Floresta v. Ubiadas : AM RTJ-03-1774 : May 27, 2004 : J. Carpio-Morales
: Third Division : Decision
[A.M. NO. RTJ-03-1774 : May 27, 2004]
PROV. PROSECUTOR DORENTINO Z. FLORESTA, Complainant, v. Judge ELIODORO G. UBIADAS, Regional Trial Court, Olongapo City, Branch 72, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
By a Sworn Complaint1 dated January 24, 2000, then Provincial Prosecutor, now Regional Trial Court
Judge Dorentino Z. Floresta (complainant) administratively charged Judge
Eliodoro G. Ubiadas of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC),
with gross ignorance of [the] law, grave abuse of authority and violations of
the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Complainant faults respondent for dismissing for lack of
jurisdiction, on motion of the accused, by Order2 of July 9, 1997, Crim. Case No. 212-97, People of the Philippines v. Chia
Say Chaw, et al., for illegal entry.
Complainant alleges that by dismissing Crim. Case No. 219-97
[d]espite. .. the provision of P.D. 1599 which established the Exclusive
Economic Zone of the Philippines and [the apprehension of the accused] within
the 200 nautical miles of the. .. Zone, respondent virtually surrender[ed]
our sovereignty and criminal jurisdiction to the Chinese government.3 cralawred
Complainant likewise faults respondent for failure to resolve, as
he has yet to resolve, the Motion for Reconsideration and/or Clarification of
the abovesaid Order of July 9, 1997, despite the lapse of more than two years
since the filing of the motion.
failure, complainant charges respondent with violation of Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of
the Code of Judicial Conduct which enjoins judges to dispose of the courts
business promptly and decide cases within the required periods, and of SC
Circular No. 13 (July 1, 1987) which requires lower courts to resolve cases or
matters before them within three months or ninety days from date of submission.
Complainant furthermore faults respondent for granting, without
giving notice to the prosecution, the petition for bail of Jose Mangohig, Jr.
who was arrested by virtue of a warrant issued by the Municipal Trial Court of
Subic, Zambales which found probable cause against him for violation of Section
Art. III of Republic Act No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children
Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act). 4 cralawred
Finally, complainant faults respondent for disqualifying him
(complainant) from appearing in Crim Case No. 634-99, People v. Esmane-Diaz,
despite his (complainants) designation to handle the prosecution of the case
by the Ombudsman.
By Second Indorsement-Comment of March 20, 2000,5 respondent contends that petitioner has no personality to initiate the
complaint against him as he is not a party to the cases subject thereof.
On the merits of the charges, respondent counters that
territorial jurisdiction over the area where the accused in Crim. Case No.
212-97 were arrested within the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal has not yet
been established by controlling jurisprudence, given the conflicting claims
thereover by the Philippines and China and the absence of an inter-country
agreement determining the common boundaries of the Exclusive Economic Zone.6 cralawred
As to his failure to resolve the Motion for Reconsideration of
his July 9, 1997 Order dismissing, for lack of jurisdiction, Crim. Case No.
212-97, respondent points out that said motion was filed after the accused were
already released from detention.
further points out that during the pendency of said motion, representatives of
the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) informed him that said office was not
interested in setting aside the order of dismissal but that it was suggesting
an amendment of the order.7 Respondent explains though that since the accused had already been released
from detention and had left the Philippines, and the interest of the DFA was
merely for the amendment of the order of dismissal, the motion had already
As to the second charge, respondent informs that the petition for
bail of Mangohig who was then under preliminary investigation, which motion was
filed on January 3, 2000 on which same date a copy of said petition was
furnished the public prosecutor, was as set by Mangohig heard on the morning of
January 4, 2000 during which there was no appearance from the Prosecutors
Office; and that as the offense for which Mangohig was charged is ordinarily a
bailable offense, respondent granted him bail.
As for his order disqualifying complainant in Crim. Case No.
634-99, respondent explains that he had already reconsidered the same through
his February 10, 2000 Order,8 he having earlier failed to see petitioners designation by the Ombudsman.
In its August 16, 2002 Report,9 the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) found, as to the first charge, that
it was not shown that respondent acted with malice, oppression or bad faith
sufficient to find him guilty of gross ignorance of the law, it having appeared
that respondent based his dismissal order on his interpretation of a provision
The OCA thus concluded that as
respondents conclusions in his assailed order are not without logic or reason, and unattended by fraud, dishonesty, corruption or bad faith,10 he could not be faulted for gross ignorance of the law.
The OCA hastened to add, however, that
respondent is nonetheless required to act on the motion for reconsideration.
As to the second charge, the OCA stressed that the Rules of Court
requires a movant to serve notice of his motion on all parties concerned at
least three days before the hearing thereof, hence, respondent erred in
granting the petition for bail without hearing the prosecutions side.
Finally, on the third charge, the OCA found that respondents
explanations were fraught with inconsistencies since his allegation that he
failed to see complainants designation as Ombudsman-Prosecutor in Crim. Case
No. 634-99 is belied by his December 17, 2000 Order11 wherein he noted that complainant was deputized by the Office of the Ombudsman
to prosecute said case.
The OCA in fact
noted that respondents subsequent February 10, 2001 Order reconsidering his
December 17, 2000 Order was issued only after the latter order had attained
finality and the instant case was filed.
The OCA accordingly recommended that respondent be FINED in the
amount of Twenty Thousand (
By Resolution of February 26, 2003,12 this Court noted the OCA Report and required the parties to MANIFEST within twenty (20) days from
notice, whether they are submitting the case on the basis of the
pleadings/records already filed and submitted.
By Manifestation dated April 1, 2003,13 complainant proffered additional charges against respondent and submitted in
support thereof, among other things an administrative complaint filed by one
Dr. Reino Rosete against respondent and photocopies of orders issued by
Dr. Rosetes complaint,
which was addressed to then Court Administrator Alfredo Benipayo, is both
undated and unsigned, however.
same Manifestation, complainant submitted the case for decision.
On May 9, 2003, the Docket and Clearance Division of this Court
received an undated manifestation14 of respondent stating that he was submitting the case on the basis of the
pleadings/records already filed in the case.
This Courts Findings
the dismissal of Crim. Case No. 212-97
On innumerable occasions this Court has impressed upon judges
that, as mandated by the Code of Judicial Conduct, they owe it to the public
and the legal profession to know the very law they are supposed to apply to a
given controversy.15 They are called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with
statutes and procedural rules, to be conversant with the basic law, and to
maintain the desired professional competence.16 cralawred
The propriety of the dismissal, on motion of the accused, of
Crim. Case No. 212-97 on jurisdictional grounds is, however, a matter for
judicial adjudication and the proper recourse of a party aggrieved by the
decision of a judge is to appeal to the proper court, not file an
administrative complaint.17 cralawred
For, as a matter of public policy, in the absence of fraud,
dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a judge in his judicial capacity are
generally not subject to disciplinary action, even though such acts are
erroneous.18 Only in cases where the error is gross or patent, deliberate and malicious, or
incurred with evident bad faith may administrative sanctions be imposed.19 There is no showing that this was the case here.
With respect to the non-resolution of the prosecutions Motion
for Reconsideration of the order of dismissal of Crim. Case No. 212-97 no resolution
of which has been issued, complainant, in his Reply to the Comment of
respondent, refutes respondents explanation in this wise:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
When the said motion was filed in Court on July 11, 1997, the
Chinese fishermen were not yet released from detention.
It was during the pendency of the motion
that the Chinese fishermen were allowed to leave by the Chief of Police of
Subic, Zambales despite our representation that they should not be released
from jail as another case for illegal fishing was still pending investigation.. .. The representatives from the Foreign Affairs merely wanted to convey
to Judge Ubiadas the serious implications of his Order of dismissal on the
ground of lack of jurisdiction on the territorial integrity and national
security of our country.
Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon publicly denounced the Order of dismissal
issued by Judge Ubiadas as evidenced of an article which appeared in the July
13, 1997 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.Copy of said article is hereto attached as Annex A and made
integral part hereof.
There is no truth that they told Judge Ubiadas that they are no
longer interested in the setting aside of his Order of dismissal.
In fact, the Motion for Reconsideration of
the said Order of dismissal was already filed in his Court and he even issued
an Order dated 18 July 1997 submitting the said Motion for resolution.
Copy of said Order dated 18 July 1997 is
hereto attached as Annex B and made integral part hereof.
Since the said Motion for Reconsideration of
his Order of dismissal was already considered by him as submitted for
resolution as of 18 July 1997, Judge Ubiadas should have resolved one way or
the other, the said motion.20 (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
Whether the accused in Crim. Case No. 212-97 were already
released at the time of the filing of the motion for reconsideration did not
relieve respondent from resolving it as in fact he even issued an order stating
that it was submitted for resolution.
Article VIII, Section 15(1) of the 1987 Constitution and Canon 3,
Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct direct judges to dispose of their
cases promptly and within the prescribed periods, failing which they are liable
for gross inefficiency.21 cralawred
To thus ensure that the mandates on the prompt disposition of
judicial business are complied with, this Court laid down guidelines in SC
Administrative Circular No. 1322 which provides, inter alia, that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Judges shall observe scrupulously the periods prescribed by Article
VIII, Section 15, of the Constitution for the adjudication and resolution of
all cases or matters submitted in their courts.Thus, all cases or matters must be decided or resolved within
twelve months from date of submission by all lower collegiate courts while all
other lower courts are given a period of three months to do so.
This injunction is reiterated in SC
Administrative Circular No. 3-9923 which requires all judges to scrupulously observe the periods prescribed in the
Constitution for deciding cases, failure to observe which is a serious
violation of the constitutional right of the parties to speedy disposition of
their cases.24 cralawred
Having failed to resolve the Motion for Reconsideration,
respondent is liable for undue delay in rendering a decision or order which is
a less serious charge under Section 9 of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court and
which carries the penalty of suspension from office without salary and other
benefits for not less than one (1) nor more than three (3) months or a fine of
P10,000 but not exceeding P20,000.
the grant of bail to the accused in Crim. Case No. 271-99
Whether bail is a matter
of right or discretion, and even if no charge has yet been filed in court against
a respondent-suspect-detainee, reasonable notice of hearing is required to be
given to the prosecutor, or at least his recommendation must be sought.25 So Fortuna v. Penaco-Sitaca26 instructs:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
[A]dmission to bail as a matter of
discretion presupposes the exercise thereof in accordance with law and
guided by the applicable legal principles.
The prosecution must first be accorded an opportunity to present
evidence because by the very nature of deciding applications for bail, it
is on the basis of such evidence that judicial discretion is weighed against in
determining whether the guilt of the accused is strong.
In other words, discretion must be
exercised regularly, legally and within the confines of procedural due process,
that is, after the evaluation of the evidence submitted by the prosecution.
Any order issued in the absence thereof is
not a product of sound judicial discretion but of whim and caprice and outright
arbitrariness. (Italics in the original; underscoring supplied)27 cralawred
True, a hearing of the petition for bail was conducted in Crim.
Case No. 271-99 on January 4, 2000 at 8:30 a.m.28 Given the filing of the petition only the day before, at close to noontime, it
cannot be said that the prosecution was afforded reasonable notice and opportunity
to present evidence after it received a copy of the petition minutes before
it was filed in court.
stressing that the prosecution should be afforded reasonable opportunity to
comment on the application for bail by showing that evidence of guilt is
While in Section 18 of Rule 114 on applications for bail, no
period is provided as it merely requires the court to give a reasonable
notice of the hearing to the prosecutor or require him to submit his
recommendation, and the general rule on the requirement of a three-day notice
for hearing of motions under Section 4 of Rule 15 allows a court for good cause
to set the hearing on shorter notice, there is, in the case of Mangohig, no
showing of good cause to call for hearing his petition for bail on shorter
Reasonable notice depends of course upon the circumstances of
each particular case, taking into account, inter alia, the offense
committed and the imposable penalties, and the evidence of guilt in the hands
of the prosecution.
In Crim. Case No. 271-99, Mangohig was arrested for violation of
Art. III of R.A. 7610,30 which is punishable by reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua, and subsequently indicted for statutory rape31 qualified by relationship which is punishable by death.
Under the circumstances, by respondents assailed grant of bail,
the prosecution was deprived of due process for which he is liable for gross
ignorance of the law or procedure32 which is a serious charge under Sec. 8 of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court.
The charge carries the penalty of dismissal
from the service with forfeiture of all or part of the benefits or suspension
from office without salary and other benefits for more than 3 but not exceeding
6 months or a fine of more than
P20,000 but not exceeding P40,000.33 cralawred
This Court takes this occasion to reiterate the injunction that a
judge is called upon to balance the interests of the accused who is entitled to
the presumption of innocence until his guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt, and to enable him to prepare his defense without being subject to punishment
prior to conviction,34 against the right of the State to protect the people and the peace of the
community from dangerous elements.35
III.On the failure to recognize
complainants special designation from the Ombudsman in Crim. Case No. 634-99
The brushing aside by the OCA of respondents explanation on the
matter is well taken.
In the exercise of his power to investigate and prosecute on its
own or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public officer or
employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal,
unjust, improper or inefficient,36 the Ombudsman is authorized to call on prosecutors or lawyers in the government
service for assistance.37 Section 31 of the Ombudsman Act of 1989 provides:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Designation of Investigators and Prosecutors The Ombudsman
may utilize the personnel of his office and/or designate or deputize any
fiscal, state prosecutor or lawyer in the government service to act as special
investigator or prosecutor to assist in the investigation and prosecution of
Those designated or
deputized to assist him as herein provided shall be under his supervision and
It is on the basis of the above-quoted provision of law that Deputy
Ombudsman for Luzon Jesus Guerrero endorsed Case No. OMB-1-98-2418 (Chan v. Esmane-Diaz) to complainant with the instruction to file the Information
and to prosecute the case.38 The indorsement included an order to submit a monthly report to the Office of
the Ombudsman of any actions taken in relation to the case.
Respondents December 17, 1999 Order39 which states, inter alia, as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The Officer-in-Charge of the City Prosecutors Office is hereby
directed to designate any of the Assistant Prosecutors of the City Prosecutors
Office to take the place of Provincial Prosecutor Dorentino Z. Floresta. While
Prosecutor Floresta appears to have been deputized by the Office of the
Ombudsman to prosecute this case, no special reason was given for such
Instead, it appears that
such designation was merely based on the premise that the offense charged was
committed in Subic municipality as erroneously indicated in the original
Information filed with this Court.
Inasmuch as the Information as amended, upon the initiative of
Prosecutor Floresta himself, shows that the place of the commission of the
offense charged is in Olongapo City, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor
does not have the authority to continue prosecuting this case for the People of
the Philippines (Section 2, Rule 117, 1997 Rules of Criminal Procedure). For this reason, the Office of the City
Prosecutor should take his place inasmuch as the Office of the City Prosecutor
of Olongapo has territorial jurisdiction over the offense charged.40 (Underscoring supplied),
shows that he was not only aware of
complainants designation, hence, belying his explanation that he must have
overlooked the same.
It also shows his
ignorance of the above-cited provision of the Ombudsman Act which does not
require the presence of a special reason for the designation or deputization by
the Ombudsman of any prosecutor or government lawyer to assist him.
It would appear though from respondents above-quoted December
17, 1999 Order that he was of the belief that it was the City Prosecutor,
rather than the Provincial Prosecutor, who had territorial jurisdiction over
It is in this light that
he is given the benefit of the doubt, absent any showing that he was motivated
by malice or bad faith.
With respect to the charges raised against respondent in
complainants April 1, 2003 Manifestation, by which complainant submitted an
unsigned and undated complaint by a certain Dr. Reino Rosete and copies of
respondents other assailed decisions:
While Section 1 of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended, allows
the institution of administrative proceedings upon an anonymous complaint, the
veracity of Rosetes complaint is doubtful as it does not bear his
It is clearly not intended
to be an anonymous complaint.
Finally, on the rest of the charges against respondent, this
Court is unable to pass upon them as complainant merely submitted photocopies
of respondents assailed orders without stating clearly and concisely the
alleged acts and omissions constituting violations of standards of conduct
prescribed for judges by law, the Rules of Court or the Code of Judicial
Judge Eliodoro G. Ubiadas, Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 72, Olongapo City, is
found GUILTY of undue delay in resolving a motion and of gross ignorance of the
law or procedure in granting an application for bail without affording the
prosecution due process.
accordingly FINED in the amount of TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS (
with WARNING that repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with
Vitug, (Chairman), Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Corona, JJ., concur.
4 Rep. Act 7610, Art. III, Sec. 5 (b) provides:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Sec. 5.Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse. Children
whether male or female, who for money, profit, or any other consideration or
due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in
sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited
in prostitution and other sexual abuse.
The penalty of reclusion temporal
in its medium period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon the
x x x
(b) Those who commit the act of
sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in prostitution
or subjected to other sexual abuse:
That when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age, the perpetrators shall
be prosecuted under Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article 336 of Act
No. 3815, as amended, of the Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious
conduct, as the case may be:
That the penalty for lascivious conduct when the victim is under twelve (12)
years of age shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period
6 P.D. No. 1599, Establishing an Exclusive Economic Zone and for Other
Sec. 1 provides, There is hereby established a zone to be
known as the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
The exclusive economic zone shall extend to
a distance of two hundred nautical miles beyond and from the baselines from
which the territorial sea is measured:
That, where the outer limits of the zone as thus determined overlap the
exclusive economic zone of an adjacent or neighboring state, the common
boundaries shall be determined by agreement with the state concerned or in
accordance with pertinent generally recognized principles of international law on
18 Daracan v. Natividad,
SCRA 161, 175 (2000),
Santos v. Orlino, supra; Heirs of the Late
Nasser D. Yasin v. Felix, 250 SCRA 545 (1995).
19 Philippine Geriatrics Foundation, Inc. v. Layosa, supra.
22 SC Circular No. 13-87, Guidelines in the Administration of Justice (July 1,
23 SC Administrative Circular No. 3-99, Strict Observance of Session Hours of
Trial Courts and Effective Management of Cases to Ensure Their Speedy
Disposition, (January 15, 1999).
25 Caeda v. Alaan,
374 SCRA 225, 229 (2002); Comia v. Antona, 337 SCRA 656 (2000) ; Chin v. Gustillo, 247 SCRA 175 (1995). Vide
Rule 114, sec. 18 of the
1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, reiterated in Rule 114, sec. 18 of the 2000
Rules of Criminal Procedure.
27 Id. at 621 (citations omitted).
29 Go v. Bongolan, supra;
Caeda v. Alaan,
374 SCRA 225, 229 (2002); Comia v. Antonia, supra.
Information, Rollo at 29-B.
36 Rep. Act No. 6770, otherwise known as Ombudsman
Act of 1989, (1990),
sec. 15, par. 1.
37 Lastimosa v. Vasquez,
243 SCRA 497, 505 (1995).
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