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A.M. OCA IPI No. 10-25-SB-J : January 15, 2013 - RE: COMPLAINT OF LEONARDO A. VELASCO AGAINST ASSOCIATE JUSTICES FRANCISCO H. VILLARUZ, JR., ALEX L. QUIROZ, AND SAMUEL R. MARTIRES OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN.

A.M. OCA IPI No. 10-25-SB-J : January 15, 2013 - RE: COMPLAINT OF LEONARDO A. VELASCO AGAINST ASSOCIATE JUSTICES FRANCISCO H. VILLARUZ, JR., ALEX L. QUIROZ, AND SAMUEL R. MARTIRES OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.M. OCA IPI No. 10-25-SB-J, January 15, 2013]

RE: COMPLAINT OF LEONARDO A. VELASCO AGAINST ASSOCIATE JUSTICES FRANCISCO H. VILLARUZ, JR., ALEX L. QUIROZ, AND SAMUEL R. MARTIRES OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN.

D E C I S I O N

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Before the Court is an administrative complaint filed by Leonardo A. Velasco against the respondents, Honorable Associate Justices Francisco H. Villaruz, Jr. (Justice Villaruz, Jr.), Alex L. Quiroz · (Justice Quiroz), and Samuel R. Martires (Justice Martires) of the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan for grave misconduct and violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.cralawlibrary

The Facts

On December 10, 2008, the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan, then composed of respondent Justice Villaruz, Jr. as Chairman and Associate Justices Efren N. Dela Cruz and Norberto Y. Geraldez as Members, rendered a Decision1ςrνl1 convicting accused Pacifico C. Velasco2ςrνl1 (accused Velasco) in Criminal Case No. 27564 for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019.3ςrνl1 The fallo of the Decision reads:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

WHEREFORE, this court finds MAYOR PACIFICO C. VELASCO GUILTY, beyond reasonable doubt, for violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. 3019, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of:

(I.) Imprisonment of, after applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, six (6) years and one (1) month as minimum, up to eight (8) years, as maximum; and,

(II.) Perpetual Disqualification from Public Office.cralawlibrary

SO ORDERED.

Accused Velasco sought its reconsideration, which the Sandiganbayan denied in its March 13, 2009 Resolution.4ςrνl1 He, then, elevated the case before the Court via a petition for review on certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 187277, which was denied in a minute resolution5ςrνl1 dated June 3, 2009. His motion for reconsideration was also denied in the Resolution dated August 17, 2009 which further contained a directive that no further pleadings shall be entertained and that entry of judgment be made in due course.cralawlibrary

Subsequently, accused Velasco filed a motion for leave to file and to admit a second motion for reconsideration of the Court's June 3, 2009 Resolution, which the Court merely noted without action in its January 11, 2010 Resolution.6Ï‚rνl1   The Court's June 3, 2009 Resolution became final and executory on September 25, 2009.7Ï‚rνl1

Notwithstanding, however, the finality of accused Velasco's conviction, the execution of his sentence did not immediately take place due to the numerous motions and pleadings he subsequently filed.cralawlibrary

On May 26, 2010,8ςrνl1 in the hearing for the execution of accused Velasco's sentence before the Sandiganbayan, his counsel manifested that he was confined at the San Juan De Dios Hospital in Pasay City and was due for surgery. The hearing was reset to June 9, 2010 upon agreement of the parties, with a directive to accused Velasco's attending physician to submit a medical bulletin relative to his physical fitness. Nonetheless, a warrant of arrest was issued, but as agreed by the parties, accused Velasco shall remain in the hospital until further order by the Sandiganbayan. By this time, the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan was already composed of respondents Justice Villaruz, Jr., Justice Quiroz and Justice Martires (Sandiganbayan Justices).cralawlibrary

Thereafter or on June 9, 2010, accused Velasco filed an Urgent Motion to Recall Warrant of Arrest,9ςrνl1 invoking humanitarian consideration, having allegedly just undergone a rigid and serious surgical operation. However, the Sandiganbayan Justices, on June 17, 2010, instead issued an Order of Arrest10ςrνl1 which they eventually recalled11ςrνl1 on June 25, 2010, conditioned on the posting of a bail bond in the amount of P30,000.00.cralawlibrary

On September 30, 2010, the Sandiganbayan Justices set aside12ςrνl1 their earlier order recalling the warrant of arrest and issued anew an Order of Arrest13ςrνl1 for failure of accused Velasco to attend the hearing of even date.cralawlibrary

Subsequently, or on November 15, 2010, accused Velasco filed a Motion to Defer Promulgation of Sentence, to Suspend Proceedings and/or Recall Warrant of Arrest14ςrνl1 claiming, once again, that he had just undergone a major operation necessitating hospitalization and post-operation treatment. He also averred that he had filed, on even date, a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus before the Court, docketed as G.R. No. 194263, to restrain the execution of judgment, and prayed that his motion be granted pending action on his petition.cralawlibrary

On January 17, 2011, during the rescheduled hearing for the execution of the judgment, the Sandiganbayan Justices ordered15ςrνl1 the issuance of a warrant of arrest for failure of accused Velasco to appear despite due notice and the forfeiture of his cash bond.cralawlibrary

On March 9, 2011, the Court dismissed the petition filed by accused Velasco in G.R. No. 19426316ςrνl1 and on March 30, 2011, noted without action his second supplement to petition and urgent motion to resolve his petition for certiorari.17ςrνl1 Accused Velasco filed a motion for reconsideration and the prosecution was given until February 6, 2012 to file its comment.18ςrνl1

Meanwhile, in another hearing before the Sandiganbayan Justices on January 18, 2012, accused Velasco was directed to post a new cash bail bond in the amount of P70,000.00 on the verbal motion of his counsel, and the hearing was reset once more to March 19, 2012.19ςrνl1

Hence, the instant administrative complaint20ςrνl1 for grave misconduct and violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct filed by Leonardo A. Velasco (complainant Velasco) against the Sandiganbayan Justices. In his verified complaint, complainant Velasco asserts that, the conviction of accused Velasco having attained finality on September 25, 2009, the Sandiganbayan Justices should have merely performed the ministerial duty of executing his final sentence of conviction and not entertained his motions or pleadings that forestalled its execution. In doing so, they have shown evident partiality, bias and impropriety in favor of accused Velasco.cralawlibrary

In their Comment,21ςrνl1 the Sandiganbayan Justices claimed that the repeated resetting of the hearings for the execution of judgment against accused Velasco was mainly due to medical reasons and the pendency of incidents before the Court. Vehemently denying that their questioned orders were issued to unduly favor accused Velasco, they insisted that these were prompted by circumstances which were not at their instance and that the instant complaint consists of unfounded allegations and suspicions of partiality. They also argued that since accused Velasco had already been committed to the national penitentiary on May 10, 2012, this case is now moot and academic and therefore, should be dismissed.cralawlibrary

Issue Before The Court

The sole issue to be determined by the Court is whether the respondent Sandiganbayan Justices may be held administratively liable for their actions which unduly delayed the execution of the final sentence of conviction of accused Velasco.cralawlibrary

The Court's Ruling

After a judicious review of the records, the Court finds no grave misconduct or violation of a specific provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct to have been committed by the Sandiganbayan Justices.cralawlibrary

"Misconduct means intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule of law or a standard of behavior.22ςrνl1 To constitute an administrative offense, misconduct should relate to or be connected with the performance of the official functions of a public officer.23ςrνl1 In grave misconduct, as distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of an established rule must be established.”24ςrνl1

In this case, the actions of the Sandiganbayan Justices respecting the execution of the final judgment against accused Velasco were shown to be in respectful deference to the Court's action on the various petitions filed by the former, who apparently exhausted what he perceived were valid available remedies under the law. Records are bereft of evidence showing any trace of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of the rules as to hold them administratively liable for grave misconduct.cralawlibrary

However, the becoming modesty that the Sandiganbayan Justices have exhibited in this case cannot detract from the fact that the judgment of conviction of accused Velasco should have been immediately executed, absent any restraining order from the Court, in violation of the Court's directive in A.M. Circular No. 07-7-12-SC,25 adopting amendments to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, inter alia. Thus, Section 7 of Rule 65 now states:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SEC. 7. Expediting proceedings; injunctive relief. - The court in which the petition is filed may issue orders expediting the proceedings, and it may also grant a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction for the preservation of the rights of the parties pending such proceedings. The petition shall not interrupt the course of the principal case, unless a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction has been issued, enjoining the public respondent from further proceeding with the case.cralawlibrary

The public respondent shall proceed with the principal case within ten (10) days from the filing of a petition for certiorari with a higher court or tribunal, absent a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, or upon its expiration. Failure of the public respondent to proceed with the principal case may be a ground for an administrative charge. (Emphasis supplied)ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

Thus, judicial courtesy may no longer be invoked by the Sandiganbayan Justices in the execution of the final judgment against accused Velasco. This lapse in judgment on the part of the Sandiganbayan Justices deserves admonition.cralawlibrary

WHEREFORE, Honorable Associate Justices Francisco H. Villaruz, Jr., Alex L. Quiroz, and Samuel R. Martires of the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan are hereby ADMONISHED to be ·more circumspect and prudent in observing the proper rules and procedures for the execution of judgments of conviction in the absence of restraining orders or injunctive writs from the Court. They are STERNLY WARNED that repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely.cralawlibrary

Let a copy of this Decision be attached to respondents Justices' records with this Court.cralawlibrary

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J. Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Bersamin,. Del Castillo, Abad, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza, Reyes, and Leonen, JJ., concur.
Brion, J., on leave.
Leonardo-De Castro, and Peralta, JJ., no part.cralawlibrary

Endnotes:


1ςrνl1 Rollo, pp. 47-56.cralawlibrary

2ςrνl1 Former Municipal Mayor of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.cralawlibrary

3ςrνl1 Otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.cralawlibrary

4ςrνl1 Rollo, pp. 57-59.cralawlibrary

5ςrνl1 Id. at 60.cralawlibrary

6ςrνl1 Id. at 61-62.cralawlibrary

7ςrνl1 Id. at 63.cralawlibrary

8ςrνl1 Id. at 64.cralawlibrary

9ςrνl1 Id. at 70-72.cralawlibrary

10ςrνl1 Id. at 65.cralawlibrary

11ςrνl1 Id.cralawlibrary

12ςrνl1 Id. at 68.cralawlibrary

13ςrνl1 Id. at 69.cralawlibrary

14ςrνl1 Id. at 73-75.cralawlibrary

15ςrνl1 Id. at 77.cralawlibrary

16ςrνl1 Id. at 89.cralawlibrary

17ςrνl1 Id.cralawlibrary

18ςrνl1 Id.cralawlibrary

19ςrνl1 Id.cralawlibrary

20ςrνl1 Id. at 39-46.cralawlibrary

21ςrνl1 Id. at 113-123.cralawlibrary

22ςrνl1 Salazar v. Barriga, A.M. No. P-05-2016, April 19, 2007, 521 SCRA 449, 453.cralawlibrary

23ςrνl1 Civil Service Commission v. Belagan, 483 Phil. 601, 623 (2004).cralawlibrary

24ςrνl1 Narvasa v. Sanchez, Jr., G.R. No. 169449, March 26, 2010,616 SCRA 586, 591, citing Civil Service Commission v. Lucas, 361 Phil. 486, 490-491 (1999).cralawlibrary

25ςrνl1 Amendments to Rules 41, 45, 58 and 65 of the Rules of Court (2007).
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