OCA IPI No. 12–204–CA–J, March 11, 2014
RE: VERIFIED COMPLAINT FOR DISBARMENT OF AMA LAND, INC. (REPRESENTED BY JOSEPH B. USITA) AGAINST COURT OF APPEALS ASSOCIATE JUSTICES HON. DANTON Q. BUESER, HON. SESINANDO E. VILLON AND HON. RICARDO R. ROSARIO.
D E C I S I O N
It is evident to us that Ongjoco’s objective in filing the administrative complaint was to take respondent Justices to task for the regular performance of their sworn duty of upholding the rule of law. He would thereby lay the groundwork for getting back at them for not favoring his unworthy cause. Such actuations cannot be tolerated at all, for even a mere threat of administrative investigation and prosecution made against a judge to influence or intimidate him in his regular performance of the judicial office always subverts and undermines the independence of the Judiciary.It appears that AMALI is prone to bringing charges against judicial officers who rule against it in its cases. That impression is not at all devoid of basis. The complaint herein is actually the second one that AMALI has brought against respondent Justices in relation to the performance of their judicial duty in the same case. In its first complaint entitled Re: Verified Complaint of AMA Land, Inc. against Hon. Danton Q. Bueser, Hon. Sesinando E. Villon and Hon. Ricardo R. Rosario, Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals,19 AMALI accused respondent Justices of: (a) dishonesty and violation of Republic Act No. 3019, gross misconduct, and knowingly rendering an unjust judgment or order, in violation of Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court; and (b) violating provisions of the New Code of Judicial Conduct. The Court dismissed the first complaint upon finding that it centered on the propriety of the interlocutory orders issued by respondent Justices in C.A.–G.R. SP No. 118994. The Court appropriately observed:
We seize this occasion, therefore, to stress once again that disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions brought against any judge in relation to the performance of his official functions are neither complementary to nor suppletory of appropriate judicial remedies, nor a substitute for such remedies. Any party who may feel aggrieved should resort to these remedies, and exhaust them, instead of resorting to disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions. (Bold emphasis supplied)
A perusal of the records of the case as well as the parties’ respective allegations disclosed that the acts complained of relate to the validity of the proceedings before the respondent CA Justices and the propriety of their orders in CA–G.R. SP No. 118994 which were done in the exercise of their judicial functions. Jurisprudence is replete with cases holding that errors, if any, committed by a judge in the exercise of his adjudicative functions cannot be corrected through administrative proceedings, but should instead be assailed through available judicial remedies. Disciplinary proceedings against justices do not complement, supplement or substitute judicial remedies and, thus, cannot be pursued simultaneously with the judicial remedies accorded to parties aggrieved by their erroneous orders or judgments.This administrative case is no different from the first. They are identical, with the complaint herein containing only a few but insignificant changes in relation to the first. Both were intended to intimidate or to disparage respondent Justices in the performance of their judicial functions.
x x x x
In this case, AMALI had already filed a petition for review on certiorari challenging the questioned order of the respondent CA justices which is still pending final action by the Court. Consequently, a decision on the validity of the proceedings and propriety of the orders of the respondent CA Justices in this administrative proceeding would be premature. Besides, even if the subject decision or portions thereof turn out to be erroneous, administrative liability will only attach upon proof that the actions of the respondent CA Justices were motivated by bad faith, dishonesty or hatred, or attended by fraud or corruption, which were not sufficiently shown to exist in this case. Neither was bias as well as partiality established. Acts or conduct of the judge clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice must be clearly shown before he can be branded the stigma of being biased and partial. In the same vein, bad faith or malice cannot be inferred simply because the judgment or order is adverse to a party. Here, other than AMALI’s bare and self–serving claim that respondent CA Justices “conspired with WWRAI’s counsel in knowingly and in bad faith rendering an unjust judgment and in committing xxx other misconduct,” no act clearly indicative of bias and partiality was alleged except for the claim that respondent CA Justices misapplied the law and jurisprudence. Thus, the presumption that the respondent judge has regularly performed his duties shall prevail. Moreover, the matters raised are best addressed to the evaluation of the Court in the resolution of AMALI’s petition for review on certiorari.
Finally, resort to administrative disciplinary action prior to the final resolution of the judicial issues involved constitutes an abuse of court processes that serves to disrupt rather than promote the orderly administration of justice and further clog the courts’ dockets. Those who seek relief from the courts must not be allowed to ignore basic legal rules and abuse of court processes in their efforts to vindicate their rights. (Bold emphasis supplied)
It is a general principle, abundantly sustained by authority and reason, that no civil action can be sustained against a judicial officer for the recovery of damages by one claiming to have been injured by the officer’s judicial action within his jurisdiction. From the very nature of the case, the officer is called upon by law to exercise his judgment in the matter, and the law holds his duty to the individual to be performed when he has exercised it, however erroneous or disastrous in its consequences it may appear either to the party or to others.Accordingly, we now demand that AMALI’s authorized representative, Joseph B. Usita, its Senior Assistant Vice President, and the Members of the Board of Directors of AMALI who had authorized Usita to file the present complaint, to show cause in writing why they should not be held in indirect contempt of court for bringing the unfounded and baseless charges against respondent Justices not only once but twice. To be clear, the filing of unfounded and baseless administrative charges against sitting judicial officers may constitute indirect contempt under Section 3(d), Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
A number of reasons, any one of them sufficient, have been advanced in support of this rule. Thus it is said of the judge: “His doing justice as between particular individuals, when they have a controversy before him, is not the end and object which were in view when his court was created, and he was selected to preside over or sit in it. Courts are created on public grounds; they are to do justice as between suitors, to the end that peace and order may prevail in the political society, and that rights may be protected and preserved. The duty is public, and the end to be accomplished is public; the individual advantage or loss results from the proper and thorough or improper and imperfect performance of a duty for which his controversy is only the occasion. The judge performs his duty to the public by doing justice between individuals, or, if he fails to do justice as between individuals, he may be called to account by the State in such form and before such tribunal as the law may have provided. But as the duty neglected is not a duty to the individual, civil redress, as for an individual injury, is not admissible.”21
Section 3. Indirect contempt to be punished after charge and hearing. — After a charge in writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the respondent to comment thereon within such period as may be fixed by the court and to be heard by himself or counsel, a person guilty of any of the following acts may be punished for indirect contempt:Anent indirect contempt, the Court said in Lorenzo Shipping Corporation v. Distribution Management Association of the Philippines:22
(a) Misbehavior of an officer of a court in the performance of his official duties or in his official transactions;
(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, or judgment of a court, including the act of a person who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts or induces another to enter into or upon such real property, for the purpose of executing acts of ownership or possession, or in any manner disturbs the possession given to the person adjudged to be entitled thereto;
(c) Any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the processes or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt under section 1 of this Rule;
(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice;
(e) Assuming to be an attorney or an officer of a court, and acting as such without authority;
(f) Failure to obey a subpoena duly served;
(g) The rescue, or attempted rescue, of a person or property in the custody of an officer by virtue of an order or process of a court held by him.
But nothing in this section shall be so construed as to prevent the court from issuing process to bring the respondent into court, or from holding him in custody pending such proceedings. (3a)
Contempt of court has been defined as a willful disregard or disobedience of a public authority. In its broad sense, contempt is a disregard of, or disobedience to, the rules or orders of a legislative or judicial body or an interruption of its proceedings by disorderly behavior or insolent language in its presence or so near thereto as to disturb its proceedings or to impair the respect due to such a body. In its restricted and more usual sense, contempt comprehends a despising of the authority, justice, or dignity of a court. The phrase contempt of court is generic, embracing within its legal signification a variety of different acts.ACCORDINGLY, the Court (a) DISMISSES the administrative complaint against Associate Justice Danton Q. Bueser, Associate Justice Sesinando E. Villon and Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario for its utter lack of merit; and (b) ORDERS Joseph B. Usita, the Senior Assistant Vice President of AMA Land, Inc., and all the members of the Board of Directors of AMA Land, Inc. who had authorized Usita to bring the administrative complaint against respondent Associate Justices to show cause in writing within 10 days from notice why they should not be punished for indirect contempt of court for degrading the judicial office of respondent Associate Justices, and for interfering with the due performance of their work for the Judiciary.
The power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts, and need not be specifically granted by statute. It lies at the core of the administration of a judicial system. Indeed, there ought to be no question that courts have the power by virtue of their very creation to impose silence, respect, and decorum in their presence, submission to their lawful mandates, and to preserve themselves and their officers from the approach and insults of pollution. The power to punish for contempt essentially exists for the preservation of order in judicial proceedings and for the enforcement of judgments, orders, and mandates of the courts, and, consequently, for the due administration of justice. The reason behind the power to punish for contempt is that respect of the courts guarantees the stability of their institution; without such guarantee, the institution of the courts would be resting on a very shaky foundation.23 (Bold emphasis supplied)
1Rollo, p. 5.
2 Id. at 7–8.
3 Id. at 176–183.
4 Id. at 11.
5 Id. at 12–13.
6 Id. at 13–15.
7 Id. at 57–71.
8 Id. at 546–588.
9Datuin, Jr. v. Soriano, A.M. No. RTJ–01–1640, October 15, 2002, 391 SCRA 1, 5.
10Santos v. Tanciongco, A.M. No. MTJ–06–1631, September 30, 2008, 567 SCRA 134, 138; Kilat v. Macias, A.M. No. RTJ–05–1960, October 25, 2005, 464 SCRA 101, 110.
11 See Office of the Court Administrator v. Pascual, Adm. Mat. No. MTJ–93–783, July 29, 1996, 259 SCRA 604, 612–613; Raquiza v. Castañeda, Jr., January 31, 1978, 81 SCRA 235, 224.
12 Regalado, Criminal Law Conspectus, First Edition (2000), National Book Store, Inc., p. 409.
13 Guevara, Commentaries on the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, Fourth Edition (1946), Filipino Book Dealers’ Association, Manila, p. 418.
14Basa Air Base Savings & Loan Association, Inc. v. Pimentel, Jr., A.M. No. RTJ–01–1648, August 22, 2002, 387 SCRA 542, 548.
15Guerrero v. Villamor, A.M. No. RTJ–90–617, September 25, 1998, 296 SCRA 88, 98.
16 Guevara, supra at 418.
17Sacmar v. Reyes–Carpio, A.M. No. RTJ–03–1766, March 28, 2003, 400 SCRA 32, 35.
18 A.M. OCA IPI No. 11–184–CA–J, January 31, 2012, 664 SCRA 465.
19 A.M. OCA IPI No. 12–202–CA–J, January 15, 2013, 688 SCRA 507.
20 Floyd R. Mechem, A Treatise on the Law of Public Offices and Officers, 1890, Callaghan and Co., Chicago, §619 (bold underscoring supplied for emphasis).
21 At §619; the quotation is from Cooley on Torts (1st Edition) 380 (bold underscoring supplied for emphasis).
22 G.R. No. 155849, August 31, 2011, 656 SCRA 331.
23 Id. at 342–344