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2014-09-23 | A.M. No. SB-14-21-J

Per Curiam:

In the middle of 2013, the “pork barrel scam” controversy spawned massive protest actions all over the country. Some government officials
and other individuals were mentioned by "whistle-blowers" who are former employees of the alleged mastermind, Janet Lim-Napoles (Mrs.
Napoles), wife of an ex-military officer. Among the said personalities who allegedly transacted with Mrs. Napoles was the incumbent
Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory S. Ong.

The Kevlar Case:

 Based on the testimonies of Benhur Luy, Marina Sula and Aries Rufo, the Investigating Justice formulated the charges against the
respondent, as follows:
o Respondent acted as contact of Napoles in connection with the Kevlar case while it was pending in the Sandiganbayan
Fourth Division wherein he is the Chairman;
o Respondent, being Napoles' contact in the Sandiganbayan, fixed the Kevlar case resulting in her acquittal;
o Respondent received an undetermined amount of money from Napoles prior to the promulgation of the decision in the
Kevlar case thus, she was sure ("kampante")of her acquittal;
o Respondent visited Napoles in her office where she handed to him eleven (11) checks, each amounting to P282,000.00
or a total of P3,102,000.00, as advanced interest for his P25.5 million BDO check she deposited in her personal account
o Respondent attended Napoles' parties and was photographed with Senator Estrada and Napoles
 Respondent thus stands accused of gross misconduct, partiality and corruption or bribery during the pendency of the Kevlar case,
and impropriety on account of his dealing and socializing with Napoles after her acquittal in the said case. Additionally,
respondent failed to disclose in his September 26, 2013 letter to Chief Justice Sereno that he had actually visited Napoles at her
office in 2012, as he vehemently denied having partied with or attended any social event hosted by her.

Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Justice

 Respondent Justice Gregory S. Ong be found GUILTY of gross misconduct, dishonesty, and impropriety, all in violations of the New
Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary and be meted the penalty of DISMISSAL from the service WITH FORFEITURE
of all retirement benefits, excluding accrued leave credits, and WITH PREJUDICE to reemployment to any government, including
government-owned or controlled corporations.
 Benhur and Sula testified in a candid, straightforward, and categorical manner. Their testimonies were instantaneous, clear,
unequivocal, and carried with it the ring of truth. In fact, their answers to the undersigned's probing questions were consistent
with their testimonies before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. During cross-examination, they did not waver or falter. It was
found that the two whistle blowers are credible witnesses and their story untainted with bias and contradiction, reflective of
honest and trustworthy witnesses and therefore found unmeritorious respondent's claim that Benhur and Sula were lying.
 Respondent's transgression pertains to his personal life and no direct relation to his judicial function. It is not misconduct but plain
dishonesty. His act is unquestionably disgraceful and renders him morally unfit as a member of the Judiciary and unworthy of the
privileges the law confers on him. Furthermore, respondent's conduct supports Benhur's assertion that he received money from
 Dishonesty likewise violates Canon 2 (1 and 2) on Integrity of the same Code providing in part that judges must ensure that their
conduct is above reproach and must reaffirm the people's faith in the integrity of the Judiciary.

Whether or not Justice Gregory Ong is guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety, thus violating the New Code of the
Judicial Conduct.


 The Court ADOPTED the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Investigating Justice.
 Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, unlawful
behavior, willful in character, improper or wrong behavior; while "gross" has been defined as "out of all measure beyond
allowance; flagrant; shameful; such conduct as is not to be excused.
 The Court agree with Investigating Justice Sandoval-Gutierrez that respondent's association with Napoles during the pendency
and after the promulgation of the decision in the Kevlar case resulting in her acquittal, constitutes GROSS MISCONDUCT
notwithstanding the absence of direct evidence of corruption or bribery in the rendition of the said judgment.
 Bribery is committed when a public officer agrees to perform an act in connection with the performance of official duties in
consideration of any offer, promise, gift or present received. A judge who extorts money from a party-litigant who has a case
before the court commits a serious misconduct and the Court has condemned such act in the strongest possible terms.
Particularly because it has been committed by one charged with the responsibility of administering the law and rendering justice,
it quickly and surely corrodes respect for law and the courts.
 The evidence in this case is insufficient to sustain the bribery and corruption charges against the respondent. Both Luy and Sula
have not witnessed respondent actually receiving money from Napoles in exchange for her acquittal in the Kevlar case. Napoles
had confided to Luy her alleged bribe to respondent.
 Notwithstanding the absence of direct evidence of any corrupt act by the respondent, the Court found credible evidence of his
association with Napoles after the promulgation of the decision in the Kevlar case. The totality of the circumstances of such
association strongly indicates respondent's corrupt inclinations that only heightened the public's perception of anomaly in the
decision-making process. By his act of going to respondent at her office on two occasions, respondent exposed himself to the
suspicion that he was partial to Napoles.
 Respondent's act of voluntarily meeting with Napoles at her office on two occasions was GROSSLY IMPROPER and violated
Section 1, Canon 4 (Propriety) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, which took effect on June 1, 2004.

Canon 4 (Propriety), Sec.1: Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the activities of a judge.

 A judge must not only be impartial but must also appear to be impartial and that fraternizing with litigants tarnishes this
appearance. Public confidence in the Judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct of judges. A judge must avoid all
impropriety and the appearance thereof. Being the subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept
restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.
 Judges must, at all times, be beyond reproach and should avoid even the mere suggestion of partiality and impropriety.24 Canon 4
of the New Code of Judicial Conduct states that "Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all
the activities of a judge."
Canon 4 (Propriety), 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.

 In this light, it does not matter that the case is no longer pending when improper acts were committed by the judge. Because
magistrates are under constant public scrutiny, the termination of a case will not deter public criticisms for acts which may cast
suspicion on its disposition or resolution. As what transpired in this case, respondent's association with Napoles has unfortunately
dragged the Judiciary into the "Pork Barrel" controversy which initially involved only legislative and executive officials. Worse,
Napoles' much-flaunted "contact" in the judiciary is no less than a Justice of the Sandiganbayan, our special court tasked with
hearing graft cases. The Court cannot, by any stretch of indulgence and compassion, consider respondent's transgression as a
simple misconduct.
 The Court finds that respondent, in not being truthful on crucial matters even before the administrative complaint was filed
against him motu proprio, is guilty of DISHONESTY, a violation of Canon 3 (Integrity) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.
 Dishonesty is a "disposition to lie, cheat, deceive, or defraud; untrustworthiness; lack of integrity; lack of honesty, probity or
integrity in principle; lack of fairness and straightforwardness; disposition to defraud, deceive or betray."Dishonesty, being a grave
offense, carries the extreme penalty of dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits except accrued leave
credits, and with perpetual disqualification from reemployment in government service. Indeed, dishonesty is a malevolent act
that has no place in the Judiciary.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory S. Ong GUILTY of GROSS MISCONDUCT, DISHONESTY
and IMPROPRIETY, all in violations of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, for which he is hereby DISMISSED
FROM THE SERVICE, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, if any, and with prejudice to reemployment in
any branch, agency or instrumentality of the government including government-owned or -controlled corporations.


2014-03-05 | A.M. No. RTJ-14-2376 and A.M. No. RTJ-14-2377

Peralta, J.:

 Two administrative cases were filed against Judge Bitas, a Regional Trial Court Judge of Tacloban City.
 The first case came about when one Danilo Miralles was charged with Qualified Trafficking and the same filed with the sala of
Judge Bitas, in which the respondent judge issued an order finding probable cause to indict Danilo, but allowing him to post bail in
the three cases. Judge Bitas was allegedly showed bias in favor of the accused Miralles
o When he did not issue a warrant of arrest even when the Information have been filed charging Miralles with non-
bailable cases
o When he reduced bail even without a motion to fix bail without giving the opposition an opportunity to file its
 The second charge was filed by Prosecutor Jorda involves the hearing on the Petition for Involuntary Commitment of minor victim
Margie Baldoza to the DSWD, wherein the judge allegedly propounded a series of questions tending to mitigate Danilo’s role in
the case, which according to the prosecution went beyond judicial authority and discretion.
 A motion for inhibition was filed against the judge. During the hearing, the judge allegedly publicly humiliated Pros. Jorda and
berated her for filing of the motion. He then told her he does not want to see her in his court, and prevented her from conducting

Judge Bitas’ Defense:

 On the first charge: it was wrong to arrest Danilo because he was still in the process of determining probable cause and when he
did found probable cause, he found the evidence of the prosecution not strong hence he allowed Danilo to post bail. There was
no more need to file a petition for bail as he already found the evidence against Miralles weak during the hearing on the
determination of probable cause.
 On the second charge: it was complainant who lacked knowledge of the law and was lawyering for politicians. Indeed he stopped
her from conducting cross examination because it was the DSWD lawyers who should actively prosecute the case.

Office of the Court Administrator’s Recommendation:

 Found respondent judge GUILTY of grave abuse of authority and gross ignorance of the law, and recommended that Judge Bitas
be fined P20,000.00 for each case.

ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Bitas be liable for grave abuse of authority, irregularity in the performance of official duties, bias and


On the first charge:

 In the instant case, Miralles was charged with Qualified Trafficking, which under Section 10 (C) of R.A. No. 9208 is punishable by
life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00) but not more than Five Million Pesos
(P5,000,000.00). Thus, by reason of the penalty prescribed by law, the grant of bail is a matter of discretion which can be
exercised only by respondent judge after the evidence is submitted in a hearing. The hearing of the application for bail in capital
offenses is absolutely indispensable before a judge can properly determine whether the prosecution’s evidence is weak or strong.
 As correctly found by the Investigating Justice, with life imprisonment as one of the penalties prescribed for the offense charged
against Miralles, he cannot be admitted to bail when evidence of guilt is strong, in accordance with Section 7, Rule 114 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
 Here, Judge Bitas granted bail to Miralles without neither conducting a hearing nor a motion for application for bail. Respondent
judge's justification that he granted bail, because he found the evidence of the prosecution weak, cannot be sustained because
the records show that no such hearing for that purpose transpired. What the records show is a hearing to determine the existence
of probable cause, not a hearing for a petition for bail. The hearing for bail is different from the determination of the existence of
probable cause. It is only after this proceeding that the court can entertain a petition for bail where a subsequent hearing is
conducted to determine if the evidence of guilt is weak or not. Hence, in granting bail and fixing it at P20,000.00 motu proprio,
without allowing the prosecution to present its evidence, respondent judge denied the prosecution of due process.
 Clearly, in the instant case, respondent judge's act of fixing the accused's bail and reducing the same motu proprio is not mere
deficiency in prudence, discretion and judgment on the part of respondent judge, but a patent disregard of well-known rules.
When an error is so gross and patent, such error produces an inference of bad faith, making the judge liable for gross ignorance of
the law.

On the second charge:

 Judge’s actuations in the court premises during the hearing of the petition for commitment to the DSWD constitute abuse of
authority and manifest partiality to the accused. The Judge’s utterance of “I don’t want to see your face!”; “You better transfer to
another court!; You are being influenced by politicians” was improper and does not speak well his stature as an officer of Court.
 The use of intemperate language is included in the proscription provided by Section 1, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial
Conduct which stresses that as a dispenser of justice, respondent should exercise judicial temperament at all times, avoiding
vulgar and insulting language. He must maintain composure and equanimity.

Canon 4: Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the activities of a judge.

 This Court has long held that court officials and employees are placed with a heavy burden and responsibility of keeping the faith
of the public. Any impression of impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of official functions must be avoided. This
Court shall not countenance any conduct, act or omission on the part of all those involved in the administration of justice which
would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary.
 Under Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, gross ignorance of the law or procedure is
classified as a serious charge which constitutes sanctions.
 The actuations of respondent judge towards the complainants, as shown by his use of abusive and insulting words against
complainants in open court, and his correspondence with the Court, are evident of his PARTIALITY to the accused.

WHEEFORE, JUDGE CRISOLOGO BITAS was SUSPENDED from the service for three months and one day without pay instead of a fine of
P20,000 for each case, as recommended by Investigating Justice. He was WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense will
warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.

2012-12-10 | A.M. No. 12-8-160-RTC

Reyes, J.:
 A complaint was filed by Ambassador Harry C. Angping with his counsel Atty. Sixto Brillantes against Judge Reynaldo G. Ros for the
violations of Canons 2 and 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
 Amb. Angping and Atty. Brillantes were representatives of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), a private complainant in the
criminal case "People of the Philippines vs. Julian Camacho and Bernardo Ong”.
 Allegedly, Judge Ros dismissed the said case for lack of probable cause, and subsequently petitioners filed a motion for
reconsideration, which was later on denied by Judge Ros, 2 days after filing the said motion.
 Petitioners asserted that the respondent Judge resolved the motion for reconsideration without waiting for PSC's reply even
though they were given 15 days to file their reply. With this act, petitioners were convinced that Judge Ros acted with partiality
and malice.
 These incidents caused the petitioners to doubt Judge’s fairness in dealing with the said case.
 The petitioners could not believe that he could resolve the cases within the same day considering that the records thereof are
voluminous and that the criminal cases were raffled to him on the day he issued the order of dismissal.
 However, Judge Ros, in his comment, claimed that he overlooked the directive in his order which gave the PSC fifteen (15) days to
file its reply. He apologized, and averred that he acted in good faith.
 Judge Ros denied acting with partiality and malice. He maintained that he ordered the dismissal of the criminal cases on the same
day he had received them only after a careful evaluation of the evidence on record. He also noted that the complainants never
questioned his ruling before the appellate court.
OCA’s Findings and Recommendation:
 Dismissal of the administrative case against Judge Ros for lack of merit. While the speed in rendering judgement is surprising,
judge is not precluded from deciding a case with dispatch. His decision was based on his independent evaluation or
assessment of the merits of the case.
 Furthermore, petitioners failed to prove that the respondent's action was motivated by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or
corruption. The correctness of the judge's evaluation is judicial in nature, thus, it is not a proper subject of administrative

ISSUE: Whether or not respondent Judge Ros is liable for violation of Canons 2 and 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

 The Court PARTLY concurs with the findings and recommendation of the OCA.
 The Court partially agrees with OCA when it recommended the dismissal of the present administrative complaint in so far as the
respondent's liability under Canon 3 of the CJC is concerned. The OCA is correct in its observation that petitioners failed to present
evidence necessary to prove respondent's partiality, malice, bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption. The complainant has the
burden of proof in administrative complaints; he must establish his charge by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof.
Canon 3 - A judge should perform official duties honestly, and with impartiality and diligence.
 The Court does not agree with the OCA in its findings that Judge Ros did not violate Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Canon 2 - A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.

 The failure of the petitioners to present evidence that the respondent acted with partiality and malice can only negate the
allegation of impropriety, but not the appearance of impropriety.
 By the very nature of the bench, judges, more than the average man, are required to observe an exacting standard of morality and
decency. The character of a judge is perceived by the people not only through his official acts but also through his private morals
as reflected in his external behavior. It is therefore paramount that a judge's personal behavior both in the performance of his
duties and his daily life, be free from the appearance of impropriety as to be beyond reproach.
 A judge is not only required to be impartial; he must also appear to be impartial . Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by
irresponsible or improper conduct of judges. Judges must not only render just, correct and impartial decisions, but must do so in a
manner free of any suspicion as to their fairness, impartiality and integrity.
 In tghe instant case, Judge Ros claimed that he had carefully evaluated the evidence on record before he issued his order
dismissing the criminal cases. He asserted that even if the petitioners' reply was considered, his position would not change.
However, because he failed to consider the reply in his evaluation of the criminal cases, he appeared to have decided without the
cold neutrality of an impartial judge. In not waiting for the petitioners' reply, the respondent Judge exhibited the appearance of
bias and partiality.
 WHEREFORE, the charge against Judge Reynaldo G. Ros for violation of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct was DISMISSED.
However, for failing to live up to the degree of propriety required of him under Canon 2 of the same Code, he was ADMONISHED
and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts would be dealt with more severely.


2013-04-08 | A.M. RTJ-10-2217

Bersamin, J.:
A judge may not involve himself in any activity that is an aspect of the private practice of law. His acceptance of an appointment to
the Bench inhibits him from engaging in the private practice of law, regardless of the beneficiary of the activity being a member of
his immediate family. He is guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge otherwise.

 An administrative complaint for conduct unbecoming a judge was filed against Hon. Nilo A. Malanyaon, the Presiding Judge of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 32, in Pili, Camarines Sur.
 Rey C. Decena brought an administrative case with the Civil Service Commission in Legaspi City, Albay against Judge Malanyaon's
wife, Dr. Amelita C. Malanyaon, who was then the Assistant Provincial Health Officer of Camarines Sur.
 During the hearing, Judge Nilo Malanyaon coached her daughter, Atty. Ma. Kristina C. Malanyaon who was the counsel of Dr.
Amelita in the case, in making manifestations/motions before the hearing officer. He even prompted her daughter to demand that
Atty. Eduardo Loria, the collaborating counsel of our principal counsel, Atty. Mary Ailyne Zamora, be required to produce his PTR
 He introduced himself as the counsel of Atty. Kristina, and insisted that he was merely "assisting" her daughter, who just passed
the bar, in defending her client, and was likewise helping the latter defend herself.
 The complainants averred that the actuations of Judge Malanyaon during the hearing of his wife's administrative case in the Civil
Service Commission constituted violations of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippines Judiciary.
 The Court required the parties to manifest within 10 days from notice if they were willing to submit the case for resolution on the
basis of the records or pleadings filed, but the respondent judge failed to do so.
 His failure to comply was due to a massive stroke that he suffered which affected his mental faculties and made him unfit to
defend himself. Such statement was supported by a medical certificate issued by PGH.
 Dr. Amelita Malanyaon submitted a motion praying for the dismissal of the case against Judge Malanyaon, asserting that his
husband cannot defend himself in the case since he was permanently mentally impaired.

Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez recommendations

 The administrative case be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter and that Judge Malanyaon be found guilty of gross
misconduct and fined P50,000.00.

1. Whether or not Judge Malanyaon would be denied due process if the administrative case was not dismissed.
2. Whether the actuations of Judge Malanyaon complained of constituted conduct unbecoming of a judge.
3. If Judge Malanyaon was guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge, what should be the correct sanction?


Respondent's right to due process is not violated by resolution of the case

 Dr. Amelita stressed that proceeding against Judge Malanyaon despite his present medical state would violate his right to due
process since he cannot properly avail himself of his rights in an adversarial administrative investigation.
 The Court agrees with the complainant that Dr. Amelita's concern was unfounded considering that Judge Malanyaon had not only
been given the opportunity to be heard, but had been actually heard on their complaint.
 On August 3, 2007, or prior to his suffering the massive stroke that impaired his mental faculty, Judge Malanyaon already
submitted his comment containing his explanations and refutations of the charge against him. His comment asserted that during
the hearing of the administrative case of his wife in the Regional Office of the Civil Service Commission, the hearing officer did not
even cite any rule that prohibited him from sitting beside his daughter who was then acting as the counsel of Dr. Amelita therein,
or that inhibited him from assisting his daughter in the defense of his wife.
 Under the circumstances, Judge Malanyaon was accorded due process. In administrative cases, the requirement of due process is
satisfied whenever the parties are afforded the fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy,25 either
through oral arguments or through pleadings.26 That is what happened herein. Accordingly, Dr. Amelita's motion was bereft of
basis, and should be denied.

Actuations of Judge Malanyaon rendered him guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge

1. Judge Malanyaon's occupying a seat beside his daughter that was reserved for the lawyers during the hearing. Such act displayed
his presumptuousness, and probably even his clear intention to thereby exert his influence as a judge on the hearing officer in
order for the latter to favor his wife’s cause.
2. His admission that his presence in that hearing was to advise his daughter on what to do and say during the hearing, to the point
of coaching his daughter. His introduction as the “counsel of the respondent’s counsel”, stating that his daughter just passed the
bar, did not furnish enough reason for him to forsake the ethical conduct expected of him as a sitting judge.
 Section 35 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court expressly prohibits sitting judges like Judge Malanyaon from engaging in the
private practice of law or giving professional advice to clients.
 Section 11, Canon 4 (Propriety) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct and Rule 5.07 of the Code of Judicial Conduct reiterate
the prohibition from engaging in the private practice of law or giving professional advice to clients.
 The prohibition is based on sound reasons of public policy, considering that the rights, duties, privileges and functions of the
office of an attorney are inherently incompatible with the high official functions, duties, powers, discretion and privileges of a
sitting judge. It also aims to ensure that judges give their full time and attention to their judicial duties, prevent them from
extending favors to their own private interests, and assure the public of their impartiality in the performance of their
functions. These objectives are dictated by a sense of moral decency and desire to promote the public interest.
3. His admission that he had already engaged in the private practice of law even before the incident, he thereby manifested his
tendencies to disregard the prohibition against the private practice of law during his incumbency on the Bench.
4. Hisuttering "And so What?" towards the opposing counsel evinced his instant resentment towards the adverse parties' counsel for
rightly challenging his right to be sitting on a place reserved for counsel of the parties.
 Judge Malanyaon’s excuse that his actuations was by his filial obligation to assist his daughter and wife, cannot be
countenanced since he was a judicial officer who came under the stricture that uniformly applied to all judges of all levels of
the judicial hierarchy, forbidding him from engaging in the private practice of law during his incumbency, regardless of
whether the beneficiary was his family.

Proper Penalty
 Judge Malanyaon has been previously sanctioned by the Court on 3 occasions, in which only the third (he was sanctioned
with a fine of P20,000 for conduct unbecoming of a judge) should be considered as aggravating herein because it involved
the similar offense of conduct unbecoming of a judge for which he had been given the stern warning of a more severe
penalty upon a repetition.
 Accordingly, the Court deems it condign and proper to mitigate the fine of P50,000.00 recommended by the Court
Administrator by imposing on Judge Malanyaon a fine of P40,000.00. With his disability retirement from the Judiciary having
been earlier granted by the Court, the fine shall be deducted from his remaining retirement benefits.

WHEREFORE, Judge Nilo Malayaon was pronounced administratively liable for CONDUCT UNBECOMING OF A JUDGE and was penalized
with a FINE OF P40,000.


2011-02-09 | A.M. No. MTJ-09-1737

Carpio, J.:

 Lydelle L. Conquilla charged respondent Judge Lauro Bernardo with usurpation of authority, grave misconduct, and gross
ignorance of the law.
 A criminal complaint was filed against Lydelle Conquilla before the MTC of Bocaue, Bulacan, signed by Bocaue Police Chief
Inspector Rizalino Andaya.
 Judge Bernardo conducted a preliminary investigation and found probable cause to hold the Conquilla for trial for the crime of
direct assault, then a warrant of arrest was issued with bail fixed at P12,000.
 Upon motion, the bail was reduced to P6,000, and complainant posted cash bail of the said amount for her provisional liberty.
 Conquilla then filed an administrative complaint alleging that under A.M. No. 05-08-[2]6-SC, first level court judges no longer
have the authority to conduct preliminary investigations, thus Judge Bernardo committed an illegal act constituting gross
ignorance of the law and procedure when he conducted preliminary investigation and issued the warrant of arrest.
 She submitted that respondent judge usurped the power of the prosecutor, who was not even given the chance to comment on
complainant's Motion to Reduce Bail.
 She also alleges that she called Judge Bernardo’s wife, who would help in reducing then bail to P6,000 and would have the case for
direct assault provided that Conquilla will cancel the wife’s debt of P35,000 and that she will loan the wife an additional amount
of P50,000.
 Judge’s defense: (1) he issued the warrant of arrest in good faith because he was convinced that there was probable cause and
that it was necessary to place the complainant under immediate custody to prevent a frustration of justice; (2) he did not usurp
the power of the prosecutor when he reduced the bail considering that under Section 20 of Rule 114, the court may increase or
decrease the bail upon good cause; and (3) he denied any knowledge of the alleged conversation and transaction between
complainant and his wife.

Office of the Court Administrator’s Findings and Recommendation:

1. Found respondent judge GUILTY OF GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW for his patent and unjustified violation of the provisions of
the Resolution in A.M. No. 05-8-26-SC. The OCA stated that the Resolution in A.M. No. 05-8-26-SC, which took effect on 3 October
2005, removed the conduct of investigation from the scope of authority of first level courts judges.
2. Found the charge of USURPATION OF AUTHORITY WITHOUT MERIT. The OCA agreed with respondent judge that the power to
determine the amount of bail is vested in the judge.
3. Recommended (a) that the administrative complaint against respondent judge be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative
matter; and (b) that respondent judge be FINED in the amount of P20,000.00 for gross ignorance of the law, with a STERN
WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

 The conduct of preliminary investigation by respondent judge was in direct contravention of A.M. No. 05-8-26-SC, which took
effect on 3 October 2005, amending Rules 112 and 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure by removing the conduct of
preliminary investigation from judges of the first level courts. Thus, under Section 2 of Rule 112, only the following officers are
authorized to conduct preliminary investigations: (a) Provincial or City Prosecutors and their assistants; (b) National and Regional
State Prosecutors; and (c) Other officers as may be authorized by law.
 Section 5 (b) of Rule 112 provides that a warrant of arrest may be issue by the MTC when the preliminary investigation of cases be
conducted by the prosecutor. Clearly, MTC judges are no longer authorized to conduct preliminary investigation.
 Rule 3.01, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that a judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional
competence. Indeed, competence and diligence are prerequisites to the due performance of judicial office.

CANON 3, SEC. 3: Judges shall take reasonable steps to maintain and enhance their knowledge, skills and personal qualities for
the proper performance of judicial duties, taking advantage for this purpose of the training and other facilities which should be
made available, under judicial control, to judges.

 When a law or a rule is basic, judges owe it to their office to simply apply the law. Anything less is gross ignorance of the law.
Judges should exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with the statutes and procedural rules, and should be diligent in
keeping abreast with developments in law and jurisprudence.
 The Court believed that the alleged promise of judge’s wife that the bail would be reduced provided that her P35,000 debt will be
cancelled and an additional loan will be granted to her, did not substantiate the allegation. Although Judge Bernardo denied that
he know such transaction between his wife and complainant, he did not denied that his wife has loan with the complainant.
 Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct stresses the importance of propriety and the appearance of propriety to the
performance of all the activities. Judges and members of their families are prohibited from asking for or accepting any gift,
bequest, loan or favor in relation to anything done or to be done or omitted to be done by him in connection with the
performance of judicial duties.
 On respondent judge's issuance of the warrant of arrest and reduction of the amount of bail, the Court found such acts void for
want of jurisdiction. While Rule 114 of the Rules of Court allows a judge to grant bail in bailable offenses and to increase or
decrease bail, it assumes that the judge has jurisdiction over the case. In this case, respondent judge conducted the preliminary
investigation without authority and issued the warrant of arrest. Thus, these acts are void for want of jurisdiction. The reduction
of bail is also void because in the first place, respondent judge had no jurisdiction over the case itself.
 Considering that this is respondent judge's third offense, the second of which was also for gross ignorance of the law, the Court
held that the penalty of six (6) months suspension from office without salary and other benefits is in order.

WHEREFORE, we find respondent Judge Lauro G. Bernardo GUILTY of gross ignorance of the law and SUSPEND him from office for a
period of six (6) months without salary and other benefits, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be
dealt with more severely.