Pursuant to the Court’s policy of conducting judicial audit of all cases pending before the sala of retiring judges, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) conducted a judicial audit and physical inventory of cases in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 26, Manila. Presiding Judge Guillermo Loja was due for compulsory retirement on June 27, 2001.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The audit team found a total caseload of 509 consisting of 275 criminal cases and 234 civil cases (exclusive of decided, archived, dismissed and suspended cases) based on the records actually presented to and examined by them. The audit team did not have difficulty in auditing the court since it was "properly managed." However, listed in its report are twenty-four (24) civil cases which were submitted for decision but were not decided within the reglementary period. Nineteen (19) civil cases were likewise unacted upon for a considerable length of time, namely:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
99-95440 98-89943 00-96311 99-95496
99-92546 98-86948 99-93490 97-84766
99-93599 99-95760 97-84333 92-63279
97-82876 99-95095 00-98038 98-91743
98-91827 00-96543 97-82263
In the Resolution dated March 5, 2001, respondent Judge Loja was required to explain in writing why no administrative sanction should be imposed upon him for failure to decide/resolve the aforementioned civil cases within the reglementary period and to inform this Court, through the Office of the Court Administrator, whether or not these cases have already been decided/resolved and to submit copies of the decisions/resolutions. Respondent Judge was likewise directed to take appropriate action on the above-listed cases which were unacted upon for a considerable length of time.
On April 18, 2001, Respondent Judge, in compliance with the Resolution of March 5, 2001, submitted his explanation stating that he had faithfully resolved/decided the cases mentioned in the resolution, except for four (4) cases which remained unacted upon, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
CASE NO. TITLE
1. 82-02375 Allied Banking v. Northern
2. 83-18026 de Vera v. PANELCO
3. 86-34187 Mla. House v. BSP
4. 93-65968 Ong v. Romero
Respondent Judge Loda further stated that aside from the fact that three (3) of these four (4) cases were inherited from his immediate predecessor (now retired Justice Corona Ibay Somera) who was promoted to the Court of Appeals, incomplete transcript of stenographic notes hampered respondent’s timely disposal of these cases and that some of the stenographers had already transferred to other offices.cralawlibrary : red
The following is the tabulation of the findings of the audit team and the comment of respondent Judge Loja:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Case No. Parties Submitted Due Decided Remarks
1. 98-91084 Villasenor v. 12-11-98 03-11-98 01-31-01 Delay of 1 yr
Arranz 10 mos+
2. 97-81695 Domingo v. 06-08-00 09-06-00 09-01-00 No Delay
3. 98-90177 Pono v. Pono 04-02-00 07-01-00 07-03-00 Delay of 1
4. 99-93844 Sanchez v. 05-04-00 08-02-00 10-11-00 Delay of
5. 98-90929 Cruz 07-14-00 10-12-00 11-06-00 Delay of 23
6. 82-02375 Allied 06-23-96 09-21-96 Not yet Delay of
Banking v. decided 4yrs. 9 mos.+
Northern Partly tried
7. 93-65968 Ong v. 03-08-96 06-06-96 Not yet Delay of 4
Romero decided yrs.+ Partly
8. 85-33911 Camacho v. 03-13-92 06-11-92 10-16-00 Delay of
Pilipinas 8yrs. 4mos.+
9. 83-18026 De Vera v. 03-03-94 06-01-92 Not yet Delay of
Pangasinan decided 8yrs. 3mos.+
10. 98-90755 Pac-Atlantic 07-03-00 10-1-00 10-30-00 Delay of 29
v. Bumwoo days
11. 95-73098 Marasigan v. 05-26-00 08-24-00 08-10-00 No delay
12. 95-73942 Manas v. 04-21-00 07-20-00 01-09-01 Delay of
13. 99-92780 Valdez 07-02-99 9-30-99 12-11-00 Delay of 1 yr.
Malone v. 2mos.+
14. 98-91963 Adriatico v. 08-06-00 11-04-00 12-14-00 Delay of
15. 99-94640 Bitangcor v. 03-10-00 06-8-00 06-07-00 No delay
16. 98-91350 Sandoval v. 10-15-00 01-13-00 01-12-00 No delay
17. 98-90760 Macapagal 01-27-00 04-16-00 04-26-00 No delay
18. 96-80047 Lictawa v. 05-22-00 08-20-00 01-12-00 Delay of
Balagot of 4mos+
19. 96-28184 Foremost v. 01-17-00 04-16-00 01-30-01 Delay of
Unknown 9mos. Note:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
20. 86-34187 Manila 08-21 -99 11-19-99 Not yet Delay of 1 yr.
House v. decided 7mos+
Boy Scout Partly tried
21. 97-83763 Teodisio v. 12-10-98 03-10-99 04-04-00 Delay of 1 yr.
22. 96-79570 Luzon Sales 12-27-99 03-27-00 03-23-00 No delay
23. 99-92743 Liao v. Cle-Ver 07-09-98 10-07-98 01-31-01 2yrs. 3mos.
Chemicals Note:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
failed to file
24. 99-93761 Vivas v. 06-08-00 09-06-00 08-04-00 No delay
25. 97-83222 Lucido v. 02-24-00 05-24-00 10-12-00 Delay of
The Memorandum dated July 31, 2001 of the Office of the Court Administrator reveals that respondent Judge Loja was appointed to RTC-Branch 26 in December 1993. Respondent Judge did not incur any delay in seven (7) of the cases enumerated in the report while thirteen (13) cases were decided/resolved beyond the reglementary period and four (4) cases were not decided at all. Of the twenty-five (25) enumerated cases, respondent Judge Loja should be held responsible for only thirteen (13) cases where he incurred an average delay ranging from one (1) to more than eight (8) years. With respect to the four (4) cases which were not decided before his retirement, the reglementary period has expired. Of the cases enumerated by the audit team, only four (4) cases were not yet decided. In respondent Judge Loja’s report on the cases where no further actions were taken, one (1) remained unresolved until he retired.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The Office of the Court Administrator recommended that respondent Judge be fined a "nominal amount" of five thousand (P5,000.00) pesos for gross inefficiency in view of his failure to decide thirteen (13) cases within the reglementary period and his failure to resolve five (5) cases before he retired.
We adopt the findings of the Office of the Court Administrator.
Section 15 (1) of Article VIII of the Constitution provides that all cases filed before lower courts must be decided within three (3) months from the time it is submitted for decision. Likewise, Rule 1.02, Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge "should administer justice . . . without delay." Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the same Code directs a judge to "dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required periods." A judge is mandated to render judgment not more than ninety (90) days from the time the case is submitted for decision and his inability to decide a case within the required period is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency which would subject him to administrative sanction. 1
Respondent Judge explained that he was not able to timely dispose of his cases because of incomplete transcripts of stenographic notes and the transfer of the stenographers to other offices. We have ruled, however, that judges are required to take down notes and to proceed in the preparation of decisions, even without the transcript of stenographic notes 2 as the reglementary period continues to run with or without them. 3 Moreover, judges are allowed, upon their request and for justifiable reasons, to ask for an extension of the reglementary period to decide cases.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Likewise, the fact that respondent judge has been the presiding judge of two (2) court salas should not be made an excuse and will not save him from administrative sanction. 4 The trial court judge, being the paradigm of justice in the first instance, is exhorted to dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required periods. 5 A judge should always be imbued with a high sense of duty and responsibility in the discharge of his obligation to promptly administer justice. 6
Taking into account, however, the explanation of respondent judge for his failure to decide/dispose promptly the subject cases and his expeditious action on the resolution of this Court, which shows a determined effort on the part of respondent Judge Loja to attend to his duties with greater zeal, and in view of his past record showing that in 1998, he was number one in the Top 10 Judges of the RTC-Manila with respect to the disposal of cases and he was second in 1999, we find well-taken the recommendation of the Court Administrator to impose only a nominal fine, which we hereby reduce to two thousand (P2,00.00) pesos. 7
WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Guillermo Loja is hereby adjudged administratively liable for the delay in deciding the subject cases and is FINED in the amount of Two Thousand (P2,000.00) Pesos to be deducted from the retirement benefits due him.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Melo, Vitug and Panganiban, JJ.
, is on leave.
1. Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC Br. 68, Camiling, Tarlac, 305 SCRA 61; Bernardo v. Farbos, 307 SCRA 28; Canson v. Garchitorena, 311 SCRA 268.
2. Tauro v. Colet, 306 SCRA 340.
3. Celino v. Abrogar, 245 SCRA 304; Re: Judge Danilo M. Tenerife, 255 SCRA 184.
4. Casia v. Gestapo, Jr., 312 SCRA 204.
5. Casia v. Gestapo, Jr., supra; Canson v. Garchitorena, 311 SCRA 268.
6. Amion v. Chiongson, 301 SCRA 614.
7. See also, Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Br. 68, Camiling, Tarlac, 305 SCRA 61 (En Banc); Re: Cases Left Undecided by Judge Narciso M. Bumanglag, Jr., 306 SCRA 50.