WEBB, ANTONIO LEJANO,
FERNANDEZ, MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ,
ESTRADA and MICHAEL GATCHALIAN,
G. R. No. 127262
July 24, 1997
OF THE PHILIPPINES, HON. AMELITA G.
E C I S I O N
Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court of
Branch 274, and LAURO VIZCONDE,
Hubert Webb, Antonio Lejano, Hospicio
Fernandez, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada and Michael Gatchalian
assail the decision of the Court of Appeals dated June 21, 1996 in C.A.
G. R. SP No. 39839
and C.A. G. R. SP No. 39840,
as well as its resolution dated November 15, 1996 insofar as it denied
the petition for the inhibition of respondent Judge Amelita G.
in Criminal Case No. 95-404
pending before Branch 274 of the Regional Trial Court of Paranaque.
facts show that on August 8, 1995,
petitioners were charged with the crime of rape with homicide for
raping Carmela Vizconde and on the occasion thereof, killing Carmela
and her mother, Estrellita, and her sister, Jennifer. The crime was
in the evening of June 29 up to the early morning of June 30, 1991 at
Vizconde residence in BF Homes, Paranaque.
The case, docketed as Criminal Case No. 95-404, was raffled to Branch
of the Regional Trial Court of Paranaque presided by respondent judge.cralaw
Prior to their
arraignment, petitioner Webb and
his co-accused, Gerardo Biong, had sought the disqualification of
judge in Criminal Case No. 95-404. In his motion of August 21, 1995,
Webb relied on the ground that respondent judge allegedly told the
that "failure of the accused to surrender following the issuance of the
warrant of arrest is an indication of guilt." Respondent judge denied
motion. Two days later, on August 23, 1995, petitioner Webb filed a
motion to disqualify respondent judge as the latter allegedly told the
media that the accused "should not expect the comforts of home,"
the resolution of his motion to be committed to the custody of the
National Police at Camp Ricardo Papa, Bicutan, Paranaque. Respondent
again denied the motion to inhibit. On September 4, 1995, Gerardo Biong
filed another motion to disqualify respondent judge on the ground of
and partiality. This was likewise denied by respondent judge.cralaw
were arraigned on September 4,
1995. They then filed separate petitions for bail.
On September 21, 1995, petitioner Webb
an Urgent Motion for Hospitalization. He alleged that he was sick of
or asthma of the skin which aggravated due to his continuous commitment
at the Paranaque Municipal Jail. The motion was denied by respondent
on October 16, 1995. On October 9, 1995, the hearing on petitioners'
for bail commenced. The prosecution presented its "star witness,"
Jessica Alfaro, who identified petitioners as the perpetrators of the
During the cross-examination, the defense counsel tried to impeach
credibility by asking her questions regarding the contents of an
she executed at the National Bureau of Investigation [NBI] on April 28,
1995. The defense tried to show that some of her statements in said
are inconsistent with her statements in a subsequent affidavit executed
on May 21, 1995 and with her testimony in court. The prosecution
and moved that all questions relating to the contents of Alfaro's April
28 affidavit be expunged from the records for being inadmissible in
under Article III Section 12 and  of the 1987 Constitution.
Respondent judge sustained the objection and on October 30, 1995, she
an order holding that Alfaro cannot be cross-examined on the contents
her April 28 affidavit because said affidavit was inadmissible in
as it was not executed in the presence of a counsel.
The defense also
tried to prove Alfaro's motive
in testifying against petitioners. She was questioned about her
Patrick Alfaro, and her uncle, Roberto Alfaro. Jessica Alfaro allegedly
admitted that her brother, Patrick, was a drug addict and was arrested
once by the NBI for illegal possession of drugs and that he is
in the United States. When defense counsel inquired about the
of Patrick's departure for the United States, the prosecution objected
to the questions on the ground of irrelevancy. Respondent judge
The defense also
cross-examined Alfaro on her
educational attainment to show that she lied in her direct testimony.
defense presented her transcript of records to prove that she only
for a year and earned nine  academic units, contrary to her claim
she finished second year college. The prosecution again objected on the
ground that Alfaro's educational attainment was irrelevant. Respondent
judge sustained the objection. On November 9, 1995, petitioners filed a
motion to disqualify or inhibit respondent judge due to bias and
Respondent judge denied the motion for lack of merit on November 28,
On November 15,
1995, petitioners filed two separate
petitions with this Court. Petitioners Webb, Lejano, Fernandez,
with their co-accused, Gerardo Biong, filed a petition for certiorari
to set aside  the order of respondent judge dated October 16, 1995
petitioner Webb's motion for hospitalization and  the order of
judge dated October 30, 1995 disallowing the defense to cross-examine
on the contents of her April 28 affidavit.
Petitioners Gatchalian and Estrada filed a petition for certiorari,
and mandamus assailing respondent judge's order prohibiting the
of Alfaro on the contents of her April 28 affidavit.
On December 8,
1995, petitioners filed with this
Court a supplemental petition to set aside the November 28, 1995 order
of respondent judge denying their motion for inhibition. In a
dated January 22, 1996, we referred both petitions and the supplemental
petition to the Court of Appeals for proper disposition. In
the meantime, the hearing on petitioners' petitions for bail continued.
The prosecution presented Mila Gaviola, a former maid at the Webb
who testified that she saw petitioner Webb in their house in the early
morning of June 30, 1991. On December 5, 1995, respondent judge, over
objection of the petitioners, ordered an ocular inspection of the
Webb residence in BF Homes, Paranaque to verify Gaviola's testimony
a secret door through which she peeped to see petitioner Webb.cralaw
On January 12,
1996, petitioner Webb filed a motion
for deposition of witnesses residing in the United States who shall
on his presence in the United States on the date of the commission of
On February 6, 1996, respondent judge denied the motion for the reason
that petitioner Webb failed to allege that the witnesses do not have
means to go to the place of the trial.
Hence, on January 12, 1996, petitioner Webb filed another supplemental
petition to the Court of Appeals challenging the said order.cralaw
their Formal Offer of Evidence
upon conclusion of the hearings on the petitions for bail. On September
25, 1995, the prosecution filed its Comment/Objection to the Formal
of Evidence. On October 1, 1996, respondent judge ruled on petitioner's
formal offer of evidence. She admitted only ten  out of the one
forty two  exhibits offered by petitioner.
On October 11, 1996,
judge denied petitioners' petitions for bail.
On June 21, 1996,
the Court of Appeals rendered
its Decision on the various petitions and supplemental petitions. It
respondent judge's ruling refusing to admit Alfaro's April 28 affidavit
but denied all the other reliefs prayed for by petitioners.
It also denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration in a resolution
dated November 15, 1996.
On December 12, 1996,
filed the present petition contending:
I.chanrobles virtual law library
The Court of Appeals erred in
no sufficient ground exists for the disqualification of the respondent
judge.chanrobles virtual law library
A. Respondent judge has consistently
shown bias and hostility against petitioners.chanrobles virtual law library
B. The rejection of the 132 of 142
not only paved the way for the denial of bail but also sets
the eventual conviction of all the accused.chanrobles virtual law library
C. The reported trip to the Vizconde
by the respondent judge exposes her propensity to consort with the
on the pending issues.chanrobles virtual law library
II.chanrobles virtual law library
The Court of Appeals erred in not
that the right to a fair trial requires that the case be tried by an
judge.chanrobles virtual law library
On February 5,
1997, petitioners filed a supplemental
petition. It alleged, among others, that during the trial on the
respondent judge allowed prosecution witness Atty. Pedro Rivera to
on the character of the accused although the defense had not put his
in issue; that respondent judge disallowed the defense to impeach the
of Atty. Rivera by the presentation of an earlier statement executed by
him because such statement was immaterial; and that respondent judge
off from the record the proffer of oral evidence made by defense
Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre after ruling that the proffer was improper on
The core issue is
whether respondent judge should
inhibit herself from hearing Criminal Case No. 95-404 on the ground of
bias and prejudice.cralaw
We rule in the
The Bill of
Rights guarantees that "[n]o person
shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of
A critical component of due process is a hearing before an impartial
disinterested tribunal. We have ingrained the jurisprudence that every
litigant is entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of an
judge for all the other elements of due process, like notice and
would be meaningless if the ultimate decision would come from a partial
and biased judge.
Hence, the Rules of Court allows a judge to voluntarily inhibit himself
from hearing a case for "just or valid reasons" other than those
to his pecuniary interest, relation, previous connection, or previous
or decisions. Section 1 Rule 137 of the Revised Rules of Court states:
Sec. 1. Disqualification of judges.
No judge or judicial officer shall sit in any case in which he, or his
wife or child, is pecuniarily interested as heir, legatee, creditor or
otherwise, or in which he is related to either party within the sixth
of consanguinity or affinity, or to counsel within the fourth degree,
according to the rules of the civil law, or in which he has been
administrator, guardian, trustee or counsel, or in which he has
in any inferior court when his ruling or decision is the subject of
without the written consent of all parties in interest, signed by them
and entered upon the record.
A judge may, in the exercise of his sound
disqualify himself from sitting in a case, for just or valid reasons
than those mentioned above.
second paragraph, a party has the right
to seek the inhibition or disqualification of a judge who does not
to be wholly free, disinterested, impartial and independent in handling
the case. This right must be weighed with the duty of a judge to decide
cases without fear of repression. Hence, to disqualify a judge on the
of bias and prejudice the movant must prove the same by clear and
evidence. This is a heavy burden and petitioners failed to discharge
burden of proof.
To prove bias and
prejudice on the part of respondent
judge, petitioners harp on the alleged adverse and erroneous rulings of
respondent judge on their various motions. By themselves, however, they
do not sufficiently prove bias and prejudice to disqualify respondent
To be disqualifying, the bias and prejudice must be shown to have
from an extrajudicial source and result in an opinion on the merits on
some basis other than what the judge learned from his participation in
the case. Opinions formed in the course of judicial proceedings,
erroneous, as long as they are based on the evidence presented and
observed by the judge, do not prove personal bias or prejudice on the
of the judge.
As a general rule, repeated rulings against a litigant, no matter how
and vigorously and consistently expressed, are not a basis for
of a judge on grounds of bias and prejudice.
Extrinsic evidence is required to establish bias, bad faith, malice or
corrupt purpose, in addition to the palpable error which may be
from the decision or order itself. Although the decision may seem so
as to raise doubts concerning a judge's integrity, absent extrinsic
the decision itself would be insufficient to establish a case against
The only exception to the rule is when the error is so gross and patent
as to produce an ineluctable inference of bad faith or malice.cralaw
A perusal of the
records will reveal that petitioners
failed to adduce any extrinsic evidence to prove that respondent judge
was motivated by malice or bad faith in issuing the assailed rulings.
simply lean on the alleged series of adverse rulings of the respondent
judge which they characterized as palpable errors. This is not enough.
We note that respondent judge's rulings resolving the various motions
by petitioners were all made after considering the arguments raised by
all the parties. It is true that the respondent judge erred in some of
her rulings such as her rejection of petitioners' one hundred thirty
 pieces of evidence. It appears, however, that respondent judge
this erroneous ruling and already admitted these 132 pieces of evidence
after finding that "the defects in [their] admissibility have been
through the introduction of additional evidence during the trial on the
This correction diminishes the strength of petitioners' charge that
judge is hopelessly biased against them. To be sure, the respondent
did not score a complete cipher in her rulings against the petitioners.
Just last June 11, 1997, the Third Division of this Court dismissed an
administrative complaint against the respondent judge on the ground
"it is within the respondent judge's right to conduct an ocular
since it is an exercise of her judicial prerogative"
There is still another reason why we should observe caution in
respondent judge. The trial of the petitioners is about to end and to
a new judge to determine the guilt or innocence of petitioners will not
be for the best interest of justice. The records of the case at bar run
into volumes. These voluminous records cannot capture in print the
credibility of witnesses when they testified in court. As the
judge observed the demeanor of witnesses while in the witness chair,
is in the best position to calibrate their credibility. The task of
the credibility of witnesses includes interpreting their body language
and their meaningful nuances are not expressed in the transcripts of
We hasten to
stress that a party aggrieved by
erroneous interlocutory rulings in the course of a trial is not without
remedy. The range of remedy is provided in our Rules of Court and we
not make an elongated discourse on the subject. But certainly, the
for erroneous rulings, absent any extrinsic evidence of malice or bad
is not the outright disqualification of the judge. For there is yet to
come a judge with the omniscience to issue rulings that are always
The courts will close shop if we disqualify judges who err for we all
We again remind
respondent judge of our counsel
in the first Webb case
"that our ability to dispense impartial justice is an issue in every
and in every criminal prosecution, the judiciary always stands as a
accused. More than convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent,
business of the judiciary is to assure fulfillment of the promise that
justice shall be done and is done and that is the only way for
judiciary to get an acquittal from the bar of public opinion."
IN VIEW WHEREOF,
the petition is DISMISSED for
lack of merit. No costs.cralaw
and Mendoza, JJ., concur.
Torres, Jr., J., is on leave.cralaw
The original petition filed with this Court included Gerardo Biong as
of the petitioners, but on December 19, 1996, petitioners filed a
of Partial Withdrawal dropping Gerardo Biong from the petition as the
is independently pursuing a separate remedy for the same cause of
[Rollo, pp. 259-260].
Entitled Hubert J.P. Webb, et al. v. The Honorable Amelita G.
Presiding Judge, RTC-Paranaque Branch 274 and the People of the
Entitled Michael A. Gatchalian and Peter Estrada v. The Honorable
G. Tolentino, Presiding Judge, RTC-Paranaque and the People of the
Entitled People of the Philippines v. Hubert Webb, et al.
The Decision and the Resolution were penned by Justice Ricardo P.
with the concurrence of Justice Antonio M. Martinez and Justice
Information, Annex "D" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 138-140.
"Sec. 12.  Any person under investigation for the commission of an
shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and
have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If
the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided
one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the
" Any confession or
obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be
in evidence against him."
Annex "E" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 142-150.
Annex "F" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 151-161.
Docketed as G.R. No. 122488.
Docketed as G.R. No. 122504.
Annex "G" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 162-171.
Annex "H" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 172-176.
Annex "J" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 190-196.
Annex "K" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 197-199.
Annex "A" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 51-68.
Annex "C" to the Petition, Rollo, pp. 82-89.
Rollo, pp. 263-271.
Section 14 Article III, 1987 Constitution.
Tan, Jr. v. Gallardo, 73 SCRA 306 ; Castillo v. Juan, 62 SCRA 124
; Mateo v. Villaluz, 50 SCRA 18 ; Garcia v. Executive
6 SCRA 1 .
People v. Massarella, 400 N.E. 2d 436; United States v. International
Machine, 475 F. Supp. 1372 ; Smith v. Danyo, 441 F. Supp. 171
King v. United States, 434 F. Supp. 1141 .
United States v. International Business Machines, 475 F. Supp. 1372
People v. Massarella, 400 N.E. 2d 436; United States v. Gallagher, 576
F. 2d 1028 (1978); Miller v. Richardson, 623 P. 2d 1317 .
Annotation: Scope of the Constitutional Independence of Judges, 240
See Order dated June 18, 1997 in Crim. Case No. 95-404, People vs.
et al, RTC, NCR, Paranaque, Metro Manila Br. 274.
Resolution dated June 11, 1997 of the Third Division in Adm. Matter OCA
I.P.I. No. 97-293-RTC, Singson, et al. vs. Judge Tolentino, etc.
247 SCRA 692-693.