Pangan v. Ganay : AM RTJ-04-1887 : December 9, 2004 : J. Callejo Sr :
Second Division : Decision
[A.M. NO. RTJ-04-1887. December 9, 2004]
JUDGE CAROLINE B. PANGAN,
CLIFTON U. GANAY and JUDGE SAMUEL R. MARTIRES, Regional Trial Court, Branches
31 and 32, respectively, Agoo, La Union, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
The instant administrative case has its roots in the Comment
dated May 10, 2002
of Judge Caroline B. Pangan, Municipal Trial Court, Rosario, La Union, in A.M. No. OCA-IPI No.
02-1206-MTJ,1 where the latter made allegations of gross ignorance of the law, incompetence,
abuse of authority and dereliction of duty against Judge Clifton U. Ganay,
Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Agoo, La Union,
Branch 31, and Judge Samuel R. Martires, RTC, Agoo, La Union,
Branch 32. It was alleged therein that the respondents committed the following:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
A. The Hon. JUDGE CLIFTON
GANAY should be asked to explain why, on the basis of an UNAPPROVED
RECOMMENDATION by an Assistant Provincial Prosecutor:
1. he entertained a
Special Proceedings of doubtful pedigree and intervened during the preliminary
investigation stage of the investigation of a heinous crime;
2. and hastily and
prematurely ordered the release of the suspect even if an officer duly mandated
by law had already found probable cause and has issued a warrant for the arrest
of said suspect and even if the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor was still
reviewing the case pursuant to law;
3. and he issued the
said order without even following the basic principles of due process;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
All of which acts are in clear violation of the new Revised Rules
on Criminal Procedure;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
That to allow HON. JUDGE CLIFTON U. GANAY to get away with what he
did, would be to open the doors to other Judges of the Regional Trial Courts to
precipitately and prematurely intervene and influence the preliminary
investigation and review of criminal cases under the guise of a Special
c. The HON. JUDGE SAMUEL MARTIREZ (sic) should be asked to explain why:
1. Despite the fact
that a valid Information has been filed in his court for the heinous crime of
MURDER, with NO BAIL recommended against JOEL TOTO ABRIL, he DID NOT ISSUE
A WARRANT FOR HIS ARREST and as a result of which the said accused continues to
remain at large;
2. Why, despite the
filing of a valid Information for MURDER, with NO BAIL recommended, during the
arraignment of the accused JOEL TOTO ABRIL on July 3, 2001 and even with the urgings of the
prosecution that the said accused be committed, he did not order the arrest,
detention and commitment of the said accused.
All of which acts are in violation of the clear provisions of the
The complainant alleged that she handled the preliminary
investigation of the complaint for murder filed against Joel Abril, docketed as
Criminal Case No. 5584. After searching questions were asked, she found
probable cause for the filing of the offense charged and directed the issuance
of a warrant of arrest so as not to frustrate the ends of justice. Abril then
filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to quash the warrant of arrest,
which the complainant Judge denied. The case was, thereafter, transmitted to
the Provincial Prosecutor.On February 29, 2000,
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Pablo Lachica issued a Resolution recommending
the dismissal of the case for alleged lack of merit.
Due to the conflicting recommendations of the complainant and
Prosecutor Lachica, Provincial Prosecutor Rogelio Hipol created a three-man
panel to reinvestigate the case composed of 1st Assistant Prosecutor
Julio B. Tecan and 3rd Assistant Prosecutors Oscar B. Corpuz and Georgina D. Hidalgo.
The panel sustained the findings of probable cause made by the complainant
Judge and resolved to indict Abril. An Information for murder was then filed on
August 23, 2000
before the sala of respondent Judge
Ganay docketed as Criminal Case No. A-3691.
On July 3, 2001, Abril appeared for arraignment before the sala of respondent Judge Martires. However, the latter did not issue any warrant
of arrest despite the charge of murder against Abril. Prosecutor Lachica then
filed an Urgent Motion to Dismiss on the ground of lack of evidence, but failed
to disclose that a review of the case was being conducted by the Office of the
Abril filed a petition, which was later amended, before the sala
of respondent Judge Ganay entitled Re: Petition to Quash the Warrant of Arrest
and/or for the Release of the Respondent from Detention, Joel Toto Abril v. People of the Philippines,
docketed as Special Proceding Case No. A-920. Respondent Judge Ganay granted
the amended petition and ordered the release of Abril, despite the fact that
the case was still pending review before the Provincial Prosecutor. The
complainant alleged that respondent Judge Ganay should have respected the law
and the offices tasked with the preliminary investigation and review of the
case. Thus, despite the warrant of
arrest issued by the complainant Judge, Abril was released prior to his
The complainant averred that she was neither impleaded nor
notified in the said case, even though she was the one who issued the assailed
warrant of arrest; the only respondent in the said case was the Office of the
Prosecutor, Agoo, La Union, represented by Prosecutor Lachica. She further
contended that respondent Judge Ganay hastily issued the order for the release
of Abril, considering that the amended petition was filed only on April 11, 2000; the hearing
was thereafter conducted the very next day, while the Order for the release of
Abril was issued on April
13, 2000. The complainant contended that respondent Judge Ganay
should have informed Abril that his remedy lies with the Office of the
Provincial Prosecutor, pursuant to Section 5, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure, a petition for certiorari or prohibition, but not a special
proceeding as the latter was not among the allowable special proceedings in the
In his Comment dated February 10, 2003, respondent Judge Ganay denied the
allegations against him. He averred that
Abril was arrested by virtue of an arrest warrant issued by the complainant
Judge on January 10, 2000. Upon his failure to have the said warrant quashed
with the issuing court, Abril filed a petition in the sala of respondent Judge Ganay on April 11, 2000, which was captioned as
special proceeding. Respondent Judge Ganay averred that the quashal of the
warrant of arrest issued on January
10, 2000 was specifically prayed for in the petition. The respondent further narrated, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
On April 13,
2000, he [Basconcillo] appeared in Court. The Trial Prosecutor was
indecisive. Apparently Judge Pangan and Public Prosecutor Pablo Lachica (Chief
of Office, Provincial Prosecutors Office, Agoo, La Union) were diametrically
opposed to each other in their legal positions regarding the case under
preliminary investigation, the Public Prosecutor [LACHICA] in favor of
DISMISSING the case for lack of evidence while Judge Pangan, acting as a
subalterm of the Prosecution, finding probable cause to hold Joel Toto Abril
Eventually, these warring positions would be resolved by the
Provincial Prosecutor, when he created a panel of three (3) public prosecutors
to resolve them, one way or the other.
BUT IN THE MEANWHILE[,] the lot of Joel Toto Abril was miserable
because he remained in detention in the slammer.
This explains why he (thru counsel) brought his misery to Branch
31, RTC, under Judge Ganay by petitioning the Court for the quashal of the
questionable warrant of arrest which Judge Pangan issued, by virtue of which
Abril was arrested.3 cralawred
Thereafter, respondent Judge Ganay issued an Order4 granting the petition on April 13, 2000, on the ground, among others, that the
warrant ordering his arrest was issued hastily and was thus illegal.
Respondent Judge Ganay contended that not all judicial actions
are proper subjects of an administrative complaint; otherwise, there will be
no Judge left to man the ramparts of our Temples of Justice.5 He posited that the complainant Judge panicked when Abril filed a complaint
against her in connection with the arrest warrant she issued. The respondent
maintained that the warrant the complainant Judge issued was illegal and that
he had to act upon it speedily.
In his Comment dated March 25, 2003, respondent Judge Martires prayed that the
charge against him be dismissed for utter lack of merit. He narrated the events
that led to the instant administrative case, as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
1. On January
10, 2000, the following incidents transpired, thus:
a. A Criminal
Complaint for Murder dated January
10, 2000 was filed on January 10, 2000 by the NBI Special Investigator against
Joel Toto Abril before the Municipal Trial Court of Rosario.
b. On that same day
( January 10, 2000),
Judge Pangan conducted the preliminary inquiry.
c. Then, by her
Order of January 10, 2000,
Judge Pangan ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Correspondingly, a
warrant of arrest of even date was issued.
d. At 3:35 in the afternoon of January 10, 2000, the NBI
arrested the accused Joel Abril per its 1st Indorsement dated January 10, 2000 and the
Personal Data Sheet of the accused.
e. By the Commitment
Order dated January 10, 2000
of Judge Pangan, the accused was committed to the BJMP of Agoo, La Union.
2.On January 12, 2000, the accused through
his counsel Atty. Hernando Pangasinan, filed a Motion To Quash Criminal
Complaint and Warrant of Arrest. The accused argued that the criminal complaint
did not state the name of the victim.
3. On that same day, January 12, 2000, but after the accused filed the
aforementioned motion to quash, as shown by the Registry Receipts, the NBI filed
a Motion to Admit Amended Complaint.
4. The following day, by the Order of January 13, 2000, Judge Pangan denied the
motion to quash and admitted the amended criminal complaint.
5. On January
24, 2000, the accused through Atty. Pablo Olarte, filed a Motion
for Reconsideration to the Order of January 13, 2000 and/or Motion to Recall Warrant of
6. On February
3, 2000, the Preliminary Investigation started.
7. Finding the existence of probable cause against the accused for
the crime of murder, Judge Pangan in her Resolution of February 10, 2000,
DENIED the motion for reconsideration and ordered that the records of the case
be forwarded to the Provincial Prosecutor for appropriate action.
8. The Panel of Assistant Provincial Prosecutors, on August 23, 2000, filed the
Information dated June 1,
2000, and which was docketed as Criminal Case No. A-3691. The same
was raffled to Branch 32 on August
9. On October
10, 2000, the private complainant Teodorico Ocol filed a Motion to
Transfer Case to Branch 31 dated October 2, 2000, alleging, among others, that he has
executed an affidavit of desistance.
10. Simultaneously, the private complainant, also on October 10, 2000, filed a
Motion to Dismiss. Attached to the Motion to Dismiss was his Affidavit of
11. On November
9, 2000, Atty. Felimon Asperin entered his appearance as counsel
for the accused and moved that the motion to dismiss be set for hearing.
12. By the Order of the Court of November 9, 2000, the hearing on
the Motion to Dismiss was set on November 14, 2000.
13. Of the incidents during the hearing of November 14, 2000 the Order of the
Court of even date will show[.] The accused and his counsels appeared. The
Public Prosecutor informed the Court that the accused filed a Petition for Review before the Department of Justice (or DOJ, for brevity). Upon agreement
of the parties, the arraignment of the accused was reset to December 5, 2000.
14. On December
5, 2000, the accused objected that he be arraigned and opposed the
motion to dismiss in view of the Petition for Review before the DOJ. However,
counsel for the accused manifested that they have also filed a motion to
withdraw Petition for Review but which has not yet been acted upon by the DOJ.
The hearing was reset to December
15. However, the hearings scheduled on December 13, 2000 and January 22, 2001 were
cancelled in view of the unresolved motion to withdraw before the DOJ.
16. By the Order of February 21, 2001, the Court directed the DOJ to
immediately resolve the motion of the accused[;] after all, it was merely a
withdrawal of his appeal.
17. On June 5,
2001, the Court received a copy of DOJs Resolution dated May 28, 2001 granting the
withdrawal of the appeal.
18. By the Notice of Hearing dated June 21, 2001, the arraignment of the accused
was set on July 3, 2001.
The accused was arraigned on that day.
19. Of matters taken up after the arraignment on July 3, 2000 was the
manifestation of Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Pablo Lachica that the accused be
committed to the Provincial Jail and that the case be dismissed. Likewise, the
prosecutor presented the private complainant to testify on his motion to
dismiss and affidavit of desistance. The continuation of hearing was scheduled
on October 18, 2001.
20. On October
18, 2001, the hearing was reset to October 24, 2001. The court directed the
issuance of a subpoena to the alleged eyewitness Victoria Alabaso.
21. Victoria Alabaso appeared on October 24, 2001 but was not presented by the
prosecution. Instead, the motion to dismiss was deemed submitted for
22. On March
12, 2002, Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Pablo Lachica filed an Urgent
Motion To Dismiss.
23. After hearing the Motion To Dismiss on March 15, 2002, the same was referred
by the Court to the Provincial Prosecutor for comments.
24. On May 7,
2002, the Provincial Prosecutor filed his comments to the motion to
dismiss and moved for a REINVESTIGATION. The same was granted by the Order of
the Court of June 26, 2002.6 cralawred
While he admitted that he did not issue the warrant of arrest
against Abril, respondent Judge Martires explained that he was justified in so
doing. After studying the records of the preliminary investigation, as
transmitted by the Prosecutors Office, he immediately noticed that the accused
had already been arrested. There was thus no longer a necessity to issue an
arrest warrant or commitment order in such case, as it would be a mere
superfluity. He instead scheduled the arraignment of the accused on November
Judge Martires further averred that while Criminal Case No.
A-3691 was raffled to RTC, Branch 32 as early as August 29, 2000, he was not immediately able
to schedule the arraignment of the accused. He pointed out that he had not yet then
assumed his post as presiding Judge pending his attendance to the Orientation
Seminar for newly appointed Judges which was held on October 16-20, 2000,
pursuant to A.M. No. 99-7-07-SC issued by the Supreme Court.
Anent the Order issued by Judge Ganay on April 13, 2000, Judge
Martires further explained as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
By requiring the accused to report to the Officer-in-Charge of
Branch 31 every Monday morning starting April 17, 2000 until final orders from Branch 31, the accused was in legal contemplation not at-large as Judge Pangan would want
the Honorable Court Administrator to believe. Technically and legally, the
accused was under the custody of the law. The Supreme Court in Paderanga v. Court of Appeals, 247 SCRA 741 (1995),
considered the voluntary submission by
the accused to the local chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines as being constructively
and legally under custody. This mode,
according to the High Tribunal, may be exemplified by the so-called house
arrest or, in case of military offenders, by being confined to quarters or
restricted to the military camp area.
With the Order of Judge Ganay, a legal or procedural problem was
posed. Since the Court of Judge Martires is co-equal in rank with the Court of
Judge Ganay Judge Martires, [it] cannot set aside the Order of Judge Ganay of April 13, 2000. And, as the
rules of procedure will dictate, it is only Judge Ganay or the Appellate Court
who can set aside the aforementioned Order.
So that, if it was really the prosecutions desire to have the
accused committed to jail, it should have done two things. First, by filing a
motion before Judge Ganay to set aside its Order of April 13, 2000, and secondly, after the motion
is granted to file a motion before Judge Martires to commit the accused to the
provincial jail. But the prosecution did
none of these, and Judge Martires must not suggest. Otherwise, he will be
acting as counsel for the prosecution.
Granting again for the sake of argument that the
prosecution has done what is suggested above, still Judge Martires must not
issue a commitment order, in light of the motion to dismiss filed by the
private complainant. Doing so would be premature. As dictated by the events,
the motion to dismiss must first be resolved before any decision for the
commitment of the accused is made.7 cralawred
Judge Martires thereafter charged the complainant Judge with
gross ignorance of the law, violation of Canon 10, Rules 10.01 and 10.02 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, and violation of Canon 2, Rules 2.01 and
2.04 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, relative to her issuance of the warrant
of arrest against Abril, and requested for an investigation on the matter.
In her Reply dated July 11, 2003, the complainant Judge insisted that since
Abril had been charged with murder, which is a capital offense, and having been
positively identified by an eyewitness-neighbor, a warrant of arrest should
have been issued against him. She further averred that an investigation was in
order to determine the reason for the difficulty of borrowing records in
respondent Judge Martires court. The complainant alleged that on the two
occasions that she went to Judge Martires sala
to borrow case records, she was made to wait for almost four (4) hours only to
ask permission to read the records. The complainant further alleged the
Finally, to substantiate her contention that the issuance of the
Warrant of Arrest against Joel Abril is in order, the office of the Provincial
Prosecutor, San Fernando
City, La Union, sustained
her findings and filed the Information against Joel Abril for Murder. Despite
several motions for reconsideration, to the extent of instituting another case
against another person, a certain Maning Delos Santos, the panel of
prosecutors, constituted by 1st Assistant Provincial Prosecutor
Julio B. Tecon, 1st Assistant City Proscutor (on detail) Oscar B.
Corpuz and 2nd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Georgina D. Hidalgo,
repeatedly sustained the filing of Murder charges against Joel Abril and
dismissed the case against Delos Santos (Annexes 10, 19, 20, 21 and
The case was assigned to Court of Appeals Associate Justice
Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando for investigation, report and recommendation.
In her Final Report and Recommendation dated May 4, 2004, the
Investigating Justice found that upon the complainant Judges denial of Abrils motion to quash the warrant of
arrest, including the motion for reconsideration of such motion, the records of
the case were transmitted to the Office of the Prosecutor for appropriate
action, and remained thereat until the panel of three (3) prosecutors submitted
a resolution on June 1, 2000.According
to the Investigating Justice:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
In the interim that the case was still under review by the
prosecutors office, there was no court to speak of where the accused can
file a motion to quash warrant of arrest because no information was filed yet
in any court. Neither can accused Abril file a request for reinvestigation
because as stated, his case was under review with the prosecutors office.
Under the circumstances of the case, the act of accused Abril in
filing a petition before the Regional Trial Court of Agoo, La Union, was the
only logical and proper legal remedy at that time. Respondent Judge Ganay
correctly stated that the petition was nomenclatured as special proceeding by
accused Abrils lawyer probably because the case was special in the sense
that such kind of petition was not based and patterned upon any of the rules
under the Rules of Court. Equity defined as justice outside the law and
grounded on the precepts of conscience and not on any sanction of positive law,
justifies the act of respondent Judge Ganay in taking cognizance of the
Anent the charges against respondent Judge Martires, the
Investigating Justice found the same to have been unsubstantiated, and opined
that the respondent Judge exercised his sound discretion in not issuing the
warrant of arrest against Abril.
Thus, the Investigating Justice recommended the dismissal of the
case against the respondents for lack of merit.
The findings of the Investigating Justice are well-taken.
It bears stressing that it is within the discretion of the
Judge to issue a warrant for the arrest of an
in a criminal case.A
is required to personally evaluate the resolution of the
and its supporting evidence.He may
immediately dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly fails to
establish probable cause.However, if he
finds probable cause, then he is mandated by law to issue such warrant.10 While before, it was mandatory for the investigating
issue a warrant for the arrest of the
accused if he found
probable cause, the rule now is that the investigating
power to order the arrest of the
accused is limited to
instances in which there is a necessity for placing him in custody in order
not to frustrate the ends of justice. The arrest of the
can be ordered only in the event that the
the case and the
Judge of the Regional Trial Court finds
probable cause for the issuance of the
warrant of arrest.11 cralawred
In the case at bar, both respondent Judges, upon careful perusal
of the records of the case before them, exercised their discretion and opted
not to issue a warrant of arrest against Abril. As found by the Investigating
At that precise moment, accused Abril could not avail of the
following options mentioned by the Honorable Court Administrator:
2.X x x to ask the Provincial Fiscal for a
reinvestigation of the charge against them. If unsatisfied with the fiscals
resolution, they can ask for a review by the Minister of Justice (Sec. 1[d], RA
5180 as amended by P.D. 911);
3. if their Petition for Review does not prosper, they can file a motion to quash the information in
the trial court (Rule 117, Rules of Court).
4. If the motion is
denied, they can appeal the judgment of the court after the case shall have
been tried on the merits.
Records reveal that accused Abril cannot avail of the above
remedies in view of the following circumstances:
1. the records of the
case were transmitted to the Provincial Prosecutor, for appropriate action.
Technically speaking, Abrils case was under investigation then. Hence, no
reinvestigation can be requested since the matter was obviously undergoing a
review or investigation;
2. no review by the
Department of Justice can be made since there was no resolution by the
3. there was nowhere
to file the motion to quash information since there was no trial court to
speak of as there was no information filed; and
3. appeal from the
complainants denial of the motion to quash criminal complaint and/or recall
the arrest order is not a plain and speedy remedy.
Accused Abril was committed to prison on January 10, 2000. Immediately
thereafter, he filed a motion to quash the criminal complaint in order that he
be released from detention and later a motion for reconsideration, which were
all denied by the complainant, the MTC Judge conducting the preliminary
It was only on June
1, 2000 when the panel of three (3) prosecutors rendered a Resolution
finding reasons to indict accused Abril for the crime of Murder.
To deny accused Abril of a legal remedy during the interval from
his arrest, January 10, 2000,
until the filing of the Information on August 23, 2000, would be a blatant denial of his right to
due process of law.
Respondent Judge Ganays declaration that there is nothing in the
warrant of arrest or in the order dated January 10, 2000 issued by complainant which states that
there was a need to place Joel Toto Abril under immediate custody so as not
to frustrate the ends of justice, is correct.
Respondent Judge Martires correctly manifested that while
Prosecutor Lachica was requesting for the commitment of accused Abril,
Prosecutor Lachica was also manifesting that they would be moving for the
dismissal of the case as they would be filing a case against another person.
Confronted with this peculiar situation, respondent Judge Martires
rightly did not issue a warrant of arrest. There was no reason to subject
accused Abril to incarceration when the prosecution believed that accused Abril
was innocent of the crime charged.
That exceptional situation called for the sound discretion of the
Judge and respondent Judge Martires correctly exercised his discretion.12 cralawred
It is settled that as a matter of policy, in the absence of
fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a Judge in his judicial capacity
are not subject to disciplinary action even though such acts are erroneous. He
cannot be subjected to liability civil, criminal or administrative for any
of his official acts, no matter how erroneous, as long as he acts in good
faith.13 Only judicial errors tainted with
fraud, dishonesty, gross ignorance, bad faith or deliberate intent to do an
injustice will be administratively sanctioned.14 To hold otherwise would be to render
judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the
law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment.15 Furthermore, even in an administrative case,
the Rules of Court require that if the respondent
should be disciplined for grave misconduct or any graver offense, the evidence
against him should be competent and should be derived from direct
knowledge.The judiciary to which the
respondent belongs demands no less. Before any of its members could be faulted,
competent evidence should be presented, especially since the charge is penal in
Indeed, while it is our duty to investigate and determine the
truth behind every matter in complaints against Judges and other court
personnel, it is also our duty to see to it that they are protected and
exonerated from baseless administrative charges. The Court will not shirk from
its responsibility of imposing discipline upon its magistrates, but neither
will it hesitate to shield them from unfounded suits that only serve to disrupt
rather than promote the orderly administration of justice.17 cralawred
WHEREFORE, the instant
administrative complaint against Judge Clifton U. Ganay and Judge Samuel R.
Martires is DISMISSEDfor lack of merit.
Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, TINGA, and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.
1 Entitled Joel Toto Abril v. Judge
4 The dispositive portion of the said order
WHEREFORE, upon the foregoing
premises, this Court orders the release of Joel Toto Abril from detention. He
should not be allowed to stay one minute longer in the BJMP slammer.
The Jail Warden, BJMP, Agoo, La
Union, is hereby directed to release Joel Abril from detention, unless he is
facing other criminal charges in this Court or in other Courts wherein his
detention is ordered.
Mr. Joel Abril is hereby directed
to appear before this Court every Monday morning and register his appearance
before the OIC-Branch Clerk of Court (Ms. Precilla Olympia P. Eslao of this
Court) starting April 17, 2000 until further orders of this Court.
SO ORDERED. (Rollo, p. 573).
9 Report and Recommendation, pp. 19-20.
12 Report and Recommendation, pp. 21-23.
17 Cruz v. Iturralde, supra.
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