Under consideration is a letter-complaint dated February 22, 1996, filed by complaint-spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon charging Judge Rodolfo R. Bonifacio and Clerk of Court Atty. Lorifel L. Pahimna, both of RTC, Branch 159, Pasig City, with violations of the "Graft and Corrupt Practices Act" through manifest partiality, evident bad faith and/or inexcusable negligence together with Atty. Reynaldo Camongol, counsel for spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon, relative to Civil Case No. 61978, entitled "Sps. Jose and Evangeline de Leon v. Sps. Gil and Mercedes de Leon, Et. Al."cralaw virtua1aw library
The following are the antecedent facts which led to the filing of this administrative complaint. A piece of land located in Industrial Valley, Marikina City was previously mortgaged by the late Marcelo de Leon, father of complainant Gil and Jose to the GSIS. Upon Marcelo’s failure to comply with his obligations, the GSIS foreclosed the subject property and awarded to Jose de Leon the right to repurchase the same. But due to financial constraints, Jose de Leon could not repurchase the property.
Thereupon, Jose and Gil de Leon entered into a memorandum of agreement wherein it was stipulated that Jose de Leon would execute a special power of attorney authorizing Gil to repurchase the property from GSIS. Jose further agreed to execute a Deed of Absolute Sale with a right to repurchase the said property in favor of Gil de Leon to guarantee its redemption. Gil de Leon borrowed from the Traders Royal Bank P600,000.00 with the subject property as collateral and from the proceeds of the loan, Gil de Leon redeemed the foreclosed property from the GSIS. The GSIS, in turn, executed a Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of Jose de Leon.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Jose de Leon then informed Gil de Leon of his intention to repurchase the property within thirty days from release of title of said property by the GSIS. Gil de Leon allegedly refused to comply with the agreement despite repeated demands. As a consequence, spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon filed a case 1 against Spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon for Specific Performance with the RTC, Branch 67, Pasig City which was dismissed by the court for lack of cause of action. The case was seasonably appealed by way of certiorari
to the Court of Appeals but was likewise dismissed which dismissal became final and executory.
Another case 2 for nullification of Deed of Sale, Transfer Certificate of Title, Use of Property as Collateral, and Damages with Preliminary Prohibitory Injunction and/or Restraining Order was filed by spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon against complainant-spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon which was raffled to respondent judge. Complainant-spouses filed their Answer with Counterclaims raising the issue of forum-shopping and prayed for the dismissal of the case. However, no order was issued by the court resolving the issue of forum shopping alleged in the answer.
Apparently, respondent judge still proceeded to hear the case and urged the parties to settle amicably. Plaintiff-spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon and complainant-spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon, reached a compromise agreement though Gil later claimed that he only agreed upon pressure exerted by the respondent judge.
Respondent judge approved the compromise agreement entered into by the parties on May 6, 1993 with the assistance of their counsel, the same not being contrary to law, morals, public policy, public order and good customs. Accordingly, a decision in consonance with the compromise agreement was simultaneously rendered on the same date.
Pursuant to the compromise agreement, the property in question shall be sold to a third person by Gil de Leon and his wife in the amount of 2.7 million pesos within thirty days from the execution thereof. From the supposed proceeds of the sale, 1 million pesos shall be given to plaintiff-spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon and the remaining 1.7 million pesos shall be retained by Gil de Leon for him to pay the loan and cause the release of the property from the Traders Royal Bank. In addition, plaintiff-spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon shall continue to stay on the property without any obligations on their part until the same is sold, and the expenses incurred in the disposition of the same shall be shouldered by complainant-defendant Gil de Leon. Each shall bear the litigation expenses in the prosecution of the case and renounce all claims against the other.
However, complaint-spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon filed a motion on August 25, 1993 to evaluate and/or amend the compromise agreement for allegedly being unfair but the same was objected to by the plaintiff-spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon on the ground that the compromise agreement had already become final and executory. Furthermore, the latter moved for the issuance of a writ of execution of the decision.
When respondent judge’s order for complaint-spouses to comply with the compromise agreement was ignored, the former issued another order dated June 14, 1995 directing the latter to come to court for the purpose of affixing their signature on the Deed of Absolute Sale with assumption of mortgage; otherwise, the Clerk of Court would be designated to affix her signature for and in their behalf. Traders Royal Bank was also enjoined from proceeding with the extra judicial foreclosure and auction sale of the property in question until further order of the court.
Complainant spouses moved to reconsider the June 14, 1995 order and prayed for respondent judge to inhibit himself from further hearing the case. Nevertheless, they showed their willingness to abide by the compromise agreement provided the spot cash of 1.7 million pesos be paid directly to them. Respondent judge denied the above motion for reconsideration.
When complainant-spouses refused to affix their signatures on the deed of absolute sale, respondent judge directed the Clerk of Court to affix her signature on the said deed of absolute sale for and in behalf of complainant-spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon for the proper disposition of the decision of the case. Respondent judge, likewise, ordered the Traders Royal Bank to honor the Deed of Absolute Sale signed by the plaintiff-spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon and the Clerk of Court for and in behalf of the complainant-spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon and to effect the transfer of the property to the buyer upon payment for the satisfaction of the decision dated May 6, 1993.
As a consequence, complainant-spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon filed a petition for certiorari
with the Court of Appeals which is still pending before said court praying for the setting aside of the orders dated June 14, 1995 and July 3, 1995 and annulment of the Deed of Absolute Sale executed by the plaintiff-spouses and Clerk of Court and to enjoin respondent judge from enforcing the said orders.
Complainant-spouses, in this present complaint, alleged that respondent judge authorized spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon to sell the subject property by signing the Deed of Sale as sellers although they are not the owners. Corollarily, they alleged that Atty. Pahimna affixed her signature on the said Deed purportedly for and in their behalf without their authority and consent. Finally, they assailed the actuations of respondent judge for causing them undue injury and giving the plaintiff-spouses unwarranted preference by acting favorably on their Motions which were not even in the prescribed form as provided for in Sec. 4 in relation to Sec. 6, Rule 15, Rules of Court.
In his comment, respondent judge explained that since the case before him was a civil case and the parties were brothers, he tried to convince them to settle the case amicably as provided for by law. He suggested that the parties sell the property, pay the obligation with the bank and divide among themselves the balance.
Respondent judge maintained that subsequent to the promulgation of the decision or three months thereafter, complainant-spouses filed a motion to evaluate and/or amend the compromise agreement and informed the court of the progress of their efforts in selling the property in question. Likewise, subsequent pleadings were also filed without any question on the efficacy and execution of the compromise agreement. The essence of the compromise agreement was to sell the property in question as agreed upon by the parties. The authority given to the plaintiffs to sell the property within thirty days from its execution was merely incidental to the general and primary objective of disposing of the property since the plaintiff-spouses are citizens and residents of the United States. These circumstances proved to be inconsistent with the accusations of complainant-spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon against him. Finally, respondent judge averred that he acted within the parameters of the compromise agreement and of the decision he rendered in the case.
In reply, complainant-spouses alleged that respondent judge blatantly ignored two substantial issues:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
First, the issue of res-judicata in view of the finality of the judgment in Civil Case No. 61270 which involved the same parties and property subject matter in Civil Case No. 61978.
Second, the issue of forum-shopping because of the attempt of spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon to secure a favorable decision in his sala after they lost in Civil Case No. 61270.
These facts, they alleged, were of judicial notice to respondent judge since they were stated in the complaint in Civil Case No. 61978. He should, therefore, have dismissed the case. They added that respondent judge and Atty. Camongol erroneously concluded that Gil de Leon recognized Jose de Leon as co-owner of the property in question when the former decided to give the latter the sum of P1,000,000.00 from the supposed proceeds of sale of the said property. The alleged Deed of Absolute Sale contains the names of spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon as sellers and Atty. Pahimna signed for and in behalf of the true owners without the latters’ authority and consent. The property in question is registered in the name of Gil de Leon and neither the names of Jose and Evangeline de Leon appear therein as owners.
Further, complainant-spouses objected to the statement made by respondent judge that the alleged offer of one Jose V. Rosario, being the consensus reached in the compromise agreement ought to be enforced. No such agreement was made regarding the offer of such person. It was noted that Jose V. Rosario directly made the offer to spouses Jose and Evangeline de Leon. They alleged that these acts show that respondent judge caused injury to the true registered owners Gil and Mercedes De Leon through manifest partiality, evident bad faith and/or gross inexcusable negligence.chanrobles.com:cralaw:red
Finally complainant-spouses claimed that respondent judge misled this Court into believing that the purpose of his earnest efforts to mediate between the parties was for their benefit but the real motive was to frustrate the ends of justice. Based on the obtaining facts and circumstances, respondent judge should have dismissed the case.
This complaint was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation, report and recommendation. In a memorandum, Deputy Court Administrator Reynaldo L. Suarez made the following observation:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"The instant administrative case stemmed from the Civil Case No. 61978 which is now pending on appeal for Certiorari
before the Court of Appeals. A cursory reading of the Petition for Certiorari
filed by herein complainants-defendants spouses Gil and Mercedes de Leon based on the same grounds that now constitute the bases of subject administrative complainant are the very issues raised in the appeal to the Court Appeals. The issues and matters raised are purely judicial in nature over which an appeal such as the one now in the CA can adequately and properly rule. The alleged errors committed by respondent Judge Bonifacio relative to the disposition of the case are at best errors of judgment and can be amply remedied by the aggrieved party without recourse to the subject administrative complaint.
Let it be emphasized that the policy of the Court as regards administrative cases is to dismiss the charge if the remedy is judicial as in the case before us. 3
Further, the acts of a judge which pertains to his judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary power, unless they are committed with fraud, dishonesty, corruption or bad faith. 4 In the instant case, complainants-defendants failed to substantiate their charge of graft and corruption against respondent judge.
More importantly, any finding that this Court would make relative to this administrative complaint would indubitably influence and affect the outcome of the Petition for Certiorari
filed before the Court of Appeals."cralaw virtua1aw library
The Office of the Court Administrator then recommended:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"(That) the administrative case against Judge Rodolfo R. Bonifacio and Atty. Lorifel L. Pahimna, Clerk of Court, both of RTC, Branch 159, Pasig City, be DISMISSED for being judicial in nature, or in the least, premature."cralaw virtua1aw library
This Court agrees with the observation and recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator.
The issues in this administrative complaint refer to the alleged bad faith and partiality of respondent as allegedly manifested in the issuance of the assailed orders which refer to the enforcement of the compromise agreement, the validity of which is being questioned before the Court of Appeals. The issues presented in the petition filed on July 17, 1995 before the Court of Appeals are the following:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"1. that respondent erred and abused his discretion in issuing the order of June 14, 1995;
2. that respondent erred and abused his discretion in issuing the order of July 3, 1995;
3. that respondent erred and abused his discretion, pressuring defendants to enter into a compromise agreement, exhibiting acts of impropriety, that petitioners have no way to expect said respondent to dispense justice with fairness; and ultimately, petitioners had asked him to inhibit himself from further proceeding with this case; and
4. that respondent erred and abused his discretion in acting on motions of plaintiffs/respondents, filed in violation of Sec. 6, Rule 15, in relation to Sec. 4, thereof, of the Revised Rules of Court."cralaw virtua1aw library
More than a month later or on August 24, 1995, this administrative complaint was filed alleging that respondent caused complainant-spouses undue injury: (1) by issuing the order dated June 14, 1995 granting Jose and Evangeline de Leon’s ex-parte motion dated June 13, 1995; (2) by issuing the order dated June 19, 1995 denying complaint-spouses’ motion for reconsideration of the June 14, 1995 order. This Court observed that the June 13, 1995 ex-parte motion was the same motion being assailed in the petition as having been acted upon by respondent without proof of service. The June 14, 1995 order granting the June 13, 1995 ex-parte motion was the same order being assailed in the petition. The July 3, 1995 order being assailed in the petition denied complainant’s motion for reconsideration of the June 14, 1995 order. The issues in this administrative complaint, being the very same issues before the Court of Appeals for resolution, they are judicial in nature. Clearly, to address them in herein administrative complaint would be to preempt their resolution before the Court of Appeals.
There is absolutely no evidence adduced by complainant-spouses to show that respondent judge, in issuing the assailed orders, was motivated by bad faith. [B]ad faith does not simply connote bad judgment or negligence; it imports a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of wrong; it means breach of a known duty thru some motive or interest or ill will . . . 5 In fact, the questioned orders were based on a compromise agreement whose validity has yet to be ruled upon.
Thus, absent any showing that respondent judge issued said orders in bad faith, good faith must be presumed. The presumption of good faith in this particular case is bolstered by the fact that respondent issued the same on the basis of his decision which, in turn, was based on a voluntarily executed compromise agreement between the parties. Accordingly, this Court rules that respondent soundly exercised his discretion in performing his judicial functions which were not proved to have been tainted by fraud, dishonesty or corruption; hence, the acts of a judge in his judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary action. 6
WHEREFORE, the administrative case against Judge Rodolfo R. Bonifacio and Clerk of Court Atty. Lorifel L. Pahimna, both of RTC, Branch 159, Pasig City is DISMISSED.
, Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ.
1. Civil Case No. 61270.
2. Civil Case No. 61978.
3. State Prosecutor v. Muro, 251 SCRA 111 (1995).
4. Abiera v. Maceda, 233 SCRA 520 (1994) as reiterated in Manlavi v. Gacott, Jr., 244 SCRA 50 (1995).
5. Board of Liquidators v. Kalaw, 20 SCRA 1007 .
6. Alvarado v. Laquindanum, 245 SCRA 501 .