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[OCA-IPI No. 05-1663-MTJ.  July 18, 2005]

OSABAL vs. CONTRERAS

SECOND DIVISION

Sirs/Mesdames:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUL 18 2005.

OCA-IPI No. 05-1663-MTJ (Jufre P. Osabal vs. Judge Manuel E. Contreras.)

For consideration is the administrative complaint dated 5 January 2005 filed by Jufre P. Osabal (Osabal) against Judge Manuel E. Contreras (Judge Contreras), Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) of Ocampo, Camarines Sur of the 5th Judicial Region. The designated charges were for oppression, grave abuse of authority, violations of judicial conduct and Canon of Professional Ethics.

Osabal identified himself as the host of several radio programs of RMN-DWNX stationed in Naga City. In December 2004 during a discussion aired in Osabal's radio program, the name of Judge Contreras was implicated in the alleged illegal treasure hunting and excavation activities in Brgy. Del Rosario, Ocampo, Carnarines Sur.

Angered by the implication of his name, Judge Contreras caused the arrest of Osabal pursuant to an indirect contempt charge docketed as Special Civil Action 04-04 which Judge Contreras initiated motu proprio. After posting bail, Osabal discussed the fact of his arrest in his radio program. As a result, a second indirect contempt charge docketed as Special Civil Action 04-05 was filed against him, allegedly because his on-air discussion of the first contempt charge violated the rule on sub-judice.

In the instant complaint, Osabal raised questions regarding the indirect contempt charges against him and the corresponding warrant and orders of arrest issued relative thereto. Osabal believes that Judge Contreras used his contempt power in a "very vindictive and retaliatory manner"[1]cralaw and he therefore asks that the latter be dismissed from the judiciary.

While Osabal's complaint was triggered by the supposed involvement of Judge Contreras in the alleged illegal treasure hunting and excavation activities in Camarines Sur, no proof and arguments were presented by complainant relative to this issue. The complaint was limited to a discussion of how the imputation of illegal acts to Judge Contreras impacted on complainant.

In his comment, Judge Contreras claimed that Osabal's complaint has no basis since he exercised his judicial powers in accordance with law. He also asserted that the matters and issues raised in the administrative case had already been elevated by Osabal for review and correction before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pili, Camarines Sur in a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for temporary restraining order (Special Civil Action No. P-02-2005). Anent his alleged involvement in illegal treasure hunting and excavation activities, Judge Contreras claimed that treasure hunting is not per se illegal because it is even recognized under the law. Moreover, the imputation of his engagement in such activities has no basis.[2]cralaw

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) found that the issues in this case and in Special Civil Action No. P-02-2005 are the same and may be resolved best through judicial adjudication. The OCA likewise stated that disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions against judges do not complement, supplement or substitute judicial remedies. An inquiry into the civil, criminal and administrative liability of judges may be made only after the available remedies have been exhausted with finality. It therefore recommended the dismissal of the administrative complaint without prejudice to the final outcome of Special Civil Action No. P-02-2005.

A brief comment though on the allegation of illegal treasure hunting activities of Judge Contreras. Such allegation does not form part of the issues now pending in Special Civil Action No. P-02-2005. If there is proof of such activities which constitute violations of pertinent laws, then such could be the subject of a separate administrative complaint which would not be mooted by the pending certiorari petition before the RTC. However, we observe that no such case concerning such allegations has been filed either by Osabal or any other party.

Finding the recommendation of the OCA to be in accord with the law and the facts of the case on record, the same is APPROVED. The administrative complaint against Judge Manuel E. Contreras, Presiding Judge of the MTC of Ocampo, Camarines Sur of the 5th Judicial Region is DISMISSED without prejudice to the final outcome of Special Civil Action No. P-02-2005.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) LUDICHI YASAY-NUNAG
Clerk of Court



Endnotes:

[1]cralawVerified Complaint of petitioner Osabal, p.4.

[2]cralawUndated Comment of Judge Contreras to the Complaint, p.18.


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