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[A.M. No. MTJ-02-1433. June 18, 2003]

LEONIDAS vs. SUPNET

FIRST DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 18 2003.

A.M. No. MTJ-02-1433 (Tomas R. Leonidas vs. Judge Francisco G. Supnet, MeTC, Pasay City, Branch 47.)

Before us is a Motion filed by petitioner Tomas R. Leonidas ("petitioner") seeking a reconsideration of this Court's Decision dated 21 February 2003.

In his Motion for Reconsideration, petitioner prays that this Court reconsiders its decision only with regard to the first order of direct contempt which was issued against him by respondent Judge Francisco G. Supnet ("respondent judge"). Petitioner likewise prays that respondent judge be found to have acted with grave ignorance of the law and be meted another fine in addition to that already imposed on him in the Decision sought to be reconsidered.

Petitioner contends that respondent judge had lost all power and authority to continue with the contempt proceedings filed by the spouses Tamondongs in view of the dismissal of the main case. Petitioner cites the ruling in Servicewide Specialists, Inc. v. Court of Appeals[1]cralaw that a "dismissal or discontinuance of an action operates to annul orders, rulings or judgments previously made in the case."

The contention is untenable. The phrase "orders, rulings or judgments previously made in the case" referred to in Servicewide Specialists, Inc. case pertains to those orders, rulings or judgment involving the main case and not to a case incident to the main case as in contempt proceedings. A contempt proceedings, however, is different. It is a separate proceeding which partakes of a criminal nature and is summary in character which the court exercises but in a limited jurisdiction.[2]cralaw A charge for contempt of court partakes of the nature of a criminal action even when the act complained of is an incident to a civil action.[3]cralaw Thus, a judgment in the contempt proceedings is maintained regardless of the dismissal of the main case. And the court, despite the dismissal of the main case, still retains jurisdiction over the contempt case.

To reiterate, the power to punish persons for contempt is inherent in all courts. Its existence is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings and to the reinforcement of their lawful orders and decisions.[4]cralaw No matter what happens in the main case, the trial court still possesses the power to discipline and sanction all those who appear before it, to ensure their strict adherence to its rules and orders.

It must be remembered that the civil case for damages was dismissed by the Pasay MTC as a result of petitioner's forum shopping since petitioner failed to disclose that the case was previously brought before and dismissed by the Pasay RTC. Consequently, the Pasay MTC deemed it fit to punish petitioner's deliberate attempt to forum shop by declaring petitioner in direct contempt of court.

Petitioner now ridiculously attempts to have that first contempt order overturned simply because the Pasay MTC dismissed the case. If we were to uphold petitioner's contention, this would inevitably lead to the erosion of the courts' contempt power. And pursuing petitioner's thinking to its logical end, the courts would no doubt be stripped of their power to prevent parties from shopping for more favorable fora. The judiciary would be bereft of a security measure to ensure its self-preservation. And lawyers will be able to get away with their flagrant abuse of procedural law by simply invoking the Servicewide doctrine to escape the punitive effects of a contempt order.

WHEREFORE, petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED for lack of merit."

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.)VIRGINIA ANCHETA-SORIANO
Clerk of Court



Endnotes:

[1]cralaw 327 Phil. 431 (1996).

[2]cralaw In re Mison, Jr. v. Subido, L-27704, 28 May 1970, 33 SCRA 30.

[3]cralaw Benedicto, et al. v. Caņada, et al., 129 Phil. 298 (1967).

[4]cralaw In re Sotto, 82 Phil. 595 (1949).


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