A.M. No. MTJ-16-1883 (Formerly OCA IPI No. 12-2497-MTJ), July 11, 2017
EMMA G. ALFELOR, Complainant, v. HON. AUGUSTUS C. DIAZ, PRESIDING JUDGE, METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 37, QUEZON CITY, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is an administrative complaint1 filed with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) by Complainant Emma G. Alfelor (Alfelor) against Respondent Hon. Augustus C. Diaz (Judge Diaz), Presiding Judge, Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Branch 37, Quezon City (MeTC 37), for gross ignorance of the law, incompetence and manifest bias and partiality in connection with the Decision in Criminal Case No. 37-139993,2 wherein Alfelor was the accused.
The undisputed facts, as borne by the records, are as follows:
Romeo Garchitorena (Romeo) is the brother of Alfelor. Sometime in 2000, Alfelor issued ten (10) postdated Land Bank of the Philippines (Land Bank) checks in favor of Romeo for payment of the loan she obtained from him in 1995, including interest, to wit:
Upon presentment for payment by Romeo, the bank dishonored the checks for having been drawn against insufficient funds and closed accounts, prompting him to send verbal and written demands to Alfelor. However, Alfelor failed to pay the total amount of the checks despite demand.4
Check Number Date Amount 0000251546 January 19, 2000 P100,000.00 0000251547 January 24, 2000 P100,000.00 0000251548 January 31, 2000 P100,000.00 0000251549 February 29, 2000 P500,000.00 0000251550 March 30, 2000 P500,000.00 0000251551 April 30, 2000 P500,000.00 0000251552 May 31, 2000 P500,000.00 0000251553 June 30, 2000 P500,000.00 0000251554 July 31, 2000 P203,492.75 0000251555 August 31, 2000 P203,492.753
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Demurrer to Evidence is hereby GRANTED and the accused is acquitted on the criminal charges.Subsequent to the acquittal, on May 5, 2010, Alfelor also filed with MeTC 37 a Demurrer to Evidence10 in the subject criminal case based on the same ground, that was, the failure of the prosecution to prove that Alfelor received the demand letter notifying her of the dishonor of the checks, and the additional ground that she already settled the amount of the subject check. However, in his Order11 dated June 1, 2010, Judge Diaz denied the demurrer on the ground that he wanted to have "a [better] perspective" in the resolution of the case, and not due to the sufficiency of evidence on the part of the prosecution. Alfelor filed a Motion for Reconsideration12 on June 15, 2010, but this was denied in an Order13 dated August 6, 2010. Trial ensued thereafter,14 and Alfelor filed her Formal Offer of Evidence,15 after which the case was submitted for decision.
ACCORDINGLY, set the reception of defense evidence on the civil aspect on September 2, 2009 at 8:30 in the morning.
The foregoing manifest that the accused committed a Violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 beyond reasonable doubt. The accused is hereby ordered to:Astonished by the outcome of the subject criminal case, Alfelor appealed the Decision to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City (RTC),18 and fifed with the OCA the instant complaint for gross ignorance of the law, incompetence and manifest bias and partiality against Judge Diaz.
The accused is to suffer subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The payment of the fine is to be made within a reasonable period of time.
- Pay the total amount of the ten checks which are the subject matter of this case;
- Suffer an imprisonment of thirty (30) days for each of the ten (10) checks;
- Pay a fine of [P]200,000.00 for all of the ten checks; and
- Pay the costs of suits [sic].
RECOMMENDATION: It is respectfully recommended for [the] consideration of the Honorable Court that:In a Resolution dated October 10, 2016, the Court ordered that the instant matter be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter.
1. the instant administrative complaint be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative matter for Gross Ignorance of the Law, Incompetence and Manifest Bias and Partiality against Presiding Judge Augustus C. Diaz, Branch 37, Metropolitan Trial Court, Quezon City; and
2. respondent Judge Diaz be ABSOLVED of the aforesaid charges but nonetheless be REPRIMANDED for his carelessness and REMINDED to be more circumspect in the discharge of his duties, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or any similar act shall be dealt with more severely by the Court.32
We have previously held that when a law or a rule is basic, judges owe it to their office to simply apply the law. "Anything less is gross ignorance of the law." There is gross ignorance of the law when an error committed by the judge was "gross or patent, deliberate or malicious." It may also be committed when a judge ignores, contradicts or fails to apply settled law and jurisprudence because of bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption. Gross ignorance of the law or incompetence cannot be excused by a claim of good faith.34In Chua Keng Sin v. Mangente,35 the Court found Judge Job Mangente guilty of gross ignorance of the law when he carelessly denied the Motion to Dismiss the case for Slight Physical Injuries filed against Chua Keng Sin by his brother, Victoria Chua, despite the obvious lack of a Certificate to File Action from the Lupon of the barangay as required under the Local Government Code's provisions on Katarungang Pambarangay and Section 18 of the 1991 Revised Rules on Summary Procedure. The Court did not consider Judge Mangente's excuse of heavy caseload and his being a newly appointed judge, "considering the extent of his experience as public attorney for nine (9) years and as prosecutor for twelve (12) years"36 for his failure to observe such basic and elementary rules, thus:
Respondent was careless in disposing the Motions filed by complainant, in a criminal case no less. The Office of the Court Administrator correctly underscores that his experience as a public attorney and prosecutor should have ingrained in him well-settled doctrines and basic tenets of law. He cannot be relieved from the consequences of his actions simply because he was newly appointed and his case load was heavy. These circumstances are not unique to him. His careless disposition of the motions is a reflection of his competency as a judge in discharging his official duties.37Here, it is obvious that the subject criminal case in Judge Diaz's sala pertained to only one (1) check, that is, the subject Land Bank Check No. 0000251550. Had Judge Diaz been more circumspect in reviewing the records of the case, he could have easily noticed that glaring fact, as well as Judge Sta. Cruz's prior order acquitting Alfelor of the nine (9) BP Blg. 22 cases raffled to MeTC 43, and promulgated a decision based only on that particular check. The fact that he had served more than 21 years in the judiciary meant that he should have known better than to haphazardly render a decision in a criminal case without regard to the specific allegations in the offense charged and his jurisdiction, or lack thereof, to take cognizance of the case. This is gross ignorance of the law.
1Rollo, pp. 1-9.
2 Entitled "People of the Philippines v. Emma Alfelor," See Decision dated January 30, 2012; id. at 43-46.
3Rollo, pp. 2, 43-44.
4 Id. at 44.
5 Id. at 2; see also Order dated March 25, 2009, id. at 12-15.
7 Id. at 2-3.
8 Id. at 12-15.
9 Id. at 15.
10 Id. at 23-28.
11 Id. at 33.
12 Id. at 34-41.
13 Id. at 42.
14 See id. at 37-38. Please note that although the violation of BP Blg. 22 is included in criminal cases where the 1991 Revised Rules on Summary Procedure is applicable pursuant to A.M. No. 00-11-01-SC, a trial would still be conducted and testimonies of witnesses may still be subject to crossexamination under Section 15 thereof, as follows:SEC. 15. Procedure of trial. - At the trial, the affidavits submitted by the parties shall constitute the direct testimonies of the witnesses who executed the same. Witnesses who testified may be subjected to cross-examination, redirect or re-cross examination. Should the affiant fail to testify, his affidavit shall not be considered as competent evidence for the party presenting the affidavit, but the adverse party may utilize the same for any admissible purpose.15 Id. at 61-63.
Except in rebuttal or sur-rebuttal, no witness shall be allowed to testify unless his affidavit was previously submitted to the court in accordance with Section 12 hereof.
However, should a party desire to present additional affidavits or counteraffidavits as part of his direct evidence, he shall so manifest during the preliminary conference, stating the purpose thereof. If allowed by the court, the additional affidavits of the prosecution or the counter-affidavits of the defense shall be submitted to the court and served on the adverse party not later than three (3) days after the termination of the preliminary conference. If the additional affidavits are presented by the prosecution, the accused may file his counter-affidavits and serve the same on the prosecution within three (3) days from such service.
16 Id. at 43-46.
17 Id. at 46; emphasis supplied.
18 See id. at 74.
19 Id. at 69-72.
20 Id. at 73-75.
21 Id. at 70-71, 74.
22 Id. at 70.
23 Id. at 74.
25 Id. at 71-72, 75.
26 Id. at 80-84.
27 Id. at 81.
28 Id. at 82.
29 Id. at 82, 84.
30 Id. at 83.
31 Id. at 81, 83.
32 ld. at 84.
33 696 Phil. 21 (2012).
34 Id. at 28. Citations omitted; emphasis supplied.
35 753 Phil. 447 (2015).
36 Id. at 453.
37 Id. at 455. Emphasis supplied.
38 RULES OF COURT, Rule 140, Sec. 11(A).
39 458 Phil. 278 (2003).
40 468 Phil. 347 (2004).
41 A.M. No. MTJ-07-1684, August 7, 2013 (Unsigned Resolution).