Unreasonable delays in resolving pending cases, motions or other incidents diminish public trust in the judiciary. They constitute less serious charges that are administratively sanctionable under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The Case and the Facts
This administrative case stems from a Complaint 1 filed by Jose B. Custodio with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on August 23, 2000. In the Complaint, Judge Jesus V. Quitain of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City (Branch 15) was charged with delay in resolving incidents relative to Criminal Case No. 37921-96 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Jose B. Custodio."cralaw virtua1aw library
The factual antecedents are summarized by the OCA in this wise:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Petitioner, who is the accused in the aforecited criminal case, alleges that from the time the case of rape was filed against him in late 1996, he filed several motions for inhibitions which were all denied by respondent judge despite the very patent and serious grounds. On 28 January 1999, he filed a final motion for compulsory inhibition dated 26 January 1999. This was likewise denied per Order dated 11 June 1999 or after almost five (5) months from filing. In connection with the said denial of the final motion for inhibition, he filed the following, to wit: a) motion for reconsideration/clarification dated 16 July 1999; b) urgent motion to resolve pending motion for reconsideration/clarification dated 10 August 1999; c) supplemental grounds for pending final motion for inhibition dated 26 January 1999; d) motion to resolve inhibition incident with additional grounds dated 17 January 2000; and e) second motion to resolve long pending motion for inhibition with additional newly discovered ground dated 5 April 2000.
"Petitioner claims that for about 1 year and 7 months respondent unlawfully, unjustly, wrongfully, deliberately and maliciously failed to render resolution of the said motion for inhibition in violation of the constitutional right of the accused to speedy trial and despite respondent having issued two orders dated 19 November 1999 and 28 January 2000 declaring said motion for inhibition as submitted for resolution." 2
In his Comment 3 dated November 10, 2000, respondent denied having maliciously delayed the resolution of complainant’s Motion for Inhibition. 4 He explained thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . . The prosecution filed on February 8, 1999 a Motion to Strike Out Final Motion for Inhibition ten days after the said motion was filed. On February 9, 1999 the accused testified but the trial was stopped because the defense objected to the participation of the private prosecutor. The Court overruled the objection and the accused was given up to March 5, 1999 to file his Memorandum of Authorities regarding the inhibition.
"On February 26, 1999, Accused
filed his Memorandum. The public prosecutor then filed a motion that it be given up to March 18, 1999 to answer the motion. The Court gave the prosecution up to March 23, 1999 to file its pleading.
"On March 24, 1999, the prosecutor submitted its Comment. [O]n March 26, 1999, the accused filed a Motion to File Reply to prosecution’s [C]omment and asked that it be given fifteen (15) days from March 24, 1999 to file a rejoinder which the Court granted the same day. However, on April 8, 1999, the accused filed a second extension of time to file a reply to the prosecution’s comment. This was granted and accused was given ten (10) days or up to April 18, 1999 to file his reply. On April 20, 1999, the accused submitted his [R]eply to the prosecution’s [C]omment." 5
Finally, respondent claimed that his Order 6 denying complainant’s Final Motion for Inhibition was rendered only 52 days after the last pleading was filed, and not after 1 year and 7 months as alleged by complainant.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Findings and Recommendation of the OCA
In its Report 7 dated August 21, 2002, the OCA noted that complainant had filed a Petition for Mandamus before the Court of Appeals (CA). He had sought therein to compel respondent to act on the pending Motion for Reconsideration 8 of the Order denying the Final Motion for Inhibition. In its October 15, 2001 Decision, 9 the CA 10 ruled in favor of complainant. We reproduce the pertinent findings:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"The motion for reconsideration of RESPONDENT JUDGE’s June 11, 1999 Order, denying CUSTODIO’s motion for inhibition, had been submitted for resolution as early as July 23, 1999. To date, RESPONDENT JUDGE has not resolved said pending incident, in violation of the clear mandate of Section 4, Rule 37 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure that ‘a motion for new trial or reconsideration shall be resolved within thirty (30) days from the time it is submitted for resolution.’ It bears noting that no motion for extension of the foregoing period was sought by RESPONDENT JUDGE with the Supreme Court, and despite CUSTODIO’s repeated motion for resolution, his motion for reconsideration has remained pending and unresolved. . . .." 11
Citing the above CA pronouncements, the OCA recommended that respondent be fined P5,000, with a warning that the commission of the same or a similar act in the future would be dealt with more severely.
The Court’s Ruling
We agree with the OCA’s finding that respondent judge is guilty of unreasonable delay. However, we modify the penalty in accordance with Rule 140 of the Rules of Court.
Respondent’s Administrative Liability
The administration of justice is a sacred task. Verily, judges are expected to be embodiments of competence, integrity, and independence, 12 who will administer justice impartially and without delay. 13 Anything less than these exacting standards would undermine the people’s faith in the judiciary and bring it into disrepute.
In the present case, complainant alleges that respondent failed to act on the Final Motion for Inhibition from the time it was submitted on January 28, 1999 up to the time this case was filed on August 23, 2000. However, the records show that respondent already ruled on the Final Motion for Inhibition when he denied it on June 11, 1999.
What remained pending, though, was the Motion for Reconsideration (MR) of the Order 14 of denial, which complainant had filed on July 19, 1999. Respondent issued two Orders dated November 19, 1999 15 and January 28, 2000, 16 declaring that the MR was deemed submitted for decision. However, he failed to act on it, until the appellate court granted complainant’s Petition for Mandamus on October 15, 2001.
Delay in the administration of justice is a common cause of complaints against the judiciary. It is the sworn duty of judges to dispose of the court’s business promptly and to decide cases within the required periods. 17 If, for good and valid reasons, they cannot resolve pending cases, motions or other incidents within the reglementary period, we stress that they should file a request for extension with this Court. Otherwise, they shall be sanctioned under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court.
Moreover, the immediate resolution of the pending Motion in Criminal Case No. 37921-96 was essential to the continuation of the trial of the case. Respondent should have realized that delay in deciding complainant’s Motion for Reconsideration would interrupt the course of the trial and diminish the parties’ right to a speedy disposition of their case. Such delay was therefore unwarranted, as it would only inflame distrust and discontent in the judiciary as a whole.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Rule 37 of the Rules of Court
Contrary to the justification given by the OCA and the CA, Section 4 of Rule 37 of the Rules of Court 18 does not provide for the determination of the period of time within which the subject Motion for Reconsideration must be resolved.
Rule 37 pertains to the filing of a motion for a new trial or of a motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final order that has decided a case on its merits. On the other hand, an order denying a motion for inhibition, which is governed by Rule 41, is merely interlocutory and is not a judgment, as the case still stands for regular trial. Therefore, the period provided in Section 4 does not apply.
There is no specific rule providing for a definite period of time within which to resolve a motion for reconsideration of an order denying inhibition. However, we emphasize that all presiding judges must endeavor to act promptly on all motions and interlocutory matters pending before their courts 19 within the 90-day period provided in the Constitution, 20 unless the law requires a lesser period.
Under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, undue delay in rendering a decision or an order or in transmitting the records of a case constitutes a less serious charge. It is penalized with suspension without pay for not less than 1 month or more than 3 months, or a fine of more than P10,000 but not exceeding P20,000.
WHEREFORE, Respondent Judge Jesus V. Quitain of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City (Branch 15) is found guilty of undue delay in resolving a motion, for which he is FINED P10,100, with a WARNING that the commission of the same or a similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Puno, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona and Carpio Morales, JJ.
1. Rollo, pp. 1–9. The Complaint was erroneously entitled "Petition."cralaw virtua1aw library
2. OCA Report dated August 21, 2002, p. 1; rollo, p. 296.
3. Rollo, pp. 74–75.
4. Annex "B" of Complaint; rollo, pp. 35–44.
5. Respondent’s Comment, p. 2; id., p. 75.
6. Rollo, p. 114.
7. Id., pp. 296–299. Signed by Deputy Court Administrator Christopher O. Lock and approved by Court Administrator Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.
8. Annex "B-2" of Complaint; rollo, pp. 49–51.
9. Id., pp. 283–295.
10. Special Third Division. Penned by Justice Eriberto U. Rosario Jr. and concurred in by Justices Buenaventura J. Guerrero (Division chairman) and Bienvenido L. Reyes (member).
11. CA Decision, pp. 7–8; rollo, pp. 289–290.
12. Canon 1 of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
13. Id., Rule 1.02.
14. Rollo, pp. 49–51.
15. Id., p. 70.
16. Id., p. 71.
17. Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
18. "SECTION 4. Resolution of motion. — A motion for new trial or reconsideration shall be resolved within thirty (30) days from the time it is submitted for resolution."cralaw virtua1aw library
19. Paragraph 6.1 of Administrative Circular No. 1 dated January 28, 1988.
20. Under Article VIII, Section 15:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"SEC. 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.
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