February 2016 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
IPI No. 14-222-CA-J, February 23, 2016 - RE: COMPLAINT OF ATTY. MARIANO R. PEFIANCO AGAINST JUSTICES MARIA ELISA SEMPIO DIY, RAMON PAUL L. HERNANDO, AND CARMELITA SALANDANAN-MANAHAN, OF THE COURT OF APPEALS CEBU.
IPI No. 14-222-CA-J, February 23, 2016
RE: COMPLAINT OF ATTY. MARIANO R. PEFIANCO AGAINST JUSTICES MARIA ELISA SEMPIO DIY, RAMON PAUL L. HERNANDO, AND CARMELITA SALANDANAN-MANAHAN, OF THE COURT OF APPEALS CEBU.
D E C I S I O N
For this Court's resolution is the letter-complaint1 dated February 20, 2014, filed by Atty. Mariano R. Pefianco (complainant) seeking the suspension from office of Associate justices Maria Elisa Sempio Diy, Carmelita Salandanan-Manahan, and Ramon Paul L. Hernando (respondent-Justices) of the Court of Appeals, Cebu City Station, for alleged violations of Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct on impartiality, and Sec. 3(e) of Republic Act No. 30192 on causing-undue injury or giving unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference to a private party, in the discharge of judicial functions, through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence.
In a memorandum3 dated April 1, 2014, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez forwarded the letter-complaint to the Office of the Chief Justice for appropriate action. The case was docketed as IPI No. 14-222-CA-J.
The complainant, who is the counsel for the petitioners in CA G.R. CEB SP No. 06984,4 claimed that the respondent-Justices, through their January 17, 2003 resolution in the same case, appeared to be "trying hard to find faults on the petition for review to justify its dismissal favorable to respondents xxx without reading the prayer of the said petition."5 The complainant's prayer was for the CA to "gives (sic) due course to the PETITION and that an order issue directing the respondent secretary (of the DENR) to certify the record of DENR CASE No. 8859 to this Honorable Court (referring to the CA) in order to have the annexes of this petition authenticated and thereafter for review."6
In the assailed resolution dated January 17, 2013, in CA G.R. CEB SP No. 06984, the respondent-Justices, who are members of the CA Twentieth (20th) Division, dismissed outright the petition for review filed by the complainant on the following grounds:
We required the respondent-Justices to file their comments on the complaint in a resolution8 dated June 10, 2014.
- The assailed decision of the DENR which is attached to the petition for review is not a duplicate original or certified true copy thereof.
- The assailed resolution dated June 6, 2012, denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the decision of the DENR was not attached to said petition.
- Counsel for petitioners, herein complainant Atty. Pefianco, has no Special Power of Attorney to sign the Verification and Certification of Non-Forum Shopping in behalf of petitioners.
- The notarial certificate also failed to state the office address of the notary public in violation of Section 2(c), Rule VIII of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice.7
In compliance with our June 10, 2014 resolution, Justices Sempio Diy and Salandanan-Manahan filed a Joint Comment9 dated October 10, 2014. Justice Hernando separately filed his Comment10 dated November 14, 2014.
Comments to the administrative complaint
Justices Sempio Diy and Salandanan-Manahan maintain that the outright dismissal of the complainant's clients' petition for review (in CA G.R. CEB SP No. 06984), due to the above-mentioned procedural infirmities, is warranted and supported by the Rules of Court and by jurisprudence. They specifically point to Section 7 of Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure that states:
SEC. 7. Effect of failure to comply with requirements. - The failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements regarding the payment of the docket and other lawful fees, the deposit for costs, proof of service of the petition, and the contents of and the documents which should accompany the petition shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.And while the application of procedural rules may be relaxed by the court, they contend that the court's grant of leniency must be anchored on the existence of persuasive and meritorious grounds; that the party invoking liberality must at least provide a reason for its noncompliance; and that, in this case, the complainant gave no reason to justify the failure to comply with the requirements in the proper filing of a petition for review.
Further, they allege that the charges against them for violations of Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, and Sec. 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 are utterly baseless and unwarranted; that, in dismissing the petition for review of the complainant's clients, "gross incompetence, gross ignorance of the law or gross misconduct" or "manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence" cannot be imputed against them; a judge or justice can only be held administratively liable if it can be shown that he or she committed an error so gross and patent as to produce an inference of bad faith. They maintain that their January 17, 2003 resolution is supported by legal, procedural, and jurisprudential bases, and that no bad faith or malice should be inferred from their dismissal of the subject petition for review merely because their resolution is adverse to the complainant's clients.
Also, Justices Sempio Diy and Salandanan-Manahan argue that a judicial remedy is still available to the complainant's clients from the dismissal of their petition for review; that the filing of the present administrative complaint is not an alternative, neither complementary nor supplementary, to the judicial remedies provided by law.
In a separate comment filed, Justice Hernando contends that the present administrative complaint is baseless and vexatious and must be dismissed outright because the remedy for the complainant's case is judicial, not administrative, in nature; that the filing of an administrative complaint against a judge or justice is not an appropriate remedy where judicial recourse is available.
Also, he argues that the complainant has no authority to file the present administrative complaint, as he appears to be without any special power of attorney from his clients for such purpose; and that the complainant's lack of authority reflects upon his utter ignorance of the rules on representative parties and of the substantive law on Agency.
The respondent-Justices mentioned in their comments that the complainant had been suspended by this Court for one (1) year in a resolution dated August 12, 2012, in Administrative Case (A.C.) No. 6116;11 thus, they contend that, at the time he filed (on February 7, 2013) the motion for reconsideration to the CA's dismissal resolution, the complainant was without authority to practice law and to represent his clients by reason of his suspension.
We DISMISS the present administrative complaint filed against Associate Justices Maria Elisa Sempio Diy, Carmelita Salandanan-Manahan, and Ramon Paul L. Hernando of the Court of Appeals, Cebu City Station, for being devoid of legal and factual merit.
The complainant's main allegation in his administrative complaint is partiality on the part of the respondent-Justices who dismissed outright the petition for review which he filed in behalf of the petitioners in CA G.R. CEB SP No. 06984. The complainant accuses the respondent-Justices of favoring the other party to the case by dismissing the petition based purely on technicalities, without consideration of the prayer stated in the petition.
Bare allegations, however, will not suffice to sustain a claim of impartiality. The complainant carries the burden of proof to show that the conduct of the judge, or the respondent-Justices in this case, was clearly indicative of arbitrariness and prejudice before the questioned conduct could be stigmatized as biased and partial. The evidence of bias or prejudice must be clear and convincing.12
Moreover, it is also important that the resulting order, resolution, or decision must have been rendered based on an "extrajudicial source" in order for a claim of partiality to be upheld against the judge or justices who issued the order, resolution, or decision. This rule is known in the United States as the Extra-Judicial Source Rule,13 which was enunciated in the case of Carter v. State.14 In that case, the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia held that "in order to be disqualifying, the alleged bias must stem from an extrajudicial source and result in an opinion on the merits on some basis other than what the judge learned from his participation in the case."
In this jurisdiction, we held in Gochan v. Gochan15 that as long as decisions made and opinions formed in the course of judicial proceedings are based on the evidence presented, the conduct observed by the magistrate, and the application of the law, such opinions - even if later found to be erroneous - will not sustain a claim of personal bias or prejudice on the part of the judge.16
In the present case, other than the complainant's accusation, we find nothing in the administrative complaint and in the records to sufficiently convince us that the respondent-Justices were impartial in issuing their dismissal resolution dated January 17, 2013.
Though no copy of the assailed January 17, 2013 resolution is contained in the records, the reasons for the dismissal (of the subject petition for review) were sufficiently discussed and reiterated in the December 11, 2013 resolution issued by the same respondent-Justices in CA G.R. CEB SP No. 06984. A copy of the December 11, 2013 resolution, which denied with finality the motion for reconsideration (to the dismissal resolution) filed by the complainant, is attached to the Joint Comment submitted to this Court by Justices Sempio Diy and Salandanan-Manahan. We quote herein the pertinent paragraphs of the December 11, 2013 resolution:
In the subject January 17, 2013 resolution, this Court dismissed the petition for certiorari (sic) filed by the petitioners for the following infirmities:Clearly, the dismissal of the petition for review filed by the complainant (as counsel of the petitioners in CA G.R. CEB SP No. 06984) is supported by applicable jurisprudence and provisions of the Rules of Court, and not from an extrajudicial source. The complainant's allegation of impartiality against the respondent-Justices is plainly unfounded.
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryAt the outset, this Court manifests that it takes strong exception to petitioners' vitriolic allegation that this Court is "trying hard to find faults on [in] the petition for review to justify its dismissal favourable to respondents herein." It is stressed that the Rules mandate the dismissal of an infirmed petition. It is clearly not finding fault[s] when the procedural infirmities are clearly patent and glaring.
- The assailed decision of the DENR attached to the petition for certiorari (sic) is not a duplicate original or certified true copy thereof.
- The alleged resolution dated June 6, 2012, denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration of the decision of the DENR was not attached to the petition for certiorari (sic).
- Counsel for petitioners, Atty. Mariano Pefianco, has no Special Power of Attorney to sign the Verification and Certification of Non-Forum Shopping in behalf of petitioners.
- The notarial certificate also failed to state the office address of the notary public in violation of Section 2(c), Rule VIII of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice.
xxx xxx xxx
Likewise, contrary to what petitioners would want to impress, We did not deliberately overlook petitioners' prayer that the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources be ordered "to certify the record of DENR CASE No. 8859 to this Honorable Court in order to have the annexes of this petition authenticated." True, this Court has the power to require the court a quo or a quasi-judicial agency to elevate the original records of the case pursuant to Section 6(1), Rule VI of the 2009 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals. This authority, however, rests within the sole discretion of this Court. The proviso does not serve as a source of right or authority for any of the parties or litigants to order the Court to elevate the records of the case from which the case originated. The duty to comply and to ensure that the Rules are strictly observed still falls upon petitioners. It behooves upon all the parties seeking relief from this Court to ensure that their petition does not suffer from any fatal procedural infirmity.
It cannot be gainsaid that this Court was justified in dismissing the petition. Section 7, Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is unequivocal:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrarySEC. 7. Effect of failure to comply with requirements. -The failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements regarding the payment of the docket and other lawful fees, the deposit for costs, proof of service of the petition, and the contents of and the documents which should accompany the petition shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.Indeed, the Rules of procedure may be relaxed but the grant of such leniency has always been anchored on the existence of persuasive and meritorious ground. Furthermore, jurisprudence teaches that concomitant to a liberal application for (sic) the rules should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to at least proffer a reason for its failure to comply therewith. In this case, petitioner has proffered none. Neither has there been at least a smidgen of effort to rectify the infirmities. Petitioners instead persistently insist that We order the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to elevate the records of the case and leaving the petition still infirmed.
We have likewise scrutinized Annex V of the petition upon which counsel for petitioners relies for his authority to sign the certification of non-forum shopping and verification in petitioners' behalf. We, however, find nothing in said document showing Atty. Mariano Pefianco's authority to sign for petitioners. The fact that a portion of the litigated property has been promised to Atty. Mariano Pefianco as payment for his legal services does not make him a party to the case. Any inchoate right arising out of their agreement does not elevate him to a status of a party litigant. We reiterate the legal basis for which We dismiss the petition, thus:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryxxx The Supreme Court has pronounced in Altres v. Empleo -As We find that the petition has remained infirmed, We rule to deny the instant motion.17ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
xxx. Finally, the certification against forum shopping must be executed by the party pleader, not by his counsel. If, however, for reasonable or justifiable reasons, the party-pleader is unable to sign, he must execute a Special Power of Attorney designating his counsel of record to sign on his behalf.
Justice Hernando points out that this is not the first instance that the complainant has filed an administrative case against him; that he was a respondent in IPI No. 13-217-CA-J18 filed by the same complainant, which case was dismissed outright by the Court and is now closed and terminated after the Court's denial of the three (3) subsequent motions for reconsideration filed by the complainant. Also, he cites that many judges and justices in the Visayas Region have been at the receiving end of baseless administrative suits from the complainant.
Apart from the dismissal of the present administrative complaint, Justice Hernando prays that the complainant be disbarred due to his penchant for filing baseless administrative complaints against members of the bench and, also, by the fact that he blatantly ignored the Court's resolution suspending him from the practice of law.
In In Re: Joaquin T. Borromeo, Ex Rel. Cebn City Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines,19 we found the complainant, Joaquin T. Borromeo, liable for constructive contempt or indirect contempt of court for filing grossly unfounded cases against judges and court officers in the different rungs of the Judiciary, including the lawyers appearing for his adversaries. We adjudged Borromeo's actions to be an "abuse of and interference with judicial rules and processes, gross disrespect to courts and judges, and improper conduct directly impeding, obstructing and degrading the administration of justice."20
For his apparent tendency to file unsubstantiated administrative cases against judges and justices, we require the present complainant to show cause in writing, within ten (10) days from notice of this decision, why he should not be punished for indirect contempt. This is to emphasize that unfounded administrative charges against members of the bench degrade the judicial office and greatly interfere with the due performance of their functions in the Judiciary.
Also, we refer this case to the Office of the Bar Confidant for proper investigation of the complainant's alleged violation of his suspension from the practice of law.
Indeed, this Court, in a resolution dated August 1, 2012, in Administrative Case No. 6116, suspended the complainant for one (1) year from the practice of law for violation of the Lawyer's Oath, and Rule 1.0121 Canon 1 and Rule 9.0222 Canon 9 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Unless his suspension has been lifted by this Court, the complainant remains to be suspended and is prohibited from engaging in the practice of law. We have held that the lifting of suspension from the practice of law is not automatic upon the end of the period stated in the decision; an order from the Court lifting the suspension is necessary to enable the suspended lawyer to resume his or her legal practice.23
As to the other charges against the respondent-Justices, i.e., gross incompetence, gross ignorance of the law, gross misconduct, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence, we find these charges to be similarly unfounded as the complainant, who carries the burden of proof, has miserably failed to substantiate his allegations with clear and convincing evidence.
We likewise dismiss the charge of violation of Sec. 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 for being criminal in nature; thus, it is not the proper subject of an administrative case.chanrobleslaw
WHEREFORE, we hereby issue the following orders:
(a) DISMISS the administrative complaint filed by Atty. Mariano R. Pefianco against Associate Justices Maria Elisa Sempio Diy, Carmelita Salandanan-Manahan, and Ramon Paul L. Hernando, for utter lack of merit;
(b) REQUIRE Atty. Mariano R. Pefianco to show cause in writing, within ten (10) days from notice, why he should not be punished for indirect contempt of court; and
(c) REFER the case for investigation to the Office of the Bar Confidant to determine whether Atty. Mariano R. Pefianco has violated the terms and conditions of his suspension from the practice of law which this Court imposed upon him in a resolution dated August 1, 2012, in Administrative Case No. 6116.
Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Perez, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, Jardeleza, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.
Mendoza, J., on leave.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
1Rollo, pp. 4-9.
The complainant filed the same letter-complaint with the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Justice, which referred the same to the Office of the Court Administrator in a 1st Indorsement dated May 12, 2014; id. at 3.
2 Otherwise known as the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act."
3Rollo, p. 1.
4 Entitled Domingo del Rosario, et. al. v. Paglanac, et. al.
5Rollo, p. 7.
7Rollo, p. 71.
8Id. at 51.
9Id. at 69-77.
10Id. at 93-96.
11 Entitled Engr. Tumbokon v. Atty. Mariano R. Pefianco.
12Reyes v. CA, August 28, 2001, 363 SCRA 725; Alicia E. Asturias v. Attys. Manuel Serrano and Emiliano Samson, 512 Phil. 496 (2005).
13 271 S.E.2d 475 (Ga. 1980) quoting U.S. v. Grinnell Corp., 384 U.S. 563 (1966).
15 446 Phil. 433 (2003), citing Viewmaster Construction Corp. v. Roxas, July 13, 2000 335 SCRA 540.
16Id. at 450.
17Rollo, pp. 83-86.
18 Entitled Atty. Mariano R. Pefianco v. Justices Ma. Luisa C. Qnijano Padilla, Ramon Paul L. Hernando and Carmelita Salandanan-Manahan.
19 311 Phil. 441 (1995).
20Id. at 504-505.
21 Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
22 Rule 9.02 - A lawyer shall not divide or stipulate to divide a fee for legal services with persons not licensed to practice law. xxx.
23] Maniago v. De Dios, 631 Phil. 139 (2010), citing J. K. Mercado and Sons Agricultural Enterprises, Inc. v. De Vera, A.C. No. 3066; De Vera v. Encanto, A.C. No. 4438.