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A.M. No. RTJ-09-2171 Formerly A.M. No. 09-94-RTC - RE: JUDICIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED IN THE RTC, BRANCH 6, TACLOBAN CITY

A.M. No. RTJ-09-2171 Formerly A.M. No. 09-94-RTC - RE: JUDICIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED IN THE RTC, BRANCH 6, TACLOBAN CITY

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.M. NO. RTJ-09-2171 : March 17, 2009]
(Formerly A.M. No. 09-94-RTC)

RE: JUDICIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED IN THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 6, TACLOBAN CITY.

R E S O L U T I O N

NACHURA, J.:

A judicial audit was conducted in the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 6, of Tacloban City on November 28 and 29, 2008. Judge Santos T. Gil was Presiding Judge of the court until his retirement on August 20, 2008.

On May 14, 2008, prior to Judge Gil's retirement, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno designated Judge Alphinor C. Serrano, Presiding Judge of RTC, Branch 38, Gamay, Northern Samar, as Assisting Judge of RTC, Branch 6, Tacloban City. He was directed to hear and decide newly filed cases raffled to the said sala to give Judge Gil the time to decide all cases submitted for decision within four months. Judge Serrano assumed office on July 1, 2008.1

In its Report dated February 9, 2009, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) found that prior to his retirement, Judge Gil '

1. Failed to take action on sixteen (16) criminal cases [05-02-59, 05-02-60, 07-01-14, 08-03-127, 08-05-245, 08-03-153, 07-05-285, 08-05-228, 08-05-229, 08-06-301, 08-06-302, 08-06-310, 08-07-326, 08-07-332, 08-07-333 and 08-08-429] from the time of their filing;

2. Failed to take further action or to set for hearing seventy-six (76) criminal cases [94-06-315, 06-02-132, 05-11-668, 06-01-39, 06-02-75, 06-02-82, 06-02-100, 06-02-114, 06-02-126, 06-04-230, 05-11-670, 06-07-415, 06-86-376, 06-05-327, 06-04-242, 06-04-259, 06-05-313, 06-05-314, 06-06-349, 06-09-552, 06-09-512, 06-8-473, 06-12-665, 07-12-675, 96-10-340, 97-08-343, 06-12-664, 06-07-404, 06-08-455, 06-09-350, 06-09-540, 06-09-555, 06-10-594, 06-11-619, 06-11-645, 07-06-357, 07-06-356, 07-06-355, 06-07-431, 06-08-485, 06-12-671, 06-09-502, 06-09-536, 06-10-607, 07-03-177, 07-02-106, 07-01-38, 07-01-46, 07-02-105, 07-01-82, 07-3-154, 07-04-228, 07-05-308, 06-08-457, 07-06-362, 07-06-368, 06-10-573, 06-10-574, 07-06-361, 07-07-393, 07-07-398, 07-07-406, 07-07-407, 07-08-428, 07-08-457, 07-08-460, 07-11-629, 07-11-630, 07-11-631, 07-11-632, 07-11-633, 07-10-560, 07-10-561, 07-11-606, 07-12-649, and 07-12-652] and seven (7) civil cases [92-07-15, CAD 99-04-14, 99-09-136, 05-03-38, CAD 96-09-01, 06-10-125 and CAD 98-08-35] for a considerable length of time;

3. Failed to resolve the pending incidents/motions in four (4) criminal cases [93-10-639, 94-01-015, 04-11-701, 04-11-702] and five (5) civil cases [93-12-241, 95-11-145, CAD 06-06-21, 05-01-07 and 07-12-124];

4. Failed to decide thirty-four (34) criminal cases [93-01-38, 93-01-39, 92-05-216, 97-02-82, 89-06-261, 89-06-262, 98-09-392, 98-12-540, 98-09-400, 97-06-301, 92-03-119, 93-08-505, 98-05-230, 98-05-231, 98-08-339, 01-11-727, 00-01-01, 00-01-27, 01-09-646, 99-06-249, 02-10-582, 02-11-629, 99-04-158, 02-12-670, 02-12-671, 01-10-673, 01-10-675, 00-08-435, 00-08-454, 00-03-200, 02-04-174, 01-01-34, 99-01-40 and 99-01-42] and four (4) civil cases [05-11-124, 92-02-36, 95-08-105 and CAD 03-08-38]; andcralawlibrary

5. Failed to promulgate the decision in five (5) criminal cases (97-01-07, 89-06-262, 92-05-214, 2001-11-727 and 2000-01-01).

The OCA disclosed that the audit team likewise discovered that several warrants of arrest were in the possession of the Process Server and were not properly indorsed to the concerned police officers; some certificates of detention were signed by Atty. Edna V. Maceda, Branch Clerk of Court; there were no orders directing the payment of postponement fees in civil cases; some motions were not properly received (without stamp of the date of receipt) as in the motion to set bail hearing in Criminal Cases Nos. 04-01-16 and 04-01-62; Pre-Trial Orders (PTOs) were signed only by the judge; records of cases jointly tried are incomplete; there were typographical errors found in several orders; the January to June Semestral Docket Inventory for 2008 manifested wrong case numbers; and the case records were not paginated. There were also firearms, ammunition and illegal drugs, and evidence in decided criminal cases that were still in the possession of the court.

Thus, the OCA made the following recommendations:

I. That this judicial audit report be redocketed as an administrative complaint against Retired Judge Santos T. Gil, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Tacloban City, for gross incompetence, inefficiency, negligence and dereliction of duty;

II. That RETIRED JUDGE SANTOS T. GIL be FINED the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) to be deducted from his retirement benefits or terminal leave benefits for his failure to:

1. To take appropriate action on sixteen (16) criminal cases from the time of their filing and seventy-six (76) criminal and seven (7) civil cases without further action or setting for considerable length of time;

2. To resolve motions in four (4) criminal and five (5) civil cases;

3. To decide thirty-four (34) criminal and four (4) civil cases; andcralawlibrary

4. To promulgate the decisions in five (5) criminal cases.

III. HON. ALPHINOR C. SERRANO, Assisting Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Tacloban City, be directed to :

1. Take appropriate action, within thirty (30) days from notice, on the following cases: Criminal Case[s] Nos. 05-02-59; 05-02-60; 07-01-14, 08-03-127, 08-05-245, 08-03-153, 07-05-285, 08-05-228, 08-05-229, 08-06-301, 08-06-302, 08-06-310, 08-07-326, 08-07-332, 08-07-333, 08-08-429, 08-08-453, 08-08-459, 08-08-470, 08-08-471, 08-08-473, 08-09-487, 08-10-536, 08-10-537, 08-10-538, 08-10-539, 08-10-540, and 08-10-541; Criminal Case[s] Nos. 94-06-315, 06-02-132, 05-11-668, 06-01-39, 06-02-75, 06-02-82, 06-02-100, 06-02-114, 06-02-126, 06-04-230, 05-11-670, 06-07-415, 06-86-376, 06-05-327, 06-04-242, 06-04-259, 06-05-313, 06-05-314, 06-06-349, 06-09-552, 06-09-512, 06-8-473, 06-12-665, 07-12-675, 96-10-340, 97-08-343, 06-12-664, 06-07-404, 06-08-455, 06-09-350, 06-09-540, 06-09-555, 06-10-594, 06-11-619, 06-11-645, 07-06-357, 07-06-356, 07-06-355, 06-07-431, 06-08-485, 06-12-671, 06-09-502, 06-09-536, 06-10-607, 07-03-177, 07-02-106, 07-01-38, 07-01-46, 07-02-105, 07-01-82, 07-3-154, 07-04-228, 07-05-308, 06-08-457, 07-06-362, 07-06-368, 06-10-573, 06-10-574, 07-06-361, 07-07-393, 07-07-398, 07-07-406, 07-07-407, 07-08-428, 07-08-457, 07-08-460, 07-11-629, 07-11-630, 07-11-631, 07-11-632, 07-11-633, 07-10-560, 07-10-561, 07-11-606, 07-12-649, 07-12-652, 00-11-642, 08-01-07, 08-01-15, 08-01-16, 08-01-18, 08-01-19, 08-01-40, 07-10-562, 08-04-205, 08-04-217, 07-04-199, and 94-06-324; Civil Cases Nos. 92-07-15, CAD 99-04-14, 99-09-136, 05-03-38, CAD 96-09-01, 06-10-125, CAD 98-08-35, SP 07-02-14, 08-05-45, and 08-04-42; and Civil Case[s] Nos. 08-03-26, 08-04-40, 08-06-62 (appeal), 08-07-77 (appeal) and 08-10-105 (appeal);

2. Resolve the pending incidents with dispatch, giving priority to those earlier filed, in the following cases and submit a copy of each resolution within ten (10) days from their issuance: Criminal Case[s] Nos. 93-10-639, 94-01-015, 04-11-701, 04-11-702, 03-03-186, 03-03-087, 06-08-497, 04-01-61, 04-01-62, 99-11-603, 08-10-567, 08-05-244, 08-11-620 and 08-10-543; and Civil Case[s] Nos. 93-12-241, 95-11-145, CAD 06-06-21, 05-01-07, 07-12-124, 06-02-16, SP 05-11-62, 08-07-67, 07-03-24, 00-02-11, 08-02-16 (appeal), 05-03-37, CAD 07-11-56, 08-10-102, 06-08-100, 00-11-148, 00-02-19 and CAD 06-03-11;

3. Decide with dispatch, giving priority to those cases earlier submitted for decision, and submit a copy of each decision to this Office within ten (10) days from their rendition: Criminal Case[s] Nos. 93-01-38, 93-01-39, 92-05-216, 97-02-82, 89-06-261, 89-06-262, 98-09-392, 98-12-540, 98-09-400, 97-06-301, 92-03-119, 93-08-505, 98-05-230, 98-05-231, 98-08-339, 01-11-727, 00-01-01, 00-01-27, 01-09-646, 99-06-249, 02-10-582, 02-11-629, 99-04-158, 02-12-670, 02-12-671, 01-10-673, 01-10-675, 00-08-435, 00-08-454, 00-03-200, 02-04-174, 01-01-34, 99-01-40 and 99-01-42, 08-09-522, 01-01-31 and 08-10-573; Criminal Case[s] Nos. 97-01-07, 89-06-262, 92-05-214, 2001-11-727 and 2000-01-01; and Civil Case[s] Nos. 92-02-36, 95-08-105, CAD 03-08-38 and 05-11-124;

4. Issue orders requiring the payment of postponement fees in proper cases;

IV. ATTY. EDNA V. MACEDA, Branch Clerk of Court, be directed to:

1. APPRISE the Assisting/Presiding Judge from time to time of cases submitted for resolution/decision and those cases that require immediate action;

2. CONDUCT the required actual inventory of cases with the Acting/Assisting/Presiding Judge as provided for in Administrative Circular No. 1 dated January 28, 1988, as amended by Administrative Circular No. 10-94 dated June 29, 1994 and Administrative Circular No. 2-2001 dated January 2, 2001 with emphasis on the actual examination of each case records (sic) as well as its accurate reporting;

3. SUPERVISE the periodic updating of the court's docket books, the proofreading of all orders, minutes and notices issued by the court as well as the pagination of all court records;

4. PERMANENTLY REFRAIN from issuing certificate of detention, the function of which pertains to members of the Bench;

5. INDORSE to the proper government agency the firearms. Ammunitions and drug[s] confiscate[d] in decided/disposed criminal cases;

6. MAINTAIN separate log books for all incoming pleadings and documents and warrants of arrest and to keep abreast of the status thereof; andcralawlibrary

7. SUBMIT compliance therewith within thirty (30) days from notice.

The Court re-docketed the case as an administrative complaint against Judge Gil pursuant to the OCA's recommendation.

The OCA recommendations are well taken.

The Supreme Court has consistently impressed upon judges the need to decide cases promptly and expeditiously on the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. Failure to resolve cases submitted for decision within the period fixed by law constitutes a serious violation of the constitutional right of the parties to a speedy disposition of their cases.2

Judge Gil was given 120 days prior to his retirement to decide and resolve the cases submitted for decision, during which period, he was directed to desist from hearing cases. Despite the ample time given, he failed to decide all cases submitted for decision. In fact, upon his retirement, he left unresolved thirty-four (34) criminal cases and four (4) civil cases submitted for decision. Apart from this, Judge Gil also failed to take appropriate action for a considerable length of time in a total of ninety-two (92) criminal cases and seven (7) civil cases; resolve pending motions in nine (9) cases; and promulgate five (5) decisions.

Glaringly, two of the pending criminal cases (Criminal Cases Nos. 93-01-38 and 93-01-39) were submitted for decision way back in 2002 while one civil case (Civil Case No. 92-02-36) was deemed submitted for decision in 1999. In other words, these two criminal cases have been pending resolution for six years, and the civil case for seven years, at the time Judge Gil retired from the service. When viewed in light of the constitutional prescription that lower courts are given only a period of 90 days within which to decide or resolve a case from the time it is submitted for decision, this delay clearly illustrates the gravity of Judge Gil's incompetence.

Verily, a judge must manage his court with a view to the prompt and convenient disposition of its business. The Court, in its pursuit of speedy dispensation of justice, is not unmindful of circumstances that may delay the disposition of the cases assigned to judges. It remains sympathetic to seasonably filed requests for extensions of time to decide cases.3 However, verification with the Docket Division of the OCA disclosed no such request for extension of time to decide the cases submitted for decision or any pending motions in the reported cases.

Failure to decide cases within the reglementary period, without strong and justifiable reason, constitutes gross inefficiency warranting the imposition of an administrative sanction on the defaulting judge.4 The penalty imposed varies in each case; from fine, suspension, suspension and fine, and even dismissal, depending chiefly on the number of cases left undecided within the reglementary period, and other factors, such as the damage suffered by the parties as a result of the delay, the health and age of the judge.5 In view of Judge Gil's retirement on August 20, 2008, the only penalty that we can impose against him is a fine. On various occasions, the Court had imposed different amounts of fine on account of distinct circumstances in certain cases, thus:

[I]n one case, we set the fine at ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) for failure of a judge to decide eighty-two (82) cases within the reglementary period, taking into consideration the mitigating circumstance that it was the judge's first offense. In another case, the fine imposed was sixty thousand pesos (P60,000.00), for the judge had not decided about 25 or 27 cases. Still in other cases, the fine was variably set at fifteen thousand (P15,000.00), for nineteen (19) undecided cases, taking into consideration that it was the judge's first offense, twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00), for three (3) undecided criminal cases; eight thousand pesos (P8,000.00) for not deciding a criminal case for three (3) years; forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00), for not deciding two hundred seventy eight (278) cases within the prescribed period, taking note of the judge's failing health and age; and ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00), for belatedly rendering a judgment of acquittal in a murder case after one year and one-half years from the date the case was submitted for decision. In another case, suspension without pay for a period of six (6) months was imposed since, besides the judge's failure to timely decide an election protest for eight (8) months, the judge submitted false certificates of service and was found guilty of habitual absenteeism.6 ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

Recently, the Court imposed a fine of P80,000.00 on a judge, who has been previously fined twice for undue delay in deciding cases, based on the following lapses: 1) 83 cases were not decided within the reglementary period; (2) pending incidents in 230 other cases remained unresolved even beyond the prescribed period to resolve; and (3) no appropriate action was made on 221 others (193 cases with no further action, 19 cases with no further settings and 9 cases with no action taken yet since the filing thereof), despite the lapse of considerable time.7

Judge Gil's actuations indicate an indifference to the plight of litigants and a blatant disregard of their right to speedy disposition of their cases. Hence, we find that the penalty of P50,000.00 is commensurate to his infractions particularly because this is not the first time that Judge Gil has been sanctioned by this Court for undue delay in resolving cases. Judge Gil has been previously fined P5,000.00 for undue delay in resolving a land registration case.8 In another case, Judge Gil was also fined P2,000.00 for not complying promptly with an order of this Court to conduct an investigation on an administrative complaint against a lawyer.9 In both cases, the Court sternly warned Judge Gil that repetition of the same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely.

ACCORDINGLY, Retired JUDGE SANTOS T. GIL is hereby found GUILTY of gross inefficiency for his undue delay in rendering decisions or orders and is hereby FINED in the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00), to be deducted from his retirement benefits.

JUDGE ALPHINOR C. SERRANO is DIRECTED to:

A. Take appropriate action, within thirty (30) days from notice, on the following cases: Criminal Cases Nos. 05-02-59; 05-02-60; 07-01-14, 08-03-127, 08-05-245, 08-03-153, 07-05-285, 08-05-228, 08-05-229, 08-06-301, 08-06-302, 08-06-310, 08-07-326, 08-07-332, 08-07-333, 08-08-429, 08-08-453, 08-08-459, 08-08-470, 08-08-471, 08-08-473, 08-09-487, 08-10-536, 08-10-537, 08-10-538, 08-10-539, 08-10-540, and 08-10-541; Criminal Cases Nos. 94-06-315, 06-02-132, 05-11-668, 06-01-39, 06-02-75, 06-02-82, 06-02-100, 06-02-114, 06-02-126, 06-04-230, 05-11-670, 06-07-415, 06-86-376, 06-05-327, 06-04-242, 06-04-259, 06-05-313, 06-05-314, 06-06-349, 06-09-552, 06-09-512, 06-8-473, 06-12-665, 07-12-675, 96-10-340, 97-08-343, 06-12-664, 06-07-404, 06-08-455, 06-09-350, 06-09-540, 06-09-555, 06-10-594, 06-11-619, 06-11-645, 07-06-357, 07-06-356, 07-06-355, 06-07-431, 06-08-485, 06-12-671, 06-09-502, 06-09-536, 06-10-607, 07-03-177, 07-02-106, 07-01-38, 07-01-46, 07-02-105, 07-01-82, 07-3-154, 07-04-228, 07-05-308, 06-08-457, 07-06-362, 07-06-368, 06-10-573, 06-10-574, 07-06-361, 07-07-393, 07-07-398, 07-07-406, 07-07-407, 07-08-428, 07-08-457, 07-08-460, 07-11-629, 07-11-630, 07-11-631, 07-11-632, 07-11-633, 07-10-560, 07-10-561, 07-11-606, 07-12-649, 07-12-652, 00-11-642, 08-01-07, 08-01-15, 08-01-16, 08-01-18, 08-01-19, 08-01-40, 07-10-562, 08-04-205, 08-04-217, 07-04-199, and 94-06-324; Civil Cases Nos. 92-07-15, CAD 99-04-14, 99-09-136, 05-03-38, CAD 96-09-01, 06-10-125, CAD 98-08-35, SP 07-02-14, 08-05-45, and 08-04-42; and Civil Cases Nos. 08-03-26, 08-04-40, 08-06-62 (appeal), 08-07-77 (appeal) and 08-10-105 (appeal);

b. Resolve the pending incidents with dispatch, giving priority to those earlier filed, in the following cases and submit a copy of each resolution within ten (10) days from their issuance: Criminal Cases Nos. 93-10-639, 94-01-015, 04-11-701, 04-11-702, 03-03-186, 03-03-087, 06-08-497, 04-01-61, 04-01-62, 99-11-603, 08-10-567, 08-05-244, 08-11-620 and 08-10-543; and Civil Cases Nos. 93-12-241, 95-11-145, CAD 06-06-21, 05-01-07, 07-12-124, 06-02-16, SP 05-11-62, 08-07-67, 07-03-24, 00-02-11, 08-02-16 (appeal), 05-03-37, CAD 07-11-56, 08-10-102, 06-08-100, 00-11-148, 00-02-19 and CAD 06-03-11;

c. Decide with dispatch, giving priority to those cases earlier submitted for decision, and submit a copy of each decision to this Office within ten (10) days from their rendition: Criminal Cases Nos. 93-01-38, 93-01-39, 92-05-216, 97-02-82, 89-06-261, 89-06-262, 98-09-392, 98-12-540, 98-09-400, 97-06-301, 92-03-119, 93-08-505, 98-05-230, 98-05-231, 98-08-339, 01-11-727, 00-01-01, 00-01-27, 01-09-646, 99-06-249, 02-10-582, 02-11-629, 99-04-158, 02-12-670, 02-12-671, 01-10-673, 01-10-675, 00-08-435, 00-08-454, 00-03-200, 02-04-174, 01-01-34, 99-01-40 and 99-01-42, 08-09-522, 01-01-31 and 08-10-573; Criminal Cases Nos. 97-01-07, 89-06-262, 92-05-214, 2001-11-727 and 2000-01-01; and Civil Cases Nos. 92-02-36, 95-08-105, CAD 03-08-38 and 05-11-124;

d. Issue orders requiring the payment of postponement fees in proper cases.

ATTY. EDNA V. MACEDA is DIRECTED to:

A. APPRISE the Assisting/Presiding Judge from time to time of cases submitted for resolution/decision and those cases that require immediate action;

b. CONDUCT the required actual inventory of cases with the Acting/Assisting/Presiding Judge as provided for in Administrative Circular No. 1 dated January 28, 1988, as amended by Administrative Circular No. 10-94 dated June 29, 1994 and Administrative Circular No. 2-2001 dated January 2, 2001, with emphasis on the actual examination of each case record as well as its accurate reporting;

c. SUPERVISE the periodic updating of the court's docket books, the proofreading of all orders, minutes and notices issued by the court, as well as the pagination of all court records;

d. PERMANENTLY REFRAIN from issuing certificate of detention, a function which pertains to members of the Bench;

e. INDORSE to the proper government agency the firearms, ammunitions and drugs confiscated in decided/disposed criminal cases;

f. MAINTAIN separate log books for all incoming pleadings and documents and warrants of arrest and to keep abreast of the status thereof; andcralawlibrary

g. SUBMIT compliance therewith within thirty (30) days from notice.

SO ORDERED.



Endnotes:


* On official leave.

1 Administrative Order No. 77-2008, May 14, 2008.

2 Re: Judicial Audit of the RTC, Br. 14, Zamboanga City, Presided Over by Hon. Ernesto R. Gutierrez, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1950, February 13, 2006, 482 SCRA 310, 320.

3 Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 8, Cebu City, A.M. No. 05-2-101-RTC, April 26, 2005, 457 SCRA 1, 10, citing Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the MTCC, Branch 5, Bacolod City, 443 SCRA 425 (2004).

4 Gonzalez v. Torres, A.M. No. MTJ - 06-1653, July 30, 2007, 528 SCRA 490, 503.

5 Re: Report on the Judicial Audit, 391 Phil. 222, 229 (2000), citing Re: Report on the Judicial Audit conducted in RTC Branches 29 and 59, Toledo City, 292 SCRA 8, 23 (1998).

6 Id. at 229-230. (Citations omitted.)

7 Re: Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Br. 14, Davao City, etc./AM OCA IPI 04-2055-RTJ (Paul Cansino v. Judge William Layague etc./AM 05-2177-RTJ (DBP v. Judge William M. Layague, RTC, Br. 14, Davao City), A.M. RTJ-07-2039, April 18, 2008.

8 Concillo v. Judge Gil, 438 Phil. 245 (2002).

9 Navidad v. Lagado, A.M. No. P-03-1682, September 30, 2004, 439 SCRA 524, 537.

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