Alcaraz v. Lindo : AM MTJ-04-1539 : April 14, 2004 : J. Ynares-Santiago
: First Division : Decision
[A.M. NO. MTJ-04-1539.
April 14, 2004]
ELENA R. ALCARAZ,
Complainant, v. JUDGE FRANCISCO S.
LINDO, Metropolitan Trial Court of Malabon, Branch 55,
D E C I S I O N
Judges are the visible representations of law and justice.
They ought to be embodiments of competence,
integrity and independence.
particular, judges are frontline officers in the administration of
It is therefore essential that
they live up to the high standards demanded by the Code of Judicial
To be able to render
substantial justice and to maintain public confidence in the legal system, they
are expected to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and
requires no less.1 cralawred
Complainant Elena Alcaraz was one of the defendants in Civil Case
No. 1782-98, an action for sum of money entitled, Maria Aurora C. Santos,
Plaintiff v. Rufina Eligio, Elena Alcaraz & her husband, Raustino C.
Alcaraz, and Conchita Ocampo & her husband, Rodolfo Ocampo, Defendants.
The case was filed on January 9, 1998 before the Metropolitan Trial Court of
Malabon and raffled to Branch 55, presided by respondent Judge Francisco S.
Plaintiff therein, Atty. Ma.
Aurora C. Santos, sought the collection of the unpaid obligation of defendants
under the promissory note they executed in her favor.2 cralawred
Defendant Eligio filed a motion to dismiss the complaint,3 which was denied by respondent judge in an Order dated February 13, 1998.4 cralawred
On June 5, 1998, respondent judge, acting on an Omnibus Motion
filed by plaintiff,5 issued an
Order declaring the Alcaraz spouses and the Ocampo spouses in default for
failure to file their respective answers.6 Subsequently, defendant Eligio was likewise declared in default for failure to
Santos was allowed to present her evidence ex-parte.7 cralawred
On October 15, 1998, judgment by default was rendered against
defendants, ordering them, jointly and severally, to pay the unpaid obligation
under the promissory note with interest and penalty thereon, attorneys fees
and liquidated damages.8 cralawred
On February 19, 1999, defendant Elena Alcaraz filed a Motion for
Annulment of Decision.9 The Motion was denied by respondent judge in an Order dated June 22, 1999.10 cralawred
Hence, on July 22, 1999, Elena Alcaraz instituted the instant
petition for disbarment against respondent judge.She alleged that she was not furnished a copy of the Order dated
June 5, 1998 declaring her and the other defendants in default, or of the Order
declaring the other defendant, Rufina Eligio, in default; that respondent
judge, in rendering the judgment by default, did not diligently ascertain the
facts; and that respondent judge committed abuse of discretion when he denied
complainants Motion for Annulment of Decision on the basis only of the
arguments in the opposition filed by plaintiff Santos.
When required to comment, respondent judge alleged that
complainants Motion for Annulment of Decision was not properly verified and
was not accompanied by an affidavit showing fraud, accident, mistake and
excusable negligence; that notwithstanding these defects, he took cognizance of
the Motion, set it for hearing and resolved the same; that he denied the Motion
because the allegations therein were false.
He reminded complainant that she still had three days to appeal the
decision, but no appeal was filed.
further averred that his judgment was rendered based on substantial evidence
and the monetary awards therein were in accordance with the contracts between
the parties.11 cralawred
In her Reply,12 complainant asserted that she was not furnished copies of the following
pleadings and court orders:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
(a) The Motion to Dismiss filed by defendant
(b) The Order denying the said motion;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
(c) The Omnibus Motion of the plaintiff
praying that the defendants (except Rufina Eligio) be declared in default:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
(d) The Order declaring four of the
defendants, including the complainant, in default;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
(e) The Motion to declare Eligio in default;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
(f) The documentary exhibits of the plaintiff
consisting of the promissory notes, summary of payments and the demand letter;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
(g) The withdrawal of the appearance of Atty.
Mario M. Villegas as counsel for the defendants:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
(h) The Order granting the said withdrawal and
directing the defendants to hire the services of a new counsel; andcralawlibrary
(i) The Motion to Admit Opposition with the
Opposition attached filed by the plaintiff to oppose the Motion for Annulment
The case was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator
for evaluation, report and recommendation.
On March 28, 2000, Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo recommended
that respondent judge be fined in the amount of P3,000.00 for failure to comply
with Rule 9, Sections 3 (a) and 3(b) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, with
a warning that the repetition of the same offense shall merit a stiffer
We agree with the recommendation that respondent judge be fined
except as to the amount of fine to be imposed.
For failure to comply with Rule 9, Sections 3 (a) and 3(b) of the 1997
Rules of Civil Procedure, respondent judge should be fined in the amount of
Rule 9, Section 3 (a) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure
(a) Effect of order of
A party in default shall
be entitled to notice of subsequent proceedings but shall not take part in the
It is evident from the foregoing rule that even when a defendant
is already declared in default, he is entitled to notice of subsequent proceedings.14 Complainants assertion that she was not furnished, not only with the order of
default, but the subsequent orders of the respondent judge in Civil Case No.
1782-98, and the respondents failure to controvert this allegations, leaves us
with no other conclusion other than that respondent judge was remiss in his
duty to observe the Rules.
In his Comment, respondent judge merely averred that complainant
was served summons, that she filed her answer, that the plaintiff filed a motion
to declare them in default, and that he issued the order declaring four of the
defendants in default on June 5, 1998.
He said nothing about furnishing complainant with copies of the order of
default and of the subsequent orders.
Silence is admission if there was a chance to deny, especially if it
constitutes one of the principal charges against the respondent.15 cralawred
Respondents failure to comply with the elementary dictates of
procedural rules constitutes a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
The Code is explicit in its mandate that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
A judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional
Competence is the mark of a good judge.Having accepted the exalted position of a judge, whereby he
judges his own fellowmen, the judge owes it to the public who depend on him, and to the dignity of the court he sits in, to be proficient in the law.17 cralawred
Anent the correctness of respondent Judges decision and denial
of complainants Motion for Annulment of Decision, being essentially judicial
in character, the proper action that complainant should have taken was an
appeal to the Regional Trial Court.
administrative complaint is not the appropriate remedy for every act of a judge
deemed aberrant or irregular where a judicial remedy exists and is available.18 cralawred
We reiterate that judges are duty bound to be faithful to the law
and to maintain professional competence at all times.Their role in the administration of justice requires a continuous
study of the law, lest public confidence in the judiciary be eroded by
incompetence and irresponsible conduct.19 cralawred
WHEREFORE, Respondent Judge Francisco S. Lindo is found to
have violated Rule 3.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and is FINED FIVE
THOUSAND PESOS (P5,000.00), and is warned that a repetition of this or similar
acts will be dealt with more severely.
Davide, Jr., C.J.,
(Chairman), Panganiban, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure Annotated, 2000 edition, p. 136.
Suller, A.M. No. MTJ-94-936, 6 November 1995, 249 SCRA 665.
Code of Judicial Conduct.
Legal and Judicial Ethics, 1994 edition, p. 349, citing Malcolm, Legal and
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