A judicial audit and physical inventory were conducted in the Regional Trial Court of Lucena City, Branches 53 and 54, between October 27 and 30, 1997. After the audit, it was discovered that Branch 53 has 26 cases submitted for decision that have not yet been decided despite the lapse of the 90-day reglementary period, 8 cases that were appealed from lower courts which have remained undecided beyond the reglementary period, 3 criminal cases set for promulgation, 9 cases with pending motions/incidents which could determine their final termination but remain unresolved beyond the reglementary period and 18 cases with other pending motions/incidents that remain unresolved beyond the reglementary period. As for Branch 54, the audit team found that there were 13 cases submitted for decision that have remained undecided despite the lapse of the 90-day reglementary period, 3 undecided cases that were appealed from lower courts which were deemed submitted for decision and were already beyond the reglementary period, 2 criminal cases set for promulgation and 11 cases with pending motions/incidents which could determine their final termination but which have remained unresolved beyond the reglementary period. The judge responsible for deciding, resolving and promulgating the abovementioned cases is respondent Judge Guillermo R. Andaya. Judge Andaya is the presiding judge of Branch 53 and was, for a time, the acting presiding judge of Branch 54.
In a resolution dated March 24, 1998, the Court en banc gave Judge Andaya four months from notice to decide, resolve and promulgate all the aforesaid pending cases. The Court also required him to explain in writing within ten days why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for his failure to decide and resolve said cases within the prescribed period, and for certifying in his Certificate of Service for the month of September 1997, that all cases submitted for decision and motions for resolutions have been determined by him. In the meantime, Judge Andaya’s salary was withheld and he was ordered not to try cases in his sala in order to devote his time in complying with the Court’s directive.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In a letter dated May 18, 1998, Judge Andaya manifested his regrets for not deciding his cases and resolving his motions within the prescribed period owing, to some extent, in having to preside over two branches and being designated to try cases of heinous crimes. Judge Andaya also asked for leniency for the error he committed in his Certificate of Service for September 1997.
In a follow-up audit conducted on July 29, 1999, it was reported that while Judge Andaya was able to dispose of some of his cases, there still remained 19 undecided cases and 14 unresolved motions for Branch 53. For Branch 54, 16 cases submitted for decisions and 1 motion remained pending. In addition, decisions in 2 criminal cases still awaited promulgation. Thus, in a resolution dated November 22, 1999, Judge Andaya was directed immediately to decide, resolve and promulgate the pending cases. In another resolution dated March 29, 2000, based on the recommendation of then Court Administrator, Justice Alfredo Benipayo, Judge Andaya was directed to submit within a non-extendible period of ten days from notice a comprehensive report of the cases he has decided, resolved and promulgated.
In compliance with the March 29, 2000 resolution, Judge Andaya submitted a report dated April 26, 2000. The report was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation, report and recommendation. In his report, the Court Administrator found that there still remained 24 undecided cases, 8 unresolved motions and 2 criminal cases that have not been reported if they have been promulgated. Thus, in a resolution dated October 2, 2000, the Court directed Judge Andaya to render within sixty days from notice the decisions and the resolutions in the remaining cases. Judge Andaya was also directed immediately to report on whether or not the two criminal cases have been promulgated.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In a letter dated November 14, 2000, Judge Andaya reported on the promulgation of the two criminal cases. However, after the lapse of the sixty-day period, Judge Andaya failed to report on whether he has rendered his decisions on the 24 cases or resolved the 8 pending motions. Consequently, the Court issued a resolution dated March 5, 2001 directing Judge Andaya to decide his 24 cases within sixty days from notice and, within one month from notice, to resolve his pending motions and to submit copies of the decisions and resolutions to the Office of the Court Administrator. Judge Andaya received the resolution on March 27, 2001. In a letter dated May 28, 2001, two days after the expiration of the 60-day period, Judge Andaya requested an extension of time until June 20, 2001 to decide the cases due to the death of his mother which necessitated him to be in Ilocos Norte for her burial. He, however, submitted copies of his resolutions on the 8 pending motions. The request was followed by two other requests for extension, the last one praying that he be given until July 14, 2001 to submit his complete report on the matter. On July 11, 2001, Judge Andaya submitted copies of his decisions pertaining to the rest of the undecided cases.
In a resolution dated February 18, 2002, the Court docketed the matter as an administrative complaint against Judge Andaya entitled "Re: Failure of Judge Guillermo R. Andaya to decide cases within the reglementary period and for submitting falsified Certificate of Service for September 1997." The same resolution required Judge Andaya to Manifest within ten days from notice if he is willing to submit the case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings filed, authorized Judge Andaya to resume his duties as presiding judge of Branch 53, and authorized the release of all of Judge Andaya’s salaries and allowances.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In a letter dated March 21, 2002, Judge Andaya manifested his willingness to submit his case for resolution, with a plea for kindness.
For his failure to decide cases and resolve motions within the mandatory period and for certifying in his Certificate of Service for September 1997 that all cases submitted for decision and motions for resolution have been determined and decided by him, the Office of the Court Administrator recommended that Judge Andaya be fined in the amount of P20,000.
After a thorough review of the records, the Court finds such penalty commensurate to the actuation of respondent Judge.
Regrettably, Judge Andaya did not interpose any defense to the charge of falsification of Certificate of Service and merely implored the Court for leniency to the error he committed. As the presiding magistrates of the courts, judges are duty bound scrupulously to adhere to, and hold sacred, the tenets of the profession of law. They must be reminded that a certificate of service is not merely a means to receive one’s salary. 1 It is part of the sacred task of dispensing justice. A judge must at all times be an embodiment of competence, integrity, probity and independence, and not allow himself to be an instrument of fraud. 2
As for the delay in the disposition of his cases, the excuses proffered by Judge Andaya, that he was presiding over two branches and was designated to try heinous crimes cases, do not exempt him from administrative liability. A total of 50 undecided cases, 38 unresolved motions and 5 decisions were noted during the judicial audit. From the time these pending matters were discovered, it took more than two and a half years for Judge Andaya properly to dispose of them. This clearly demonstrates how grossly ineffectual he was in discharging his judicial functions. The Court cannot tolerate such inefficiency in the administration of justice. Rule 3.05 of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct admonishes all judges to dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the period fixed by law. It is the duty of a judge to take note of the cases submitted for his decision and to see to it that the same are decided within the 90-day period fixed by law. 3 If it is true that a heavy caseload prevented him from disposing cases within the period prescribed by law, Judge Andaya should have requested the Court for reasonable extensions of time to decide the cases involved. 4
A judge who fails to decide his cases within the reglementary period and continues to collect his salaries upon his certification that he has no pending matters to resolve, transgresses the constitutional right of the people to the speedy disposition of their cases. Under A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, amending Rule 140 on the Discipline of Justices and Judges, undue delay in rendering a decision or order and making untruthful statements in the Certificate of Service are both categorized as less serious charges and punishable by suspension without salary and other benefits for not less than one month nor more than three months or a fine of more than P10,000 but not exceeding P20,000. 5 Taking into consideration the number of pending incidents and the length of time it took to dispose of the case, despite repeated directives from this Court to do so, and the fact that Judge Andaya is found guilty of two infractions, the penalty of Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000) should be imposed.
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, respondent Judge Andaya is hereby FINED in the amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000), with a WARNING that a repetition of any or both infractions shall be dealt with more severely.
Davide, Jr., C.J.
, Vitug, Ynares-Santiago and Carpio, JJ.
1. Bolalin v. Occiano, 266 SCRA 203 (1997).
2. Re: Judge Fernando P. Agdamag, 254 SCRA 644 (1996).
3. Saylo v. Rojo, 330 SCRA 243 (2000).
4. Re: Judicial Audit Report Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 17, Kidapawan City, A.M. 02-8-471-RTC, March 14, 2003.
5. Sections 9 and 11.