Submitted to the Court for consideration is a resolution of the Board of Governors, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (hereafter, the IBP) recommending an inquiry into the causes of delays in the resolution of incidents and motions and in the decision of cases pending before the Sandiganbayan.
On July 31, 2000, the IBP, through its National President, Arthur D. Lim, transmitted to the Court a Resolution 1 addressing the problem of delays in cases pending before the Sandiganbayan (hereafter, the Resolution). 2 We quote the Resolution in full: 3
"WHEREAS, Section 16, Article III of the Constitution guarantees that," [a]ll persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies,"
"WHEREAS, Canon 12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers mandates that" [a] lawyer shall exert every effort and consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice;"
"WHEREAS, it is the duty of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to undertake measures to assist in the speedy disposition of cases pending before the various courts and tribunals;
"WHEREAS, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has received numerous complaints from its members about serious delays in the decision of cases and in the resolution of motions and other pending incidents before the different divisions of the Sandiganbayan;
"WHEREAS, Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 10-94 requires all Regional Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts to submit to the Supreme Court a bi-annual report indicating the title of the case, its date of filing, the date of pre-trial in civil cases and arraignment in criminal cases, the date of initial trial, the date of last hearing and the date that the case is submitted for decision, and to post, in a conspicuous place within its premises, a monthly list of cases submitted for decision;
"WHEREAS, Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 10-94 has not been made applicable to the Sandiganbayan;
"WHEREAS, considering that the Sandiganbayan is also a trial court, the requirements imposed upon trial courts by Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 10-94 should also be imposed upon the Sandiganbayan;
"NOW, THEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines hereby resolves as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"1. To recommend to the Supreme Court that Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 10-94 be made applicable to the Sandiganbayan in regard cases over which the Sandiganbayan has original jurisdiction; and
"2. To recommend to the Supreme Court an inquiry into the causes of delay in the resolution of incidents and motions and in the decision of cases before the Sandiganbayan for the purpose of enacting measures intended at avoiding such delays.
"Done in Los Baños, Laguna, this 29th day of July, 2000."cralaw virtua1aw library
On August 8, 2000, the Court required Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena to comment on the letter of the IBP and to submit a list of all Sandiganbayan cases pending decision, or with motion for reconsideration pending resolution, indicating the dates they were deemed submitted for decision or resolution. 4
On September 27, 2000, complying with the order, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena submitted a report 5 (hereafter, the compliance) admitting a number of cases submitted for decision and motion for reconsideration pending resolution before its divisions. We quote:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Cases Submitted W/ Motions For
"For Decision Reconsideration
"1st Division 341 None
"2nd Division 5 None
"3rd Division 12 None
"4th Division 5 None
"5th Division 52 1
"Total 415" 6
Thus, the Sandiganbayan has a total of four hundred fifteen (415) cases for decision remaining undecided long beyond the reglementary period to decide, with one case submitted as early as May 24, 1990, 7 and motion for reconsideration which has remained unresolved over thirty days from submission. 8
On October 20, 2000, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena submitted a "schedule of cases submitted for decision, the schedule indicating the number of detained prisoners, of which there are (were) none." 9
On October 26, 2000, the IBP submitted its reply to the compliance stating: First, that it was not in a position to comment on the accuracy of the compliance; nonetheless, it showed that there was much to be desired with regard to the expeditious disposition of cases, particularly in the Sandiganbayan’s First Division, where cases submitted for decision since 1990 remained unresolved. Second, the compliance did not include pending motions, and it is a fact that motions not resolved over a long period of time would suspend and delay the disposition of a case. Third, since the Sandiganbayan is a trial court, it is required to submit the same reports required of Regional Trial Courts. Fourth, the Constitution 10 states that, "all lower collegiate courts" must decide or resolve cases or matters before it within twelve (12) months "from date of submission" ; however, the Sandiganbayan, as a trial court, is required to resolve and decide cases within a reduced period of three (3) months like regional trial courts, or at the most, six (6) months from date of submission. 11
On November 21, 2000, the Court resolved to direct then Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo (hereafter, the OCA) "to conduct a judicial audit of the Sandiganbayan, especially on the cases subject of this administrative matter, and to submit a report thereon not later than 31 December 2000." 12
On December 4, 2000, in a letter addressed to the Chief Justice, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena admitted that the First Division of the Sandiganbayan 13 has a backlog of cases; that one case 14 alone made the backlog of the First Division so large, involving 156 cases but the same has been set for promulgation of decision on December 8, 2000, which would reduce the backlog by at least fifty percent (50%). 15
On January 26, 2001, the Court Administrator submitted a memorandum to the Court 16 stating that the causes of delay in the disposition of cases before the Sandiganbayan are: 17
(1) Failure of the Office of the Special Prosecutor to submit reinvestigation report despite the lapse of several years;
(2) Filing of numerous incidents such as Motion to Dismiss, Motion to Quash, Demurrer to Evidence, etc. that remain unresolved for years;
(3) Suspension of proceedings because of a pending petition for certiorari
and prohibition with the Supreme Court;
(4) Cases remain unacted upon or have no further settings despite the lapse of considerable length of time; and
(5) Unloading of cases already submitted for decision even if the ponente is still in service
We consider ex mero motu the Resolution of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) as an administrative complaint against Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena for "serious delays in the decision of cases and in the resolution of motions and other pending incidents before the different divisions of the Sandiganbayan," amounting to incompetence, inefficiency, gross neglect of duty and misconduct in office.
We find no need to conduct a formal investigation of the charges in view of the admission of Justice Francis E. Garchitorena in his compliance of October 20, 2000, that there are indeed hundreds of cases pending decision beyond the reglementary period of ninety (90) days from the submission. In one case, he not only admitted the delay in deciding the case but took sole responsibility for such inaction for more than ten (10) years that constrained this Court to grant mandamus to dismiss the case against an accused to give substance and meaning to his constitutional right to speedy trial. 18
The issues presented are the following: (1) What is the reglementary period within which the Sandiganbayan must decide/resolve cases falling within its jurisdiction? (2) Are there cases submitted for decision remaining undecided by the Sandiganbayan or any of its divisions beyond the aforestated reglementary period? (3) Is Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 1094 applicable to the Sandiganbayan? 19
The Court’s Ruling
We resolve the issues presented in seriatim.
1. Period To Decide/Resolve Cases. — There are two views. The first view is that from the time a case is submitted for decision or resolution, the Sandiganbayan has twelve (12) months to decide or resolve it. 20 The second view is that as a court with trial function, the Sandiganbayan has three (3) months to decide the case from the date of submission for decision. 21
Article VIII, Section 15 (1) and (2), of the 1987 Constitution provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"SECTION 15. (1) All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this Constitution must be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission to the Supreme Court, and, unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all lower collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower courts.
"(2) A case or matter shall be deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief or memorandum required by the Rules of Court or by the court itself." 22
The above provision does not apply to the Sandiganbayan. The provision refers to regular courts of lower collegiate level that in the present hierarchy applies only to the Court of Appeals. 23
The Sandiganbayan is a special court of the same level as the Court of Appeals and possessing all the inherent powers of a court of justice, 24 with functions of a trial court.25cralaw:red
Thus, the Sandiganbayan is not a regular court but a special one. 26 The Sandiganbayan was originally empowered to promulgate its own rules of procedure. 27 However, on March 30, 1995, Congress repealed the Sandiganbayan’s power to promulgate its own rules of procedure 28 and instead prescribed that the Rules of Court promulgated by the Supreme Court shall apply to all cases and proceedings filed with the Sandiganbayan. 29
"Special courts are judicial tribunals exercising limited jurisdiction over particular or specialized categories of actions. They are the Court of Tax Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, and the Shari’a Courts." 30
Under Article VIII, SECTION 5 (5) of the Constitution "Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court."cralaw virtua1aw library
In his report, the Court Administrator would distinguish between cases which the Sandiganbayan has cognizance of in its original jurisdiction, 31 and cases which fall within the appellate jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. 32 The Court Administrator posits that since in the first class of cases, the Sandiganbayan acts more as a trial court, then for that classification of cases, the three (3) month reglementary period applies. For the second class of cases, the Sandiganbayan has the twelve-month reglementary period for collegiate courts. 33 We do not agree.
The law creating the Sandiganbayan, P. D. No. 1606 34 is clear on this issue. 35 It provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"SECTION 6. Maximum period for termination of cases — As far as practicable, the trial of cases before the Sandiganbayan once commenced shall be continuous until terminated and the judgment shall be rendered within three (3) months from the date the case was submitted for decision."cralaw virtua1aw library
On September 18, 1984, the Sandiganbayan promulgated its own rules 36 thus 37
"SECTION 3 Maximum Period to Decide Cases — The judgment or final order of a division of the Sandiganbayan shall be rendered within three (3) months from the date the case was submitted for decision (Emphasis ours
)."cralaw virtua1aw library
Given the clarity of the rule that does not distinguish, we hold that the three (3) month period, not the twelve (12) month period, to decide cases applies to the Sandiganbayan. Furthermore, the Sandiganbayan presently sitting in five (5) divisions, 38 functions as a trial court. The term "trial" is used in its broad sense, meaning, it allows introduction of evidence by the parties in the cases before it. 39 The Sandiganbayan, in original cases within its jurisdiction, conducts trials, has the discretion to weigh the evidence of the parties, admit the evidence it regards as credible and reject that which they consider perjurious or fabricated. 40
Compliance with its Own Rules
In Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) v. Court of Appeals, 41 the Court faulted the DARAB for violating its own rules of procedure. We reasoned that the DARAB does not have unfettered discretion to suspend its own rules. We stated that the DARAB "should have set the example of observance of orderly procedure." Otherwise, it would render its own Revised Rules of Procedure uncertain and whose permanence would be dependent upon the instability of its own whims and caprices.
Similarly, in Cabagnot v. Comelec, 42 this Court held that the Commission on Elections ought to be the first one to observe its own Rules. Its departure from its own rules constitutes "arrogance of power" tantamount to abuse. Such inconsistency denigrates public trust in its objectivity and dependability. The Court reminded the Comelec to be more judicious in its actions and decisions and avoid imprudent volte-face moves that undermine the public’s faith and confidence in it.
The ratio decidendi in the afore-cited cases applies mutatis mutandis to the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan ought to be the first to observe its own rules. It cannot suspend its rules, or except a case from its operation.
2. Undecided Cases Beyond the Reglementary Period. — We find that the Sandiganbayan has several cases undecided beyond the reglementary period set by the statutes and its own rules, some as long as more than ten (10) years ago.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
According to the compliance submitted by the Sandiganbayan, three hundred and forty one (341) cases were submitted for decision but were undecided as of September 15, 2000. A number of the cases were submitted for decision as far back as more than ten (10) years ago. As of September 15, 2000, the following cases 43 had not been decided: 44
The Sandiganbayan is a special court created "in an effort to maintain honesty and efficiency in the bureaucracy, weed out misfits and undesirables in the government and eventually stamp out graft and corruption." 45 We have held consistently that a delay of three (3) years in deciding a single case is inexcusably long. 46 We can not accept the excuses of Presiding Justice Sandiganbayan Francis E. Garchitorena that the court was reorganized in 1997; that the new justices had to undergo an orientation and that the Sandiganbayan relocated to its present premises which required the packing and crating of records; and that some boxes were still unopened 47
We likewise find unacceptable Presiding Justice Garchitorena’s excuse that one case alone 48 comprises more that fifty percent (50%) of the First Division’s backlog and that the same has been set for promulgation on December 8, 2000. 49 As we said, a delay in a single case cannot be tolerated, "para muestra, basta un boton." (for an example, one button suffices).It is admitted that there are several other cases submitted for decision as far back as ten (10) years ago that have remained undecided by the First Division, of which Justice Garchitorena is presiding justice and chairman. Indeed, there is even one case, which is a simple motion to withdraw the information filed by the prosecutor. This has remained unresolved for more than seven (7) years (since 1994). 50 The compliance submitted by the Sandiganbayan presiding justice incriminates him. The memorandum submitted by the Court Administrator likewise testifies to the unacceptable situation in the Sandiganbayan. Indeed, there is a disparity in the reports submitted by the Sandiganbayan presiding justice and the OCA. According to the Court Administrator, the cases submitted for decision that were still pending promulgation 51 before the five divisions of the Sandiganbayan are: 52
We find that Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena failed to devise an efficient recording and filing system to enable him to monitor the flow of cases and to manage their speedy and timely disposition. This is his duty on which he failed. 53
Memorandum of the Court Administrator
On November 14, 2001, the Court required the Office of the Court Administrator 54 to update its report. 55
On November 16, 2001, OCA Consultant Pedro A. Ramirez (Justice, Court of Appeals, Retired) submitted a "compliance report" with the Court’s order. The compliance report shows that to this day, several cases that were reported pending by the Sandiganbayan on September 26, 2000, and likewise reported undecided by the OCA on January 26, 2001, have not been decided/resolved. We quote the compliance report: 56
Cases Assigned to Badoy, J. *** 11
Cases Assigned to Estrada, J. 7
Cases Assigned to Chico-Nazario, J. 1
No report/Unaccounted For 1
3. Applicability of SC Adm. Circular No. 10-94. — Supreme Court Circular No. 10-94 applies to the Sandiganbayan.
Administrative Circular 10-94 57 directs all trial judges to make a physical inventory of the cases in their dockets. The docket inventory procedure is as follows: 58
"a. Every trial judge shall submit not later than the last week of February and the last week of August of each year a tabulation of all pending cases which shall indicate on a horizontal column the following data:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"1. Title of the case
"2. Date of Filing
"3. Date arraignment in criminal cases of Pre-trial in civil cases and
"4. Date of initial trial
"5. Date of last hearing
"6. Date submitted for Decision
"b. The tabulation shall end with a certification by the trial judge that he/she has personally undertaken an inventory of the pending cases in his/her court; that he/she has examined each case record and initialed the last page thereof. The judge shall indicate in his/her certification the date when inventory was conducted.
"c. The Tabulation and Certification shall be in the following form.
Docket Inventory for the Period
January ___ to June ______ July
To December____, ______
Court and Station ________
Presiding Judge __________
Title of Date Pretrial/ Initial Date of Date
Case Filed Arraignment Hearing Last submitted
Hearing for Decision
"CERTIFICATION:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
I hereby certify that on (Date/Dates ____), I personally conducted a physical inventory of pending cases in the docket of this court, that I personally examined the records of each case and initialed the last page thereof, and I certify that the results of the inventory are correctly reflected in the above tabulation.
Given the rationale behind the Administrative Circular, we hold that it is applicable to the Sandiganbayan with respect to cases within its original and appellate jurisdiction.
We reiterate the admonition we issued in our resolution of October 10, 2000: 59
"This Court has consistently impressed upon judges (which includes justices) to decide cases promptly and expeditiously on the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. Decision making is the primordial and most important duty of the member of the bench 60 Hence, judges are enjoined to decide cases with dispatch. Their failure to do so constitutes gross inefficiency 61 that warrants disciplinary sanction including fine 62 suspension 63 and even dismissal 64 . The rule particularly applies to justices of the Sandiganbayan. Delays in the disposition of cases erode the faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary, lower its standards, and bring it into disrepute. 65 Delays cannot be sanctioned or tolerated especially in the anti-graft court, the showcase of the nation’s determination to succeed in its war against graft (Emphasis ours)." chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In Yuchengco v. Republic, 66 we urged the Sandiganbayan to promptly administer justice. We stated that the Sandiganbayan has the inherent power to amend and control its processes and orders to make them conformable to law and justice. The Sandiganbayan as the nation’s anti-graft court must be the first to avert opportunities for graft, uphold the right of all persons to a speedy disposition of their cases and avert the precipitate loss of their rights.
Practice of Unloading Cases
According to the memorandum submitted by the OCA, there is a practice in the first and third divisions of the Sandiganbayan of unloading cases to other divisions despite the fact that these cases have been submitted for decision before them. We cite relevant portions of the memorandum: 67
We suggest a review of the practice of unloading cases that greatly contributes to the backlog of undecided cases. When a case has been heard and tried before a division of the Sandiganbayan, it is ideal that the same division and no other must decide it as far as practicable.
We further note that several cases which were earlier reported as undecided by the Sandiganbayan and the OCA have been decided since the reports of September 26, 2000 and January 26, 2001. Nonetheless, the delay in deciding these cases is patent and merits reprobation. According to the compliance report submitted by the OCA on November 16, 2001, there are several cases decided way beyond the reglementary period prescribed by law, even assuming without granting, a reglementary period of twelve months from the time a case is submitted for decision. 68
In a case brought before this Court, Presiding Justice Garchitorena admitted fault and that the fault is exclusively his own, in failing to decide the case, though submitted for decision as early as June 20, 1990 69 This case was not even included among pending cases in the Sandiganbayan report of September 26, 2000.
The following cases were decided, though beyond the prescribed period:
Relief of Presiding Justice
At this juncture, the Court cites the case of Canson v. Garchitorena. 70 In that case, we admonished respondent Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena. General Jewel F. Canson, Police Chief Superintendent, National Capital Region Command Director, complained of deliberate delayed action of the Presiding Justice on the transfer of Criminal Cases Nos. 23047-23057 to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, depriving complainant of his right to a just and speedy trial. Due to a finding of lack of bad faith on the part of respondent justice, we issued only a warning. However, the dispositive portion of the decision cautioned respondent justice that "a repetition of the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely." 71
Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena sits as the Chairman, First Division, with a backlog of cases pending decision. At least seventy-three cases have been unassigned for the writing of the extended opinion, though submitted for decision. It may be the thinking of the Presiding Justice, Sandiganbayan that an unassigned case is not counted in its backlog of undecided cases. This is not correct. It is the duty of the Presiding Justice and the Chairmen of divisions to assign the ponente as soon as the case is declared submitted for decision, if not earlier. If he fails to make the assignment, he shall be deemed to be the ponente.
The Constitution provides that a case shall be deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the Rules of Court or by the court itself. 72 In Administrative Circular No. 28, dated July 3, 1989, the Supreme Court provided that "A case is considered submitted for decision upon the admission of the evidence of the parties at the termination of the trial. The ninety (90) days period for deciding the case shall commence to run from submission of the case for decision without memoranda; in case the court requires or allows its filing, the case shall be considered submitted for decision upon the filing of the last memorandum or the expiration of the period to do so, whichever is earlier. Lack of transcript of stenographic notes shall not be a valid reason to interrupt or suspend the period for deciding the case unless the case was previously heard by another judge not the deciding judge in which case the latter shall have the full period of ninety (90) days from the completion of the transcripts within which to decide the same." 73 The designation of a ponente to a case is not a difficult administrative task.
Administrative sanctions must be imposed. "Mora reprobatur in lege." 74 Again, we reiterate the principle that decision-making is the most important of all judicial functions and responsibilities. 75 In this area, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena, as the ponente assigned to the cases submitted for decision/resolution long ago, some as far back as more than ten (10) years ago, has been remiss constituting gross neglect of duty and inefficiency. 76 As we said in Canson, 77 unreasonable delay of a judge in resolving a case amounts to a denial of justice, bringing the Sandiganbayan into disrepute, eroding the public faith and confidence in the judiciary. 78
Consequently, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena should be relieved of all trial and administrative work as Presiding Justice and as Chairman, First Division so that he can devote himself full time to decision-making until his backlog is cleared. He shall finish this assignment not later than six (6) months from the promulgation of this resolution.
We have, in cases where trial court judges failed to decide even a single case within the ninety (90) day period, imposed a fine ranging from five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) to the equivalent of their one month’s salary. 79 According to the report of the Sandiganbayan, as of September 26, 2000, there were three hundred forty one (341) cases submitted for decision before its first division headed by the Presiding Justice. In the memorandum of the OCA, there were one hundred ninety eight (198) cases reported submitted for decision before the First Division. 80 Even in the updated report, there are one hundred thirty eight (138) cases still undecided in the First Division.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In fact, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena admitted that he has a backlog. 81 He claimed that one (1) case alone comprises fifty percent (50%) of the backlog. We find this claim exaggerated. We cannot accept that a backlog of three hundred forty one (341) cases in the First Division could be eliminated by the resolution of a single consolidated case of one hundred fifty six (156) counts. A consolidated case is considered only as one case. The cases referred to were consolidated as Criminal Case Nos. 9812-9967, People v. Corazon Gammad-Leaño, decided on December 8, 2000. What about the one hundred eighty five (185) cases that unfortunately remained undecided to this date? Worse, the motion for reconsideration of the decision in said cases, submitted as of January 11, 2001, has not been resolved to this date. 82 The First Division has only thirty (30) days from submission to resolve the same. It is now ten (10) months from submission. The expediente and the motion were transmitted to the ponente, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena, on that date, but to this day the case remains unresolved. 83 Unfortunately, even other divisions of the Sandiganbayan may be following his example. 84
In the first report of the Court Administrator, he indicated a total of one hundred ninety five (195) criminal cases and three (3) civil cases, or a total of one hundred ninety eight (198)cases submitted for decision as of, December 21, 2000. 85 Almost a year later, as of November 16, 2001, there are still one hundred thirty eight (138) cases undecided submitted long ago. For almost one year, not one case was decided/resolved by the Presiding Justice himself. 86
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Court resolves:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(1) To IMPOSE on Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena a fine of twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00), for inefficiency and gross neglect of duty.
(2) Effective December 1, 2001, to RELIEVE Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena of his powers, functions and duties as the Presiding Justice, Sandiganbayan, and from presiding over the trial of cases as a justice and Chairman, First Division, so that he may DEVOTE himself exclusively to DECISION WRITING, until the backlog of cases assigned to him as well as cases not assigned to any ponente, of which he shall be deemed the ponente in the First Division, are finally decided. There shall be no unloading of cases to other divisions, or to the First Division inter se.
In the interim, Associate Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario, as the most senior associate justice, shall TAKE OVER and exercise the powers, functions, and duties of the office of the Presiding Justice, Sandiganbayan, until further/orders from this Court.
(3) To DIRECT Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena and the associate justices of the Sandiganbayan to decide/resolve the undecided cases submitted for decision as of this date, within three (3) months from their submission, and to resolve motions for new trial or reconsiderations and petitions for review within thirty (30) days from their submission. With respect to the backlog of cases, as hereinabove enumerated, the Sandiganbayan shall decide/resolve all pending cases including incidents therein within six (6) months from notice of this resolution.
(4) To ORDER the Sandiganbayan to comply with Supreme Court Administrative Circular 10-94, effective immediately.
(5) To DIRECT the Sandiganbayan en banc to adopt not later than December 31, 2001 internal rules to govern the allotment of cases among the divisions, the rotation of justices among them and other matters leading to the internal operation of the court, and thereafter to submit the said internal rules to the Supreme Court for its approval. 87
This directive is immediately executory
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., Sandoval-Gutierrez and Carpio, JJ., concur.
Buena J., on official leave.
DE LEON, Jr., J p: concurring and dissenting
I respectfully dissent from the resolution of Mr. Justice Bernardo P. Pardo insofar as it declares and rules that the judgment of any division of the Sandiganbayan shall be rendered within three (3) months, and not within twelve (12) months, from the date the case was submitted for decision.
The resolution cites Section 6 of P.D. No. 1606 which requires that the judgment of the Sandiganbayan "shall be rendered within three (3) months from the date the case was submitted for decision." The said provision was apparently adopted by the Sandiganbayan in Section 3 of Rule XVIII of its Revised Rules of Procedure which was issued pursuant to P.D. No. 1606. The resolution also cites Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 10-94, dated June 25, 1994 which is addressed "To: All Trial Court Judges and Clerks of Courts, Branch Clerks of Courts" but not to Sandiganbayan Justices or the Clerk of Court and Division Clerks of Courts of the Sandiganbayan.
SECTION 15 (1) and (2) Article VII of the 1997 Constitution, however, provides that:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
SECTION 15(1). All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this Constitution must be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission for the Supreme Court, and, unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all lower collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower courts.
(2) A case or matter shall be deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the Rules of Court or by the Court itself.
x x x
The Supreme Court in Administrative Circular No. 10-94 has not reduced the 12-month period mentioned in the above quoted constitutional provision insofar as the Sandiganbayan, a collegiate court, is concerned. It is basic that in case of conflict between a constitutional provision on one hand and a statute or an internal rule of procedure of a court on the other, the former, being a part of the fundamental law of the land, must prevail. Also, pursuant to Section 4 of Republic Act No. 8245 (approved on February 5, 1997) the Sandiganbayan has also exclusive appellate jurisdiction "over final judgments, resolutions or orders of the regional trial courts whether in the exercise of their original jurisdiction or of their appellate jurisdiction as herein provided." chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In this connection, be it noted that section 1 of R.A. No. 8249 further amending P.D. No. 1606, as amended, provides that:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
SECTION 1. Sandiganbayan; Composition; Qualifications; Tenure; Removal and Compensation — A special court, of the same level as the Court of Appeals and possessing all the inherent powers of a court of justice, to be known as the Sandiganbayan is hereby created composed of a presiding justice and fourteen associate justices who shall be appointed by the President.
Incidentally, per the Rules of Procedure of the Sandiganbayan, each division is composed of three (3) justices whose unanimous vote is required to render a decision, resolution or order. In the event there is a dissent, a special division is formed whereby two (2) justices who shall be chosen by raffle and added to the division concerned, in which event, the majority rule shall prevail. For that reason and considering also that appeals from the decisions of the Sandiganbayan are to be filed directly with the Supreme Court, the Sandiganbayan as a collegiate trial court, is significantly different from the one-man regional trial court.
Subject to the foregoing observations and partial dissent, I concur with the rest of the resolution.
1. Dated July 29, 2000, done in Los Baños, Laguna. Signed by Arthur D. Lim (National President), and the following Governors: Carmencito P. Caingat (Central Luzon), Jose P. Icaonapo, Jr. (Greater Manila), Teresita Infatado-Gines (Southern Luzon), Serafin P. Rivera (Bicolandia), Celestino B. Sabate (Eastern Visayas), David A. Ponce de Leon (Western Visayas), Paulino R. Ersando (Western Mindanao). The following did not take any part in the Resolution: Teofilo S. Pilando, Jr. (Executive Vice President) was on study leave, and Nicanor A. Magno (Governor for Eastern Mindanao) was on sick leave.
2. Rollo, p. 2.
3. Rollo, pp. 34.
4. Rollo, p. 5.
5. Dated September 26, 2000, Rollo, pp. 6-18.
6. Rollo, p. 6.
7. As of September 15, 2000, Rollo, pp. 17-18.
8. Resolution of the Court En Banc dated October 10, 2000, Rollo, pp. 19-20.
9. Rollo, pp. 30-43.
10. Article VIII, Section 15 (1), Constitution.
11. Reply, Rollo, pp. 45-46.
12. Rollo, p. 52.
13. First Division composed of Francis E. Garchitorena (Presiding Justice and Chairman); Catalino R. Castañeda, Jr. (Associate Justice) and Gregory S. Ong (Associate Justice).
14. Criminal Cases Nos. 9812-9967, People v. Corazon Gammad-Leaño, involving 156 cases.
15. Rollo, p. 56.
16. Rollo, pp. 61-101. The memorandum was a report on the judicial audit and physical inventory of pending cases before the five (5) Divisions of the Sandiganbayan conducted by the Court Administrator’s Judicial Audit Team. The team was composed of Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo, together with Consultants Narciso T. Atienza, Conrado M. Molina, Romulo S. Quimbo, Pedro A. Ramirez, and staff. The report was prepared from December 11 to 19, 2000.
17. Rollo, pp. 61-104, at p. 100.
18. Licaros v. Sandiganbayan, G. R No. 145851, November 22, 2001.
19. Memorandum to Chief Justice Davide dated January 26, 2001, Rollo, pp. 61-101, at p. 101.
20. Pursuant to Section 15 (1) Article VIII, 1987 Constitution.
21. Section 6, P. D. No. 1606, as amended; Section 3, Rule XVII of the Revised Rules of the Sandiganbayan.
22. Cited in Montes v. Bugtas, A. M. No. RTJ-01-1627, April 17, 2001.
23 See 2000 Annual Report of the Supreme Court, pp. 7-8. R. A. No. 8249 (An Act Further Defining the Jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan) classifies the Sandiganbayan as" [A] special court, of the same level as the Court of Appeals and possessing all the inherent powers of a court of justice . . . (Section 1)."cralaw virtua1aw library
24. R.A No. 8249 (An Act Further Defining the Jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan) classifies the Sandiganbayan as “[A] special court, of the same level as the Court of Appeals and possessing all the inherent powers of a court of justice … xxx (Section 1)”
25. R. A. No. 8249, Section 2, empowers the Sandiganbayan to "hold sessions . . . for the trial and determination of cases filed with it."cralaw virtua1aw library
26. R. A. No. 8249, Section 1.
27. P. D. No. 1606, Section 9, as amended.
28. R. A. No. 7975, Section 4, except to adopt internal rules governing the allotment of cases among the divisions, the rotation of justices among them and other matters relating to the internal operations of the court which shall be enforced until repealed or modified by the Supreme Court.
30. Supra, Note 23, at p. 8.
31. Enumerated under Section 4 of R A. No. 8249
32. Under R A. No. 8249, Section 4, ‘The Sandiganbayan shall exercise exclusive appellate jurisdiction ova final judgments, resolutions or orders of regional trial courts whether in the exercise of their own original jurisdiction or of their appellate jurisdiction u herein provided."cralaw virtua1aw library
33. Memorandum of the Office of the Court Administrator, Rollo, pp. 137-147, at p. 147.
34. Revising Presidential Decree No. 1486, creating a special court to be known as the "Sandiganbayan."cralaw virtua1aw library
35. R. A. No. 8249 is silent on this matter. Amendments are to be construed as if they are included in the original act (Camacho v. CIR, 80 Phil. 848 ).
36. P. D. No. 1606, Section 9, provides, "The Sandiganbayan shall have the power to promulgate its own rules of procedure and, pending such promulgation, the Rules of Court shall govern its proceedings." However, R A. No. 7975, Sec. 4, repealed this provision, approved March 30, 199S, effective May 6, 1995.
37. Rule XVIII Section 3, The Sandiganbayan, Revised Rules of Procedure.
38. R. A. No. 7975, Section 1.
39. Cariño v. Ofilada, 217 SCRA 206 (1993).
40. Dacumos v. Sandiganbayan, 195 SCRA 833 (1991), discussing the power of a trial court.
41. 334 Phil. 369, 386 (1997).
42. 329 Phil-300, 309-310 (1996)
43 All pending before the Sandiganbayan’s First Division, of which Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena is the Chairman.
44. Compliance, Rollo, pp. 7-18.
45. 2000 Annual Report of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Annex "H", p. 258.
46. Dealing with a single delay in the municipal circuit trial court, Re: report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Dingle-Duenas, Iloilo, 345 Phil. 884 (1997).
47. See Comment of Presiding Justice, G. R. No. 145851, Licaros v. Sandiganbayan.
48. Criminal Cases Nos. 9812-9967, People v. Corazon Gammad-Leaño, involving 156 cases.
49. Rollo, p. 56.
50. See Semestral Inventory of Pending Cases, for the period January to July, 2001, Sandiganbayan First Division, dated August 24, 2001, submitted to the Office of the Court Administrator by Estella Teresita C. Rosete, Executive Clerk of Court, First Division, Sandiganbayan.
51. As of December 21, 2000.
52. Memorandum for Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Rollo, pp. 61-104.
53. Cf: Re: Request of Judge Masamayor, RTC-Br. 52, Talibon, Bohol, For Extension of Time to Decide Civil Case No. 0020 and Criminal Case No. 98-384, 316 SCRA 219 (1999); Bernardo v. Fabros, 366 Phil. 485 (1999).
54. In a Memorandum signed by Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. addressed to Justice (Ret.) Pedro A. Ramirez, OCA Consultant.
55. Rollo, pp. 489-498.
56. Compliance Report of Justice Ramirez, Rollo, pp. 341-354, at pp. 342-348. Justice Catalino R. Castaneda, Jr. joined tic Sandiganbayan on September 24, 1997.
*** The case assignments of Justice Badoy, Jr. were all transferred to Justice Villaruz when Justice Badoy, Jr. transferred to the Third Division. The report of the Sandiganbayan with respect case assignments is dated September 30, 2001 (See Annex "E").
57. Dated June 29, 1994.
58. A(2) a.-c., Administrative Circular 10-94.
59. Resolution of the Court En Banc, Rollo, pp. 19-21, at p. 20.
60. Rivera v. Lamorena, 345 Phil. 880, 883 (1997).
61. Cueva V. Villanueva, 365 Phil. 1, 10 (1999).
62. Report on the Judicial Audit in RTC, Br. 27, Lapu-lapu City, 352 Phil. 223, 232 (1998). Sta. Ana V. Arinday, Jr. 347 Phil. 671, 674 (1997).
63. Bolalin v. Occiano, 334 Phil. 178 (19970.
64. Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in RTC, Branches 29 and 59, Toledo City, 354 Phil. 8 (1998); Abarquez v. Rebosura, 349 Phil. 24, 38 (1998): Longboan v. Hon. Polig, 186 SCRA 557 (1990).
65. Sta. Ana v. Arinda, Jr., supra, Note 62.
66. 333 SCRA 368, 387 (2000).
67 Memorandum to Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Rollo, pp. 61-104, at pp. 88, 93.
68. Compliance Report of Justice Ramirez, Rollo, pp. 341-354 at pp. 349-353.
69. G.R. No. 145851, Licaros v. Sandiganbayan, filed on November 23, 2000.
70. 370 Phil. 287 (1999).
71. Supra, at p. 288.
72. Article VIII, Sec. 15 (2), Constitution.
73. Supreme Court Circulars, Orders and Resolutions, October 1999 ed., pp. 144-145.
74. Delay is reprobated in law (Blacks Law Dictionary, 4th Edition, 1951, West Publishing Co., p. 1160.
75. Rivera v. Lamorena, 345 Phil. 880, 883 (1997).
76. Sabado V. Cajigal 219 SCRA 800 (1993); Casia v. Gestopa, Jr., 371 Phil. 131 (1999); Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in RTC, Brs. 29, 56 and 57, Libmanan, Camarines Sur, 316 SCRA 272 (1999); Re: Cases Left Undecided by Judge Narciso M. Bumanglag, Jr., 365 Phil. 492 (1999); Re: report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Br. 68, Camiling, Tarlac, 364 Phil. 530 (1999); Bernardo v. Fabros, 366 Phil. 485 (1999); Louis Vuitton S. A. v. Villanueva, 216 SCRA 121 (1992); Imposed in a case where there was failure to decide a case despite the lapse of years from its submission (Lambino v. de Vera, 341 Phil. 62, 67 (1997).
77. Supra, Note 61, at p. 303-304.
78. Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Dingle Duenas, Iloilo, 345 Phil. 884 (1997).
79. Supra, Note 78.
80. As of December 21, 2000.
81. Supra, Note 14, Rollo, p. 56.
82. As of November 16, 2001. Sec Compliance Report, dated November 16, 2001, of Justice Ramirez.
83. Compliance Report of Justice Ramirez, Rollo, pp. 341-354, at p. 354.
84. According to the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division Clerk of Court, a motion for reconsideration in the case of People V. Bienvenido Tan (Crim. Case No. 20685) submitted on May 4, 2001, has also remained unsolved. Another instance of violation of the thirty day reglementary period for resolving motions for reconsideration.
85. Supra, pp. 17-18 of this resolution.
86. On December 08, 2000, Presiding Justice Garchitorena decided a single consolidated case of 156 components, Crim. Cases Nos. 9812 to 9967, for estafa through falsification of public documents.
87. R. A. No. 7975, Section 4.