A. M. No. MTJ-93-850 October 2, 1996
ROBERTO "Amang" CARPIO, ANGEL REYES and ERLINDA LATA SALONGA, Complainants, v. JUDGE RODOLFO R. DE GUZMAN, REMEDIOS VIESCA and JAIME DELA CRUZ, Respondents.
TORRES, JR., J.:
In a complaint-affidavit filed with this Court dated June 30, 1993, 1 complainants Erlinda Lata Salonga, Angel Reyes and Roberto 'Amang' Carpio charged respondents Rodolfo R. De Guzman who was the Municipal Trial Court Judge of San Antonio, Nueva Ecija, Clerk of Court Remedios Viesca, Process Server Jaime dela Cruz, Major Aniceto Frany who was the Police Chief Inspector of San Antonio and Roberto Zapata for abuse of authority, grave misconduct and oppression in connection with Criminal Case No. 46-93 which was pending before the sala of the respondent Judge. Complainant Salonga then sent this Court a letter dated September 16, 1993 2 attaching to it a complaint 3 against respondents Judge de Guzman, Clerk of Court dela Cruz and Process Server Viesca dated September 15, 1993 which was written in English and signed by the three complainants. In this Complaint dated September 15, 1993, the complainants who were then the accused in a suit for malicious mischief, docketed as Criminal Case No. 46-93, 4 alleged inter alia, that the "respondent judge in complete disregard of the Rules of Court and our rights under the Constitution, used with abuse the strong arm of the law by facilitating the immediate service of a Warrant of Arrest even without giving us the chance to know the accusations or complaint/s against us, most particularly the chance for us meet and be confronted personally by the complainant and his witnesses"; 5 that "both the respondents Judge and his Clerk of Court, despite our repeated REQUESTS arrogantly and openly refused to issue and give us copies of the pertinent records of Crim. Case No. 46(93) . . . " ; 6 "that the antagonism of the Respondent against herein Complainants was heightened by his audacity to go to the extent of more serious unlawful act when he ordered his Clerk of Court not to release or furnish us any record of Crim. Case No. 46(93) . . . ." 7
On September 13, 1993, the Third Division of this Court issued a Resolution 8 requiring respondents Judge de Guzman, Clerk of Court Viesca and Process Server dela Cruz to file their comments and referring to the National Police Commission the Charges against Major Frany and Roberto Zapata. In a Resolution dated May 23, 1994, 9 this court, considering the memorandum of the Office of the Court Administrator, referred the case to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Gapan, Nueva Ecija for investigation and report. In view of this development, Executive Judge Pedro T. Lagman of Gapan conducted a series of hearings and subsequently submitted a Report 10 dated September 1, 1994 with the following recommendation:
By virtue of the Resolution dated September 19, 1994, 12 the Third Division of this Court referred the instant case to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation. The recommendation of the Court Administrator reads as follows:
Culled from the oral and documentary evidences offered during the investigation of Executive Judge Lagman, it was established that a case of malicious mischief was filed against the complainants on May 31, 1993 (Criminal Case No. 46-93) with the Municipal Trail Court of San Antonio which was presided by the respondent Judge. Contrary to the provisions of the Revised Rules on Summary Procedure, respondent Judge did not issue an order requiring the complainants to submit their counter-affidavits nor serve them a copy of the complaint and affidavits of the prosecution, instead he issued on the same day (May 31, 1993) a warrant of arrest 13 and fixed the bail bond of P1,200.00 14 for each accused upon the justification that 'the accused might evade arrest and the ends of justice will be defeated' 15 if no warrant would be issued. Compounding this error, he issued an Order dated July 21, 1993 16 wherein he required the complainants to submit their affidavits of recognizance in lieu of the bail bond which he ordered withdrawn. Furthermore, he admitted that he did not make a preliminary finding of whether the case is governed by the summary rules. The relevant testimony of the respondent Judge manifestly shows his culpability in violating the Rules on Summary Procedure, thus:
As appearing on record, Criminal Case No. 46-93 is clearly a suit for malicious mischief under Article 329 19 of the Revised Penal Code. It is totally surprising then for a judge who was twenty years of service as a magistrate to be completely nescient of the basic rule that the subject suit for malicious mischief is covered by the Revised Rules on Summary Procedure. The series of patent errors committed by the respondent Judge in immediately issuing a warrant of arrest on the same day the complaint for malicious mischief was filed, thereby completely disregarding the provisions of Section 12 (b) 20 and Section 16 21 of the Revised Rules on Summary Procedure, and in not making a determination of whether or not the case is governed by the summary rules which clearly violates the provision of Section 2, 22 can not be countenanced by this Court. In disregarding the rules and settled jurisprudence, the respondent judge showed gross ignorance, albeit without any malice or corrupt motive. 23 The lack of malicious intent however can not completely free respondent Judge from liability. When the law is elementary, so elementary not to know it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. 24
We, likewise, reiterate the pressing responsibility of judges to keep abreast with the law and changes therein, as well as with latest decision of the Supreme Court. 25 Ignorance of the law, which everyone is bound to know, excuses no one-not even judges. Ignorantia juris quod quisque scire tenetur non excusat. 26 Moreover, the role of justices and judges in the administration of justice requires a continuous study of the law and jurisprudence 27 lest public confidence in the judiciary would be eroded by the incompetent and irresponsible conduct of judges. A judge in accordance with sworn duties should be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it. 28 Weighed by the evidence and attendant circumstances prevailing in the instant case, the respondent Judge lamentably falls short of this required judicial standard.
WHEREFORE, judgement is hereby rendered:
1. Finding respondent Judge Rodolfo R. de Guzman guilty of gross ignorance of the law. Accordingly, he is ordered to pay a fine of P7,500.00 with a STERN WARNING that a commission of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more SEVERELY.
2. Dismissing the charges against respondents Remedios Viesca and Jaime dela Cruz for insufficiency of evidence, admonishing however, said respondent to be more circumspect and proper in their actuations in the performance of their duties.
Regalado, Romero and Puno, JJ., concur.
Mendoza, J., is on leave.
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