This is an Administrative Complaint filed against Hernando C. Domagtoy, presiding judge of the Eleventh Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Santa Monica-Burgos, Surigao del Norte for conduct unbecoming a judge.
Antonio J. Adapon, his wife Susie and Bienvenida Navarro were private complainants in Criminal Cases Nos. 106, 107 and 108 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Pedrito Bondoc" filed with the MCTC of Dapa, Surigao del Norte, for falsification by omission, grave slander and grave oral defamation, respectively. On 4 May 4 1995, three (3) warrants of arrest were issued against accused Pedrito Bondoc. However, the arresting officers were not able to serve the warrants of arrest because they could not find him. 1 On 5 May 1995, respondent judge issued an order of release for accused Bondoc on the ground that "he has posted the necessary amount of bail for his temporary liberty." 2
On 11 May 1995, the MCTC Clerk of Court of Dapa issued a certification 3 that no bailbond was filed by accused Bondoc as of that date. On the same day, complainant Adapon wrote a letter-complaint to Executive Judge Melchor M. Libarnes of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 31 of Dapa, Surigao del Norte bringing to his attention the alleged irregular approval of the bailbond and the consequent irregular issuance of the order of release by respondent judge. Judge Libarnes referred the letter-complaint of Antonio Adapon to respondent judge for comment. In a letter to Judge Libarnes dated 14 May 1995, respondent judge said "I cannot make an honest comment on this insane maneuver. I prefer to meet my rabid admirer on clearer ground." Judge Libarnes then forwarded to this Court the complaint and respondent judge’s reply thereto (comment).
On 26 July 1995, the Court issued a resolution referring the complaint of Antonio Adapon to Judge Carlo Lozada of RTC Branch 30 of Surigao City for investigation, report and recommendation. On 4 September 1995, private complainant filed an amended complaint to clarify the allegations in his letter-complaint. The amended complaint averred that on 4 May 1995, the MCTC of Dapa, Surigao del Norte issued three (3) warrants of arrest against Pedrito Bondoc, Accused
in Criminal Case Nos. 106, 107, and 108. However, the accused was not arrested nor did he surrender to police authorities. At the time the order of release was issued on 5 May 1995 by respondent judge, Accused
was not under custody of the law and no bailbond had been filed for his temporary liberty Complainant Adapon further alleged that before a property is accepted as bond, a certification must be issued by the municipal treasurer that realty taxes up to the current year have been paid. In this case, a certification was issued only on 12 May 1995.
In respondent’s memorandum to Judge Lozada, he alleged that the order of release was regularly issued. The accused then had already been detained in the house of one Barsenio Mindana when the police officers decided not to arrest the accused as they were doubtful of the validity of the warrants. 4 Moreover, the order of release issued by respondent judge was based on a certification issued by the Municipal Treasurer of Dapa, Surigao del Norte which stated that taxes on the properties posted as bond had already been fully paid as of 1995.
In his investigation report, 5 Judge Lozada recommended that respondent judge be absolved from the charges on the ground that complainant failed to establish an irregularity in the approval of the bailbond in the three (3) criminal cases. The discrepancy in the issuance of the order of release on 5 May 1995 and the fact that there was no bailbond filed in MCTC Dapa, Surigao del Norte as of 11 May 1995 is explained by the fact that the bailbond was filed and approved in the MCTC of Sta. Monica (less than two  hours drive by private vehicle from Dapa) and was received by the Clerk of Court of MCTC Dapa only on 18 May 1995 When the order of release was issued on 5 May 1995, the bailbond was already filed in Sta. Monica.
Judge Lozada then concluded that regularity in the performance of official duty had not been overcome by evidence of the complainant who had no personal knowledge of the alleged misconduct of respondent judge.
On 31 January 1996, this Court designated Judge Melchor Libarnes of RTC Branch 31 of Dapa to report to the Court whether or not accused Pedrito Bondoc in Criminal Cases Nos. 106, 107 and 108 was actually arrested; if so, in what municipality he was apprehended and actually detained. Judge Libarnes’ investigation reveals that based on testimonies of the police officers, Accused
Bondoc was not arrested and the warrants of arrest were returned to MCTC, Dapa unserved.
On the basis of the evidence on record, the OCA found that respondent judge had no authority to issue the order of release in view of Sections 1 and 14(a), Rule 114 of the Rules of Court It also noted the past indiscretion of respondent judge in the case of Rodolfo G. Navarro v. Judge Hernando C. Domagtoy 6 where the latter was suspended for a period of six (6) months after having been found guilty by this Court of gross misconduct, inefficiency in office and gross ignorance of the law.
The OCA recommends that respondent judge be ordered to pay a fine of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00), with warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future would be dealt with more severely.
This Court agrees with the findings of the Office of the Court Administrator.
Section 1, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"SECTION 1. Bail defined. — Bail is the security given for the release of a person in custody of the law, furnished by him or a bondsman, conditioned upon his appearance before any court as required under the conditions hereinafter specified. Bail may be given in the form of a corporate surety, property bond, cash deposit, or recognizance." (Emphasis supplied
Bail, by its clear definition, requires that a person must first be arrested or deprived of his liberty because the purpose of bail is to release an accused or respondent from imprisonment or detention until his conviction and yet secure his appearance at the trial. 7 It would he incongruous to grant bail to one who is free, 8 as what happened in the case at bar
Arresting officers Arturo Esparrago, Sotico Espejon, Carlito Cagula and Patrocinio Cuadrillero testified that when they went to the house of accused Bondoc, and subsequently to the house of Barsenio Mindana to serve the warrants of arrest, Accused
Bondoc could not be located or found, so they went back to their station. 9 until the time they returned the warrants, they had not arrested accused, 10 nor did the latter surrender to their office at any time thereafter. 11 These testimonies confirmed complainant Adapon’s allegation that accused Bondoc was not arrested nor did he surrender to the authorities before the order of release was issued on 5 May 1995. The report of Judge Libarnes is also of the same tenor. Consequently, respondent judge’s issuance of the order of release when accused Bondoc had never been arrested, was a display of gross ignorance of the law. Respondent judge, therefore, gravely abused his discretion in issuing said order of release.
But, even assuming that bail could be granted in this case, it was not within the jurisdiction of respondent judge to grant the same. Bail may be granted by the court in which it is properly filed. Section 14(a). Rule 114 provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Sec. 14. Bail, where filed. — (a) Bail in the amount fixed may be filed with the court where the case is pending, or, in the absence or unavailability of the judge thereof, with another branch of the same court within the province or city. If the accused is arrested in a province, city or municipality other than where the case is pending, bail may be filed also with any regional trial court of said place, or, if no judge thereof is available, with any metropolitan trial judge, municipal trial judge or municipal circuit trial judge therein."cralaw virtua1aw library
The criminal cases are pending before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Dapa, Surigao del Norte. The order of release should have been issued if at all, by that court, or in the absence or unavailability of Judge Jose Comon who hears the cases in the MCTC of Dapa. Surigao del Norte, then by another branch of an MCTC within Surigao del Norte. However, there is no proof that Judge Comon was absent or unavailable on 5 May 1995 to grant the bail. Respondent judge alleged in his memorandum 12 that the arresting officers were not able to locate Judge Comon because it was already twelve noon and the latter was not in his office. But he did not buttress this claim. The three (3) arresting officers presented, however, never testified that they tried to consult Judge Comon regarding the validity of the warrants, as respondent judge had claimed 13 Instead they testified that they tried to locate accused Bondoc in order to serve the warrants of arrest on 5 May 1995 but failed to find him. If Judge Comon was indeed absent or unavailable, there is no evidence on record that respondent judge tried to ascertain or confirm this fact.
Furthermore, there is no evidence presented that accused Bondoc was arrested in the municipality of Sta. Monica-Burgos, to clothe respondent judge with authority to grant the bail and issue the order of release in the absence of any RTC judge. Respondent judge avers that accused Bondoc was arrested in the house of Arsenio Mindana in Dapa, which statement makes his order of release all the more untenable because the arrest was allegedly made in Dapa while the order of release was issued by respondent judge in his capacity as presiding judge of the 11th MCTC of Santa Monica-Burgos. Respondent judge, therefore, granted bail and issued the order of release without jurisdiction.
This is not the first time that a complaint is brought before this Court involving irregular approval of bailbond and issuance of order of release. 14 The Court again reminds judges of lower Court of their role as the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence. 15 This Court believes that in order to achieve justice, judges should, in all cases, diligently ascertain and conscientiously apply the law in relation to the facts of each case they hear and decide, unswayed by partisan interests, public opinion or fear of criticism. This is the least that judges can do to sustain the trust reposed on them by the public.
WHEREFORE, we find respondent judge guilty of gross ignorance of the law and abuse of authority. Considering, his past indiscretion and the warning that repetition of the same or similar acts would be dealt with more severely, respondent judge is ordered, as recommended by the Office of the Court Administrator to pay a fine in the amount of TEN THOUSAND PESOS (P10,000.00).
Bellosillo, Vitug, Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ.
1. TSN of testimony of SP02 Arturo D. Esparrago, 29 February 1996, Rollo. p 185.
2. Rollo, p. 29.
3. Rollo, p 30.
4. Rollo, pp. 51-52.
5. Rollo, p. 133.
6. Navarro v. Domagtoy, A M. No. MTJ-96-1088, 19 July 1996.
7. 4 Moran, Manuel V., Comments on the Rules of Court 150 (1980).
8. Mendoza v. Court of First Instance of Quezon, Nos. L-35612-14, 27 June 1973, 51 SCRA 369.
9. TSN of testimony of SP02 Arturo Esperrago, Rollo, pp. 183-186.
10. Id., p. 187.
11. TSN of testimony of SP02 Sotico Espejon, Rollo, p 192.
12. Rollo, p. 56.
14. Refer to the case of Paz v. Tiong, A.M. No. MTJ-94-998 February 1996.
15. Rule 1.01. Canon 1, Code of Judicial Conduct.