Quinto v. Vios : AM MTJ-04-1551 : May 21, 2004 : J. Callejo Sr : Second
Division : Resolution
[A.M. NO. MTJ-04-1551 : May 21, 2004]
ATTY. ALBERTO P. QUINTO, Complainant, v. JUDGE GREGORIO S. VIOS, Municipal Trial Court, Kapatagan, Lanao del
R E S O L U T I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
The instant administrative complaint arose when Atty. Alberto P.
Quinto charged Judge Gregorio S. Vios, Municipal Trial Court, Lanao del Norte,
with grave abuse of authority and ignorance of the law relative to Criminal
Case No. 2713 entitled People of the
Philippines v. Andres Bolando and John Doe for grave threats.
The complainant was the defense counsel in the said case. In his
verified Complaint1 dated December 19, 2001, he alleged that during the trial, the prosecution
presented two witnesses whose testimonies were based on the accounts of another
eyewitness; hence, hearsay.
cross-examination, Prosecutor Jaime Umpa stipulated and admitted that both
witnesses did not actually hear the accused utter the threatening words.
After the prosecution rested its case, the
defense filed a Motion for Leave of Court to File Demurrer to Evidence, which,
however, the respondent denied.
During the hearing of August 15, 2001, the complainant manifested
that he was waiving the presentation of his evidence.The respondent then allegedly got angry, shouted and scolded the
complainant, stating that the defense had no right to waive the presentation of
The complainant could hardly
finish his every manifestation as he was repeatedly cut short by the
The respondent did not
listen to the complainants explanation and, thereafter, compelled the latter
to withdraw his appearance as counsel of the accused, under pain of contempt.
In the presence of the complainant, the respondent appointed a counsel de oficio.
According to the complainant, the actuations of the respondent
judge showed his arrogance and ignorance of the law, and that compelling him
(the complainant) to withdraw as counsel of the accused under pain of contempt
amounted to grave abuse of authority.
In his comment,2 the respondent denied the complainants allegations and explained that what
actually transpired during the hearing of Criminal Case No. 2713 was a
difference of opinion on the application of the Revised Rules on Summary
Procedure in relation to Section 23, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of
The respondent clarified that
when the complainant manifested in open court that he was waiving the
presentation of evidence for the accused, the respondent merely informed the
complainant that he would be violating Sec. 23, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules
Moreover, to do so would be
prejudicial to the rights of the accused.
The respondent also alleged that he warned the complainant that the
accused may be convicted if he would not present evidence on his behalf.
The respondent pointed out that it is for the court to assess and
evaluate the evidence.
He asserted that
the complainant must have lost sight of the provision of Article 282 of the
Revised Penal Code and the pronouncement of the Court in several cases that
grave threats can be committed indirectly.
According to the respondent, the hearsay evidence rule would not apply
in this case, as the testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution can be
considered as independently relevant statements or utterances which are facts
in issue or circumstantial evidence of the facts in issue. Even if such opinion
is erroneous, the respondent judge maintained that the same cannot be the basis
of an administrative action on the ground of abuse of authority or ignorance of
Finally, the respondent claimed that after several exchanges
between the complainant, the prosecutor and the court, he and the prosecutor
sincerely advised the complainant to withdraw as defense counsel.
The complainant readily and voluntarily
withdrew his appearance with the consent of the accused and a counsel de oficio was, thereafter, appointed in
The respondent insisted that
he did not abuse his authority when he advised the complainant to withdraw as
defense counsel because it was made in the exercise of sound judicial
discretion, in order to protect the rights of the accused.
In his reply,3 the complainant insisted that what transpired during the hearing of August 15,
2001 was not a matter of difference in opinion, but a manifestation of grave
abuse of authority and ignorance of the law.
According to the complainant, the denial of the motion to file demurer
to evidence was akin to a denial of the demurrer itself; hence, the accused may
adduce evidence in his defense, in accordance with Section 23, Rule 119 of the
Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.
the said Rules are merely directory and permissive, the respondent had no right
to compel him (the complainant) to present evidence for the defense, or force
him to withdraw as counsel on pain of contempt of court.
The case was assigned to Executive Judge Valerio M. Salazar of
the Regional Trial Court of Lanao Del Norte, Branch 6, for investigation,
report and recommendation.4 In his Report dated December 12, 2003, the Executive Judge concluded that the
respondent believed that the accused in the criminal case must present evidence
to avoid prejudice.
complainant insisted on waiving this right on behalf of the accused, the
respondent repeatedly told complainant to withdraw as the only way to procure
the presentation of evidence for the accused.
In effect, the respondent virtually compelled the complainant to
withdraw as counsel for the accused.
According to the Executive Judge, the respondents insistence
that the accused may not waive the right to present evidence was clearly
The respondent failed to
understand the plain and unmistakable language of Section 23, Rule 119 of the
Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.
However, the Executive Judge opined that it was a simple error of
interpretation and application of rules, and concluded that the respondent was
not moved by malice, dishonesty or corrupt motive.As the respondent did not actually cite the complainant for
contempt and eventually acquitted the accused in the criminal case, no grave
injury or undue prejudice was caused on any party.It was then recommended that the instant complaint against the
respondent judge be dismissed.5
THE COURTS RULING
The acts of a judge which pertain to his judicial functions are
not subject to disciplinary power unless they are committed with fraud,
dishonesty, corruption or bad faith.6 As we held in the recent case of Edgardo D. Balsamo v. Judge Suan :7 cralawred
[A]s 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. In such a
case, the remedy of the aggrieved party is not to file an administrative
complaint against the judge but to elevate the error to the higher court for
review and correction. The Court has to be shown acts or conduct of the judge
clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice before the latter can be branded
the stigma of being biased and partial. Thus, not every error or mistake that a
judge commits in the performance of his duties renders him liable, unless he is
shown to have acted in bad faith or with deliberate intent to do an injustice.
Good faith and absence of malice, corrupt motives or improper considerations
are sufficient defenses in which a judge charged with ignorance of the law can
find refuge.8 cralawred
As found by Executive Judge Salazar, the respondent judge
honestly believed that the complainant, as counsel for the accused in Criminal
Case No. 2713, had no right to waive the presentation of evidence.
However erroneous such belief, the same may
only be considered as an error of judgment.
A judges failure to interpret the law or to properly appreciate the
evidence presented does not necessarily render him administratively liable.9 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.10 cralawred
It must be stressed that an administrative complaint against a
judge cannot be pursued simultaneously with the judicial remedies accorded to
parties aggrieved by his erroneous order or judgment.Administrative remedies are neither alternative nor cumulative to
judicial review where such review is available to the aggrieved parties and the
same has not yet been resolved with finality.
Until there is a final declaration by the appellate court that the
challenged order or judgment is manifestly erroneous, there will be no basis to
conclude whether respondent judge is administratively liable.11 cralawred
In the case at bar, if, indeed, the complainant truly believed
that the judges view was erroneous and wanted to protect his client, he should
not have allowed the respondent, or anyone for that matter, to influence him to
withdraw as counsel for the accused.
he felt prejudiced by the order of the respondent judge, he should have
continued with the presentation of evidence for the accused, and, in the event
that the respondent rendered an adverse decision, to file an appeal in the
appropriate court, and not an administrative complaint against the judge.
However, a perusal of the transcript of the stenographic notes12 in the August 15, 2001 hearing showed that the respondent, indeed, virtually
compelled the latter to withdraw as counsel for the accused.
As the Court Administrator opined in its
Report dated March 18, 2003:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Respondent judge is liable for misconduct when he threatened to punish
complainant for contempt of court if he would refuse to withdraw his
appearance, as counsel for the accused, when the latter insisted on waiving the
presentation of the evidence for the defense.13 cralawred
The respondent ought to be reprimanded for violating Canon 3 of
the Code of Judicial Conduct, which provides that a judge should perform
official duties honestly, and with impartiality and diligence. Rule 3.04
further provides, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Rule 3.04. A judge should be patient, attentive and courteous to
lawyers, especially the inexperienced, to litigants, witnesses, and others
appearing before the court. A judge should avoid unconsciously falling into the
attitude of mind that the litigants are made for the courts, instead of the
courts for the litigants.
The respondents actuations amount to vulgar and unbecoming
conduct, classified as a light charge under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as
amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC.14 However, in view of the respondents retirement on December 24, 2003, this
sanction can no longer be meted on him.
As opined by the Executive Judge, the instant administrative complaint
has already inflicted upon the respondent the anxiety and apprehension that he
might lose his retirement benefits after 41 years in the government service, ten
of which were in the judiciary.
allow the respondent to fully enjoy his retirement benefits would be the most
prudent course of action for the Court.
WHEREFORE, the Court
resolves to DISMISS the complaint against respondent Judge Gregorio S. Vios, Municipal
Trial Court, Lanao del Norte.
Quisumbing, (Acting Chairman),
Austria-Martinez, and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), J., on
5 Report and Recommendation, pp. 8-9.
7 A.M. No. RTJ-01-1656, September 17, 2003.
14 The amendment took effect on October 1, 2001.
Back to Home | Back to Main