Portic v. Villalon-Pornillos : AM RTJ-02-1717 : May 28, 2004 : J. Carpio
: First Division : Decision
[A.M. NO. RTJ-02-1717 : May 28, 2004]
FERMA PORTIC, Complainant, v. JUDGE VICTORIA
VILLALON-PORNILLOS, as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 10,
Malolos, Bulacan, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This is a complaint for Abuse of Authority and Neglect of Duty
filed by complainant Ferma Portic (complainant) against respondent Judge
Victoria Villalon-Pornillos (respondent Judge) of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 10, Malolos, Bulacan (Branch 10).
Complainant is the defendant in Criminal Case No. 05-M-97 (Case
No. 05-M-97) for estafa pending in respondent Judges sala with one Anastacia
Cristobal (Cristobal) as private complainant. During the trial, the National
Bureau of Investigation (NBI) examined a petty cash voucher1 bearing Cristobals signature to determine its authenticity. The NBI compared
the signature with Cristobals specimen signatures in other documents.2 The NBI found Cristobals signature in the voucher authentic but the
prosecution, wanting a second opinion, moved for its examination by the
Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp
Fernando, Pampanga.Respondent Judge granted the prosecutions motion in the Order of 5 October 19983 ( 5 October 1998 Order)
requiring one Elladora Constantino, NBI Examiner III, to return to Branch 10
all the documents in the NBIs possession.Respondent Judge amended her Order by issuing the Order of 9 November 1998 ( 9 November 1998 Order) .This amended Order required one Eliodoro M.
Constantino of the NBI Questioned Documents Division to bring the documents to
Branch 10, testify on his findings on the documents examination, and
afterwards deliver the documents to Camp
Branch 10 received the documents on 22 November 1998.However, Mario B. Lopez (Lopez) and Glenn B. Umali (Umali),
Clerk of Court and Clerk, respectively, of Branch 10, released the original
documents to Cristobals cousin5 who allegedly undertook to transmit them to Camp
Olivas. The release of the original
documents to Cristobals cousin violated respondent Judges 9 November 1998 Order. This prompted
complainant to file administrative charges against Lopez and Umali,6 which this Court referred to Executive Judge Danilo A. Manalastas (Executive
Judge Manalastas) of the Regional Trial Court, Malolos, Bulacan for
investigation, report, and recommendation. During the investigation, Lopez
testified that respondent Judge approved the release of the documents.
Because of Lopezs testimony, complainant filed this case.
Complainant alleges that respondent Judge had denied her motions for
reinvestigation, reduction of bail, dismissal of Case No. 05-M-97 (demurrer to
evidence) and voluntary inhibition. Complainant adds that she sought reconsideration
of the Order dated 31 July 2000
( 31 July 2000 Order)
denying her demurrer to evidence and that she also filed a supplementary motion
for inhibition but respondent Judge failed to resolve these motions.
Complainant also alleges that respondent Judge has unduly delayed the
disposition of Case No. 05-M-97.
In her Comment dated 24
November 2000, respondent Judge denied complainants allegations.
Respondent Judge asserted that she never ordered Lopez or Umali to release the
documents to any unauthorized party.Respondent Judge denied orally amending the 5 October 1998 and 9 November 1998 Orders.Respondent Judge disclosed that Lopez has a history of usurping her
judicial functions7 and his malfeasance in an election
protest case prompted her to revoke his designation as Acting Clerk of Court of
On the 31 July 2000
Order, respondent Judge stated that her finding of prima facie case against complainant was based on the facts and the
applicable law. Respondent Judge explained that contrary to complainants
claim, she had acted on complainants motion for reconsideration to the 31 July 2000 Order and on the
supplemental motion for inhibition, which the Order of 13 November 2000 denied.
On complainants allegation that she had unduly delayed the proceedings
in Case No. 05-M-97, respondent Judge attributes any delay to complainants
numerous motions on which the prosecution had to be heard.Complainant also refused without
justification to present her evidence after the prosecution had rested its case.In addition, the case was re-assigned four
times to different prosecutors.9 cralawred
In the Resolution of 5
August 2002, we referred this case to Associate Justice Rebecca De
Guia-Salvador (Justice Salvador) of the Court of Appeals for investigation,
report and recommendation.
The Investigating Justices Findings
In her Report (Report) dated 4 March 2003, Justice Salvador recommended the dismissal
of the complaint for lack of merit. The Report reads in pertinent parts:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Anent the charge of abuse of authority which purportedly underlied
the denial of complainants motions for reinvestigation, reduction of bail and
demurrer to evidence, respondent Judge acted clearly within the judicial
capacity inherent in her position.Long
and well-settled is the rule that, when required to exercise his judgment or
discretion, a judicial officer is not liable as long as he acts in good faith;
bad faith is, therefore, the source of liability.In the absence of any showing of fraud, dishonesty
or corruption as in the case at bench, the acts of a judge in his official
capacity does not amount to misconduct even if such acts are erroneous.Moreover, the law provides ample judicial
remedies against errors or irregularities committed by a trial court in the
exercise of its jurisdiction.The
ordinary remedies include a motion for reconsideration and appeal, while the
extraordinary remedies are, inter alia,
the special civil actions of certiorari , prohibition or mandamus, a motion for
inhibition, or a petition for change of venue, as the case may be.
With her resolution of complainants motion for reconsideration and
voluntary inhibition on November 13,
2000, there is, on the other hand, no more cause to hold respondent
Judge liable for the charge of neglect of duty and/or delaying the trial of
Criminal Case No. 05-M-97.Significantly, whatever exceptions complainant harbored against said
order had already been effectively rendered moot and academic when respondent
Judge issued the Order dated June 6,
2000, voluntarily inhibiting herself from further hearing and
resolving the case.By refusing to
present her evidence and repeatedly moving for deferment of the scheduled trial
in the case, complainant was, moreover, partly responsible for the delay she
now gratuitously imputes against respondent Judge.
Neither can respondent Judge be held liable for partiality in
supposedly allowing the documents questioned in the case to be entrusted to Max
Cristobal, a relative of the private complainant in Criminal Case No.
05-M-97.As admitted by complainant in
her affidavit dated December 5, 2002
and during the hearing of January 7,
2003, she had no personal knowledge of the truth or falsity of the
charge except thru xxx testimony elicited from Mario Lopez during the hearing
conducted on August 31, 2000
in Adm. Matter No. [P-01-1452]xxxx
As the sole evidence relied upon on so grave a charge against
respondent Judge, however, [Lopezs] testimony hardly inspires credence.Aside from the fact that the declaration was
not even corroborated by Glenn Umali, the witness co-respondent in Adm. Matter
No. [P-01-1452] who, contrariwise, named him as the one who turned over the
questioned documents to Max Cristobal, Mario Lopez also contradicted himself
[during the investigation] xxxx
Viewed in the light of the October 29, 2002 affidavit executed by
his co-employees to the effect that respondent Judge has never amended any
previously issued Order except in writing and the latters categorical denial
of knowledge and approval [of the documents release], the ineluctable
conclusion which could be drawn in the premises is that, in excess of the
directive contained in respondent Judges Order dated October 5, 1998, Mario
Lopez unilaterally decided to entrust the questioned documents to Max
Cristobal. As former Acting Branch Clerk of Court of respondent Judges sala,
Mario Lopezs propensity therefore has been more than amply demonstrated in
similar incidents in at least two cases pending before Branch 10 of the
Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, viz: (a) Civil Case No. 35-M-92,
entitled Julian Francisco v. Sps. Pelagio and Gregoria Francisco; and, (b)
EPC No. 11-M-98, entitled Lorna Silverio v. Jaime Viceo. That Mario Lopezs
attempt at self-exculpation by implicating respondent Judge could also be retaliatory
is indicated by the open censure he was subjected in the aforesaid cases as
well as the latters revocation of his appointment as Acting Branch Clerkof Court of her sala.10
The Ruling of the Court
The Report is well-taken.
Administrative charges against members of the judiciary must be
supported at least by substantial evidence.11 Failure to do so will result in the dismissal of the complaint for lack of
Here, complainant has presented no credible proof to support her
charges against respondent Judge.On her
claim that respondent Judge ordered the unauthorized release of the documents
in question, complainants sole evidence is the following testimony of Lopez in
A.M. No. P-01-1452:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
COURT [EXECUTIVE JUDGE DANILO A. MANALASTAS]
xxx [D]espite your
knowledge that Max Cristobal was interested in the outcome of the action and
most likely, a sympathizer of Anastacia Cristobal, you entrusted to him the
original copies of the questioned documents?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Yes, Your Honor.
Considering that it was the prosecution
that was requesting for that second opinion, considering that it was the
prosecution that was requesting for the said documents to be further
re-examined, we entrusted the documents to Max Cristobal with his own
undertaking indicated at the dorsal side of the xerox copies of the documents
transmitted by the NBI, Your Honor.
because of your knowledge of the interest of Max Cristobal in the outcome of
this action, you knew very well and it could not have escaped your cognizance
of the fact that by entrusting these questioned documents to him, that will
give him an opportunity to either switch these with other documents or do
something that may adversely affect the interest of the accused, Mrs. Portic
considering that there was already a prior finding by the NBI regarding these
questioned documents favorable to Mrs. Portic?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
After all, Your Honor,
the documents that were brought by Mr. Cristobal were the documents being presented
by the prosecution, Your Honor.
Nevertheless, that gave
him an opportunity to either tamper with it or switch it with other documents
or do other things that could adversely affect the interest of the private
What we did was with
the cognizance of the Court itself, Your Honor.
What do you mean?Was there a particular order on the part of
the presiding judge of Branch 10 authorizing Max Cristobal to himself hand
carry these questioned documents?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Although there was no
written order, Your Honor
Was there an order?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
There was a verbal
order, Your Honor.
There was a verbal
order by whom?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
By the Presiding Judge,
And is that contained in
the minutes of the proceedings?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
That is not contained,
Your Honor, but the act of allowing or authorizing or entrusting those
documents to Max Cristobal was brought to the attention of the presiding judge
As found by Justice Salvador, however, Lopezs testimony is not
credible.In the latter part of his
testimony, Lopez no longer claimed that respondent Judge authorized him to
release the documents.Instead, Lopez
testified that what he did was based on common practice in Branch 10.However, on further questioning by Executive
Judge Manalastas, Lopez later admitted that he erred in releasing the
Nevertheless, despite your knowledge that
he was interested in overturning the early or initial finding of the NBI you
entrusted these documents to Max Cristobal?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Based on common
practice, Your Honor.
What common practice? Was it the practice
to entrust to a party or sympathizer of a party original copies of the
documents that could enable that party to either destroy the evidence, switch
the evidence or impair its value?Is it
common practice to allow a party to handle documents that will give him
opportunity to discredit its value?Is
there a practice to that effect?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
So what practice are
you talking about?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
The practice of just entrusting a person
who will make an undertaking before the court, Your Honor.
But if the party has an
interest in the outcome of the litigation, is there such a practice?If that will give him opportunity to tamper
with the evidence, is there such a practice?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
It may not be a practice, Your Honor,
but it may be an error on the part of your humble servant.
So, you admit that
you committed an error in entrusting these documents to Max Cristobal?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
It may be a human error for that
matter, Your Honor.14 (Emphasis added)
In their counter-affidavit in A.M. No. P-01-1452, Lopez and Umali
did not mention that respondent Judge orally ordered the release of the
documents to a relative of Cristobal.They merely relied on the so-called ordinary practice claimed by Lopez
in his testimony, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
We allowed the prosecution through Max Cristobal to handcarry the
documents to Camp Olivas, San Fernando, Pampanga, considering that it was the
prosecution [which] requested xxx the second opinion from Camp Olivas, San
Fernando, Pampanga xxxx [;]
We exercise[d] utmost diligence in allowing the prosecution to
handcarry the subject documents by making him sign with his undertaking that
the documents [would] actually reach intact the addressee as borne out by the
records showing that he (Max Cristobal) received the original documents to be
brought to Camp Olivas;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
It has been an ordinary practice in our court that parties may be
allowed to handcarry notices, documents or other processes of the court for
purposes of expediency and early disposition of the case.15 (Emphasis added)
In contrast, respondent Judge presented in her favor the joint
affidavit16 of all the members of her staff (including Umali) attesting that never had
there been any instance in any case raffled to Branch 10 that [respondent
Judge] ever gave any verbal Order amending any previous xxx Order.
Based on the evidence, the Court gives credence to respondent
Judges claim that she gave no order for the release of the documents other
than in the manner stated in her 9
November 1998 Order.Moreover, respondent Judge enjoys the presumption that she is innocent
of the charge against her17 and that she has performed her duties regularly and in good faith.18 During the investigation of this case, complainant, apart from manifesting that
she was no longer interested in pursuing this case, admitted that she has no
personal knowledge on the truthfulness of Lopezs claim against respondent
Judge.19 There is reason to believe, as Justice Salvador noted, that Lopez wanted to
retaliate against respondent Judge for revoking his designation as Acting Clerk
of Court of Branch 10 by falsely testifying that she authorized him to release
Neither did complainant present any proof to support her claim
that respondent Judge unreasonably delayed the proceedings in Case No.
05-M-97.On the contrary, the records
show that respondent Judge attended to the various incidents of the case with
reasonable dispatch.Respondent Judge
did this even in the face of complainants numerous motions, the requirement to
hear the prosecution on these motions, and the successive transfer of Case No.
05-M-97 to four different prosecutors. Complainant herself needlessly prolonged
the proceedings by unjustifiably refusing to present her evidence, prompting
respondent Judge to warn her that her continued refusal would be deemed a
waiver of her right to do so.20 cralawred
Complainant has not cited any ground to hold respondent Judge
administratively liable for denying her motions for reinvestigation, reduction
of bail, dismissal, and voluntary inhibition. At any rate, the rule is that
disciplinary proceedings do not complement, supplement, or substitute judicial
remedies. An inquiry into the administrative liability of a judge may be
resorted to only after the available remedies have been exhausted and decided
with finality.21 There is nothing on record to suggest that complainant first availed of such
remedies before filing this administrative case.
WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the complaint against respondent
Victoria Villalon-Pornillos, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 10, Malolos, Bulacan, for lack of merit.
Panganiban, (Acting Chairman),
Ynares-Santiago, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman),
on official leave.
2 Certificate of Income Tax Withheld on Compensation received by the BIR on 27 February
1989; Certification of Deposit No. 91/19 dated 29 April 1991; Prudential Bank
Check No. 380567 dated 15 September 1992; Bank of the Philippine Islands Check
Nos. 009572 dated 4 February 1994, 009573 dated 25 March 1994, 009576 dated 24
June 1994, 009694 dated 28 April 1995, 009696 dated 5 May 1995, 009697 dated 12
May 1995, 009699 dated 15 May 1995, 105033 dated 22 May 1995, 105055 dated 23
May 1995; Letter dated 13 October 1995 addressed to Mr. Manolo Tingson; and
Receipts marked as Exh. 1-J, Exh. 1-I, Exh. 1-G, and Exh. 1-H, all dated 24 May 1997.
6 Docketed as A.M. No. P-01-1452. In the Decision dated 11 July 2001, the Court dismissed the complaint
against Umali for lack of merit but found Lopez guilty of grave misconduct and
P10,000, with warning that a repetition of a similar act will
be dealt with more severely.
7 In the hearing of 7 March 1996 in Civil Case No. 35-M-92 (Julian Francisco v. Spouses Pelagio and Gregoria Francisco),
Lopez, at the instance of one of the
parties, entered into the minutes of the proceedings matters which had not been
brought to the attention of respondent Judge for which Lopez was chastised in
8 Respondent Judge revoked Lopezs designation in the Memorandum of 15 November
1999 in EPC No. 11-M-98 (Lorna Silverio v. Jaime Viceo) for attempt[ing] to
blackmail [respondent Judge by] pressur[ing] her [to] delay xxx the
promulgation of the Judgment in EPC No. 11-M-98 xxx[;] hoodwinking the other
staff members into signing prepared Affidavits, the contents of which are
wrongfully premised on false rumors that your Presiding Judge received money
from a litigant [which Affidavits were] xxx attached to a Motion for Inhibition
[filed in this case] xxx[;] refus[ing] to read the Decision dated November 11,
1999, rendered that day, xxx and making a thumbs down sign, [and]
vigorous[ly] shaking [his]head, xxx[;] fail[ing] to return with the records of
this case [the draft copy of the Judgment which was] apparently made available
to a party xxx [and] using the Judges chamber as site of a closed-door
conference [i]n November 1999 with a party and representative/s in violation of
11 Lachica v. Judge Flordeliza, 324 Phil. 534 (1996).
12 Castro v. Bullecer, Adm. Matter No. 145 CFI, 11 June 1975, 64 SCRA 289.
13 Exh. B-3 to B-6 (TSN, 31 August 2000, pp. 12-15) .
14 Exh. B (TSN, 31 August 2000, pp. 31-32).
15 Portic v. Lopez, 413 Phil. 310
17 SeeAtty. Geocadin v. Hon. Pea, 195
Phil. 344 (1981).
18 Martin v. Vallarta, A.M. No.
MTJ-90-495, 12 August 1991,
200 SCRA 469.
20 Order dated 27 November 2000
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