A. M. No. MTJ-02-1431 - May 9, 2003
SPO2 JOSE B. YAP, Complainant, vs. JUDGE AQUILINO A. INOPIQUEZ, JR., Respondent.
Before us is the administrative complaint filed by SPO2 Jose B. Yap of Matag-ob, Leyte Police Station against Judge Aquilino A. Inopiquez, Jr. of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Kananga-Matag-ob, same province, for grave abuse of authority and acts unbecoming a judge.
In his sworn affidavit-complaint dated July 12, 1999, complainant alleged that on March 6, 1999 (Saturday), pursuant to an alias arrest warrant, he arrested Antonio Laurente, Jr., the accused in Criminal Case No. 8458 for violation of B.P. Blg. 22, pending in the Metropolitan Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) at Ormoc City.
On the same day, March 6, respondent judge issued an Order of Release1 on the basis of a cash bond posted on March 8, 1999, as shown by the corresponding Official Receipt No. 9215725.2
Also on March 6, respondent judge issued another Order of Release,3 this time based on a property bond. This bond was subscribed and sworn to before him on March 10, 1999 (Wednesday) by bondsman Antonio Laurente, Sr. However, this date was changed to March 6.
Complainant claimed that respondent judge issued the two (2) Orders of Release on March 6, 1999 although there was yet no cash bond or property bond, for actually the cash bond was posted on March 8, while the property bond was filed on March 10. Clearly, respondent judge ordered the release of the accused prematurely. Complainant finally alleged that the accused is the relative of respondents wife.
On October 27, 1999, respondent judge filed his comment. He denied the charges, asserting that the relationship of his wife to the accused has no bearing to his judicial duties of approving the bail and issuing the Order of Release. On March 6, 1999, when accused Laurente, Jr. was arrested, his brother Silverio Laurente and one Salvador Almoroto went to respondents residence and presented O.R. No. 9215725 showing that on that date, a cash bond was posted with the office of respondents Clerk of Court Servando O. Veloso, Jr. The money in the amount of
Also on the same day, March 6, minutes after Silverio Laurente and Almoroto left, Antonio Laurente, Sr., accuseds father, and Court Interpreter Pedro M. Beltran arrived. Laurente, Sr. presented to respondent judge a property bond and an Order of Release, also dated March 6, 1999, both prepared by Beltran. Respondent judge told them that he had already approved the cash bond and signed the corresponding Order of Release. However, Laurente, Sr. pleaded to him to approve the property bond in order that the money utilized as cash bond could be returned to Almoroto to avoid paying interest thereon. After examining the property bond, respondent judge approved the same and signed another Order of Release.
Respondent judge claimed that O.R. No. 9215725 was actually issued to Almoroto on March 6 after he had posted the cash bond that same day. Respondent judge insisted though that it was Clerk of Court Veloso who altered the date appearing thereon, from March 6 to March 8, 1999, since complainant angrily protested that Veloso should not issue an official receipt dated March 6, 1999 as it was a Saturday, a non-working day.
In our Resolution dated March 21, 2001, we referred the instant case to Executive Judge Fortunito L. Madrona, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Ormoc City, for investigation, report and recommendation.
In his Report and Recommendation dated September 3, 2001, Executive Judge Madrona found that "there is no substantial basis in the claim of complainant about the alleged anomaly in the issuance of two Orders of Release by the respondent judge." Thus, Executive Judge Madrona recommended the dismissal of the charges for lack of merit. Executive Judge Madrona further recommended that respondent judge be reprimanded for his failure to avoid the appearance of impropriety by exercising proper safeguards in the performance of his official duties, considering that accused Laurente, Jr. is his relative by affinity. On this point, Executive Judge Madrona was referring to respondent judges failure to observe Section 11, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, quoted as follows:
It appears that respondent judge did not require the accused to cause the annotation of the lien (property bond) in the Registration Book of the Registry of Deeds and on the corresponding tax declaration in the office of the provincial, city or municipal assessor concerned.
Executive Judge Madronas recommendation to dismiss the charges is based on his findings quoted as follows:
On October 10, 2001, this Court referred Executive Judge Madronas Report and Recommendation to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA).
In her Report dated March 5, 2002, Deputy Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepaño, adopted the findings of Executive Judge Madrona but recommended that:
In the same Report, Deputy Court Administrator Elepaño stated that respondent judge was previously adjudged guilty of abuse of authority and gross ignorance of the law and fined in the amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos (
On May 28, 2002, we issued a Resolution approving respondent judges application for optional retirement in A.M. No. 10822-RET but directing that his retirement benefits be withheld pending the resolution of the instant case.
On April 24, 2002, we resolved to (a) re-docket the case as a regular administrative matter; (b) direct Clerk of Court Veloso and Interpreter Beltran to submit their explanations as recommended by the OCA; and (c) require the parties to manifest, within twenty (20) days from notice, whether they are submitting the case for decision on the basis of the pleadings.
On July 22, 2002, respondent judge filed his Manifestation that he is willing to have the case so decided. To date, or after almost one year, complainant has not yet submitted the required manifestation. Therefore, he is deemed to have agreed that the case be decided on the basis of the pleadings.
Clerk of Court Veloso and Interpreter Beltran submitted the required explanations.
Clerk of Court Veloso explains that he altered the date of O.R. No. 9215725 from March 6 to March 8, 1999 after complainant went to his office and inquired why it was dated March 6 (Saturday), a non-working day. Veloso stated that there was nothing wrong in rendering service on a Saturday. However, complainant refused to listen and continued to berate him. To avoid further arguments, he superimposed "8" over "6". He altered the date, believing there was nothing irregular in doing so because the cash bond had already been released to the bondsman and substituted with a property bond.
Beltran states that he has been assisting litigants in the preparation of bail bonds with the knowledge of respondent judge and Clerk of Court Veloso. He does not charge fees for this service because he believes that as a court employee, it is his duty to assist anyone who seeks his help. Upon receipt of our April 24, 2002 Resolution, he immediately ceased assisting any litigant in the preparation of bail bonds. He now earnestly seeks the compassion and understanding of this Court.
On January 10, 2003, Deputy Court Administrator Elepaño, submitted a Report reiterating her recommendation that respondent judge be fined in the amount of Three Thousand Pesos (
The sole issue for our resolution is whether respondent judge ordered the release of accused Antonio Laurente, Jr. although the cash or property bond for his temporary liberty had not yet been posted and approved.
Section 14, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, provides that if the accused is arrested in a province, city or municipality other than where the case is pending, bail may be filed with any RTC of said place, or, if no judge thereof is available, with any metropolitan trial judge, municipal trial judge or municipal circuit trial judge therein.
Criminal Case No. 9458 against Antonio Laurente, Jr. was filed with the MTCC of Ormoc City but he was arrested in Matag-ob, Leyte. Since there was no RTC in Matag-ob, respondent judge, as Presiding Judge of MCTC, Kananga-Matag-ob, was then authorized under Rule 114 to approve the bail of Antonio Laurente, Jr. and order his release.
Complainant contends that the cash bond of
To justify the issuance of the Order of Release on March 6, respondent judge would want us to believe that O.R. No. 9215725 was issued on March 6, not March 8, 1999, the date appearing thereon. In fact, he insisted that it was Clerk of Court Veloso who altered the date of the O.R. from March 6 to March 8. It can be readily discerned that respondent judge, in order to cover up his misdeed, even laid the blame on his Clerk of Court who, out of apparent loyalty to him, admitted having changed the date in order to make it appear that the cash bond was posted on March 6. Clerk of Court Velosos pretext that he gave in to complainants demand "to avoid further arguments" is too flimsy and unworthy of belief.
Relative to the property bond, respondent judge maintains that it was filed also on the same day, March 6, minutes after Almoroto posted the cash bond. Consequently, he issued the corresponding Order of Release also on March 6.
We observe that the property bond was subscribed and sworn to by bondsman Antonio Laurente, Sr. before respondent judge on March 10, 1999 (Wednesday). However, very clear to the naked eye is that "6" was superimposed on "10th" (day of March) to make it appear that the bail was accomplished and filed on March 6. The jurat positively shows that the property bond, in lieu of the cash bond, was filed, not on March 6, but on March 10, 1999, or four (4) days after respondent judge issued his second Order of Release on March 6, 1999.
It is a basic rule of evidence that between documentary and oral evidence, the former carries more weight.6 The cash bond was posted on March 8 (Monday), not on March 6, 1999, as shown by O.R. No. 9215725. The property bond, in substitution of the cash bond, was filed, not on March 6, but on March 10 (Wednesday), as shown by the jurat. Both Orders of Release were issued on March 6 (Saturday). Therefore, there is no doubt that respondent judge ordered the release of the accused despite the fact that there was yet no bail filed and approved for his provisional liberty.
That respondent judge issued the release orders prematurely is not difficult to understand. He admitted that accused Antonio Laurente, Jr. is his wifes relative. And in his desire to help the accused and please his wife, he would even involve his Clerk of Court and Interpreter. Considering the facts of this case, it is safe to conclude that they were constrained to comply with his instructions. Hence, they should have been spared from any administrative sanction.
Section 3, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, provides that an accused may only be released on bail after the corresponding cash or property bond has been properly posted. Respondent judge violated this Rule when he issued the two Orders of Release on March 6, 1999 in favor of accused Antonio Laurente, Jr. despite the fact that the corresponding cash or property bond was posted only thereafter, or on March 8 and March 10, 1999, respectively.
Moreover, records show that upon approval of the property bond filed after the release of the accused, respondent judge failed to order the cancellation of the cash bond. Neither did he require the accused, within ten (10) days from the approval of the bond, to cause the annotation of the bail as lien in the Registration Book of the Registry of Deeds and on the corresponding tax declaration in the office of the provincial, city or municipal assessor concerned, pursuant to Section 11, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, quoted earlier.
We have held that the exacting standards of conduct demanded from judges are designed to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.7 When the judge himself becomes a transgressor of any law which he is sworn to apply, he places his office in disrepute, encourages disrespect for the law and impairs public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary itself.8 This Court cannot countenance such act as it erodes the publics trust in the judiciary.
In the instant case, respondent not only failed to perform his judicial duties in accordance with the rules, he acted in bad faith. Despite the fact that he ordered the release of a person lawfully arrested even before he had posted bail, he tried to hide his culpability by altering the dates of the cash bond and property bond. His actuations constitute gross misconduct which merits sanctions even if he already retired9 on January 1, 2002.10
In Canson vs. Garchitorena,11 this Court explained the concept of gross misconduct, thus:
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