Under consideration is a complaint filed by Equatorial Realty Development, Inc. charging Judge Casiano P. Anunciacion with gross ignorance of the law and partiality relative to Civil Case No. 119892, entitled Equatorial Realty Development, Inc. v. Albert Ng, doing business under the name and style of "Mr. Manly Department Store."cralaw virtua1aw library
Complainant Equatorial is the plaintiff in an ejectment case against Albert Ng filed before the Metropolitan Trial Court presided by respondent Judge Casiano. Equatorial alleged that respondent Judge exhibited bad faith and favored Albert Ng in the adjudication of the above-entitled case as manifested by a series of errors. Aside from dismissing the case against Ng’s wife, Tessie Lee, allegedly in disregard of the facts on record, complainant also alleged that the errors being imputed were serious enough to show that they were not mere errors of judgment but manifestations of bad faith and partiality resulting in unduly prolonging the disposition of a simple ejectment case for about four years. The errors were allegedly committed by issuing the following:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. an order 1 dated January 20, 1988 granting the motion for intervention of Mayfair Theater, Inc.;
2. an order 2 dated September 20, 1988, granting the motion of Albert Ng for the designation of a commissioner to determine the prevailing rental rates in the vicinity of the leased premises and appointing his Branch Clerk of Court for this purpose;
3. a decision 3 dated December 26, 1990 dismissing the amended complaint.
In the first assailed order, respondent granted Mayfair Theater’s motion to intervene in Civil Case No. 119892 on the ground that it had an option to buy the subject property which option was given by its former owner, Carmelo & Bauermann, Inc. Complainant opposed Mayfair Theater’s motion to intervene contending that the latter had no legal interest in the case aside from the fact that Mayfair’s option did not refer to the leased premises subject of the ejectment case.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
In the second assailed order, respondent granted Albert Ng’s motion to appoint a commissioner to determine the prevailing rental rates in the vicinity of the leased premises. Complainant opposed said motion alleging that aside from the fact that the lease contract had expired and had not been renewed, said motion would only delay the disposition of the case. Moreover, respondent had no authority to fix the rent and the fact that a commissioner was designated to determine the prevailing rental rate was tantamount to gross ignorance of the law.
In the decision rendered, respondent dismissed complainant’s amended complaint which sought to include Tessie Lee, the wife of Albert Ng, as an additional defendant. Complainant alleged that an investigation revealed that the registered owner and proprietor of "Mr. Manly Department Store" as well as the actual occupant was Tessie Lee and not Albert Ng. Respondent allegedly capitalized on this error to dismiss the case against Tessie Lee on the ground that the case was not brought within the one year jurisdictional period against the latter, the real party in interest while ignoring Ng’s admission that he was the occupant of the subject property.
On account of these alleged errors, complainant moved for respondent’s voluntary inhibition which the latter denied.
The complaint was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator.
In his comment, respondent averred that his order granting the motion for intervention was valid as it was in accordance with justice and did not delay the case as the hearings continued with or without the intervenor. As to the order granting the motion to designate a commissioner to determine the prevailing rental rates in the premises, it was issued in good faith allegedly to give Albert Ng an opportunity to dispute the reasonableness of the new rental rates imposed. He also averred that it was complainant who caused the delay in the case’s disposition when the latter: (1) opted to present evidence instead of pursuing its motion for judgment on the pleadings previously filed; (2) tediously presented evidence justifying the increased rental while claiming expiration of contract as a ground for its complaint; (3) allegedly introduced newly discovered evidence; (4) moved for additional cross-examination of Albert Ng and presented additional evidence thereafter; and (5) instituted certiorari
proceedings against his order designating a commissioner which caused a delay of at least one year.
In his reply, complainant alleged that the grant of the intervention delayed the proceedings for four months, and when the intervention was withdrawn, respondent did not censure the intervenor for making a mockery of the administration of justice. It further alleged that respondent cannot claim good faith in granting the motion to designate commissioner to determine prevailing rental rates as his order was a patent nullity, citing the decision of the Regional Trial Court that was affirmed by the Court of Appeals which stated that respondent had no authority to grant the same and that the appeal was merely "a clever scheme to prolong the occupancy of the premises."cralaw virtua1aw library
The Office of the Court Administrator recommended the dismissal of the complaint against respondent Judge.
This Court agrees with the Court Administrator’s recommendation. The issuance and rendition, respectively, of the orders and decision being complained of as erroneous pertain to respondent’s judicial functions.
Besides, complainant, in assailing the orders and the decision of respondent never imputed fraud, dishonesty or corruption to him. None of these is evident simply because respondent did not consider complainant’s arguments against the first order, namely: (1) Mayfair Theater’s absence of legal interest; (2) delay in the disposition of the case due to said intervention; and (3) non-inclusion of the leased premises in intervenor’s alleged option to buy. Well-established is the rule that in the absence of fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a judge in his judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary action, even though such acts are erroneous. 4 In Louis Vuitton v. Villanueva, 5 this Court held:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . .’it is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.’ This concept of judicial immunity rests upon considerations of public policy, its purpose being to preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary."cralaw virtua1aw library
As to the charge of gross ignorance of the law, complainant argued that respondent’s order to grant Albert Ng’s motion to designate a commissioner to determine the prevailing rental rate in the vicinity of the leased premises was erroneous since the lease contract had expired. Respondent, however, was able to justify said order when complainant allegedly presented evidence justifying increased rental while claiming expiration of the lease contract as a ground for its complaint.
Although said order was subsequently set aside by the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals, nevertheless, its issuance was an exercise of judicial discretion coupled with the fact that complainant adduced no evidence to prove that it was motivated by bad faith.chanrobles.com : virtual lawlibrary
[Bad] 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 . . . . 6 In this case, respondent’s order can hardly be considered as evidence of bad faith under the circumstances. In fact, there was testimony to the effect that complainant tried to justify the increased rental. Granting that it was erroneous, it is presumed to have been issued in good faith in the absence of proof to the contrary. 7
This Court reiterates the legal doctrine that, as a matter of public policy, the acts of a judge in his official capacity are not subject to disciplinary action even though such acts are erroneous. Good faith and absence of malice, corrupt motives or improper considerations are sufficient defenses in which a judge charged with ignorance of the law can find refuge. 8
As to the imputation of partiality in the rendition of respondent’s decision dismissing the amended complaint, that can, at best, be considered as speculative. No evidence may be gleaned from the records to prove that respondent favored Albert Ng in his decision. If at all, the imputation of partiality is a mere suspicion. Mere suspicion that a judge is partial to one of the parties is not enough to subject him to disciplinary action by this Court. 9
In any case, the filing of this administrative case should not have been complainant’s remedy. This Court agrees with the Office of the Court Administrator, thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . If complainant was prejudiced thereby, its remedy lies with the proper court for the proper judicial action and not with this Office. An appeal of the decision to the Court of Appeals would have been appropriate. It puzzles Us why this was not done, despite the tenability of complainant’s legal position. In any case, complainant has failed to prove nor do we believe that any error committed by respondent Judge was motivated by any improper consideration." 10
Furthermore, a judge is not administratively accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision rendered provided he acts in good faith and without malice. The proper remedy of the aggrieved party is not an administrative charge against the judge but an appeal or petition for review of his decision. 11
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court resolved to DISMISS the complaint against Judge Casiano P. Anunciacion with the advice for him to EXERCISE more prudence in the issuance of the orders of his court, with due regard to the correct applicable laws and jurisprudence, so as not to unnecessarily delay and prejudice the administration of justice.
Let a copy of this decision be attached to the record of respondent Judge in this Court.
, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban, and Torres, Jr., JJ.
, took no part, being on official leave when the case was deliberated upon.
1. Rollo, p. 33.
2. Rollo, p. 59.
3. Rollo, p. 88.
4. Alvarado v. Laquindanum, 245 SCRA 501 .
5. 216 SCRA 121  citing Pabalan v. Guevarra, 74 SCRA 53 .
6. Board of Liquidators v. Kalaw, 20 SCRA 1007 .
7. Contreras v. Solis, A.M. RTJ-94-1266, August 21, 1996.
8. Guillermo v. Reyes, Jr., 240 SCRA 154 .
9. Gonzales v. Bersamin, 254 SCRA 652 .
10. Rollo, p. 122.
11. Martin v. Vallarta, 200 SCRA 469 .