A.M. No. RTJ-94-1257 March 6, 1998
JOSE SY BANG and ILUMINADA TAN, Complainants, vs. JUDGE ANTONIO MENDEZ and ATTY. VICENTE JOYAS, Respondents.
The instant administrative case is the sequel to A.M. No. RTJ-91-672 filed by herein complainants Spouses Jose Sy Bang and Iluminada Tan against the same respondent Judge Antonio Mendez. The antecedents facts are narrated in the decision in A.M. No. RTJ-91-672 dated September 28, 1993, as follows:
Here, complainants charge respondent judge with gross impropriety in failing to lift the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction in Civil Case No. 2137-G despite the Decision dated February 2, 1993 of the Court of Appeals setting aside respondent judge's May 14, 1991 order granting the writ. 2 Complainants filed on June 25, 1991, a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the Court of Appeals contending that the trial court's writ of preliminary injunction was a patent nullity.
Respondent judge is further charged with failing to resolve complainants' motion to lift or dissolve the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction for several months despite the lack of a valid bond covering the writ. 3 It appears that respondent judge was informed on February 10, 1992 through telegram from a certain Atty. Galalones of the Office of the Clerk of Court that Plaridel Surety and Insurance Co.'s authority to operate as a bonding entity has been suspended, as of January 28, 1992. 4 Complainants allege that as a consequence of the suspension of Plaridel's authority, they filed a manifestation and motion to dissolve the writ of injunction issued by respondent judge. Respondent judge failed to act on complainant's motion and Atty. Joyas did not file a substitute bond, prompting complainants to reiterate on October 25, 1993 their motion to dissolve the writ.
Respondent judge and Atty. Joyas are also charged with falsification of a public document committed by inserting a falsified bond in the civil case "in order to justify the effectivity of the writ wrongfully issued and illegally maintained through the conspiracy of respondents." 5 Complainants allege that upon their examination of the record of Civil Case No. 2137-G, they saw that a bond from Country Bankers' Insurance Corporation was "surreptitiously inserted," without any accompanying pleading, at pages 641 to 647. Upon their verification, complainants found the bond to be fake. 6
This administrative matter was referred to Justice Omar U. Amin of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and recommendation. 7
Anent the first charge, respondent judge could not as yet execute the appellate court's decision setting aside his Order dated May 14, 1991 granting the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction, ruling that "the [corporation's] alleged right for retain possession of the controverted property is unclear and doubtful." 8 The adverse party, Suarez Agro-Industrial Corporation, timely filed on February 24, 1993 a petition for review with this Court. 9 This Court resolved the petition for review on December 5, 1994, affirming the appellate court's ruling and denying the petition, long after the case was transferred to another branch of the regional trial court as a result of respondent judge having inhibited himself from hearing Civil Case No. 2137-G.
As to the second charge, we find that respondent judge was unable to explain satisfactorily his failure to act on complainant's motion to dissolve the writ with dispatch, although he had been informed of the invalidity of the Plaridel bond.
It appears that on June 25, 1993, complainants filed a manifestation and motion praying for an order requiring Suarez Agro-Industrial Corporation to file another bond in lieu of the Plaridel bond. The corporation, through Atty. Joyas, filed on July 9, 1993 a motion praying that it be given a period of fifteen days within which to file a substitute bond. On September 17, 1993, the corporation, after failing to file a bond within the fifteen days, filed a motion praying that it be given a further ten days to file a bond. In an Order dated September 21, 1993, the court gave the corporation a period of ten days from even date. The ten days passed without a bond being filed, prompting complainants to file again on November 3, 1993 still another motion to dissolve the writ on the ground that it is not covered by a valid bond. 10 In an Order dated November 3, 1993 the court submitted the matter for resolution.
Delay in resolving motions is inexcusable and cannot be condoned. 11 The trial court judge, being the paradigm of justice in the first instance, is exhorted to dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the required periods. 12 Delay results in undermining the people's faith in the judiciary from whom the prompt hearing of their supplications is anticipated and expected, and reinforces in the mind of litigants the impression that the wheels of justice grind ever so slowly.
We note furthermore the urgency involved in the resolution of the motions. Respondent judge was informed as early as February 10, 1992 of the fact that Plaridel Surety and Insurance Co. had become bankrupt and its authority as a bonding entity suspended, 13 and through the repeated filing of motions by complainants calling attention to such fact. The Rules of Court explicitly requires a bond for the purpose of such bond answering for damages which the party enjoined may sustain by reason of the injunction if the court should finally decide that the plaintiff was not entitled thereto. 14 It was prejudicial to the interest of complainants here that respondent judge, by his inaction, allowed a lacuna in time where no bond at all covered the writ, particularly, as it would later be resolved, that the corporation had no clear and existing right over the subject properties as would entitle it to the writ demanded. 15
On the matter of the fake second bond, the investigating justice made the following findings:
We agree with the investigating justice that respondent judge cannot be held liable with knowledge of the insertion of the fake bond in the record, absent substantial evidence. 17
Nor can we ascribe to the court personnel knowledge that the bond was fake. The fake bond was received by one of the employees of the trial court at 1:10 in the afternoon of November 17, 1993, as shown by the stamped box on the left hand corner of the document, but was not accompanied by any letter or motion. The bond and the attached documents were then tacked to the records of Civil Case No. 2137-G at pages 641 to 647. 18 While the inclusion of the bond in the record may have been irregular or may be the result of oversight or carelessness on the part of the court personnel, as it was not introduced therein via any pleading, we cannot readily conclude that such inclusion was "surreptitiously" made with full knowledge that the bond was bogus, as charged by complainants. After all, the documents were received in the course of the court's business and stamped accordingly, and made part of the records with appropriate pagination.
We also adopt the findings of the investigating justice relative to Atty. Vicente Joyas involvement in the procuring and filing of the fake bond, to wit:
Beyond the circumstance that Atty. Joyas was the counsel for the corporation, complainants failed to substantiate their charges against him. Atty. Joyas explained in his Comment that the corporation and not he himself procured the bond. His participation was to simply examine the bond, particularly whether it was accompanied by the required certifications from the Supreme Court and the Insurance Commissioner, and finding the same to be on its face in order, and furthermore, notarized, caused the same to be brought to the trial court for
It is imperative however to pinpoint with certitude the person or persons responsible for the fake bond. The certification dated March 21, 1994 of Country Bankers Insurance Corporation from whom the bond was allegedly procured states that the signature of the surety's agent appearing on the document was not genuine, that this agent was not authorized to issue bonds, and that the entity which issued the receipt for the premium was not an agent. The certifying officer, the Senior Manager of the Bonding Department of Country Bankers Insurance Corporation, intimated that "a syndicate is definitely behind the proliferation of fake bonds." 21 We thus must order an investigation into this matter.
Respondent judge compulsory retired on January 5, 1998. His retirement does not however render this administrative case moot and academic. As we have stated:
WHEREFORE, the foregoing warrants that the Court reprimand respondent Judge Antonio Mendez, and considering his retirement from the service, let a copy of this decision be spread on his record for the guidance of the members of the bench.
The Office of the Court Administrator is directed to initiate with the National Bureau of Investigation a thorough inquiry into the circumstances around the fake Country Bankers Insurance Corporation Bond JCL (8) No. 01294 in Civil Case No. 2137-G, and to submit a report on the investigation within ninety (90) days from receipt of this decision. The Clerk of Court is directed to docket the matter as a formal "administrative matter" and to assign it an appropriate number.
Furthermore, the complaint as to Atty. Vicente Joyas is dismissed motu proprio, there being no prima facie evidence of any liability arising from the fake bond as to require referral of the complaint to the Office of the Bar Confidant for docketing and evaluation.
Narvasa, C.J., Romero and Purisima, JJ., concur.
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