AM No. RTJ-02-1669 - April 14, 2004
[Formerly OCA IPI No.00-961-RTJ]
HON. JULIETA A. DECENA, HON. VIRGILIO D. PONTANAL, HON. AMELITA A. IBASCO, HON. GERRY D. RAÑA, HON.PEDRO N. MORA. JR., and HON. FERDINAND T. AGUILAR, Complainants,
JUDGE NILO A. MALANYAON, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 32, Pili, Camarines Sur, Respondent.
The regular session of a municipal council was interrupted by a heckler in the audience hurling various accusatory remarks and insults at the council members. The heckler is a judge, the incident, the subject of this case.
On 26 May 2000, the Office of the Court Administrator received a Joint Affidavit-Complaint executed by various municipal officials of Bula, Camarines Sur. The affiants-complainants, Mayor Julieta A. Decena ("Decena"), Vice-mayor Virgilio D. Pontanal ("Pontanal"), and Councilors Amelita A. Ibasco ("Ibasco"), Gerry D. Raña ("Raña"), Pedro N. Mora, Jr. ("Mora"), and Ferdinand T. Aguila ("Aguilar") sought the dismissal from the service and the disbarment of respondent Judge Nilo A. Malanyaon ("Judge Malanyaon"), Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 32, of Pili, Camarines Sur, on account of his conduct during the 21 February 2000 session of the Sangguniang Bayan of Bula.
In a Resolution dated 19 June 2002, the Court referred the matter for investigation, report and recommendation to Court of Appeals Justice Eriberto U. Rosario, Jr.1 After Justice Rosario sought to be excused owing to his forthcoming retirement then,2 the Court referred the matter to the Court of Appeals for assignment to a Justice by court-wide raffle.3 The case was raffled to Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr. After conducting several hearings on the case, Justice Reyes, Jr. rendered a Report and Recommendation ("Report"), which was received by this Court on 22 July 2003. From the Report, we draw the following antecedent facts:
On 21 February 2000, the Sangguniang Bayan of Bula, Camarines Sur convened its regular session, with Vice-mayor Pontanal presiding. Among the matters on the agenda was the revocation of two previous council resolutions4 authorizing Rolando N. Canet ("Canet") to operate a cockpit in the municipality. A former vice-mayor of Bula, Canet is also the nephew-in-law of Judge Malanyaon. Both Judge Malanyaon and Canet attended the 21 February 2000 session of the Sangguniang Bayan. Canet, however, came along with many supporters.5 Noticing his presence, the Sanggunian offered to recognize Judge Malanyaon; but he declined, saying that he merely wanted to be an observer.6
From that point on, the episode during the Sanggunian session as culled in the Report on the basis of the submitted affidavits transpired in this wise:
Subsequently, during the deliberations, the vice mayor attested that respondent interrupted the session by shouting comments in their vernacular such as: "Ambog, Ambog iyan" ("lies, they are lies"); "Butig! Caya mo yan? Maski Butig! Maski Piglalado Camo!" ("Lies! Can you do that? Even if they are lies? Even if you are being deceived?") and "Dale Sana Camong Dale!" ("You do things recklessly"). During the deliberations relative to the authority of Mr. Rolando N. Canet to operate a cockpit, the respondent judge, with blazing eyes and a red face further interrupted the session by lambasting the municipal councilors with disparaging and insulting remarks, which left the whole proceedings in confusion.
In the heat of respondents outbursts, he uttered the following remarks to the vice mayor:
"Ika Bondying (the vice mayors nickname),. So kag-igin MO BUKO ADTONG MADAYA, Di adto nag gagamit kana kuwa kan municipyo, o camo ginagamit mo si Revo mo! Mag adal kamo, a biente uno mil, susmareosep kamo. Sabi co ka ninyo mig-lecture aco pero abo man kamo, o taono, basta camo matugaan ni alkalde? Mga uda ugali!" ("You Bodying, your father was not deceitful. He was not using the property of the municipality, now you are using your Revo. You all study! You are receiving twenty one thousand pesos, my god, I told you I will lecture you, but you did not want me to. Why? As long as you were promised by the mayor? You have no etiquette!")
"O Bondying ika, maski ambugan camo kana alkalde, tutubudon ninyo? Urgent na ono? Din a kamo pwendeng butigan. Pigbubutigan camo. Amo yan sabihon ko ka ninyo!" ("You Bondying, even if the mayor is telling you lies, will you follow her? What urgent? You could not be lied upon again! You are being deceived, thats what I will tell you!")
Pedro N. Mora, former municipal councilor of Bula, Camarines Sur, in his affidavit also conformed that he heard the respondent judge utter: "Ambog, Ambog iyan" ("lies, they are lies"); "Butig! Caya mo yan? Maski Butig! Maski Piglalado Camo!" ("Lies! Can you do that? Even if they are lies? Even if you are being deceived?") and "Dale Sana Camong Dale!" ("You do things recklessly") during the session of Sangguniang Bayan of Bula, held on 21 February 2000.
Ferdinand T. Aguilar, another former councilor of Bula, Camarines Sur, likewise attested to the intemperate language used by the respondent during the regular session of the Sangguniang Bayan of Bula on 21 February 2000. Aguilar however adds that he too became the object of respondents ire when the latter publicly told him the following:
"O, Aguilar, ono pigsusunod mo? Ilinga, ilinga tolos ninyo, ono regal, o ono regal ninyo? You cannot suspend the rule without 2/3 votes! Ono, magbasa kamo! Saying kito sweldo ninyo!" (You Aguilar, What are you following? Look, look at this, what is the regulation, what are your regulations? You cannot suspend the rule without the 2/3 votes! You read! Your salary is just a waste!");
"O, ika (pointing at Aguilar) O ono pigsusunod mo? O, kua raw, basaha ninyo! Onong klaseng Sanggunian adi? Di nagsusunod sa regal a, Ferdinand? Di ninyo piggagamit to mga payo ninyo! O, ilinga! Basaha Ferdinand." ("You, [pointing at Aguilar] what are you following? You get [the rules] and read them! What kind of Sanggunian is this? You not following the rules a, Ferdinand? You are not using your head! You look and read it, Ferdinand.");
"Ika sana Ferdinand saying kito alintak mo! Uray ni ina nya, onong urgent na nakakaptan ninyo? Kon pig-gagamit ya mga gamit kot munisipyo, di ninyo pigaactibaran!" (You Ferdinand you what is in your head is such a waste. Ass of your mother! To what urgent matter that you are holding on? If it is the property of this municipality is the one being used, you are not acting on it.");
"Ika Ferdinand nag-aadal ka kin abugasiya, nagpapabuta man ika, ining, pigbubutigan na kamo?" ("You Ferdinand, you are studying law and yet you were blinded even though you are cheated");
"Ika, Ferdinand basahon ko, kon gusto mo bikolon ko, di san sinasabing bago magtaong permit agko Ordinansa. Si isay ya nagsasabi? Ya tinatawam kin poder ngowan uya Sangguniang Bayan ya mig-taong lisensya! Tinawan na kin lisensa o ono pa?" ("You Ferdinand, I will read to you, if you want I will read it to you in our dialect. That it is never stated there that before issuing permit, there should be an ordinance first. Who said that? The one that is given the power is the Sangguniang Bayan the one that will issue the license! He [Rolando Canet] was already given a license, what else?");
"Ika Aguilar, basahon mo iton a! da siton nagsasabing bago tawan kin lisensya, kumasta ngona kin ordinansa! O sa cockfighting o kon sa demonyo! Ining sa bulangan na ini 1964 pa ako, a! ngani ninyong maintindihan. Ngowan, si Rolando Canet agko lisensiya, huli ta abo ni Decena, natugon man kamo gusto ninyong anularan! Ngowan, gusting bumayad abong pabayadon. Magbasa kamo, 21 mil, buray ni ina niya! Ako, nag-absent akong kabangang aldow para magatender kading session, sangribo ana nauda kanako! Gusto ko sanang porbaran kamo adding osipon na kon talagang nakastahan na kamo! Magbasa kamo, 21 mil, buray ni ina niya, 21 mil." ("You Aguilar, read that [referring to the rules], it is never stated here that before you issue a license, you have to pass first an ordinance, in the cockfighting or whatever devil is that! This law about the cockfighting this has been the law since 1964 so that you will understand. Now, Rolando Canet has a license, just because Decena does not want to give permit you want the same annulled. Now, he wants to pay but does not want to accept the same. You read, 21 thousand [referring to our salary] ass of your mother! I did not report for half a day just to attend this session and I lost P1,000.00 in the process in the form of salary just so I will be able to prove for myself about the rumors that you have been bought [or to that effect]! You read! Twenty one thousand! Ass of your mother, twenty one thousand!")
"Sayang Ferdinand, kun arog ya naturan mo, di ida makakapasar, amo yan sasabihon ko kanimo! Kon arog kito ya studio mo, babaliktaron mo to demonyong iton, a, maski ton butig, amo tutuboron mo a, tibaad di ika maka-abogado, kon maka-abogado man, makakarsel ka!" ("What a waste Ferdinand, if thats what you learned, you will not pass [the Bar exams] thats what I will tell you. What are you going to tell them, if that is how you understand, that you will reverse this kind of devil even if it is a lie and yet you will follow the same. You might not become a lawyer, and if you become one you will go to jail.")
Ernesto B. Ballaber, who is the incumbent Barangay Captain of Salvacion, Bula, Camarines Sur, testified through his affidavit that he was present and seated beside the respondent judge on the date in question. He noticed that the respondent judge was drunk as the latter gave off a strong alcoholic scent. Moreover, Ballebar observed that the respondents eyes were watery and red.
Ballebars deduction that Judge Malanyaon was drunk was reinforced when the respondent stood up, banged the table and shouted in the vernacular: "Butig!, Butig! Butig!" ("Lies! Lies! Lies!") and "Ambog! Ambog iyan!" ("Lie! Its a lie!) during the session. Ballebar further testified that the respondent also verbally abused the members of the Sangguniang.
Gerry D. Raña asseverated that when the issue on the resolutions affecting the operation of the cockpit arena by Rolando N. Canet was being taken up by the council, Judge Malanyaon suddenly pushed the table in front of him, bolted from his chair and fiercely castigated the members of the Sangguniang Bayan with every personal attacks. In fact, Raña attested that the respondent publicly discredited and humiliated him during the session by imputing that he was operating an illegal cockpit in the municipality.7 (Emphasis not ours.)
Mora and Raña, as well as two other witnesses8 for the complainants confirmed that Judge Malanyaon reeked of liquor as he proceeded with his tirade.
According to Bartolome D. Parro, the Sangguniang Bayan OIC Secretary, because of the outbursts of Judge Malanyaon the session was suspended. Meanwhile, the Sanggunian members were involuntarily detained at the session hall. They were unable to leave as the entrance and exits were blocked by supporters of Canet. Meanwhile, Judge Malanyaon continued his outbursts against the councilors.9
Admitting his presence during the Sanggunian session, Judge Malanyaon explained, however, that he was there not as a judge but in his private capacity as a taxpayer. He denied he was drunk, even as he admitted he was enraged and furious over the proceedings at the Sanggunian. He did not deny delivering a diatribe, but he claimed his actions were appropriate since the proposed revocation of his nephew-in-laws cockpit license was illegal in his estimation.10
All told, Judge Malanyaon did not dispute the facts as laid down by the complainants and the latters witnesses. He justified his behavior though as the fulminations of a righteously outraged citizen which according to him should be segregated from his function as a judge.
Judge Malanyaon deserves to be taken to task for his outrageous behavior as it clearly violates the Code of Judicial Conduct.
First. The remarks uttered are patently defamatory and even vulgar. Indeed, such utterances should not be expected of a public official worthy of his office. At fault is not the sentiment harbored, but the impolitic choice of words employed to express such sentiment.11 It is not even particularly relevant if Judge Malanyaon was inebriated at that time, for the reckless character of his remarks are in themselves palpable, whether they were delivered in a drunken or sober state.
Second. Judge Malanyaons harangue was directed at the members of the Sangguniang Bayan in the course of a regular session of the body. The members of the Sanggunian are, by reason of their public office, entitled to the respect of other people, especially their fellow public officers. Judge Malanyaons diatribe indicates his inability to accord his fellow public officials their due.
Third. Judge Malanyaon made his remarks in a public forum. Obviously, however, he forgot or even failed to realize that he is a representative of the judicial branch of government, the judge being the visible representation of the law and, more importantly, of justice.12 The judiciary is loathe to interfere with the due exercise by co-equal branches of government of their official functions, absent any justiciable action brought in due course.
Fourth. It must be understood that Judge Malanyaons remarks were aimed at preventing the Sanggunian from revoking the cockpit license of Canet. In doing so, he was attempting to interfere with the will of the Sanggunian as an independent legislative body. As observed by Investigating Justice Reyes, Jr., the awkward situation was aggravated when Judge Malanyaon publicly humiliated the councilors in front of their constituents, making them look witless and obtuse, and thereby creating a mockery of the proceedings.13 The disruptive presence of several supporters of Canet, a local town politician, porated the protest against the plan to revoke the cockpit license with political color. Judge Malanyaons active participation in apparent concert with Canets supporters exposed him as nothing but a common lobbyist, as he forgot to act as a judge with the standard judicial temperament and prudence.
Fifth. Judge Malanyaon obstructed the Sangguniang members from performing their official duties. As Investigating Justice Reyes, Jr. pointed out, the acts complained of Judge Malanyaon is no less a crime under Article 144 of the Revised Penal Code.14 As a judge, respondent should very well know how deleterious it would be to the discharge of his functions if the court hearings he presides over would be rudely interrupted by fulsome tirades delivered by a spectator in the audience. If such a situation arise in his courtroom, Judge Manlayaon would have every right to take offense to the disruption in the proceedings. A legislative session is no less an official proceeding as a court session and any one who disrupts either proceedings deserves to be sanctioned.
Sixth. The Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge shall neither allow family relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment, nor allow the prestige of judicial office to be used or lent to advance the private interests of others.15 It does not escape our attention that Judge Malanyaon was agitated during the Sanggunian session because the interests of his nephew-in-law were under attack. Perhaps, Judge Malanyaon honestly believed that the revocation of Canets cockpit license was illegal. Yet, it would not justify his undisguised attempt to prevent the threatened detrimental action against his relative with his influence. We agree with the conclusion of Investigating Justice Reyes, Jr. that Judge Malanyaon allowed himself to be used by his nephew-in-law to promote the latters private interests, in contravention of the Code of Judicial Conduct.16
Judge Malanyaon needs to be reminded that his judicial identity does not terminate at the end of the day when he takes off his judicial robes. Even when garbed in casual wear outside of the halls of justice, a judge retains the air of authority and moral ascendancy that he or she wields inside the sala. As the Court once held:
Being the subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.
A judge should personify judicial integrity and exemplify honest public service. The personal behavior of a judge, both in the performance of official duties and in private life should be above suspicion.17
It may strike perhaps as a poetically tragic notion, but for very good reasons, a judge's official life cannot simply be detached or separated from his personal existence.18 Indeed, the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2 in particular, mandates that a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities, as well as behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.19 Thus, the Court has to dismiss outright Judge Malanyaons suggestion that his actions be evaluated as one of a taxpayer or ordinary citizen and not as that of a judge. In fact, his utterances were not made under a cloak of anonymity, for the members of the council, as well as some of the people in the gallery knew very well that he was a judge. It is highly probable that his invectives took on a greater imperative on the listeners precisely because he was a judge, with all the authority attendant to the office.
The conduct of Judge Malanyaon relative to the 21 February 2000 legislative session of the Sangguniang Bayan of Bula is inexcusable and simply cannot be condoned. His actuations constitute palpable violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct:
CANON 2 A JUDGE SHOULD AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL ACTIVITIES.
Rule 2.01. A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary
x x x
Rule 2.03. A judge shall not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. The prestige of judicial office shall not be used or lent to advance the private interests of others, nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.
The Office of the Court Administrator recommends that respondent be fined Five Thousand Pesos (
P5,000.00). In his seventeen (17) years in the judiciary, Judge Malanyaon has not been sanctioned, except once by reprimand. With the comparative seriousness of the offense, a fine of Twenty Thousand Pesos ( P20,000.00) would serve as an appropriate penalty.
WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Nilo A. Malanyaon is hereby found GUILTY of conduct unbecoming of a judge, in violation of Canon 2, Rule 2.01 and Rule 2.03 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. He is ordered to pay a FINE of TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS (
P20,000.00) with a STERN WARNING that the commission of the same or a similar act or omission in the future will be dealt with more severely.`
Puno, Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, and Callejo, Sr., concur.
1 Rollo, p. 86.
2 See Rollo, p. 88.
3 See Rollo, p. 93.
4 Namely, Sangguniang Bayan Resolutions 049 and 063, series of 1998. See Report and Recommendation of Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr. ("Report"), p. 4.
5 Rollo, p. 2.
6 Report, p. 5.
7 Report, pp. 5-11.
8 The two witnesses were Ernesto B. Ballebar, Barangay Captain of Salvacion, Bula, Camarines Sur, and Jesus Saluna, a resident of Bula. Report, pp. 9, 10.
9 Report, pp. 11-12.
10 Report, p. 12.
11 [F]rom the standpoint of conduct and demeanor expected of a judge, resort to intemperate language only detracts from the respect due a member of the judiciary and becomes self-destructive. Galang v. Judge Santos, 367 Phil. 81, 88 (1999).
12 Cabrera v. Judge Pajares, 226 Phil. 53, 61 (1986), citing De la Paz vs. Inutan, 64 SCRA 540 (1975).
13 Report, p. 18.
14 Article 144 of the Revised Penal Code provides: "Disturbance of proceedings. The penalty of arresto mayor or a fine from 200 to 1,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who disturbs the meetings of the National Assembly (Congress of the Philippines) or of any provincial board or city or municipal council or board, or in the presence of any such bodies should behave in such a manner as to interrupt its proceedings or to impair the respect due it."
15 Rule 2.03, Canon 2, Code of Judicial Conduct.
16 Report, p. 23.
17 Castillo v. Judge Calanog, G.R. No. RTJ- 90-447, 12 July 1991, 199 SCRA 75, 83-84.
18 Talens-Dabon v. Arceo, G.R. No. RTJ-96-1336, 25 July 1996, 259 SCRA 354, 368. "A judge's private as well as official conduct must at all times be free from all appearances of impropriety, and be beyond reproach." Garcia, et. al v. Judge Valdez, 354 Phil. 475, 480 (1998), citing Castillo v. Calanog, Jr., 199 SCRA 75, 83 (1991) and Dysico v. Dacumos, 262 SCRA 275, 283 (1996).
19 See Canon 2, Code of Judicial Conduct, and Rule 2.01, Canon 2, id.