuela; to cancel the resulting Transfer Certificate of
Title in the name of Anastacio; and to issue a new one in their names.
The commissioner found that a ruling in either case would result in res judicata over the other. Thus,
Atty. Gonzales committed forum shopping when he instituted Civil Case No. 00-99207 without
indicating that Special Proceeding No. 99-95587 was still pending. In committing forum shopping,
Atty. Gonzales disregarded the Supreme Court Circular prohibiting forum shopping and thus violated
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Commissioner Dulay recommended that Atty. Gonzales be suspended for one month from the
practice of law, with a warning that a repetition of a similar offense would merit a more severe
penalty.
The Board of Governors of the IBP reversed the commissioners recommendation. In a
resolution7 dated December 10, 2011, the Board of Governors dismissed the case against Atty.
Gonzales for lack of merit.
The Issue
The case directly poses to us the question of whether Atty. Gonzales committed forum shopping and
thereby violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.
The Courts Ruling
We agree with the findings of the commissioner and accordingly reverse the resolution of the IBP
Board of Governors, but we modify the commissioners recommended penalty to censure and a
warning that another violation would merit a more severe penalty.
Forum shopping exists when, as a result of an adverse decision in one forum, or in anticipation
thereof, a party seeks a favorable opinion in another forum through means other than appeal or
certiorari.8
There is forum shopping when the elements of litis pendencia are present or where a final judgment
in one case will amount to res judicata in another. They are as follows: (a) identity of parties, or at
least such parties that represent the same interests in both actions, (b) identity of rights or causes of
action, and (c) identity of relief sought.9
Under this test, we find that Atty. Gonzales committed forum shopping when he filed Civil Case No.
00-99207 while Special Proceeding No. 99-95587 was pending.
Identity of Parties
An identity of parties exists in Special Proceeding No. 99-95587 and Civil Case No. 00-99207. In
both cases, the initiating parties are the same, to wit: Carmen, Donato, Teodoro-Marcial, Jorge I.
Teodoro, Rowena Teodoro, Abigail Teodoro and Jorge T. Teodoro. They represented the same
interest in both cases. All claimed to be the legitimate heirs of Manuela and co-owners of the land
that she held in trust for them.
Meanwhile, Anastacio, the oppositor in Special Proceeding No. 99-95587, is also the sole defendant
in Civil Case No. 00-99207. In both cases, he espoused the same interest, as transferee-owner of
the lot allegedly held in trust by Manuela.
Identity of causes of action

The test of identity of causes of action does not depend on the form of an action taken, but on
whether the same evidence would support and establish the former and the present causes of
action.10 The heirs of Manuela cannot avoid the application of res judicata by simply varying the form
of their action or by adopting a different method of presenting it. 11
In Special Proceeding No. 99-95587, the trial court held that it had no jurisdiction over the case, as
Manuela left no properties at the time of her death. The lot in Malate, Manila, which was the sole
property that the heirs of Manuela claim should be included in her estate, has been sold to Rogelio
and Anastacio when Manuela was still alive. The trial court did not give credence to their claim that
Manuela held the property in trust for them.
Meanwhile, in Civil Case No. 00-99207, the trial court issued an order granting Anastacios Motion
for Demurrer to Evidence. It held that the heirs of Manuela had been unable to prove their claim that
Manuela held the lot in trust for their benefit. Neither were they able to prove that the sale of a
portion of the lot to Anastacio was void.
In both cases, the issue of whether Manuela held the lot in Malate, Manila in trust had to be decided
by the trial court. The initiating parties claim in the two cases depended on the existence of the trust
Manuela allegedly held in their favor. Thus, the evidence necessary to prove their claim was the
same.
Identity of relief sought
In Special Proceeding No. 99-95587, the heirs of Manuela prayed for the issuance of letters of
administration, the liquidation of Manuelas estate, and its distribution among her legal heirs.
Meanwhile, in Civil Case No. 00-99207, the heirs of Manuela asked for the annulment of the deed of
absolute sale Manuela executed in favor of Anastacio. They likewise asked the court to cancel the
resulting Transfer Certificate of Title issued in favor of the latter, and to issue a new one in their
names.
While the reliefs prayed for in the initiatory pleadings of the two cases are different in form, a ruling in
one case would have resolved the other, and vice versa. To illustrate, had the lot been declared as
part of the estate of Manuela in Special Proceeding No. 99-95587, there would have been no need
for a decision annulling the sale in Civil Case No. 00-99207. Conversely, had the sale in Civil Case
No. 00-99207 been annulled, then the property would go back to the hands of the heirs of Manuela.
Placing the property under administration, as prayed for in Special Proceeding No. 99-95587, would
have been unnecessary.
Thus, the relief prayed for, the facts upon which it is based, and the parties are substantially similar
in the two cases. Since the elements of litis pendentia and res judicata are present, Atty. Gonzales
committed forum shopping when he filed Civil Case No. 00-99207 without indicating that Special
Proceeding No. 99-95587 was still pending.
As Commissioner Dulay observed:

Respondent was fully aware, since he was the counsel for both cases, that he raised the issue of
trust with respect to the Malate property in the 1999 Letters of Administration case and that he was
raising the same similar issue of trust in the 2000 annulment case xxx
To advise his client therefore to execute the affidavit of non-forum shopping for the second case
(annulment case) and state that there is no pending case involving the same or similar issue would
constitute misconduct which should be subject to disciplinary action. It was his duty to advise his
client properly, and his failure to do so, in fact his deliberate assertion that there was no falsity in the
affidavit is indicative of a predisposition to take lightly his duty as a lawyer to promote respect and
obedience to the law.12
"Lawyers should be reminded that their primary duty is to assist the courts in the administration of
justice. Any conduct that tends to delay, impede or obstruct the administration of justice contravenes
this obligation."13
The Court has repeatedly warned lawyers against resorting to forum shopping since the practice
clogs the Court dockets and can lead to conflicting rulings.14 Willful and deliberate forum shopping
has been made punishable either as direct or indirect contempt of court in SC
Administrative Circular No. 04-94 dated April 1, 1994. 15
In engaging in forum shopping, Atty. Gonzales violated Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility which directs lawyers to obey the laws of the land and promote respect for the law
and legal processes. He also disregarded his duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration
of justice,16 and the prohibition against unduly delaying a case by misusing court processes. 17
To our mind, however, the supreme penalty of disbarment would be very harsh in light of all the
circumstances of this case. Neither is the commissioners recommended penalty of suspension
consistent with prior rulings of the Court.
In Guanzon, Vda. de, etc. v. Judge Yrad, Jr., etc., et al.18 we severely censured Renecio Espiritu, the
counsel who filed a petition in the Court of Appeals thirty-three days after a similar petition had been
filed with the Supreme Court. We also found him guilty of direct contempt.
The present case finds favorable comparison with Guanzon. Like Espiritu, Atty. Gonzales misused
court processes in contravention of the express rule against forum shopping. We held then that
Espiritu should be penalized and we imposed the penalty of censure the penalty usually imposed
for an isolated act of misconduct of a lesser nature.19
Lawyers are also censured for minor infractions against the lawyers duty to the Court or the
client.20 As earlier stated, Atty. Gonzales act of forum shopping disregarded his duty to obey and
promote respect for the law and legal processes, as well as the prohibition against unduly delaying a
case by misusing court processes.21 It also violated his duty as an officer of the court to assist in the
speedy and efficient administration of justice.22

WHEREFORE, we find the basis for the complaint meritorious and accordingly CENSURE Atty.
Romeo S. Gonzales for resorting to forum shopping. He is WARNED that any future violation of his
duties as a lawyer will be dealt with more severely. A copy of this reprimand should be attached to
Atty. Romeo S. Gonzales personal file in the Office of the Bar Confidant.
SO ORDERED.
Adm. Case No. 5530

January 28, 2013

SPOUSES ARCING AND CRESING BAUTISTA, EDAY RAGADIO and FRANCING


GALGALAN, Complainants,
vs.
ATTY. ARTURO CEFRA, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
Before us is a complaint for disbarment filed by spouses Arcing and Cresing Bautista, Eday
Regadio1 and Francing Galgalan (complainants) against Atty. Arturo Cefra for violating Canon 18 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rules 138 and 139 of the Rules of Court.
The Facts
The complainants were the defendants in Civil Case No. U-6504 an action for quieting of title,
recovery of possession and damages filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 45, Urdaneta
City, Pangasinan.2 The complainants engaged the services of Atty. Cefra to represent them in the
proceedings. According to the complainants, they lost in Civil Case No. U-6504 because of Atty.
Cefras negligence in performing his duties as their counsel. First, Atty. Cefra only presented
testimonial evidence and disregarded two (2) orders of the RTC directing him to submit a formal offer
of documentary exhibits. Second, Atty. Cefra belatedly submitted the formal offer of documentary
exhibits after the complainants had been declared to have waived their right to make a submission.
Third, Atty. Cefra did not file a motion or appeal and neither did he file any other remedial pleading to
contest the RTCs decision rendered against them.
The Court ordered Atty. Cefra to comment on the complaint. Despite the extensions of time given by
the Court, Atty. Cefra did not file any comment. He did not also comply with the Courts Minute
Resolutions,3 dated December 14, 2005 and March 22, 2006, directing him to pay a P2,000.00 fine
and to submit the required comment.
On July 16, 2008, we held Atty. Cefra in contempt of court, ordering his detention for five (5) days.
We also reiterated the order for Atty. Cefra to pay a P2,000.00 fine and to submit a comment on the
complaint.4
On August 4, 2008, Atty. Cefra filed his Comment,5 denying the allegations in the complaint. He
claimed that the complainants misunderstood the RTCs decision:

2. That Respondent denies the allegation in Paragraphs (sic) 7 of the complaint that
defendants miserably lost the case because the Decision itself confirmed and affirmed our
stand that defendants do not contest the ownership of x x x Serlito Evangelista x x x.
3. That it was defendants (sic) failure to fully understand the Decision which led to the filing
of this administrative case and which subsequent events have proven that in the
implementation of the Writ of Execution the land owned by the defendants covered by
Transfer Certificates of Titles were not affected.6
In a Minute Resolution7 dated September 24, 2008, we referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation/decision.
The Report and Recommendation of the IBP
On June 11, 2009, the Investigating Commissioner8 recommended the dismissal of the complaint.
The Investigating Commissioner opined:
The administrative complaint failed to show sufficient evidence to warrant disciplinary action against
respondent. Complainants filed this complaint because they believed that they lost their case,
however, their claim over their properties was not affected by the Decision of the court. 9
In Resolution No. XIX-2010-285 dated April 16, 2010, the IBP Board of Governors reversed the
findings of the Investigating Commissioner. The IBP Board of Governors found Atty. Cefra negligent
in handling the complainants case and unanimously approved his suspension from the practice of
law for six (6) months.
Atty. Cefra filed a motion for reconsideration. On January 14, 2012, in Resolution No. XX-2012-24,
the IBP Board of Governors partially granted Atty. Cefras motion in this wise:
RESOLVED to PARTIALLY GRANT Respondents Motion for Reconsideration and unanimously
MODIFY Resolution No. XIX-2010-285 dated April 16, 2010 Suspending Atty. Arturo B. Cefra from
the practice of law for six (6) months to REPRIMANDED considering that the failure was not material
to the case and that complainants were not prejudice. [emphasis supplied]
The Courts Ruling
Except for the recommended penalty, we agree with the IBP Board of Governors that Atty. Cefra has
been guilty of negligence in handling the complainants case. His actuations in the present
administrative case also reveal his lack of diligence in performing his duties as an officer of the
Court.
The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates that "a lawyer shall serve his client with
competence and diligence."10

It further states that "a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable."11 In addition, a lawyer has the corresponding duty to
"keep the client informed of the status of his case." 12
In Jardin v. Villar, Jr.,13 the Court held:
Every case a lawyer accepts deserves his full attention, diligence, skill and competence, regardless
of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or free. Certainly, a member of the Bar who is
worth his title cannot afford to practice the profession in a lackadaisical fashion. A lawyers lethargy
from the perspective of the Canons is both unprofessional and unethical.
Atty. Cefra failed to live up to these standards. Interestingly, he did not deny the complainants
allegations and impliedly admitted his actions in the proceedings in Civil Case No. U-6504.
The records further substantiate clear acts of negligence on Atty. Cefras part in handling the
complainants case.
First, Atty. Cefra failed to submit a formal offer of documentary evidence within the period
given by the RTC. Atty. Cefra submitted a formal offer of documentary evidence five (5)
months after the RTCs first order directing him to make a formal offer. The formal offer of
evidence was only made after the complainants had been declared by the RTC to have
waived their right to submit a formal offer of documentary evidence.
Second, Atty. Cefra failed to comply with the two (2) orders of the RTC directing him to
submit a formal offer of documentary evidence. He made no effort to submit the required
formal offer of documentary evidence within the prescribed period. Neither did he give his
reasons, within the required period, on why he could not make the required formal offer of
documentary evidence. In fact, Atty. Cefras belated explanation for this omission was only
done in a motion for reconsideration (with motion to admit the formal offer of documentary
evidence) that he subsequently filed, which motion the RTC denied for lack of merit.
Third, Atty. Cefra failed to file an appropriate motion or appeal, or avail of any remedial
measure to contest the RTCs decision. His claim that the complainants had not been
prejudiced by the RTCs decision is incorrect. The dispositive portion of the RTCs decision
clearly adjudged the complainants liable to payP30,000.00 moral damages.14 Considering
the pecuniary consequence of the RTCs decision to his clients, Atty. Cefra should have filed
a motion for reconsideration before the RTC or appealed the RTCs decision with the Court
of Appeals, or he should have at least immediately explained to his clients his reasons for
not taking remedial action. The failure to avail of available remedial measures apparently
prejudiced his clients. As matter now stands, the complainants liability under the RTCs
decision is already final and executory.
Fourth, Atty. Cefras allegations in his Comment show his failure to effectively communicate
with the complainants. As Atty. Cefra puts it, the administrative complaint was the result of
the complainants failure to fully understand the RTCs decision. In other words, he admits
that the present case would have been averted had he exerted reasonable efforts to inform

the complainants of the legal implications of the RTCs decision and to explain to them the
material developments in the case.
We significantly note that even before this Court, Atty. Cefras conduct was less than what is
expected of an officer of the Court. He was held in contempt for his cavalier and indifferent attitude in
complying with the Courts directives.
In sum, the above actuations showing Atty. Cefras lack of diligence and inattention to his duties as a
lawyer warrant disciplinary sanction. We have repeatedly held that "[t]he practice of law is a privilege
bestowed by the State on those who show that they possess the legal qualifications for it.
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 fourfold 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.15
Under the circumstances, the IBP Board of Governors recommended penalty of simple reprimand is
not commensurate with the gravity of Atty. Cefras infractions. As the complainants incurred
pecuniary damage by reason of Atty. Cefras negligence, a suspension of one (1) year from the
practice of law is in order.16
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we find Atty. Arturo Cefra guilty of negligence, in violation of
Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is hereby SUSPENDED from
the practice of law for one (1) year and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar
offense will be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all the courts.
SO ORDERED.
Adm. Case No. 6148

January 22, 2013

FLORENCE TEVES MACARUBBO, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. EDMUNDO L. MACARUBBO, Respondent.
RE: PETITION (FOR EXTRAORDINARY MERCY) OF EDMUNDO L. MACARUBBO.
RESOLUTION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
For resolution is the Petition (For Extraordinary Mercy) filed by respondent Edmundo L. Macarubbo
(respondent) who seeks to be reinstated in the Roll of Attorneys.

Records show that in the Decision1 dated February 27, 2004, the Court disbarred respondent from
the practice of law for having contracted a bigamous marriage with complainant Florence Teves and
a third marriage with one Josephine Constantino while his first marriage to Helen Esparza was still
subsisting, which acts constituted gross immoral conduct in violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and
Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The dispositive portion of the subject
Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, respondent Edmundo L. Macarubbo is found guilty of gross immorality and is hereby
DISBARRED from the practice of law. He is likewise ORDERED to show satisfactory evidence to the
IBP Commission on Bar Discipline and to this Court that he is supporting or has made provisions for
the regular support of his two children by complainant.
Let respondents name be stricken off the Roll of Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.2
Aggrieved, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration/Appeal for Compassion and Mercy 3 which
the Court denied with finality in the Resolution4 dated June 1, 2004. Eight years after or on June 4,
2012, respondent filed the instant Petition (For Extraordinary Mercy) 5 seeking
judicial clemency and reinstatement in the Roll of Attorneys. The Court initially treated the present
suit as a second motion for reconsideration and accordingly, denied it for lack of merit in the
Resolution dated September 4, 2012.6On December 18, 2012, the same petition was endorsed to
this Court by the Office of the Vice President7 for re-evaluation, prompting the Court to look into the
substantive merits of the case.
In Re: Letter of Judge Augustus C. Diaz, Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 37,
Appealing for Clemency,8 the Court laid down the following guidelines in resolving requests for
judicial clemency, to wit:
1. There must be proof of remorse and reformation. These shall include but should not be
limited to certifications or testimonials of the officer(s) or chapter(s) of the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines, judges or judges associations and prominent members of the community
with proven integrity and probity. A subsequent finding of guilt in an administrative case for
the same or similar misconduct will give rise to a strong presumption of non-reformation.
2. Sufficient time must have lapsed from the imposition of the penalty to ensure a period of
reform.
3. The age of the person asking for clemency must show that he still has productive years
ahead of him that can be put to good use by giving him a chance to redeem himself.
4. There must be a showing of promise (such as intellectual aptitude, learning or legal
acumen or contribution to legal scholarship and the development of the legal system or
administrative and other relevant skills), as well as potential for public service.

5. There must be other relevant factors and circumstances that may justify
clemency.9 (Citations omitted)
Moreover, to be reinstated to the practice of law, the applicant must, like any other candidate for
admission to the bar, satisfy the Court that he is a person of good moral character.10
Applying the foregoing standards to this case, the Court finds the instant petition meritorious.
Respondent has sufficiently shown his remorse and acknowledged his indiscretion in the legal
profession and in his personal life. He has asked forgiveness from his children by complainant Teves
and maintained a cordial relationship with them as shown by the herein attached pictures. 11 Records
also show that after his disbarment, respondent returned to his hometown in Enrile, Cagayan and
devoted his time tending an orchard and taking care of his ailing mother until her death in 2008. 12 In
2009, he was appointed as Private Secretary to the Mayor of Enrile, Cagayan and thereafter,
assumed the position of Local Assessment Operations Officer II/ Office-In-Charge in the Assessors
Office, which office he continues to serve to date.13 Moreover, he is a part-time instructor at the
University of Cagayan Valley and F.L. Vargas College during the School Year 20112012.14 Respondent likewise took an active part in socio-civic activities by helping his neighbors and
friends who are in dire need.
The following documents attest to respondents reformed ways: (1) Affidavit of Candida P.
Mabborang;15 (2) Affidavit of Reymar P. Ramirez;16 (3) Affidavit of Roberto D. Tallud;17 (4) Certification
from the Municipal Local Government Office;18 (5) Certification by the Office of the Municipal
Agriculturist/Health Officer, Social Welfare Development Officer;19 (6) Certification from the Election
Officer of Enrile, Cagayan;20 (7) Affidavit of Police Senior Inspector Jacinto T. Tuddao;21 (8)
Certifications from nine (9) Barangay Chairpersons;22 (9) Certification from the Office of the
Provincial Assessor;23 (10) Certification from the Office of the Manager, Magsaka ca Multi-Purpose
Cooperative;24 and (11) Certification of the Office of the Federation of Senior Citizens, Enrile
Chapter.25 The Office of the Municipal Treasurer also certified that respondent has no monetary
accountabilities in relation to his office26while the Office of the Human Resource Management Officer
attested that he has no pending administrative case.27 He is not known to be involved in any
irregularity and/or accused of a crime. Even the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) attested that
he has no record on file as of May 31, 2011.28
Furthermore, respondents plea for reinstatement is duly supported by the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, Cagayan Chapter29 and by his former and present colleagues.30 His parish priest, Rev.
Fr. Camilo Castillejos, Jr., certified that he is faithful to and puts to actual practice the doctrines of the
Catholic Church.31 He is also observed to be a regular churchgoer.32 Records further reveal that
respondent has already settled his previous marital squabbles,33 as in fact, no opposition to the
instant suit was tendered by complainant Teves. He sends regular support 34 to his children in
compliance with the Courts directive in the Decision dated February 27, 2004.
The Court notes the eight (8) long years that had elapsed from the time respondent was disbarred
and recognizes his achievement as the first lawyer product of Lemu National High School, 35 and his
fourteen (14) years of dedicated government service from 1986 to July 2000 as Legal Officer of the
Department of Education, Culture and Sports; Supervising Civil Service Attorney of the Civil Service

Commission; Ombudsman Graft Investigation Officer; and State Prosecutor of the Department of
Justice.36 From the attestations and certifications presented, the Court finds that respondent has
sufficiently atoned for his transgressions. At 5837 years of age, he still has productive years ahead of
him that could significantly contribute to the upliftment of the law profession and the betterment of
society. While the Court is ever mindful of its duty to discipline and even remove its errant officers,
concomitant to it is its duty to show compassion to those who have reformed their ways, 38 as in this
case.
Accordingly, respondent is hereby ordered .reinstated to the practice of law. He is, however,
reminded that such privilege is burdened with conditions whereby adherence. to the rigid standards
of intellect, moral uprightness, and strict compliance with the rules and the law are continuing
requirements.39
1wphi1

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is GRANTED. Respondent Edmundo L.


Macarubbo is hereby ordered REINSTATED in the Roll of Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.
A.M. OCA IPI No. 10-25-SB-J

January 15, 2013

RE: COMPLAINT OF LEONARDO A. VELASCO AGAINST ASSOCIATE JUSTICES FRANCISCO


H. VILLARUZ, JR., ALEX L. QUIROZ, AND SAMUEL R. MARTIRES OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
Before the Court is an administrative complaint filed by Leonardo A. Velasco against the
respondents, Honorable Associate Justices Francisco H. Villaruz, Jr. (Justice Villaruz, Jr.), Alex L.
Quiroz (Justice Quiroz), and Samuel R. Martires (Justice Martires) of the Third Division of the
Sandiganbayan for grave misconduct and violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
The Facts
On December 10, 2008, the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan, then composed of respondent
Justice Villaruz, Jr. as Chairman and Associate Justices Efren N. Dela Cruz and Norberto Y.
Geraldez as Members, rendered a Decision1 convicting accused Pacifico C. Velasco2 (accused
Velasco) in Criminal Case No. 27564 for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) No.
3019.3 The fallo of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, this court finds MAYOR PACIFICO C. VELASCO GUILTY, beyond reasonable doubt,
for violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. 3019, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of: (I.)
Imprisonment of, after applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, six (6) years and one (1) month as
minimum, up to eight (8) years, as maximum; and, (II.) Perpetual Disqualification from Public Office.
SO ORDERED.

Accused Velasco sought its reconsideration, which the Sandiganbayan denied in its March 13, 2009
Resolution.4He, then, elevated the case before the Court via a petition for review on certiorari,
docketed as G.R. No. 187277, which was denied in a minute resolution 5 dated June 3, 2009. His
motion for reconsideration was also denied in the Resolution dated August 17, 2009 which further
contained a directive that no further pleadings shall be entertained and that entry of judgment be
made in due course.
Subsequently, accused Velasco filed a motion for leave to file and to admit a second motion for
reconsideration of the Courts June 3, 2009 Resolution, which the Court merely noted without action
in its January 11, 2010 Resolution.6 The Courts June 3, 2009 Resolution became final and executory
on September 25, 2009.7
Notwithstanding, however, the finality of accused Velascos conviction, the execution of his sentence
did not immediately take place due to the numerous motions and pleadings he subsequently filed.
On May 26, 2010,8 in the hearing for the execution of accused Velascos sentence before the
Sandiganbayan, his counsel manifested that he was confined at the San Juan De Dios Hospital in
Pasay City and was due for surgery. The hearing was reset to June 9, 2010 upon agreement of the
parties, with a directive to accused Velascos attending physician to submit a medical bulletin relative
to his physical fitness. Nonetheless, a warrant of arrest was issued, but as agreed by the parties,
accused Velasco shall remain in the hospital until further order by the Sandiganbayan. By this time,
the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan was already composed of respondents Justice Villaruz, Jr.,
Justice Quiroz and Justice Martires (Sandiganbayan Justices).
Thereafter or on June 9, 2010, accused Velasco filed an Urgent Motion to Recall Warrant of
Arrest,9 invoking humanitarian consideration, having allegedly just undergone a rigid and serious
surgical operation. However, the Sandiganbayan Justices, on June 17, 2010, instead issued an
Order of Arrest10 which they eventually recalled11on June 25, 2010, conditioned on the posting of a
bail bond in the amount of P30,000.00.
On September 30, 2010, the Sandiganbayan Justices set aside 12 their earlier order recalling the
warrant of arrest and issued anew an Order of Arrest13 for failure of accused Velasco to attend the
hearing of even date.
Subsequently, or on November 15, 2010, accused Velasco filed a Motion to Defer Promulgation of
Sentence, to Suspend Proceedings and/or Recall Warrant of Arrest14 claiming, once again, that he
had just undergone a major operation necessitating hospitalization and post-operation treatment. He
also averred that he had filed, on even date, a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus
before the Court, docketed as G.R. No. 194263, to restrain the execution of judgment, and prayed
that his motion be granted pending action on his petition.
On January 17, 2011, during the rescheduled hearing for the execution of the judgment, the
Sandiganbayan Justices ordered15 the issuance of a warrant of arrest for failure of accused Velasco
to appear despite due notice and the forfeiture of his cash bond.

On March 9, 2011, the Court dismissed the petition filed by accused Velasco in G.R. No.
19426316 and on March 30, 2011, noted without action his second supplement to petition and urgent
motion to resolve his petition for certiorari.17 Accused Velasco filed a motion for reconsideration and
the prosecution was given until February 6, 2012 to file its comment.18
Meanwhile, in another hearing before the Sandiganbayan Justices on January 18, 2012, accused
Velasco was directed to post a new cash bail bond in the amount of P70,000.00 on the verbal motion
of his counsel, and the hearing was reset once more to March 19, 2012. 19
Hence, the instant administrative complaint20 for grave misconduct and violation of the Code of
Judicial Conduct filed by Leonardo A. Velasco (complainant Velasco) against the Sandiganbayan
Justices. In his verified complaint, complainant Velasco asserts that, the conviction of accused
Velasco having attained finality on September 25, 2009, the Sandiganbayan Justices should have
merely performed the ministerial duty of executing his final sentence of conviction and not
entertained his motions or pleadings that forestalled its execution. In doing so, they have shown
evident partiality, bias and impropriety in favor of accused Velasco.
In their Comment,21 the Sandiganbayan Justices claimed that the repeated resetting of the hearings
for the execution of judgment against accused Velasco was mainly due to medical reasons and the
pendency of incidents before the Court. Vehemently denying that their questioned orders were
issued to unduly favor accused Velasco, they insisted that these were prompted by circumstances
which were not at their instance and that the instant complaint consists of unfounded allegations and
suspicions of partiality. They also argued that since accused Velasco had already been committed to
the national penitentiary on May 10, 2012, this case is now moot and academic and therefore,
should be dismissed.
Issue Before The Court
The sole issue to be determined by the Court is whether the respondent Sandiganbayan Justices
may be held administratively liable for their actions which unduly delayed the execution of the final
sentence of conviction of accused Velasco.
The Courts Ruling
After a judicious review of the records, the Court finds no grave misconduct or violation of a specific
provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct to have been committed by the Sandiganbayan Justices.
"Misconduct means intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule of law or a standard of
behavior.22 To constitute an administrative offense, misconduct should relate to or be connected with
the performance of the official functions of a public officer.23 In grave misconduct, as distinguished
from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant
disregard of an established rule must be established." 24
In this case, the actions of the Sandiganbayan Justices respecting the execution of the final
judgment against accused Velasco were shown to be in respectful deference to the Courts action on
the various petitions filed by the former, who apparently exhausted what he perceived were valid

available remedies under the law. Records are bereft of evidence showing any trace of corruption,
clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of the rules as to hold them administratively liable
for grave misconduct.
1wphi1

However, the becoming modesty that the Sandiganbayan Justices have exhibited in this case cannot
detract from the fact that the judgment of conviction of accused Velasco should have been
immediately executed, absent any restraining order from the Court, in violation of the Court's
directive in A.M. Circular No. 07-7-12-SC,25 adopting amendments to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court,
inter alia. Thus, Section 7 of Rule 65 now states:
SEC. 7. Expediting proceedings; injunctive relief. The court in which the petition is filed may issue
orders expediting the proceedings, and it may also grant a temporary restraining order or a writ of
preliminary injunction for the preservation of the rights of the parties pending such proceedings. The
petition shall not interrupt the course of the principal case, unless a temporary restraining order or a
writ of preliminary injunction has been issued, enjoining the public respondent from further
proceeding with the case.
The public respondent shall proceed with the principal case within ten (10) days from the filing of a
petition for certiorari with a higher court or tribunal, absent a temporary restraining order or a
preliminary injunction, or upon its expiration. Failure of the public respondent to proceed with the
principal case may be a ground for an administrative charge. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, judicial courtesy may no longer be invoked by the Sandiganbayan Justices in the execution of
the final judgment against accused Velasco. This lapse in judgment on the part of the
Sandiganbayan Justices deserves admonition.
1wphi1

WHEREFORE, Honorable Associate Justices Francisco H. Villaruz, Jr., Alex L. Quiroz, and Samuel
R. Martires of the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan are hereby ADMONISHED to be more
circumspect and prudent in observing the proper rules and procedures for the execution of
judgments of conviction in the absence of restraining orders or injunctive writs from the Court. They
are STERNLY WARNED that repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Decision be attached to respondents Justices' records with this Court.
SO ORDERED.
A.M. OCA IPI No. 12-202-CA-J

January 15, 2013

RE: VERIFIED COMPLAINT OF AMA LAND, INC. AGAINST HON. DANTON Q. BUESER, HON.
SESINANDO E. VILLON and HON. RICARDO R. ROSARIO, ASSOCIATE JUSTICES OF THE
COURT OF APPEALS.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

On October 2, 2012, AMA Land, Inc. (AMALI) filed an administrative complaint before the Office of
the Court Administrator (OCA), charging respondent Honorable Court of Appeals (CA) Associate
Justices Danton Q. Bueser, Sesinando E. Villon, and Ricardo R. Rosario (respondent CA Justices)
with the following violations: (a) Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, specifically for dishonesty
and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law (Republic Act No. 3019), gross misconduct
constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and knowingly rendering an unjust judgment
or order; and (b) pertinent provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct 1 and Canons of Judicial Ethics,
for issuing the Decision2 dated June 14, 2012 in CA-G.R. SP No. 118994 filed by Wack Wack
Residents Association, Inc. (WWRAI) enjoining AMALI from continuing with its project construction
pending the determination of its petition for declaration of right of way against WWRAI before the
Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 264 (RTC-Pasig).
The Facts
The controversy started in the mid-1990s when AMALI commenced the construction of a 37-floor
commercial/residential building located at Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) corner Fordham
Street, Wack Wack Village, Mandaluyong City. After securing the required licenses and permits,
AMALI notified WWRAI, the owner of Fordham Street, of its intention to use the said street as an
access road and staging area of the project. Not having received any response, AMALI proceeded to
temporarily enclose the job site and set up a field office along Fordham Street. However, WWRAI
fenced off the said street which prompted AMALI to file before the RTC-Pasig a petition 3 to enforce
an easement of right of way pursuant to Article 649 in relation to Article 656 of the Civil Code. AMALI
also prayed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction to
enjoin WWRAI from demolishing and removing its temporary field office, fencing off Fordham Street,
and preventing its access to the construction site.
In its Answer,4 WWRAI averred that AMALI's project violated applicable zoning ordinances; the
licenses and permits secured therefor were irregular and unlawful; the project is a nuisance; and
EDSA should instead be utilized as the staging area of the project. Apart from praying for the
dismissal of the complaint, WWRAI interposed a counterclaim for actual and exemplary damages,
attorney's fees and costs of suit, and prayed for a TRO and writ of preliminary mandatory injunction
for AMALI to immediately cease and desist with its project construction.
After hearing AMALIs application for injunctive relief, the RTC-Pasig, in its Order 5 dated July 24,
1997, granted AMALI's prayer and directed WWRAI to allow the use of Fordham Street as a
temporary easement of right of way. Apparently, WWRAI's application for TRO and/or writ of
preliminary injunction in its counterclaim was not heard.
In 1998, however, AMALI suffered financial setbacks, forcing the suspension of its project
construction. In 2002, it filed before the RTC of Muntinlupa, Branch 256 (RTC-Muntinlupa) a petition
for corporate rehabilitation, which was later approved. Among the recommendations contained in the
approved rehabilitation plan was the conversion of the use of the 37-floor commercial/residential
tower (AMA Tower) to a 34-floor residential condominium. AMALI thus, prayed that the City of
Mandaluyong be ordered to issue an amended building permit.6

In a bid to stop AMALI from continuing with its project construction, WWRAI sought from the RTCPasig in January 2010, the hearing of its application for TRO and/or writ of preliminary mandatory
injunction prayed for in its counterclaim. After due proceedings, the court denied the application in
the Order7 dated October 28, 2010, and directed the building officials of
Mandaluyong City to act on AMALI's application for permit to construct. The concerned officials,
however, denied AMALI's application for an amended building permit on November 5, 2010 due to
the expiration of the previously issued building permit, non-compliance with the prescribed height
and open space limitations, and failure to submit the required new locational and barangay
clearance. Notwithstanding, the RTC-Pasig refused to reconsider8 the denial of WWRAI's application
for injunction.
On the other hand, the RTC-Muntinlupa, where AMALI's petition for corporate rehabilitation was
pending, directed the Office of the Building Official and/or Office of the City Engineer of
Mandaluyong City, in the Orders dated September 9, 2010 and November 12, 2010, 9 to issue an
amended building permit. Thus, Building Permit No. 08-2011-004810 was issued on February 4, 2011.
But even with such issuance, the Building Official and/or Mandaluyong City Engineer filed a petition
for certiorari before the CA (docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 117037) assailing the above Orders which,
however, was denied in the Decision11 dated June 28, 2012.
Meanwhile, WWRAI assailed the Orders of the RTC-Pasig denying its application for injunction
through a petition for certiorari12 before the CA. The case (docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 118994) was
raffled to the Special Former Tenth Division composed of the respondent CA Justices. WWRAI also
filed a separate complaint (docketed as NBCDO Case No. 12-11-93 MAND CITY) before the
Department of Public Works and Highways seeking the revocation of the amended building permit
as well as the imposition of administrative sanctions against the issuing officials which, however, was
denied.13
On June 10, 2011, the CA granted WWRAI's application for TRO14 and subsequently, its application
for writ of preliminary injunction15 pending resolution of the petition. On the other hand, AMALI, in its
Comment,16 prayed for the dismissal of the complaint for lack of merit and on the ground of forum
shopping.
On June 14, 2012, the CA rendered a Decision17 granting WWRAI's petition and directing the RTCPasig to issue the injunctive writ in favor of WWRAI pending determination of the petition for the
declaration of permanent easement of right of way filed by AMALI.
The Issue
In the instant administrative complaint, AMALI questions, among others, the jurisdiction of the
respondent CA Justices to act on WWRAI's petition assailing the denial of its application for
injunctive relief to stop AMALI from proceeding with its project construction, claiming this issue as
irrelevant to the principal action to enforce an easement of right of way pending before the RTC
Pasig. It also raises the non-payment by WWRAI of the docket fees on its counterclaim and the
forum shopping the latter committed in filing various suits before different fora on the same issue
involving the legality of the project. In any event, AMALI asserts that the respondent CA Justices

acted in bad faith and knowingly rendered an unjust judgment in granting WWRAI's petition, which
effectively declared the project construction illegal and granted the latter's counterclaim before the
RTC-Pasig could have finally disposed of the case.
In their Comment,18 the respondent CA Justices pray for the outright dismissal of the instant
administrative complaint in view of the pendency of AMALI's petition for review on certiorari before
the Court based on substantially the same grounds raised herein. They likewise averred that the
purported lack of jurisdiction was never raised in the proceedings before the RTC, the CA or in their
petition for review on certiorari before the Court, but only in this administrative complaint. Finally,
they denied having rendered an unjust decision citing the failure of AMALI to show that the assailed
judgment is contrary to law or unsupported by evidence or that it was rendered with bad faith,
malice, greed, ill-will or corruption.
The Court's Ruling
The Court finds no merit in the complaint.
A perusal of the records of the case as well as the parties respective allegations disclosed that the
acts complained of relate to the validity of the proceedings before the respondent CA Justices and
the propriety of their orders in CA-G.R. SP No. 118994 which were done in the exercise of their
judicial functions. Jurisprudence is replete with cases holding that errors, if any, committed by a
judge in the exercise of his adjudicative functions cannot be corrected through administrative
proceedings, but should instead be assailed through available judicial remedies. 19 Disciplinary
proceedings against judges do not complement, supplement or substitute judicial remedies and,
thus, cannot be pursued simultaneously with the judicial remedies accorded to parties aggrieved by
their erroneous orders or judgments.20
In Equitable PCI Bank, Inc. v. Lavia,21 we ruled that resort to and exhaustion of judicial remedies
and a final ruling on the matter, are prerequisites for the taking of appropriate measures against the
judges concerned, whether of criminal, civil or administrative nature. If the assailed act is
subsequently found and declared to be correct, there would be no occasion to proceed against him
at all.
1wphi1

In this case, AMALI had already filed a petition for review on certiorari 22 challenging the questioned
order of the respondent CA Justices, which is still pending final action by the Court. Consequently, a
decision on the validity of the proceedings and propriety of the orders of the respondent CA Justices
in this administrative proceeding would be premature. 23 Besides, even if the subject decision or
portions thereof turn out to be erroneous, administrative liability will only attach upon proof that the
actions of the respondent CA Justices were motivated by bad faith, dishonesty or hatred, or attended
by fraud or corruption,24 which were not sufficiently shown to exist in this case. Neither was bias as
well as partiality established. Acts or conduct of the judge clearly indicative of arbitrariness or
prejudice must be clearly shown before he can be branded the stigma of being biased and partial. In
the same vein, bad faith or malice cannot be inferred simply because the judgment or order is
adverse to a party.25 Here, other than AMALI's bare and self-serving claim that respondent CA
Justices "conspired with WWRAI's counsel in knowingly and in bad faith rendering an unjust
judgment and in committing x x x other misconduct,"26 no act clearly indicative of bias and partiality

was alleged except for the claim that respondent CA Justices misapplied the law artd jurisprudence.
Thus, the presumption that the respondent judge has regularly performed his duties shall prevail.
Moreover, the matters raised are best addressed to the evaluation of the Court in the resolution of
AMALI's petition for review on certiorari.
Finally, resort to administrative disciplinary action prior to the final resolution of the judicial issues
involved constitutes an abuse of court processes that serves to disrupt rather than promote the
orderly administration of justice and further clog the courts' dockets. Those who seek relief from the
courts must not be allowed to ignore basic legal rules and abuse court processes in their efforts to
vindicate their rights.27
WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the administrative complaint against the Honorable Court of
Appeals Associate Justices DANTON Q. BUESER, SESINANDO E. VILLON AND RICARDO-R.
ROSARIO for utter lack of merit; and CAUTIONS complainant AMA Land, Inc. against the filing of
similar unfounded and baseless actions in the future, WITH STERN
WARNING that a repetition thereof shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
A.M. No. P-12-3090
January 7, 2013
(Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 11-3662-P)
MARIANO T. ONG, Complainant,
vs.
EVA G. BASIYA-SARATAN, CLERK OF COURT, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, ILOILO CITY,
BRANCH 32,Respondent.
RESOLUTION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
On June 13, 2011, Mariano T. Ong (complainant) filed a verified letter-complaint 1 before the Office of
the Court Administrator (OCA), charging Clerk of Court Eva G. Basiya-Saratan (respondent) of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Iloilo City, Branch 32 for inefficiency and/or negligence in the
performance of her official duties. Complainant averred that respondent repeatedly failed to issue
Alias Writs of Execution for almost three (3) years from the time she was first directed to do so by the
RTC in its Order2 dated September 26, 2008 in Civil Case No. 18978.
The Facts
Complainant is one of the defendants/judgment obligees in the Decision dated June 21, 1999
rendered in the aforementioned case,3 in the amount of P800,000.00 representing damages and
attorneys fees. To implement the judgment, the RTC issued the Order dated April 24, 2006 granting
the issuance of the writ of execution. Since the judgment has remained unsatisfied, complainant
moved for the issuance of an Alias Writ of Execution, which was granted by the RTC in its Order

dated September 26, 2008, with a further directive to the Sheriff of the RTC of Valenzuela City,
Branch 72 to proceed against plaintiff's attachment bond issued by Prudential Guarantee and
Assurance, Inc.4
On November 26, 2010 or after the lapse of more than two (2) years with no action on the part of
respondent, the RTC again directed the issuance of an Alias Writ of Execution and its
implementation by Sheriff Romero L. Rivera (Sheriff Rivera).5 Notwithstanding, respondent did not
issue any, prompting complainant to file a "Very Urgent Motion to Be Furnished Certified True Copy
of Alias Writ of Execution,"6 which the RTC granted in its Order dated January 14, 2011. 7
On February 7, 2011, complainant filed a Manifestation and Motion, 8 followed by a subsequent
urgent motion9dated April 27, 2011, seeking to compel respondent to comply with the court's
directive. He also averred that on February 1, 2011, he received an unsigned and uncertified copy of
the Alias Amended Writ of Execution10 dated June 7, 2007, addressed to "The Provincial Sheriff of
Iloilo or any of his Lawful Deputies" and not to Sheriff Rivera, the deputized sheriff.
On August 15, 2011, the RTC issued an Amended Order 11 enjoining respondent to issue a certified
true copy of the Amended Writ of Execution to complainant and to Sheriff Rivera. But up to the filing
of the instant administrative complaint, no action has been taken by respondent.
The Action and Recommendation of the OCA
In the 1st Indorsement12 dated June 17, 2011, the OCA required respondent to file her comment to
the complaint which was reiterated in the 1st Tracer 13 dated October 25, 2011. However, no comment
was submitted.
Upon evaluation of the complaint, the OCA found respondent to have been remiss in the
performance of her duties as Clerk of Court of the RTC of Iloilo City, Branch 32, in violation of
Section 1, Canon IV of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, underscoring her failure to issue
the corresponding Alias Writs of Execution as directed by the RTC as well as her failure to comment
on the allegations of the complainant. The OCA also noted that this is not the first time respondent
had failed to perform her official functions. In another complaint filed against her by Atty. Raul A.
Muyco,14 she was reprimanded by the Court for her failure to issue on time a certification requested
by the complainant, and sternly warned that the commission of similar acts would be dealt with more
severely. Accordingly, the OCA, applying Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in
the Civil Service,15 recommended her suspension from the service for six (6) months and one (1) day
without pay, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or any similar act will warrant a more
severe penalty.
The Issue
The sole issue before the Court is whether respondent should be imposed the penalty as
recommended by the OCA for her repeated failure to issue the corresponding alias writs of execution
despite directives from the RTC.
The Courts Ruling

The Court finds the recommendation of the OCA to be well-taken.


Section 1, Canon IV of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel16 enjoins court personnel to perform
their official duties properly and with diligence at all times. Clerks of Court like respondent are
primarily responsible for the speedy and efficient service of all court processes and writs. Hence,
they cannot be allowed to slacken on their work since they are charged with the duty of keeping the
records and the seal of the court, issuing processes, entering judgments and orders, and giving
certified copies of records upon request. As such, they are expected to possess a high degree of
discipline and efficiency in the performance of their functions to help ensure that the cause of justice
is done without delay.17
As an officer of the court, respondent was duty-bound to use reasonable skill and diligence in the
performance of her officially-designated duties as clerk of court,18 failing which, warrants the
imposition of administrative sanctions. In this case, respondent unjustifiably failed to issue the alias
writs of execution to implement the judgment in Civil Case No. 18978 despite orders from the RTC.
Moreover, she failed to file the required comment in disregard of the duty of every employee in the
judiciary to obey the orders and processes of the Court without delay. Such act evinces lack of
interest in clearing her name, constituting an implied admission of the charges. 19
Consequently, the Court finds her guilty of refusal to perform official duty classified as a grave
offense under Section 52(A)(18) of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil
Service, punishable with suspension of six (6) months and one (1) day to one (1) year for the first
offense and by dismissal for the second offense.
1wphi1

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent ATTY. EVA G. BASIYA-SARATAN GUILTY of refusal to
perform official duty and accordingly, SUSPENDS her from office for six (6) months and one (1) day
without pay effective immediately upon receipt of this resolution. She is STERNLY WARNED once
again that a commission of the same or similar offense in the future shall be dealt with more
severely.
Let a copy of this resolution be attached to the personal records of respondent in the Office of
Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator.
SO ORDERED.
A.M. No. 10-2-41-RTC

February 27, 2013

RE: MISSING EXHIBITS AND COURT PROPERTIES IN REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 4,
PANABO CITY,DAVAO DEL NORTE
RESOLUTION
CARPIO, J.:

This administrative case arose from a letter1 elated 7 May 2009 and sent by Atty. Jacquelyn A.
Labust ro-Ciarcia (Atty. Labustro-Ciarcia ), C Jerk of Court V, Regional Trial Court (RTC). Judicial
Region II, Branch 4. Panabo City, to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA ).
On 16 February 2009, Atty. Labustro-Garcia assumed her position as clerk of court in the RTC. She
conducted an inventory using. among others. the acknowledgment receipt 2 for equipment issued hy
Mr. (Iii T. Trihiana. Jr. (Mr. Tribiana, Jr.), ChiefJudicial StatTOilicer, Property Division. OCA, and
discovered some missing items. In a letter3dated 27 February 2009, she required J\ttys. Mariecris B.
Colon-Reyes and Mary Francis l\'1anugDaquipil (Attys. Colon-Reyes and Manug-Daquipil ), Court
Stenographer Arden 0. Ferolino, Legal Researchers Boyd James Bacaltos ancl Edgar Casalem,
Court Interpreter Helen Rasa, and Clerk Ill Marianne G. Baylon to attend an investigation scheduled
on 27 March 2009.
Atty. Labustro-Garcia sent a letter4 dated 18 March 2009 to Mr. Tribiana, Jr., together with the signed
acknowledgment receipt and a report on the missing and unserviceable items. She also sent a
letter5 dated 13 April 2009 to Atty. Giselle Talion of the Office of the Clerk of Court to inquire whether
Attys. Colon-Reyes and Manug-Daquipil deposited any money submitted to the RTC.
In the 7 May 2009 letter which she sent to the OCA and which gave rise to this administrative case,
Atty. Labustro-Garcia asked for advice on the proper action to take regarding the missing items. She
stated that:
I am writing directly to you because I need your advice as to what steps should I undertake to
address the problem of our sala. This is in relation to the court exhibits and to the properties issued
in [sic] our sala.
I assumed my duties as Clerk of Court V of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 4, Panabo City only on
16 February 2009. I made an inventory as to the only exhibits and property bonds (titles) existing at
the time I assumed my duties as Clerk of Court. I found these exhibits and property bonds (titles)
inside the four steel cabinets at [sic] our stockroom. I also conducted physical inventory on [sic] the
properties issued by the Supreme Court based on the 9-page Acknowledgment Receipt sent by Ms.
Herminia B. Advincula (Chief, Records Section, Property Division, OCA). After inventory, I
discovered that there were missing exhibits and properties. I reported the matter to the presiding
judge and I sent a letter-reply together with the list of the missing and unserviceable properties to
Ms. Herminia S. Advincula. The presiding judge merely told me that I am not liable for those lost
items.6
In a memorandum7 dated 29 June 2009, Deputy Court Administrator Nimfa C. Vilches (DCA Vilches)
directed Presiding Judge Jesus L. Grageda (Judge Grageda) of the RTC and Atty. Labustro-Garcia
to (1) furnish the OCA with a list of the missing exhibits and properties; (2) conduct an audit and
inventory of criminal cases; (3) conduct an inventory of court properties; (4) investigate the
circumstances of the missing exhibits and properties; and (5) take necessary measures to prevent a
similar occurrence. Atty. Labustro- Garcia and Judge Grageda replied to DCA Vilches memorandum
through their 31 July8 and 30 September9 2009 letters, respectively.

On 25 November 2009, Judge Grageda compulsorily retired. In her 9 February 2012 letter,10 Marina
B. Ching, Chief of Office, Court Management Office, recommended the release of Judge Gragedas
terminal leave benefits.
In a memorandum11 dated 18 April 2012, the OCA found that there is no sufficient proof of missing
items in the RTC. However, it found Judge Grageda liable for a different offense. The OCA stated
that:
x x x The inventories submitted by both parties present conflicting findings on the alleged missing
exhibits and court properties. While Atty. Garcia claimed that there were missing exhibits and court
properties, Judge Grageda reported that based on the inventory conducted by the court staff, there
were no missing court furniture and equipment, books or publications, or lost exhibits in the RTC,
Branch 4, Panabo City. The court properties allegedly unaccounted for were reported as either
extant/existing, or unserviceable, or with the Office of the Clerk of Court, or returned to the Supreme
Court for replacement, while the listed court exhibits were likewise reported as either attached to the
records, or in the custody of the prosecution/defense, or confiscated by the government.
It is noted that before the retirement of Judge Grageda on 25 November 2009, a judicial audit was
conducted on 17 to 26 November 2009 in the RTC, Branch 4, Panabo City. Based on the Report
dated 08 March 2010, the audit team significantly found/reported no missing or lost exhibits and/or
court property thereat.
Nevertheless, the Report of the Clerk of Court on the alleged missing exhibits and court properties
should have prompted Judge Grageda to conduct an investigation on the matter, or at the very least,
to report to the Court any action taken to verify or of any measures adopted to prevent loss of
exhibits and court properties. The veracity of the reported missing exhibits and court properties
should not have been taken lightly or ignored by Judge Grageda. As then Presiding Judge of the
RTC, Branch 4, Panabo City, he had direct supervision and control over his personnel. The
importance of a prompt investigation on the alleged loss was in fact conveyed to Judge Grageda in
the OCA Memorandum dated 29 June 2009. As Presiding Judge, Judge Grageda should have
initiated an immediate investigation on the allegations without waiting for a directive from the Court.
In this regard, Judge Grageda was remiss in his duties.12
The OCA recommended that Judge Grageda be held liable for violation of Supreme Court rules,
directives and circulars, and be fined P20,000.
The Court disagrees with the OCAs recommendations.
The Court notes that the OCA submitted its memorandum to then Acting Chief Justice Antonio T.
Carpio on 10 July 2012 more than two years and seven months after Judge Grageda
compulsorily retired. During his incumbency, Judge Grageda was never given the chance to explain
the alleged violation of Supreme Court rules, directives and circulars. Up to the present, the OCA
has not commenced any formal investigation or asked Judge Grageda to comment on the matter.
Thus, the complaint against Judge Grageda must be dismissed.

In Office of the Court Administrator v. Mantua,13 the Court dismissed the complaint against a judge
because the OCA submitted its memorandum to then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno more than four
months after the judges retirement and because the judge was never given a chance to explain. The
Court held that:
It should be noted that the judicial audit team submitted their report to DCA Vilches five days after
Judge Mantuas retirement. The OCA, in turn, submitted their Memorandum to CJ Puno on 12
May 2009, or a little over four months after Judge Mantuas retirement. During his
incumbency, Judge Mantua was never given a chance to explain the results of the judicial
audit report. With the knowledge that the judicial audit report will be submitted only after Judge
Mantuas retirement, the judicial audit teams recommendations were directed only to Atty. Mape, the
Acting Clerk of Court and Legal Researcher II of Branch 17, and Judge Maraya, Acting Presiding
Judge of Branch 17 at the time of the reports submission. In its Memorandum, the OCA
recommended that Judge Mantua be fined for gross incompetency and inefficiency.
xxxx
This Court concedes that there are no promulgated rules on the conduct of judicial audit.
However, the absence of such rules should not serve as license to recommend the
imposition of penalties to retired judges who, during their incumbency, were never given a
chance to explain the circumstances behind the results of the judicial audit. Judicial audit
reports and the memoranda which follow them should state not only recommended penalties and
plans of action for the violations of audited courts, but also give commendations when they are due.
To avoid similar scenarios, manual judicial audits may be conducted at least six months before a
judges compulsory retirement. We recognize that effective monitoring of a judges observance
of the time limits required in the disposition of cases is hampered by limited resources.
These limitations, however, should not be used to violate Judge Mantuas right to due
process.14 (Boldfacing supplied)
In order for the Court to acquire jurisdiction over an administrative case, the complaint must be filed
during the incumbency of the respondent. Once jurisdiction is acquired, it is not lost by reason of
respondents cessation from office. In Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Hamoy,15 the Court
held that:
Respondents cessation from office x x x does not warrant the dismissal of the administrative
complaint filed against him while he was still in the service nor does it render said administrative
case moot and academic. The Courts jurisdiction at the time of the filing of the administrative
complaint is not lost by the mere fact that the respondent had ceased in office during the pendency
of the case.16
In the present case, Judge Gragedas compulsory retirement divested the OCA of its right to institute
a new administrative case against him after his compulsory retirement. The Court can no longer
acquire administrative jurisdiction over Judge Grageda by filing a new administrative case against
him after he has ceased to be a public official. The remedy, if necessary, is to file the appropriate civil
or criminal case against Judge Grageda for the alleged transgression. In Office of the Ombudsman
v. Andutan, Jr.,17 the Court held that:

Although the Ombudsman is not precluded by Section 20(5) of R.A. 6770 from conducting the
investigation, the Ombudsman can no longer institute an administrative case against Andutan
because the latter was not a public servant at the time the case was filed.
xxxx
x x x We disagree with the Ombudsmans interpretation that as long as the breach of conduct was
committed while the public official or employee was still in service a public servants resignation is
not a bar to his administrative investigation, prosecution and adjudication. If we agree with this
interpretation, any official even if he has been separated from the service for a long time may
still be subject to the disciplinary authority of his superiors, ad infinitum. We believe that this
interpretation is inconsistent with the principal motivation of the law which is to improve public
service and to preserve the publics faith and confidence in the government, and not the punishment
of the public official concerned. Likewise, if the act committed by the public official is indeed
inimical to the interests of the State, other legal mechanisms are available to redress the
same.
xxxx
Lastly, the State is not without remedy against Andutan or any public official who committed
violations while in office, but had already resigned or retired therefrom. Under the threefold
liability rule, the wrongful acts or omissions of a public officer may give rise to civil, criminal
and administrative liability. Even if the Ombudsman may no longer file an administrative case
against a public official who has already resigned or retired, the Ombudsman may still file
criminal and civil cases to vindicate Andutans alleged transgressions.18 (Boldfacing supplied)
Moreover, aside from the bare allegation in Atty. Labustro-Garcias 7 May 2009 letter that, "The
presiding judge merely told me that I am not liable for those lost items," there is no other proof that
Judge Grageda violated any Supreme Court rule, directive, or circular. In fact, in its 18 April 2012
memorandum, the OCA found that, contrary to Atty. Labustro- Garcias allegation, there is actually no
missing item. The OCA stated that, "Based on the Report dated 08 March 2010, the audit team
significantly found/reported no missing or lost exhibits and/or court property thereat."
1wphi1

In order to hold Judge Grageda liable, there must be substantial evidence that he committed an
offense. Otherwise, the presumption is that he regularly performed his duties. In Concerned Lawyers
of Bulacan v. Villalon-Pornillos,19 the Court held that:
The burden of substantiating the charges in an administrative proceeding against court officials and
employees falls on the complainant, who must be able to prove the allegations in the complaint with
substantial evidence. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the presumption that respondent
regularly performed her duties will prevail. Moreover, in the absence of cogent proof, bare
allegations of misconduct cannot prevail over the presumption of regularity in the performance of
official functions. In fact, an administrative complaint leveled against a judge must always be
examined with a discriminating eye, for its consequential effects are, by their nature, highly penal,
such that the respondent stands to face the sanction of dismissal and/or disbarment. The Court does
not thus give credence to charges based on mere suspicion and speculation. 20

In Go v. Judge Achas,21 the Court held that, "In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the
presumption that the respondent has regularly performed his duties will prevail. Even in
administrative cases, if a court employee or magistrate is to be disciplined for a grave offense, the
evidence against him should be competent."22
WHEREFORE, the complaint against Judge Jesus L. Grageda is DISMISSED. The Financial
Management Office of the Office of the Court Administrator is DIRECTED to release the retirement
pay and other benefits due Judge Grageda unless withheld for some other lawful cause.
SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 9310

February 27, 2013

VERLEEN TRINIDAD, FLORENTINA LANDER, WALLY CASUBUAN, MINERVA MENDOZA,


CELEDONIO ALOJADO, ROSENDO VILLAMIN and AUREA TOLENTINO, Complainants,
vs.
ATTY. ANGELITO VILLARIN, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
SERENO, J.:
Before this Court is a consolidated administrative complaint against herein respondent, Angelita
Villarin, for allegedly harassing complainants through the demand letters he sent to them.
The facts are as follows:
The instant case stemmed from a Complaint for specific performance filed with the Housing and
Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) by the buyers of the lots in Don Jose Zavalla Subdivision
against the subdivision's owner and developer- Purence Realty Corporation and Roberto Bassig.
In the final adjudication of that case on 11 October 2000, the HLURB ordered the respondents
therein to accept the payments of the buyers under the old purchase price. These buyers included
some of the complainants in the instant case, to wit: Florentina Lander, Celedonio Alojado, Aurea
Tolentino and Rosendo Villamin.
The HLURB ordered the owner and the developer to deliver the Deeds of Sale and the Transfer
Certificates of Title to the winning litigants. The Decision did not evince any directive for the
buyers to vacate the property.
Purence Realty and Roberto Bassig did not appeal the Decision, thus making it final and executory.
Thereafter, the HLURB issued a Writ of Execution.1 It was at this point that respondent Villarin
entered his special appearance to represent Purence Realty.2 Specifically, he filed an Omnibus
Motion to set aside the Decision and to quash the Writ of Execution3 for being null and void on the
ground of lack of jurisdiction due to the improper service of summons on his client. This motion was
not acted upon by the HLURB.4

On 4 December 2003, respondent sent demand letters to herein complainants.5 In all of these
letters, he demanded that they immediately vacate the property and surrender it to Purence Realty
within five days from receipt. Otherwise, he would file the necessary action against them.
True enough, Purence Realty, as represented by respondent, filed a Complaint for forcible entry
before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) against Trinidad,6 Lander,7 Casubuan8 and
Mendoza.9 Aggrieved, the four complainants filed an administrative case against respondent. 10 A
month after, Alojado, Villamin and Tolentino filed a disbarment case against respondent. 11
As found by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)12 and affirmed by its Board of
Governors,13 complainants asserted in their respective verified Complaints that the demand letters
sent by Villarin had been issued with malice and intent to harass them. They insisted that the letters
also contravened the HLURB Decision ordering his client to permit the buyers to pay the balance of
the purchase price of the subdivision lots.
Considering that these two actions were related, Villarin moved for the consolidation of the
administrative cases, and his motion was granted by the IBP commissioner.14
In his Position Paper,15 Villarin denied the allegations of harassment and claimed that no malice
attended the sending of the demand letters. He narrated that when he inquired at the HLURB, he
was informed that his client did not receive a summons pertinent to the Complaint for specific
damages. With this information, he formed the conclusion that the HLURB Decision was void and
not binding on Purence Realty. Since his client was the lawful owner of the property, respondent
issued the ejectment letters, which were indispensable in an action for unlawful detainer. Moreover,
he insisted that the addressees of the letters were different from the complainants who had filed the
case with the HLURB.
Hence, the pertinent issue in this consolidated case is whether respondent should be
administratively sanctioned for sending the demand letters despite a final and executory HLURB
Decision directing, not the ejectment of complainants, but the payment of the purchase price of the
lots by the subdivision buyers.
Prefatorily, this Court affirms the factual finding of the IBP16 that of complainants herein, only
Florentina Lander, Celedonio Alojado, Aurea Tolentino and Rosendo Villamin were listed as the
subdivision lot buyers who were parties to the HLURB case; and that Verleen Trinidad, Wally
Casubuan and Minerva Mendoza were non-parties who could not claim any right pursuant to the
Decision in that case.
Proceeding to the contested demand letters, we adopt the recommendation of the IBP board of
governors that the issuance thereof was not malicious.17 According to its Report,18 respondent
counsel merely acted on his legal theory that the HLURB Decision was not binding on his client,
since it had not received the summons. Espousing the belief that the proceedings in the HLURB
were void, Villarin pursued the issuance of demand letters as a prelude to the ejectment case he
would later on file to protect the property rights of his client.

As the lawyer of Purence Realty, respondent is expected to champion the cause of his client with
wholehearted fidelity, care, and devotion.19 This simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit
of any and every remedy and defense20 including the institution of an ejectment case that is
recognized by our property laws. InLegarda v. Court of Appeals, we held that in the full discharge of
their duties to the client, lawyers shall not be afraid of the possibility that they may displease the
general public.21
Nevertheless, the Code of Professional Responsibility provides the limitation that lawyers shall
perform their duty to the client within the bounds of law.22 They should only make such defense only
when they believe it to be honestly debatable under the law.23 In this case, respondents act of
issuing demand letters, moved by the understanding of a void HLURB Decision, is legally
sanctioned. If his theory holds water, the notice to vacate becomes necessary in order to file an
action for ejectment.24 Hence, he did not resort to any fraud or chicanery prohibited by the
Code,25 just to maintain his clients disputed ownership over the subdivision lots.
Even so, respondent cannot be considered free of error. The factual findings of the IBP board of
governors reveal that in his demand letter, he brazenly typified one of the complainants, Florentina
Lander, as an illegal occupant. However, this description is the exact opposite of the truth, since the
final and executory HLURB Decision had already recognized her as a subdivision lot buyer who had
a right to complete her payments in order to occupy her property. Respondent is very much aware of
this ruling when he filed an Omnibus Motion to set aside the HLURB Decision and the appurtenant
Writ of Execution.
1wphi1

Given that respondent knew that the aforementioned falsity totally disregarded the HLURB Decision,
he thus advances the interest of his client through means that are not in keeping with fairness and
honesty. What he does is clearly proscribed by Rule 19.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which requires that a lawyer shall employ only fair and honest means to attain
lawful objectives. Lawyers must not present and offer in evidence any document that they know is
false.26
Considering the present circumstances, we agree with the 14 May 2011 Resolution of the IBP board
of governors that the penalty of reprimand with a stern warning is appropriate. Notably, no motion for
reconsideration27 was filed by either of the parties. Thus, by virtue of the rules for disbarment of
attorneys, the case is deemed terminated.28
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Angelito Villarin is REPRIMANDED with a
warning that a repetition of the same or a similar act shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
A.M. No. MTJ-11-1801 (Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 11-2438 MTJ)

February 27, 2013

ANONYMOUS, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE RIO C. ACHAS, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, Ozamiz City, Misamis
Occidental,Respondent.

RESOLUTION
MENDOZA, J.:
Before the Court is an anonymous letter-complaint,1 dated August 2, 2010, alleging immorality and
conduct unbecoming of a judge against respondent Judge Rio C. Achas (Judge Achas), Presiding
Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental.
The letter calls on the Court to look into the morality of respondent Judge Achas and alleges that: (1)
it is of public knowledge in the city that Judge Achas is living scandalously with a woman who is not
his wife; (2) he lives beyond his means; (3) he is involved with illegal activities through his
connection with bad elements, the kuratongs; ( 4) he comes to court very untidy and dirty; (5) he
decides his cases unfairly in exchange for material and monetary consideration; and (6) he is
involved with cockfighting/gambling.
In the Indorsement,2 dated September 30, 2010, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) referred
the matter to Executive Judge Miriam Orquieza-Angot (Judge Angot) for Discreet Investigation and
Report.
In her Report,3 dated November 26, 2010, Judge Angot found that Judge Achas had been separated
from his legal wife for quite some time and they are living apart; and that he found for himself a
young woman with whom he would occasionally go out with in public and it was not a secret around
town. Anent the allegations that Judge Achas was living beyond his means and was involved in
illegal activities, Judge Angot reported that she could not be certain whether such were true, and
only ascertained that he had established friendships or alliances with people of different social
standings from around the city. Judge Angot opined that the allegation that Judge Achas would come
to court untidy and dirty was a matter of personal hygiene and in the eye of the beholder. Lastly, she
found the charge that Judge Achas decided cases unfairly in exchange for consideration to be vague
and unsubstantiated.
In his Comment,4 dated February 4, 2011, Judge Achas denied all the allegations against him and
claimed that they were hatched to harass him, pointing to disgruntled professionals, supporters and
local candidates who lost during the May 2010 elections. He asserted that after 28 years in the
government service, he had remained loyal to his work and conducted himself in a righteous
manner.
In the Resolution, dated December 14, 2011, the Court resolved to redocket the case as a regular
administrative matter and to refer the same to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of
Ozamiz City for investigation, report and recommendation.
In her Report,5 dated April 4, 2012, Executive Judge Salome P. Dungog (Judge Dungog) stated that
an investigation was conducted. Judge Achas and his two witnesses testified in his defense, namely,
his Branch Clerk of Court, Renato Zapatos; and his Process Server, Michael Del Rosario. The
anonymous complainant never appeared to testify. During the investigation, Judge Achas again
denied all the charges but admitted that he was married and only separated de facto from his legal
wife for 26 years, and that he reared game cocks for leisure and extra income, having inherited such

from his forefathers. Judge Dungog found that "it is not commendable, proper or moral per Canons
of Judicial Ethics to be perceived as going out with a woman not his wife," 6 and for him to be
involved in rearing game cocks.
In its Memorandum, dated December 17, 2012, the OCA recommended that Judge Achas be
reprimanded as to the charge of immorality. It was further recommended that he be ordered to
refrain from going to cockpits or avoid such places altogether, with a warning that the same or similar
complaint in the future shall be dealt with more severely. The other charges were recommended to
be dismissed for lack of merit.
The Court agrees, with modification.
Under Section 1 of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, anonymous complaints may be filed against
judges, but they must be supported by public records of indubitable integrity. Courts have acted in
such instances needing no corroboration by evidence to be offered by the complainant. Thus, for
anonymous complaints, the burden of proof in administrative proceedings which usually rests with
the complainant, must be buttressed by indubitable public records and by what is sufficiently proven
during the investigation. If the burden of proof is not overcome, the respondent is under no obligation
to prove his defense.7
In the present case, no evidence was attached to the letter-complaint. The complainant never
appeared, and no public records were brought forth during the investigation. Respondent Judge
Achas denied all the charges made against him, only admitting that he was separated de facto from
his wife and that he reared fighting cocks.
The charges that he (1) lives beyond his means, (2) is involved with illegal activities through his
connection with thekuratongs, (3) comes to court very untidy and dirty, and (4) decides his cases
unfairly in exchange for material and monetary consideration were, therefore, properly
recommended dismissed by the OCA for lack of evidence.
The charges that (1) it is of public knowledge that he is living scandalously with a woman not his wife
and that (2) he is involved with cockfighting/gambling are, however, another matter.
The New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary pertinently provides:
CANON 2
INTEGRITY
Integrity is essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but also to the personal
demeanor of judges.
SEC. 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that it is perceived to
be so in the view of a reasonable observer.
SEC. 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the peoples faith in the integrity of the
judiciary. Justice must not merely be done but must also be seen to be done.

xxx

xxx

xxx

CANON 4
PROPRIETY
Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the activities of a
judge.
SEC. 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.
SEC. 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal restrictions that might
be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In particular,
judges shall conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Judge Angots discreet investigation revealed that the respondent judge found "for himself a suitable
young lass whom he occasionally goes out with in public and such a fact is not a secret around
town."8 Judge Achas denied this and no evidence was presented to prove the contrary. He did admit,
however, that he had been estranged from his wife for the last 26 years. Notwithstanding his
admission, the fact remains that he is still legally married to his wife. The Court, therefore, agrees
with Judge Dungog in finding that it is not commendable, proper or moral for a judge to be perceived
as going out with a woman not his wife. Such is a blemish to his integrity and propriety, as well as to
that of the Judiciary.
For going out in public with a woman not his wife, Judge Achas has clearly failed to abide by the
above-cited Canons of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for Philippine Judiciary.
Regarding his involvement in cockfighting, however, there is no clear evidence. Judge Achas denied
engaging in cockfighting and betting. He admitted, however, that he reared fighting cocks for leisure,
having inherited the practice from his forefathers. While gamecocks are bred and kept primarily for
gambling, there is no proof that he goes to cockpits and gambles. While rearing fighting cocks is not
illegal, Judge Achas should avoid mingling with a crowd of cockfighting enthusiasts and bettors as it
undoubtedly impairs the respect due him. As a judge, he must impose upon himself personal
restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and
willingly.
1wphi1

The Court further notes that in A.M. No. MTJ-04-1564,9 Judge Achas was charged with immorality for
cohabiting with a woman not his wife, and with gross misconduct and dishonesty for personally
accepting a cash bond in relation to a case and not depositing it with the clerk of court, and for
maintaining a flock of fighting cocks and actively participating in cockfights. The Court, in 2005,
found him guilty of gross misconduct for personally receiving the cash bond and fined him in the
amount of P15,000.00 with a stern warning. The charge of immorality was dismissed for lack of
evidence. Although the Court, at the same time, noted that the charge of maintaining a flock of
fighting cocks and participating in cockfights was denied by the respondent judge, it made no ruling
on the charge.

Seven years later, similar charges of immoral cohabitation and cockfighting have again been levelled
against Judge Achas. Considering that his immoral behaviour is not a secret around town, it is
apparent that respondent judge has failed to ensure that his conduct is perceived to be above
reproach by the reasonable observer, and has failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety in his
activities, to the detriment of the judiciary as a whole.
No position demands greater moral righteousness and uprightness from its occupant than does the
judicial office. Judges in particular must be individuals of competence, honesty and probity, charged
as they are with safeguarding the integrity of the court and its proceedings. He should behave at all
times so as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and avoid
impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities. His personal behaviour outside the
court, and not only while in the performance of his official duties, must be beyond reproach, for he is
perceived to be the personification of law and justice. Thus, any demeaning act of a judge degrades
the institution he represents.10
Under Section 10 in relation to Section 11 C (1) of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended,
"unbecoming conduct" is classified as a light charge, punishable by any of the following sanctions:
(1) a fine of not less than Pl,000.00 but not exceeding P10,000.00; and/or (2) censure; (3)
reprimand; ( 4) admonition with warning. The Court, thus, finds that the penalty of a fine in the
amount of P5,000.00 and reprimand are proper under the circumstances.
WHEREFORE, for violation of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, respondent Judge Rio Concepcion
Achas isREPRlMANDED and FINED in the amount of FIVE THOUSAND PESOS
(P5,000.00), ADMONISHED not to socially mingle with cockfighting enthusiasts and bettors,
and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more
severely.
SO ORDERED.
A.M. No. P-12-3032
February 20, 2013
[Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 11-3652-P]
RAY ANTONIO C. SASING, Complainant,
vs.
CELESTIAL VENUS G. GELBOLINGO, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Cagayan de
Oro City,Respondents.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
This refers to a complaint1 for "Gross Neglect of Duty, Inefficiency, Incompetence in the Performance
of Official Duties and Refusal to Perform an Official Duty" filed against respondent Celestial Venus
G. Gelbolingo (Sheriff Gelbolingo), Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City,
concerning the implementation of the Writ of Execution Pending Appeal2 in Civil Case No. 2010-331,
entitled Annabelle N. A mores and Nelson Calandria v. Spouses Ray Antonio and Bema Sasing.

The Facts
Complainant Ray Antonio Sasing (Sasing) and his wife were the defendants in Civil Action No. 2010331, an action for ejectment instituted by Annabelle N. Amores (Amores) and Nelson
Calandria (Calandria) before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 5, Cagayan de Oro
City (MTCC). In its October 15, 2010 Decision,3 the MTCC rendered a verdict, unfavorable to
Sasing, which he immediately appealed before the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro
City (RTC). Eventually, their appeal was raffled to Branch 20, where Sheriff Gelbolingo was holding
office. In the Order, dated December 10, 2010, the RTC granted the Motion for Issuance of a Writ of
Execution Pending Appeal filed by Amores and Calandria, which it amended on January 31,
2011.4 Thereafter, Sheriff Gelbolingo was tasked to implement the Writ of Execution Pending
Appeal5 issued on March 10, 2011.
On the day of the execution of the writ, Sasing alleged that Sheriff Gelbolingo took personal
belongings supposedly exempt from execution. Thus, in a letter,6 dated March 25, 2011, Sasing
wrote Sheriff Gelbolingo asking her to return the said items on March 28, 2011. As he received no
response from her, Sasing wrote a letter,7 dated April 5, 2011, addressed to the Court Administrator,
expressing his intention to lodge a complaint against her for her failure to turn over their belongings
despite previous requests. The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) replied in a letter,8 dated April
25, 2011, advising Sasing to fill up the required form in filing an administrative case should he decide
to pursue his complaint against Sheriff Gelbolingo.
Determined, Sasing formally charged Sheriff Gelbolingo with "Gross Neglect of Duty, Inefficiency,
Incompetence in the Performance of Official Duties and Refusal to Perform an Official Duty" in an
Affidavit-Complaint,9 dated May 20, 2011.
In her Comment,10 Sheriff Gelbolingo denied all the charges against her. She clarified that prior to the
implementation of the writ, she, along with the winning party, requested for two barangay officials to
be present during the implementation of the writ and to check the inventory of the personal effects
found in the premises.11Sasing and his wife were also present at the time of the execution of the writ
and their belongings were properly packed, inventoried and witnessed by the barangay officials. The
couple apparently preoccupied with other matters, left the place without retrieving their
belongings.12 She asked the barangay officials if they could spare a space in their office, but they
declined because the area would be used during the upcoming barangaysKauswagan fiesta.
Eventually, she left Sasings personal effects beside their house for safekeeping until she could
properly turn them over to them.13
Sheriff Gelbolingo confirmed receipt of the March 25 and March 31, 2011 letters, but she explained
that they were not able to meet. On March 25, she arrived late at the designated meeting place
because of other courtrelated tasks, while on their supposed second appointment date, Sasing failed
to appear.14
The OCA, in its Report, dated November 18, 2011, 15 recommended a formal investigation for the
examination of the records and the verification of the allegations of Sasing to determine whether
Sheriff Gelbolingo performed her duties within the bounds of her authority. The recommendation of
the OCA reads:

RECOMMENDATION: It is respectfully recommended for the consideration of the Honorable Court


that the instant administrative complaint against Celestial Venus G. Gelbolingo, Sheriff IV,
Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City, be RE-DOCKETED as a regular
administrative matter and that the same be REFERRED to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial
Court, Cagayan de Oro City, for investigation, report and recommendation within sixty (60) days from
receipt of the records hereof.16
On January 25, 2012, the Court resolved to re-docket the administrative complaint as a regular
administrative matter and referred the same to the Executive Judge of the RTC, Cagayan de Oro
City, for investigation, report and recommendation.17
Executive Judge Evelyn Gamotin Nery (Judge Nery), in a resolution,18 dated July 30, 2012, found the
charges of gross neglect of duty, inefficiency and incompetence unsubstantiated. Judge Nery
pointed out that the wife of Sasing was present when the eviction was carried out, but she "did not
even bother to retrieve and/or get by herself things they own, from the premises." 19 In fact,
"respondent had the personal things of the Sasings inventoried and placed inside boxes and sacks
in the presence of two Barangay Kagawads of their place."20
Judge Nery, however, found that Sheriff Gelbolingo was remiss in her duty to reply to Sasings two
prior letters. Judge Nery stated that if Sheriff Gelbolingo only had the courtesy to reply and request
for a contact number, then it could have saved the day for her.21
After a careful examination of the records of this case, the Court agrees with the findings of Judge
Nery.
Gross neglect of duty refers to negligence that is characterized by glaring want of care; by acting or
omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and
intentionally; or by acting with a conscious indifference to consequences with respect to other
persons who may be affected.22 "It is the omission of that care that even inattentive and thoughtless
men never fail to take on their own property. In cases involving public officials, there is gross
negligence when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable." 23 Gross inefficiency is intimately akin to
gross neglect as both involve specific acts of omission on the part of the employee resulting in
damage to the employer or to the latters business.24
In this regard, the Court finds the charge baseless. Sheriff Gelbolingo did not disregard the standard
procedure for implementing a writ of execution. Contrary to Sasings allegation that she levied their
personal effects, it was found that she never took away their belongings. Perhaps due to confusion
or other pressing matters, it appears that Sasings wife left without pulling out their personal
belongings from the premises. Forced by this circumstance, Sheriff Gelbolingo took it upon herself to
look for a temporary storage for the personal effects.
Basic is the rule that mere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof. 25 Charges based
on mere suspicion and speculation likewise cannot be given credence. In administrative
proceedings, the complainant bears the onus of establishing, by substantial evidence, the averments
of his complaint.26 A complainant cannot rely on mere conjectures and suppositions. If a complainant

fails to substantiate his allegations, the administrative complaint must be dismissed for lack of
merit.27
The Court, however, agrees that Sheriff Gelbolingos failure to properly respond to the
communication of Sasing is tantamount to discourtesy. A simple note as to where their personal
effects were temporarily stored could have assured him that their belongings were not confiscated
but merely stored for safekeeping until the same could be properly turned over to them. The Court is
fully aware that a sheriffs schedule can be hectic, but she could have easily relayed the information
to the other court staff to address Sasings concerns. This simple gesture could have avoided this
controversy.
Section 1 of Article XI of the Constitution states that a public office is a public trust. "It enjoins public
officers and employees to serve with the highest degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty and
efficiency and to, at all times, remain accountable to the people." 28 As front liners of the justice
system, sheriffs and deputy sheriffs must always strive to maintain public trust in the performance of
their duties.29 As agents of the law, they are "called upon to discharge their duties with due care and
utmost diligence because in serving the courts writs and processes and implementing the orders of
the court, they cannot afford to err without affecting the integrity of their office and the efficient
administration of justice."30
1wphi1

The administrative offense committed by Sheriff Gelbolingo is discourtesy in the course of official
duties which, under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, Rule IV, Section
52 (C) (1), is a light offense. The penalty imposable for such an offense is either a reprimand for the
first offense, a suspension from 1 day to 30 days for the second offense, and dismissal from public
service for the third offense. In the case of Perez v. Cunting,31 it was written:
Under Rule XIV, Sec. 23 of the Civil Service Law and Rules, a first offense of discourtesy, which is a
light penalty, in the course of ones official duties shall be meted the penalty of reprimand.
In Pealosa v. Viscaya, Jr.,32respondent deputy sheriff was reprimanded for gross discourtesy in
connection with his actuations towards the complainant (therein private complainant in a criminal
case) when the latter requested for an explanation for his failure to serve a warrant of arrest upon
the accused. In Paras v. Lofranco,33 the respondent, Clerk III of a lower court, was charged with
discourtesy and conduct unbecoming a court employee for her acts and utterances directed against
the complainant, the counsel for the accused in a pending case before the said court. This Court
found the arrogant gesture and discourteous utterances of the respondent in treating the
complainant to be improper. Accordingly, it imposed on respondent the penalty of reprimand.
In Reyes v. Patiag34, respondent clerk of court was censured for discourtesy for two acts, when, in a
very rude manner, she denied complainant's request to see the records of a civil case and treated
her as if she was not an interested party by telling complainant that she seemed to be more
knowledgeable than the court because complainant asked why a "preliminary investigation," actually
a preliminary examination, was necessary. Considering that this is the first offense of the
respondent, we find the penalty of reprimand to be appropriate in this case.
In this case, considering that there was an effort on her part to meet with Sasing twice, but the latter
did not appear on the second scheduled meeting, Sheriff Gelbolingo is hereby given the benefit of
the doubt due to such mitigating circumstance and need not be penalized.

Nevertheless, the Court reminds Sheriff Gelbolingo to be more mindful of how she deals with party
litigants or with anyone who comes before the court for relief The Court expects that every person
with an office charged with the dispensation ofjustice to perform his duty to the best of his ability, free
from any suspicion and to be, all times, at their best behavior.
WHEREFORE, respondent Celestial Venus G. Gelbolingo, Sheritl TV of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City, is hereby ADMONISHED for her discourteous acts and she is also
warned that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.