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JUDICIAL ETHICS

1. SISON-BARIAS VS RUBIA

Facts:

Complainant Emilie Sison-Barias is involved in three cases pending


before the sala of respondent Judge Marino Rubia.

The rst case is an intestate proceeding. 1 Complainant led a


petition for letters of administration over the intestate estate of her
late husband, Ramon A. Barias. This was opposed by her mother-in-
law, Romelias Almeda-Barias.

The second case is a guardianship proceeding over Romelias


Almeda-Barias. Evelyn Tanael, the guardian appointed by the court,
submitted a property inventory report that included not only the
properties of Romelias Almeda-Barias but also properties forming
part of the estate of complainant's late husband.

The third case is a civil action 5 for annulment of contracts and


reconveyance of real properties led by Romelias Almeda-Barias,
represented by Evelyn Tanael, against complainant, among others.
Complainant alleged that there was delay in the publication of the
notice in the petition for issuance of letters of administration led. She
was then informed by her brother, Enrique "Ike" Sison, that
respondent Eileen Pecaa, the daughter of his good friend, was a
data encoder in the Oce of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial
Court of Bian, Laguna. 8

Complainant, together with her two brothers, Enrique and Perlito


"Jun" Sison, Jr., met with respondent Pecaa on February 20, 2010.
During this meeting,
complainant informed respondent Pecaa of the delay in the
publication of the notice in the petition for issuance of letters of
administration. She then asked respondent Pecaa to check the
status of the publication of the notice. 11 Respondent Pecaa asked
for complainant's number so that she could inform her as soon as any
development takes place in the case. 12 Enrique 13 and Perlito 14
executed adavits to corroborate these allegations.

Respondent Pecaa asked complainant to meet her again at her


house in Bian,

Laguna. Complainant went there with Enrique. 16 Respondent


Pecaa then informed complainant that she could no longer assist
her since respondent Judge Rubia had already given administration
of the properties to Evelyn Tanael. 17
Complainant stated that she was not interested in the grant of
administration to Tanael because these concerned the properties of
her mother-in-law, Romelias Almeda-Barias. She was only
concerned with the administration of the properties of her late
husband, to which respondent Pecaa replied, "Ah ganun ba? Iba
pala ung kaso mo." Complainant called respondent Pecaa who
informed her that respondent Judge Rubia wanted to talk to her. 21
Complainant agreed to meet with respondent Judge Rubia over
dinner, on the condition that respondent Pecaa would be present as
well.

On March 3, 2010 23 at around 7:00 p.m., complainant picked up


respondent Pecaa at 6750 Ayala Avenue in Makati City. They
proceeded to Caf Juanita in The Fort, Bonifacio Global City.
Respondent Pecaa said that respondent Judge Rubia would arrive
late as he would be coming from a Rotary Club meeting held at the
Mandarin Hotel.

Respondent Judge Rubia arrived at Caf Juanita around 8:30 p.m.


During the dinner meeting, respondents allegedly asked complainant
inappropriate questions. Respondent Judge Rubia allegedly asked
whether she was still connected with Philippine Airlines, which she
still was at that time. 25 Complainant was then informed that
respondent Judge Rubia knew of this fact through Atty. Noe Zarate,
counsel of Romelias Almeda-Barias. This disclosure surprised
complainant, as she was under the impression that opposing counsel
and respondent Judge Rubia had no business discussing matters
that were not relevant to their pending cases. 27

Respondent Judge Rubia also allegedly asked her questions about


her supposed involvement with another man and other accusations
made by Romelias Almeda-Barias.

These details, according to complainant, were never discussed in the


pleadings or in the course of the trial. Thus, she inferred that
respondent Judge Rubia had been talking to the opposing counsel
regarding these matters outside of the court proceedings. The
impression of complainant was that respondent Judge Rubia was
actively taking a position in favor of Atty. Zarate.

To conrm her suspicion, respondents then allegedly "told


complainant to just talk to Atty. Zarate, counsel for the oppositor,
claiming that he is a nice person. Complainant was appalled by such
suggestion and replied[,] 'Why will I talk to him? Judge di ko yata
kaya gawin un.'" Complainant alleged that respondent Judge Rubia
acted in a manner that showed manifest partiality in favor of the
opposing parties, namely, Romelias Almeda-Barias and Evelyn
Tanael, as represented by their counsel, Atty. Noe Zarate. She
alleged that respondent Judge Rubia failed to require a timely ling of
the pre-trial brief on the part of Evelyn Tanael and Romelias Almeda-
Barias, and despite their non-compliance on four (4) separate pre-
trials that were postponed, Tanael and Almeda-Barias were not
declared in default. 44 She also alleged that respondent Judge Rubia
stated that the burden to prove ownership of the property was on
complainant, when in fact it was the oppositor, or Tanael and
Almeda-Barias, who had the burden of proof to show that the land
was fraudulently transferred to her late husband. Complainant moved
for respondent Judge Rubia's inhibition. This was denied on October
6, 2010. Complainant then led a motion for reconsideration denied in
an order 49 dated November 15, 2010. On November 11, 2010,
complainant led a complaint adavit 51 before the Oce of the
Court Administrator charging respondent Pecaa for gross
misconduct and respondent Judge Rubia for conduct unbecoming of
a judge, partiality, gross ignorance of the law or procedure,
incompetence, and gross misconduct.

ISSUE:
Whether respondents Judge Rubia and Pecaa should be held
administratively liable.

HELD:
Yes. This court must set aside the ndings of fact and reject the
report of Justice Samuel Gaerlan. Respondents Judge Rubia and
Pecaa should be held administratively liable for their actions.

Pecaa took place on March 10, 2010 on the side street of Burgos
Circle in Bonifacio Global City, after the Rotary Club of Makati,
Southwest Chapter meeting and dinner at Numa Restaurant, on their
way to the parking lot. This means that the testimony of and the
evidence presented by Rodel do not disprove the occurrence of the
dinner meeting as alleged by complainant, since the meeting of the
Rotary Club and the dinner meeting alleged by complainant took
place on dierent dates.

Assuming that the alleged chance meeting between complainant and


respondent Judge Rubia took place on March 10, 2010 as alleged by
respondents, this does not discount the veracity of complainant's
allegations. Both the Rotary Club of Makati, Southwest Chapter
dinner and the dinner meeting alleged by complainant took place in
the vicinity of Bonifacio Global City. This could have allowed
respondent Judge Rubia ample time to travel to the dinner meeting
after the meeting of the Rotary Club of Makati.

The investigation report stated that the attendance sheet and the
program of meeting that Rodel submitted corroborated his testimony.
The date indicated on the attendance sheet and on the program of
meeting was March 10, 2010, not March 3, 2010. However, there was
nothing to indicate the time of arrival or departure of the attendees.
Neither was there an indication of the time when the meeting began
or ended. The attendance sheet and the program of meeting, by
themselves or taken as corroborative evidence of Rodel's testimony,
do not discount the distinct and tangible possibility that the dinner
meeting as narrated by complainant took place.

On the other hand, we nd the allegation that the dinner meeting took
place on March 3, 2010 more credible.

Complainant presented a document containing a list of calls she


made from January to March 2010. 119 She identied her cellular
phone number 120 as well as respondent Pecaa's. 121 Respondent
Pecaa admitted that the number identied by complainant was her
number. 122 On March 2 and 3, 2010, calls were made to respondent
Pecaa's number. 123 Respondent Pecaa admitted that she had
received a call from complainant before the latter picked her up at
6750 Makati City. 124 However, no calls to respondent Pecaa were
recorded on March 10, 2010 in the document presented. 125 On the
other hand, the calls made to respondent Pecaa as shown in the
document coincided with complainant's allegations.

The totality of these circumstances places doubt on the alibi of


respondent Judge Rubia and Rodel's narration of events. The
strongest corroborative evidence to support complainant's allegations
was the exchange of text messages between complainant and
respondent Pecaa regarding the dinner meeting. These text
messages were admitted by respondent Pecaa. 128 However,
Justice Gaerlan failed to give any weight to the exchange of text
messages. This fact was not included in his investigation report.

The content of the text messages of respondent Pecaa belied


respondents' claim that the alleged dinner meeting in Burgos Circle
was only a chance encounter.

AILEEN PECAA [sic]

Bkt xa galit kng mkpg kta ka smin widout his knowledge. I cnt fathom
y wil it end up ling an admin case. (August 8, 2010, 4:29 p.m.)

AILEEN PECAA [sic]

Pls Emily do something 2 pacify ur lawyer, juj rubia will denitely get
mad wid us. (August 8, 2010, 4:30 p.m.) 130 (Emphasis supplied)

Respondent Pecaa used the phrase, "mkpg kta," which may be


translated to "have a meeting." "Mkpg kta" can in no way mean a
chance encounter.
Further, respondent Pecaa's text messages sent to complainant
belied her claim of an innocent chance encounter. She said that
respondent Judge Rubia would get angry after complainant had
informed her that her lawyer might le an administrative case against
them. Respondent Judge Rubia would not have had a reason to get
upset because of the possibility of administrative liability if an
innocent and coincidental encounter happened and not a dinner
meeting. However, if the meeting took place as alleged by
complainant, this would have logically led to a hostile reaction from
respondents, particularly respondent Judge Rubia.

There was clearly no reason for respondent Pecaa to go out of her


way to greet respondent Judge Rubia. In fact, after allegedly being
repeatedly reminded that court employees should not have any
dealings with litigants, respondent Pecaa should not have gone out
to greet respondent Judge Rubia since she was dining with a litigant.

Respondent Judge Rubia committed gross violations of the New


Code of Judicial Conduct

By meeting a litigant and advising her to talk to opposing


counsel, respondent Judge Rubia violated several canons of the
New Code of Judicial Conduct.

Respondent Judge Rubia failed to act in a manner that upholds the


dignity mandated by his oce. He was already made aware of the
impropriety of respondent Pecaa's actions by virtue of her
admissions in her comment. At the time of the referral of the
complaint to the Oce of the Court Administrator, respondent Judge
Rubia was already the Executive Judge of Branch 24 of the Regional
Trial Court of Bian, Laguna. As a judge, he had the authority to
ensure that all court employees, whether or not they were under
his direct supervision, act in accordance with the esteem of their
oce.

Respondent Pecaa even alleged that respondent Judge Rubia


made several warnings to all court employees not to intercede in any
case pending before any court under his jurisdiction as Executive
Judge. However, nothing in the record shows that respondent Judge
Rubia took action after being informed of respondent Pecaa's
interactions with a litigant, such as ascertaining her actions,
conducting an inquiry to admonish or discipline her, or at least
reporting her actions to the Oce of the Court Administrator.
For this failure alone, respondent Judge Rubia should be held
administratively liable.

Furthermore, the evidence on record supports the allegations that a


meeting with complainant, a litigant with several cases pending
before his sala, took place. Respondent Judge Rubia's mere
presence in the dinner meeting provides a ground for administrative
liability.

In Gandeza Jr. v. Tabin,

142

this court reminded judges:

Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires a judge to avoid not


only impropriety but also the mere appearance of impropriety in all
activities.

They are the intermediaries between conicting interests and the


embodiments of the people's sense of justice. Thus, their ocial
conduct should be beyond reproach. 148 (Citations omitted,
emphasis supplied)

This is telling of a culture of tolerance that has led to the decay of the
exacting nature of judicial propriety. Instead of being outraged by
respondent Judge Rubia's meeting an opposing party, Atty. Zarate
defended respondent Judge Rubia's actions.

Had it been true that a settlement was being brokered by respondent


Judge Rubia, it should have been done in open court with the record
reecting such an initiative.

The eight-month delay in the filing of the administrative complaint is


of no consequence. Delay in filing an administrative complaint should
not be construed as basis to question its veracity or credibility. There
are considerations that a litigant must think about before filing an
administrative case against judges and court personnel. This is more
so for lawyers where the possibility of appearing before the judge
where an administrative complaint has been filed is high. Filing an
administrative case against respondents is a time-consuming ordeal,
and it would require additional time and resources that litigants would
rather not expend in the interest of preserving their rights in the suit.
Complainant might have decided to tread with caution so as not to
incur the ire of Judge Rubia for fear of the reprisal that could take
place after the filing of an administrative complaint. Judges and court
personnel wield extraordinary control over court proceedings of cases
filed. Thus, litigants are always cautious in filing administrative cases
against judges and court personnel. In any case, administrative
offenses, including those committed by members of the bench and
bar, are not subject to a fixed period within which they must be
reported. To stress how the law frowns upon even any appearance of
impropriety in a magistrates activities, it has often been held that a
judge must be like Caesars wife above suspicion and beyond
reproach. Respondents act discloses a deficiency in prudence and
discretion that a member of the Judiciary must exercise in the
performance of his official functions and of his activities as a private
individual. It is never trite to caution respondent to be prudent and
circumspect in both speech and action, keeping in mind that her
conduct in and outside the courtroom is always under constant
observation. Judge Rubia clearly failed to live up to the standards of
his office. By participating in the dinner meeting and by failing to
admonish respondent Pecaa for her admitted impropriety,
respondent Judge Rubia violated Canons 1 and 2 of the New Code of
Judicial Conduct.

2. HURTADO VS JUDALENA

Facts: Isabel G. Judalena had sold a portion, containing an area of 75


square meters of her parcel of land to Hurtado, "with the condition
that the latter shall cause a subdivision survey of the portion sold in
order to segregate said portion from the bigger portion, after "which
the said Hurtado shall construct a concrete fence between the two
lots. Hurtado, however, violated their agreement. Pursuant to this,
Judalena prayed for a "writ of preliminary injunction to restrain
Hurtado. respondent Judge Arsenio Gonong, his close relationship
"with Judalena notwithstanding, and despite the prohibition imposed
by Section 1, Rule 137 of the Revised Rules of Court issued and
order ex- parte directing the issuance of a writ of preliminary
injunction. Respondent Judge issued an order voluntarily
disqualifying himself from hearing the case in view of his close
relationship "with the plaintiff therein and directed the transmittal of
the records of the case to the incumbent Executive Judge for proper
assignment to the other Judges of the court.

Hurtado filed a motion for the dissolution of the writ of preliminary


injunction in order to preserve the status quo until the designation of
another judge to try the case, "with a prayer that the respondent
Judge hear the motion to give him an opportunity to rectify the
mistake error he had committed in taking cognizance of the case and
in granting, ex-parte, the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction.
Respondent Judge, however, denied the motion. Hence, the instant
petition.
Issue: Whether or not Judge Gonong acted unlike of a Judge

Held: Yes. Section 1 Rule 137 of the Revised Rules of Court


enumerates without ambiguity the cases in which any Judge or
Judicial officer is disqualified from acting as such. The said section, in
no uncertain terms, e-pressly prohibits a Judge or Judicial Officer
from sitting in a case where he is related to either party within the
sixth degree of consanguinity or affinity. This is mandatory. In the
case at bar, it is not denied that the respondent Judge is the brother
of the respondent Isabel G. Judalena and their close relationship
notwithstanding, and despite the prohibition mentioned above, the
respondent Judge took cognizance of the case and issued the
controversial order directing the issuance of a writ of preliminary
injunction, after which he inhibited himself from sitting on the case for
the same reasons. Such an action, to our mind is reprehensible as it
erodes the all important confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.

3. A.M. No. MTJ-93-888 October 24, 1994


MAYOR ROGER S. PADILLA,complainant,vs.HON. ROBERTO V.
ZANTUA, JR., Municipal Trial Court, Jose Panganiban, Camarines
Norte,respondent.

Facts:
Mayor Roger S. Padilla alleges that in Criminal Case Nos. 5935
and 5936 (People v. Ventura Calzada, et al.) for grave coercion and
grave threats; Criminal Case No. 5973 (People v. Efren Dalde, et al.)
for highgrading; Civil Case No. 610 (Vicente Enriquez v. Zaldy
Suarez) for trespassing (sic); Criminal Case No. 5908 (People v.
Rolando Racasa) for highgrading; and Criminal Case No. 5998
(People v. Job Riel) for alarms and scandals, the opposing counsel,
Atty. Augusto B. Schneider is always seen eatingand drinking in the
constant company of respondent Judge in public establishments in
the Municipality of Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte. Respondent
Judge denies that he is fraternizing with lawyers with pending cases
in his sala, explaining that in the case of Atty. Schneider, he is the
only lawyer in the Municipality of Jose Panganiban and it is but
natural for respondent Judge to be friendly with him but maintains
that their friendship has never been a hindrance to the proper
disposition of the cases in his sala.

Issue:
WON the respondent violatedSection 4 Canon 1

Ruling:
Yes. Constant company with a lawyer tends to breed intimacy and
camaraderie to the point that favors in the future may be asked from
respondent judge which he may find hard to resist. The actuation of
respondent Judge of eating and drinking in public places with a
lawyer who has pending cases in his sala may well arouse suspicion
in the public mind, thus tending to erode the trust of the litigants in the
impartiality of the judge. This eventuality may undermine the people's
faith in the administration of justice. It is of no moment that Atty.
Augusto Schneider is the only lawyer in the locality. Respondent is
admonished.

4. Tan vs Rosete

TAN V. ROSETE

Facts:
Before the cases were decided, respondent judge allegedly
sent a member of his staff to talk to complainant. The staff member
told complainant Tan that Judge Rosete was asking for P150,000.00
in exchange for the non-dismissal of the cases. She was shown
copies of respondent judges decision in the criminal cases, both still
unsigned, dismissing the complaints against the accused. She was
told that respondent judge would reverse the disposition of the cases
as soon as she remits the amount demanded. Complainant,
however, did not accede to respondents demand because she
believed that she had a very strong case, well supported by evidence.
The criminal cases were eventually dismissed by respondent judge.

Held:
We have repeatedly admonished our judges to adhere to the
highest tenets of judicial conduct. They must be the embodiment of
competence, integrity and independence. The exacting standards of
conduct demanded from judges are designed to promote public
confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary because the
peoples confidence in the judicial system is founded not only on the
magnitude of legal knowledge and the diligence of the members of
the bench, but also on the highest standard of integrity and moral
uprightness they are expected to possess. When the judge himself
becomes the transgressor of any law which he is sworn to apply, he
places his office in disrepute, encourages disrespect for the law and
impairs public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the
judiciary itself. It is therefore paramount that a judges personal
behavior both in the performance of his duties and his daily life, be
free from any appearance of impropriety as to be beyond reproach.
Respondents act of sending a member of his staff to talk with
complainant and show copies of his draft decisions, and his act of
meeting with litigants outside the office premises beyond office hours
violate the standard of judicial conduct required to be observed by
members of the Bench. They constitute gross misconduct which is
punishable under Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court.

5. Re Report of Acting Presiding Judge Herico


Facts:
On February 28, 1999, then Presiding Judge Edgar M. Alba of
the MTC of Mercedes, Camarines Norte applied for optional
retirement, Pursuant to the resolution of the Court (en banc) dated
March 2, 1999, the Court approved his application, 2 but held in
abeyance the payment of his retirement benefits subject to whatever
penalties the Court may impose relative to another administrative
case against him, docketed as A.M. No. MTJ 99-1210, 3 and subject
further to the availability of funds and the usual clearance
requirements.

In a letter dated September 29, 1999, Judge Herico informed the


OfBce of the Court Administrator (OCA) that when he assumed office
as Acting Judge of MCTC of Capalonga- Sta. Elena, he discovered
that there were missing cash bonds in two pending criminal cases
and that both cases do not even have any release order. He asked
the Clerk of Court, Rolando B. Saa, to prepare an inventory of the
pending cases and found out that there were violations in the proper
custody of exhibits. He also requested that the available funds of the
MCTC be advanced to cover the amount of the missing cash bonds
which would thereafter have to be paid by the person found guilty of
misappropriating the same. OCA recommended that Judge Alba be
required to submit his comment on the letter-complaint of Judge
Herico and that his retirement benefits be withheld. Pertinent portions
of the memorandum read:

It was verified that the salaries of Clerk of Court Rolando Saa had
been ordered withheld by the Fiscal Management since May 1999 for
failure to submit the Report on the Monthly Collection and Withdrawal
of Fiduciary Fund . Further verificat shows that nevertheless, Mr. Saa,
is not remiss in reporting regularly the general fund and JDF
collections. No charges have yet been filed against Mr. Saa for his
failure to submit the aforesaid report. The withholding of his salaries
was done only for the purpose of compliance or compelling Mr. Saa
to submit the required report. At present, the Fiscal Monitoring
Division, this ofBce, is conducting a financial audit on the collections
of Mr. Saa.

Based on the report of Acting Judge Herico, Mr. Saa is pointing the
blame to former Acting Judge, Edgar Alba .

Judge Alba submitted a letter-answer/comment (addressed to Judge


Herico) stating that the July 8, 1994 order he issued merely approved
the P10,000 bail bond posted by the accused, but did not state that
he and Ma. Isabel S. Liwag would keep the amount in their custody.
He added that per Official Receipt No. 2854940, the P10,000 paid by
one Jerry Duazo for the bail of the accused, had been received by
two of his staff, PerBdia J. Parale, as evidenced by her initials "PJP,"
and Ma. Isabel Liwag, whose signature also appeared therein. In
seeking to be absolved from any liability, Judge Alba insisted that the
ones supposed to be held liable are Isabel Liwag, PerBdia Parale,
and Clerk of Court Rolando B. Saa who failed to audit the two in
1995.

the OCA stated:

After a careful evaluation of the aforesaid comment-explanation of


Judge Edgar M. Alba, it appears that his reasons and arguments do
not warrant the outright dismissal of the present matter at bar.

Although the aforesaid court employees may be considered as


accountable ofBcers in the Court [and] they could be held answerable
for the subject missing funds, there is no doubt that retired Judge
Alba has an active participation in the whereabouts of the missing
cash bonds. It should be noted that in the authorization given to Mr.
Alejandro Pisante, retired Judge Alba's signature appeared as the
one who approved the encashment of the check payment for the
cash bond in Criminal Case No. 812 in the sum of P20,000.00.
Besides, Judge Alba could no longer pinpoint Ms. Liwag as the one
responsible for the said bonds. After being AWOL for sometime, Ms.
Liwag Bnally tendered her resignation which was later on accepted
by Judge Alba. Not only that, Judge Alba also cleared Ms. Liwag from
all money and property accountabilities. Since this matter also
involves financial liability, the prayer for the release of the retirement
benefits cannot be granted.

In view thereof, it is respectfully submitted for the consideration of the


Honorable Court with the recommendation that the retirement
benefits of Judge Alba be denied.

In the Court's Circular No. 26-97, dated May 5, 1997, then Court
Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo directed the Judges and Clerks of
Courts of the Lower Courts to observe the procedures with regard to
monies received by the collecting officers of the courts: The Judiciary
Development Fund and the Fiduciary Fund partake of the nature of
trust funds. Facts show that Talento, who was appointed as the Court
Stenographer and designated as the Assistant Clerk of the MCTC of
Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte, initialed "PJP" on Official Receipt No.
2854940 dated July 7, 1994 with regard to the cash bond of P10,000
posted by one Jerry Duazo for the accused Mario Zamala y Dasco in
Criminal Case No. 750 for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.
Ma. Isabel Liwag, Court Interpreter I and designated as Acting Clerk
of Court of MCTC of Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte, afBxed her
counter-initial/signature in the same receipt. The aforesaid amount
had not been deposited either in the depository bank or in the OfBce
of the Municipal Treasurer.

In Criminal Case No. 812, Alejandro M. Pisante, a Utility Worker of


the MCTC of Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte, after encashing the
check, handed the P20,000, cash bond to Ma. Isabel Liwag in the
presence of PerBdia J. Talento and Judge Alba. In his affidavit dated
June 16, 1999, Alejandro M. Pisante stated that on September 29,
1995, he was authorized by Judge Alba and Liwag to encash PNB
Republic Bank Check No. 611533 dated July 17, 1995 in the amount
of P20,000 but the same was not encashed for being a crossed
check. Thereafter, in August 1996, he was authorized by the two to
encash Check No. 0958078 (as replacement for the prior check) in
the amount of P20,000, but Liwag failed to issue any official receipt
corresponding to the deposit or withdrawal thereof.

ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Alba is liable

HELD: Yes.

Clerks of Court are the custodians of all bail bonds, rental


deposits and other Bduciary collections. In the ordinary course of
proceedings, Judges have nothing to do with the collections, because
Clerks of Court are the ofBcers mandated to deposit them with an
authorized government depository bank. Hence, Judges cannot be
directly faulted if these funds are not immediately deposited,
especially since they would not normally know exactly when the
Clerks of Court received them. To repeat, the Clerks of Court are the
ones responsible for such matters. 10 Section 14, Rule 114 of the
Rules of Court states:

SEC. 14. Deposit of cash as bail . The accused or any


person acting in his behalf may deposit in cash with the nearest
collector of internal revenue or provincial, city, or municipal
treasurer the amount of bail Bxed by the court, or
recommended by the prosecutor who investigated or Bled the
case. Upon submission of a proper certiBcate of deposit and a
written undertaking showing compliance with the requirements
of Section 2 of this Rule, the accused shall be discharged from
custody. The money deposited shall be considered as bail and
applied to the payment of Bne and costs while the excess, if
any, shall be returned to the accused or to whoever made the
deposit.

A Judge is not one of those authorized to receive the deposit of cash


as bail, nor should such cash be kept in the ofBce of the Judge. The
proper procedure in the handling of cash submitted or given to the
municipal court as bail bond is for the court to direct the Clerk of
Court to offcially receive the cash and to immediately deposit it with
the municipal treasurer's office. The transaction must not only be
properly receipted for but should also appear in the records of the
case. On the part of Judges, they are required to compel their
collecting offcials, such as Clerks of Court, to promptly issue
official receipts for all monies received by them.

Verily, being designated the Acting Clerk of Court or OfBcer-in-


Charge of MCTC of Sta. Elena by Judge Alba in 1991, Liwag had the
duties and responsibilities of a Branch Clerk of Court. As such, it was
her duty to collect and receive, by herself or through a duly appointed
cashier, all monies in payment of all legal fees, as well as to receive
deposits, and dues. A Clerk of Court, or an Acting Clerk of Court, has
the duty to ensure full compliance with the circulars of this Court and
the Court Administrator on deposits or collections of court funds as
set forth in Circular Nos. 50-95 and 26-97. 13 Clearly, it should be
Liwag, being an accountable officer, and not Judge Alba, who
should be made liable for the missing cash bonds. She should
have made sure that the bail bonds posted by the accused in the
two criminal cases had been immediately deposited, upon
receipt thereof, with the City, Municipal, or Provincial Treasurer
where the court was located should there be no branch of the
Land Bank of the Philippines in the locality. Failure to remit the
funds to the Municipal Treasurer would warrant administrative
sanctions.

By reason of Judge Alba's designation of Ma. Isabel Liwag as the


Acting Clerk of Court of MCTC-Sta. Elena, she performed the
functions of an OfBcer-in-Charge, including the accountability of
fduciary funds of MCTC-Sta. Elena despite the fact that Rolando B.
Saa was the incumbent Clerk of Court of MCTC-Capalonga-Sta.
Elena, Camarines Norte. Per ofBce procedure, Rolando B. Saa,
being the Clerk of Court of MCTC-Capalonga-Sta. Elena, should be
the one to sign the clearance of Liwag as to money and property
accountabilities. However, Judge Alba accepted the resignation of
Liwag, due to health reasons, as Interpreter I of MCTC-Capalonga-
Sta. Elena.

As found by the OCA, while no direct documentary or testimonial


evidence will establish the fact that Judge Alba took, received,
collected, misappropriated, or in any way handled the missing cash
bonds, yet due diligence dictates that as the Acting Judge of the
MCTC of Capalonga-Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte, he should have
taken the necessary steps to ensure that the correct procedure
in the collections and deposits of court funds were dutifully
carried out before he retired. Further, he should have prepared an
inventory of the cases, both active and archived, for an effective
docket control. In so doing, Judge Alba would have discovered the
missing cash bonds in the two pending criminal cases before issuing
a certification clearing Liwag of all cash and property accountabilities.
The Court agrees that by clearing Liwag from all accountabilities,
Judge Alba should be made to assume the responsibility of restituting
the shortages incurred by her. Even after Judge Alba retired on
February 28, 1999, he may still be held administratively accountable
for the negligence and inefBciency committed during his incumbency.
Accordingly, since Judge Alba may no longer be dismissed or
suspended by reason of his retirement, restitution of the amount lost
may be deducted from his retirement pay and benefits.

This serves as a reminder to Judges. For the orderly administration of


justice, Judges are bound to keep a record of the proceedings in their
respective courts to ensure the proper, systematic, and efficient
management of their court dockets. In this regard, circulars of this
Court shall be strictly complied with to protect the safekeeping of
funds and collections and to establish full accountability of
government funds.

6. In Re: Report on the Judicial and Financial Audit Conducted in the


MTC in Cities, Koronadal City

Facts:
Judge Agustin T. Sardido, who presided over the MTCC of
Koronadal City, assumed office sometime in May 1988; and Clerk of
Court Maxima Borja, on February 18, 2002. The latter, however, had
been employed therein since 1987, serving as clerk II and
stenographer until she was appointed clerk of court. Prior to Borja's
assumption, the clerk of court was Normandie A. Ines, who
compulsorily retired on October 9, 2001.

The audit team found that Judge Sardido usually arrived late for work.
On Mondays, he would report only in the afternoons. Due to his
habitual tardiness, court sessions were usually scheduled only in the
afternoons.

The audit team also found that Judge Sardido had allowed Rufino
Vargas, a non-employee of the court, to discharge the duties and
functions of a court interpreter without the prior approval of the OCA.

The audit team's physical inventory of pending cases revealed these


findings:

1. Thirty-two (32) civil cases 2 remained undecided beyond the


reglementary period of 90 days (or 30 days for those falling under the
Rules on Summary Procedure.
2. Forty-three (43) criminal cases reglementary period decided
beyond reglementary period

3. The court was highly disorganized in its custody of exhibits. Those


turned over to Borja, the clerk of court, were merely kept inside her
table drawers without being inventoried, making it impossible to keep
track of all the exhibits in custody. Worse, persons unauthorized to
receive exhibits had been allowed to do so, enabling some of them to
use the items.

Financial Audit The financial audit revealed the following findings:

1. Contrary to the mandate of Section 20 of Rule 141 of the Rules of


Court, the court failed to collect filing fees in estafa and BP 22 cases.

2. An examination of the case records showed that from September


1993 to February 2001, during the incumbency of Ines the clerk of
court then a number of cash bonds amounting to P460,200 were
posted with the court without being officially receipted.

3. After Ines retired, three (3) cash bonds amounting to P15,000 were
posted but not officially receipted. The audit team, however, found
Borja's entries in the cashbook for the Clerk of Court Fiduciary Fund
(CCFF) to be in order.

4. The practice of not issuing official receipts allowed Ines to


appropriate the funds for unauthorized purposes. The funds were lent
to court personnel, including Judge Sardido. In fact, the judge himself
admitted that on at least four occasions sometime in 1996, he had
borrowed one hundred thirty thousand pesos (P130,000), which he
used to buy a car.

5. As a result of the misappropriation of the funds, the cash bonds of


P40,000 in Criminal Case No. 4818 (People v. Ortiz) and P32,000 in
Criminal Case No. 3891-25 (People v. Santos) could not be released
despite orders by the regional trial courts.

6. Records of the Office of the Municipal Treasurer of Koronadal


show that the CCFF in the amount of P495,527 had apparently been
turned over by the municipal treasurer to the Office of Municipal
Judge Sardido. The amount, however, remained unaccounted for.

7. For the period April 3, 1996 to September 20, 2001, Ines received
cash bonds amounting to P494,836, for which official receipts were
issued. On the other hand, he apparently received unreceipted cash
bonds amounting to P460,200 from September 21, 1993 to
September 30, 2001. As of the audit date, the total funds amounting
to P955,036 presumably collected remained unaccounted for.
On November 14, 2002, Ines filed his explanation, the cashbooks of
the MTCC of Koronadal City, as well as the acknowledgements and
vale receipts allegedly signed by Judge Sardido and other court
personnel who had accountabilities against court funds.

In his explanation, Ines denied using court funds for the benefit of his
colleagues. Allegedly, because the funds were not in his possession,
he could not possibly be guilty of the charges against him. He also
denied failing to issue receipts for cash bonds, claiming that, being on
leave at the time, he could not have received them. He justified his
failure to enforce collections for the JDF from July 1989 to January
1991 by saying that no such funds accrued during that period. As to
the alleged fund shortages and erroneous entries in the cashbook, he
also denied the charges, saying that the audit reports conducted by
the Commission on Audit in South Cotabato had proved the regularity
of the court finances.

With respect to the charges of receiving an exhibit without authority


and of being included among Ines' list of court personnel with
outstanding accountabilities against court funds, Pablito W. Pendilla
filed his explanation dated November 6, 2002. He claimed that he
had received the exhibit under instruction from Judge Sardido. And
while Pendilla admitted to having borrowed money from Ines, the
former denied knowing that it had come from court funds and averred
that the sums due had already been repaid.

The failure to issue official receipts for two cash bonds, she
explained, had been done before she assumed the position of clerk of
court. Lastly, she sought this Court's understanding of her over-
remittance of some amounts to the CCGF and the JDF. She averred
that she had no background in accounting and had to make do with
whatever books, records and documents her predecessor had turned
over to her.

Judge Sardido filed his own explanation dated December 6, 2002.


Except for the charge of being habitually tardy, which he said was
due to his designation as presiding judge in four other courts, he
substantially admitted the material averments in all the other charges
against him.

Held: Yes, they are liable.

Administrative Liability of Respondents Those charged with the


dispensation of justice, from the justices and judges to the lowliest
clerks, should be circumscribed with the heavy burden of
responsibility. Not only must their conduct at all times be
characterized by propriety and decorum but, above all else, it must be
beyond suspicion. Every employee should be an example of integrity,
uprightness and honesty. Integrity in a judicial office is more than a
virtue; it is a necessity. It applies, without qualification as to rank or
position, to all officials and employees, all of whom are deemed
standard-bearers of the exacting norms of ethics and morality
imposed upon courts of justice. 9

Judge Sardido In legal contemplation, the judge presiding over a


branch of a court is the head of that branch. 10 As such, Judge
Sardido should have served as an example to the court employees
working under him.

While denying habitual tardiness in reporting for work, he points to


the excruciating pain in his lumbar region after a slipped-disc
operation as the reason for his occasional tardiness. He also claims
that his arrival at the MTCC of Koronadal City only in the afternoons
was unavoidable due to his designation as acting judge of four other
municipal courts in Tampakan, Banga-tantangan, Suralla-Lake Sebu,
and Norala-T'boli-Sto. Nio.

His bare allegations that his habitual tardiness was caused by


his designation to other courts is untenable. He should have
been more efficient in dividing his time among his assignments,
devised a schedule to be followed in all four courts and, more
important, informed his staff of that schedule. When questioned
by the audit team, his staff said that he would usually come in late
without giving a valid explanation. This Court has held that
absenteeism and tardiness are impermissible. It has emphasized the
need for officials and employees of the judiciary to observe official
time strictly, so as to inspire public respect for the justice system. 11

The inefficiency of Judge Sardido is evident in his failure to


decide seventy-five (75) cases within the reglementary period,
some of which have been submitted for resolution as early as
1994. This Court has reiterated the need for judges to decide cases
promptly and expeditiously. It cannot be gainsaid that justice delayed
is justice denied. The failure of judges to decide cases with dispatch
constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants the imposition of
administrative sanctions. 12

Judge Sardido showed gross ignorance of the law when he


accepted BP 22 cases despite the fact that the corresponding
filing fees had yet to be collected. He also admitted his
ignorance of the requirement of first seeking OCA approval
before allowing Rufino Vargas to assume the vacant position of
court stenographer.

By his practice of dismissing criminal cases under preliminary


investigation without transmitting the pertinent resolution and records
to the prosecutor, Judge Sardido showed either gross ignorance of
remedial law or, worse, willful disobedience thereof. Admitting that it
was his court's practice to archive cases for preliminary investigation
whenever the accused remained at large, he even suggested that
Section 3(d) of Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Court be amended
to allow this practice, in order to lighten the load for first-level courts.

He allegedly allowed Rufino Vargas to receive a .45-caliber pistol,


two magazines and thirty-two live ammunitions, because these had
been brought to the court past 5 p.m. when only the two of them
remained there. And to make matters worse, Judge Sardido admitted
having instructed Vargas a person who had not even been
appointed to any position in that court to place the items in the
latter's drawer, so that the court personnel could use them for their
protection.

The judge even admitted to having personally received another


exhibit, also a .45-caliber pistol, and kept it for his own protection.
While claiming that he never fired the gun, he said that he had taken
it home because of his constant fear for his safety.

For misappropriating court funds in concert with Ines, Judge Sardido


has been charged with grave misconduct. Admitting that he indeed
"borrowed" money from court funds, the latter recounted that on four
occasions in 1994, he had borrowed P130,000 to be able to purchase
a car and thereafter borrowed intermittently through the years, for
reasons ranging from the schooling needs of his children to the
illness of his parents. That he intended to repay the amounts
"borrowed" is immaterial. These funds should never be used outside
of official business. 13 Rule 5.04 of Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial
Conduct states:

"A judge or any immediate member of the family shall not accept
a gift, bequest, favor or loan from anyone except as may be
allowed by law."

Time and time again, this Court has emphasized that "the judge
is the visible representation of the law, and more importantly, of
justice. It is from him that the people draw their will and
awareness to obey the law. For the judge to return that regard,
he must be the first to abide by the law and weave an example
for others to follow." 14

Sadly, the foregoing facts clearly show that Judge Sardido has not
only miserably failed to present himself as an example to his staff and
to others, but has also shown no compunction in violating the law, as
well as the rules and regulations. His dishonesty, gross misconduct,
and gross ignorance of the law tarnish the image of the judiciary and
would have warranted the maximum penalty of dismissal, were it not
for the fact that he had already been dismissed from the service in
another administrative case.