November 2008 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
A.M. No. RTJ-08-2108 Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 08-2-93-RTC - OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR v. JUDGE ORLANDO P. DOYON, ET AL.
[A.M. NO. RTJ-08-2108 : November 25, 2008]
(Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 08-2-93-RTC)
OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, Petitioner, v. JUDGE ORLANDO P. DOYON, Branch Clerk of Court, Atty. CUSTODIO B. COMPENDIO, JR., and Clerks-in-Charge NOEL B. ALBIVA and JEANNETTE T. SAYAS, all of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 34, Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, Respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
A judicial audit was conducted on April 29, 2005 at the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 34, Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte presided by Judge Orlando F. Doyon (Judge Doyon) who was to retire on January 11, 2006 at the age of 70.
In a Memorandum dated May 30, 2005, the audit team reported that there were six civil cases1 and nine criminal cases2 where no action was made for a considerable length of time; three cases3 had pending incidents which were already beyond the period to resolve; eight cases4 were already beyond the reglementary period to decide; six cases5 had pending incidents and two cases6 were due for decision but were still within the reglementary period.7 The audit team also noted that there was no bundy clock in the court even though one was delivered a year before; the criminal and civil docket books were not updated; certificates of arraignment were not signed by the accused or his counsel in cases where the accused already entered his plea; and there were undeposited collections in the sum of P48,000.378 in violation of Administrative Circular (A.C.) No. 3-20009 which states that collections amounting to P500.00 should be deposited immediately.10
Based on said findings, then Deputy Court Administrator (DCA) (now retired Court Administrator) Christopher O. Lock issued three memoranda, all dated May 30, 2005: (1) to Judge Doyon directing him to take appropriate action on the cases where no action was taken for a considerable length of time; resolve with dispatch pending incidents and cases that were already beyond the period to resolve; decide within the reglementary period the cases already submitted for decision; and submit copies of the resolutions/decisions to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA);11 (2) to Atty. Custodio B. Compendio Jr., Clerk of Court VI, directing him to apprise Judge Doyon regarding cases submitted for resolution/decision and those requiring immediate action; order and supervise the updating of docket books; attach certificates of arraignment duly signed by the accused and his counsel; explain why the bundy clock was not installed and why he and the staff did not comply with OCA Circular No. 7-2003 on the mandatory use of bundy clocks in all courts; inform the Court whether the amount of P48,000.37 was immediately deposited, furnish the OCA documents showing the same, and explain why no disciplinary sanction should be imposed on him for failure to strictly comply with A.C. No. 3-2000;12 (3) to Noel B. Albiva and Jeanette T. Sayas, Clerks-in-Charge of criminal and civil cases, directing them to update the entries in their docket books and submit proof of compliance within 60 days from notice with a warning that continued failure to do the same may prove valid grounds for the imposition of administrative sanction.13
Atty. Compendio submitted his compliance dated August 22, 2005 stating that as soon as he received the May 30, 2005 Memorandum, he apprised Judge Doyon of the cases submitted for resolution/decision and is continuously doing so; he ordered and personally supervised the updating of their docket books; the bundy clock was not installed right away because nobody in their office was capable of installing it, and until the arrival of the bundy cards, they kept it in a safe place to avoid damage; eventually they were able to set it up and have used the same since June 1, 2005; they have already deposited the amount of P48,000.37 and will send the supporting documents within one week; the failure to immediately deposit said amount was due to the heavy work load of Sayas; however, necessary measures were already undertaken in order to comply with A.C. No. 3-2000; they did not require the accused and their counsels to sign the certificates of arraignment because such was not required by the Rules of Court; he requests clarification on the matter and promises to comply with further directives of the OCA.14
Judge Doyon retired from the service on January 11, 2006.15
In a Memorandum to Atty. Compendio dated January 2, 2007, DCA Reuben P. De la Cruz (DCA Dela Cruz) reminded him to be cognizant of A.C. No. 3-2000 as amended;16 he should be familiar with the provisions and forms provided in the 2002 Revised Manual for Clerks of Court; and, he should inform the OCA whether Judge Doyon has acted on the cases subject of Memorandum dated May 30, 2005.17
Atty. Elizabeth S. Tanchoco, head of the audit team, reported18 that the form for certificate of arraignment as provided in the 2002 Revised Manual for Clerks of Court had blanks provided for the signature of the accused and his/her counsel.19
DCA De la Cruz also sent a Memorandum to Albiva and Sayas dated January 2, 2007 directing them to show cause why they should not be disciplinarily charged for their failure to comply with the May 30, 2005 Memorandum.20
In a letter dated January 19, 2007, Atty. Compendio informed DCA De la Cruz that Judge Doyon already acted upon the cases subject of the May 30, 2005 memorandum except Civil Cases Nos. 4676 and 6-2001 which he already reminded Judge Doyon about.21
Atty. Compendio resigned on September 15, 2007.22
DCA De La Cruz issued a Memorandum dated October 30, 2007 to Albiva and Sayas stating that since both of them had not yet complied with the directive of the OCA in the Memorandum dated January 2, 2007, they were given 10 days to comply with the same, otherwise, the OCA would be constrained to initiate appropriate administrative proceedings against them.23 In a Memorandum of even date, DCA De la Cruz also directed Atty. Compendio to furnish the OCA copies of the orders, resolutions and decisions mentioned in his January 19, 2007 letter and inform the OCA if A.C. No. 3-2000 had been complied with.24
Judge Doyon sent a letter dated March 18, 2007 to DCA De la Cruz attaching copies of resolutions and orders corresponding to the cases mentioned in the May 30, 2005 Memorandum.25
In a Memorandum dated February 12, 2008, the OCA through Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepaño recommended that:
1. Judge Orlando P. Doyon be ordered to pay a FINE of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) PESOS to be deducted from his retirement benefits;
2. Branch Clerk of Court, Atty. Custodio B. Compendio Jr. be FINED the amount of FIVE THOUSAND (P5,000.00) PESOS for neglect of duty and inefficiency with a WARNING that a repetition of the same infractions in the future would be dealt with more severely; andcralawlibrary
3. Clerks-in-Charge Mr. Albiva and Ms. Sayas be each FINED the amount of FIVE THOUSAND (P5,000.00) PESOS for a clear and continued disregard to lawful directives of the Office of the Court Administrator.26
The OCA in said memorandum found that Judge Doyon failed to resolve within the reglementary period nine motions submitted for resolution,27 incurred delay in deciding six cases submitted for decision,28 failed to decide SP. 43-04 which was submitted for decision as early as July 18, 2005 and no action was taken in Crim. Case No. 2004-116 wherein a warrant of arrest was issued on August 16, 2004.29
The OCA also found that Atty. Compendio was negligent in supervising court dockets and assisting Judge Doyon in the preparation and submission of the latter's compliance; that he failed to furnish the Court copies of the decisions in SP Civil Case No. 03, "Heirs of Ramo v. Heirs of Ramo" and Civil Case No. 2000-01, "Morada v. Cosina" and merely provided a copy of the transmittal letters to the Court of Appeals (CA) without providing information whether these cases were decided within the required period; and that although he stated that he ordered the updating of the docket books of Albiva and Sayas, the compliance of the two still remained wanting.30 The OCA likewise found that Albiva and Sayas failed to submit their compliance even though memoranda dated May 30, 2005, January 2, 2007 and October 30, 2007 contained warnings on the possible imposition of administrative sanctions on the continued non-compliance with the same.31
The Court noted the said Memorandum and redocketed the instant case as a regular administrative matter in the Resolution dated March 19, 2008.32 In the Resolution dated August 6, 2008, the Court directed Judge Doyon, Atty. Compendio and Clerks Sayas and Albiva to explain their infractions as specified in the OCA Memorandum dated February 12, 2008.33
Judge Doyon submitted a Manifestation dated September 2, 2008 stating that: the instant case was filed after his compulsory retirement; he received a copy of the charges only on August 29, 2008; on March 18, 2007, he submitted copies of decisions, resolutions and orders of cases to DCA De la Cruz; if some of the decisions, resolutions and orders were beyond the reglementary period, it was because Clerk of Court Compendio, who had already resigned, failed to apprise him of cases for decision and/or resolution; if his inaction constituted an infraction of rules or regulations of the court, he was willing to be fined in an amount deductible from his retirement benefits; he prayed that this case be finally resolved so that he could be given his retirement benefits and he could pay his mortgages.34
Sayas and Albiva submitted a letter, with a 1st Indorsement dated June 5, 2008 by the Presiding Judge of the RTC Branch 34, Dax Gonzaga Xenos,35 stating that they immediately complied with the memoranda of the Court; however, they inadvertently failed to manifest the same to the OCA for which they sincerely apologized. Attached to said letter was a certification issued by Clerk of Court Atty. Fernando R. Fudalan, Jr., stating that the entries in the court's dockets were updated as of the date of said letter, June 5, 2005. They also manifested that in view of the resignation of Atty. Compendio effective September 2007, they attached, in his behalf, certified true copies of the decisions and orders issued by Judge Doyon as required of him, including the orders in SP. 43-04 and Crim. Case No. 2004-116. They prayed that this letter and its attachments be considered as substantial compliance with the Court's memoranda and that the administrative case against them be dropped.36
Albiva and Sayas also submitted a Comment37 on the August 29, 2008 Resolution of the Court, stating that they immediately endeavored to comply in good faith with the same by updating and preparing the court's semi-annual docket inventory reports covering the required period; however, they finished the reports within 6 months, instead of the 2-month period given by the Court; they attached the official receipt from the LBC dated January 14, 2006, the date the docket inventory reports were sent to the OCA; as to the Memorandum dated January 2, 2007, they sent a letter-compliance dated January 19, 2007 to the DCA manifesting in good faith their long-time compliance with the May 30, 2005 Memorandum; anent the Memorandum dated October 30, 2007, they presumed that compliance with the same was already retroactively carried over in their letter dated January 2, 2007; in Judge Xenos's letter to the DCA dated February 4, 2008, they again attached their January 19, 2007 letter attesting compliance; after receiving the March 19, 200838 Resolution of the Court, Siwa started to experience pregnancy bleedings and eventually had a miscarriage on June 6, 2008, a day after they finished gathering documents to be attached to their letter; in May 2008, they approached their new Legal Researcher who explained to them that what was required of them by the Court was the updating of entries in their respective docket books; it was only then that they realized that they misunderstood the memoranda and that what they repeatedly sent as compliance to the OCA, i.e., the semi-annual docket inventory reports, were not the ones required of them; they humbly submit that at the time they received the memorandum dated May 30, 2005, they had already updated their docket books in compliance with the judicial audit in April 2005; what remained was the submission to the OCA of docket inventory reports covering the period of July 2003 to June 2005; realizing their mistake, they immediately requested their Clerk of Court for a certification attesting to the fact that their docket books are updated up to the present time. They pray for mercy in the consideration of their case since they are breadwinners of their respective families.39
The Court agrees with the OCA's findings except as to the recommended penalty for Judge Doyon.
As correctly found by the OCA, Judge Doyon is guilty of undue delay in rendering decisions and resolutions.
The Constitution requires trial judges to dispose of all cases or matters within three months.40 The New Code of Judicial Conduct41 also provides in Canon 6, Section 5 thereof that judges shall perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness.
The reason for this rule is that justice delayed is justice denied.42 Undue delay in the disposition of cases results in a denial of justice which, in turn, brings the courts into disrepute and ultimately erodes the faith and confidence of the public in the judiciary.43 Thus, the failure of judges to render judgments within the required period constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants the imposition of administrative sanction.44
In this case, Judge Doyon failed to resolve and decide within the reglementary period nine motions and six cases submitted for decision.45 While the OCA found that he failed to decide SP. 43-04, a copy of an Order which was belatedly filed shows that the case was resolved on April 21, 2005.46
Judge Doyon's explanation that the undue delay was caused by the failure of Atty. Compendio to apprise him of the cases or incidents pending resolution cannot exculpate him from liability. A judge cannot take refuge behind the inefficiency or mismanagement of his personnel.47 He is responsible, not only for the dispensation of justice but also for managing his court efficiently to ensure the prompt delivery of court services.48 Since he is the one directly responsible for the proper discharge of his official functions, he should know the cases submitted to him for decision, especially those pending for more than 90 days.49
Judge Doyon's claim that the administrative case was filed after his compulsory retirement also cannot free him from liability. In Re: Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 54, Lapu-Lapu City50 and Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 8, Cebu City,51 audit investigations were conducted before the judges' compulsory retirements. However the cases were treated as administrative complaints only after the judges had compulsorily retired. The Court still held them liable for undue delay and imposed on them fines, which were deducted from their retirement benefits.52
Undue delay in rendering a decision or order is a less serious charge under A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC and is punishable by any of the following sanctions: (1) suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less than one nor more than three months; or (2) a fine of more than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00.
Considering however the number of resolutions and decisions involved in this case, and considering further that this is his first administrative infraction in his 11 years of service in the judiciary,53 the Court finds that a fine of P20,000.00 to be deducted from his retirement benefits is in order.54
As to Atty. Compendio, the Court finds him liable for simple neglect of duty. As branch clerk of court, his duty is to assist his presiding judge in the management of the calendar of the court and all other matters not involving the exercise of discretion or judgment of cases.55 Clerks of court must diligently supervise and manage court dockets and records.56 Their duties include conducting periodic docket inventory and ensuring that the records of each case are accounted for.57 They share in the duty to efficiently manage the court system; thus, they are expected to act promptly on their assigned tasks to prevent the clogging of cases in court and to assist in the administration of justice without delay.58 While they are not guardians of judges' responsibilities, they are expected to assist in the speedy disposition of justice.59 Clerks of Court also exercise general supervision over all court personnel, enforce regulations, initiate investigations of erring employees and recommend appropriate action to the judge.60
In this case, Judge Doyon claims that he incurred delay in resolving cases and incidents due to the failure of Atty. Compendio to properly apprise him of the status of their court's cases. The judicial audit team also found that the court's dockets were not updated; the bundy clock was not immediately installed and used; there were sums of money that were not immediately deposited in violation of A. C. No. 3-2000; the certificates of arraignment were not signed by the accused or by their counsel contrary to the form provided for in the 2002 Manual for Clerks of Court; and, Clerks Sayas and Albiva failed to immediately comply with the OCA's memoranda despite clear instructions to Atty. Compendio to ensure such compliance.
Simple neglect of duty, under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 19, s. 1999, Rule IV, Section 52, B (1) carries the penalty of suspension of one month and one day to six months for the first offense and dismissal for the second offense. The fact that Judge Doyon has resigned from office does not warrant the dismissal of the administrative case against him while he was still in the service and does not preclude the finding of any administrative liability to which he shall still be answerable.61 That this is his first offense, however, since he started service in the judiciary on July 2, 1998, should be considered in his favor.62 Under the circumstances, a fine in the amount of P5,000.00, as recommended by the OCA, is reasonable.63
As to Clerks-in-Charge Sayas and Albiva, the Court finds unbelievable their claim that they merely misunderstood the OCA's memoranda; thus, their failure to immediately comply with the same. Memorandum dated May 30, 2005 is short, simple and could easily be understood by any ordinary court employee.64 And if it were true that they misunderstood the same, their receipt of the January 2, 2007 Memorandum65 as well as the third memorandum dated October 30, 2007,66 which called their attention to their failure to comply with the first memorandum, should have prompted them to seek help in understanding the directives. They did not make any effort in clarifying the matter, however, and it was only in May 2008 that they approached their new Legal Researcher who explained to them that what was required of them by the Court was the updating of entries in their respective docket books and the submission of proof of compliance therewith; and that what they repeatedly sent to the OCA, i.e., the semi-annual docket inventory reports, were not the ones required of them.
In view of these circumstances, the Court finds them guilty of simple neglect of duty, which is defined as the failure to give attention to a task, or the disregard of a duty due to carelessness or indifference.67 It carries the penalty of suspension of one month and one day to six months for the first offense and dismissal for the second.68 Because of the fact that this is their first administrative infraction since they entered the judiciary in March 1998,69 which serve to mitigate their penalty, the recommended penalty of P5,000.00 fine to be imposed on each of them is proper.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Orlando F. Doyon of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 34, Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, GUILTY of undue delay in rendering decisions and orders for which he is FINED P20,000.00 to be deducted from his retirement benefits. Atty. Custodio B. Compendio, Jr., Clerk of Court VI of the same branch is GUILTY of simple neglect of duty for which he is FINED P5,000.00 to be taken from whatever sums may be due him as retirement, leaves or other benefits. Clerks-in-Charge Noel B. Abiva and Jeanette T. Sayas are GUILTY of simple neglect of duty and FINED P5,000.00 each with WARNING that the commission of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to all of their service records.
1 Case Nos. 02-2005, "Sps. Emboy v. Municipal Government of Santiago"; 03-2005, "Enong v. Burias"; 24-2002 "DBP v. Sps. Cabrera"; 4676 "J. Dejolde v. Heirs of R. Cebrina"; SP 19-04, "Deodel Butuan Montoc"; SP 31-04 "C. Jackson v. A. Jackson."
2 Case Nos. 2003-77, "People of the Philippines v. Maglasang"; 03-110 "People of the Philippines v. G. Orteza, J. Orteza"; 03-154 "People of the Philippines v. Coquit"; 2004-84, "People of the Philippines v. Basig"; 03-45, "People of the Philippines v. V. Aguillon"; 02-76 "People of the Philippines v. G.Sudario"; 2004-116 "People of the Philippines v. Santisas"; 2003-99 "People of the Philippines v. Cabugaten"; 00-19 "People of the Philippines. v. T. Martinez".
3 Case Nos. 2004-54, "Pp. v. Ibay"; 07-2003 "Lor v. Edan"; 6-2001 "Heirs of J. Galve v. Heirs of P. Cervantes, Jr."
4 Case Nos. 2000-46 "People of the Philippines v. Delquime"; Sp. Civil 03 "Heirs of Ramo v. Heirs of Ramo"; 2000-01 "Morada et al. v. Cosina"; 998 "Udarbe v. Ybaya et al"; Sp. Proc. 14-03 "Sps. Sanchez"; 18-2003 "C. Loon v. F. Buyser-Loon"; 01-03 "Napuli v. Napuli"; SP 07-04 "Sps. Aquino."
5 Case Nos. 2004-130 "People of the Philippines. v. Saunay"; 99-11, 9912 "People of the Philippines. v. C. Bihag, F. Homido, N. Udarbe, P. Arienza, S. Curato, E. Amarte"; 11-2003 "Mercado v. Bansas Sr. et al."; 04-2004 "Heirs of S. Junio v. Junio et al."; 6-2002 "Engr. L. Ballesteros v. G. Aguisola, et al." 22-2002 "Rosales v. Rosales".
6 Case Nos. 7440, "People of the Philippines v. Endoy, A. Pasciencia"; SP 43-04 "C. Bihag."
7 Rollo, pp. 1-5.
8 See also Rollo, pp. 17, 20.
9 Dated June 15, 2000, "Re: Guidelines in the Allocation of the Legal Fees Collected Under Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, as Amended, Between the General Fund and the Judiciary Development Fund".
10 Rollo, p. 6.
11 Id. at 12-16.
12 Rollo, pp. 17-18.
13 Id. at 19.
14 Id. at 20-21.
15 See Rollo, p. 25.
16 By Administrative Circular No. 35-2004 dated August 20, 2004.
17 Rollo, p. 31.
18 Memorandum dated January 2, 2007.
19 Rollo, p. 29.
20 Id. at 32.
21 Id. at b33.
22 Id. at 224.
23 Id. at 38.
24 Rollo, p. 39. In a Memorandum dated October 30, 2007, DCA De la Cruz furnished Judge Dax G. Xenos, who succeeded Judge Doyon as Presiding Judge of RTC Br. 34, a copy of the Memorandum dated January 2, 2007 which the OCA issued to Atty. Compendio, Albiva and Sayas, since the OCA had not yet received the compliances of the three personnel regarding the said memo.
25 Id. at 42-199.
26 Id. at 210-211.
27 Case Nos. 2004-130 (delay of 19 days); 99-11 &99-12 (224 days); 2004-54 (148 days); 11-2003 (221 days); 6-2002 (84 days); 22-2002 (201 days); 07-2003 (63 days) and 6-2001 (425 days), id. at 206-207.
28 Case Nos. 7440 (delay of 202 days); 998 (270 days); SP Proc. 14-03 (100 days); 18-2003 (171 days); 01-03 (57 days), and SP 07-04 (8 days), id. at 207-208.
29 Id. at 208.
30 Rollo, p. 210.
32 Id. at 217.
33 Id. at 219-222.
34 Rollo, pp. 360-361.
35 Id. at 227-229.
36 Id. at 229-230, 257-260.
37 Dated September 2, 2008.
38 Which resolved to note the Memorandum dated February 12, 2008 of the OCA and redocket the administrative case as a regular administrative matter.
39 Rollo, pp. 365-368.
40 Art. VIII, Section 15(1) of the 1987 Constitution.
41 A.M. No. 03-05-01-SC, which took effect on June 1, 2004.
42 Re: Cases Left Undecided by Retired Judge Benjamin A. Bongolan of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2, Bangued, Abra, A.M. No. 98-12-392-RTC, October 20, 2005, 473 SCRA 428.
43 Id. at 432.
45 Rollo, p. 208.
46 Id. at 257-259. Parenthetically, Crim. Case No. 2004-116 which the OCA found had no action since 2004, was archived per Order dated December 13, 2006 issued by Judge Francisco F. Macalang, see rollo, p. 260.
48 Id. at 238-239.
49 Id. at 439.
52 Re: Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 54, Lapu-Lapu City, supra note 50; Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 8, Cebu City, supra note 51.
53 Having entered the judiciary on November 10, 1997 per Records Division, OCA-OAS.
54 See Office of the Court Administrator v. Bagundang, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1937, January 22, 2008, 542 SCRA 153; Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 136, Makati City, A.M. No. 00-7-320-RTC, November 17, 2004, 442 SCRA 414.
56 Id. at 21.
57 Office of the Court Administrator v. Go, A.M. No. MTJ-07-1667, September 27, 2007, 534 SCRA 156.
58 Bernaldez v. Avelino, supra note 55.
62 Per Records Division, OCA-OAS; Bernaldez v. Avelino, supra note 55.
63 See Office of the Court Administrator v. Go, supra note 57; Office of the Court Administrator v. Trocino, supra note 60.
64 The Memorandum reads:
"Anent the Report of the Team which conducted the judicial audit and physical inventory of cases on April 29, 2005 at that court, you are hereby DIRECTED to UPDATE the entries in the respective docket books assigned to you and SUBMIT PROOF of your compliance within sixty (60) days from notice hereof, with WARNING that continued failure to do the same may prove valid grounds for the imposition of administrative sanction.", rollo, p. 19.
65 Id. at 32.
66 Id. at 38.
67 Office of the Court Administrator v. Garcia-Rañoco, A.M. No. P-03-1717, March 6, 2008.
68 Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 19, s. 1999, Rule IV, Section 52, B (1).
69 March 2, 1998 for Albiva and March 16, 1998 for Sayas, Per Records Division, OCA-OAS.