Arnado v. Buban : AM MTJ-04-1543 : May 31, 2004 : J. Tinga : Second
Division : Decision
[A.M. NO. MTJ-04-1543 : May 31, 2004]
ATTY. AUDIE C. ARNADO, Complainant, v. JUDGE MARINO S.
BUBAN, MTCC, Branch 1, Tacloban City, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Ignorantia judicis est
calamitas innocentis.1 cralawred
As judges are front-liners in the dispensation of justice, it is
imperative they keep abreast with the changes and developments in law and
jurisprudence.As judges are apostles of
the law, their ignorance of the law is impermissible and inexcusable.
On June 5, 2002, the Office of the Court Administrator received
the verified Complaint of Attorney Audie Arnado, accusing respondent
Judge Marino S. Buban of gross ignorance of the law amounting to judicial
incompetence, as well as manifest partiality and bias, prejudgment and grossly
oppressive and abusive conduct in handling Criminal Cases Nos. 2000-02-13 and
2000-02-12, entitled People of the Philippines v. Atty. Audie Arnado.
The antecedents are as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
On February 3, 2000 and May 16, 2000, informations for two (2)
counts of estafa involving the amounts of Eight Hundred Eighteen Thousand Five
Hundred Ten and 20/00 (
P818,510.20) Pesosand Fifty- Nine Thousand Nine Hundred
Sixty-Eight ( P59,968.00) Pesos, respectively, were filed against the
complainant with the Municipal Trial Court, Branch I, of Tacloban City,
presided by respondent judge.
On May 26, 2000,
complainant, thru his original counsel, filed a motion to suspend proceedings
in the criminal cases on the ground that a civil case pending before the
Regional Trial Court in Region 7, seeking as it does the declaration of nullity
of a contract, constitutes a prejudicial question. On August 4, 2000, respondent judge issued an order
denying the motion.In the same order,
he directed the bonding company, in view of the complainants failure to appear
in court for three (3) times, to show cause why the bail bond should not be
cancelled and a warrant for his arrest should not be issued.He also scheduled the arraignment of the
complainant in the same order.
On March 11, 2002,
complainant, thru his new counsel, filed a motion seeking to quash the
informations and recall the warrant of arrest on the ground of lack of
jurisdiction. He averred that while the MTC has original jurisdiction over
offenses punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years, in the
criminal cases before the respondent judge the imposable penalties both exceed
six (6) years in view of the amounts involved.
On March 18, 2002,
complainant reiterated his move by filing a motion to recall the warrant of
arrest. On April 5, 2002,
respondent judge denied the motion to quash and recall arrest warrant on the
ground that the complainant had lost standing for having jumped bail.
After receiving the order of the respondent judge canceling his
bond and ordering the issuance of a warrant for his arrest, complainant filed
the present Complaint.
On June 26, 2002,
the Office of the Court Administrator, required respondent to comment on the Complaint.
In his Comment, dated September 5, 2002, respondent seeks
to absolve himself based on the following averments, viz.: (a) as the
informations were filed by the City Prosecutors Office of Tacloban City and
they were raffled and assigned only to his sala, he has no (personal) interest
in insisting or assuming jurisdiction over the cases; (b) the issue of
jurisdiction was never raised by complainant until he filed the motion dated
March 11, 2002; (c) the grounds invoked by the complainant are matters of
defense and are not therefore proper grounds for a motion to quash; and, (d)
complainant submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court by posting bail.
Respondent judge further alleges that the motions which complainant filed are
sham as he had no standing in court.
On November 28, 2002,
complainant filed his rejoinder.
Finding that respondent judge erred in assuming jurisdiction over
the criminal cases and in thereafter issuing a warrant for the arrest of the
complainant lawyer, Court Administrator Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. recommended
that he be fined Five Thousand (
P5,000.00) Pesos for gross ignorance of
the law in his report to the Court.2 cralawred
We agree with the evaluation of the Court Administrator.
The power and authority of a court to hear, try and decide a case
is defined as jurisdiction.3 Elementary is the distinction between jurisdiction over the subject-matter and
jurisdiction over the person. Clearly, respondent judge is not cognizant of the
difference as he blatantly confused one with the other.
Jurisdiction over the subject-matter is conferred by the
Constitution or by law.4 It is so essential that erroneous assumption of such jurisdiction carries with
it the nullity of the entire proceedings in the case. At the first instance or
even on appeal, and although the parties do not raise the issue of
jurisdiction, courts are not precluded from ruling that they have no
jurisdiction over the subject-matter if such indeed is the situation.5 cralawred
In contrast, jurisdiction
over the person is acquired by the court by virtue of the partys or accuseds
voluntary submission to the authority of the court or through the exercise of
its coercive processes.6 To prevent the loss or waiver of this defense, the accused must raise the lack
of jurisdiction seasonably by motion for the purpose of objecting to the jurisdiction
of the court; otherwise, he shall be deemed to have submitted himself or his
person to that jurisdiction.7 In other words, jurisdiction over the person is waivable unlike jurisdiction
over the subject-matter which is neither subject to agreement nor conferred by
consent of the parties.
Also basic is that jurisdiction over the subject matter is
ascertained by considering the allegations of the complaint or
information.The informations involved
are clear as water. Criminal Case No. 2000-02-12 involves
while Criminal Case No. 2000-02-13 covers P818,510.20.
Under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty of prision
correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum
period shall be imposed if the amount of the fraud is over
P12,000.00 but does not exceed P22,000.00;
and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty providedxxx shall be imposed in its maximum period,
adding one (1) year for its additional P10,000.00 xxx. Prision mayor
in its minimum period, ranges from six (6) years and one (1) day to eight (8)
years.Under the law,8 the jurisdiction of municipal trial courts is confined to offenses punishable
by imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years, irrespective of the amount of the
Hence, jurisdiction over the criminal cases against the
complainant lawyer pertains to the Regional Trial Court. Respondent judge,
therefore, gravely erred in taking cognizance of the two criminal cases and,
worse still, in issuing warrants for the complainants arrest.
As a last-ditch effort to make the respondent see the light,
complainant submitted on March 11,
2002 a motion to quash alleging lack of jurisdiction. The exercise
proved to be futile. Respondent judge denied the motion on April 5, 2002 nonetheless, thereby manifesting his
gross ignorance of the law. When the law is so elementary, not to know it
constitutes gross ignorance.9 cralawred
Consequently, respondents argument that complainant had
submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court by posting a bond is
Another point. Respondents position that complainant had lost
his standing in court in view of his alleged repeated failure to appear in
court and for that reason his motions should be considered as sham is patently
baseless and smacks of jumbled reasoning. Obviously, he failed to consider that
the cases before him are criminal cases and if indeed the accused failed to
appear in court the appropriate sanction is not to consider him a legal
non-entity but merely to order his arrest. The judge may order a trial in
absentia only when the accused fails to appear at the trial without
justification and despite due notice.10 cralawred
With respect to the charges of manifest partiality and bias,
prejudgment, and, grossly oppresive and abusive conduct in handling the two
criminal cases, suffice to say that the records do not bear out the
accusations. At any rate, all the actions taken by the respondent in the cases
are null and void for lack of jurisdiction.
While this Court agrees with the Court Administrators finding
that the rulings of the respondent judge evince gross ignorance of the law, it
finds the amount of Five Thousand (
P5,000.00) Pesos which he recommended
as fine to be disproportionate to the wrong done by the respondent.The appropriate penalty is a fine of Ten
Thousand ( P10,000) Pesos.In the
case of Simplicio Alib v. Labayen,11 where the respondent committed a very similar infraction and was found guilty
of gross ignorance of the law, the Court imposed a fine of Ten Thousand ( P10,000.00)
JUDGE MARINO S. BUBAN of the Municipal
Trial Court of
is found LIABLE for gross ignorance of the law. He is ORDERED to pay a FINE of
Ten Thousand (
P10,000.00) Pesos, with a WARNING that a repetition of the
same or a similar act shall be dealt with more severely.
Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.
1 The ignorance of a judge is the misfortune of the innocent.
140 Sections 2 and 10, provides a minimum of
3 Paulino Zamora, et al. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 78206, March 19,
1990, 183 SCRA 279, citing Herrera v. Barretto, 25 Phil. 245
Conchada v. Director of Prisons, 31 Phil 94 (1915),
Limsiangco, 41 Phil. 94 (1920).
4 Id. at 283 citing Banco Espaol
Filipino v. Palanca, 37 Phil. 921.
5 Andaya v. Abadia, et al., G.R. No. 104033, December 27, 1993, 228 SCRA 705.
7 La Naval Drug Corporation v. The Honorable Court of Appeals, G.R. No.
103200, August 31, 1994,
236 SCRA 78.
8 Republic Act No. 7691, An Act Expanding the Jurisdiction of the Metropolitan
Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts,
Amending for the Purpose Batas Pambansa, Blg. 129, otherwise known as the
"Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980."
10 Sec. 2 (b),
Rule 114, Rules of Criminal Procedure.
No. RTJ-00-1576, 412 Phil. 443 .
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