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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 116049. March 20, 1995.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioners, v. HON. EUSTAQUIO Z. GACOTT, JR., Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch 47, Puerto Princess City, ARNE STROM and GRACE REYES, Respondents.

The Solicitor General for Petitioner.

Bermejo, Gualberto and Naciangayo Law Office for Private Respondents.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTIONS; CERTIORARI; GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION, COMMITTED IN CASE AT BAR. — The error committed by respondent judge in dismissing the case is quite obvious in the light of P.D. No. 1 (recognizing the entire Executive Branch of the National Government), LOI No. 2 (reorganizing certain agencies in the Department of Justice, including the abolition of the Anti-Dummy Board) and P.D. No. 1275 (reorganizing the entire prosecution system of the government with the creation of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) under the supervision and control of the Secretary of Justice, tasked with the investigation and prosecution of all violations of penal laws, including violation of C.A. No. 108, the Anti-Dummy Law). The intent to abolish the Anti-Dummy Board could not have been expressed more clearly than in the said LOI. Even assuming that the City Fiscal of Puerto Princesa failed to cite P.D. No. 1 in his opposition to the Motion to Quash, a mere perusal of the text of LOI No. 2 would have immediately apprised the respondent judge of the fact that LOI No. 2 was issued in implementation of P. D. No. 1. Obviously, respondent judge did not even bother to read the text of the LOI; otherwise, he would have readily acknowledged the validity of the argument advanced by the prosecution. As correctly observed by the Solicitor General, Presidential Decrees, such as P.D. No. 1, issued by the former President Marcos under his martial law powers have the same force and effect as the laws enacted by Congress. As held by the Supreme, Court in the case of Aquino v. Comelec, (62 SCRA 275 [1975]), all proclamations, orders, decrees, instructions and acts promulgated, issued, or done by the former President are part of the law of the land, and shall remain valid, legal, binding, and effective, unless modified, revoked or superseded by subsequent proclamations, orders, decrees, instructions, or other acts of the President. LOI No. 2 is one such legal order issued by former President Marcos in the exercise of his martial law powers to implement P.D. No. 1. Inasmuch as neither P.D. No. 1 nor LOI No. 2 has been expressly or impliedly revised, revoked, or repealed, both continue to have the force and effect of law. Indeed, Section 3, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution explicitly ordains: "Sec. 3. All existing laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations, letters of instructions, and other executive issuances not inconsistent with this Constitution shall remain operative until amended, repealed, or revoked."cralaw virtua1aw library

2. JUDICIAL ETHICS; CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY; DUTY TO TAKE JUDICIAL NOTICE OF ALL THE LAWS OF THE LAND; VIOLATED BY JUDGE IN CASE AT BAR. — Courts are duty bound to take judicial notice of all the laws of the land (Sec. 1, Rule 129, Rules of Court). Being the trier of facts, judges are presumed to be well-informed of the existing laws, recent enactments and jurisprudence, in keeping with their sworn duty as members of the bar (and bench) to keep abreast of legal developments. As provided in the Code of Professional Responsibility: "CANON 5 — A lawyer shall keep abreast of legal developments, participate in continuing legal education programs. . . CANON 6 — These cannons shall apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks." In the present case, the error could have been entirely avoided were it not for public respondent’s irresponsibility in the performance of his duties. It is but proper that respondent judge be reprimanded and his order of dismissal set aside for grave ignorance of the law. Respondent judge’s error is not a simple error in judgment but one amounting to gross ignorance of the law which could easily undermine the public’s perception of the court’s competence.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; DUTY TO EXERCISE GOOD FAITH BEFORE THE COURT; VIOLATED BY COUNSEL IN CASE AT BAR. — The responsibility to keep abreast with the changes in the law espoused in Canon 5 above is applicable with equal force to counsel for private respondents who first raised the issue at hand before the trial court. By insisting upon the authority of an already abolished Anti-Dummy Board, counsel displayed blatant irresponsibility, not to mention ignorance of the law. She should be reminded that "The law, (it is not to be forgotten), is a progressive science. There is less than full compliance with the demands of professional competence, if a member of a bar does not keep himself abreast of the trend of authoritative pronouncements" (Bautista v. Rebueno, 81 SCRA 535 [1978]). Equally deplorable is the terse half-paged pleading entitled Comment filed in behalf of private respondents by the same counsel before this Court. It need not be emphasized that the order of dismissal of the criminal case against private respondents arose out of the resolution of the Motion to Quash/Dismiss filed by private respondents themselves, through counsel on the ground of lack of authority of the City Fiscal to prosecute. Such dismissal was not ordered by respondent judge motu proprio but rather, as prayed for by, and on motion of, private respondents through said counsel. It is quite disturbing, therefore, for counsel to brazenly deny before this Court that private respondents had "nothing to do" with the assailed resolution, the issuance of which was based on their very own pleading. Moreover, counsel did not even bother to defend the position of private respondents before this Court by restating in the Comment, their arguments before the trial court, being content instead with her short allegations. These acts are indicative of counsel’s incompetence and lack of respect which this Court cannot countenance. Undoubtedly, counsel for private respondents failed to observe the responsibility imposed upon members of the bar to keep abreast with the developments of the law under Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility as well as to exercise candor. fairness and good faith before the court as prescribed by Canon 10 of the same Code, for which omissions, she should likewise be reprimanded.


D E C I S I O N


BIDIN, J.:


This special civil action for certiorari seeks to annul the order dated March 18, 1994 of respondent judge, the Hon. Eustaquio Z. Gacott, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa City, Branch 47, granting the Motion to Quash filed by the accused, now herein respondents Arne Strom and Grace A. Reyes in Criminal Case No. 11529 of said court.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On February 2, 1994, a complaint (Criminal Case No. 11529) for violation of the Anti-Dummy Law (C.A. No. 108) was filed by Asst. City Prosecutor Perfecto E. Pe against respondents Strom and Reyes. The accused filed a Motion to Quash/Dismiss the criminal case contending that since the power to prosecute is vested exclusively in the Anti-Dummy Board under Republic Act No. 1130, the City Prosecutor of Puerto Princesa has no power or authority to file the same. The prosecution filed an opposition pointing out that the Anti-Dummy Board has already been abolished by Letter of Implementation No. 2, Series of 1972. Despite such opposition, however, respondent judge granted the motion espousing the position that the Letter of Implementation relied upon by the City Fiscal is not the "law" contemplated in Article 7 of the New civil code which can repeal another law such as R.A. 1130. Thus, respondent judge in the assailed order of March 18, 1994 held as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE, in the light of all the foregoing facts and consideration, as the City Prosecutor has no power or authority to file and prosecute this case for reasons amply discussed above, the Court hereby orders this case quashed in the interest of justice, without costs" (Rollo, p. 27).

The prosecution filed a motion for reconsideration but respondent judge denied the same in an order dated April 12, 1994, the pertinent portions of which are quoted hereunder:chanrobles law library

". . . It may be ignorance of the law to insist that the law, Republic Act 1130 was repealed or amended by Letter of Instruction (sic) No. 2, Series of 1972 as what the City Prosecutor has harped all along. A Letter of Instruction (sic) is not a law by any standard and neither has it the force and effect of law. A contrary contention would be violative of Article 7 of the New Civil Code which provides that laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and of the Rules of Statutory Construction.

"Besides, penal statues are strictly construed against the State and liberally in favor of the accused. The rules in all criminal prosecutions is that all doubts are resolved in favor of the accused. In the case at bar, the Court seriously doubts that the City Prosecutor has the power or the authority to investigate violations of the Anti-Dummy Law and to file and prosecute cases of this kind before our courts, as that is lodged with the Anti-Dummy Board under R.A. 1130.

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Motion for Reconsideration mentioned above is hereby denied for sheer lack of merit, and the Order dated March 18, 1994 quashing this case is maintained" (Rollo, p. 5).

Hence, the present petition.

After the filing of the comments by respondents, this Court gave due course to the petition, in a resolution dated October 24, 1994.

The only issue to be resolved in this case is whether or not respondent judge in granting the Motion to Quash, gravely abused his discretion as to warrant the issuance of a writ of certiorari as prayed for by petitioners herein.

In resolving this issue, it must be recalled that immediately after the proclamation of martial law, the late President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1 to reorganize the entire Executive Branch of the National Government. To carry out the intent of P.D. No. 1, various Letters of Implementation were issued from time to time. It was in the course of this reorganization that Letter of Implementation No. 2, Series of 1972 was issued for the purpose of reorganizing certain agencies in the Department of Justice. One such agency was the Anti-Dummy Board which was abolished by the aforesaid LOI, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Anti-Dummy Board

"1. The investigation function of the Anti-Dummy Board shall be absorbed by the National Bureau of Investigation. and its prosecution function by the Prosecution Staff in the Department of Justice and the various Provincial and City Fiscals. Its corresponding appropriation, records, equipment, property, and subordinate personnel are transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation and the Prosecution Staff in the Department of justice.cralawnad

"2. The services of the present members of the Anti-Dummy Board are hereby terminated.

"3. The Anti-Dummy Board shall cease to exist as of the date hereof .

"Done in the City of Manila, this 29th day of September in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and seventy-two." (Emphasis supplied).

Later, P.D. No. 1275 was issued which reorganized the entire prosecution system of the government with the creation of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) under the supervision and control of the Secretary of Justice, tasked with the investigation and prosecution of all violations of penal laws, including violation of C.A. No. 108, the Anti-Dummy Law.chanrobles virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph

In his Comment on the petition, respondent judge insists that the dismissal of the case is supported by the law and existing jurisprudence. Inasmuch as the City Prosecutor relied mainly on LOI No. 2, which according to respondent judge, is not even a law, the Anti-Dummy Board cannot be considered as having been effectively abolished.

We reverse.

The error committed by respondent judge in dismissing the case is quite obvious in the light of P.D. No. 1, LOI No. 2 and P.D. No. 1275 aforementioned. The intent to abolish the Anti-Dummy Board could not have been expressed more clearly than in the aforequoted LOI. Even assuming that the City Fiscal of Puerto Princesa failed to cite P.D. No. 1 in his opposition to the Motion to Quash, a mere perusal of the text of LOI No. 2 would have immediately apprised the respondent judge of the fact that LOI No. 2 was issued in implementation of P.D. No. 1. Paragraph 1 of LOI No. 2 reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1, dated September 23, 1972, Reorganizing the Executive Branch of the National Government, the following agencies of the Department of Justice are hereby reorganized or activated in accordance with the applicable provisions of the Integrated Reorganization Plan and the following instructions: . . . (Emphasis supplied).

Obviously, respondent judge did not even bother to read the text of the cited LOI; otherwise, he would have readily acknowledged the validity of the argument advanced by the prosecution. As correctly observed by the Solicitor General, Presidential Decrees, such as P.D No. 1, issued by the former President Marcos under his martial law powers have the same force and effect as the laws enacted by Congress. As held by the Supreme Court in the case of Aquino v. Comelec, (62 SCRA 275 [1975]), all proclamations, orders, decrees, instructions and acts promulgated, issued, or done by the former President are part of the law of the land, and shall remain valid, legal, binding, and effective, unless modified, revoked or superseded by subsequent proclamations, orders, decrees, instructions, or other acts of the President. LOI No. 2 is one such legal order issued by former President Marcos in the exercise of his martial law powers to implement P.D. No. 1. Inasmuch as neither P.D. No. 1 nor LOI No. 2 has been expressly or impliedly revised, revoked, or repealed, both continue to have the force and effect of law. (Rollo, pp. 7-8).chanrobles.com:cralaw:red

Indeed, Section 3, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution explicitly ordains:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Sec. 3. All existing laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations, letters of instructions, and other executive issuances not inconsistent with this Constitution shall remain operative until amended, repealed, or revoked."cralaw virtua1aw library

But even more glaring than respondent judge’s utter inexcusable neglect to check the citations of the prosecution is the mistaken belief that the duty to inform the court on the applicable law to a particular case devolves solely upon the prosecution or whoever may be the advocate before the court. Respondent judge should be reminded that courts are duty bound to take judicial notice of all the laws of the land (Sec. 1, Rule 129 Rules of Court). Being the trier of facts, judges are presumed to be well-informed of the existing laws, recent enactments and jurisprudence, in keeping with their sworn duty as members of the bar (and bench) to keep abreast of legal developments. As provided in the Code of Professional Responsibility:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"CANON 5 — A lawyer shall keep abreast of legal developments, participate in continuing legal education programs, support efforts to achieve high standards in law schools as well as in the practical training of law students and assist in disseminating information regarding the law and jurisprudence.

"CANON 6 — These canons shall apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks."cralaw virtua1aw library

The Court is fully aware that not every error or mistake of a judge in the performance of his duties is subject to censure. But where, as in the present case, the error could have been entirely avoided were it not for public respondent’s irresponsibility in the performance of his duties, it is but proper that respondent judge be reprimanded and his order of dismissal set aside for grave ignorance of the law. For, respondent judge’s error is not a simple error in judgment but one amounting to gross ignorance of the law which could easily undermine the public’s perception of the court’s competence.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The responsibility to keep abreast with the changes in the law espoused in Canon 5 above is applicable with equal force to counsel for private respondents, Atty. Elvira T. Bermejo who first raised the issue at hand before the trial court. By insisting upon the authority of an already abolished Anti-Dummy Board, counsel displayed blatant irresponsibility, not to mention ignorance of the law. She should be reminded that "The law, (it is not to be forgotten), is a progressive science. There is less than full compliance with the demands of professional competence, if a member of a bar does not keep himself abreast of the trend of authoritative pronouncement" (Bautista v. Rebueno, 81 SCRA 535 [1978], underscoring supplied).

Equally deplorable is the terse half-paged pleading entitled Comment filed in behalf of private respondents by the same counsel Atty. Elvira T. Bermejo, before this Court, wherein she alleges:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"1. That private respondents ARNE STROM AND GRACE REYES was (sic) properly represented by the undersigned attorney;

"2. That private respondents ARNE STROM AND GRACE REYES has (sic) nothing to do with the decision of HON. EUSTAQUIO Z. GACOTT, JR..

"WHEREFORE, upon premises considered it is most respectfully prayed of this Court that said certiorari (sic) be dismissed." (Rollo, p. 33)

It need not be emphasized that the order of dismissal of the criminal case against private respondents arose out of the resolution of the Motion to Quash/Dismiss filed by private respondents themselves, through counsel Bermejo, on the ground of lack of authority of the City Fiscal to prosecute. In other words, such dismissal was not ordered by, respondent judge motu proprio but rather, as prayed for by, and on motion of private respondents through said counsel. It is quite disturbing, therefore, for counsel to brazenly deny before this Court that private respondents had "nothing to do" with the assailed resolution, the issuance of which was based on their very own pleading.chanrobles.com:cralaw:red

Moreover, counsel did not even bother to defend the position of private respondents before this Court by restating in the Comment, their arguments before the trial court, being content instead with the short allegations aforequoted. These acts are indicative of counsel’s incompetence and lack of respect which, this Court cannot countenance.

Undoubtedly, counsel for private respondents failed to observe the responsibility imposed upon members of the bar to keep abreast with the developments of the law under Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility as well as to exercise candor, fairness and good faith before the court as prescribed by Canon 10 of the same Code, for which omissions, she should likewise be reprimanded.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the order of respondent judge dated March 18, 1994 dismissing Criminal Case No. 11529 is hereby ANNULLED AND SET ASIDE and the aforesaid criminal case is REINSTATED. Respondent judge is hereby REPRIMANDED AND FINED in the amount of P10,000.00 for gross ignorance of the law with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or a similar offense shall merit serious consequences. Atty. Elvira T. Bermejo is likewise REPRIMANDED AND FINED P10,000.00 for ignorance of the law and for her failure to observe candor, fairness and good faith before this Court, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or a similar offense will be dealt with more severely by this Court. Let a copy of this decision be spread on the personal records of Judge Eustaquio Z. Gacott, Jr. and Atty. Elvira T. Bermejo.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Puno and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

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