Bejarasco Jr v. Buenconsejo : AM MTJ-02-1417 : May 27, 2004 : J. Callejo
Sr : Second Division : Decision
[A.M. NO. MTJ-02-1417 : May 27, 2004]
PETER BEJARASCO, JR. and ISABELITA BEJARASCO, Complainants, v. JUDGE ALFREDO D. BUENCONSEJO, Municipal Trial Court, Dalaguete,
Cebu, SECUNDINO PIEDAD, Clerk of Court, and LEONISA GONZALES, Court Stenographer,
Municipal Trial Court, Argao, Cebu, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
The instant administrative complaint stemmed from a
Letter-Complaint dated January 22, 2001 filed by Peter Bejarasco, Jr. and
Isabelita Bejarasco charging Judge Alfredo Buenconsejo, Clerk of Court
Secundino Piedad, and Court Stenographer Leonisa Gonzales of the Municipal
Trial Court of Dalaguete, Cebu, with dereliction of duty, ignorance of the law,
grave misconduct and serious irregularity relative to Criminal Cases Nos.
R-04171 and R-4172.1 cralawred
The complainants alleged that they were charged by a certain Dr.
Edwin Fonghe with grave threats and grave oral defamation before the Municipal
Trial Court of Dalaguete, Cebu.
According to the complainants, the respondent judge inhibited himself
from the said cases on the ground of delicadeza
and that Executive Judge Epifanio Llanos of the Regional Trial Court of
Argao, Cebu, Branch 26, designated Judge Palmacio Calderon of the MTC of Argao,
Cebu, to hear and try the said cases.2 Judge Calderon conducted continuous and simultaneous trials, and the cases were
submitted for decision on June 29, 1999. Unfortunately, Judge Calderon died on
December 31, 1999 without having rendered judgment on the said cases.
The complainants alleged that they were surprised to receive a
notice from the MTC of Argao, Cebu, that Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172
had been set for promulgation on May 15, 2000 by the respondent judge, who was
then designated as presiding judge of the said court.
The complainants alleged, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
9.That after I (affiant
husband) received the notice, I immediately proceeded to the house of Judge
Buenconsejo at Poblacion, Dalaguete, Cebu, and told him about my late receipt
of notice, but Judge Buenconsejo told me that the promulgation was reset by the
10.That I (affiant
husband) then inquired from Judge Buenconsejo why would he promulgate the
decision he had already inhibited himself from (trying) my cases, and why would
the promulgation be only on two (2) criminal cases instead of five (5) cases
which were all submitted for decision;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
11.That Judge Buenconsejo
answered me (affiant husband) in the following manner: Tikboy, miadto mi kuyog
sa akong mga clerks sa ilang Judge Calderon. Wala koy mahimo, order ni sa akong
superior Judge Llanos. Huwata lang ang sunod nga notice. which in English
means: Tikboy, my clerks and I went to the house of Judge Calderon. There is
nothing I can do, this is the order of my superior Judge Llanos. Just wait for
the next notice.;
12.That on May 16, 2000,
at about 10:00 A.M., I (affiant husband) went to the MTC of Argao, Cebu, passed
by the office of my PAO lawyer Atty. Quindala, and we both went to Secundino
Piedad of the MTC, and upon inquiry by Atty. Quindala, Mr. Piedad informed us that
I was convicted in the decision to be promulgated;3 cralawred
The complainants, thereafter, received another notice of
promulgation at 10:00 a.m. of May 29, 2000.
On the said date, the complainants counsel argued that the respondent
judge could not promulgate the decision since he had earlier inhibited himself
from trying the said cases, and that the judge who actually heard the case had
The respondent judge,
however, ignored these arguments and proceeded with the promulgation of the
Decision4 dated November 19, 1999, convicting both complainants.
Thereafter, the complainants counsel filed a motion to nullify
the decision. The respondent judge denied the motion, and ordered the arrest of
the complainants. The latters counsel filed a petition for certiorari with the
Regional Trial Court of Argao, Cebu, Branch 26, questioning the validity of the
decision in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172 and its promulgation.
During the pendency of their Petition for Certiorari, the
complainants requested for an expert examination of the signatures of the late
Judge Calderon in his decisions with the PNP Crime Laboratory.5 The complainants submitted a copy of Questioned Document Report No. 098-20006 where the document examiner of the PNP Crime Laboratory made the following
Comparative examination ans (sic)
analysis of the questioned signatures marked Q-1 to Q-3 inclusive and the
standard signatures marked S-1 and S-14 inclusive reveal significant
differences in formation, construction and other individual handwriting
**** **** ****
The questioned signatures of Judge Palmacio L. Calderon appearing
in the three copies of page 6 of the Decision in Criminal Cases Nos. 4171 and
4172 all dated 19 November 1999 marked Q-1 to Q-3 inclusive are forged.7 cralawred
On January 3, 2001, Judge Raphael B. Yrastorza, Sr. rendered his
Resolution on the petition for certiorari , the dispositive portion of which
WHEREFORE, all the foregoing premises considering, this Court
resolves to GRANT the Petition MODIFIED as follows:
a preliminary mandatory injunction in favor of the petitioners herein ordering
public respondent Hon. ALFREDO D. BUENCONSEJO from having the warrant of arrest
he earlier issued enforced; the said warrant of arrest is, thus, ordered
QUASHED, UNTIL and UNLESS a new decision/judgment is rendered and promulgated;
the Hon. EMILIO T. REYES, Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court of
Sibonga, Cebu, to take over these cases from Hon. ALFREDO D. BUENCONSEJO and
render a decision/judgment on these cases and have the same promulgated without
public respondent Hon. ALFREDO D. BUENCONSEJO to make available and turn over
the records of these cases, including the stenographic notes duly transcribed
unto the Clerk of Court of Hon. EMILIO T. REYES.
the Clerk of Court of this Court to return the records of these cases to the
court of origin.
IT IS SO RESOLVED.8 cralawred
The complainants contended that the respondent judge is guilty of
ignorance of the law, grave misconduct and serious irregularity, and is
presumed to be the author of the forged signature of Judge Palmacio
The favorable resolution of
their petition for certiorari in the RTC further showed the respondent judges
ignorance of the law and misconduct.
They, thus, prayed that the respondent judge be dismissed from the
service with forfeiture of all benefits.
In his comment, the respondent judge denied the charges and
accusations against him.
a) The Decision dated November 19, 1999 in
Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172 was personally and directly prepared and
signed by the late Judge Palmacio Calderon during his lifetime;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
b) The said decision was left and deposited by
Judge Calderon with his Clerk of Court of MTC Argao, Cebu;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
c) Unfortunately, however, Judge Calderon fell
ill and was hospitalized for sometime until his demise on December 31, 1999, and for which reason the subject questioned decision was not promulgated during
d) When I assumed office as Acting Judge
Designate of the MTC of Argao, Cebu, the Clerk of Court informed me about the
decision which was left and entrusted to him by Judge Calderon, and
consequently, I directed the Clerk of Court to set the same for promulgation
which was actually made in open court in the presence of the complainants as
the accused therein and their counsel in the morning of May 29, 2001;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
e) Under the above circumstances, I honestly
believe in good faith that there was no irregularity in the promulgation of the
questioned subject decision as my only participation on this matter was merely
an exercise of
a ministerial duty to
enforce the said decision which was already long rendered by the judge who
actually and completely heard the above-mentioned criminal cases on the merits,
basing my actuation on the express pertinent provision of Section 6, Rule 120
of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which states as follows: The
Judgment is promulgated by reading it in the presence of the accused and the
judge of the court in which it was rendered (Underlining ours);chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
f) At any rate, if there was ever an error on
my part, it was never done with malice in order to prejudice the substantial
rights of the complainant.9 cralawred
The respondent alleged that he denied the complainants motion to
nullify the decision in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172 as the same was
not the proper remedy available under the particular circumstances of the case,
but rather an appeal, or a motion for new trial as the case may be.
Consequently, the said decision became final and executory after the lapse of
the reglementary period within which the complainants might have availed of any
of the said legal remedies.
according to the respondent, he issued an order of arrest against the
complainants so that they could serve their sentence.
The respondent also pointed out that the complainants had already
filed a complaint10 before the Office of the Ombudsman, docketed as OMB-VIS-CRIM-98-0166, and that
such complaint was dismissed.11 The respondent averred that the instant complaint was in the nature of a
harassment suit in order to exact leverage on him and antagonize him, which has
been frowned upon by the Court.
For her part, Court Stenographer Leonisa Gonzales alleged that
the late Judge Calderon directed her to submit all the transcripts of
stenographic notes within a period of fifteen days from the time the case was
submitted for decision.
having conversed with the parties in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and
She could not, however, attest
to the correctness or erroneousness of the charges against the respondent
She also averred that she did
not witness the signing of the questioned decision, whether by the late Judge
Calderon or the respondent judge.12 cralawred
Clerk of Court Secundino Piedad attested13 that sometime in April 2000, he visited the residence of the late Judge
Calderon in La Paloma, Labangon, Cebu City, to verify the serial number of a
typewriter assigned to the late Judge Calderon for clearance purposes.
The wife of the late Judge Calderon, Alicia
T. Calderon, thereafter, handed to him the records of Criminal Cases Nos.
R-4171 and R-4172, including a decision thereon duly signed by the late
Consequently, he informed the
respondent, then acting presiding judge, about the decision and the latter set
the same for promulgation.
He was then
ordered to issue a subpoena to the
complainants (accused therein) for the promulgation of judgment, but for the
latters failure to receive the said subpoena
on time, another was issued setting the promulgation of the said judgment on
May 29, 2000.
Piedad averred he merely
executed and implemented the legal orders of the court.
Additionally, Alicia T. Calderon executed an affidavit14 to attest to the fact that the late judge indeed signed the questioned
In its Report dated February 8, 2002, the Court Administrator
made the following recommendations:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
1.The present case be RE-DOCKETED as a regular
2.The respondent judge be FINED in the amount
of Ten Thousand Pesos (
P10,000.00) to be deducted from the Twenty
Thousand Pesos ( P20,000.00) previously set aside by the Court and to
direct the Financial Management Office, OCA, to release the balance of Ten
Thousand Pesos ( P10,000.00); andcralawlibrary
3.The charges against Clerk of Court Secundino
Piedad and Court Stenographer Leonisa Gonzales be DISMISSED for lack of
substantial evidence to hold them administratively liable.15 cralawred
Respondent Gonzales, thereafter, filed an Urgent Request for
Clearance and Motion to Resolve or Dismiss16 the instant complaint as against her, praying that she be cleared for
retirement purposes to enable her to receive her retirement benefits. Upon the
recommendation of the Court Administrator, we granted her request and directed
the Financial Management Office to immediately release her compulsory
retirement benefits subject to the retention of the amount of
from the money value of her terminal leave credits pending the resolution of
this matter.17 The case was, thereafter, referred to Executive Judge Maximo A. Perez of the
Regional Trial Court of Argao, Cebu, for investigation, report and
In his Report and Recommendation, the Executive Judge found that
the respondents actuation of promulgating the decision of the late Judge
Calderon in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172, considering that he (the
respondent) also inhibited himself from presiding on the said cases,
recommended that the respondent judge be fined in the amount of
and that respondents Piedad and Gonzales be exonerated from all the charges
against them for lack of substantial evidence.
We agree that the respondent judge is administratively liable.
Section 1, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure
defines and sets forth the requirements for a valid judgment:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
SECTION 1. Judgment;
definition and form. Judgment is the adjudication by the court that the
accused is guilty or not guilty of the offense charged and the imposition on
him of the proper penalty and civil liability, if any. It must be written in
the official language, personally and directly prepared by the judge and signed
by him and shall contain clearly and distinctly a statement of the facts and
law upon which it is based.
Thus, a judgment, to be valid, must have been personally and directly prepared by the
judge, and duly signed by him. Corollarily, a decision or resolution of the
court becomes such, for all legal intents and purposes, only from the moment of
judgment, in turn, signifies that on the date it was made, the judge or judges
who signed the decision continued to support it.If at the time of the promulgation, a judge or member of a
collegiate court has already vacated his office, his vote is automatically
withdrawn.18 In criminal cases, promulgation of judgment is made by reading it in the
presence of the accused and any judge of the court in which it was
Judgment may be promulgated
by the clerk of court only when the judge
is absent or outside the province or city.19 cralawred
It is clear then, that a judge who takes over the sala of another judge who died during
office cannot validly promulgate a decision penned by the latter.
In fact, decisions promulgated after the
judge who penned the same had been appointed to and qualified in another office
are null and void.
To be binding, a
judgment must be duly signed and promulgated during the incumbency of the judge
whose signature appears thereon.
single courts like the regional trial courts and the municipal trial courts, a
decision may no longer be promulgated after the ponente has vacated his office.20 cralawred
The respondent judge cannot, likewise, claim that his only
participation in the promulgation of the questioned decision was merely an
exercise of a ministerial duty to enforce the said decision which was already
long rendered by the judge who actually and completely heard the
above-mentioned criminal cases on the merits. It must be stressed that the
respondent judge had earlier inhibited himself from the cases in question, and
that Judge Calderon was designated to hear and try the cases in his stead.
The mere fact that the respondent judge was
designated as Presiding Judge of Branch 26 following the death of Judge Calderon
does not necessarily mean that his previous inhibition in relation to the
criminal cases in question has been lifted.
That would be an absurdity, as a valid designation presupposes that the
judge so designated has not inhibited himself from the cases assigned/raffled
to the said branch.21 cralawred
We agree with the following ratiocinations of the Court
The clause absent or outside the province or city refers only to
temporary physical absence of the judge and his inability to be represented during
the promulgation. The clause does not refer to cessation of or removal from
office. In other words, the decision of the judge may be promulgated even
without his presence so long as he is still a judge of that court. Therefore,
where the judge who signed the decision was no longer a judge of the court at
the time of the promulgation because he had already died or had retired, or had
been promoted to another position, and another judge promulgated it, the
judgment is invalid. (Jimenez v. Republic, 22 SCRA 622) .
Granting arguendo that
the decision in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172 was indeed signed by the
late Judge Calderon, respondent Judge Buenconsejo had no authority to
promulgate the decision. Judge Calderon ceased to be the judge of that court,
thus, the judgment which he signed cannot be promulgated by another judge. Any
judgment or decision is valid and binding only if both [were] penned and
promulgated by the judge during his incumbency. (People v. Garcia,
Considering that the full records of the case were available for
perusal, another judge could pen the decision even if he did not hear the case
in its entirety. However, since Judge Buenconsejo previously inhibited himself
from hearing the criminal cases, he should have referred the matter to his
Executive Judge and assigned another judge to render judgment thereon.22 cralawred
Indeed, it is the duty of a judge to so behave at all times as to
promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.23 He should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all
activities.24 Having previously inhibited from the criminal cases, the respondent should have
refrained from acting thereon, to avoid tainting the Courts good name and
standing as a temple of justice.
The respondent judge cannot, likewise, rely on the dismissal of
the criminal charges filed against him in the Office of the Ombudsman, as it is
a settled rule that administrative cases may proceed independently of criminal
proceedings, and may continue despite the dismissal of the latter charges.
As the disciplining arm of the judiciary, it
is the Courts duty to investigate and determine the truth behind every matter
in complaints against judges and to mete the necessary penalties therefor.
In fine, the respondents actuations constitute gross misconduct
and ignorance of the law under Section 8 of Rule 141 of the Revised Rules of
Considering that the respondent
judge has compulsorily retired from the service, he shall be meted a fine of
We, likewise, agree with Executive Judge Perez that the charges
against respondents Piedad and Gonzales should be dismissed.
WHEREFORE, for gross
misconduct and gross ignorance of the law, respondent Judge Alfredo D.
Buenconsejo is ORDERED to pay a fine in the amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos (
P20,000). The charges against Clerk of Court Secundino
Piedad and Court Stenographer Leonisa Gonzales of the Municipal Trial Court of
Dalaguete, Cebu, are DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Financial Management
Office is ORDERED to release the amount of Five Thousand Pesos ( P5,000)
withheld from the retirement benefits of respondent Gonzales.
Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, and
TINGA, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), on official leave.
1 Entitled People of the Philippines v. Peter Bejarasco, Jr.
alias Tikboy, et al.
4 Annex B, Rollo, pp. 7-12.
11 Annex A, Rollo, pp. 57-63.
12 Comment, Rollo, pp. 125-128.
17 Resolution dated February 26, 2003, Rollo,
19 Paragraph 1, Section 6 of Rule 120.
20 People v. Bellaflor, 233 SCRA 196 (1994).
23 Canon 2.01, Code of Judicial Conduct.
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