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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[Adm. Matter No. 94-5-178-RTC. August 7, 1996.]

RE: REPORT ON THE JUDICIAL AUDIT AND PHYSICAL INVENTORY OF CASES CONDUCTED IN THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURTS OF DAVAO CITY


R E S O L U T I O N


TORRES, JR., J.:


This case arose from the judicial audit and physical inventory of cases pending in ten (10) Regional Trial Courts of Davao City, particularly Branches 8 to 17, conducted on March 21 to 30, 1994 by an audit team headed by Atty. Bartolome V. Flores.

For resolution are:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1.) the compliance with the November 24, 1994 resolution of this Court, filed on October 11, 1995 by Judge William M. Layague of Branch 14, RTC Davao City;

2.) the Report dated July 12, 1996 of Senior Deputy Court Administrator Reynaldo Suarez on the inventory of cases in Branch 9, Davao City in connection with the compulsory retirement of Judge Leonora T. Sumcad on July 16, 1996; and

3.) the July 12, 1996 Report on RTC Branch 14, Davao City.

The antecedents:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

On May 11, 1994, the Office of the Court Administrator submitted to the Chief Justice a partial report on the judicial audit and physical inventory of pending cases conducted in Branches 8 to 17, RTC, Davao City on March 21 to 30, 1994. The report was docketed as Administrative Matter No. 94-5-178-RTC. A complete report 1 thereon was submitted by the Office of the Court Administrator on October 6, 1994.

In a resolution 2 dated November 24, 1994, this Court directed the judges of the Regional Trial Courts in Davao City namely, Branches 8 to 17:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

a.) to submit their respective written report to the court, within five (5) days from notice on the present status of cases submitted for decision/resolution before them; and if the cases were already disposed of,

b.) to show proof within the same period, that the said cases have been decided or resolved.

In the same resolution, the court directed: a) Judge Layague to explain in writing within 5 days from notice why no administrative sanction should be taken against him for failure to decide/resolve within the 90-day reglementary period, the 67 cases submitted for decision and 46 cases submitted for resolution; to immediately cease from hearing cases in his sala and confine himself to deciding the unresolved cases submitted for decision; b) the Fiscal Management and Budget Officer of this court to withhold immediately the salary of Presiding Judge William M. Layague, RTC Branch 14; and c) Judge Wenceslao E. Ibabao to hear, try and decide cases in Branch 14 at least twice a week, and to continue until such time that the regular Presiding Judge William M. Layague shall have shown proof that the aforestated 147 3 cases submitted for his decision/resolution have been fully resolved, or until further orders from this court.

By February 1995, nine out of the ten judges required to submit written reports, were able to comply with the resolution of November 24, 1994.

In a resolution 4 dated July 4, 1995, the court resolved among others, 1) to note the compliance of nine (9) out of the ten (10) Regional Trial Court Judges, and 2) to require Judge William Layague, RTC, Branch 14, Davao City, to explain why no administrative sanction should be imposed on him for his continued failure to comply with the November 24, 1994 resolution and to submit his compliance thereto within five days from notice.

Judge Layague was granted 5 extensions of time to submit his written explanation and compliance. After the July 4, 1995 resolution, he was further granted up to August 22, 1995 to comply.

It was only on October 11, 1995, that Judge Layague was able to file his compliance.

In his explanation 5 Judge Layague begs the apologies of this court for the delays which he attributed to his frail health. According to the judge, he was diagnosed as suffering from acute erosive and atrophic gastritis 6 and also claims to be suffering from emphysema, thyroid nodule (goiter) and vertigo (menier’s syndrome) and his lower extremities were said to be numbed. 7

On the backlog of cases, Judge Layague explain that when he assumed office in Branch 14 in 1987 he inherited so many cases submitted for decision and there were more than sixty (60) cases not reflected in the docket which was discovered only after he conducted an inventory.

He also explained that his Branch Clerk of Court was appointed as judge in December 1988; that "the position remained vacant for a long time until it was filled up by Atty. Melinda Alconcel-Dayanghirang who likewise left when she was appointed to the Office of the Ombudsman in October 1993;" that his Legal Researcher left for a greener pasture in March 1992; that the stenographer whom he entrusted to type the Decisions and Resolutions of cases disposed suffered a stroke; his other stenographer Lydia Ramil went on leave for four (4) months, i.e., from May to September, 1995; that the other stenographer, Mrs. Yolanda Apilado was assigned as duty stenographer with Assisting Judge Ibabao of Branch 33; and that still his other stenographer Renee Mira transferred to Quezon City and the position was filled up only last September 6, 1995.

In his explanation dated October 11, 1995, Judge Layague reports that he was able to dispose of 87 cases; that there are only 52 remaining undecided cases; 8 he begs this court to allow him to resolve/decide them until December 31, 1995; and requests for the release of his salary, allowances, and other benefits which were ordered withheld since March 1995.

Judge Layague begged this court to allow him to resolve the 52 remaining unresolved cases until December 31, 1995. To date, he has not submitted proof of his compliance.

Deputy Court Administrator Reynaldo L. Suarez has, however, come up with a new Report dated July 12, 1995, on a recent audit of Branches 9 and 14 of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City. According to said report:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

As to Branch 9, Presided by Judge Leonora T. Sumcad

The ten (10) cases submitted for decision (Crim. Cases Nos. 32, 692 & 31,128 and civil Cases Nos. 24,071; 23,317; 21,685; 24,035; 24,109; Misc. 6845; Spc. Proc. 4155 & 4036) as well as the 3 civil cases appealed from the MTCC (Nos. 24,987; 24,052; & 23,432) are all within the reglementary period. In civil Case No. 18,239 the Motion to Dismiss or to Drop Sheriff Queza as defendant has been submitted for resolution since Sept. 29, 1995. Judge Sumcad explained that she had been sickly lately but promised to resolve the above Motion as well as the other cases submitted for decision/resolution before she retires.

As to Branch 14 Presided by Judge William Layague

Of the 147 cases submitted for decision/resolution during the last audit and subject of the November 24, 1994 Resolution, 80 cases (64 civil and 16 criminal) have already been decided/resolved, to wit: . . .

Sixteen (16) cases which have matters for resolution (e.g., Motion to Dismiss, etc.) went on trial, to wit: . . .

Nine (9) cases were re-raffled to other branches, to wit: . . .

There are three (3) civil cases which were either inherited or partly tried by Judge Layague that could not be decided due to lack of transcript of stenographic notes. This leaves only 36 cases for Judge Layague to decide although 2 civil cases (Nos. 14,488 & 15,417) were discovered to be inherited from retired Judge Rongkales Bandalan. In fine, Judge Layague has only the following 34 cases (25 civil & 9 criminal) to decide/resolve, which he promised to do in 3 months’ time, to wit:

Civil Cases Criminal Cases

1. 13,616 14. 18,966 1. 19,485

2. 13,951 15. 19,660 2. 20,126

3. 14,358 16. 19,914 3. 25,125

4. 14,512 17. 20,123 4. 26,887

5. 15,768 18. 20,643 5. 30,383

6. 16,269 19. 20,911 6. 30,384

7. 16,945 20. 20,961 7. 30,385

8. 17,034 21. 21,280 8. 30,386

9. 17,520 22. 21,770 9. 30,387"

10. 18,071 23. 21,946

11. 18,306 24. 22,553

12. 18,808 25. MISC-6218

13. 18,933

It was also reported that there are 41 cases submitted for decision beyond the 90-day period aside from the cases previously reported. The audit team discovered that some of these cases which were submitted before March 14, 1994 were not presented during the audit conducted in March 1994 and were, therefore, not included in the November 24, 1994 Resolution.

Of the said unresolved 41 cases, 35 cases are already beyond the 90-day reglementary period. Of the 35 cases, Presiding Judge Layague has a total liability of 31 cases (30 crim. & 1 civil), inclusive of 1 criminal case inherited from retired Judge Bandalan; former Assisting Judge Palabrica has 2 cases and former Assisting Judge Wenceslao E. Ibabao has 2 criminal cases.

There are 4 cases appealed from MTCC undecided beyond the 90-day period, one of which, Civil Case No. 23,213 was deemed submitted to Judge Layague on October 16, 1994.

In Civil Case No. 21,111, Judge Layague failed to resolve the Motion to Dismiss the Intervention of Davao Credit Corp. which was submitted for resolution per his Order dated June 16, 1994.

Other observations made by the audit team are:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"1. No action was taken in Crim. Case No. 36,610 after it was filed and raffled to this Branch on March 22, 1996.

2. There were no further proceedings in 12 cases after a considerable length of time (cases have been sleeping for a period ranging from 8 months to two years).

3. Most cases in this Branch were held in abeyance by Assisting Judge Libre to be calendared only upon motion of parties. He reasoned that this is due to the fact that he is presiding over 3 salas — this Branch, his designated Court at Branch 12, and Branch 13 wherein the presiding judge, Hon. Anita Alfelor Alagaban, was abroad during the time of audit.

4. There are 18 Writs of Execution that remained unserved for a considerable length of time (period ranging from 7 months to 2 years and 4 months).

Upon inquiry, the Team learned that the reason for this is that the Deputy Sheriff of this Branch, Mr. Roberto C. Esguerra, is being utilized in Branch 15 by Exec. Judge R. Quitain." 9

The Team also observed that Judge Layague pens his decisions as if each one of them is a masterpiece which causes further delay.

With regard to Judge Layague’s compliance dated October 11, 1995, this Court is not fully satisfied with the explanation of Judge Layague. He makes mention of certain dates when his Branch Clerk left but not when the position was filled up. There must have been a period when he had the benefit of assistance from a Branch Clerk of Court. Neither did he specify when his illness started to affect his work. And yet his work backlog kept on mounting while the number of cases in the other courts in the same region remained relatively manageable. Nevertheless, we give Judge Layague the benefit of the doubt.

Be it noted that Judge Layague was first directed to resolve the 147 cases in November 1994. Since then he was relieved of his lack of hearing cases, was provided with an Assisting Judge, and was allowed to concentrate on deciding the cases unresolved beyond the 90-day period. He begged this Court to give him up to December 1995 to finish the cases. These notwithstanding, to date, of the said 147 cases, there still remains 34 cases to be decided by Judge Layague. On top of this the Team learned that Judge Layague has 32 more cases (unresolved beyond the 90-day period) to decide not included in the 147 cases earlier reported because they were not presented during the audit conducted in March 1994.

Meanwhile, Branch 12 of RTC Davao City is adversely affected because its Presiding Judge (Maximo Libre), who is the designated Assisting Judge in Branch 14 has to attend to cases in two courts — Branch 12 and Branch 14.

This situation should not be allowed to continue indefinitely.

This case, could hardly be differentiated from other cases relating to delay in the administration of justice. It has taken place a few decades ago, it is still with us notwithstanding the inroads of technology in our justice system. It bears repeating what the late Justice George Malcolm wrote in a case 10 —

"Much of the popular criticism of the courts which, it must be frankly admitted, is all too often justified, is based on the laws’ delay. Congested conditions of court dockets is deplorable and intolerable. It can have no other result than the loss of evidence, the abandonment of cases, and the denial and frequent defeat of justice. It lowers the standards of the courts, and brings them into disrepute."cralaw virtua1aw library

What has been written by the noted jurist, could be very well apply to the prevailing conditions of some of our courts.

The Office of the Court Administrator recommends a fine of Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos for Judge Layague’s failure to decide/resolve the 147 cases within the 90-day period. We find said amount insufficient.

In Diputado-Baguio v. Torres, 211 SCRA 1, 11 the judge was fined P20,000.00 for his failure to decide three (3) criminal cases within 90 days, even though the court found four (4) mitigating circumstances in his favor.

In the case at bar, while we find such factors as congestion of docket, lack of necessary personnel and the judge’s illness to be fairly adequate to mitigate the latter’s liability, the cases unresolved beyond the 90-day period number more than 100. A fine of Twenty Five Thousand (P25,000.00) Pesos would thus be reasonable.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court RESOLVED that:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I. As to Branch 9, Davao City

Judge Leonor T. Sumcad or her Branch Clerk of Court, Atty. Annie May Braga-Leuterio, is hereby DIRECTED to submit a Certification as to the Disposition of the following cases: Criminal Cases Nos. 32,692 & 31,128; and Civil Cases Nos. 18,239; 21,685; 23,317; 24,017; 24,035; 24,052; 24,109; 23,432; 24,987; MISC-6845; SP-4155; SP-4036.

II. As to Branch 14, Davao City

1. the explanation of Judge Layague for his delay in complying with the November 24, 1994 resolution is NOTED;

2. a FINE in the amount of Twenty Five Thousand (P25,000.00) Pesos is hereby imposed on Judge Layague for his failure to decide/resolve within the reglementary period 147 cases submitted for decision/resolution;

3. Judge William Layague is DIRECTED to DECIDE/RESOLVE:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(a) the remaining 34 undecided cases mentioned in the Resolution of the Court En Banc dated November 24, 1994;

(b) the following 32 cases (30 criminal and 2 civil) submitted to him, to wit: Criminal Cases Nos. 6,651; 14,560; 14,561; 14,932; 15,609; 15,948; 17,068; 17,069; 17,070; 17,071; 17,072; 18,562; 18,563; 18,563; 18,564; 18,565; 18,566; 18,567; 18,568; 18;569; 18,570; 18,571; 18,572; 18,573; 18,574; 18,575; 18,579; 22,067; 24,276; 27,940 & 28,534; and Civil Cases Nos. SP-3792 & 23,213; and

(c) the Motion to DISMISS the Intervention in Civil Case No. 21,111

within a period of four (4) months from receipt hereof and to INFORM this Court, thru the Office of the Court Administrator, of such compliance. Judge Layague is WARNED that failure to comply with this directive will merit a more severe penalty. We direct that this resolution be spread on his personal record.

4. in view of Judge Layague’s substantial compliance with the November 24, 1994 Resolution, the Fiscal Management and Budget Officer is DIRECTED to release the still withheld salary checks of Judge Layague until the yearend 1995 only, with the remaining checks to be released only upon full compliance with the Resolution of November 24, 1994 and the above directive No. 3;

5. former Assisting Judge Gregorio A. Palabrica of RTC Br. 34, Panabo, Davao is DIRECTED to DECIDE the following cases which were submitted to him during his stint in Branch 14, to wit: Criminal Case No. 21,565 and Civil Cases Nos. 21,563; 22,986; 22,814, and 23,440, and to INFORM this Court, thru the Office of the Court Administrator, of such compliance;

6. former Assisting Judge Wenceslao E. Ibabao of Branch 33, Davao City, is DIRECTED to DECIDE the following cases which were submitted to him to wit: Criminal Case Nos. 30,588 and 31,334, and to INFORM this Court, thru the Office of the Court Administrator, of such compliance;

7. incumbent Assisting Judge Maximo M. Libre is DIRECTED TO ADOPT a more balanced schedule of cases between Branch 14 and Branch 12, respectively, to prevent the undue holding in abeyance of cases from Branch 14;

8. Deputy Sheriff Roberto C. Esguerra who is presently detailed at Branch 15, is DIRECTED to report back to Branch 14 to perform his regular duties at the latter court, particularly to serve the Writs of Execution in Civil Cases Nos. 13,082; 16,876; 19,201; 19,202; 20,077; 20,244; 20,579; 20,789; 20,870; 21,330; 21,910; 22,234; 22,369; 22,485; 22,551; 22,236; 23,586 & 29,865 and to INFORM this Court, thru the Office of the Court Administrator, of such compliance.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Francisco, Hermisisima, Jr. and Panganiban, Jr., JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions


MELO, J., concurring:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I concur although as regards par. II. 2, I would suggest a reduction of the fine imposed.

Endnotes:



1. Rollo, p. 25.

2. Rollo, pp. 36-40.

3. 67 cases submitted for decision and 46 cases submitted for resolution all beyond the 90-day reglementary period, plus 34 cases submitted for decision, still within the 90-day period.

4. Rollo, p. 320.

5. Rollo, p. 326.

6. Rollo, p. 330.

7. Ibid, pp. 326, 327.

8. Rollo, p. 328.

9. pp. 4-5, Report of Senior Deputy Court Administrator Suarez dated July 12, 1996.

10. Macabasa v. Banaag, Adm. Matter No. 280 MJ. June 28, 1974, 57 SCRA 465; citing in re: Impeachment of Flordeliza, 44 Phil. 608.

11. MTJ-90-490, July 3, 1992.

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