Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1998 > March 1998 Decisions > A.M. No. 97-6-182-RTC March 19, 1998 - RE: REPORT ON THE JUDICIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED IN RTC, BRANCH 68:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.M. No. 97-6-182-RTC. March 19, 1999.]

RE: REPORT ON THE JUDICIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED IN THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 68, CAMILING, TARLAC


D E C I S I O N


PURISIMA, J.:


In view of the fact that Judge Prudencio V. L. Ruiz was due to retire from the service, as he did, on April 28, 1997, the Office of Court Administrator 1 caused to be conducted from February 25 to 27, 1997, a Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of the cases then pending before Branch 68 of the Regional Trial Court in Camiling, Tarlac presided over by Judge Ruiz. 2

The report, dated March 11, 1997, submitted by the team tasked to undertake the Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of the cases involved, disclosed that as of February 27, 1997, subject Regional Trial Court had a caseload of 419 cases, consisting of 215 criminal cases and 204 civil cases. Of the aforesaid cases, there were three (3) criminal and fourteen (14) civil cases which ripened for disposition, as follows: 3

CASE TITLE DATE DEEMED

NUMBER SUBMITTED FOR

DECISION

CRIMINAL

1. 467 People v. Fernando, Et. Al. 2-23-97

2. 566 People v. Riparip 2-01-97

3. 591 People v. Andres 12-08-96

CIVIL

1. 307 Gabay, Et. Al. v. Mangabay, et 1-30-97

al.

2. 206 Tan v. Chan 9-19-96

3. 283 De la Cruz v. De la Cruz, Et. Al. 5-15-96

4. 289 Galtoc v. Juan 2-04-97

5. 431 Jose, Et. Al. v. Luis, Et. Al. 1-28-97

6. 480 Simon, Et. Al. v. de la Cruz 8-09-96

7. 96-07 Sps. Subiate, Et. Al. v. Sps. de la 6-26-96

Cruz, Et. Al.

8. 97-06 Fernandez v. Dr. Bengzon 1-26-97

9. 397 Molina v. Tolentino, Et. Al. 1-20-97

10. 419 Vda. de Quidez v. Quidez 2-21-97

11. 96-22 Rural Bank, Sta. Ignacia v. Sps. 1-27-97

Soliven

12. SP-221 Adoption of Minor Bautista — Sps. 2-17-97

Bautista, Petitioner

13. SP-209 Adoption of Minor Pabilona — Sps. 2-04-97

Abad, Petitioner

14. SP-229 Correction of Entry on Birth 12-26-96

Certificate — J. Agustin, Petitioner

Of the above-mentioned cases Civil Case Nos. 206, 283, 480, and 96-07 were pending decision beyond the 90-day period prescribed for deciding the same. 4chanrobles.com.ph : virtual law library

The same report also indicated that there were fifteen (15) cases, one criminal and fourteen (14) civil, appealed from various Municipal Trial Courts or Municipal Circuit Trial Courts under the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court in Camiling, Tarlac. Of the said cases, three (3) civil cases were awaiting further hearings. In Civil Case No. 97-10, entitled Sagun Et. Al. v. Sps. Palaganas Et. Al., no action had been taken thereon since it was instituted on January 29, 1997. The following cases were considered submitted for resolution, to wit: 5

CASE NUMBER TITLE DATE DEEMED

SUBMITTED FOR

RESOLUTION

1. 96-69 People v. Neri 12-12-96

2. 96-33 Villegas Sr. v. Sabangan, Et. Al. 9-13-96

3. 96-56 Juan v. Concepcion 1-11-97

4. 96-53 Alipio, Et. Al. v. Cabungan, Et. Al. 12-23-96

5 96-47 Marcos, Et. Al. v. Gragasin, Et. Al. 1-02-97

6. 95-08 Robinos, Et. Al. v. Felix, Et. Al. 5-11-95

7 97-08 Bueno v. Sanchez 2-22-97

8. 95-75 Dacayanan v. Martin 9-09-95

9 96-08 Villegas v. Velasco, Et. Al. 3-23-96

10. 97-03 Dr. Bengzon v. Celario 2-13-97

11. 96-57 Dancel v. Sps. Bartolo, Et. Al. 1-17-97

Of the said appealed cases, Civil Case Nos. 96-33, 95-08, 95-75 and 96-08 were undecided or unresolved beyond the 90-day period within which to decide or resolve the same. 6

The same judicial audit and investigation report noted that the decision dated November 8, 1994 in Criminal Case No. 492 (People v. Acosta) could not be promulgated because of the flight of the accused, whose cash bond was consequently confiscated and who was then ordered arrested. In Criminal Case No. 95-82, (People v. Oriente) there was presented on January 6, 1997 a motion to dismiss the case on the ground that the accused was dead. A draft Order dated February 25, 1997 was prepared for the dismissal of the said case. There were also two civil cases with pending motions. In Civil Case No. 94-26 (Tarlac Agro, etc. v. Loquiao) a motion to declare the defendant in default was filed on February 17, 1997 but the motion remained unresolved. In Civil Case No. 96-48 (De Leon Sr., Et. Al. v. De Leon, et. al.), 7 a motion to lift order of default was filed after the plaintiff had sent in the comment on February 18, 1997 but the incident was also unacted upon.

The same report disclosed further that aside from the appealed Civil Case No. 97-10 earlier referred to, there were two (2) land registration cases on which no action was taken since the institution of the same. These were LRC Case Nos. 95-33 and 96-08 for Judicial Reconstitution, filed by the Department of Agrarian Reform, Tarlac office, on December 5, 1995 and November 21, 1996, respectively. Officer-in-charge Noel M. Subiate explained that the Department of Agrarian Reform did not follow up the said cases and as a result, the corresponding summons had not been issued because the required fee for service of summons was not paid.

Then, too, there were forty-seven (47) cases, twelve (12) criminal and thirty-five (35) civil cases, which were never called or heard for a considerable length of time.

On the aforestated report derogatory to him, Judge Ruiz sent in his comment. He explained that the lack of action on the cases in question, was due to his recurring illness and hospitalization, as reflected in the records of the Leave Section of the Court. 8

As regards pending special proceedings, most of the adoption cases have been idle, some for as long as five years, by reason of the absence of a Social Case Study Report. 9 On August 31, 1998, the Court received Noel M. Subiate’s letter dated August 12, 1998, together with pertinent records 10 .chanrobles virtuallawlibrary

On November 4, 1998, there was received from the Court Administrator his final report and recommendation dated October 19, 1998, for the exoneration of Officer-in-Charge Noel M. Subiate of administrative liability and for the imposition of a fine of Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos on Judge Prudencio V. L. Ruiz for failure to decide and/or resolve seven (7) cases within the 90-day reglementary period. 11

The aforementioned finding, report and recommendation of the Court Administrator on the absence of any administrative liability of Officer-in-charge Noel M. Subiate, after satisfactory compliance with the resolutions of this Court, merit approval.

With respect to Judge Prudencio V. L. Ruiz, however, considering the attendant facts and circumstances, particularly his entire service record, we believe that the recommended fine of P10,000.00 is too severe, a fine of P2,000.00 should suffice.

As earlier alluded to, Judge Ruiz retired from the service on April 28, 1997 but after the judicial audit was completed, he immediately sent his letter dated March 20, 1997 to the Court Administrator, including copies of his Decisions and Orders in Civil Case Nos. 206, 210, 307, 312, 480, 95-08, 95-25, 96-07, 96-08, 96-33, 96-53, 96-56 and 96-69. As regards the cases submitted and pending decision within the 90-day period, Judge Ruiz decided almost all of such cases except Civil Case Nos. 289 and 419 which remained undecided, as indicated in the status resort. 12 The sincere effort of the respondent Judge to clear his docket before retirement is unmistakably gleanable from the Certification under oath dated August 12, 1998 of OIC Clerk of Court Noel M. Subiate, to the effect that Judge Ruiz decided and resolved the pending incidents in the cases listed in said document. (Annex A-C ibid., pp. 214-216)chanroblesvirtual|awlibrary

Rule 3.05 of Canon 3 enjoins all judges to attend promptly to the business of the court and decide cases within the time fixed by law. 13 A Judge is mandated to render judgment not more than ninety (90) days from the time the case is submitted for decision. We have held that the failure of a judge to render the decision within the prescribed period of ninety (90) days from submission of a case for decision constitutes serious misconduct, to the detriment of the honor and integrity of his office and in derogation of speedy administration of justice. 14 Inability to decide a case within the required period is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency. 15 We cannot countenance such undue delay by a judge, especially at a time when clogging of court dockets is still the bane of the judiciary, whose present leadership has launched an all out program to minimize, if not totally eradicate, docket congestion and undue delay in the disposition of cases. Judges are called upon to observe utmost diligence and dedication in the performance of their judicial functions and duties. 16 It is thus decisively clear that the failure or inability of a judge to decide a case within the period fixed by law subjects him to administrative sanctions. 17

Taking into account, however, the explanation of Judge Ruiz for his failure to decide or dispose on time subject cases and his quick response and action thereon, before his compulsory retirement on April 28, 1997, after he was reminded by the audit team to decide said cases, let alone his letter of March 20, 1997 to the Court Administrator, addressed less than a month after completion of the judicial audit, to the effect that he had already decided the aforesaid cases, we can indeed perceive a determined effort on the part of Judge Ruiz to attend to his duties with greater concern and zeal. Then, too, as observed by the Court Administrator, worthy of appreciation was the determination of Judge Ruiz to decide not only cases pending decision beyond the 90-day period but even those not yet overdue for decision. Certainly, the said accomplishments of respondent judge made up for his past shortcomings and failure to decide the seven (7) cases within the 90-day period, and should serve to mitigate his administrative liability.

WHEREFORE, Judge Prudencio V. L. Ruiz, former Presiding Judge of Branch 68 of the Regional Trial Court in Camiling, Tarlac, is adjudged administratively liable for delay in deciding subject cases and is FINED Two Thousand (P2,000.00) Pesos, which amount may be deducted from whatever retirement benefits due him.chanrobles virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Through a Judicial composed of Atty. Fe Corcelles-Aguila as team leader, Mr. Rodolfo A. Casupanan, Mr. Roberto S. Banez and Ms. Christina Lyn D. Gaddi as members.

2. The audit and physical inventory took place from February 25 to 27, 1997.

3. Judicial Audit and Inventory Report, pp. 1-2.

4. Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 15(1).

5. Judicial Audit and Inventory Report, p. 2.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 3.

8. Leave section records revealed that Judge Ruiz was indeed on leave from January 1 to 17, 1997, Rollo, p. 11.

9. It was learned that there was only one (1) Social Worker from the DSWD performing this specific duty, a certain Ms. Ma. Elena Jalos, and she is in charge for the whole province of Tarlac, Ibid.

10. Annex A-C, Ibid., p. 214-216. Per certification under oath dated August 12, 1998, OIC-Clerk of Court Noel M. Subiate certified that Judge Ruiz decided and resolved the pending incidents in the following cases:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Civil Case No. 206 decided on March 10, 1997

Civil Case No. 210 decided on March 19, 1997

Civil Case No. 307 decided on March 18, 1997

Civil Case No. 312 decided on March 19, 1997

Civil Case No. 397 decided on March 18, 1997

Civil Case No. 480 decided on March 25, 1997

Civil Case No. 95-08 dismissed per order dated March 7, 1997

Civil Case No. 96-07 decided on March 12, 1997

Civil Case No. 96-08 decided on March 7, 1997

Civil Case No. 96-33 dismissed per order dated March 7, 1997

Civil Case No. 95-33 dismissed per order dated March 7, 1997

Civil Case No. 96-56 dismissed per order dated March 7, 1997

Civil Case No. 283 dismissed per order dated April 18, 1997

Civil Case No. 289 submitted for decision

Civil Case No. 419 submitted for decision

Civil Case No. 431 decided on March 17, 1998 by Judge Lino

L. Diamsay

Civil Case No. 96-22 resolution issued by Judge Lino L. Diamsay

dated March 18, 1998 - Civil Case No. 97-06 dismissed per resolution dated February 6,

1997

Spec. Proc. No. 209 decided on March 4, 1997

Spec. Proc. No. 221 decided on March 4, 1997

Spec. Proc. No. 229 decided on February 13, 1997

Crim. Case No. 467 decision rendered on April 11, 1997

Crim. Case No. 591 decision rendered on April 11, 1997

Crim. Case No. 566 pending trial — last order January 22,

1997

Crim. Case No. 95-82 dismissed per order dated February 25,

1997

Crim. Case No. 96-47 pending trial — last order March 11, 1997

Crim. Case No. 96-57 pending trial — last order dated March 2,

1998 issued by Judge Lino L. Diamsay

Crim. Case No. 576 pending trial — last order July 26, 1995

(Accused Cristituto Pure jumps bail)

Crim. Case No. 683 pending trial — last order March 9, 1998 issued by

Judge Lino L. Diamsay

Criminal Case No. 468 pending trial — last order February 11,

1998 issued by Judge L. L. Diamsay

Crim. Case No. 95-33 pending trial — last order December 8,

1997 issued by Judge Lino L. Diamsay

Status of the cases which have been

previously calendared for hearing:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Crim. Case No. 518 accused jumps bail

Crim. Case No. 576 accused jumps bail

Crim. Case No. 92 per order of the court dated May 10, 1996

the case was dismissed while two other

accused are still at large

Crim. Case No. 97-02 dismissed per order dated March 3, 1998 - issued by Judge Lino L. Diamsay

Civil Case No. 210 & 312 decided on March 12, 1997

Civil Case No. 332 decided on March 6, 1998 - Civil Case No. 487 Judgment on compromise agreement dated

November 25, 1997

Civil Case No. 94-19 archived per order dated December 12, 1997

Civil Case No. 94-44 archived per order dated December 18, 1997

Civil Case No 96-54 decided on March 24, 1997

Elec Case No. 4 dismissed per order dated March 7, 1997

L. R. C. No. 96-08 dismissed per order dated December 12, 1997

Note:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

As regards Civil Case No. 95-75, LRC Case Nos. 13 & 30, no docket number appears in the docket book. Numerical error may have been committed in reporting.

11. Ibid., p. 261.

12. Rollo, pp. 254-261.

13. Office of the Court Administrator v. RTC Judge Amelita D. R. Benedicto and Atty. Eva G. Basiya-Saratan, Clerk of Court V, RTC, Branch 32, Iloilo City, A.M. No. 96-5-176-RTC, September 25, 1998.

14. Castillo v. Cortes, 234 SCRA 401 (1994).

15. Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court Branches 61, 134 and 147, Makati, Metro Manila, 248 SCRA 5.

16. Ibid., p. 23.

17. Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Dingle-Duenas, Iloilo, 280 SCRA 637.




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