[A.M. No. MTJ-99-1212.October 22, 2001]
TEJANO vs. JUDGE TUPAS
hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated OCT 22 2001.
A.M. No. MTJ-99-1212(Santiago
D. Tejano vs. Judge Nicomedes T. Tupas.)
Now before us is a
letter-complaint dated April 4, 1997 by Santiago D. Tejano charging Judge
Nicomedes T. Tupas of the 13th Municipal Circuit Trial Court, MacArthur-Mayorga
at MacArthur, Leyte with serious misconduct for his delay in resolving Civil
Case No. 354 entitled, "Santiago Tejano and Juliana Vda. de Tejano vs. Cesario
Peliņo" for Forcible Entry with Preliminary Injunction and Damages.
The antecedent facts of
the case follow:
On November 27, 1979, the
complaint docketed as Civil Case No. 354 was filed in the Municipal Trial Court
of La Paz, Leyte in the sala of Judge Serafin P. Ramento. It was later on tried
by herein respondent Judge Nicomedes T. Tupas.
On May 21, 1982,
memorandum for the defendant was received by the Office of the Municipal Trial
Judge of La Paz, Leyte. Two days thereafter or on May 23, 1982, memorandum for
the plaintiff was received. The case was thereafter submitted for decision.
In the letter-complaint of
Mr. Tejano, it was alleged that despite the memoranda having been submitted,
Judge Tupas did not render judgment despite his request; that when Judge Tupas
was reassigned to the Municipal Trial Court of MacArthur Leyte, he brought with
him the records of Civil Case No. 354; that despite numerous requests and pleas
for the rendition of the judgment in the said case, Judge Tupas refused to do
On August 27, 1997,
respondent judge filed his comment. He admitted the truth of the allegations in
the said complaint. He averred that the proceedings in Civil Case No. 354
terminated when he was concurrently the presiding judge in five (5) salas: as
regular Judge in MCTC MacArthur-Mayorga, his home court and as the Acting Judge
in MCTC Abuyog-Javier, MTC La Paz, MTC Dulag, and MTC Babatngon; that the
aforementioned case remained, pending decision, until it was overtaken by the
1983 re-organization of the courts; that being the presiding judge of the case,
he took the records home for the purpose of writing its decision; that the
records of the case got lost and could not be found despite diligent and
sustained efforts to locate the same.
speculated that the records got lost: (a) when he and, presumably his family,
transferred residence, the records may have been misplaced by the people who
helped move their personal belongings, furniture, personal records, and other
household items and effects; (b) during typhoons, they could have been
misplaced by their household helpers when they had to stow things away to save
them from getting soaked and damaged; or (c) when his daughter might have
mistakenly brought them to Manila in 1983.
He declared that in his
intention to reconstitute the court records, he contacted counsel for the
defendant, the late Atty. Alfredo Murillo, and counsel for the plaintiffs,
Atty. Paul Cabello. Both counsel told him that their records were incomplete.
In his closing paragraph,
respondent judge expressed the hope that the said records will be recovered and
a decision thereof will be rendered, and added that otherwise someone has to
stand and take responsibility for it. He prayed that, in this eventuality, his
long years of government service, especially in the judiciary, and the fact
that he had not involved himself in graft and corruption and other anomalies,
would be taken into consideration in the final reckoning of his case.
Respondent judge joined
the judiciary on March 25, 1968 and, having reached the age of 70 years on
September 15, 2001, compulsorily retired on said date and is now out of the
We find respondent judge
guilty of the charge against him.
Section 15, paragraph 1 of
Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution provides:
"Sec. 15. (1) All cases or
matters filed after the effectivity of this Constitution must be decided or
resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission for the Supreme
Court, and, unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all lower
collegiate courts, and three months for
all other lower courts." (Emphasis ours)
Civil Case No. 354 remains
undecided until now - nineteen (19) long years since it was submitted for
decision - not only because respondent judge did not decide the case within the
three-month period but also because he had lost the records.
This Court has
consistently impressed upon judges the need to decide cases promptly and
expeditiously. Any delay in the administration of justice not only results in
depriving the litigant of his right to a speedy disposition of his case but it
also negatively affects the image of the judiciary.1 Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted
in RTC - Br. 24, Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur; Br. 2, Isabela, Basilan; and MCTC,
Labason, Zamboanga del Norte, 303 SCRA 208 .
Thus, failure to decide
cases within the periods fixed by law constitutes a neglect of duty, which
warrants the imposition of administrative sanctions.2 Re: Cases Left Undecided by Judge Narciso
M. Burnanglag, Jr., 306 SCRA 50 .
It was bad enough that
Judge Tupas did not decide the aforementioned case within the prescribed period
but to lose the records of the case is unjustifiable.
There are cases on record
where court personnel like clerks of court have been called to task and
penalized for their failure to safely keep court records.
Judges should be no exception.
There is no dispute that the records of the case
were in the custody of the respondent judge when they were lost. Respondent
judge candidly admitted this. He also claimed that he attempted to reconstitute
the records of the case by getting in touch with the counsel of the
party-litigants but they told him that their records were incomplete.
However, we find his
attempt a half-hearted one. He was so easily satisfied with the retort that the
records in the possession of the counsel were incomplete that he contented
himself with the thought that nothing more could be done to reconstitute the
records of Civil Case No. 354. And if respondent judge was really of a mind to
do so, he could have compelled the party-litigants to aid him in the
reconstitution of the records of the said case.
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING,
1. For Gross Inefficiency and Misconduct,
respondent Judge Nicomedes T. Tupas of the 13th Municipal Circuit Trial Court,
MacArthur-Mayorga at MacArthur, Leyte, is hereby ORDERED to pay a FINE of
Twenty Thousand Pesos (
2. The Presiding Judge of MTC, La Paz, Leyte is DIRECTED
(a) to INITIATE the reconstitution of the records of Civil Case No. 354; and
(b) to DECIDE the case with dispatch and to REPORT to this Court, through the
Office of the Court Administrator, the outcome of such proceedings.
Very truly yours,
(Sgd.) TOMASITA M. DRIS
Clerk of Court