Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 40

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No.

184861 June 30, 2009

DREAMWORK CONSTRUCTION, INC., Petitioner, vs. CLEOFE S. JANIOLA and HON. ARTHUR A. FAMINI, Respondents. DECISION VELASCO, JR., J.: The Case Petitioner Dreamwork Construction, Inc. seeks the reversal of the August 26, 2008 Decision 1 in SCA No. 08-0005 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 253 in Las Pias City. The Decision affirmed the Orders dated October 16, 2007 2 and March 12, 20083 in Criminal Case Nos. 55554-61 issued by the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC), Branch 79 in Las Pias City. The Facts On October 18, 2004, petitioner, through its President, Roberto S. Concepcion, and Vice-President for Finance and Marketing, Normandy P. Amora, filed a Complaint Affidavit dated October 5, 2004 4 for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 (BP 22) against private respondent Cleofe S. Janiola with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Las Pias City. The case was docketed as I.S. No. 04-2526-33. Correspondingly, petitioner filed a criminal information for violation of BP 22 against private respondent with the MTC on February 2, 2005 docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 55554-61, entitled People of the Philippines v. Cleofe S. Janiola. On September 20, 2006, private respondent, joined by her husband, instituted a civil complaint against petitioner by filing a Complaint dated August 20065 for the rescission of an alleged construction agreement between the parties, as well as for damages. The case was filed with the RTC, Branch 197 in Las Pias City and docketed as Civil Case No. LP-06-0197. Notably, the checks, subject of the criminal cases before the MTC, were issued in consideration of the construction agreement. Thereafter, on July 25, 2007, private respondent filed a Motion to Suspend Proceedings dated July 24, 20076 in Criminal Case Nos. 55554-61, alleging that the civil and criminal cases involved facts and issues similar or intimately related such that in the resolution of the issues in the civil case, the guilt or innocence of the accused would necessarily be determined. In other words, private respondent claimed that the civil case posed a prejudicial question as against the criminal cases. Petitioner opposed the suspension of the proceedings in the criminal cases in an undated Comment/Opposition to Accuseds Motion to Suspend Proceedings based on Prejudicial Question7 on the grounds that: (1) there is no prejudicial question in this case as the rescission of the contract upon which the bouncing checks were issued is a separate and distinct issue from the issue of whether private respondent violated BP 22; and (2) Section 7, Rule 111 of the Rules of Court states that one of the elements of a prejudicial question is that "the previously instituted civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the subsequent criminal action"; thus, this element is missing in this case, the criminal case having preceded the civil case. Later, the MTC issued its Order dated October 16, 2007, granting the Motion to Suspend Proceedings, and reasoned that: Should the trial court declare the rescission of contract and the nullification of the checks issued as the same are without consideration, then the instant criminal cases for alleged violation of BP 22 must be dismissed. The belated filing of the civil case by the herein accused did not detract from the correctness of her cause, since a motion for suspension of a criminal action may be filed at any time before the prosecution rests (Section 6, Rule 111, Revised Rules of Court). 8 In an Order dated March 12, 2008,9 the MTC denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration dated November 29, 2007.

Petitioner appealed the Orders to the RTC with a Petition dated May 13, 2008. Thereafter, the RTC issued the assailed decision dated August 26, 2008, denying the petition. On the issue of the existence of a prejudicial question, the RTC ruled: Additionally, it must be stressed that the requirement of a "previously" filed civil case is intended merely to obviate delays in the conduct of the criminal proceedings. Incidentally, no clear evidence of any intent to delay by private respondent was shown. The criminal proceedings are still in their initial stages when the civil action was instituted. And, the fact that the civil action was filed after the criminal action was instituted does not render the issues in the civil action any less prejudicial in character. 10 Hence, we have this petition under Rule 45. The Issue WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT A QUO SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT PERCEIVING GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION ON THE PART OF THE INFERIOR COURT, WHEN THE LATTER RULED TO SUSPEND PROCEEDINGS IN CRIM. CASE NOS. 55554-61 ON THE BASIS OF "PREJUDICIAL QUESTION" IN CIVIL CASE NO. LP-06-0197.11 The Courts Ruling This petition must be granted. The Civil Action Must Precede the Filing of the Criminal Action for a Prejudicial Question to Exist Under the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, as amended by Supreme Court Resolutions dated June 17, 1988 and July 7, 1988, the elements of a prejudicial question are contained in Rule 111, Sec. 5, which states: SEC. 5. Elements of prejudicial question. The two (2) essential elements of a prejudicial question are: (a) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed. Thus, the Court has held in numerous cases12 that the elements of a prejudicial question, as stated in the above-quoted provision and in Beltran v. People,13 are: The rationale behind the principle of prejudicial question is to avoid two conflicting decisions. It has two essential elements: (a) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed. On December 1, 2000, the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure, however, became effective and the above provision was amended by Sec. 7 of Rule 111, which applies here and now provides: SEC. 7. Elements of prejudicial question.The elements of a prejudicial question are: (a) the previously instituted civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the subsequent criminal action, and (b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed. (Emphasis supplied.) Petitioner interprets Sec. 7(a) to mean that in order for a civil case to create a prejudicial question and, thus, suspend a criminal case, it must first be established that the civil case was filed previous to the filing of the criminal case. This, petitioner argues, is specifically to guard against the situation wherein a party would belatedly file a civil action that is related to a pending criminal action in order to delay the proceedings in the latter. On the other hand, private respondent cites Article 36 of the Civil Code which provides: Art. 36. Pre-judicial questions which must be decided before any criminal prosecution may be instituted or may proceed, shall be governed by rules of court which the Supreme Court shall promulgate and which shall not be in conflict with the provisions of this Code. (Emphasis supplied.)

Private respondent argues that the phrase "before any criminal prosecution may be instituted or may proceed" must be interpreted to mean that a prejudicial question exists when the civil action is filed either before the institution of the criminal action or during the pendency of the criminal action. Private respondent concludes that there is an apparent conflict in the provisions of the Rules of Court and the Civil Code in that the latter considers a civil case to have presented a prejudicial question even if the criminal case preceded the filing of the civil case. We cannot agree with private respondent. First off, it is a basic precept in statutory construction that a "change in phraseology by amendment of a provision of law indicates a legislative intent to change the meaning of the provision from that it originally had."14 In the instant case, the phrase, "previously instituted," was inserted to qualify the nature of the civil action involved in a prejudicial question in relation to the criminal action. This interpretation is further buttressed by the insertion of "subsequent" directly before the term criminal action. There is no other logical explanation for the amendments except to qualify the relationship of the civil and criminal actions, that the civil action must precede the criminal action. Thus, this Court ruled in Torres v. Garchitorena15 that: Even if we ignored petitioners procedural lapse and resolved their petition on the merits, we hold that Sandiganbayan did not abuse its discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in denying their omnibus motion for the suspension of the proceedings pending final judgment in Civil Case No. 7160. Section 6, Rule lll of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, reads: Sec. 6. Suspension by reason of prejudicial question. - A petition for suspension of the criminal action based upon the pendency of a prejudicial question in a civil action may be filed in the office of the prosecutor or the court conducting the preliminary investigation. When the criminal action has been filed in court for trial, the petition to suspend shall be filed in the same criminal action at any time before the prosecution rests. Sec. 7. Elements of prejudicial question. - The elements of a prejudicial question are: (a) the previously instituted civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the subsequent criminal action, and (b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed. Under the amendment, a prejudicial question is understood in law as that which must precede the criminal action and which requires a decision before a final judgment can be rendered in the criminal action with which said question is closely connected. The civil action must be instituted prior to the institution of the criminal action. In this case, the Information was filed with the Sandiganbayan ahead of the complaint in Civil Case No. 7160 filed by the State with the RTC in Civil Case No. 7160. Thus, no prejudicial question exists. (Emphasis supplied.) Additionally, it is a principle in statutory construction that "a statute should be construed not only to be consistent with itself but also to harmonize with other laws on the same subject matter, as to form a complete, coherent and intelligible system." 16 This principle is consistent with the maxim, interpretare et concordare leges legibus est optimus interpretandi modus or every statute must be so construed and harmonized with other statutes as to form a uniform system of jurisprudence. 171 a vv p h i l In other words, every effort must be made to harmonize seemingly conflicting laws. It is only when harmonization is impossible that resort must be made to choosing which law to apply. In the instant case, Art. 36 of the Civil Code and Sec. 7 of Rule 111 of the Rules of Court are susceptible of an interpretation that would harmonize both provisions of law. The phrase "previously instituted civil action" in Sec. 7 of Rule 111 is plainly worded and is not susceptible of alternative interpretations. The clause "before any criminal prosecution may be instituted or may proceed" in Art. 36 of the Civil Code may, however, be interpreted to mean that the motion to suspend the criminal action may be filed during the preliminary investigation with the public prosecutor or court conducting the investigation, or during the trial with the court hearing the case. This interpretation would harmonize Art. 36 of the Civil Code with Sec. 7 of Rule 111 of the Rules of Court but also with Sec. 6 of Rule 111 of the Civil Code, which provides for the situations when the motion to suspend the criminal action during the preliminary investigation or during the trial may be filed. Sec. 6 provides: SEC. 6. Suspension by reason of prejudicial question.A petition for suspension of the criminal action based upon the pendency of a prejudicial question in a civil action may be filed in the office of the prosecutor or the court conducting the preliminary

investigation. When the criminal action has been filed in court for trial, the petition to suspend shall be filed in the same criminal action at any time before the prosecution rests. Thus, under the principles of statutory construction, it is this interpretation of Art. 36 of the Civil Code that should govern in order to give effect to all the relevant provisions of law. It bears pointing out that the circumstances present in the instant case indicate that the filing of the civil action and the subsequent move to suspend the criminal proceedings by reason of the presence of a prejudicial question were a mere afterthought and instituted to delay the criminal proceedings. In Sabandal v. Tongco,18 we found no prejudicial question existed involving a civil action for specific performance, overpayment, and damages, and a criminal complaint for BP 22, as the resolution of the civil action would not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused in the criminal case. In resolving the case, we said: Furthermore, the peculiar circumstances of the case clearly indicate that the filing of the civil case was a ploy to delay the resolution of the criminal cases. Petitioner filed the civil case three years after the institution of the criminal charges against him. Apparently, the civil action was instituted as an afterthought to delay the proceedings in the criminal cases. 19 Here, the civil case was filed two (2) years after the institution of the criminal complaint and from the time that private respondent allegedly withdrew its equipment from the job site. Also, it is worth noting that the civil case was instituted more than two and a half (2 ) years from the time that private respondent allegedly stopped construction of the proposed building for no valid reason. More importantly, the civil case praying for the rescission of the construction agreement for lack of consideration was filed more than three (3) years from the execution of the construction agreement. Evidently, as in Sabandal, the circumstances surrounding the filing of the cases involved here show that the filing of the civil action was a mere afterthought on the part of private respondent and interposed for delay. And as correctly argued by petitioner, it is this scenario that Sec. 7 of Rule 111 of the Rules of Court seeks to prevent. Thus, private respondents positions cannot be left to stand. The Resolution of the Civil Case Is Not Determinative of the Prosecution of the Criminal Action In any event, even if the civil case here was instituted prior to the criminal action, there is, still, no prejudicial question to speak of that would justify the suspension of the proceedings in the criminal case. To reiterate, the elements of a prejudicial question under Sec. 7 of Rule 111 of the Rules of Court are: (1) the previously instituted civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the subsequent criminal action; and (2) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed. Petitioner argues that the second element of a prejudicial question, as provided in Sec. 7 of Rule 111 of the Rules, is absent in this case. Thus, such rule cannot apply to the present controversy. Private respondent, on the other hand, claims that if the construction agreement between the parties is declared null and void for want of consideration, the checks issued in consideration of such contract would become mere scraps of paper and cannot be the basis of a criminal prosecution. We find for petitioner. It must be remembered that the elements of the crime punishable under BP 22 are as follows: (1) the making, drawing, and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value; (2) the knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue there are no sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and

(3) the subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit, or dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the bank to stop payment. 20 Undeniably, the fact that there exists a valid contract or agreement to support the issuance of the check/s or that the checks were issued for valuable consideration does not make up the elements of the crime. Thus, this Court has held in a long line of cases21 that the agreement surrounding the issuance of dishonored checks is irrelevant to the prosecution for violation of BP 22. In Mejia v. People,22 we ruled: It must be emphasized that the gravamen of the offense charge is the issuance of a bad check. The purpose for which the check was issued, the terms and conditions relating to its issuance, or any agreement surrounding such issuance are irrelevant to the prosecution and conviction of petitioner. To determine the reason for which checks are issued, or the terms and conditions for their issuance, will greatly erode the faith the public reposes in the stability and commercial value of checks as currency substitutes, and bring havoc in trade and in banking communities. The clear intention of the framers of B.P. 22 is to make the mere act of issuing a worthless check malum prohibitum. Lee v. Court of Appeals23 is even more poignant. In that case, we ruled that the issue of lack of valuable consideration for the issuance of checks which were later on dishonored for insufficient funds is immaterial to the success of a prosecution for violation of BP 22, to wit: Third issue. Whether or not the check was issued on account or for value. Petitioners claim is not feasible. We have held that upon issuance of a check, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is presumed that the same was issued for valuable consideration. Valuable consideration, in turn, may consist either in some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the party who makes the contract, or some forbearance, detriment, loss or some responsibility, to act, or labor, or service given, suffered or undertaken by the other side. It is an obligation to do, or not to do in favor of the party who makes the contract, such as the maker or indorser. In this case, petitioner himself testified that he signed several checks in blank, the subject check included, in exchange for 2.5% interest from the proceeds of loans that will be made from said account. This is a valuable consideration for which the check was issued. That there was neither a pre-existing obligation nor an obligation incurred on the part of petitioner when the subject check was given by Bautista to private complainant on July 24, 1993 because petitioner was no longer connected with Unlad or Bautista starting July 1989, cannot be given merit since, as earlier discussed, petitioner failed to adequately prove that he has severed his relationship with Bautista or Unlad. At any rate, we have held that what the law punishes is the mere act of issuing a bouncing check, not the purpose for which it was issued nor the terms and conditions relating to its issuance. This is because the thrust of the law is to prohibit the making of worthless checks and putting them into circulation.24 (Emphasis supplied.) Verily, even if the trial court in the civil case declares that the construction agreement between the parties is void for lack of consideration, this would not affect the prosecution of private respondent in the criminal case. The fact of the matter is that private respondent indeed issued checks which were subsequently dishonored for insufficient funds. It is this fact that is subject of prosecution under BP 22.lawphil.net Therefore, it is clear that the second element required for the existence of a prejudicial question, that the resolution of the issue in the civil action would determine whether the criminal action may proceed, is absent in the instant case. Thus, no prejudicial question exists and the rules on it are inapplicable to the case before us. WHEREFORE, we GRANT this petition. We hereby REVERSE and SET ASIDE the August 26, 2008 Decision in SCA No. 080005 of the RTC, Branch 253 in Las Pias City and the Orders dated October 16, 2007 and March 12, 2008 in Criminal Case Nos. 55554-61 of the MTC, Branch 79 in Las Pias City. We order the MTC to continue with the proceedings in Criminal Case Nos. 55554-61 with dispatch. No costs. SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. L-48157 March 16, 1988 RICARDO QUIAMBAO, petitioner, vs. HON. ADRIANO OSORIO, ZENAIDA GAZA BUENSUCERO, JUSTINA GAZA BERNARDO, and FELIPE GAZA, respondents-appellees, LAND AUTHORITY, intervenor-appellant.

FERNAN, J.: This case was certified to Us by the Court of Appeals as one involving pure questions of law pursuant to Section 3, Rule 50 of the Revised Rules of Court. The antecedents are as follows: In a complaint for forcible entry filed by herein private respondents Zenaida Gaza Buensucero, Justina Gaza Bernardo and Felipe Gaza against herein petitioner Ricardo Quiambao before the then Municipal Court of Malabon, Rizal, docketed therein as Civil Case No. 2526, it was alleged that private respondents were the legitimate possessors of a 30,835 sq. m. lot known as Lot No. 4, Block 12, Bca 2039 of the Longos Estate situated at Barrio Longos, Malabon Rizal, by virtue of the Agreement to Sell No. 3482 executed in their favor by the former Land Tenure Administration [which later became the Land Authority, then the Department of Agrarian Reform]; that under cover of darkness, petitioner surreptitiously and by force, intimidation, strategy and stealth, entered into a 400 sq. m. portion thereof, placed bamboo posts "staka" over said portion and thereafter began the construction of a house thereon; and that these acts of petitioner, which were unlawful per se, entitled private respondents to a writ of preliminary injunction and to the ejectment of petitioner from the lot in question. Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, and upon denial thereof, filed his Answer to the complaint, specifically denying the material allegations therein and averring that the Agreement upon which private respondents base their prior possession over the questioned lot had already been cancelled by the Land Authority in an Order signed by its Governor, Conrado Estrella. By way of affirmative defense and as a ground for dismissing the case, petitioner alleged the pendency of L.A. Case No. 968, an administrative case before the Office of the Land Authority between the same parties and involving the same piece of land. In said administrative case, petitioner disputed private respondents' right of possession over the property in question by reason of the latter's default in the installment payments for the purchase of said lot. Petitioner asserted that his administrative case was determinative of private respondents' right to eject petitioner from the lot in question; hence a prejudicial question which bars a judicial action until after its termination.

After hearing, the municipal court denied the motion to dismiss contained in petitioner's affirmative defenses. It ruled that inasmuch as the issue involved in the case was the recovery of physical possession, the court had jurisdiction to try and hear the case. Dissatisfied with this ruling, petitioner filed before the then Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch XII, Caloocan City in Civil Case No. C-1576 a petition for certiorari with injunction against public respondent Judge Adriano Osorio of the Municipal Court of Malabon and private respondents, praying for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction ordering respondent judge to suspend the hearing in the ejectment case until after the resolution of said petition. As prayed for, the then CFI of Rizal issued a restraining order enjoining further proceedings in the ejectment case. In his answer, respondent municipal judge submitted himself to the sound discretion of the CFI in the disposition of the petition for certiorari. Private respondents, on the other hand, filed a motion to dismiss the petition, maintaining that the administrative case did not constitute a prejudicial question as it involved the question of ownership, unlike the ejectment case which involved merely the question of possession. Meanwhile, the Land Authority filed an Urgent Motion for Leave to Intervene in Civil Case No. C-1576 alleging the pendency of an administrative case between the same parties on the same subject matter in L.A. Case No. 968 and praying that the petition for certiorari be granted, the ejectment complaint be dismissed and the Office of the Land Authority be allowed to decide the matter exclusively. Finding the issue involved in the ejectment case to be one of prior possession, the CFI dismissed the petition for certiorari and lifted the restraining order previously issued. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the dismissal order, adopted in toto by Intervenor Land Authority was denied for lack of merit. Hence, this appeal filed by petitioner Quiambao and intervenor Land Authority with the Court of Appeals, and certified to Us as aforesaid. The instant controversy boils down to the sole question of whether or not the administrative case between the private parties involving the lot subject matter of the ejectment case constitutes a prejudicial question which would operate as a bar to said ejectment case. A prejudicial question is understood in law to be that which arises in a case the resolution of which is a logical 1 antecedent of the issue involved in said case and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal. The doctrine of prejudicial question comes into play generally in a situation where civil and criminal actions are pending and the issues involved in both cases are similar or so closely related that an issue must be pre-emptively resolved in the civil case before the criminal action can proceed. Thus, the existence of a prejudicial question in a civil case is alleged in the criminal case to cause the suspension of the latter pending final determination of the former. The essential elements of a prejudicial question as provided under Section 5, Rule 111 of the Revised Rules of Court are: [a] the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue in the criminal action; and [b] the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed. The actions involved in the case at bar being respectively civil and administrative in character, it is obvious that technically, there is no prejudicial question to speak of. Equally apparent, however, is the intimate correlation between said two [2] proceedings, stemming from the fact that the right of private respondents to eject petitioner from the disputed portion depends primarily on the resolution of the pending administrative case. For while it may be true that private respondents had prior possession of the lot in question, at the time of the institution of the ejectment case, such right of possession had been terminated, or at the very least, suspended by the cancellation by the Land Authority of the Agreement to Sell executed in their favor. Whether or not private respondents can continue to exercise their right of possession is but a necessary, logical consequence of the issue involved in the pending administrative case assailing the validity of the cancellation of the Agreement to Sell and the subsequent award of the disputed portion to petitioner. If the cancellation of the Agreement to Sell and the subsequent award to petitioner are voided, then private respondents would have every right to eject petitioner from the disputed area. Otherwise, private respondent's light of possession is lost and so would their right to eject petitioner from said portion. Faced with these distinct possibilities, the more prudent course for the trial court to have taken is to hold the ejectment proceedings in abeyance until after a determination of the administrative case. Indeed, logic and pragmatism, if not jurisprudence, dictate such move. To allow the parties to undergo trial notwithstanding the possibility of petitioner's right of possession being upheld in the pending administrative case is to needlessly require not only the parties but the court as well to expend time, effort and money in what may turn out to be a sheer exercise in futility. Thus, 1 Am Jur 2d tells us:

The court in which an action is pending may, in the exercise of a sound discretion, upon proper application for a stay of that action, hold the action in abeyance to abide the outcome of another pending in another court, especially where the parties and the issues are the same, for there is power inherent in every court to control the disposition of causes on its dockets with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants. Where the rights parties to the second action cannot be properly determined until the questions raised in the first action are settled the second 2 action should be stayed. While this rule is properly applicable to instances involving two [2] court actions, the existence in the instant case of the same considerations of Identity of parties and issues, economy of time and effort for the court, the counsels and the parties as well as the need to resolve the parties' right of possession before the ejectment case may be properly determined, justifies the rule's analogous application to the case at bar. Fortich-Celdran, et al. vs. Celdran, et al., 19 SCRA 502, provides another analogous situation. In sustaining the assailed order of the then Court of First Instance of Misamis Oriental ordering the suspension of the criminal case for falsification of public document against several persons, among them the subscribing officer Santiago Catane until the civil case involving the issue of the genuineness of the alleged forged document shall have been decided, this Court cited as a reason therefor its own action on the administrative charges against said Santiago Catane, as follows: It should be mentioned here also that an administrative case filed in this Court against Santiago Catane upon the same charge was held by Us in abeyance, thus: "As it appears that the genuineness of the document allegedly forged by respondent attorneys in Administrative Case No. 77 [Richard Ignacio Celdran vs. Santiago Catane, etc., et al.] is necessarily involved in Civil Case No. R-3397 of the Cebu Court of First Instance, action on the herein complaint is withheld until that litigation has finally been decided. Complainant Celdran shall inform the 3 Court about such decision." If a pending civil case may be considered to be in the nature of a prejudicial question to an administrative case, We see no reason why the reverse may not be so considered in the proper case, such as in the petition at bar. Finally, events occuring during the pendency of this petition attest to the wisdom of the conclusion herein reached. For in the Manifestation filed by counsel for petitioner, it was stated that the intervenor Land Authority which later became the Department of Agrarian Reform had promulgated a decision in the administrative case, L.A. Case No. 968 affiriming the cancellation of Agreement to Sell No. 3482 issued in favor of private respondents. With this development, the folly of allowing the ejectment case to proceed is too evident to need further elaboration. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. Civil Case No. 2526 of the then Municipal Court of Malabon, Rizal is hereby ordered DISMISSED. No Costs. SO ORDERED.

ROSA YAP-PARAS, petitioner, vs. ATTY. JUSTO PARAS, respondent. RESOLUTION GARCIA, J.: Before us is this verified Petition[1] filed by Rosa Yap-Paras praying for the disbarment of her estranged husband Atty. Justo Paras on alleged acts of deceit, malpractice, grave misconduct, grossly immoral conduct and violation of his oath as a lawyer. On 18 January 1989, respondent filed his comment[2] to the Petition. In a Resolution dated 10 February 1999,[3] the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. The background facts are summarized in a Report and Recommendation dated 13 January 2004[4] of Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, which Report reads in part, as follows: Complainant alleged that on February 9, 1965 the children of Ledesma de Jesus Paras-Sumabong namely Conegunda, Justo, Corazon, Carmen and Cataluna all surnamed Paras executed a Special Power of Attorney prepared by the respondent to sell parcels of land located in Matobato, Bindoy, Negros Oriental giving authority to their mother to sell the subject real properties previously registered in the name of the heirs of Vicente Paras wherein respondent was one of the signatories therein. Complainant alleged that on May 4, 1966 on the basis of said Special Power of Attorney, Ledesma J. Paras-Sumabang executed a Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of Aurora Dy-Yap over the subject real property located in Matobato, Bindoy, Negros Oriental which was with the respondents full knowledge since he was residing at the house of Soledad Dy-Yap at that time and from that time, the Yap family had been in possession of the subject real property up to the present. Complainant alleged that sometime in June 1998 her attention was called to the fact that a free patent title to the aforesaid property was issued in respondents name and upon verification with the DENR, Bureau of Lands, Dumaguete City, complainant was able to get copies of the documents for lot Nos. 660, 490 and 585 pertaining to the Notice of Application for Free Patent dated April 2, 1985 signed by the respondent; over the aforesaid lots previously sold by Ledesma de Jesus to Aurora D. Yap; Quitclaim/Renunciation of Property Rights and Interest Over Real Property executed by Ledesma de Jesus dated May 28, 1985; Letter of Application dated April 2, 1985 signed by respondent under oath before Apolonio Tan authorized officer to administer oath; Letter of Certification signed by Apolonio Tan dated June 4, 1985 and Order of Approval dated August 19, 1985 signed by District Land Officer Teopisto L. Gallozo with a Free Patent No. 328 in the name of respondent Justo J. Paras. Complainant alleged that the aforementioned application was made by the respondent without her knowledge and consent and those acts of deceit, machinations and falsification of documents were deliberately willfully, and maliciously committed by the respondent in violation of Art. 172 in relation to Art. 171 of the RPC; in betrayal of his oath as a lawyer and a transgression of the Canons of Professional Responsibility.

Complainant alleged that respondent surreptitiously obtained a free patent title over real properties which had been previously sold by his own mother to Aurora D. Yap and now still under the control and possession of complainants natural family, a fact respondent allegedly withheld from the Bureau of Lands which he had full knowledge in successfully causing the release of a free patent in his name and unjustly and unlawfully deprived the rightful owners of their legitimate title to the said property in betrayal of the court to pervert the administration of justice in gross violation of his oath of office. xxx xxx xxx

In his Comment, respondent alleged that complainant was obviously not the owner of the properties and considering that the properties were applied for free patent titling during their marital union prior to its breakage, complainant was likewise a communal owner thereof and as such was also complaining against herself. Respondent alleged that later on, a great portion of the public lands classified as forested zone in Matobato were declared and reclassified into public agricultural lands, then publicly surveyed and parcelized by lots identified in the survey map based on actual or known occupants; then the Bureau of Lands allegedly made a public announcement that the lands were available for private ownership thru Free Patent Application available only to native settlers or natural born Filipinos. Respondent alleged that none of the Yaps including complainant being native or natural born Filipinos muchless Aurora D. Yap who in 1985 was said to be already an American citizen; complainant and her family; the Yaps prevailed upon him to apply for free patent over said questioned properties for the reason that respondent had already occupied the properties; introduced improvements thereon; acted as owner thereof; and could easily align his right to the property which had been identified in the public survey as Heirs of Vicente Paras, otherwise the questioned properties allegedly according to the Yaps will be applied for and awarded to other qualified natural born Filipinos. Respondent alleged that Free Patent Application was filed by him over the communal property of him and the complainant as well as those purchased by him including the portion whose occupancy of a public land was purchased by Aurora D. Yap from Ledesma Vda de Paras upon the prodding of the Yaps for all of them were not qualified to apply for ownership of an agricultural public land via free patent; none of them being a natural born Filipino or native settler and were disqualified from a gratuitous grant of public land from the government. Respondent alleged that the whole idea of giving to him and the complainant the properties was hatched and executed by the Yaps, most particularly Atty. Francisco D. Yap to circumvent the law and prevent the properties from being given by the government to some other qualified persons. He allegedly applied for issuance of free patent in good faith and thereafter took dominion and control of the properties in the concept of a legitimate owner under authority of a gratuitous grant of the government. Respondent alleged that complainant or any member of her family much less American citizen Aurora Dy Yap had not made any prior demand for the return of the questioned properties; nor filed a complaint under the Katarungang Pambarangay Law; nor filed an administrative remedy before the DENR for the cancellation and reversion/transfer of the Free Patent and Title to them; nor brought any action in any civil court for either quieting of title, or cancellation of free patent title or recovery of ownership or whatever. Respondent alleged that even without such civil court determination on whether or not complainant or her family were qualified to become grantee of a government gratuitous grant of public agricultural land, if the Honorable Supreme Court will decide that complainant, her mother, brothers and sisters were within the ambit of the term natural born citizen or native citizens under the 1946 Constitution and to them rightfully belong the ownership of the questioned titled public agricultural lands; and that he can never be guilty of the Anti-Dummy Law consequent to such cession, respondent alleged that he will gladly deliver and transfer title to them. Respondent alleged that he sought and prayed for recovery of possession of all conjugal/communal properties including the herein questioned properties for after he left the conjugal home in 1988 possession of all these properties, real and personal were until now with the complainant and her biological family. Respondent prayed for the outright dismissal of the petition for lack of merit. Complainant subsequently filed a Reply[5] to respondents Comment, therein refuting respondents claims that he was used as a dummy since complainant and her siblings had previously acquired Free Patents in their names. Complainant further alleged

that respondent is morally unfit to continue to be an officer of the court because of his falsely declaring under oath that he had been occupying the subject real property since 1985 when in fact he did not and was never in occupation/possession thereof. On 27 August 1999, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline issued an Order[6] noting the filing of the last pleading and setting the instant case for hearing. Several hearings[7] were conducted wherein complainant presented all her witnesses together with their respective affidavits and supporting documents[8], which were all subjected to cross-examination by the respondent. Likewise, respondent presented his Counter-Affidavit[9] and supporting documents. Based on the foregoing, the Investigating Commissioner concluded her Report and made a recommendation, as follows: From the facts obtaining respondent committed deceit and falsehood in having applied for free patent over lands owned by another over which he had no actual physical possession being aware of the fact that the same was previously transferred in the name of Aurora Yap; an act which adversely reflected on his fitness to practice law in violation of Rule 7.03, Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It is immaterial as to who instituted the complaint for as long as there was a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility which partakes the nature of proper disciplinary action pursuant to Section 1, Rule 139-B of the Disbarment and Discipline of Attorneys. Wherefore in view of the foregoing, the Undersigned respectfully recommends for the suspension of Atty. Justo Paras from the practice of his law profession for a period of three (3) months from receipt hereof. It is also hereby recommended that the IBP Chapter wherein respondent Paras is a registered member be furnished a copy of the Order and notified of the said suspension for proper enforcement. Via Resolution No. XVI-2004-120 dated 27 February 2004,[10] the IBP Board of Governors adopted the Report of the Investigating Commissioner but modified the latters recommended penalty by recommending that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six (6) months for violation of Rule 7.03, Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The case is now before us for confirmation. We agree with the IBP Board of Governors that respondent should be sanctioned. We find, however, that the recommended penalty is not commensurate to the gravity of the wrong perpetrated. The Court has always reminded that a lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession[11] as the bar should always maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as well as of honesty and fair dealing among its members. By and large, a lawyer can do honor to the legal profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients.[12] To this end, nothing should be done by any member of the legal fraternity which might tend to lessen in any degree the confidence and trust reposed by the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the legal profession.[13] In Marcelo v. Javier[14], we held: It bears stressing that membership in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions. A lawyer has the privilege and right to practice law during good behavior and can only be deprived of it for misconduct ascertained and declared by judgment of the court after opportunity to be heard has been afforded him. Without invading any constitutional privilege or right, an attorneys right to practice law may be resolved by a proceeding to suspend or disbar him, based on conduct rendering him unfit to hold a license or to exercise the duties and responsibilities of an attorney. It must be understood that the purpose of suspending or disbarring an attorney is to remove from the profession a person whose misconduct has proved him unfit to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney, and thus to protect the public and those charged with the administration of justice, rather than to punish the attorney. An attorney may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath or of his duties as an attorney and counsellor which include the statutory grounds enumerated in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. These statutory grounds are so broad as to cover practically any misconduct of a lawyer in his professional or private capacity. It is a settled rule that the enumeration of the statutory grounds for disciplinary action is not exclusive and a lawyer may be disciplined on grounds other than those specifically provided in the law. Generally a lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any misconduct, whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, in honesty, probity and good demeanor or

unworthy to continue as an officer of the court, or an unfit or unsafe person to enjoy the privileges and to manage the business of others in the capacity of an attorney, or for conduct which tends to bring reproach on the legal profession or to injure it in the favorable opinion of the public. Indeed, the practice of law is not a right but merely a privilege bestowed by the State upon those who show that they possess, and continue to possess, the qualifications required by law for the conferment of such privilege.[15] One of those requirements is the observance of honesty and candor. And in the recent case of Bergonia v. Merrera[16], we ruled: Candor in all their dealings is the very essence of a practitioners honorable membership in the legal profession. Lawyers are required to act with the highest standard of truthfulness, fair play and nobility in the conduct of litigation and in their relations with their clients, the opposing parties, the other counsels and the courts. They are bound by their oath to speak the truth and to conduct themselves according to the best of their knowledge and discretion, and with fidelity to the courts and their clients. x x x In the instant case, it is clear to the Court that respondent violated his lawyers oath as well as the Code of Professional Responsibility which mandates upon each lawyer, as his duty to society and to the courts, the obligation to obey the laws of the land and to do no falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in court. Respondent has been deplorably lacking in the candor required of him as a member of the Bar and an officer of the court in his acts of applying for the issuance of a free patent over the properties in issue despite his knowledge that the same had already been sold by his mother to complainants sister. This fact, respondent even admitted in the comment that he filed before this Court when he alleged that the said properties were public land under the Forestal Zone when the mother of the respondent ceded to Aurora Yap some portions of entire occupancy of the Parases[17]. Moreover, respondent committed deceit and falsehood in his application for free patent over the said properties when he manifested under oath that he had been in the actual possession and occupation of the said lands despite the fact that these were continuously in the possession and occupation of complainants family, as evidenced no less by respondents own statements in the pleadings filed before the IBP. Anent his argument questioning the status of complainant and her family as natural born citizens, this Court holds that the instant case is not the proper forum to address such issue. Furthermore, as correctly held by the Investigating Commissioner, [i]t is immaterial as to who instituted the complaint for as long as there was a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Likewise, any other action which the parties may make against each other has no material bearing in this case. For, it must be remembered that administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and may proceed independently of civil and criminal cases. In line herewith, this Court in In re Almacen,[18] held: Accent should be laid on the fact that disciplinary proceedings like the present are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, this proceeding is not and does not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the conduct 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. xxx The facts and evidence obtaining in the instant case indubitably reveal respondents failure to live up to his duties as a lawyer in consonance with the strictures of the lawyers oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility, thereby occasioning sanction from this Court. At this juncture, we take note that on 18 October 2000, in our Decision in A.C. No. 5333 formerly A.C. No. CBD-371, entitled Rosa Yap Paras v. Atty. Justo de Jesus Paras, respondent was previously meted with suspension from the practice of law for six (6) months on the charge of falsifying his wifes signature in bank documents and other related loan instruments, and for one (1) year from the practice of law on the charges of immorality and abandonment of his own family. Considering the serious nature of the instant offense and in light of respondents prior misdemeanors for which he was penalized with a six (6) month and one (1) year suspension from the practice of law, his deplorable behavior in the present case which grossly degrades the legal profession warrants the imposition of a much graver penalty.

WHEREFORE, finding respondent Atty. Justo J. Paras guilty of committing a falsehood in violation of his lawyers oath and of the Code of Professional Responsibility, the Court Resolved to SUSPEND respondent from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year, with a WARNING that commission of the same or similar offense in the future will result in the imposition of a more severe penalty. Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the IBP, as well as the Office of the Bar Confidant and the Court Administrator who shall circulate it to all courts for their information and guidance and likewise be entered in the record of respondent as attorney. SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-22677 February 28, 1967

PEDRO III FORTICH-CELDRAN, JESUS, MANUEL, MIGUEL and VICENTE, all surnamed FORTICH-CELDRAN; SANTIAGO CATANE and ABELARDO CECILIO, petitioners, vs. IGNACIO A. CELDRAN and HON. COURT OF APPEALS, respondents. San Juan, Africa & Benedicto and Eduardo B. Sinense for petitioners. Casiano U. Laput for respondents. BENGZON, J.P., J.: A suit for annulment of an extrajudicial partition of properties and for accounting was filed on February 3, 1954 in the Court of First Instance of Cebu (Civil Case No. 3397-R). Appearing therein as plaintiffs were: Jose, Francisco, Pedro, Jr., Ignacio, all surnamed Abuton-Celdran (children of the deceased Pedro Celdran by the first nuptial) and, as the administratrix of Francisco Celdran (another brother), Modesta Rodriguez. Defendants were: Pablo Celdran (child of the deceased by the first marriage who refused to join as plaintiff), Josefa Vda. de

Celdran (spouse of the deceased by the second marriage), Manuel, Antonio, Pedro III, Jesus, Vicente and Miguel, all surnamed Fortich Celdran (children of the deceased by the second nuptial. After the defendants answered on May 28, 1954, a motion to withdraw as co-plaintiff was filed on May 24, 1957. It was signed "Ignacio Celdran. This motion has been marked as Exhibit B-Josefa.1wph1.t Subsequently, with leave of court, the plaintiffs (excluding Ignacio) filed an amended complaint impleading Ignacio Celdran as defendant. Ignacio Celdran filed an answer with counterclaim and cross-claim. After trial but before judgment, Ignacio Celdran had the document Exh. B-Josefa (the motion to withdraw) examined by the Police Department of Cebu City. The police were of the view that the same (signature therein) was falsified. Alleging newly discovered evidence, Ignacio Celdran asked for new trial, which the court denied. All the parties, except Ignacio Celdran, thereafter entered on May 6, 1959 into an amicable settlement, recognizing as valid the aforementioned extrajudicial partition. Regarding Ignacio Celdran, the court rendered judgment on July 19, 1961, declaring the same extrajudicial partition as valid for having been ratified by him (Ignacio). Specifically, the court found among other things that Ignacio signed the motion to withdraw (Exh. B-Josefa) after he received P10,000 of the agreed P20,000 and two residential lots to be given to him in return for his aforesaid ratification of the partition. Said decision was later amended to require Pedro III, Antonio, Jesus, Miguel and Vicente, all surnamed Fortich-Celdran, to pay Ignacio the balance of P20,000 aforestated and to deliver to him the promised two parcels of land. Ignacio Celdran appealed therefrom to the Court of Appeals. And said appeal was docketed as CA-G.R. No. 30499-R, shown in the record before Us as still pending. Now on March 22, 1963, at the instance of Ignacio Celdran, an information for falsification of a public document that is, Exh. B-Josefa or the abovementioned motion to withdraw in the civil case was filed by the City Fiscal of Ozamis in the Court of First Instance of Misamis Occidental. Accused therein were: Pedro III, Antonio, Manuel, Vicente, Miguel, and Jesus, all surnamed Celdran (defendants in the civil case); Santiago Catane, as subscribing officer; Abelardo Cecilio, as the person who filed the motion. As private complainant, however, Ignacio Celdran on December 12, 1962, moved before trial to suspend the proceedings in the criminal case on the ground of prejudicial question. The reason given in support thereof was that the alleged falsification of the same document is at issue in the civil case pending in the Court of Appeals. Declaring that there was no pre-judicial question, the Court of First Instance of Misamis Occidental denied on January 28, 1963 the motion to suspend the prosecution. It ruled that the alleged forgery was not an issue in the civil case. Assailing the above ruling, Ignacio Celdran filed in the Court of Appeals on February 21, 1963, a petition for certiorari with preliminary injunction (CA-G.R. No. 31909-R) to enjoin the CFI of Misamis Occidental and the City Fiscal of Ozamis from proceeding with the prosecution of the criminal case. On February 18, 1964 the Court of Appeals decided said petition for certiorari, ordering the suspension of the criminal case due to pre-judicial question. Pedro III, Jesus, Manuel, Miguel and Vicente, all surnamed Fortich-Celdran; Santiago Catane and Abelardo Cecilio accused in the criminal suit and respondents in the petition for certiorari appealed to Us from the decision of the Court of Appeals dated February 18, 1964. Appellants would contend that there is no pre-judicial question involved. The record shows that, as aforestated, the Court of First Instance ruled that Ignacio Celdran ratified the partition agreement; among the reasons cited by the trial court for said ruling is that Ignacio Celdran received P10,000 and signed the motion to withdraw as plaintiff in the suit. Disputing this, Celdran assigned as error in his appeal the finding that he signed the aforementioned motion (Exh. B-Josefa) and maintains that the same is a forgery. Since ratification is principal issue in the civil action pending appeal in the Court of Appeals, and the falsification or genuineness of the motion to withdraw presented and marked as evidence in said civil case is among the questions involved in said issue, it follows that the civil action poses a pre-judicial question to the criminal prosecution for alleged falsification of the same document, the motion to withdraw (Exh. B-Josefa).

Presented as evidence of ratification in the civil action is the motion to withdraw; its authenticity is assailed in the same civil action. The resolution of this point in the civil case will in a sense be determinative of the guilt or innocence of the accused in the criminal suit pending in another tribunal. As such, it is a prejudicial question which should first be decided before the prosecution can proceed in the criminal case. A pre-judicial question is one that arises in a case, the resolution of which is a logical antecedent to the issue involved therein, and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal; that is, it is determinative of the case before the court and jurisdiction to pass upon the same is lodged in another tribunal.1 It should be mentioned here also that an administrative case filed in this Court against Santiago Catane upon the same charge was held by Us in abeyance, thus: As it appears that the genuineness of the document allegedly forged by respondent attorneys in Administrative Case No. 77 (Richard Ignacio Celdran vs. Santiago Catane, etc., et al.) is necessarily involved in Civil Case No. R-3397 of the Cebu Court of First Instance, action on the herein complaint is withheld until that litigation has finally been decided. Complainant Celdran shall inform the Court about such decision. (Supreme Court minute resolution of April 27, 1962 in Adm. Case No. 77, Richard Ignacio Celdran vs. Santiago Catane, etc., et al.) . Regarding the procedural question on Ignacio Celdran's right as private offended party to file through counsel a motion to suspend the criminal case, the same exists where, as herein, the Fiscal, who had direction and control of the prosecution, did not object to the filing of said motion. And its filing in this case complied with Sec. 5 of Rule 111 of the Rules of Court which provides: SEC. 5. Suspension by reason of prejudicial question. A petition for the suspension of the criminal action based upon the pendency of a pre-judicial question in a civil case, may only be presented by any party before or during the trial of the criminal action. Denial of the motion to suspend the prosecution was therefore attended with grave abuse of discretion; and the issue having been squarely and definitely presented before the trial court, a motion for reconsideration, which would but raise the same points, was not necessary. Neither was appeal the remedy available, since the order denying suspension is interlocutory and thus not yet appealable. Wherefore, the decision of the Court of Appeals under review ordering suspension of Criminal CASE No. 5719, People vs. Pedro Fortich-Celdran, et al., pending before the Court of First Instance of Misamis Occidental, until after Civil Case, CA-G.R. No. 30499-R, Pedro A. Celdran, et al. vs. Pedro Fortich-Celdran III, et al., shall have been decided is hereby affirmed, with costs against appellant. So ordered.

[G.R. No. 137110. August 1, 2000] VINCENT PAUL G. MERCADO a.k.a. VINCENT G. MERCADO, petitioner, vs. CONSUELO TAN, respondent. DECISION PANGANIBAN, J.: A judicial declaration of nullity of a previous marriage is necessary before a subsequent one can be legally contracted. One who enters into a subsequent marriage without first obtaining such judicial declaration is guilty of bigamy. This principle applies even if the earlier union is characterized by statute as void. The Case Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the July 14, 1998 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA)i[1] in CA-GR CR No. 19830 and its January 4, 1999 Resolution denying reconsideration. The assailed Decision affirmed the ruling of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bacolod City in Criminal Case No. 13848, which convicted herein petitioner of bigamy as follows:

WHEREFORE, finding the guilt of accused Dr. Vincent Paul G. Mercado a.k.a. Dr. Vincent G. Mercado of the crime of Bigamy punishable under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt, [the court hereby renders] judgment imposing upon him a prison term of three (3) years, four (4) months and fifteen (15) days of prision correccional, as minimum of his indeterminate sentence, to eight (8) years and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor, as maximum, plus accessory penalties provided by law. Costs against accused.ii[2] The Facts The facts are quoted by Court of Appeals (CA) from the trial courts judgment, as follows: From the evidence adduced by the parties, there is no dispute that accused Dr. Vincent Mercado and complainant Ma. Consuelo Tan got married on June 27, 1991 before MTCC-Bacolod City Br. 7 Judge Gorgonio J. Ibaez [by reason of] which a Marriage Contract was duly executed and signed by the parties. As entered in said document, the status of accused was single. There is no dispute either that at the time of the celebration of the wedding with complainant, accused was actually a married man, having been in lawful wedlock with Ma. Thelma Oliva in a marriage ceremony solemnized on April 10, 1976 by Judge Leonardo B. Caares, CFI-Br. XIV, Cebu City per Marriage Certificate issued in connection therewith, which matrimony was further blessed by Rev. Father Arthur Baur on October 10, 1976 in religious rites at the Sacred Heart Church, Cebu City. In the same manner, the civil marriage between accused and complainant was confirmed in a church ceremony on June 29, 1991 officiated by Msgr. Victorino A. Rivas, Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Bacolod City. Both marriages were consummated when out of the first consortium, Ma. Thelma Oliva bore accused two children, while a child, Vincent Paul, Jr. was sired by accused with complainant Ma. Consuelo Tan. On October 5, 1992, a letter-complaint for bigamy was filed by complainant through counsel with the City Prosecutor of Bacolod City, which eventually resulted [in] the institution of the present case before this Court against said accused, Dr. Vincent G. Mercado, on March 1, 1993 in an Information dated January 22, 1993. On November 13, 1992, or more than a month after the bigamy case was lodged in the Prosecutors Office, accused filed an action for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage against Ma. Thelma V. Oliva in RTC-Br. 22, Cebu City, and in a Decision dated May 6, 1993 the marriage between Vincent G. Mercado and Ma. Thelma V. Oliva was declared null and void. Accused is charged [with] bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code for having contracted a second marriage with herein complainant Ma. Consuelo Tan on June 27, 1991 when at that time he was previously united in lawful marriage with Ma. Thelma V. Oliva on April 10, 1976 at Cebu City, without said first marriage having been legally dissolved. As shown by the evidence and admitted by accused, all the essential elements of the crime are present, namely: (a) that the offender has been previously legally married; (2) that the first marriage has not been legally dissolved or in case the spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (3) that he contract[ed] a second or subsequent marriage; and (4) that the second or subsequent marriage ha[d] all the essential requisites for validity. x x x While acknowledging the existence of the two marriage[s], accused posited the defense that his previous marriage ha[d] been judicially declared null and void and that the private complainant had knowledge of the first marriage of accused. It is an admitted fact that when the second marriage was entered into with Ma. Consuelo Tan on June 27, 1991, accuseds prior marriage with Ma. Thelma V. Oliva was subsisting, no judicial action having yet been initiated or any judicial declaration obtained as to the nullity of such prior marriage with Ma. Thelma V. Oliva. Since no declaration of the nullity of his first marriage ha[d] yet been made at the time of his second marriage, it is clear that accused was a married man when he contracted such second marriage with complainant on June 27, 1991. He was still at the time validly married to his first wife.iii[3] Ruling of the Court of Appeals Agreeing with the lower court, the Court of Appeals stated: Under Article 40 of the Family Code, the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void. But here, the final judgment

declaring null and void accuseds previous marriage came not before the celebration of the second marriage, but after, when the case for bigamy against accused was already tried in court. And what constitutes the crime of bigamy is the act of any person who shall contract a second subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved.iv[4] Hence, this Petition.v[5] The Issues In his Memorandum, petitioner raises the following issues: A Whether or not the element of previous legal marriage is present in order to convict petitioner. B Whether or not a liberal interpretation in favor of petitioner of Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code punishing bigamy, in relation to Articles 36 and 40 of the Family Code, negates the guilt of petitioner. C Whether or not petitioner is entitled to an acquittal on the basis of reasonable doubt.vi[6] The Courts Ruling The Petition is not meritorious. Main Issue:Effect of Nullity of Previous Marriage Petitioner was convicted of bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides: The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings. The elements of this crime are as follows: 1. That the offender has been legally married;

2. That the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; 3. 4. That he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity.vii[7]

When the Information was filed on January 22, 1993, all the elements of bigamy were present. It is undisputed that petitioner married Thelma G. Oliva on April 10, 1976 in Cebu City. While that marriage was still subsisting, he contracted a second marriage, this time with Respondent Ma. Consuelo Tan who subsequently filed the Complaint for bigamy. Petitioner contends, however, that he obtained a judicial declaration of nullity of his first marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, thereby rendering it void ab initio. Unlike voidable marriages which are considered valid until set aside by a competent court, he argues that a void marriage is deemed never to have taken place at all.viii[8] Thus, he

concludes that there is no first marriage to speak of. Petitioner also quotes the commentariesix[9] of former Justice Luis Reyes that it is now settled that if the first marriage is void from the beginning, it is a defense in a bigamy charge. But if the first marriage is voidable, it is not a defense. Respondent, on the other hand, admits that the first marriage was declared null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code, but she points out that that declaration came only after the Information had been filed. Hence, by then, the crime had already been consummated. She argues that a judicial declaration of nullity of a void previous marriage must be obtained before a person can marry for a subsequent time. We agree with the respondent. To be sure, jurisprudence regarding the need for a judicial declaration of nullity of the previous marriage has been characterized as conflicting.x[10] In People v. Mendoza,xi[11] a bigamy case involving an accused who married three times, the Court ruled that there was no need for such declaration. In that case, the accused contracted a second marriage during the subsistence of the first. When the first wife died, he married for the third time. The second wife then charged him with bigamy. Acquitting him, the Court held that the second marriage was void ab initio because it had been contracted while the first marriage was still in effect. Since the second marriage was obviously void and illegal, the Court ruled that there was no need for a judicial declaration of its nullity. Hence, the accused did not commit bigamy when he married for the third time. This ruling was affirmed by the Court in People v. Aragon,xii[12] which involved substantially the same facts. But in subsequent cases, the Court impressed the need for a judicial declaration of nullity. In Vda de Consuegra v. GSIS,xiii[13] Jose Consuegra married for the second time while the first marriage was still subsisting. Upon his death, the Court awarded one half of the proceeds of his retirement benefits to the first wife and the other half to the second wife and her children, notwithstanding the manifest nullity of the second marriage. It held: And with respect to the right of the second wife, this Court observes that although the second marriage can be presumed to be void ab initio as it was celebrated while the first marriage was still subsisting, still there is need for judicial declaration of such nullity. In Tolentino v. Paras,xiv[14] however, the Court again held that judicial declaration of nullity of a void marriage was not necessary. In that case, a man married twice. In his Death Certificate, his second wife was named as his surviving spouse. The first wife then filed a Petition to correct the said entry in the Death Certificate. The Court ruled in favor of the first wife, holding that the second marriage that he contracted with private respondent during the lifetime of the first spouse is null and void from the beginning and of no force and effect. No judicial decree is necessary to establish the invalidity of a void marriage. In Wiegel v. Sempio-Diy,xv[15] the Court stressed the need for such declaration. In that case, Karl Heinz Wiegel filed an action for the declaration of nullity of his marriage to Lilia Olivia Wiegel on the ground that the latter had a prior existing marriage. After pretrial, Lilia asked that she be allowed to present evidence to prove, among others, that her first husband had previously been married to another woman. In holding that there was no need for such evidence, the Court ruled: x x x There is likewise no need of introducing evidence about the existing prior marriage of her first husband at the time they married each other, for then such a marriage though void still needs, according to this Court, a judicial declaration of such fact and for all legal intents and purposes she would still be regarded as a married woman at the time she contracted her marriage with respondent Karl Heinz Wiegel; x x x. Subsequently, in Yap v. CA,xvi[16] the Court reverted to the ruling in People v. Mendoza, holding that there was no need for such declaration of nullity. In Domingo v. CA,xvii[17] the issue raised was whether a judicial declaration of nullity was still necessary for the recovery and the separation of properties of erstwhile spouses. Ruling in the affirmative, the Court declared: The Family Code has settled once and for all the conflicting jurisprudence on the matter. A declaration of the absolute nullity of a marriage is now explicitly required either as a cause of action or a ground for defense; in fact, the requirement for a declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage is also for the protection of the spouse who, believing that his or her marriage is illegal and void, marries again. With the judicial declaration of the nullity of his or her first marriage, the person who marries again cannot be charged with bigamy.xviii[18] Unlike Mendoza and Aragon, Domingo as well as the other cases herein cited was not a criminal prosecution for bigamy. Nonetheless, Domingo underscored the need for a judicial declaration of nullity of a void marriage on the

basis of a new provision of the Family Code, which came into effect several years after the promulgation of Mendoza and Aragon. In Mendoza and Aragon, the Court relied on Section 29 of Act No. 3613 (Marriage Law), which provided: Illegal marriages. Any marriage subsequently contracted by any person during the lifetime of the first spouse shall be illegal and void from its performance, unless: (a) The first marriage was annulled or dissolved; (b) The first spouse had been absent for seven consecutive years at the time of the second marriage without the spouse present having news of the absentee being alive, or the absentee being generally considered as dead and believed to be so by the spouse present at the time of contracting such subsequent marriage, the marriage as contracted being valid in either case until declared null and void by a competent court." The Court held in those two cases that the said provision plainly makes a subsequent marriage contracted by any person during the lifetime of his first spouse illegal and void from its performance, and no judicial decree is necessary to establish its invalidity, as distinguished from mere annulable marriages.xix[19] The provision appeared in substantially the same form under Article 83 of the 1950 Civil Code and Article 41 of the Family Code. However, Article 40 of the Family Code, a new provision, expressly requires a judicial declaration of nullity of the previous marriage, as follows: ART. 40. The absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such marriage void. In view of this provision, Domingo stressed that a final judgment declaring such marriage void was necessary. Verily, the Family Code and Domingo affirm the earlier ruling in Wiegel. Thus, a Civil Law authority and member of the Civil Code Revision Commitee has observed: [Article 40] is also in line with the recent decisions of the Supreme Court that the marriage of a person may be null and void but there is need of a judicial declaration of such fact before that person can marry again; otherwise, the second marriage will also be void (Wiegel v. Sempio-Diy, Aug. 19/86, 143 SCRA 499, Vda. De Consuegra v. GSIS, 37 SCRA 315). This provision changes the old rule that where a marriage is illegal and void from its performance, no judicial decree is necessary to establish its validity (People v. Mendoza, 95 Phil. 843; People v. Aragon, 100 Phil. 1033).xx[20] In this light, the statutory mooring of the ruling in Mendoza and Aragon that there is no need for a judicial declaration of nullity of a void marriage -- has been cast aside by Article 40 of the Family Code. Such declaration is now necessary before one can contract a second marriage. Absent that declaration, we hold that one may be charged with and convicted of bigamy. The present ruling is consistent with our pronouncement in Terre v. Terre,xxi[21] which involved an administrative Complaint against a lawyer for marrying twice. In rejecting the lawyers argument that he was free to enter into a second marriage because the first one was void ab initio, the Court ruled: for purposes of determining whether a person is legally free to contract a second marriage, a judicial declaration that the first marriage was null and void ab initio is essential. The Court further noted that the said rule was cast into statutory form by Article 40 of the Family Code. Significantly, it observed that the second marriage, contracted without a judicial declaration that the first marriage was void, was bigamous and criminal in character. Moreover, Justice Reyes, an authority in Criminal Law whose earlier work was cited by petitioner, changed his view on the subject in view of Article 40 of the Family Code and wrote in 1993 that a person must first obtain a judicial declaration of the nullity of a void marriage before contracting a subsequent marriage:xxii[22] It is now settled that the fact that the first marriage is void from the beginning is not a defense in a bigamy charge. As with a voidable marriage, there must be a judicial declaration of the nullity of a marriage before contracting the second marriage. Article 40 of the Family Code states that x x x. The Code Commission believes that the parties

to a marriage should not be allowed to assume that their marriage is void, even if such is the fact, but must first secure a judicial declaration of nullity of their marriage before they should be allowed to marry again. x x x. In the instant case, petitioner contracted a second marriage although there was yet no judicial declaration of nullity of his first marriage. In fact, he instituted the Petition to have the first marriage declared void only after complainant had filed a letter-complaint charging him with bigamy. By contracting a second marriage while the first was still subsisting, he committed the acts punishable under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code. That he subsequently obtained a judicial declaration of the nullity of the first marriage was immaterial. To repeat, the crime had already been consummated by then. Moreover, his view effectively encourages delay in the prosecution of bigamy cases; an accused could simply file a petition to declare his previous marriage void and invoke the pendency of that action as a prejudicial question in the criminal case. We cannot allow that. Under the circumstances of the present case, he is guilty of the charge against him. Damages In her Memorandum, respondent prays that the Court set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeals insofar as it denied her claim of damages and attorneys fees.xxiii[23] Her prayer has no merit. She did not appeal the ruling of the CA against her; hence, she cannot obtain affirmative relief from this Court.xxiv[24] In any event, we find no reason to reverse or set aside the pertinent ruling of the CA on this point, which we quote hereunder: We are convinced from the totality of the evidence presented in this case that Consuelo Tan is not the innocent victim that she claims to be; she was well aware of the existence of the previous marriage when she contracted matrimony with Dr. Mercado. The testimonies of the defense witnesses prove this, and we find no reason to doubt said testimonies. xxx xxx xxx

Indeed, the claim of Consuelo Tan that she was not aware of his previous marriage does not inspire belief, especially as she had seen that Dr. Mercado had two (2) children with him. We are convinced that she took the plunge anyway, relying on the fact that the first wife would no longer return to Dr. Mercado, she being by then already living with another man. Consuelo Tan can therefore not claim damages in this case where she was fully conscious of the consequences of her act. She should have known that she would suffer humiliation in the event the truth [would] come out, as it did in this case, ironically because of her personal instigation. If there are indeed damages caused to her reputation, they are of her own willful making WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION [G. R. No. 124498. October 5, 2001] EDDIE B. SABANDAL, Petitioner, v. HON. FELIPE S. TONGCO, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Manila, Branch 42, and PHILIPPINES TODAY, Respondents. DECISION PARDO, J.:
The Case

The case is a petition to suspend the criminal proceedings in the Regional Trial Court, Manila, Branch 42, [1 where petitioner Eddie B. Sabandal is charged with eleven counts of violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22. [2
The Facts

On February 18, 1989, Eddie B. Sabandal entered into a memorandum of agreement on dealership with respondent Philippines Today, Inc. for the distribution of the newspaper Philippines Today, (now Philippine Star) in Bacolod City and in designated towns in Negros Occidental. [3 Under the agreement, petitioner shall pay for an equivalent amount of one month of deliveries in advance within the first seven days of the succeeding month. Petitioners allowable percentage of return shall be 10% and be entitled to a rebate of P0.15 per copy sold. After execution of the agreement, respondent Philippines Today, Inc. made regular deliveries of the agreed copies of the newspaper to petitioner. In order to make partial payments for the deliveries, on December 18, 1990 to April 15, 1991, petitioner issued to respondent several checks amounting to ninety thousand (P90,000.00) pesos. When respondent presented petitioners checks to the drawee banks for payment, the bank dishonored the checks for insufficiency of funds and/or account closed. Consequently, respondent made oral and written demands for petitioner to make good the checks. However, petitioner failed to pay despite demands. In December 1992, on the basis of a complaint-affidavit filed by respondent Philippines Today, Inc., assistant city prosecutor of Manila Jacinto A. de los Reyes, Jr. filed with the Regional Trial Court, Manila eleven informations for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 against petitioner. [4 Three years later, or on October 11, 1995, petitioner filed with the Regional Trial Court, Negros Occidental at Himamaylan, a complaint against Philippines Today, Inc. for specific performance, recovery of overpayment and damages. [5 On October 11, 1995, petitioner also filed with the Regional Trial Court, Manila, Branch 42, a motion to suspend trial in the criminal cases against him based on a prejudicial question. [6 On November 27, 1995, the trial court denied petitioners motion to suspend trial based on a prejudicial question. [7 On December 20, 1995, petitioner filed with the trial court a motion for reconsideration of the denial. [8 On January 9, 1996, the trial court denied the motion for reconsideration. [9 Hence, this petition. [10

The Issue

The issue raised is whether a prejudicial question exists to warrant the suspension of the trial of the criminal cases for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 against petitioner until after the resolution of the civil action for specific performance, recovery of overpayment, and damages.
The Courts Ruling

The petition has no merit. The two (2) essential elements of a prejudicial question are: (a) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed. [11 A prejudicial question is defined as that which arises in a case the resolution of which is a logical antecedent of the issue involved therein, and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal. The prejudicial question must be determinative of the case before the court but the jurisdiction to try and resolve the question must be lodged in another court or tribunal. It is a question based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but so intimately connected with it that it determines the guilt or innocence of the accused. [12 For a civil action to be considered prejudicial to a criminal case as to cause the suspension of the criminal proceedings until the final resolution of the civil, the following requisites must be present: (1) the civil case involves facts intimately related to those upon which the criminal prosecution would be based; (2) in the resolution of the issue or issues raised in the civil action, the guilt or innocence of the accused would necessarily be determined; and (3) jurisdiction to try said question must be lodged in another tribunal. [13 If both civil and criminal cases have similar issues or the issue in one is intimately related to the issues raised in the other, then a prejudicial question would likely exist, provided the other element or characteristic is satisfied. [14 It must appear not only that the civil case involves the same facts upon which the criminal prosecution would be based, but also that the resolution of the issues raised in the civil action would be necessarily determinative of the guilt or innocence of the accused. [15 If the resolution of the issue in the civil action will not determine the criminal responsibility of the accused in the criminal action based on the same facts, or there is no necessity that the civil case be determined first before taking up the criminal case, therefore, the civil case does not involve a prejudicial question. [16 Neither is there a prejudicial question if the civil and the criminal action can, according to law, proceed independently of each other. [17 In this case, the issue in the criminal cases for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 is whether the accused knowingly issued worthless checks. The issue in the civil action for specific performance, overpayment, and damages is whether complainant Sabandal overpaid his obligations to Philippines Today, Inc. If, after trial in the civil case, petitioner is shown to have overpaid respondent, it does not follow that he cannot be held liable for the bouncing checks he issued, for the mere issuance of worthless checks with knowledge of the insufficiency of funds to support the checks is itself an offense. [18 The lower court, therefore, did not err in ruling that the pendency of a civil action for specific performance, overpayment, and damages did not pose a prejudicial question in the criminal cases for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22. Furthermore, the peculiar circumstances of the case clearly indicate that the filing of the civil case was a ploy to delay the resolution of the criminal cases. Petitioner filed the civil case three years after the institution of the criminal charges against him. Apparently, the civil action was instituted as an afterthought to delay the proceedings in the criminal cases. Petitioners claim of overpayment to respondent may be raised as a defense during the trial of the cases for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 charged against him. The civil action for recovery of civil liability is impliedly instituted with the filing of the criminal action. [19 Hence, petitioner may invoke all defenses pertaining to his civil liability in the criminal action. [20
The Fallo

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby DISMISSES the petition for lack of merit. The Court directs the Regional Trial Court, Manila to proceed with the trial of the criminal cases against petitioner with all judicious dispatch in accordance with the Speedy Trial Act of 1998. [21 No costs. SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION [G.R. No. 82215 : December 10, 1990.] 192 SCRA 232 ANTIPAZ PRESCO y PARAS, ANTONIO AMORES y PARAS, and ANSELMA PARAS, Petitioners, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. MARIANO UMALI, Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite, Branch 25, Trece Martires City, HON. EDWINA P. MENDOZA, Judge of the Municipal Trial Court of General Trias, Cavite, MODESTO PARAS, and SIMPLICIO SANCHEZ, Respondents.

DECISION

PADILLA, J.:

Review on Certiorari of the decision ** rendered by the respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. SP-11357, entitled: "Antipaz Presco y Paras, et al., Petitioners, versus Hon. Mariano M. Umali, etc., et al., respondents," which dismissed, for reasons therein stated, the petition for the annulment of (a) the Decision rendered by the Municipal Trial Court of General Trias, Cavite, in Civil Case No. 329, entitled: "Simplicio Sanchez, plaintiff, versus Antipaz Presco, defendant," and (b) the Order issued by the Regional Trial Court of Cavite, Branch 25, on 24 November 1986, dismissing the Amended Complaint filed in Civil Case No. TM-69, entitled: "Antipaz Presco, et al., plaintiffs, versus Modesto Paras, et al., defendants." The facts which gave rise to this petition are as follows: On 22 September 1982, herein private respondent Simplicio Sanchez, claiming to be the registered owner of a parcel of land with an area of 794 square meters situated in Tejero, General Trias, Cavite, under TCT No. T-112547 of the land records of the province of Cavite, filed a complaint with the Municipal Trial Court of General Trias, Cavite, docketed therein as Civil Case No. 329, to oust herein petitioner Antipaz Presco from the said land on the ground that he (Simplicio) needed the same for the use of his married son who had no place of his own. The defendant (Antipaz) denied the allegations of the complaint and claimed that the house occupied by her, as well as the lot on which it was constructed, belonged to her mother, which the latter inherited from her deceased parents, Clemencia Tagle and Felipe Paras.: rd After trial, or on 24 September 1984, judgment was rendered by the municipal court, ordering the defendant (Antipaz) to immediately surrender possession of the disputed property to the plaintiff (Simplicio). The defendant was further ordered to pay the plaintiff the amount of P100.00 a month, beginning 7 May 1982, as compensation for the use of the land, and P200.00, for attorney's fees. In rendering judgment in favor of the plaintiff, the municipal court found that the parcel of land in question was covered by a certificate of title duly issued in the name of the plaintiff, and the ownership and title of the plaintiff to the said property was confirmed by one Modesto Paras who testified that the said land was sold to him by his mother, Clemencia Tagle and he, in turn, sold a part thereof to the plaintiff, Simplicio Sanchez. The municipal court further found that the defendant had not presented any evidence to rebut and overcome the validity of the plaintiffs title to the said property. 1 The defendant (Antipaz) did not appeal from the said municipal court judgment. Instead, on 31 October 1984, the said Antipaz Presco, together with Antonio Amores y Paras and Anselma Paras, grandson and daughter, respectively, of the late spouses Clemencia Tagle and Felipe Paras, filed a complaint against Modesto Paras and Simplicio Sanchez with the Regional Trial Court of Cavite, docketed therein as Civil Case No. TM-69, for the annulment of the certificates of title covering the lot in question, which were allegedly issued fraudulently in the respective names of the said Modesto Paras and Simplicio Sanchez and for the reconveyance of the lot to them (plaintiffs in the case). 2

Meanwhile, on 10 December 1984, the Municipal Trial Court of General Trias, Cavite issued a writ of execution in Civil Case No. 329. 3 Antipaz Presco, however, refused to vacate the land so that soon thereafter, Simplicio Sanchez (as plaintiff) filed a motion for the issuance of an order for the demolition of the house of Antipaz Presco (as defendant). In view thereof, the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. TM-69 before the RTC of Cavite amended their complaint to include the judge of the Municipal Trial Court of Gen. Trias, Cavite, as party defendant, claiming that the motion for the demolition of the house occupied by Antipaz Presco, if granted and enforced by said municipal court, would cause irreparable damage and injury to said co-plaintiff Antipaz Presco. Consequently, plaintiffs in Civil Case No. TM-69 prayed for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the said municipal court from ordering the demolition of the house of Antipaz Presco. 4 The defendants in Civil Case No. TM-69 (herein private respondents) filed their Answer to the Amended Complaint, claiming as special and affirmative defenses that: (a) plaintiffs' cause of action, if any, was barred by res judicata, estoppel and/or laches, and the statute of limitations; and (b) the plaintiffs' cause of action involved a dispute over real property and, pursuant to the provisions of PD 1508, it should have been brought first before the Barangay Council of Tejero, General Trias, Cavite, for conciliation or mediation before filing the same with the court, hence, the RTC of Cavite acquired no jurisdiction over the case (Civil Case No. TM-69). 5 Upon motion of the defendants in Civil Case No. TM-69 (who are herein private respondents), a preliminary hearing was conducted on their affirmative defenses and on 24 November 1986, the trial court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that: (1) the complaint was filed without a previous confrontation before the Lupon of Barangay Tejero, General Trias, Cavite, in accordance with Section 2, P.D. 1508; and (2) it appeared that the plaintiffs Antipaz Presco and Antonio Amores y Paras were the children of sisters of the defendant Modesto Paras, while the other plaintiff Anselma Paras was the sister of the said defendant Modesto Paras, and yet, no earnest efforts had been exerted by the plaintiffs towards a compromise agreement with the defendants, in accordance with the provisions of Article 222 of the Civil Code. 6 The plaintiffs (herein petitioners) filed a motion for reconsideration of the RTC order dismissing their complaint, but their motion was denied on 16 February 1987 7 Whereupon, the petitioners, as plaintiffs in Civil Case No. TM-69 filed a petition for Certiorari with writ of preliminary injunction with the Court of Appeals, docketed therein as CA G.R. No. SP-11357, wherein they prayed that upon the filing of their said petition, a restraining order be issued to maintain the status quo among the parties pending hearing and resolution of the issues by said appellate court and that, after hearing, (a) a writ of preliminary injunction be issued to be valid until the final disposition of the said petition; (b) the decision or judgment rendered by the Municipal Trial Court in Civil Case No. 329 and the writ of execution it had issued be declared null and void, (c) the decision or order of dismissal rendered by the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No. TM-69 be declared null and void for being contrary to law; (d) Ordering the private respondents to pay the costs of suit; and for other reliefs, just and reasonable in the premises. 8 On 17 November 1987, however, the respondent appellate court dismissed the petition for the reason that the remedy of the petitioners was appeal and not Certiorari. 9 The petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the CA decision, and when their motion was denied on 24 February 1988, 10 they filed the present petition before this Court. The petition was given due course and parties were required to submit their respective memoranda. 11 The principal issue for resolution is whether or not the respondent Court of Appeals committed a reversible error in ruling that the remedy of the petitioners was appeal (not Certiorari) from the decision rendered in Civil Case No. 329 of the Municipal Trial Court of General Trias, Cavite, and the order of dismissal in Civil Case No. TM-69 of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite. As a rule, errors of judgment or of procedure, not relating to the court's jurisdiction nor involving grave abuse of discretion, are not reviewable by Certiorari. The Court has repeatedly held that Certiorari is not the remedy when appeal is available. However, there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, Certiorari is justified where the trial judge capriciously and whimsically exercises his judgment, 12 or where an appeal is not adequate to protect one's rights or where there may be danger of failure of justice, 13 and in order to prevent irreparable damage and injury to a party. 14 Certiorari may be availed of where an appeal would be slow, inadequate, insufficient, and will not

promptly relieve a party from the injurious effects of the judgment complained of, or in order to avoid further litigation. 15 In the case at bar, while an appeal from the decision in Civil Case No. 329 of the Municipal Trial Court of General Trias, Cavite was available to the petitioner Antipaz Presco, such remedy was not adequate in the light of her answer that the house and land occupied by her and from where she was sought to be ejected, belonged to her deceased mother. In actions of forcible entry and detainer, the main issue is possession de facto, independently of any claim of ownership or possession de jure that either party may set forth in his pleadings; 16 and an appeal does not operate to change the nature of the original action. On appeal, in an ejectment case, it is within the discretion of the court to look into the evidence supporting the assigned errors relating to the alleged ownership of appellant insofar as said evidence would indicate or determine the nature of appellant's possession of the controverted premises. Said court should not however resolve the issues raised by such assigned errors. The resolution of said issues would effect an adjudication on ownership which is not sanctioned in the summary action for unlawful detainer. 17 Thus, an appeal by petitioner Antipaz Presco from the judgment of the municipal court in the ejectment proceedings (Civil Case No. 329) would have affected only the material possession of the land disputed by the parties, but would not resolve the issue of ownership put forth by petitioner Antipaz Presco. Hence, the filing of an action for reconveyance to resolve the issue of ownership was proper, and this was done by her in Civil Case No. TM-69 before the RTC of Cavite. Appeal from the dismissal order of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite in Civil Case No. TM-69, while also available to the herein petitioners, since the dismissal of their amended complaint was a final order, was nonetheless inadequate. It appears that the private respondent Simplicio Sanchez had, in the meantime, asked the Municipal Trial Court of General Trias, Cavite to issue an order for the demolition of the house of Antipaz Presco which, if granted by the said court, would have caused irreparable damage and injury to Antipaz Presco. The rule is that an order of demolition is not appealable 18 unless there is an allegation that it has substantially varied the terms of the judgment or where the terms of the judgment are not very clear and there is room for interpretation. 19 However, a proper recourse could be through a special civil action of Certiorari or prohibition. 20 This is in consonance with the principle that in ejectment cases, the judgment must be executed immediately when it is in favor of the plaintiff in order to prevent further damages to him arising from the loss of possession. 21 The reason for execution is even stronger when the judgment has long become final and executory. 22 Even the pendency of an action for nullification of sale and title is not a bar in the execution of judgment in an ejectment case. 23 An appeal, then, from the Regional Trial Court's order dismissing petitioners' amended complaint in Civil Case No. TM-69, could not immediately relieve Antipaz Presco from the injurious effects of an order of demolition issued in Civil Case No. 329 by the municipal court. There was a danger of a failure of justice if her home should be demolished pending resolution of a slow and tedious process of appeal from the order of dismissal in said Civil Case No. TM-69. Besides, the reasons for the dismissal of the amended complaint in Civil Case No. TM-69 were patently erroneous as to amount to grave abuse of discretion. In dismissing the amended complaint, the trial court ruled that: (1) the complaint was filed without a confrontation between the parties before the Lupon Chairman of Barangay Tejero in accordance with PD 1508, which requirement is jurisdictional and its non-compliance a ground for dismissal of the complaint; and (2) no earnest efforts had been exerted by the plaintiffs (petitioners herein) towards a compromise settlement with the defendants (private respondents herein) pursuant to the provisions of Article 222 of the Civil Code, given the fact that co-plaintiff (herein petitioner) Anselma Paras was the sister of the defendant (herein private respondent) Modesto Paras, while the co-plaintiffs (also herein petitioners) Antipaz Presco and Antonio Amores y Paras were children of Flora Paras and Adriana Paras, sisters of said defendant (herein private respondent) Modesto Paras.:- nad This Court has already ruled in several decisions that while the referral of a case to the Lupon Tagapayapa is a condition precedent for the filing of a complaint in court, however, the conciliation process under PD 1508 is not a jurisdictional requirement so that non-compliance therewith cannot affect the jurisdiction which the court has otherwise acquired over the subject matter or over the person of the defendant. 24

And be that as it may, it would appear that the emended complaint filed by the petitioners before the RTC in Civil Case No. TM-69 was coupled with the provisional remedy of a preliminary injunction, so that the petitioners could go directly to court. 25 As to Article 222 of the Civil Code, it finds no application in this case for, while the defendant-private respondent Modesto Paras may have been closely related to the plaintiffs-petitioners, his codefendant-private respondent Simplicio Sanchez is a complete stranger to the plaintiffs-petitioners. WHEREFORE, Certiorari prayed for is GRANTED and the Decision rendered by the Court of Appeals in case CA-G.R. SP-11357 and the resolution denying the motion for reconsideration dated 24 February 1988, as well as the order issued by the Regional Trial Court of Cavite on 24 November 1986 dismissing the Amended Complaint in Civil Case No. TM-69, are ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court of Cavite is ordered to proceed with the trial of said Civil Case No. TM-69 on its merits. Without pronouncement as to costs.: nad SO ORDERED.

WONG JAN REALTY, INC., by ABDULLAH M. JAN, President, Petitioner,

A.M. No. RTJ-01-1647

Present:

PANGANIBAN, J., Chairman - versus SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, CORONA, CARPIO MORALES, and GARCIA, JJ.

HON. JUDGE DOLORES L. ESPAOL, Regional Trial Court, Dasmarias, Cavite, Branch 90. Respondents. x--------------------------------------------------------------------x October 13, 2005 Promulgated:

RESOLUTION

GARCIA, J.:

In a verified letter-complaint dated June 9, 2000,[1] complainant Wong Jan Realty, Inc., through its President Abdullah M. Jan, charged Judge Dolores Espaol, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 90, Dasmarias, Cavite with gross ignorance of the law or procedure, and manifest bias and partiality.

The complaint alleged that in an unlawful detainer case filed by complainant against the spouses Patricio Gubagaras and Erlinda Gubagaras, the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Dasmarias, Cavite, in a decision dated November 5, 1999, rendered judgment in favor of complainant and ordered the Gubagaras spouses to vacate the premises subject of the suit and pay the sum of P5,000.00 a month from January, 1994 until they shall have vacated the same premises, as reasonable compensation for their use and occupancy thereof. Against that decision, the Gubagaras couple filed a Notice of Appeal without any supersedeas bond. Hence, the decision became final and executory and a writ of execution was ordered issued by the court on January 3, 2000. To the order directing issuance of the writ, the spouses Gubagaras filed a motion for reconsideration, attaching thereto a purported supersedeas bond. On January 31, 2000, the court denied the spouses motion for reconsideration but approved their

Notice of Appeal. The appeal was docketed in the RTC, Dasmarias, Cavite as Civil Case No. 120-00 which was
raffled to Branch 90 thereof presided by the herein respondent judge.

During the pendency of the appeal, the spouses Gubagaras filed with the RTC, Dasmarias, Cavite a Petition for

Certiorari with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, thereunder questioning the MTCs
denial of their motion for reconsideration of its order for a writ of execution. The petition, docketed in the RTC as

Civil Case No. 2049-00, was likewise raffled to the same branch of that court presided by the respondent judge and
received in her sala at 10:10 oclock in the morning of February 7, 2000.

Controversy sprung when, on that very same day February 7, 2000 respondent judge issued in Civil Case No. 2049-00 a status quo ante Order,[2] directing as follows:

In view of the foregoing, let a STATUS QUO ANTE be issued enjoining the above-named respondents (among whom is herein complainant Wong Jan Realty, Inc.) and the Sheriff of this Court or any Sheriff of the Multiple Sala, Imus, Cavite, from implementing the Writ of Execution and the disputed Decision upon the petitioners. Let the hearing on the Preliminary Injunction be set on February 10, 2000 at 1:30 in the afternoon. SO ORDERED.

Complainant alleged that the aforequoted February 7, 2000 status quo ante Order was issued by the respondent judge without a prior summary hearing, in gross violation of SC Adm. Circular No. 20-95 which mandates that an application for a TRO shall be acted upon only after all the parties are heard in a summary hearing conducted within 24 hours from the time the records are transmitted to the branch of the court to which the main case was raffled. Complainant proceeds to argue that while SC Adm. Circular No. 20-95 authorizes lower courts to issue a TRO for a maximum period of twenty (20) days only, the February 7, 2000 status quo ante Order of the respondent judge did not contain any expiration period, thereby indefinitely restraining the implementation of the writ of execution issued by the MTC in favor of complainant in the earlier unlawful detainer suit.

As it were, so complainant submits, the respondent judge displayed bias or partiality in issuing her status quo

ante Order as she had already prejudged the Gubagaras couples petition for certiorari in Civil Case No. 2049-00.
Perceiving bias and evident partiality on the part of respondent judge, complainant then filed a motion to Inhibit the respondent.

Via a 1st Indorsement, then Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo referred the subject letter-complaint to the
respondent judge for comment. In a return 2nd Indorsement, the respondent judge, by way of COMMENT,[3] denied the accusations against her. She explained that the issues in the Unlawful Detainer case and in the Petition for

Certiorari (Civil Case No. 2049-00) are closely intertwined with another civil case (Civil Case No. 867-94) which is an
action for Annulment of Deed of Sale filed by the Gubagaras couple against the herein complainant. According to respondent, the issue of ownership over the disputed property subject of Civil Case No. 867-94 is a prejudicial question which must first be resolved before the status quo ante Order issued in Civil Case No. 2049-00 could be lifted. Otherwise, so respondent contends, complainants, president, Abdullah M. Jan, who is a foreigner, may be allowed to acquire the property through a simulated suit of unlawful detainer and evict the original owners thereof. According to respondent, the need to minimize the damages which the parties may suffer impelled her to issue the status quo ante Order in question. Additionally, so respondent avers, the writ of execution in the unlawful detainer case was issued by the MTC when the appeal (Civil Case 120-00) in that case had already been perfected. Respondent denies the accusations of bias and partiality, claiming that the same do not have any basis in fact and in law.

In its Reply to respondents comment, complainant additionally charged respondent with Gross Inefficiency on account of respondents failure to seasonably decide Civil Cases No. 120-00 and 2049-00. Complainant alleged that despite the passage of several months from the time those cases were deemed submitted for decision, the same remained unresolved.

In her answer[4] to the additional charge, respondent reiterated her allegation that since the three cases (Civil Cases No. 120-00, 2049-00 and 867-94) pending before her sala are related, it was indispensable for her to first resolve the issue of ownership of the property in question as raised in Civil Case No. 867-94 which, to respondent, is a prejudicial question insofar as the appeal (Civil Case No. 120-00) in the unlawful detainer case and the petition for certiorari (Civil Case No. 2049-00) are concerned.

The complaint is not without basis.

A prejudicial question is a question which arises in a case the resolution of which is a logical antecedent to the issue involved in said case and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal.[5] A civil case constitutes a prejudicial question only if: (a) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (b) the resolution of such issue is determinative of whether or not the criminal action may proceed.[6] The three (3) cases before the respondent judge do not, evidently, meet the elements of a prejudicial question, as each involves issues which can be decided independently of each other.

The issue in Civil Case No. 120-00 (appeal in the Unlawful Detainer case) is possession. The issue in Civil

Case No. 2049-00 (Petition for Certiorari) is whether the MTC judge abused his discretion in issuing a writ of
execution, and the issue in Civil Case No. 867-94 (Annulment of Deed of Sale) is the validity of the sale. Obviously, Civil Cases No. 120-00 and 2049-00 can be resolved independently of Civil Case No. 867-94. Contrary to respondents justification, the resolution of Civil Cases No. 120-00 and 2049-00 will not affect the issue of ownership.

Record discloses that respondent judge issued the status quo ante Order without conducting a summary hearing, as required under SC Adm. Circular No. 20-95. Worse, the same Order does not contain any expiry date.

Unlike a temporary restraining order which has a life of only twenty (20) days, the Order in question has an indefinite period of duration. Indeed, there was a lapse of judgment on the part of respondent judge in issuing that

status quo ante Order.

As an Executive Judge, respondent may issue ex-parte a temporary restraining order effective for seventy-two (72) hours only. Beyond that period, respondent should have conducted a summary hearing to determine whether the ex-parte TRO she issued should be extended for seventeen (17) more days, the period within which the application for preliminary injunction is to be heard and resolved[7]. In the event the application for preliminary injunction is denied or not resolved within the 20-day period, the TRO is deemed automatically vacated.

As it is, respondents February 7, 2000 status quo ante Order was in full force and effect for more than two (2) years, or until November 12, 2002 when the Court of Appeals, on complainants recourse thereto, eventually reversed and set aside said Order.[8] Obviously, respondent disregarded the rules on the issuance of temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

Be that as it may, there was no showing of malice on the part of respondent judge in issuing said status quo

ante Order. In the absence of malice, fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a judge in his judicial capacity are
not subject to disciplinary action even if erroneous. Malice implies that the act complained of must be the result of an evil intent that excludes a mere voluntary act, deliberated to inflict damage on either party.[9]

Besides, the filing of an administrative complaint is not the proper remedy for the correction of actions of a judge perceived to have gone beyond the norms of propriety, where a sufficient judicial remedy exists.[10]

Here, complainant filed an action for certiorari with the appellate court[11] questioning the propriety of the

status

quo

ante

Order

and

has,

in

fact,

obtained

favorable

judgment,

as

mentioned

earlier.

As regards the charge of bias and partiality, no evidence was presented by complainant to substantiate the same. Bias and partiality of a judge must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Mere suspicion that a judge is bias or partial is not enough.

As to the denial of complainants motion to Inhibit, suffice it to say that while disqualification of judges based on specific grounds provided by the Rules of Court and the Code of Judicial Ethics is compulsory, inhibition partakes of voluntariness on their part.[12]

Finally, on the charge of gross inefficiency for failing to act on Civil Cases No. 120-00 and 2049-00 within the reglementary period, records show that Civil Case No. 120-00 was submitted for decision on April 17, 2000 but was decided only on January 7, 2003, while Civil Case No. 2049-00, submitted for decision on May 16, 2000, was decided only on January 6, 2003.[13]

The Court has repeatedly emphasized the rule for the guidance of judges manning the courts that cases pending before them must be decided within the three (3)-month period, and non-observance thereof constitutes a ground for administrative sanction against the defaulting judge.[14]

Accordingly, respondent judge is found administratively liable for failure to decide Civil Cases No. 120-00 and 2049-00 within the reglementary period and is imposed a fine of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00). It appearing that respondent has since reached compulsory retirement on January 9, 2004, the same amount of fine is to be taken from her retirement benefits.

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves as follows:

(a) (b)

The charges for gross ignorance of the law, and bias and partiality are dismissed for lack of merit; and A fine of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) is imposed on respondent Judge Dolores L. Espaol, for failure to decide Civil Cases No. 120-00 and 2049-00 within the reglementary period therefor, said amount to be deducted from her retirement benefits.

[A.C. No. 5499. August 16, 2005] WILSON PO CHAM, complainant, vs. ATTY. EDILBERTO D. PIZARRO, respondent. DECISION CARPIO MORALES, J.: Before this Court is an administrative complaint for disbarment filed by Wilson Po Cham (complainant) against Atty. Edilberto D. Pizarro (respondent) for commission of falsehood and misrepresentations in violation of a lawyers oath. Complainant gives the following account of the facts that spawned the filing of the present administrative complaint. Sometime in July 1995, Emelita Caete (Caete), Elenita Alipio (Alipio), and now deceased Mario Navarro (Navarro) who was then the Municipal Assessor of Morong, Bataan, offered for sale to him a parcel of land with an area of approximately forty (40) hectares, identified as Lot 1683 of Cad. Case No. 262, situated at Sitio Gatao, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan (the property). He having expressed interest in the offer, Caete and Navarro arranged a meeting between him and respondent at the latters residence in Balanga, Bataanii[1] where respondent categorically represented to him that the property being offered for sale was alienable and disposable.ii[2] Respondent in fact presented to him 1) Real Property Tax Order of Paymentii[3] dated July 10, 1995 covering the property signed by Edna P. Pizarro as Municipal Treasurer and Navarro as Municipal Assessor; 2) a Deed of Absolute Saleii[4] dated July 25, 1995 purportedly executed by the alleged previous actual occupant of the property, one Jose R. Monzon (Monzon), transferring all his rights, interest and possession thereover in favor of Virgilio Banzon (Banzon), Rolando B. Zabala (Zabala) and respondent for an agreed consideration of P500,000.00; and 3) Special Power of Attorneyii[5] dated July 25, 1995 executed by Banzon and Zabala authorizing him (respondent) to: 1. x x x offer to sell [their] rights over a certain parcel of land, which is more particularly described as follows: AREA: 40 has. more or less situated at Pook Batangas, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan covered by Tax Declaration No. 6066 PIN #108-08-044-05126 2. 3. x x x negotiate and enter into a contract for the consumation (sic) of sale of the subject property; and to sign the same. x x x receive proceeds thereof with obligation to distribute the corresponding share of each co-owner; x x xii[6] (Underscoring supplied) On July 25, 1995, he as buyer and respondent as seller executed an Option to Buy,ii[7] the pertinent portions of which provide: WHEREAS, the SELLER is the owner and Attorney-In-Fact of his co-owners of rights with planted trees (improvements) containing an area of FORTY THREE (43) hectares, situated in Pook Batangas, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan; (Portion of Lot 1683, Cad. 262, Morong Cadastre), covered by Tax Declaration 6066. WHEREAS, the BUYER is interested to buy the same for a total price of THREE MILLION AND SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P3,700,000.00) payable in two (2) gives (sic), as follows: a) Earnest money of P10,000.00 upon signing of this contract and the balance of full payment within three (3) weeks from date hereof which offer the SELLER accepts; NOW THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the foregoing premises and the terms and conditions hereunder specified the parties have agreed on the following:

1) That the Buyer shall give an option money and earnest (sic) of P10,000.00 upon signing of this contract, which shall form part of the contract price if and when the buyer comply (sic) with his obligation to pay in full within three (3) weeks from date hereof, otherwise should the BUYER fails (sic) to comply with his obligation to pay in full on the scheduled period the P10,000.00 earnest money shall be forfeited in favor of the SELLER and the Option to Buy is automatically cancelled. 2) That the SELLER upon full payment of the price shall execute a final Deed of Sale and shall surrender all documents, plans and paper relative to the properties subject of sale; 3) That the SELLER shall warrants (sic) their rights and claims over the above stated properties including the trees planted on it as against the rights of third party except that of the government.ii[8] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) In accordance with the terms of the Option to Buy, he paid respondent the amount of P10,000.00 for which respondent issued the corresponding Receiptii[9] reading: Received the sum of TEN THOUSAND PESOS (P10,000.00) from MR. WILSON CHAM, representing earnest/option money for Lot 1683 of Cad. Case No. 262 situated at Boundaries: NORTH : Right of Catalino Agujo SOUTH : National Road-Bagac-Morong WEST : Right of Nicasio Canta EAST : Sapang Batang Panao including the trees and improvement situated thereon. Full payment shall be paid within three (3) weeks from date hereof.ii[10] (Underscoring supplied) On August 21, 1995, respondent executed a Deed of Absolute Saleii[11] over the property in his favor, the pertinent portions of which read as follows: For and in consideration of the sum of THREE MILLION THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY THREE (P3,372,533.00), Philippine Currency, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged from the BUYER to the entire satisfaction of the SELLERS, the said SELLERS do by these presents SELL, TRANSFER and CONVEY, in manner absolute and irrevocable, in favor of the said BUYER, his heirs and assigns, all their rights, interest and participation over that certain real estate destined for, and in actual use as fruit land, situated at Pook Batangas, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan and more particularly described as follows: Location : Pook Batangas, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan Area : That portion of Lot 1683, Cad. 262, Morong Cadastre, containing an area of 392,155 square meters more or less. Boundaries : North : Right of Catalino Agujo South : National Road, Bagac-Morong West : Right of Nicasio Canta East : Sapang Batang Panao The SELLERS do hereby declare that the boundaries of the foregoing land are visible by means of monuments, creeks and trees; that the land including the permanent improvements existing thereon consist of fruit-bearing trees assessed for the current year at TWO HUNDRED SIXTY TWO THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED P262,400.00 as per Tax Declaration No. 5010; and that the property is presently in the possession of the SELLERS. The SELLERS hereby agree with the BUYER that they are the absolute owners of the rights over the said property; that they have the perfect right to convey the same; that they acquired their rights over the said property by absolute deed of sale from Jose R. Monzon who acquired his rights over the property from Marianito Holgado; that Marianito Holgado acquired his right from Pedro de Leon who, in turn, acquired his right from Julian Agujo who was the original owner who cleared the land and who was in possession of the same immediately after the Second World War.

The SELLERS warrant their rights and claims over the aforedescribed real estate including the trees planted thereon and they undertake to defend the same unto said Vendee, his heirs and assigns against the claims of any third person whomsoever.ii[12] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) Respondent thereafter furnished him with a copy of Tax Declaration No. 5010ii[13] with Property Index No. 018-08-004-05-126 issued in his (respondents) name and his alleged co-owners, and Real Property Tax Receipt No. 025201ii[14] dated August 17, 1995 issued in his (respondents) name. He thus gave respondent two checks dated August 21, 1995 representing the purchase price of the rights over the property, Asian Bank Corporation Check No. GA063210ii[15] in the amount of P168,627.00 payable to respondent, and Asian Bank Managers Check No. 004639GAii[16] in the amount of P3,193,906.00 payable to respondent, Banzon and Zabala. He subsequently took possession of the property and installed a barbed wire fence at its front portion. Soon after, however, a forest guard approached him and informed him that the property could not be fenced as it was part of the Bataan National Park.ii[17] Upon investigation, he discovered that the property is not an alienable or disposable land susceptible of private ownership. He thus secured a Certificationii[18] from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENR) in Bagac, Bataan of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) dated July 2, 1998, signed by CENR Officer Laurino D. Macadangdang, reading: This pertains to your request for a certification as to the status of land claimed by spouses Perfecto and Purificacion, Jose Monson, et. al, Virgilio Banzon and Edilberto Pizarro, all located at Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan. Please be informed that per verification conducted by the personnel of this Office, said lands fall within the Bataan Natural Park per L.C. Map/N.P. Map No. 34 as certified on December 1, 1945. Under the Public Land Law, lands within this category are not subject for disposition.ii[19] (Underscoring supplied) He also obtained a Letter-directiveii[20] dated August 31, 1995 issued by Officer-in-Charge Ricardo R. Alarcon of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENR) of Balanga, Bataan to the Municipal Assessor, the pertinent portions of which read: Please be informed that it comes to our attention that there are some forest occupants that are securing land tax declarations from your office in (sic) the pretext that the area they occupied (sic) were (sic) within alienable and disposable lands. Presently, this tax declaration is being used in the illegal selling of right [of] possession within the Bataan Natural Park which is prohibited under our laws. xxx In this regard, I would like to request for your assistance by way of informing us and in controlling this land rush and massive selling and buying of rights of possession within prohibited areas as stated above.ii[21] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) Upon his request, the PENR issued a Certificationii[22] dated March 14, 1996 stating that those named by respondent as prior owners of rights over the property from whom respondent and his alleged co-owners acquired their alleged rights were not among those inventoried as occupants per the PENRs 1978 to 1994 Forest Occupancy Census (IFO) Survey. Despite repeated demands, respondent refused to return the purchase price of the rights over the property.ii[23] In his present complaintii[24] dated September 10, 2001, complainant charges respondent to have violated his oath as a member of the Bar in committing manifest falsehood and evident misrepresentation by employing fraudulent means to lure him into buying rights over the property which property he represented to be disposable and alienable.ii[25] In his Commentii[26] dated January 12, 2002, respondent denied having employed deceit or having pretended to co-own rights over the property or having represented that it was alienable and disposable. He claimed that complainant, being engaged in speculation in the purchase of property, knew exactly the character and nature of the object of his purchase;ii[27] and that despite

complainants awareness that he was merely buying rights to forest land, he just the same voluntarily entered into the transaction because of the propertys proximity to the Subic Bay Economic Zone. Respondent surmised that complainant bought the rights over the property in the hope that lands belonging to the public domain in Morong would be eventually declared alienable and disposable to meet the rising demand for economic zones.ii[28] By Resolutionii[29] of February 6, 2002, this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation or decision within ninety (90) days from notice. On May 6, 2002, complainant filed before the IBP his Replyii[30] to respondents Comment, maintaining that the sale of rights over the property was attended with deceit as respondent deliberately did not disclose that the property was within the confines of the Bataan National Park.ii[31] And he denied being engaged in speculation, he claiming that with his purchase of the property, he would venture into low-cost housing for the employees of the nearby Subic Bay area.ii[32] To complainants Reply, respondent filed his Rejoinder on June 21, 2002.ii[33] Complainant later filed his Affidavitii[34] and Position Paperii[35] on June 21, 2002 and September 17, 2001, respectively, reiterating his assertions in his previous pleadings. The record shows that complainant filed a criminal complaint for estafa against respondent, Banzon, Zabala, Caete, Alipio and Navarro in 1999ii[36] arising from the questioned sale of rights. The complaint was twice dismissed by the City Prosecutor of Quezon City. On petition for review, however, the Department of Justice, through then Secretary Hernando B. Perez, by Resolutionii[37] of March 6, 2002, reversed the dismissal of the complaint as it found probable cause to indict respondent et al. in court. An information for estafa was thereupon filed against respondent et al. before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-00-94232. By Report and Recommendation of April 20, 2004, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), through Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro, finding respondent to have violated his oath as a member of the Bar to do no falsehood and misrepresentations, recommended his suspension from the practice of law for three (3) months, subject to the approval of the members of the Board of Governors. Pertinent portions of the Report and Recommendation read: . . . [I]t is evident that as early as of (sic) 1992, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of NIPAS ACTii[38] prohibited the illegal selling of rights or possession of the areas occupied within the Bataan Natural Park, the subject property not excluded as per letter of OIC CENRO Laurino D. Mapadanig [illegible], Bagac, Bataan per L.C. map/N.P. Map No. 34 to the Municipal Assessor therein and certified on December 1, 1945 that subject property which is within this category was not subject for disposition; a fact supposed to be known by the respondent being a resident of Balanga, Bataan and was in the practice of his profession also in said area. Aside from the fact that the alleged original owner Monzon was not among those inventoried occupants as per Forest Occupancy (IFO) Survey since 1978 up to the latest census in 1994 from whom respondent allegedly bought the subject property; the Absolute Deed of Sale executed between the complainant Wilson Po Cham and the respondent relative to the same subject property was not notarized which partook the nature of a private and not official document. Although respondent furnished complainant the foregoing documents to prove their rights, interest and possession to the subject property, respondent and his co-owners failed to show a permit from the government conferring upon them rights or concessions over the subject property, which formed part of the Bataan Natural Park classified as public and not subject to disposition, therefore respondent and his co-owners have no rights and interests whatsoever over the subject property and their representations to complainant were simply not true but a falsehood. Respondent being extensively conversant and knowledgeable about the law took advantage of his versatility in the practice of law and committed misrepresentations that he and his co-owners have irrevocable rights, interests and possession over the subject property which convinced complainant into purchasing subject property unmindful that the same is not alienable or disposable being a portion of the public domain; whereby respondent violated his solemn oath as member of the Philippine Bar for having committed such falsehood and misrepresentations to the complainant.ii[39] (Underscoring supplied). By CBD Resolution No. XVI-2004-407 of October 7, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the April 20, 2004 Committee Report and Recommendation.

The case was forwarded to this Court for final action pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.ii[40] The IBP findings are well-taken. The Bar is enjoined to maintain a high standard of not only legal proficiency but of honesty and fair dealing.ii[41] Thus, a member should refrain from doing any act which might lessen in any degree the confidence and trust reposed by the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the legal profession.ii[42] The misconduct of a lawyer, whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor to thus render him unworthy of the privileges which his license and the law confer upon him, may be sanctioned with disbarment or suspension.ii[43] Thus, under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, a member of the Bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney on the following grounds: 1) deceit; 2) malpractice or other gross misconduct in office; 3) grossly immoral conduct; 4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; 5) violation of the lawyers oath; 6) willful disobedience to any lawful order of a superior court; and 7) willfully appearing as an attorney for a party without authority. And he may be faulted under Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which mandates a member of the Bar to obey the laws of the land and promote respect for the law. Rule 1.01 of the Code specifically enjoins him not to engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. Conduct, as used in this rule, is not limited to conduct exhibited in connection with the performance of professional duties.ii[44] In the case at bar, as reflected above, complainant presented certifications from the DENR that the property is part of the public domain and not disposable as it is within the Bataan National Park. Indeed, by virtue of Proclamation No. 24ii[45] issued on December 1, 1945, all properties of the public domain therein designated as part of the Bataan National Park were withdrawn from sale, settlement or other disposition, subject to private rights. On the other hand, respondent has utterly failed to substantiate his documented claim of having irrevocable rights and interests over the property which he could have conveyed to complainant. E.g., he could have presented any document issued by the government conferring upon him and his alleged co-owners, or even upon his alleged predecessors-in-interest, with any such right or interest, but he presented none. He merely presented a Deed of Absolute Sale purportedly executed by a certain Jose R. Monzon in his, Banzons and Zabalas favor on July 25, 1995, a month shy of the execution on August 21, 1995 of the Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of complainant. The tax declaration and receipt which respondent presented do not help his cause any as neither tax receipts nor realty tax declarations are sufficient evidence of the right of possession over realty unless supported by other effective proof.ii[46] The presentation of a tax declaration must indeed have been a pretext, as observed by the PENR in its earlier-quoted portion of its letter-directive to the Balanga Municipal Assessor that the area occupied . . . [is] within alienable and disposable land. Respondent must thus be faulted for fraudulently inducing complainant to purchase, for P3,372,533.00, non-existent irrevocable rights, interest and participation over an inalienable property. In Lizaso v. Amanteii[47] where therein respondent lawyer enticed the therein complainant to invest in the casino business with the proposition that her investment would yield her substantial profit, but therein respondent not only failed to deliver the promised return on the investment but also the principal thereof, this Court took occasion to expound on sanctioning lawyers for committing fraud, deceit or falsehood in their private dealings: It is true, of course, that there was no attorney-client relationship between respondent Amante and complainant Cuyugan-Lizaso. The transaction that complainant entered into with respondent did not require respondent to perform professional legal services for complainant nor did that transaction relate to the rendition of professional services by respondent to any other person. As early as 1923, however, the Court laid down in In Re Vicente Pelaez the principle that it can exercise its power to discipline lawyers for causes which do not involve the relationship of an attorney and client. x x x x x x [A]s a general rule, a court will not assume jurisdiction to discipline one of its officers for misconduct alleged to have been committed in his private capacity. But this is a general rule with many exceptions. The courts sometimes stress the point that the

attorney has shown, through misconduct outside of his professional dealings, a want of such professional honesty as render him unworthy of public confidence, and an unfit and unsafe person to manage the legal business of others. The reason why such a distinction can be drawn is because it is the court which admits an attorney to the bar, and the court requires for such admission the possession of a good moral character. x x x The rationale of the rule that misconduct, indicative of moral unfitness, whether relating to professional or non-professional matters, justifies suspension or disbarment, was expressed by Mr. Chief Justice Prentice in In Re Disbarment of Peck, with eloquence and restraint: As important as it is that an attorney be competent to deal with the oftentimes intricate matters which may be intrusted to him, it is infinitely more so that he be upright and trustworthy. Unfortunately, it is not easy to limit membership in the profession to those who satisfy the standard of test of fitness. But scant progress in that direction can be hoped for if, in the determination of the qualification of professional fitness, non-professional dishonor and dishonesty in whatsoever path of life is to be ignored. Professional honesty and honor are not to be expected as the accompaniment of dishonesty and dishonor in other relations. x x x misconduct, indicative of moral unfitness for the profession, whether it be professional or non-professional, justifies dismission as well as exclusion from the bar. The rule in this jurisdiction was stated by Mr. Justice Malcolm in Piatt v. Abordo x xx: The courts are not curators of the morals of the bar. At the same time the profession is not compelled to harbor all persons whatever their character, who are fortunate enough to keep out of prison. As good character is an essential qualification for admission of an attorney to practice, when the attorneys character is bad in such respects as to show that he is unsafe and unfit to be entrusted with the powers of an attorney, the courts retain the power to discipline him.ii[48] (Italics in the original) This Lizaso ruling was reiterated in Co v. Bernardinoii[49] and Lao v. Medel.ii[50] To be sure, complainant is not entirely blameless. Had he exhibited a modicum of prudence before entering into the transaction with respondent, he would have spared himself from respondents sham. It is jurisprudentially established though that in a disbarment proceeding, it is immaterial that the complainant is not blameless or is in pari delicto as this is not a proceeding to grant relief to the complainant, but one to purge the law profession of unworthy members to protect the public and the courts.ii[51] The record does not disclose the status of the estafa case against respondent. His conviction or acquittal is not, however, essential insofar as the present administrative case against him is concerned.ii[52] Administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and they may proceed independently of x x x criminal cases. The burden of proof for these types of cases differ. In a criminal case, proof beyond reasonable doubt is necessary; in an administrative case for disbarment or suspension, clearly preponderant evidence is all that is required. Thus, a criminal prosecution will not constitute a prejudicial question even if the same facts and circumstances are attendant in the administrative proceedings. It should be emphasized that a finding of guilt in the criminal case will not necessarily result in a finding of liability in the administrative case. Conversely, respondents acquittal does not necessarily exculpate him administratively.ii[53] (Emphasis supplied) It is not thus sound judicial policy to await the final resolution of a criminal case before a complaint against a lawyer may be acted upon; otherwise, this Court will be rendered helpless from vigorously applying the rules on admission to and continuing membership in the legal profession during the whole period that the criminal case is pending final disposition when the objectives of the two proceedings are vastly disparate.ii[54]

While the facts and circumstances of the case do not warrant the imposition of so severe a penalty as disbarment, the inherent power of this Court to discipline an errant member of the Bar must, nonetheless, be exercised as it cannot be denied that respondent violated his solemn oath as a lawyer not to engage in unlawful, dishonest or deceitful conduct.ii[55] The penalty of suspension for three (3) months recommended by the IBP is not, however, commensurate to the gravity of the wrong committed by respondent. This Court finds that respondents suspension from the practice of law for One (1) Year is warranted. WHEREFORE, respondent, Atty. Edilberto D. Pizarro, is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for One (1) Year and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense will merit a more severe penalty. Let copies of this Decision be entered in the personal record of respondent as a member of the Bar and furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts of the country. SO ORDERED.