REQUEST OF JUDGE IRMA ZITA V. MASAMAYOR, RTC - Br. 52, Talibon, Bohol for Extension of Time to Decide Crim. Case No. 96-185
D E C I S I O N
In a letter, dated November 18, 1998, Judge Irma Zita V. Masamayor of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 52, Talibon, Bohol asked for an extension of time within which to decide Criminal Case No. 96-185 (for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act), entitled People v. Jaime Cutanda alias Jimmy, on the ground that the case involves legal questions which require careful study for which [she] has not enough time considering the very heavy caseload of the single-sala court over which she presides. The request was made after the original period had expired on October 28, 1998.
As Judge Masamayor did not specify the period of extension she was seeking, she was directed to inform the Court whether or not she had already rendered her decision in the subject criminal case and, in any event, to explain why no disciplinary action should be taken against her for making her request for extension of time after the expiration of the reglementary period for deciding cases (Resolution of February 9, 1999).
Without waiting for her request for extension of time to be granted and presuming that she would be granted a 90-day extension from October 28, 1998 to January 26, 1998, Judge Masamayor, in a letter, dated January 26, 1999, asked for another extension of thirty (30) days, up to February 25, 1999, within which to decide the said case. She again alleged as reason that the case involves a study of voluminous files and difficult legal questions for which [she] has not enough time considering the very heavy caseload of the single-sala court over which she presides.
Recommending disciplinary action to be taken against Judge Masamayor, the Office of the Court Administrator states:
We find her explanation that, it was due to inadvertence that her request for extension of time to resolve was made after the expiration of the reglementary period, not wholly satisfactory. . . .
This is not the only time that Judge
Masamayor committed infraction of the 90 days reglementary period to decide
cases submitted for decision. In A.M. No. 98-10-338-RTC1 this Office recommended that Judge Masamayor be fined
in the amount of
P5,000.00 for the failure to decide Civil Case No. 0020
within the reglementary period . . . .
Accordingly, it is respectfully recommended that (a) Judge Irma
Zita V. Masamayor be found liable for gross inefficiency and be FINED in the
amount of TEN THOUSAND PESOS (
P10,000.00), payable directly to this
Court with a warning that a repetition of similar acts will be dealt with more
severely; (b) Direct Judge Masamayor to render her decision in Criminal Case No
96-185 with dispatch; and (c) Require her to submit a copy of said decision to
this Court thru the Office of the Court Administrator.
Meanwhile, complying with the Courts resolution of February 9, 1999, Judge Masamayor submitted a report which states in part:
This refers to the resolution of the Supreme Court En Banc dated February 9, 1999 and received on March 23, 1999 requiring the undersigned to SUBMIT a report whether or not she had rendered her decision in Criminal Case No. 96-185, People vs. Jaime Cutanda alias Jimmy for Viol. of Sec. 8, Art. II, RA 6425, as amended, and to EXPLAIN why no disciplinary action should be taken against her for having made her request for extension of time after the expiration of the reglementary period.
Please be informed that the aforesaid case [was decided] on February 24, 1999. Promulgation of judgment was first set for February 26, then because of the absence of defense counsel postponed to March 3 and again to March 17, with the Court citing the case of People v. Quibate, (131 SCRA 81) to the effect that promulgation may be deferred by the Court if it wants defense counsel to be present (copies of orders attached).
Modesty aside, we venture to say that the decision was the result of studious efforts to make it a well-researched and a well-written decision.
We are sorry however to say that our request for extension of time to decide the case was inadvertently filed after the expiration of the reglementary period. The resolution of the case had fallen due on October 28, 1998 and we made our request for extension on November 18, 1998. We shall strive not to make the same lapse in the future.
We thank the Supreme Court for reminding us that much is expected of us as judges. I now personally handle the marking of deadlines and do not rest upon a delegation of the task to my staff. Without any high-tech devices like computers to assist us, I now personally take care of the painstaking and meticulous process of overseeing deadlines to which I now give priority over other equally demanding tasks. I also urge and prod my court staff to finalize paper work such as transcripts with dispatch and closely supervise the Clerk of Court and legal researcher to hasten the preparation of summaries of testimonies and legal research on the applicable law and jurisprudence. In short, considering the heavy caseload of Branch 52 in comparison to other RTC salas in Bohol (as we have from the earliest time been informing the Supreme Court) the undersigned spends practically all her waking hours working on the cases in order to decongest the docket of this Court, not availing herself of the 30-day forfeitable vacation leave as judges of the other single-sala RTC courts have.
We are also furnishing your office with a copy of the DECISION rendered by RTC Branch 52, Talibon, Bohol on March 19, 1999 in Criminal Case No. 96-176, People vs. Neil Logroo y Uy for Illegal Possession of Firearm and Ammunition.
Please be informed that the aforesaid case was submitted for resolution on September 10, 1998, with the resolution falling due on December 9, 1998. But we are sorry to say that our request for extension of time to decide was inadvertently filed on December 28, 1998 after the decision had already fallen due on December 9, 1998. Considering the heavy caseload of RTC Branch 52, the hearing in Carmen RTC Branch 51 on March 5 and the trip to Manila which the undersigned had to make on March 9-15, 1999 not only for the judges convention but also on official business with the Supreme Court and the Comelec, we requested a second extension of time dated March 3, 1999, well within the requested period of the first extension.
Much as we desire to resolve cases within the prescribed period of time, there are occasions when it is humanly impossible for us to beat deadlines due to the very heavy caseload of the court.
In this regard, we respectfully reiterate our request for a computer and for the resolution of Judge Melicors (RTC Executive Judge for Bohol) endorsement that the municipal courts of Inabanga-Buenavista be transferred to the jurisdiction of the multiple-sala court, RTC, Tagbilaran City.
We earnestly hope this will be the last of our requests for extension filed out of time. Please note that these lapses happened in 1998; henceforth, we promise not to let this happen again.
The Court finds the findings and recommendation of the OCA to be well taken. Under Article VIII, 15 of the Constitution, lower courts have three months within which to decide cases submitted to them for resolution. Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to dispose of their business promptly and decide cases within the required periods. As the Court held in Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Walerico B. Butalid:2cräläwvirtualibräry
This Court has constantly impressed upon judges may it not be said without success the need to decide cases promptly and expeditiously, for it cannot be gainsaid that justice delayed is justice denied. Delay in the disposition of cases undermines the peoples faith and confidence in the judiciary. Hence, judges are enjoined to decide cases with dispatch. Their failure to do so constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants the imposition of administrative sanction on them.
In the instant case, Judge Masamayor states that it was due to inadvertence that her request for extension was made after the expiration of the reglementary period. A heavy caseload may excuse a judges failure to decide cases within the reglementary period, but not his/her failure to request an extension of time within which to decide the same on time, i.e., before the expiration of the period to be extended. Indeed, cognizant of the caseload of judges and mindful of the pressure of their work, this Court almost always grants requests for extension of time to decide cases. But the request for extension must be made on time. However, as admitted in this case by her, this is not the first time Judge Masamayor failed to make a request for extension before the lapse of the period to be extended. There is another pending administrative matter against her in this Court for her failure to seasonably request extension of time to resolve a motion to dismiss filed in a civil case pending before her sala.3 Moreover, as she herself disclosed in her compliance with the Courts resolution of February 9, 1999, she also failed to seasonably file a request for extension of time to decide Criminal Case No. 96-176, entitled People v. Neil Logroo, for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Taking all of these circumstances together, the Court is of the opinion that Judge Masamayor is grossly inefficient in the management of her docket.
Judge Masamayors explanation that she failed to seasonably request an extension of time because of inadvertence indicates her lack of diligence in the supervision and control of her case docket. A judge ought to be aware of the cases submitted for resolution, otherwise he/she would not be able to faithfully comply with the constitutional mandate for the speedy disposition of cases. Accordingly, Judge Masamayor should be held administratively liable. In the case of Re: Judge Danilo M. Tenerife,4 the failure of a judge to decide even a single case within the 90-day period was considered gross inefficiency warranting the imposition of a fine ranging from P5,000.00 to the equivalent of his one months salary. In the instant case, Judge Masamayor failed to request an extension of time within which to decide cases and, therefore, to decide them within the reglementary period.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Irma Zita V. Masamayor of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 52, Talibon, Bohol guilty of gross inefficiency
and orders her to pay a fine in the amount of
P5,000.00 with warning
that a repetition of the same or similar act or omission will be dealt with
Davide, Jr. C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Panganiban, and Buena, JJ., on leave.
1 Another administrative matter against Judge Masamayor which is pending resolution by the Court.
2 A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337 and A.M. No. 97-8-242-RTC, August 5, 1998.
3 A.M. No. 98-10-338-RTC, Re: Request of Judge Irma Zita V. Masamayor, RTC-Br. 52, Talibon, Bohol, for Extension of Time to Resolve The Motion to Dismiss in Civil Case No. 0020.
4 255 SCRA 184 (1996).