December 2009 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
A.M. No. RTJ-09-2170 Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 09-3094-RTJ - Heirs of Simeon Piedad, namely, Eliseo Piedad, et al. v. Executive Judge Cesar O. Estrena and Judge Gaudiso D. Villarin
[A.M. NO. RTJ-09-2170 : December 16, 2009]
[Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 09-3094-RTJ]
HEIRS OF SIMEON PIEDAD, namely: ELISEO PIEDAD, JOEL PIEDAD, PUBLIO PIEDAD, JR., GLORIA PIEDAD, LOT PIEDAD, ABEL PIEDAD, ALI PIEDAD, and LEE PIEDAD, Complainants, v. EXECUTIVE JUDGE CESAR O. ESTRERA and JUDGE GAUDIOSO D. VILLARIN, Regional Trial Court, Branches 29 and 59, respectively, Toledo City, Cebu, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO, JR., J.:
This administrative case stemmed from the sworn-complaint1 dated February 28, 2007 of the heirs of the late Simeon Piedad, namely: Eliseo Piedad, Joel Piedad, Publio Piedad, Jr., Gloria Piedad, Lot Piedad, Abel Piedad, Ali Piedad, and Lee Piedad filed with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), charging respondent Judges Cesar O. Estrera and Gaudioso D. Villarin with Issuing an Unlawful Order against a Co-equal Court and Unreasonable Delay in Resolving Motions in relation to Civil Case No. 435-T, S.P. Proc. No. 463-T, and S.P. Proc. No. 457-T.
In 1974, Simeon Piedad filed with the Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC) a case against Candelaria Linehan Bobilles and Mariano Bobilles for the annulment of an Absolute Deed of Sale, docketed as Civil Case No. 435-T entitled Simeon Piedad v. Candelaria Linehan-Bobilles and Mariano Bobilles. This was raffled to Branch 9 of the Cebu City RTC, presided by the late Judge Benigno Gaviola. Said court ruled in favor of Simeon Piedad in its Decision dated March 19, 1992,2 the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered and by preponderance of evidence, the Court hereby renders a Decision in favor of herein plaintiff Simeon Piedad and against defendants Candelaria Linehan-Bobilles and Mariano Bobilles, by declaring the deed of sale in question (Exhibit "A" or "5") to be NULL and VOID for being a mere forgery, and ordering herein defendants, their heirs and/or assigns to vacate the house and surrender their possession of said house and all other real properties which are supposed to have been covered by the voided deed of sale (Exhibit "A" or "5") to the administrator of the estate of spouses Nemesio Piedad and Fortunata Nillas. Furthermore, herein defendants are hereby ordered to pay plaintiff or his heirs the following: (1) P3,000.00 Moral Damages; (2) P2,000.00 Exemplary Damages; and (3) P800.00 attorney's fees, plus costs.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals, through its Decision dated September 15, 1998 in CA-G.R. CV No. 38652, affirmed the ruling of the lower court. The dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the decision appealed from, We hereby AFFIRM the same and DISMISS the instant appeal.
Costs against the defendants-appellants.
The foregoing decision became final and executory on November 1, 1998.4 Subsequently, upon the instance of Simeon Piedad, an order for the issuance of the writ of demolition was issued by the late Judge Gaviola. As stated in the dispositive portion of the Order dated October 22, 2001:
WHEREFORE, let a writ of demolition issue against Candelaria Linehan Bobilles and Mariano Bobilles. The sheriff implementing the writ is ordered to allow the defendants 10 days to remove their improvements in the premises and for them to vacate. Should defendant still fail to do so within the period aforestated, the sheriff may proceed with the demolition of the improvements without any further order from this Court.
On November 5, 2001, a motion for reconsideration was then filed by defendant Candelaria, which was denied in an Order dated November 26, 2001, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration is hereby DENIED. The Order dated October 22, 2001 granting the motion for issuance of a special order for demolition, shall continue in full force and effect. Let a writ of demolition issue against Candelaria Linehan Bobilles and Mariano Bobilles. The sheriff implementing the writ is ordered to allow the defendants ten (10) days from receipt of the writ within which to remove their improvements in the premises subject of the case and for them to vacate. Should defendant still fail to do so within the period aforestated, the sheriff may proceed with the demolition of the improvements without any further order from this Court.
Thus, on December 4, 2001, a Writ of Demolition7 was issued against the defendants therein and referred for implementation to Sheriff Antonio A. Bellones. In a seeming attempt to stop the enforcement of the writ, Candelaria attached to the expediente of Civil Case No. 435-T, a Petition for Probate of the Last Will and Testament of Simeon Piedad. This was found to be untenable by the late Judge Gaviola, who ordered the filing of the said petition in its natural course and its raffling to other branches of the court in its Order dated April 22, 2002.8
Subsequently, Candelaria filed a Petition for Probate of the Last Will and Testament of Simeon Piedad with the Toledo City RTC, docketed as S.P. Proc. No. 457-T and raffled to Branch 59, which was presided by respondent Judge Villarin.
Also, a verified petition for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or preliminary injunction was filed by Candelaria on May 16, 2002 with the Toledo City RTC, docketed as S.P. Proc. No. 463-T entitled Candelaria Linehan v. Antonio Billones, Sheriff RTC, Branch 9, Cebu City, against Sheriff Bellones to restrain the latter from enforcing the Writ of Demolition.9 On the day that the said petition was filed, respondent Judge Estrera, the Executive Judge of the Toledo City RTC and presiding judge of Branch 29, ordered the raffle of the petition. Four days thereafter, respondent Judge Estrera took it upon himself to hear the case summarily. Finding that the matter was of extreme urgency and would cause grave injustice and irreparable injury to the plaintiff, Candelaria, since it involved the demolition of the properties owned by the latter, respondent Judge Estrera immediately issued a restraining order, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, defendant Court Sheriff, Antonio Billones of the RTC, Branch 9, Cebu City, and all his servants, attorneys, agent and others acting in his aid are hereby commanded to cease and desist from enforcing the Writ of Demolition issued by the RTC, Branch 9, Cebu City, over the properties of plaintiff particularly Lot No. 1157-A located at Barangay Ibo, Toledo City.
Defendant is hereby further directed to appear before this Court and file his Answer or Opposition why a Preliminary Injunction should not be granted.
Set the hearing of this case on May 23, 2002 at 8:30 o'clock in morning. Notify the parties of this setting.
On June 11, 2002, Sheriff Bellones filed his answer, alleging that he was only performing his ministerial duty, and that there was no cause of action against him.11 Meanwhile, upon the instance of Candelaria, respondent Judge Estrera issued an order for the consolidation of the cases (S.P. Proc. No. 457-T and S.P. Proc. No. 463-T) in the Toledo City RTC, Branch 59.12 Immediately thereafter, respondent Judge Villarin issued the Order dated May 27, 2002,13 extending the TRO for 17 days, upon the instance of Candelaria.
Subsequently, the following motions were filed before Branch 59 of the Toledo City RTC: (1) a motion to dismiss, as amended;14 (2) a motion requesting the issuance of an order lifting the injunction order;15 and (3) a joint motion to resolve motions.16 Significantly, no action was taken on these motions.
In compliance with the directive of the OCA, respondent Judge Estrera submitted his comment dated April 24, 2007, in which he clarified that what he issued was an ex parte TRO, not an "injunction order," and that the said ex parte TRO was valid only for 72 hours and would be deemed automatically vacated should the preliminary injunction remain unresolved within the said period. He also stated that the TRO was never issued against the heirs of the late Simeon Piedad, the complainants herein, as they were never made parties to S.P. Proc. No. 463-T. He added that he was not aware of the circumstances attendant to Civil Case No. 435-T.17
On the other hand, respondent Judge Villarin explained in his comment that he did not act on the motion to dismiss, as amended, as this would be tantamount to a judicial interference in the order of Branch 29 of the Toledo City RTC, a court of co-equal jurisdiction. As regards his inaction on the motion requesting the issuance of an order lifting the injunction order, he justified such inaction by stating that there was no need to resolve the motion, considering that before S.P. Proc. No. 463-T was transferred to Branch 59 of the Toledo City RTC, the 72-hour restraining order had already lapsed. He then justified that the resolution of the motion requesting for the issuance of an order lifting the injunction order had already become moot.18 ???ñr?bl?š