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A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659, A.M. NO. P-06-2254 and A.M. NO. MTJ-09-1730 - Anna Jane D. Lihaylihay, etc. v. Judge Alejandro Canda etc. / Judge Alejandro Canda, etc., v. Anna Jane D. Lihaylihay

A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659, A.M. NO. P-06-2254 and A.M. NO. MTJ-09-1730 - Anna Jane D. Lihaylihay, etc. v. Judge Alejandro Canda etc. / Judge Alejandro Canda, etc., v. Anna Jane D. Lihaylihay

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.M. NO. MTJ-06-1659 : June 18, 2009]

ANNA JANE D. LIHAYLIHAY, Clerk III, Regional Trial Court, Branch 28, Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte, Complainant, v. JUDGE ALEJANDRO T. CANDA, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Liloy-Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte, Respondent.

[A.M. NO. P-06-2254 : June 18, 2009]

JUDGE ALEJANDRO T. CANDA, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Liloy-Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte, Complainant, v. ANNA JANE D. LIHAYLIHAY, Clerk III, Regional Trial Court, Branch 28, Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte, Respondent.

[A.M. NO. MTJ-09-1730 : June 18, 2009]

ANNA JANE D. LIHAYLIHAY, Clerk III, Regional Trial Court, Branch 28, Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte, Complainant, v. JUDGE ALEJANDRO T. CANDA, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Liloy-Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

Before the Court are two complaints for grave misconduct filed by Anna Jane D. Lihaylihay (Lihaylihay), Clerk III, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 28, Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte, against Judge Alejandro T. Canda (Judge Canda), Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC), Liloy-Tampilisan, Judicial Region IX, Zamboanga del Norte.

The Facts

On 25 February 2005, Sheriff IV Camilo Bandivas (Sheriff Bandivas) of the RTC retired from the service. Lihaylihay alleged that Judge Canda asked Process Server Emmanuel Tenefrancia (Tenefrancia) of the RTC to apply for the position vacated by Sheriff Bandivas. To the dismay of Judge Canda, a certain Jesus V. Alimpolo (Alimpolo) applied for the vacated position. Judge Canda strongly opposed Alimpolo's application.

Judge Canda was of the impression that Lihaylihay was assisting Alimpolo in his application for the position of Sheriff IV. On 5 January 2006, Judge Canda sent a text message to Lihaylihay stating, "Maayo tingali modistansya ka anang mga tawhana kay basin masabit ka, pakiusap lang ni." Taking the text message as a threat, Lihaylihay reported it to the police and requested that a blotter entry be made. On 6 January 2006, Judge Canda sent another text message stating, "For maliciously causing it to appear as threatening in the police blotter of what is otherwise a very harmless text message of appeal I consider the same as declaration of war, don't worry you will have your owned [sic] fair share of trouble in due time."

In a letter1 dated 9 January 2006 and addressed to Executive Judge Oscar D. Tomarong (Judge Tomarong) of the RTC, Judge Canda accused Lihaylihay of (1) actively supporting Alimpolo; (2) using the facilities of the RTC in preparing Alimpolo's medical certificate; (3) being at the beck and call of Alimpolo; (4) blatantly disregarding the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel; (5) fraudulently scheming against the court; (6) performing highly contemptuous acts; (7) being unworthy of her position as Clerk III; (8) failing to distance herself from Alimpolo; (9) failing to stay neutral; (10) having a distorted sense of values that deserves disciplinary action; (11) being arrogant, insolent and cocky; and (12) disrespecting him. He added that:

And speaking of Ms. Lihaylihay, it is the observation of the Court employees and the public that her personality does not speak well of her employment with the judiciary which is characterized by the inappropriateness of her attire. She exudes herself like a GRO or going to a party when reporting to work, not to mention her very undignified appearance as a chain smoker which is akin to a WHORE and who does not hesitate to smoke inside the office in the very eyes of her office mates and the public. But what is very disgusting in spite of her being very new to her position is her being an UPSTART who doesn't care to get involve [sic] in matters that earns the ire and contempt of the court users and her co-workers. She is that repulsive "PAKIALAMERA" type very few would want to associate with. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary

In another letter2 dated 11 January 2006 and addressed to Judge Tomarong, Judge Canda charged Lihaylihay with violation of reasonable office rules and regulations. He stated that:

On my behalf and in behalf of all the Court employees especially within the administrative area of your court, I would like to make manifest this FORMAL PROTEST against Ms. Ana [sic] Jane D. Lihaylihay, Docket Clerk III of your Court for her actuations which is [sic] highly offensive and demeaning not only to your Court but the entire judiciary as well, to wit:

1) The unmitigated inappropriateness of her attire when reporting to work which to us is very offensive to the taste of decency because she exudes herself like a GRO (Guest Relations Officer). She is supposed to be wearing uniform or decent attire instead of very tight fitting jeans and blouses with very low hemline [sic] that almost exposes [sic] her breast or cocktail dresses as if she is [sic] going to a party or attending high profile gatherings of elite [sic].

2) her [sic] very undignified and repulsive appearance as a chain smoker with heavily made up face which reminds us of her to be like a WHORE, and who [sic] does not hesitate to smoke inside the office in the very eyes of her office mates and the public, an act which is in gross violation of existing rules and regulations against smoking in public places and government offices. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary

In his 1st Indorsement3 dated 12 January 2006, Judge Tomarong directed Lihaylihay to comment on Judge Canda's 9 and 11 January 2006 letters. On 13 January 2006, before Lihaylihay could comment on the letters, Judge Canda gave a copy of the 11 January 2006 letter to the desk editor of the Mindanao Observer and asked that it be published in the newspaper. In his affidavit4 dated 27 February 2006, Dennis C. Baguio stated that (1) he was a reporter and photographer of the Mindanao Observer; (2) he saw Judge Canda talking with the desk editor of the Mindanao Observer; (3) he saw Judge Canda giving a copy of the letter to the desk editor; and (4) he heard Judge Canda asking the desk editor to publish the letter.

The 11 January 2006 letter was published in the 15 January 2006 issue of the Mindanao Observer. The front page headline read, "Huwes miprotesta batok sa seksi nga docket clerk." The text of the letter was printed in the newspaper with the omission of words which were deemed unprintable.

In her comment5 dated 20 January 2006, Lihaylihay stated that (1) she did not participate in Alimpolo's application for the position of Sheriff IV; (2) Judge Canda ridiculed, humiliated, and besmirched her reputation by publishing in the newspaper the 11 January 2006 letter describing her as a GRO and a whore; (3) Judge Canda's text messages threatened her; and (4) she followed the office dress code. Lihaylihay alleged that Judge Canda wanted Tenefrancia to apply for the position of Sheriff IV so that Tenefrancia's position as process server would become vacant - Judge Canda's son, Alejandro Canda, was qualified for the position of process server. Lihaylihay also alleged that, before the present case started, Judge Canda sent her several indecent text messages stating, "You re sexy today," "I missed your gorgeous face," and "I missed your golden voice when you sing." Lihaylihay also alleged that she was shocked and disgusted when Judge Canda invited her to go out of town with him.

Alan D. Marapao (Marapao), publisher and editor of Tingog Peninsula, contacted Lihaylihay. He asked her if he could interview her, have a copy of her 20 January 2006 comment, and take her picture. Lihaylihay agreed. Without asking for Lihaylihay's permission, Marapao published the 20 January 2006 comment in the 22 January 2006 issue of the Tingog Peninsula. Irked, Judge Canda filed a criminal case for libel against Lihaylihay.

Lihaylihay filed a complaint6 dated 20 January 2006 with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) charging Judge Canda of (1) bullying her; (2) ridiculing, humiliating, and besmirching her reputation by publishing in the newspaper the 11 January 2006 letter describing her as a GRO and a whore; (3) sending her threatening text messages; and (4) sending her indecent text messages. The case was docketed as MTJ-06-1659.

Judge Canda filed a complaint7 dated 25 January 2006 with the OCA charging Lihaylihay with conduct unbecoming a court employee for publishing in the newspaper her 20 January 2006 comment. The case was docketed as A.M. No. P-06-2254.

In its 1st Indorsement8 dated 15 February 2006, the OCA directed Lihaylihay to comment on Judge Canda's 25 January 2006 complaint. In her comment9 dated 22 March 2006, Lihaylihay stated that (1) the publishing of her 20 January 2006 comment in the newspaper unlikely affected Judge Tomarong's impartiality and objectivity; (2) Judge Canda published his 11 January 2006 letter in the newspaper; (3) Tingog Peninsula published her comment without asking for her permission; and (4) Judge Canda was arrogant.

Lihaylihay filed another complaint10 dated 4 May 2006 with the OCA containing the same allegations as her 20 January 2006 complaint with the additional allegation that Judge Canda had several documents sworn to before MCTC Clerk of Court Rosalio M. Manigsaca without paying the required legal fees. The case was docketed as MTJ-09-1730.

In its 1st Indorsement11 dated 20 July 2006, the OCA directed Judge Canda to comment on the 4 May 2006 complaint. In his comment12 dated 16 August 2006, Judge Canda denied the allegation that he failed to pay the required legal fees.

In its Report13 dated 24 August 2006, the OCA found that Lihaylihay and Judge Canda failed to preserve the good image of the judiciary. The OCA stated that:

This Office is disappointed, nay, ashamed of the actuations of the complainant and respondent in this case. Their disgraceful behavior adversely affects the good image of the judiciary. Their actuations degraded the image of the courts before the eyes of the public.

In the instant case, respondent, although not directly responsible for the publication of her comment should have exercised prudence in dealing with the media considering the interest generated by the publication of the complaint against her by Judge Canda. She should have known that the media would take advantage of the opportunity to sensationalize the case considering the personalities involved.

Complainant Judge Canda, on the other hand, should not have caused the publication of his complaint against the respondent. As a judge, complainant should have known that administrative proceedings before the Court are confidential in nature in order to protect the respondent therein who may later turn out to be innocent of the charges. The public airing of his complaint unnecessarily exposed the Court to the eyes of the public. No justifiable or unselfish purpose would be served by such media exposure of the complaint already filed in Court and therefore covered by the mantle of confidentiality, except to sensationalize the same and to defile the reputation of the respondent.

The OCA recommended that Lihaylihay be admonished and that her 22 March 2006 comment be treated as a complaint for gross misconduct against Judge Canda.

In a Resolution14 dated 9 October 2006, the Court admonished Lihaylihay for her irresponsible behavior and consolidated A.M. No. P-06-2254 with A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659. In the same Resolution, the Court treated Lihaylihay's 22 March 2006 comment as a complaint for gross misconduct against Judge Canda, re-docketed the 22 March 2006 comment as a regular administrative matter, and directed Judge Canda to comment.

In his comment15 dated 5 December 2006, Judge Canda stated that his description of Lihaylihay as a GRO and a whore was not a "malicious imputation" but a "formal accusation," and that the publication of his 11 January 2006 letter in the newspaper was a "journalistic endeavour."

In a Resolution16 dated 12 January 2009, the Court (1) docketed the 4 May 2006 complaint as a regular administrative matter; (2) consolidated A.M. No. MTJ-09-1730 with A.M. No. P-06-2254 and A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659; and (3) directed Judge Canda to comment on the allegation that he sent threatening and indecent text messages.

In his comment17 dated 23 February 2009, Judge Canda (1) denied that he sent Lihaylihay indecent text messages; (2) described his 5 January 2006 text message as "brotherly;" and (3) stated that his 6 January 2006 text message was not intimidating - it only reflected the natural reaction of an angry person.

The OCA's Report and Recommendations

In its Report18 dated 7 October 2008, the OCA found Judge Canda liable for using inappropriate language. The OCA recommended that (1) Judge Canda be found guilty of gross misconduct; (2) Judge Canda be fined P21,000; (3) the 4 May 2006 complaint be docketed as a regular administrative matter; (4) A.M. No. MTJ-09-1730 be consolidated with A.M. No. P-06-2254 and A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659; and (5) Judge Canda be directed to comment on the allegation that he sent Lihaylihay indecent text messages. The OCA stated that:

Judge Canda's contention that he had nothing to do with the publication of his complaint as it was the Mindanao Observer which decided to pursue the story runs on shallow grounds.

x x x

Judge Canda already did the right thing when he brought to the attention of the Executive Judge the matter of Ms. Lihaylihay's alleged administrative transgressions. However, he stepped out of bounds when he allowed the Mindanao Observer to publish a copy of his complaint. The newspaper would not have had the audacity to publish the complaint if Judge Canda did not consent to it. Suffice it to say, Judge Canda should have known better.

Judge Canda stands accused of Gross Misconduct. He did not only refer to Ms. Lihaylihay as a "whore" in the complaint he filed before the Executive Judge; he also caused the publication of the document in a newspaper. If the Court can penalize a judge for uttering a foul term, it can definitely provide for a heavier penalty in the instant case where respondent judge even contributed to the publication of his utterance.

The Court's Ruling

The Court finds Judge Canda liable for gross misconduct.

Judge Canda harassed and publicly humiliated Lihaylihay: (1) he asked her to stay away from Alimpolo; (2) when she reported the matter to the police, he took it as a "declaration of war" and warned her that she will have her "fair share of trouble in due time"; (3) indeed, three days after sending the threatening text message, he filed a complaint with Judge Tomarong accusing her of several things, asking that she be disciplined and removed from the service, and describing her as a "GRO," "undignified," a "whore," "disgusting," "repulsive," and "pakialamera"; (4) two days after filing the first complaint, he filed another complaint accusing her of violating office rules and describing her as "offensive," "demeaning," "inappropriate," a "GRO," "undignified," "repulsive," and a "whore"; (5) still unsatisfied, he had his second complaint published in the newspaper; and (6) when she published her comment in the newspaper, he filed a criminal case for libel against her.

Section 1, Canon 2 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary states that "Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer." Section 2, Canon 2 of the Code states that "The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people's faith in the integrity of the judiciary." Section 2, Canon 4 of the Code states that "As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office." Section 6, Canon 4 of the Code states that "Judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to freedom of expression x x x, but in exercising such [right], they shall always conduct themselves in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of the judicial office." Section 6, Canon 6 of the Code states that "Judges shall x x x be x x x dignified and courteous." Judge Canda violated these provisions.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

Judges are required to be temperate in their language at all times. They must refrain from inflammatory or vile language. They should be dignified in demeanor and refined in speech, exhibit that temperament of utmost sobriety and self-restraint, and be considerate, courteous, and civil to all persons.19 In Juan de la Cruz v. Carretas,20 the Court held that:

A judge should possess the virtue of gravitas. He should be x x x dignified in demeanor, refined in speech and virtuous in character. x x x [H]e must exhibit that hallmark judicial temperament of utmost sobriety and self-restraint. x x x

[A] judge must at all times be temperate in his language. He must choose his words, written or spoken, with utmost care and sufficient control. x x x

[A] judge should always keep his passion guarded. He can never allow it to run loose and overcome his reason. He descends to the level of a sharp-tongued, ill-mannered petty tyrant when he utters harsh words [or] snide remarks x x x. As a result, he degrades the judicial office and erodes public confidence in the judiciary. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary

In Re: Anonymous Complaint dated February 18, 2005 of a "Court Personnel" against Judge Francisco C. Gedorio, Jr., RTC, Branch 12, Ormoc City,21 the Court held that:

[A] judge x x x ought to conduct himself in a manner befitting a gentleman and a high officer of the court.

x x x

The Court has repeatedly reminded members of the bench to conduct themselves irreproachably, not only while in the discharge of official duties but also in their personal behavior every day. x x x

It bears stressing that as a dispenser of justice, respondent should exercise judicial temperament at all times, avoiding vulgar and insulting language. He must maintain composure and equanimity.

The judicial office circumscribes the personal conduct of a judge and imposes a number of restrictions. This is a price that judges have to pay for accepting and occupying their exalted positions in the administration of justice. Irresponsible or improper conduct on their part erodes public confidence in the judiciary. Thus, it is their duty to avoid any impression of impropriety in order to protect the image and integrity of the judiciary. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary

Judge Canda's acts of (1) threatening Lihaylihay with her "fair share of trouble in due time"; (2) filing administrative complaints and a criminal case to harass her; (3) describing her as a "GRO," "undignified," a "whore," "disgusting," "repulsive," "pakialamera," "offensive," "demeaning," and "inappropriate"; and (4) publishing such foul remarks in the newspaper are very unbecoming a judge. The image of the judiciary is reflected in the conduct of its officials and Judge Canda subjected the judiciary to embarrassment.

Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court classifies gross misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct as a serious offense. It is punishable by (1) dismissal from the service, forfeiture of benefits, and disqualification from reinstatement to any public office; (2) suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three months but not exceeding six months; or (3) a fine of more than P20,000 but not exceeding P40,000.22

The Court notes that this is Judge Canda's second offense. In Barbarona v. Judge Canda,23 the Court fined him for violation of Circular No. 1-90 and warned him that the repetition of similar acts would be dealt with more severely. Considering the gravity of Judge Canda's offense and the fact that this is his second offense, the Court fines him P40,000.

The charges that Judge Canda sent Lihaylihay indecent text messages and that he failed to pay the required legal fees are unsubstantiated, thus, they must be dismissed. In administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving, by substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, the allegations in the complaint. The Court cannot rely on mere conjectures or suppositions.24

WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Alejandro T. Canda, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Liloy-Tampilisan, Judicial Region IX, Zamboanga del Norte, GUILTY of GROSS MISCONDUCT CONSTITUTING VIOLATIONS OF THE CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT. Accordingly, the Court FINES him P40,000 and STERNLY WARNS him that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.


Endnotes:


1 Rollo (A.M. No. P-06-2254), pp. 23-25.

2 Id. at 26-27.

3 Id. at 4.

4 Id. at 16.

5 Id. at 28-33.

6 Rollo (A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659), pp. 1-6.

7 Rollo (A.M. No. P-06-2254), p. 1.

8 Id. at 13.

9 Id. at 14-15.

10 Rollo (A.M. No. MTJ-09-1730), pp. 4-10.

11 Id. at 25.

12 Rollo (A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659), pp. 61-62.

13 Rollo (A.M. No. P-06-2254), pp. 36-39.

14 Id. at 40-41.

15 Rollo (A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659), p. 29.

16 Rollo (A.M. No. P-06-2254), pp. 51-52.

17 Rollo (A.M. No. MTJ-06-1659), pp. 71-73.

18 Rollo (A.M. No. P-06-2254), pp. 46-47.

19 Dagudag v. Paderanga, A.M. No. RTJ-06-2017, 19 June 2008, 555 SCRA 217, 235.

20 A.M. No. RTJ-07-2043, 5 September 2007, 532 SCRA 218, 227-229.

21 A.M. No. RTJ-05-1955, 25 May 2007, 523 SCRA 175, 181-183.

22 Rules of Court, Rule 140, Sec. 11(A).

23 409 Phil. 1 (2001).

24 Anonymous Letter-Complaint Against Atty. Miguel Morales, Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, A.M. No. P-08-2519, 19 November 2008.

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