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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT JURISPRUDENCE
 

 
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February-2006 Jurisprudence                 

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  • G.R. No. 168237 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. EDGARDO BARCENA Y POCA

  •  





     
     

    A.C. No. 6973 - ROBERT FRANCIS F. MARONILLA, ET AL. v. ATTYS. EFREN N. JORDA, ET AL.

      A.C. No. 6973 - ROBERT FRANCIS F. MARONILLA, ET AL. v. ATTYS. EFREN N. JORDA, ET AL.

    PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

    THIRD DIVISION

    [ADM. CASE No. 6973 : February 13, 2006]

    ROBERT FRANCIS F. MARONILLA, and ROMMEL F. MARONILLA, Represented by ATTY. RAMON M. MARONILLA, Complainants, v. ATTYS. EFREN N. JORDA and IDA MAY JAO, Respondents.

    R E S O L U T I O N

    TINGA, J.:

    The present matter stemmed from a fracas within the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman campus, and the subsequent attempts by the University disciplinary authorities to impose what had been deemed as the proper sanctions. The issue is whether respondents, members of the U.P. Diliman Legal Office, stepped out of bounds when they appealed to the University president to reconsider the exoneration by the Student Disciplinary Tribunal of the sons of the complainant.

    The facts as culled from the records of the case follows:

    On 28 January 2002 at about 4:45 in the afternoon, Ferdinand Ocampo (Ocampo), a student of the UP and a member of one of the fraternities thereof, was walking with his girlfriend Belinda Pangilinan towards the Biology Pavilion, Palma Hall of UP. When they were nearing the building, eight (8) persons, some of them wearing ski masks, alighted from nearby cars, armed with lead pipes. They started pursuing Ocampo, who ran towards Palma Hall. The aggressors gave chase, hurling the pipes at Ocampo, who was hit in the left leg and the right arm.1 Presumably, to prevent the men from further assaulting him, he pulled out a toy gun and poked it at his assailants. At that point, the men retreated to their cars and sped off towards the direction of UP Integrated School.2 Ocampo executed a Sinumpaang Salaysay before the Investigating Police Officer of UP Diliman Police on the same day of the incident.3

    A preliminary inquiry was conducted by herein respondent Atty. Efren N. Jorda (Jorda), University Legal Counsel,4 on 22 February 2002 and a formal charge5 was filed by the Diliman Legal Office on 6 March 2002.6

    A formal investigation before the UP Student Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) of the case commenced on 20 May 2002 and ended on 18 November 2003. On 31 May 2004, the UP SDT promulgated its Decision, the dispositive portion of which states:

    "WHEREFORE, premises considered, We find that the complaint against ROBERT FRANCIS MARONILLA y Fong, ROMMEL MARONILLA y Fong and MARLON RILLO y De Castro should be DISMISSED for lack of substantial evidence. On the other hand, the other Respondents, namely:

    1. THEDDEUS TESORO y De Leon;

    2. LEMUEL NARCISE y Marquez;

    3. SHERWIN DE LEON y Felix;

    4. CESAR BALUYUT y Motocmull; andcralawlibrary

    5. RICHARD SANCHEZ;

    are hereby found GUILTY of violating Rule 1, Section 1, paragraph A-2 of the Rules. The penalty of EXPULSION is hereby recommended as provided for by the Rules.7 (Emphasis supplied.)

    The SDT found Ocampo a credible witness. When asked to identify his attackers, he was clear and precise in recognizing and singling out the participants in the incident among the line-up as those members of the rival fraternity. However, he was not able to identify Marlon Rillo because according to Ocampo, Rillo had a different look during the incident.8 Ocampo also hesitated in the identification of Robert Francis and Rommel Maronilla (Maronilla brothers) for the reason that they are twins, thereby making positive identification difficult.9

    The SDT further held that the defenses of the assailants, all of which were alibis, cannot be accepted by the tribunal. The SDT held that alibi, as the weakest defense, must yield when there is positive identification.10

    Jorda subsequently moved for partial reconsideration of the decision of the SDT before the UP Office of the President with respect to the dismissal of the case against the Maronilla brothers. He asserted that the positive identification of the Maronilla brothers was firmly and clearly established by Ocampo but he failed to give their correct names or, put in another way, Ocampo did not know which of the two was Rommel or Robert Francis.11

    Furthermore, Jorda thereafter prepared an Extended Manifestation praying that the Motion for Partial Reconsideration of the SDT decision be considered as an appeal and the modification of the SDT decision holding that the Maronilla brothers be equally held liable as the rest of respondents in the SDT case.12 The Extended Manifestation was noted by herein respondent Atty. Ida May J. La o (La o), the chief legal officer of the UP Diliman Legal Office.

    On 13 September 2004, Atty. Ramon M. Maronilla (Maronilla), the father of the Maronilla brothers, representing his sons, filed a complaint-affidavit13 before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) against respondents Jorda and La o for violating Rule 12.0414 of the Code of Professional Responsibility by filing an appeal or motion for reconsideration in a disciplinary action that did not provide for such procedure. He also averred that respondents were obviously biased and partial and had the intention of inflicting harm and undue injury to his sons when they filed the appeal to the UP Office of the President. Thus, in effect, their acts took the form of persecution rather than prosecution.15

    In an Order dated 14 September 2004, the IBP, through its Director for Bar Discipline Rogelio A. Vinluan, directed respondents to submit their answer to the complaint within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the order.

    On 14 October 2004, respondents submitted their joint answer16 stating that the appeal was just a medium for the arguments of the prosecution of the disciplinary case to reach the UP President and to invite the attention of the latter to possible errors at the level of the SDT in applying the rules and the facts. Finally, respondents reasoned that all they did was just to provide 'inputs'.17 Respondents clarified that the function of the SDT was merely recommendatory and eventually, it is the UP President who shall make the decision. Moreover, respondents also charged Maronilla of 'shyster lawyering' and violating Canons 8 and 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for instituting baseless and malicious accusations against them.18

    On 25 April 2005, respondents filed their Specifications of Countercharge with Motion with the IBP for the purpose of indicting Maronilla and identifying certain conduct that constituted bad faith, dishonesty and very unprofessional conduct.19 On 27 April 2005, complainants filed a Manifestation stating that the SDT case has already been resolved by then UP President Francisco Nemenzo, who absolved the five (5) students recommended for expulsion from the University by the SDT. The IBP was furnished a copy of the Resolution.20

    On 22 June 2005, IBP Investigating Commissioner Dennis A.B. Funa submitted his report and recommendation dismissing the complaint against respondent La o and holding respondent Jorda guilty of violating Rule 12.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility in misusing the legal process and of gross ignorance of the law, recommending the penalty of reprimand. The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the report and recommendation of the investigating commissioner in its Resolution dated 22 October 2005. As to the countercharges filed by respondents against Maronilla, the IBP investigating commissioner disregarded the same as it is not among the pleadings allowed to be filed under the Rules of the Commission.

    We agree with the findings and recommendation of the IBP.

    The IBP pertinently noted that there was no right to appeal from the decisions of the Student Disciplinary Tribunal.

    It is clear under the Revised Rules and Regulations Governing Fraternities, Sororities and Other Student Organization ("Rules") of the UP, that the right of appeal is not afforded to the University or the University Prosecutors when the recommendation of the SDT is to dismiss the complaint against the respondent students. No such remedy, relief or recourse exists in the rules. This was categorically stated in the Decision of UP President Nemenzo.21 (Emphasis in the original.)ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

    Without any express provision of the law, an appeal cannot be undertaken as the same is not one of the rights of the litigants. Appeal is more of a privilege given to a party by the laws or procedures. It is not a natural right or a part of due process.22

    This Court cannot be persuaded by the reasons of respondents that they merely wanted to offer inputs to the UP President in rendering what they think is the right adjudication of the disciplinary case. As correctly held by the IBP investigating commissioner:

    Respondent's claim that his duty to provide "inputs" is misplaced and wrong. The duty to give "inputs" lies with the SDT and not with Respondent. His role was to prosecute the case, and that role ended when the SDT finished its hearings and investigation and submitted its report and findings. After the SDT has submitted its Decision, there is nothing more to prosecute as the investigation has finished. Respondent cannot unilaterally duplicate or supplant the recommendatory powers of the SDT by making his own "inputs" to the President of UP without being expressly authorized.23 (Emphasis in the original.)

    The Court likewise agrees with the IBP that the evidence submitted is not sufficient to levy sanction of La o. Only Jorda prepared and signed the offending Motion for Reconsideration which ultimately became the appeal in the disciplinary case before President Nemenzo. While La o's signature appears on the Extended Manifestation, the annotation "Noted" appears above the said signature, thus presumably indicating that she did not directly prepare the said document. Evidently, it cannot be said outright that she shared the vigor of Jorda in pursuing the erroneous appeal, and for lack of such evidence indubitably evincing a shared intent with Jorda, her exoneration is the prudent course of action.

    We recognize that Jorda breached a procedural rule no higher than the Revised Rules and Regulations Governing Fraternities, Sororities and Other Student Organizations of UP. Still, it must be remembered that Jorda as a functionary of a state university is obliged to adhere to the due process clause of the Constitution, the UP being an instrumentality of the State. He is bound to respect those enactments that afford benefit or relief to those under pain of sanction. As an officer of the law, he is expected to be circumspect in acting within the boundaries of his duties and responsibilities.

    WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court APPROVES the recommendations of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Resolution dated 22 October 2005. Accordingly, Atty. Efren N. Jorda is hereby REPRIMANDED for gross ignorance of the law and for violating Rule 12.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The complaint against Atty. Ida May J. La o is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

    SO ORDERED.


    Endnotes:


    1 Rollo, p. 8.

    2 Ibid.

    3 Id. at 6.

    4 Identified as such in the Decision of the SDT dated 31 May 2004. Rollo, p. 6.

    5 The formal charge reads:

    "That on or about January 28, 2002, at about 2:45 p.m., respondents:

    1.) ROBERT FRANCIS MARONILLA y Fong (UP Student No. 98-29114), a student of the C.S.S.P., UP Diliman, Quezon City;

    2.) ROMMEL MARONILLA y Fong (UP Student No. 98-27181), a student of the I.L.S., UP Diliman, Quezon City;

    3.) THEDDEUS TESORO y De Leon (UP Student No. 94-16459), a student of C.H.K., UP Diliman, Quezon City;

    4.) LEMUEL NARCISE y Marquez (UP Student No. 98-18159), a student of C.H.K., UP Diliman, Quezon City;

    5.) MARLON RILLO y De Castro (UP Student No. 97-21435), a student of C.A.L., UP Diliman, Quezon City;

    6.) SHERWIN DE LEON y Felix (UP Student No. 98-66562), a student of the C.S., UP Diliman, Quezon City;

    7.) CESAR BALUYUT y Motocmull (UP Student No. 98-11079), a student of C.S.S.P., UP Diliman, Quezon City;

    8.) RICHARD SANCHEZ;

    9.) A JOHN DOE a.k.a. "AJ"

    alighting from three (3) cars and armed with lead/steel pipes, suddenly attacked complaining witness Ferdinand G. Ocampo near Palma Hall who was then walking with a lady friend, and as Ocampo ran toward Palma Hall for safety, these attackers threw their lead/steel pipes at him two of which hit his left foot and right arm; that said act is in violation of Rule I, Section 1, paragraphs (A-2) and (E) of the Rules and Regulations Governing Fraternities, Sororities and other Student Organizations." Ibid.

    6 Ibid.

    7 Id. at 15.

    8 Id. at 12.

    9 Id. at 14.

    10 Ibid.

    11 Motion for Partial Reconsideration dated 21 June 2004; id. at 18-21.

    12 Extended Manifestation dated 21 July 2004; id. at 22-25.

    13 Id. at 1-4.

    14 Rule 12.04 - A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse Court processes.

    15 Rollo, p. 2.

    16 Id. at 27-30. Although the Answer named respondents Jorda and La o as the ones answering the complaint, only respondent Jorda signed the Answer.

    17 Id. at 28-29.

    18 Id. at 29.

    19 Id. at 47-49.

    20 Id. at 62-86.

    21 Report and Recommendation of IBP Commissioner Dennis A.B. Funa, dated 22 June 2005; id. at 102.

    22 Rivera v. Court of Appeals, 452 Phil. 1014 (2003).

    23 Supra note 21 at 103.


    A.C. No. 6973 - ROBERT FRANCIS F. MARONILLA, ET AL. v. ATTYS. EFREN N. JORDA, ET AL.


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