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chanrobles.com - PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS - ON-LINE

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FIRST DIVISION


BENITO ANG,
Complainant,
A.M. NO. MTJ-03-1476
February 4, 2003
              

-versus-


JUDGE  REINATO  G.  QUILALA, CLERK OF COURT
ZENAIDA REYES-MACABEO
AND CLERK III LOUIE
MACABEO, MeTC, MANILA,

                           Respondents.

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R E S O L U T I O N
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YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
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chan robles virtual law library
In a verified complaint dated October 17, 1997, [1] Benito Ang charged Presiding Judge Reinato G. Quilala, Clerk of Court Zenaida Reyes-Macabeo and Clerk III Louie Macabeo, all of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 26, with extortion relative to Criminal Cases Nos. 266370-266392-CR. chan robles virtual law library

Complainant Benito Ang was charged with estafa [2] before the Regional Trial Court of Manila involving the sum of P3,185,276.00 and 22 counts of violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 [3] before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, presided by respondent judge. He attended the scheduled arraignment before the RTC on June 21, 1997 but failed to attend the arraignment before the MeTC on June 30, 1997. On the same day, Judge Quilala issued a warrant of arrest and ordered the confiscation and forfeiture of his surety bond. [4]

When complainant filed the Motion to Lift the Warrant of Arrest, a certain Louie Macabeo, Clerk III, told him, "Kung gusto mo tutulungan kita. Ibigay mo sa akin ang telephone number mo." He further alleged that the clerk asked him for P30,000.00. However, he did not give his telephone number, only his pager number. chan robles virtual law library

A week later, the clerk paged him to return his call, which he did. During their telephone conversation, the clerk told him, "Papaano na ang case mo. Ilalabas ko na ba ang warrant?" He answered, "Teka, kakausapin ko muna ang lawyer ko." Thereafter, he called up his lawyer, who advised him not to give in to the extortion. chan robles virtual law library

On August 14, 1997, complainant filed a motion for reconsideration and/or to lift order of arrest. [5] Respondent judge denied the motion on August 21, 1997. [6] On September 9, 1997, his counsel requested the Branch Clerk of Court not to release the bench warrant because they will file a motion for reconsideration of the August 21, 1997 Order. The following morning, complainant was shocked when he was served the bench warrant by the Western Police District Manila. chan robles virtual law library

Consequently, at 1:20 in the afternoon of the same day, his counsel filed a Very Urgent Motion for Reconsideration [7] of the August 21, 1997 Order and asked the Branch Clerk of Court to calendar the hearing of the motion on the same day at 2:00 o’clock. His counsel waited patiently for the motion to be acted upon. At 4:00 in the afternoon, respondent judge denied [8] the motion. Thus, complainant had to spend the night in detention when he failed to put up the required bond. On the basis of the foregoing allegations, complainant prayed that respondent judge together with his Clerk of Court and Clerk III be administratively sanctioned for acting in concert to extort money from him. chan robles virtual law library

Respondent judge filed his Comment on June 8, 1998 while respondents Clerk III Luis Macabeo and Clerk of Court Zenaida Reyes-Macabeo submitted their Comment on June 10, 1998. chan robles virtual law library

Respondent Judge Quilala explained that after posting the reduced bailbond as recommended by the Manila Public Prosecutor’s Office, arraignment of accused Ang for violation of BP 22 was scheduled on June 30, 1997. Neither Ang nor his counsel, however appeared during the arraignment, thus he issued the order for his arrest on the same day.cralaw

On August 14, 1997, Ang through counsel filed a Motion for Reconsideration and/or to Lift Order of Arrest, stating that he did not attend the arraignment because he was indisposed. The motion was denied by respondent judge on the ground that the reason alleged by Ang for non-appearance was flimsy. He also ordered that the total bailbond of P338,000.00 as recommended by the prosecution, pursuant to the Latest Bailbond Guide of the Department of Justice be reinstated. [9] Ang, nevertheless failed to post the required bond. As a result, the police served the warrant against him in the morning of September 10, 1997. At 2:00 in the afternoon, Ang filed a Very Urgent Motion for Reconsideration of the August 21, 1997 Order, without showing proper receipt thereof by the Office of the Prosecutor of Manila. Despite said procedural defect, he gave due course to the motion. He, nonetheless, denied said motion for lack of merit. Thereafter, he inhibited from hearing the BP 22 cases. chan robles virtual law library

Both Clerk of Court Zenaida Reyes-Macabeo and her husband Clerk III Louie Macabeo vehemently denied the charges filed against them. Zenaida claimed that the administrative case was filed because of the respondent judge’s refusal to grant complainant’s motion. She released the bench warrant after Judge Quilala signed the same because she had no control over the processes issued by the judge. She did not calendar Ang’s Very Urgent Motion for Reconsideration filed at 1:20 in the afternoon of September 10, 1997 because the hearings of the motions on criminal cases are scheduled only in the morning. chan robles virtual law library

Respondent Louie Macabeo claimed that it was impossible for him to demand money from Ang whom he just met. Being an ordinary clerk, he could not assure the accused that the respondent judge would act favorably on his motion. He denied having talked to him on the telephone on August 14, 1997 or the week after. He could not have promised to delay the release of the warrant of arrest since it had been issued as early as August 10, 1997. chan robles virtual law library

Upon referral of the case to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) for evaluation, the latter recommended the dismissal of the administrative case against the respondents. The Office of the Court Administrator found that there was nothing irregular in the conduct of the respondent judge in denying the motions for reconsideration, the same being in accordance with the Rules. There was also no concrete evidence that respondents indeed acted in concerted effort to commit extortion. chan robles virtual law library

We agree with the findings of the Court Administrator. chan robles virtual law library

The settled doctrine is that judges are not liable to respond in a civil action for damages, and are not otherwise administratively responsible for what they may do in the exercise of their judicial functions when acting within their legal powers and jurisdiction. [10] Certain it is that a judge may not be held administratively accountable for every erroneous order or decision he renders. [11] To hold otherwise would be to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment. [12] More importantly, the error must be gross or patent, deliberate and malicious, or incurred with evident bad faith. [13] Bad faith does not simply connote bad judgment or negligence; it imputes a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong; a breach of a sworn duty through some motive or intent or ill-will; it partakes of the nature of fraud. [14] It contemplates a state of mind affirmatively operating with furtive design or some motive of self-interest or ill-will for ulterior purposes. [15] chan robles virtual law library

While this Court will never tolerate or condone any act, conduct or omission that would violate the norm of public accountability or diminish the people's faith in the judiciary, neither will it hesitate to shield those under its employ from unfounded suits that only serve to disrupt rather than promote the orderly administration of justice. [16] chan robles virtual law library

In the instant case, respondent judge denied the first motion for reconsideration for complainant’s failure to attend the scheduled arraignment on the ground that he was indisposed to attend the same. Respondent judge’s action was within his own judicial discretion. Any error therein that a dissatisfied litigant may raise would be merely an error of judgment, for which the judge may not be held administratively liable. chan robles virtual law library

The second urgent motion for reconsideration dated September 10, 1997 was likewise correctly denied. First, the motion does not contain proof of service on the Prosecutor’s Office, in disregard of the 3-day notice rule. Second, the motion has no legal basis considering that the reinstatement of the original bond in the amount of P338,000.00 is proper. The bond was recommended by the prosecution and was earlier approved by the trial court, pursuant to the latest Bailbond Guide issued by the Secretary of the Department of Justice.cralaw

The record does not show that respondent judge was moved by ill-will or bad faith in rendering the adverse judgment, or that his ruling was manifestly unjust. Complainant has not, in fact, adduced any proof to show that impropriety attended the issuance of the subject resolutions. Bad faith is not presumed and he who alleges the same has the onus of proving it. [17] chan robles virtual law library

The alleged error of the respondent judge was not gross, and the record is bereft of any showing of deliberate or malicious intent on the part of respondent judge to cause prejudice to any party. chan robles virtual law library

As regards the charge of extortion, no proof was presented by the complainant against the officers of the court. Therefore, the dismissal of the administrative charge against them is proper. chan robles virtual law library

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the administrative complaint against Judge Reinato G. Quilala, Clerk of Court Zenaida Reyes-Macabeo and Clerk III Louie Macabeo, MeTC, Branch 26, Manila is DISMISSED for lack of merit. chan robles virtual law library

SO ORDERED. chan robles virtual law library

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Vitug, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur. chan robles virtual law library
 
 


____________________________

Endnotes:

[1] Rollo, pp. 1-3. chan robles virtual law library
[2] Annex 'A' to the Complaint. chan robles virtual law library
[3] Annex 'B' to the Complaint. chan robles virtual law library
[4] Annex 'C' to the Complaint. chan robles virtual law library
[5] Annex 'D' to the Complaint. chan robles virtual law library
[6] Annex 'E' to the Complaint. chan robles virtual law library
[7] Annex 'F' to the Complaint. chan robles virtual law library
[8] Annex 'G' to the Complaint. chan robles virtual law library
[9] Certification issued by the Western Police District, Warrant and Subpoena Unit. chan robles virtual law library
[10] Alzua, et al. v. Johnson, 21 Phil. 308, 326. chan robles virtual law library
[11] Rodrigo v. Quijano, etc., 79 SCRA 10 [1977]. chan robles virtual law library
[12] Lopez v. Corpuz, 78 SCRA 374 [1977]; Pilipinas Bank v. Tirona-Liwag, 190 SCRA 834 [1990]. chan robles virtual law library
[13] Quizon v. Balthazar, Jr., 65 SCRA 293 [1975]. chan robles virtual law library
[14] Spiegel v. Beacon Participation, 8 NE 2nd Series 895, 1007. chan robles virtual law library
[15] Air France v. Carrascoso, 18 SCRA 155 [1996]. chan robles virtual law library
[16] Sarmiento v. Salamat, A.M. No. P-01-1501, 4 September 2001. chan robles virtual law library
[17] Ford, Phils. v. CA, 267 SCRA 320 [1997]. chan robles virtual law library