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EN BANC

Adm.Matter No. RTJ-04-1881 - October 14, 2004
(Formerly OCA IPI No. 01-1283-RTJ)

EVER EMPORIUM, INC., Complainant, vs. JUDGE BONIFACIO SANZ MACEDA, Executive Judge, RTC Branch 275, Las Piñas City, and ATTY. EDGAR ALLAN MORANTE, Branch Clerk of Court, Respondents.

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Adm.Matter No. RTJ-04-1882 - October 14, 2004
(Formerly OCA-IPI No. 02-1388-RTJ)

ATTY. RACQUEL CRISOLOGO- LARA, Clerk of Court VI, Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC, Las Piñas City, Complainant, vs. JUDGE BONIFACIO SANZ MACEDA, Executive Judge, RTC Branch 275, Las Piñas City, and ATTY. EDGAR ALLAN MORANTE, Branch Clerk of Court, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

The instant consolidated administrative cases involve Executive Judge Bonifacio Sanz Maceda and former Branch Clerk of Court Atty. Edgar Allan Morante, both of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 275, Las Piñas City, for gross violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct and for serious or grave misconduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

In a Letter1 dated September 3, 2001 addressed to the Chief Justice, Atty. Racquel Crisologo-Lara, Clerk of Court VI, Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC, Las Piñas City, narrated the following events that gave rise to the instant administrative matter:

At about 10:00 a.m. on August 15, 2001, respondent Morante approached Atty. Crisologo-Lara and requested that LRC Case No. LP-01-00702 be assigned to their branch. Respondent Morante apparently wanted to do a favor to his former law professor who was handling the said case. Atty. Crisologo-Lara directed him to consult the matter with the respondent judge. Respondent Morante later told her that he had already informed the respondent judge via telephone call and that the latter was agreeable to the arrangement. Atty. Crisologo-Lara then acquiesced to the request and the raffle of the cases then proceeded as scheduled.

At about 4:00 p.m. the next day, Atty. Crisologo-Lara went to the respondent judges office and told him about the previous days events. She added that she had only granted respondent Morantes request because the latter told him that he (the respondent judge) already knew about it, but that she could do no more of it in the future because of her "nervousness." The respondent judge informed her that he had learned about the matter only after the raffling of the cases.

At about 9:30 a.m. of August 17, 2001, respondent Morante informed Atty. Crisologo-Lara that the respondent judge scolded him after she left his office the previous afternoon since the respondent judge apparently did not want her to know that he had "approved" the transfer of the case to his sala prior to the raffle. Respondent Morante requested Atty. Crisologo-Lara to say that it was all a misunderstanding, but she replied that she had only told the respondent judge the truth. About half an hour later, respondent Morante returned with a case folder, placed it on top of Atty. Crisologo-Laras table and said, "Atty., eto ho ang sa inyo," to which the latter replied, "Anong sa inyo?" Respondent Morante answered, "Ihiningi kita sa Professor ko." Atty. Crisologo-Lara did not touch the folder and told respondent Morante that money did not play a role when cases were raffled to their branch. Respondent Morante took the folder back and left the office.

At about 11:00 a.m. on August 22, 2001, Atty. Crisologo-Lara told respondent Morante that she would request the respondent judge for her exclusion in future raffles of cases, as it was in conformity with a Supreme Court circular. She stated that she did not want the previous weeks incident to be repeated, and would feel better if she no longer participated in the raffling of cases. She and respondent Morante then went to the respondent judges chambers to tell the latter about the request, but as she started to speak, the respondent judge exploded and began shouting at her, told them to get out of his office and settle matters between themselves. The respondent judge used words like "punyeta" and "stupid."

At about 2:00 p.m. on August 28, 2001, Atty. Crisologo-Lara went to the respondent judges chambers to apologize and related to him that respondent Morantes "favor" was the primary reason why she no longer wanted to participate in the raffle of cases. The respondent judge called respondent Morante and asked him about the matter and the latter admitted asking his professor for the "favor." Upon the respondent judges prodding, respondent Morante revealed that the amount involved was P10,000.00. The respondent judge asked where the money was, and respondent Morante at first replied that he had returned it to his professor. He later on recanted this, and said that the money was given to him as commissioners fee for the reception of evidence ex parte. Atty. Crisologo-Lara initially thought that she and the respondent judge had parted on an amicable note, but was bothered by the latters final words: "he had thought that she was a hindrance and he knew how to eradicate hindrances."

At about 9:30 a.m. on August 30, 2001, the respondent judge called Atty. Crisologo-Lara from his house and told her to prepare a memorandum regarding the unloading of cases to newly created branches. She started to ask him if she could base her report from June 30, 2001, but the respondent judge shouted at her, and told her not to throw any problem back at him.

Atty. Crisologo-Lara added that she had written the letter in compliance with the directive of the Chief Justice, and "not as a formal lodging of [a] complaint against anybody."3

The respondent judge denied these allegations in his Comment4 dated September 26, 2001. He claimed that respondent Morante made no such call to him, and insisted that he would not have agreed to such an irregular assignment of LRC Case No. LP-01-0070. He maintained that he kept his staff at arms length, and would immediately have lambasted respondent Morante if he had ever made such a request. He further narrated as follows:

What I recall is that Atty. Lara came to tell me in [the] Chambers that Atty. Morante asked her a favor to raffle the aforesaid case to my sala but she refused. My immediate response was "good" and that she was correct in refusing because I can never tolerate the fixing of the raffle of cases. I thus instructed her not to entertain in the future any request by anyone to fix the raffle because she can be sure I can never allow it.

While it is true that I scolded Atty. Morante after Atty. Lara left my office, it is NOT TRUE I told Atty. Morante I did not want Atty. Lara to know that I approved of Atty. Morantes asking for that case prior to that raffle.

The truth is that I was furious when I scolded Atty. Morante who denied Atty. Laras allegation. He explained that Atty. Lara may be sowing intrigues to discredit him. Atty. Morante stated [that] he never asked Atty. Lara to fix any case to my sala. He related that after the LRC Case was raffled to my sala, Atty. Lara hinted to him to give her money for allegedly fixing the case to my sala.

Atty. Morante told me that he was surprised because he never asked for that case and that raffle on August 15 was conducted in due course. The representatives of the other salas who attended the raffle attested to that as shown by their signatures on the minutes of the raffle.

But in order not to embarrass Atty. Lara, Atty. Morante offered to waive in her favor the designation as commissioner to receive evidence since the case is ex-parte. That way Atty. Lara could deal directly with the petitioners counsel who happens to be his professor for any commissioners fee. Atty. Morante denied offering money, much less P10,000, to Atty. Lara.5

The respondent judge admitted that Atty. Crisologo-Lara came to see him in his chambers on August 22, 2001, and that respondent Morante was, likewise, present. She also asked to be excluded from the raffle of cases in the future, considering that according to a Supreme Court circular, she is not required to participate therein. Her insistence prompted the respondent judge to raise his voice and say to her, "Ang tagal-tagal mo nang nagra-raffle, ngayon ka pa magpapa-exclude. Nang-iinsulto ka ba?" He added, "Kung may problema kayong dalawa, ayusin ninyong dalawa sa labas at huwag nyo ako idamay sa problema ninyo."6 According to the respondent judge, he never insulted Atty. Crisologo-Lara, let alone utter invectives at her.

Respondent Morante, likewise, denied the allegations against him.7 According to the respondent:

The regularity of the raffle is evidenced by the Minutes of the proceedings duly signed by aforesaid personalities, Atty. Lara herself included, and the Affidavit of the Stenographer who assisted in the raffle, Mrs. Leticia Agbayani (Annexes A, and B). The raffle was conducted on the lawyers table w[h]ere I was seated opposite Atty. Lara, while on my right side was Ms. Agbayani, the stenographer. Atty. Lara was flanked by (sic) both sides by Mr. Pacquing and Atty. Bato. At the juncture of the raffle, the remaining cases to be raffled were two (2) civil cases and two (2) LRC cases. Atty. Lara got four (4) pieces of paper and wrote therein the numbers of those cases, as indicated in the list of cases, to wit: numbers 43, 44, 45 and 46, respectively. She then personally rolled all of these pieces of paper, then shuffled them on the table and then took them in her hands and shook them further. The representative of Branch 255 took two pieces, Branch 254 took one, and Branch 275 took one, as instructed by Atty. Lara in accordance with the ratio of distribution of cases. Branch 255 got cases numbered as nos. 43 and 45, Branch 253 got no. 44 and Branch 275 got no. 46. Number 46 is LRC Case No. 01-0070 entitled "In re: Ex-parte Petition for Issuance of Writ of Possession, Allied Banking Corporation, petitioner." The raffle was then reviewed by Atty. Bato who recapitulated the results of the raffle. The raffle was then concluded.8

Respondent Morante alleged that the raffle was done in the courtroom of Branch 275 in the presence of many people, most of whom were newspaper representatives waiting for the next raffle of publications. As such, the raffling of LRC Case No. 01-0070 could not have been rigged as alleged by Atty. Crisologo-Lara. He stressed that the regularity of the conduct of the raffle was duly supported by evidence prepared by Atty. Crisologo-Lara herself, such as the minutes of the raffle9 and the transmittal of the cases. Respondent Morante further narrated as follows:

On August 28, 2001, Atty. Lara went to the chambers of Judge Maceda. It is not true that her primary reason for her "hesitance" to join the raffle was due to the so-called "favor." The real reason was because of the previous memorandum issued by Judge Maceda making drastic reforms in the manner of the raffle of cases and publications (Copies of which are attached as H and I). Said Memorandum clipped Atty. Laras powers considering that in the past she was the one who personally conducted the raffle of publications not in open court but in her office only. And in the raffle of cases, it was only pieces of paper that was used and not bingo paraphernalia and it was Atty. Lara who personally distributed the pieces of paper. That practice of Atty. Lara was set aside by Judge Maceda in Memorandum No. 04-2001 directing that the raffle of cases be done in open court personally by the Executive Judge with the use of bingo paraphernalia pursuant to existing Supreme [Court] Circulars (Annex J).

It is true that Judge Maceda called me inside the chambers while Atty. Lara was there, but it was not because of the alleged "favor" and I have no idea w[h]ere Atty. Lara got the figure of P10,000.00 Judge Maceda did not, in any portion of our conversation, ask about the alleged money simply because there was no such conversation.10

Thereafter, in a Letter-Complaint dated October 3, 2001, Atty. Dale Michael T. Villaflor, counsel for complainant Ever Emporium Inc., charged the respondents with gross violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct and serious or grave misconduct prejudicial to the proper administration of justice.

According to the complainant, it commenced an action for Annulment of Foreclosure Proceedings and Damages with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction11 before the RTC of Las Piñas City against Allied Banking Corporation, Sheriff Antolin L. Obsequio, Jr., and the Register of Deeds of Las Piñas City on February 4, 2000. The said case was docketed as Civil Case No. LP 00-0023 and was raffled to Branch 254, presided by Judge Manuel V. Fernandez, Jr. After hearing, the complainants application for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction was granted by the trial court in an Order12 dated March 28, 2000. In a desperate move, Allied Bank filed an Ex-Parte Petition for Issuance of Writ of Possession13 before the RTC of Las Piñas City, docketed as LRC No. 01-0070.

According to the complainant, the respondent judge issued a Writ of Possession in favor of Allied Bank in an Order14 dated September 27, 2001 despite full knowledge of the existence of the writ of preliminary injunction previously issued against the latter. Such act, according to the complainant, showed the respondent judges gross disrespect and disregard for a lawful writ issued by a competent court.

On September 28, 2001, the complainant filed an Urgent Motion for Reconsideration with Motion to Quash Writ of Possession15 which was set for hearing at 8:30 a.m. of October 1, 2001. On even date, Allied Bank filed an Urgent Ex-Parte Motion to Allow Force Opening of Padlocked Premises16 before the respondent judges court. Despite the pendency of this motion and only a few hours upon receipt thereof, the respondent issued an Order17 granting the same on September 28, 2001. According to the complainant, the litigious nature of such motion and the respondent judges failure to require it to file its comment thereon demonstrates the latters undue inclination to favor Allied Bank. The complainant further pointed out that even prior to the issuance of the break-open order, Allied Bank had already taken steps to mobilize police officers, giving the impression that the motion for the issuance of the break-open order was already a "done deal."18

It was further averred that during the hearing of October 1, 2001, the complainants Urgent Motion for Reconsideration was sought to be withdrawn, the same having been rendered moot and academic with the consequent implementation of the writ of possession. However, the respondent judge denied the said motion to withdraw and instead ordered Allied Bank to comment on the motion for reconsideration. It was pointed out that such motion to withdraw was clearly non-litigious and could have been acted upon immediately; as such, the respondents actuations displayed his partiality, an "apparent attempt to thwart Ever Emporiums attempt to seek immediate legal remedies before a higher court."19

The letter-complaint, likewise, made reference to the letter of Atty. Crisologo-Lara in this manner:

Gleaned from the letter of Atty. Lara, Atty. Morante approached and requested the former to have said case assigned to the sala of Judge Maceda. Atty. Morante even bragged [about] the fact that Judge Maceda knew and consented to such request. Atty. Morante even tried to bribe Atty. Lara obviously for having the case assigned to their Court.

Judge Maceda, by taking undue interest in the case and by agreeing and consenting to the illegal and anomalous request of Atty. Morante, has clearly violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and his oath as a magistrate of law. Instead of being viewed as the visible representation of law and justice from whom the people draw their will and inclination to obey the law, he has, in effect, projected himself in collusion with his branch clerk of court, as a depository of arbitrary power.

The succeeding events that transpired after the filing of the Ex-Parte Petition for Writ of Possession further indicates that Judge Maceda could no longer be expected to render just, correct and impartial decision in the said case. He has displayed conduct that falls short of the standard expected of a magistrate of law.20

The respondent judge vehemently denied these allegations in his Comment21 dated April 17, 2002.

Pursuant to the Report22 of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) dated November 19, 2001, the letter of Atty. Crisologo-Lara was docketed as a regular administrative complaint and the two cases were consolidated.23 The cases were initially assigned to then Court of Appeals Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales for investigation, report and recommendation. Upon her designation as Supreme Court Justice, the case was assigned to Court of Appeals Associate Justice Mario L. Guariña III.

In the meantime, the complainant, through a representative, filed a Motion to Withdraw Letter-Complaint24 on July 3, 2002, alleging that after a meticulous examination of the attendant facts and circumstances, it came to realize that the filing of the instant suit arose out of a "misappreciation of facts." It prayed for the immediate withdrawal of the Letter dated October 9, 2001 and the dismissal of the case.

Atty. Crisologo-Lara testified and affirmed the contents of her Letter dated September 3, 2001. On cross-examination, she reiterated that she submitted her letter in compliance with the directive of Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., and that it was not a formal complaint. Thereafter, Atty. Villaflor appeared for the complainant during the hearing of June 17, 2003, and affirmed the latters earlier motion to withdraw the complaint. By reason of this manifestation, the complainant was deemed to have waived the presentation of evidence.

After the hearings,25 the Investigating Justice submitted his Report and Recommendation dated January 6, 2004, which contained the following findings:

Judge Maceda has submitted an extensive discussion of his legal grounds for issuing the writ of possession and enforcing it. The explanation states that: (1) The petition for the issuance of a writ of possession is explicitly under Section 7 & 8 of Act 3135 an ex parte proceeding, (2) the issuance of the writ has been declared by the Supreme Court in such cases as Marcelo Steel Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, 54 SCRA 89, to be ministerial in character, and (3) the pendency of other cases such as annulment of the mortgage and foreclosure is no obstacle to the issuance of the writ of possession, citing Jacob v. Court of Appeals, 184 SCRA 294, and Navarra vs. Court of Appeals, 204 SCRA 850, (4) even then, he did not immediately issue the writ but asked the petitioner to submit a memorandum of authorities to show why the pendency of the other case as well as the injunction therein should not bar the issuance of the writ of possession, (5) it took him a full month after the petitioner submitted the memorandum on August 27, 2001 to issue the writ, (6) the break-open order he issued on September 28, a day after the writ, was an ancillary writ and, therefore, should be dispatched without delay to implement the main order, (7) at the hearing on October 1, Ever wanted him to act immediately on the motion for reconsideration, which he could not do until the adverse party was notified of the motion in accordance with the Rules of Court. That was when Ever made an oral motion to withdraw the motion for reconsideration, which appeared to him as a gambit to rush him into making a resolution on the motion.

Judge Maceda has correctly stated the basic principles upon which an ex-parte proceeding for a writ of possession is founded. The action he has taken in the case may be adequately justified by these doctrinal premises. The Supreme Court has spoken all too clearly that the proceeding for the writ under Act 3135 is ex-parte and may proceed despite the pendency of a plenary case for annulment of the mortgage and foreclosure. A fortiori, an interlocutory order of injunction in the plenary case should not be an obstacle for the issuance of the writ. To show circumspection, however, Judge Maceda did not immediately issue the writ, but asked the petitioner to justify the application in the light of existing developments. This should belie any charge, suspicion or innuendo that he was interested in the case. If he was, he would not have waited for a month before issuing the writ. But the writ, once issued, should and could be enforced immediately. It is therefore not unreasonable or unusual for a judge to issue without delay a break-open order to implement the principal writ. In regard to his denying the complainants verbal manifestation to withdraw a motion for reconsideration, made in the last hearing on October 1, Judge Maceda said that he did this because he perceived at the time that the party was trying to force him to rule on the motion for reconsideration immediately. His response may have been nothing more than a judgment call, but certainly not one that shows a malicious intent to delay a partys cause. On the whole, nothing in his official actuations during the proceeding supports the complaint that he was biased against the complainant.26

The Investigating Justice thus recommended the dismissal of the complaint initiated by Ever Emporium. Anent the allegations in the letter of Atty. Crisologo-Lara, the following findings were made:

There is no witness to what transpired between Atty. Morante and Atty. Lara regarding the assignment of the case to Branch 275. It is, at bottom, the word of Atty. Lara against that of Atty. Morante. But there is one circumstance in repondents favor which makes the version given by the complainant Atty. Lara to be less than plausible. In light of the fact that there was a regular raffle proceeding that took place in the afternoon of August 15 which led to the assignment of the case to Branch 275, we do not see, and we were not shown, how the raffle procedure was manipulated to allow the case to go to Branch 275. The raffle was done in public in the sala of Judge Macedas, Branch 275, since he was the Executive Judge. Judge Maceda was present, so were the representatives of the 4 branches, the representatives of newspaper publishers, a stenographer and the Clerk of Court and Deputy Clerk of Court. In the presence of many people, Atty. Lara, the Clerk of Court, shook in her cupped hand the rolled pieces of paper bearing the numbers corresponding to the cases on the list. After rolling them on the table, the representative of each branch picked a rolled piece of paper. With this procedure, we wonder how Atty. Morante could have identified and chosen the rolled piece of paper that corresponded to LRC 0070. It is at least clear that Atty. Lara could not have made any suspicious or unusual movement with the rolled pieces of paper, for that would easily expose her partiality to the public. The observance of the raffle procedure rules out the possibility that she had the case go to Branch 275, and if she did not manipulate the raffle procedure to favor Branch 275, this cuts the ground from under her claim that she had a deal with Atty. Morante to have the case go to his branch.

No person was also around to attest to the exact language of Judge Maceda when he got irritated at what he perceived was Atty. Laras impertinence. It is possible that she has misinterpreted or taken out of context words which might seem to her to be threatening words. Although he admits that he was angry and raised his voice, Judge Maceda insists that he did not utter expletives. Nor did he have any intention to threaten her. He gave his own account of the incident.27

The Investigating Justice, likewise, recommended the dismissal of the complaint on the ground of reasonable doubt.

We agree with the findings and recommendations of the Investigating Justice.

As a matter of policy, in the absence of fraud, dishonesty and corruption, the acts of a judge in his judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary action.28 He cannot be subjected to liability civil, criminal or administrative for any of his official acts, no matter how erroneous, as long as he acts in good faith.29 Only judicial errors tainted with fraud, dishonesty, gross ignorance, bad faith or deliberate intent to do an injustice will be administratively sanctioned.30 As pointed out by the Investigating Justice, "a contrary rule would result in an intolerable burden on the administration of justice, because judges cannot be made to be absolute insurers of the correctness of their own rulings."31 There is no showing that the respondent judge in this case was motivated by ill will or bad faith in issuing the questioned orders.

Indeed, an administrative complaint against a judge cannot be pursued simultaneously with the judicial remedies accorded to parties aggrieved by his erroneous order or judgment. Administrative remedies are neither alternative nor cumulative to judicial review where such review is available
to the aggrieved parties and the same has not yet been resolved with finality. Until there is a final declaration by the appellate court that the challenged order or judgment is manifestly erroneous, there will be no basis to conclude whether the respondent judge is administratively liable.32

As found by the Investigating Justice, Atty. Crisologo-Lara failed to substantiate her allegations against the respondents. When she was cross-examined during the hearing of June 3, 2003, she stated that she went to see the Chief Justice out of fear of the respondent judges words pertaining to "eradicating hindrances," and that what triggered her fears were the respondent judges use of invectives and the statement that he knew "how to eradicate hindrances."33 She did not present any other evidence to prove her claims against the respondent judge and that of respondent Morante. In fine, it is her word against that of the respondents, the respondents witnesses, and the evidence on record. This includes the Minutes of Raffle of Cases34 held on August 15, 2001 to which Atty. Crisologo-Lara herself was a signatory.

The Court notes that respondent Morante was found guilty of grave and serious misconduct for extorting money from a party litigant, and was dismissed from the service with prejudice to re-employment in the Court En Bancs Decision35 of April 16, 2004.

As a final note, Justice Guariña III pointed out that the letter-complaint of Ever Emporium, Inc. was anchored mainly on the allegations of Atty. Crisologo-Lara in her Letter dated September 3, 2001, and was thus based on mere conjectures and unsupported conclusions. It must be stressed that in administrative proceedings, the quantum of proof required to establish a respondents malfeasance is not proof beyond reasonable doubt but substantial evidence, i.e., that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, is required.36 More importantly, in administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the allegations in his complaint. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the presumption that the respondent has regularly performed his duties will prevail. Indeed, if a respondent judge, or a court employee for that matter, should be disciplined for a grave offense, the evidence against him should be competent and derived from direct knowledge.37 Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation cannot be given credence. Hence, when the complainant relies on mere conjectures and suppositions, and fails to substantiate his claim, the administrative complaint must be dismissed for lack of merit.38

WHEREFORE, considering the foregoing, the administrative complaints against respondents Judge Bonifacio Sanz Maceda and Atty. Edgar Allan C. Morante are DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio Morales*, Azcuna*, Tinga, and Chico-Nazario*, JJ., concur.


Endnotes:

* On leave.

1 Rollo, pp. 84-86.

2 Entitled "In Re Ex-Parte Petition for Issuance of Writ of Possession, Allied Banking Corporation, petitioner."

3 Id. at 86.

4 Id. at 87-96.

5 Id. at 87-88.

6 Id. at 89.

7 Comment dated September 27, 2001, Rollo, pp. 113-130.

8 Rollo, pp. 114-115.

9 Exhibit "2-Morante," Rollo, pp. 131-135.

10 Rollo, pp. 122-123.

11 Annex "A."

12 Annex "D."

13 Annex "F."

14 Annex "G."

15 Annex "H."

16 Annex "I."

17 Annex "J."

18 Rollo, pp. 7-8.

19 Id. at 8.

20 Id. at 4-5.

21 Id. at 180-205.

22 Id. at 156-161.

23 Resolution dated January 22, 2002, Rollo, pp. 162-163.

24 Rollo, pp. 286-287.

25 The following court employees belonging to the RTC, Branch 275 testified in behalf of respondent Morante: Leticia B. Agbayani, Court Stenographer; Sotera T. Javier, Court Interpreter; Edgardo F. Villar, Clerk III; Lourdes G. Dominguez, Clerk III; Nelly Chavez, Utility Aide; and Teodoro Alvarez. Respondent Morante and the respondent judge also testified.

26 Report and Recommendation, pp. 17-18.

27 Id. at 20-21.

28 Julie C. Pitney v. Judge Zeus C. Abrogar, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1748, November 11, 2003; Balsamo v. Suan, 411 SCRA 189 (2003).

29 Castaños v. Escaño, Jr., 251 SCRA 174 (1995).

30 Cruz v. Iturralde, 402 SCRA 65 (2003).

31 Report and Recommendation, p. 18.

32 Atty. Alberto P. Quinto v. Judge Gregorio S. Vios, MTC, Kapatagan, Lanao Del Norte, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1551, May 21, 2004.

33 Report and Recommendation, p. 7.

34 Exhibit "2-Morante," Rollo, pp. 131-135.

35 Entitled Office of the Court Administrator v. Atty. Edgar Allan C. Morante, Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Las Piñas City, Branch 275.

36 Avancena v. Liwanag, 398 SCRA 541(2003).

37 Urgent Appeal/p>etition for Immediate Suspension & Dismissal of Judge Emilio B. Legaspi, RTC, Iloilo City, Br. 22, 405 SCRA 514 (2003).

38 See Atty. Rex J.M.A. Fernandez v. Court of Appeals Associate Justices Eubolo G. Verzola, Martin S. Villarama, Jr., and Mario L. Guariña III, A.M. No. CA-04-40, August 13, 2004; see also Leonides T. Cortes v. Sandiganbayan Justices Minita V. Chico-Nazario, Ma. Cristina G. Cortez-Estrada and Rodolfo G. Palattao, A.M. No. SB-04-11-J, February 13, 2004.




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G. Palattao, A.M. No. SB-04-11-J, February 13, 2004.




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