SYLLABI/SYNOPSIS

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 4826. January 27, 1999]

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION TO REMOVE ATTY. JOSE A. GRAPILON AS PRESIDENT, INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES.

ROSALIA VILLARUEL, ASUNCION ILAGAN, ROSALINA VILLARUEL, ROBERTO MANUSON, EVELYN MELGAR, NIDA PEARANDA, THELMA PADILLA, MARY LOU MANATLAO, HERMINIO CEPILLO, CRISTINA NALDA, TERESITA PERALTA, EDEN ENCINARES, GLORIA COUSART, EMMA PAGUNSAN, and DELIA MORTERA (EMPLOYEES OF THE NATIONAL OFFICE, INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES), complainants, vs. ATTY. JOSE A. GRAPILON and the INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES BOARD OF GOVERNORS, respondents.

R E S O L U T I O N

VITUG, J.:

I

Rosalia Villaruel, Asuncion Ilagan, Rosalina Villaruel, Roberto Manuson, Evelyn Melgar, Nida Pearanda, Thelma Padilla, Mary Lou Manatlao, Herminio Cepillo, Cristina Nalda, Teresita Peralta, Eden Encinares, Gloria Cousart, Emma Pagunsan and Delia Mortera, all employees of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), sought, in a letter-complaint, dated 20 November 1997, addressed to Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, the removal from office of IBP National President Jose Aguila Grapilon. The complainants charged the IBP official with -

(a) Immorality

(b) Questionable Disbursement of Funds

(c) Dishonesty

(d) Failure to Turn-over to IBP Donations from Private Individuals and to Account for the same

(e) Refusal to Turn-over to the IBP Employee Records and Money pertaining to the Employees Loan and Savings Association

(f) Appropriation of Office Property for his and his Familys Personal use

(g) Extending Loans at an interest to IBP Employees

(h) Issuance of Unreasonable/ Illegal / Arbitrary / Whimsical and Oppressive Orders

(i) Oppression / Harassment

(j) Appointment of Employees who hail from the Visayas Region and whose Services are not needed

(k) Appointment of Atty. Eulogia Cueva, a cousin of Atty. Grapilon, to the post of National Executive Director and Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD)

(l) Organization of a Secret Society

Shortly after receiving a copy of the complaint, Atty. Grapilon filed with the IBP Board of Governors a request for a sixty-day leave of absence effective 28 November 1997. The Board of Governors, in its resolution of 24 November 1997, endorsed the request to this Court without comment or action x x x (for) being a direct consequence of the Petition filed with the Supreme Court which has (since) acquired jurisdiction over the matter. In the same resolution, the Board of Governors resolved to create a fact-finding committee tasked-

(a) to determine the procedures and requirements for the disbursements of funds of the IBP, particularly those subject of the Petition, and to recommend appropriate measures to insure that IBP funds are properly disbursed;

(b) to determine the procedures and practices being used by the IBP personnel in the safekeeping and custody of official records and documents, it appearing that certain records and documents which should remain only with a particular department or office are readily available to practically any person, and to recommend appropriate measures and controls to ensure that all official records and documents are properly safeguarded;

(c) to determine the extent and causes of any conflict or friction between and among IBP employees, particularly the petitioners and the respondents in the Petition or those alluded to therein, and recommend appropriate measures to prevent further degradation in the working relationships between and among IBP employees as well as remedy whatever damage may have been done to the same.[1]

The committee was composed of Judge Sixto C. Marella, Jr., as Chairman, and IBP Manila IV Chapter President Vicente Pulido and IBP former President Mervyn G. Encanto, as members.

In its resolution of 09 December 1997, the Court required Atty. Grapilon to comment on the complaint against him.

In a letter dated 13 December 1997, IBP National Secretary Roland B. Inting required complainants, pursuant to a directive by the Board of Governors, to explain, within five (5) working days, why no disciplinary action should be taken against them for committing acts inimical to the IBP, in main:

1. For going to the media in airing (their) complaint against the President of the IBP, when complaints against lawyers and judges are confidential in nature;

2. For by-passing the Board of Governors in (their) complaint against (their) fellow employees and the National Executive Director.

3. For causing damage to the name and integrity of the IBP as an institution.[2] Ibid., p. 140.

In the meantime, complainants were preventively suspended with pay by IBP to protect (it) against the unauthorized use of confidential documents and further protect the properties of the IBP xxx.

Complainants forthwith submitted to the Court a Supplemental Petition with Reiterated Motion for Suspension of Atty. Grapilon and for the Issuance of a Cease and Desist Order against the IBP, claiming that by continuing to act as IBP President, Atty. Grapilon had succeeded in creating an unreasonable and hostile atmosphere for them, rendering their continued employment humiliating, demeaning and impossible. Complainants, moreover, denied having sought media coverage and alleged that ABS-CBN must have only somehow learned of their complaint. Complainants stressed that their complaint against Atty. Grapilon was not in his capacity as a lawyer but as the National President of the IBP.

In its resolution of 13 January 1995, the Court directed respondents to likewise comment on the supplemental petition.

When complainants had refused to recognize the authority of the fact-finding committee created by the IBP Board of Governors, the latter decided to terminate the services of complainants except for one of them who was, instead, merely suspended from work without pay; thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, respondents Asuncion Ilagan, Rosalia Villaruel, Rosalina Villaruel, Roberto Manuson, Evelyn Melgar, Nida Pearanda, Thelma Padilla, Mary Lou Manatlao, Herminio Cepillo, Cristina Nalda, Teresita Peralta, Eden Encinares, Gloria Cousart, Emma Pagunsan and Delia Mortera are hereby DISMISSED and terminated from their respective employment in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines effective January 16, 1998. Respondent Soledad Afroilan is hereby SUSPENDED for a period of FIVE (5) working days without pay, and with a warning that commission of similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.[3]

Following the filing by Atty. Grapilon and the IBP Board of Governors of their respective comments, the Court, in a resolution, dated 27 January 1998, resolved; as follows:

Considering that the resolution of this administrative case would require an inquiry into and evaluation of the respective factual allegations of the contending parties, the COURT hereby CONSTITUTES an AD HOC Committee composed of, Mr. Justice Jorge S. Imperial, as Chairman, Mme. Justice Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes and Mr. Justice Jesus M. Elbinias, as members, of the Court of Appeals for the reception and evaluation of evidence to be presented by both parties and thereafter to make its report and its recommendations on the matter within ninety (90) days from receipt of the records.[4]

At the start of the investigation by the Ad Hoc Committee, some of the accusations against Atty. Grapilon were dropped by complainants, a fact which was confirmed by their counsel in the hearing of 21 May 1998. The Ad Hoc Committee accordingly confined itself to the remaining charges which, along with the Committees findings, will now be discussed by the Court in seriatim; viz:

A. Immorality

Atty. Grapilon had engaged in an adulterous relationship with Mrs. Radie Yacapin Cariaga, an IBP employee and wife of Atty. Rolando Cariaga, according to the complainants, one of whom, Rosalia Villaruel, averred that on 27 April 1997, while they were at the Agta Beach Resort in Almeria, Biliran, after attending the IBP National Convention in Cebu City, she saw Mrs. Cariaga hurriedly leaving the room of Atty. Grapilon at around 5:00 a.m. and repairing to the room assigned to her (Mrs. Cariaga), Sol Afroilan and Marissa Almorena.

Villaruels testimony was disputed by SP04 Hildeyardo Enage and SP04 Rolando Lepasana who had provided the round-the-clock security for Atty. Grapilon and the IBP staff, as well as by Almorena who shared the bed with Mrs. Cariaga, each of whom gave respective sworn statements before the Ad Hoc Committee.

The Ad Hoc Committee observed:

Between the sole testimony of Petitioner Mrs. Villaruel and that of the policemen, the latters testimony is entitled to greater credibility, being disinterested witnesses (sic). Furthermore, even assuming, arguendo, that Mrs. Cariaga did come out of the bedroom where Atty. Grapilon was assigned to sleep, it should be noted that SP04 Lepasana was also in the same room and thus, it is hard to believe that anything immoral occurred therein.[5]

Complainant Asuncion Ilagan declared that on 09 May 1997, during a Chapter visitation in Pampanga, the IBP officials were invited by Atty. Wilfredo Untalan, former IBP Central Luzon Governor, to go to the hotel casino. The group included, among other members of the party, Atty. Grapilon, Atty. Buen Zamar, Legal Aid Lawyer of IBP Pampanga Chapter, Atty. Isagani Cruz and Mrs. Cariaga. While at the casino, Ilagan asserted, she noticed Atty. Grapilon and Mrs. Cariaga holding hands. Later, Atty. Grapilon told Ilagan that he and Mrs. Cariaga were falling in love with each other. Inside the car, she could sense Atty. Grapilon and Mrs. Cariaga kissing each other.

Atty. Untalan declared to the contrary, pointing out that the place was crowded and that he had to continually discuss with Atty. Grapilon matters pertaining to the elections of the IBP Board of Governors.

8. Many times I had to seat (sic) close to and consult with Atty. Grapilon considering that the elections for IBP Board of Governors was forthcoming and Atty. Sergio Cruz, one of our companions was a candidate for a governor of Central Luzon.

9. At no time during the said occasion did I notice any amorous interaction between Atty. Grapilon and Ms. Cariaga. Neither did I see them holding hands. Neither did my wife notice anything unusual, otherwise, she should have told me of the same knowing that Atty. Grapilon is a married man. As a matter of fact, none of our companions ever talked about such holding hand or whispering even in jesting manner. Much more the place was crowded by the presence of too many people and discretions of this nature are never displayed openly.[6]

The statement was corroborated by Atty. Zamar who attested that he did not notice anything unusual in the behavior of either Atty. Grapilon or Mrs. Cariaga.

10. At no time (did) I notice anything unusual about Atty. Grapilon and Mrs. Cariaga. As a matter of fact, I can clearly see beneath the two small tables as they were not covered by table cloth(es) and during our entire (sic) at said restaurant, I did not see Atty. Grapilon and Ms. Cariaga holding hands nor whispering to each other. What I know is that we were all discussing in normal voice or at higher pitch as there were many guests at the time and a band was playing.[7]

The alleged incident inside the car between Atty. Grapilon and Mrs. Cariaga, likewise asseverated by Ilagan, was refuted by the driver of the car, one Cornelio Bulado.

7. Si Atty. Grapilon, Mrs. Cariaga at Mrs. Ilagan ay tumulak pabalik mga hating-gabi na at lulan sa (sic) Honda Civic na minamaneho ko kung saan si Mrs. Ilagan ay naka-upo sa unahan at si Atty. Grapilon at Mrs. Cariaga naman ay nakaupo sa likuran.

8. Sa loob ng biyahe mula Angeles hangang sa naihatid ko si Atty. Grapilon, Mrs. Cariaga at Mrs. Ilagan ako ay walang napuna na kakaibang kilos nina Atty. Grapilon at Mrs. Cariaga, lalo na ang kabulaanang bintang ni Mrs. Ilagan na narinig niya silang nagbubulungan at naglalapat ang mga labi.[8]

The Ad Hoc Committee, on this count against respondent, made this finding:

x x x (I)t is hard to believe that the alleged adulterous romance should be openly exhibited in full public view by Atty. Grapilon as President of the IBP and in the company of other co-officers during a chapter visit. As against the Affidavit of Sionie Ilagan, and those of Atty. Untalan and Atty. Zamar, on whether or not the holding hands incident occurred, the latter should prevail for the statements contained therein come from an unprejudiced and independent source. Besides, Sionie Ilagan admitted during her testimony that since she did not look back, her only basis for concluding that Atty. Grapilon and Mrs. Cariaga were kissing each other was because of the sounds she heard. Besides, Asuncion (Sionie) Ilagan testified that she had never been close to Atty. Grapilon and it is therefore improbable that respondent would confide to her that he was falling in love with Mrs. Cariaga. Evidence, to be believed, must not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness, but it must be credible in itself. In the instant case and under the circumstances, the alleged immoral acts were not probable.[9]

Ilagan claimed that on 18 July 1997, while they were in Cebu City, she shared a room in the house of Atty. Arthur Lim with Mrs. Cariaga and that, at around 3:00 a.m., Atty. Grapilon Joined Mrs. Cariaga on the bed. Then, after a few minutes, Atty. Grapilon left the room.

The assertion was dismissed by Atty. Leo Pruel, P/Ins. Romeo Quilaquil and Mrs. Virginia Grapilon who stated in their sworn statements that they, together with Atty. Grapilon and one Domingo Profitana, Jr., spent that particular evening conversing at the terrace except for a while when Mrs. Lim gave a quick tour of the house. P/Ins. Quilaquil left the group but the rest, except for Mrs. Cariaga who repaired early to the room she shared with Mrs. Ilagan, stayed until about 5:00 a.m., when Atty. and Mrs. Grapilon decided to go back to their room for the morning shower and to prepare their luggage for the morning departure.

Mrs. Cariaga decried what she termed to be malicious imputations against her.

The Ad Hoc Committee found Ilagans asseverations to be wanting in credibility.

The allegation of Sionie Ilagan that respondent went to bed with Radie Cariaga while she was also in the same room is not only contrary to common human experience but is unbelievable. It is preposterous that Atty. Grapilon, or any other person for that matter, who is not a sex pervert, would lie in bed . . ., make obscene movements in the bed, with sighs of passions from both of them (referring to respondent and Mrs. Radie Cariaga) knowing that another person is around watching a very private act, while his wife is wide awake conversing with the other visitors inside the same house. Certainly, a man would not dare arouse his wifes suspicion by leaving her sight without permission at an unholy early morning hour. She would naturally inquire where the husband is if the latter stays out for a longer time than necessary to the comfort room.[10]

B. Questionable Disbursement of Funds

Complainants claimed that the renovation of the National Legal Aid Office of the IBP Building, amounting to P1.4 million, was awarded to R.E.G. Builders without any bidding. Neither was a bidding conducted, according to the same complainants, when IBP purchased a piano.

The Ad Hoc Committee found that a canvass bid was, in fact, conducted by the IBP, participated in by A.M. Construction Pallones, with an offer of P1,480,912.00; Jenus Construction, tendering an offer of P1,620,000.00; and R.E.G. Builders, whose offer came out to be the lowest at P1,400,00.00. Atty. Ester Sison-Cruz, IBP National Secretary, in her affidavit, attested to the foregoing. The contract was signed by Atty. Grapilon upon the authority of the IBP Board of Governors per its resolution No. XIII-97-26. The Ad Hoc Committee noted, in connection with IBPs purchase of a piano, that the canvass bid was done away with, per Atty. Sison-Cruz, so as to enable the IBP to take advantage of a promotional sale by Lyric Piano and Organ Corporation which gave the IBP a discount of P8,000.00.

C. Failure to Turn-Over to IBP, and to Account for, Donations from Private Individuals.

Complainants charged Atty. Grapilon with having solicited cash from lawyers and private individuals, purportedly for the 14th month pay of IBP employees in December of 1995, and that during the 6th National Convention Of Lawyers in Cebu City in April 1997, then Senator Edgardo Angara had donated to the IBP the amount of P50,000.00 but Atty. Grapilon failed to turn over the sum to the IBP Cashier nor to account for the same.

The Ad Hoc Committee, in its report, held that the allegation of solicitation was not substantiated with either names or particulars thereof. Indeed, it noted, Atty. Grapilon was not the IBP President in 1995. Anent the allegation that Atty. Grapilon failed to turn-over the donation of then Senator Angara to the IBP, Atty. Peter John D. Calderon, IBP Cebu Chapter President, confirmed that the money had been with them (IBP Cebu Chapter) all along.

D. Refusal to Turn-Over to the IBP Employees the Records and Money of the Employees Savings and Loan Association and Extending Loan at an interest to IBP Employees

At one time in 1994, then Executive Director Grapilon urged the IBP employees to organize a savings and loan association. After the association was organized, the amount of P100.00 (P50.00 every 15th and 30th of the month), denominated JAG 2, started to be deducted from the salaries of employees. Complainants alleged that they had proposed that the funds be transferred from Atty. Grapilons name to that of the association but Atty. Grapilon had reacted with anger, constraining them to promptly drop the proposal. Atty. Grapilon was also accused of engaging in money lending activity using IBP time.

According to the Ad Hoc Committee, the Minutes of the Meeting of the IBP Board of Governors on 23 April 1994 would indicate that the organization of the Savings and Loan Association was the result of an agreement between Atty. Grapilon, then IBP Executive Director, and the IBP employees. It was agreed that the initial fund of P500,00.00 was to be generated from recoverable investments from the IBP President, the Executive Vice President, the treasurer and the members of the Board of Governors, should they wish to contribute, and other future shareholders. In the meantime, the amount of P500,000.00 was contributed by Atty. Grapilon as a loan or as an advance which was later denominated JAG 2 in the payslip of the employees. In June 1994, the IBP employees agreed to contribute P100.00 monthly to the fund, P50.00 of which was to be deducted on the 15th, and another P50.00 on the 30th, of each month. The Ad Hoc Committee observed that while the sums collected were deposited in the account of Atty. Grapilon, the rules on the monthly contributions, however, were formulated by a loan committee composed of six members elected by the employees. The loans from the initial contribution of Atty. Grapilon were charged an interest (initially, 10%, and later 14%, per annum) which earning was divided equally between the association and Atty. Grapilon by way of return on investments. Atty. Grapilon tried to excuse himself from the task of approving the loans but apparently the employees could not agree on who should be his substitute.

E. Oppression / Harassment

Complainants described Atty. Grapilon to be a sadistic person, prone to violence, and a person who thrives in insulting and humiliating and making his employees suffer.

Bobby Manuson claimed that in November 1995, Atty. Grapilon, upon learning of supposed inquiries being made about him by Manuson, confronted the latter and, in front of several lady employees of the IBP, opened the zipper of his trousers.

The Ad Hoc Committee did not find the statement worthy of credence; it said:

It is quite unbelievable however that from November, 1995 when the alleged oppressive or humiliating act was committed by Atty. Grapilon against his person, Mr. Manuson decided to keep quiet, and it was only after two years had elapsed, that he complained about the incident. In the interim, Manuson did not complain to anybody, write a letter to Atty. Grapilon to protest the way he was treated, or tell Atty. Grapilon that he never talked about his life, which would have been his natural reaction to the accusation made against him.

If indeed the alleged act considered by him as humiliating and oppressive was committed by respondent, Petitioner Bobby Manuson would have complained and filed his case immediately before the IBP Board of Governors or before the then IBP President. At that time, Atty. Grapilon was not yet the president of IBP.[11]

Evelyn Melgar bewailed her having been shouted at and called names by Atty. Grapilon. She testified:

Atty. De Vera:

I want you to tell us. What did he exactly say that you considered to be nasty, because I noticed you did not say that in your affidavit?

Witness:

He told me that I am hard headed, He was already shouting at me then, that Im hardheaded, that I dont follow his orders. And then he even kicked the monoblock chair.

Atty. De Vera:

Thats all that happened?

Witness:

Yes, Sir.

Justice Imperial:

And thats all he said?

Witness:

Yes, Your Honor. And then after that he went to his room and he called me again and after that he repeated to tell me that I am hardheaded and that I needed to follow him and that I should support him because my husband and he are provincemates.[12]

The Ad Hoc Committee dismissed the allegation, expressing at the same time the view that (i)t is not uncommon for a manager to reach the limit of his patience and blow his top when the subordinates are perceived to be hardheaded and intransigent. Thus, no oppression and humiliation can be attributed to respondent for his above acts.[13]

Rosalina Villaruel, on her part, complained that Atty. Grapilon had accused her of stealing P500.00, and that he would not allow her to take her lunch until her work was over.

The Ad Hoc Committee remarked:

The above complaints are the result of petty misunderstanding in a working relationship between a manager and his secretary. If indeed the stealing charge was serious, a memorandum would have been issued, requiring Rosalina to explain why no disciplinary measure should be imposed on her for dishonesty.

However, none was made.

Furthermore, contrary to her claims, Atty. Grapilon assigned some IBP employees to man the executive offices and to answer telephone calls during lunch break.

Strangely, despite the alleged oppression and humiliation she continuously suffered from Atty. Grapilon since 1993, Rosalina Villaruel never filed a complaint with the Board or previous IBP President, nor was there an effort on her part to talk to Atty. Grapilon or write him about the sufferings she had to bear as his secretary.[14]

Teresita Peralta averred that sometime in 1996, while Atty. Grapilon had two male visitors, she was asked to call the office of then Solicitor General Raul Goco. While she was still on the phone talking to a member of the Solicitor Generals staff, Atty. Grapilon grabbed the phone from her and muttered, the employees in (this) office (do) not know how to talk over the phone, to her great embarrassment.

The Ad Hoc Committee took account of the joint affidavit executed by the two guests of Atty. Grapilon, who there narrated; thus:

3. After his other visitors left, we were entertained by Atty. Grapilon. While we were discussing about our case, Atty. Grapilon requested an IBP employee -- a middle aged woman, short and a bit fat with fair complexion -- who was then at our vicinity to dial a certain telephone number;

4. The said woman grumbled but nevertheless obeyed Atty. Grapilon. While talking to someone over the phone, we heard her very impolite words and she was already shouting at the person at the other end of the line. Atty. Grapilon then requested the IBP employee to hand him over the phone. At that point, he apologized to the person at the other end of the line for the impolite words of the said employee;

5. After apologizing to the person at the end of the line, Atty. Grapilon talked to the said IBP employee and told her to be polite and use proper language to whoever is at the other end of the telephone line. At this point we overheard the said IBP employee saying that: bakit kasi ako ang u-utusan para mag tawag sa telepono hindi naman ako secretary dito, meron naman siyang secretary. Atty. Grapilon overheard her also so he called the said employee and in a polite and civil manner told her that: Please dont do that to me specially in front of my visitors. Mga kababayan ko sila, further he said that: Nakikiusap lang naman ako sa yo na pakitawagan mo si Sol. Gen. Goco at wag mong bastusin kung sino man ang kausap mo sa kabilang telepono dahil nakakahiya, lalo na pag mga abogado ang kausap nyo dahil sila ang nagbibigay ng inyong pangsweldo;

6. At that point, the said woman IBP employee turned her back and left chafing and mincing some harsh words and on the way out of the room, she threw the papers she was holding on a nearby table, kicked one of the plastic chairs along the passage way and slammed the door;

7. Atty. Grapilon shook his head and apologized to us for the manners and conduct of the said employee. He told us that the said employee is the Cashier of the IBP.[15]

Peralta asserted that, at another time, Atty. Grapilon had requested her to bring to his office the check and voucher for the engineer who renovated the third floor of the building. After receiving the check and the voucher, Atty. Grapilon asked her to leave but, choosing to remain, she saw the engineer/contractor bring out his personal check, thereby insinuating that Atty. Grapilon was paid a consideration for the transaction.

The Ad Hoc Committee found it most unlikely for Atty. Grapilon, if he indeed committed any anomaly, to conduct it in the presence of complainant Peralta; it opined:

It would be unthinkable for Atty. Grapilon to do the above imputed act. Common sense dictates that nobody will allow himself to be placed in an incriminating situation specially if he intends to do an illegal act. To allegedly receive a check from a contractor in the presence of a third person who is not privy to a transaction is not believable, specially since respondent Grapilon is a lawyer.[16]

Eden Encinares charged that once while she was inside the IBP Presidents room, in the presence of Bobby Manuson and Carlito Villarin, Atty. Grapilon threw his coat at her, yelling, huwag kayong makihalo sa mga matatanda sa opisina, kagaya nina Emma, Sally at iba pa. Later, she changed her statement and claimed that Villarin was outside the room when it happened. She changed her mind for the third time and reverted to her previous statement that Villarin was with her and Manuson.

Carlito Villarin contradicted the testimony of Encinares and insisted that Atty. Grapilon threw his coat on the chair and not at Encinares.

The Ad Hoc Committee, on the foregoing charges of oppression and harassment, concluded:

In view of the foregoing, on the issue of oppression and humiliation allegedly committed by Atty. Grapilon upon the persons of the herein petitioners, the incidents narrated by them are nothing but unfounded or shallow accusations probably emanating from certain personal biases of petitioners or personality differences with the head of office. The mere fact that respondent might be ill tempered, does not talk in a soft voice, harshly calls the attention of the employees when they do not act according to his standard of behavior or is not an ideal employer, are not sufficient ground, under the circumstances, to even call his attention thereto, much less provide a cause for his removal as President of the IBP.[17]

F. Organization of a Secret Society

Finally, complainants denounced Atty. Grapilon for having supposedly organized a secret society, also known as the JAG Brotherhood, within the IBP whose members, composed of people close to Atty. Grapilon, enjoyed special treatment and privileges.

In their sworn statements, Efren G. Marquira, Ramil A. Perucho, Gerardo Viciano, Jose Allan Apelit, Mario Kalingag and Emmanuel Erena stated that membership in the association purely was voluntary and non-coercive and that it counted among its members employees and non-employees of IBP alike.

The Ad Hoc Committee found no evidence to sustain any wrongdoing on the part of Atty. Grapilon who neither provided funds for the organization and its activities nor accorded special treatment to its members.

II

An offshoot of the case against Atty. Grapilon was the complaint filed against the IBP Board of Governors following the preventive suspension (with pay) of complainants by the Board of Governors. Shortly after complainants had refused to recognize the authority of the fact-finding committee created by the Board of Governors, the latter, pursuant to the IBP resolution of 10 January 1998, dismissed from the service Asuncion Ilagan, Rosalia Villaruel, Rosalina Villaruel, Roberto Manuson, Evelyn Melgar, Nida Pearanda, Thelma Padilla, Mary Lou Manatlao, Herminio Cepillo, Cristina Nalda, Teresita Peralta, Eden Encinares, Gloria Cousart, Emma Pagunsan and Delia Mortera, and suspended Soledad Afroilan for five days without pay.

The Court, in its 03 February 1998 resolution, granted the prayer of complainants for the inclusion of the IBP Board of Governors also as party respondents to this case. This incident, as well as the motion to nullify the IBP resolution of 10 January 1998, was itself referred by the Court to the Ad Hoc Committee. The Court thereupon directed the parties to maintain the status quo ante at the time of the adoption of the aforesaid IBP Resolution, dated 10 January 1998, without prejudice to the authority of the Ad Hoc Committee to modify this directive such as the evidence may warrant."

On 23 March 1998, a petition to cite the IBP Board of Governors for contempt was filed, allegedly for its failure to comply with the resolution, dated 03 February 1998, of the Court with a prayer that the IBP Board of Governors be directed to reinstate complainants actually or in the payroll.

In response, the IBP Board of Governors sought the dismissal of the charges against it on the following grounds:

A. The action taken by the IBP Board against the petitioners and the acts for which petitioners were dismissed are not proper subject matter of the instant proceedings considering that they have no direct substantive relation to the instant administrative proceedings against Atty. Jose A. Grapilon.

B. Petitioners were validly dismissed considering that they were guilty of committing acts inimical to the interest of the IBP.

C. The subject matter of petitioners Supplemental Petition and Motion to Implead is a simple labor dispute that is within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Commission.

D. Under Section 12, Article 1 of the By-laws of the IBP, respondent IBP Board and its governors are not liable for the dismissal of petitioners.

E. The Supreme Court Resolution dated 23 February 1998 should be modified by directory (sic) that the suspension of petitioners pending resolution of the present case should be without pay.[18]

According to the IBP Board of Governors, the complaint against it, being a simple labor dispute, was within the province of the National Labor Relations Commission to consider. Complainants countered that their dismissal was the outcome of an attempt of the IBP Board of Governors to protect Atty. Grapilon from the Administrative case.

Complainants held the issues on this score to be

2. Whether or not the IBP Board performed an act of reprisal against the IBP employees when it terminated their employment.

3. Whether or not the IBP Board had already prejudged the IBP employees as having already committed acts inimical to the interests of the IBP before the hearing on 10 January 1998.

4. Whether or not the 10 January 1998 Resolution of the IBP Board terminating the IBP employees should be declared as null and void for being violative of the IBP employees right to due process.[19]

The IBP Board of Governors, on its part, saw the case as presenting issues as

(1) Whether or not the Honorable Supreme Court and the Honorable Ad Hoc Committee have jurisdiction over causes of action of the petitioners against respondent IBP Board considering that said causes of action fall under the definition of a labor dispute properly under the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Labor Arbiters of the National Labor Relations Commission (the NLRC).

(2) Assuming arguendo that the Honorable Supreme Court and the Honorable Ad Hoc Committee have jurisdiction over the termination dispute between petitioners and respondent IBP Board:

a. Whether or not there was just cause to terminate petitioners; and

b. Whether or not respondent IBP Board observed procedural due process in dismissing petitioners.

(3) Whether or not respondent IBP Board may be held liable for the termination of petitioners considering that, under Section 12, Article 1 of the By-Laws of the IBP Board shall not be answerable for any damage resulting from its actions done and taken under authority of the By-Laws.[20]

Anent the issue of jurisdiction, the Ad Hoc Committee correctly observed that the instant case had not been the first time that the Court opted to exercise administrative jurisdiction over a case against the IBP President. In Bar Matter No. 565, the Court, in its resolution of 15 October 1991, approved the report of the Ad Hoc Committee[21] which took cognizance of the complaint of staff members of the IBP against then IBP President Eugene A. Tan and his administration. The charges there included favoritism or discrimination in the hiring of officers and employees of the IBP and extravagant and irregular expenditures of IBP funds.

As the Ad Hoc Committee so pertinently points out in its report-

There are three sets of charges involved in this case: the complaint against President Grapilon, the charges against the petitioners, and the complaint against the IBP Board.

1. With respect to the complaint against the IBP President and the IBP Board, we agree with the petitioners that the Supreme Court may cause the investigation not only of the charges filed against the IBP President but also against the IBP Board of Governors and mete disciplinary sanctions if necessary. It need not be gainsaid that IBP officers should set the example for maintaining rigid ethical standards of professional conduct for the Philippine Bar and as correctly put by petitioners, the Supreme Court must insure that the IBP observe the duty to promote respect for the law and legal processes.

It will be recalled that in the case of IBP President Euguene Tan in Bar Matter No. 565 the charges filed against IBP President Tan and his administration were contained in a letter-complaint addressed to the Chief Justice filed by several staff members of the IBP; the Supreme Court found the actuations of Atty. Tan as constituting grave abuse of authority and serious misconduct in Office, which would have warranted his removal from office, but in view of the fact that he had earlier tendered his resignation as IBP President and his term of office already expired on June 30, 1991, the Court imposed the penalty of severe censure.

Also, in Bar Matter No. 491 entitled In the Matter of the Inquiry into the 1989 Elections of the IBP, the Supreme Court acted on the basis of newspaper columns in the Malaya, the Philippine Standard, Philippine Free Press criticizing the electioneering and extravaganza that characterized the campaign conducted by the candidates for IBP President in the 1989 elections, and created a committee of five justices to conduct a formal inquiry. The Supreme Court approved the recommendation of said committee to annul the IBP elections held on June 3, 1989 and ordered the holding of special elections within three months; pending such special elections, a caretaker board was appointed to administer the affairs of the IBP.

Considering the allegations of the petitioners that the purported inimical acts imputed to them as described in the show-cause order of IBP are a direct consequence of the petition which they filed with the Supreme Court, that their termination is an act of reprisal for filing the petition , that the IBP Board has acted against the petitioners with malice and unfairness, with manifest partiality, and with pre-judgment, and that the IBP Board is protecting the IBP President, the Supreme Court may, in the exercise of its supervisory powers over the IBP, properly take cognizance of the petitioners complaint against the IBP Board and cause an investigation thereof to be conducted. Stated otherwise, if the accusations made by the petitioners that the IBP dismissed the employees with malice and manifest partiality, and as an act of reprisal against the employees are substantiated, the actuations of the IBP Board would be attended with gross abuse of authority and would constitute serious misconduct. Thus the prayer to implead the IBP Board of Governors as party respondent in Adm. Case No. 4826 was granted by the S.C. in its Resolution of February 3, 1998.

2. As regards the charges against petitioners who are all non-lawyers and are admittedly employees of the IBP, is also correct that, as an employer, it has the authority to conduct an administrative investigation of its employees, who are ordinary workers, and to discipline them for misconduct for committing acts inimical to the IBP, and that under Section 217 of the Labor Code (PD No. 422, as amended), the termination dispute would fall within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of a labor arbiter whose decision is subject to the exclusive appellate jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Commission.

However, because the actuations of the IBP Board in connection with the administrative action taken against the petitioners have been challenged before the Supreme Court, the authority of the IBP Board, and eventually the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC, cannot be held to be exclusive of the prerogative of the Supreme Court, pursuant to the latters supervisory powers over the IBP, to exercise its own administrative jurisdiction over the matter.[22]

III

Concluding its report on the investigation, the Ad Hoc Committee made the following recommendations to the Court, thus:

1. All the charges against Atty. Jose Aguila Grapilon should be DISMISSED.

2. The motion to cite the IBP Board for contempt should be DISMISSED.

3. The order dismissing the petitioners is valid; the act of publicly airing their accusations against Atty. Grapilon is SERIOUS MISCONDUCT that warrants DISMISSAL from the service.

4. The respondent IBP Board shall implement the status quo ante order of the Supreme Court by paying the petitioners their salaries effective January 16, 1998, up to the date of the approval of the recommendation of the Committee to uphold the validity of the dismissal of the petitioners from the service.[23]

IV

A. The Court has closely reviewed the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee on the various charges against respondent Grapilon and the latters response to each count, and it is inclined to agree, such as can be gleaned from the above disquisition, with the Ad Hoc Committee in concluding that the accusations have not been properly substantiated. Nevertheless, relative to the claim that certain funds of the IBP Employees Savings and Loan Association have been placed in his personal account, albeit sufficiently explained, the Court deems it proper, to direct Atty. Grapilon to immediately cause the transfer of the funds from his name to that of the association. The members of the IBP Employees Savings and Loan Association are strongly advised to organize a Board of Directors which can carry out the task of managing the funds of the association, including the approval of loan transactions, in order to avoid any misimpression of irregularity if the procedures thus far practiced would be allowed to continue.

B. As regards the alleged recourse to media by complainants in making public their complaints against Atty. Grapilon, Ma. Elena Manolita Gazeta Catbagan, ABS-CBN reporter, admitted that while complainants were at first reluctant to talk, they were persuaded ultimately, however, by the idea that the television interview could enhance their case. Josie Sison, another ABS-CBN journalist, likewise stated in her testimony that one of the complainants had agreed to meet the reporters to be sent by ABS-CBN. In addition, Ramoncito Yuson, the security guard detained at the IBP parking lot, testified that Eden Encinares, Sally Villaruel and Vicky Villaruel met with the ABS-CBN crew, while another security guard, Diana Pedrano, stated that the television crew asked for Sionie and Vicky, referring to Asuncion Ilagan and Vicky Villaruel. Eden Encinares herself said that five of the complainants had been interviewed and all of them were present during the interview. Finally, Atty. Rolando Inting, the IBP Secretary, declared that Asuncion Ilagan, Rosalia Villaruel , Rosalina Villaruel and Tessie Peralta admitted to him that complainants sought the ABS-CBN by common agreement for fear that the Supreme Court might not promptly heed their complaint.

The Ad Hoc Committee held that the IBP Board of Governors was justified in instituting the investigation against complaints. The Committee stated:

Respondent Board cites the cases of Lopez vs. Chronicle Publications Employees Association and St. Marys College vs. NLRC wherein the Supreme Court held that the publication by employees of charges which ridicule the employers officials or its management and sully its reputation, is a reprehensible act inimical to the employers interests and constitutes gross misconduct which is a just cause for the termination of their employment.

Petitioners counter that the cited case cannot be invoked by the IBP because no statement was made by the petitioners against their employer, the IBP, that would malign, ridicule or disparage the IBP.

The IBP Boards position has merit.

The Minutes of the Board Meeting held on December 13, 1997 narrate the discussions that preceded the adoption of Resolution No. XIII-1997-127, and show that the Board received the report of Atty. Grapilon on the Divisive and other deleterious effects of the filing of the complaint:

At present, there is a great divide in the National Office where the sixteen (16) employees are left free to do whatever they want to do and against the majority of the employees who have signed, and we will present later the expression of support, to the National President. The National President right now is hampered in his unusual task of directing and delegating very important tasks in the National Office. While prudence dictates that we should not, even communicate with these employees, it is so difficult for a Chief executive to pursue programs and policies without the total cooperation of all employees in the national office.

As of now, some of the sixteen (16) employees are doing what they are assigned to do, like the one in the accounting, three (3) in bar discipline; but those assigned to the office of the Executive Vice President and Journal are directed to do things they have not been previously doing, tasks like posting membership due, determining qualified members to receive the Journal. There are many things to be done in the National Office and if the President, through the Executive Director, would not be effective anymore in doing his job, we believe that certain actions must be done by the Board of Governors. Complainants from the library, property and the membership list division are often seen huddling together even during office hours and so we believe that lawyers membership dues are not justifiably being spent.

The three (3) other male complainants just go about loitering in the national office just hovering over the desks of those working and they find their own sweet time staying outside of the third floor and again, huddling in the cashiers office who are also among the complainants. We find that we cannot work anymore effectively.

There was an extended discussion on further problems concerning the present crisis after Atty. Grapilon made his report. Among the opinions ventilated at the meeting were that of Governor Okit that the wide publicity given to tri-media by the complainants has really damaged the name of the IBP; and of Governor Barrera to the effect that at stake in this controversy is the institution of the IBP and it affects not only President Grapilon x x x who happens to be the Chief executive of the IBP. Although Governor Pilando had reservations as to whether the proceeding should be an investigation or a confrontation with the employees. Resolution No. XIII was adopted by the Board, and the show-cause order was eventually promulgated.

Under the circumstances, the IBP Board properly took action on the media incident. As the highest governing body of the Integrated Bar empowered to appoint employees and implicity administratively discipline them, the IBP Board had the power to conduct an administrative investigation of its own employees whose public accusations against the IBPs highest national officer have a tendency to erode the reputation and integrity of the Board itself, and the public airing of which grievances have brought about tension and disrupted the work in the national office. Certainly, the Board cannot fold its hands and be a mere spectator to a public exposure of alleged anomalies in the disbursements of IBP funds, among other things, ventilated by its own employees in the media. Moreover, the imputations of immorality, dishonesty and oppression, albeit personally directed against the President, were exposed in TV programs despite the confidentiality rule contained in Rule 139-B, Section 10 of the Rules of Court that mandates that proceedings against members of the bar should be private and confidential.

Public accusations made by employees which sully the reputation of the officers of the employer corporation and disrupt the good order and decorum therein have been held inimical to the employers interest and considered as misconduct.

The argument that the complaint in the Supreme Court sought the ouster of Atty. Grapilon as President and not his disbarment as a member of the Philippine Bar is unavailing; the complaint was filed in the Office of the Bar Confidant; if the charges are substantiated, the Supreme Court is not precluded from meting disciplinary sanctions as in disbarment proceedings. Parenthetically, it is more tenable for the IBP employees to file a complaint for misconduct against a member of the Bar, because private parties may file such complaints, than it is for them to seek the ouster of the IBP President from office, considering that said employees are non-lawyers and are not members of the IBP.[24]

The Ad Hoc Committee observed that the IBP Board of Governors had complied with the requirements of the law; thus:

The petitioners were twice notified by IBP Secretary Roland Inting of the clarificatory hearing scheduled on January 10, 1998 (on December 13-15, 1997 and on January 6, 1998). They were duly notified of the specific charges that were raised against them. They appeared at the meeting with their counsel but only to manifest their conformity with the position taken by their counsel that the Board had no jurisdiction. The Board proceeded to hear the evidence consisting of the testimony of these employees (Ramoncito Yuson, Benito Yuson [resigned], Diana Pedrano, and Ma. Rizalina Almocera) and after deliberation resolved to terminate the fifteen petitioners. The Resolution of January 10, 1998 stated that the respondents have committed serious misconduct in making public the letter-complaint against the IBP President which maligned as well as ridiculed them, causing disruption of activities and good order of the IBP. The Resolution also stated that all the respondents (except Soledad Afroilan) were found to have committed serious misconduct in vehemently refusing to submit to the authority of the Board of Governors, as the highest policy-making and disciplinary body of the IBP, to conduct inquiry on the actions they committed in deliberately going to the media in connection with their grievances against the IBP President.

There was due compliance with the requirement of notice and opportunity to be heard with respect to the charges that arose out of the incident that took place on November 21, 1997. The clarificatory hearing set on January 10, 1998 was intended to give the petitioners the opportunity to answer the charges arising from the media interview on November 21, 1997. By their refusal to participate at the hearing they may be deemed to have forfeited their right to be heard in their defense.[25]

and opined that -

[W]ith respect to the charge that the petitioners committed serious misconduct for refusing to submit to the authority of the Board of Governors at the hearing on January 10, 1998, there was no notice to the petitioners that such refusal to recognize the authority of the Board would be a cause for disciplinary action. Petitioners did not receive any written notice or warning that their refusal to participate at the said hearing would amount to insubordination and misconduct which is also a cause for disciplinary action. Accordingly while petitioners may be disciplined for arrogance and insubordination for refusing to submit to the authority of the Board of Governors, procedural due process requires that they should have been charged in writing for this offense. They cannot be dismissed for insubordination on the same occasion when it was committed. Thus it has been held that there is partial deprivation of the employees right to procedural due process where the offense is not among those for which he has been charged in writing. It is less than fair for management to charge an employee with one offense and then to dismiss herein for having committed another offense with which he had not been charged and against which he was therefore unable adequately to defend himself.

As to whether the act of petitioners in deliberately airing their grievances in the media is sufficient ground to support the penalty of dismissal, the IBP correctly argues that these questions essentially involve a termination dispute between an employer and its employees and should properly be submitted to the Labor Arbiter as provided under Article 217 of the Labor Code.

Needless to state, the Supreme Court should not be unnecessarily burdened or saddled with the resolution of disputes arising out of a simple employer-employee relation between the IBP and its employees. And there is no compelling reason for the IBP employees to be treated differently from other employees of private corporations.

What is important is that the Supreme Court is satisfied that the IBP Board has not acted with malice, partiality or prejudgment, which would justify administrative action against them as members of the Philippine Bar, and the Committee finds that these accusations have not been substantiated.

However, since the validity of the order of dismissal has already been placed in issue before the Committee, and evidence has been adduced by both parties, the Committee believes that without establishing a precedent, the Supreme Court may rule on the question.

From the evidence already presented before the Committee, there is sufficient basis for finding petitioners guilty of serious misconduct, warranting termination of their services, for their act of deliberately publicizing in nationwide television the complaints that they have filed against the IBP President, many of which they eventually withdrew. The act is clearly inimical to the public interest of the IBP, whose directors were not even informed of the filing of the charges beforehand, and is disruptive of good order and discipline in the IBP office. The two cases invoked by IBP cited earlier are in point.

In the case of Lopez, Sr. vs. Chronicle Publication Employees Association, et al., supra, the employee published his suspicion that his employer was exerting political pressure on a public official to thwart some legitimate activities of the employees. The charge, the court said, amounted to a public accusation that would sully the employers reputation, and the act was inimical to the employers interest. The fact that the same was made in the union newspaper does not alter its deleterious character nor shield or protect a reprehensible act on the ground that it is a union activity, because such end can be achieved without resort to improper conduct or behavior. The act of the employees may be considered as a misconduct which is a just cause for dismissal.

And in the case of St. Marys College vs. NLRC, supra, the employees admitted authorship of a widely circulated Manifesto, which ridiculed the officials of the school and demanded their removal and which disrupted the good order and decorum of the school. It was held that this constitutes gross misconduct which is a just cause for the termination of their employment.

In this case, the petitioners drew attention to the filing of their petition for the removal of the IBP President on a wide range of charges, including immorality, the illegal disbursement of IBP funds, oppression and harassment, by going on nationwide television. No justifiable or unselfish purpose would be served by such media exposure of the complaint already filed with the Supreme Court, and therefore covered by the mantle of confidentiality, except to sensationalize the same and defile the reputation of the IBP officials concerned.[26]

The Court, nevertheless, finds the penalty of dismissal from service of complainants to be rather harsh. Complainants apparently have not acted with clear malice in refusing to take cognizance of the authority of the IBP fact-finding committee on their impression that this Court, where their complaint against Atty. Grapilon pends, is vested with jurisdiction not only over the main case but also over the incidents arising therefrom. Nevertheless, as the Ad Hoc Committee has so aptly intimated, complainants cannot be said to be entirely faultless.

C. The status quo ante contained in the Courts resolution of 03 February 1998 is unequivocal. It effectively enjoined the IBP Board of Governors to maintain the standing situation prior to 10 January 1998, i.e., that complainants remain suspended with pay during these proceedings until otherwise resolved. The Ad Hoc Committee itself has noted:

In connection with reinstatement, petitioners have taken the position that the IBP should have immediately complied with the 3 February 1998 Resolution of the Supreme Court because on its face it clearly directs the IBP Board to do so. However, the IBP consistently resisted immediate compliance, insisting that the status quo ante issue was necessarily linked to the question of nullity of the 10 January 1998 Resolution. In its Very Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Simultaneous Resolution filed on June 25, 1998. The respondent IBP Board prayed that the issue on the status quo ante be resolved simultaneously with and not earlier than the resolution of the main case because the resolution of the former would be a pre-judgment of the latter. Earlier, in its Comment dated February 27, 1998 filed with the Ad Hoc Committee, the IBP Board prayed for a modification of the February 3, 1998 resolution of the Supreme Court.

The Ad Hoc Committee allowed the presentation of evidence on the status quo issue principally because there was prima facie merit in the position taken by IBP that the issue on the legality of the dismissal of the petitioners should be resolved first because this question is necessarily linked to the status quo ante issue, and resolution of the status quo issue would prejudge the entire case. It is recalled that at the pre-trial, the petitioners manifested that if turns out that they were not entitled to their positions, they would not agree to return the salaries that would have been paid them. The estimated amount needed for the monthly salaries of the 15 petitioners is P136,518.24 and this amount comes from members funds or dues. The IBP argued that the enforcement of petitioner version of the status quo ante will cause grave and irreparable injury to the IBP; on the other hand, petitioners will be entitled to adequate relief by way of backwages should they be found to have been illegally dismissed.

Because of the practically continuous settings of the dates of hearing, the Ad Hoc Committee deferred resolution of the status quo ante issue which is necessarily linked to the contempt incident, until the main case is decided on the merits.

The bone of contention between the parties is whether the status quo ante at the time of IBP Resolution dated 10 January 1998 was that petitioners were already dismissed for cause, as contended by IBP, or that petitioners were suspended employees with pay, as contended by petitioners.

We agree with the petitioners that what the Supreme Court had in mind in its Resolution directing the maintenance of the status quo ante was the status of petitioners of being under preventive suspension with pay. The terms of the 3 February 1998 Resolution are clear and require no interpretation that the status referred to was that status before the 10 January 1998 Resolution which dismissed the petitioners-employees. At the time of the adoption of the Resolution, the Supreme Court was aware that the IBP had issued its 10 January 1998 dismissing the petitioners; the status quo ante clearly referred to the employment status before dismissal, i.e. suspension with pay. The IBP Board itself admitted that the status quo referred to was that petitioners were suspended with pay in its Comment dated February 27, 1998 filed with the Ad Hoc Committee. This was the initial interpretation of the IBP itself as indicated in its Comment filed on February 27, 1998 with the Supreme Court seeking a modification of the February 3, 1998 Resolution. However, the Board subsequently took the position that after the investigation which ended on January 10, 1998, the petitioners were ordered dismissed and were no longer under preventive suspension; after investigation they were already terminated and were no longer suspended employees entitled to pay. This later position is not tenable. Petitioners correctly point out that it would not have been necessary for the Supreme Court to issue the status quo ante order if the IBP employees were already deemed terminated. Since it was only on January 10, 1998 that the employees were ordered dismissed, the Supreme Court must have referred to the status before such dismissal. Any other interpretation would be strained and uncalled for.

By directing the restoration of petitioners status of being under suspension with pay, pending determination of the validity of the January 10, 1998 Resolution, the Supreme Court must have been motivated by compassion for the plight of the employees in the same manner that the IBP Board itself had initially granted them pay while under suspension for humanitarian reasons.

xxx xxx xxx.

However, the fact that the respondents failed to immediately restore the petitioners to their status as employees under preventive suspension is not an act punishable as indirect contempt. IBP has established its defense of good faith as shown by the following:

(1) The directive to maintain the status quo ante was without prejudice to the authority of the Ad Hoc Committee to modify this directive such as the evidence may warrant. In its Comment filed with the Ad Hoc Committee on February 23, 1998, the IBP Board prayed that the Resolutions of the Supreme Court be modified by directing that the suspension of petitioners should be without pay, pending the resolution of the case. The IBP Board pointed out, among other things, that it would be inequitable to allow petitioners to receive compensation without rendering services.

(2) In its Comment to the Petition to Cite Respondent IBP Board for Contempt, the Board argued that there was no necessity for the immediate restoration of petitioners status as suspended employees with pay because the petitioners rights will be adequately protected since they will be entitled to backwages if their dismissal is declared invalid. Moreover, in view of the manifestation of the petitioners that they were not willing to refund what salaries would have been paid to them, if their dismissal is upheld, there would be grave and irreparable injury to the IBP if the Supreme Court Resolution were immediately complied with.

(3) The February 3 Resolution of the Supreme Court did not grant the prayer of petitioners that IBP be ordered to cease and desist from enforcing its January 10, 1998 Resolution and did not expressly order the reinstatement of the petitioners. There was plausible reason to opine that the Supreme Court could not have intended to place petitioners under preventive suspension with pay for an indefinite period, otherwise it would unequivocally have so stated, and made the order immediately executory.

Contempt proceedings are commonly treated as criminal in nature, and all reasonable doubt must be resolved in favor of the alleged contemner. And a person cannot be held for contempt unless the act that is required to be done is clearly and exactly defined.

Under the circumstances, we do not find respondent IBP Board liable for contempt.[27]

In conclusion, after a thorough consideration of the case, the Court accepts and adopts for the most part the report, findings and recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee subject to the modifications heretofore discussed and hereafter finally adjudged in the dispositive portions of this resolution.

A passing remark. In his letter, dated 04 May 1998, Associate Justice Jesus M. Elbinias informed the Court, through the Clerk of Court, that he was recusing himself from the case for personal reasons. The Court, entertaining no doubt on the independence of mind and objectivity of Mr. Justice Elbinias, in its resolution of 05 May 1998, rejected His Honors inhibition for lack of merit. That notwithstanding, Justice Elbinias did not sign the report and recommendations submitted by the Ad Hoc Committee and instead manifested his non-participation in the proceedings. The Court cannot help but express disappointment over his disregard of its 05th May 1998 directive.

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves, as it is hereby so RESOLVED:

1. To DISMISS all the charges against Atty. Jose Grapilon for lack of merit;

2. To DIRECT Atty. Grapilon to immediately transfer, or cause the transfer of the funds of the IBP Savings and Loan Association from his name to the name of the Association, its Board of Directors or its duly authorized representatives;

3. To DIRECT the IBP Board of Governors to reinstate complainants to their former positions;

4. To DIRECT complainants to pay a FINE of P2,000.00 each for precipitately seeking media attention to air their complaints; and

5. To DIRECT the IBP Board of Governors to fully implement the status quo ante order of 03 February 1998 by paying the salaries of complainants from 10 January 1998 until their reinstatement to service or the payment of separation, as the case may be, and to ADMONISH the IBP Board of Governors for its failure to comply with said status quo ante order of 03 February 1998.

IT IS SO DIRECTED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Martinez, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, and Buena, JJ, concur.

Gonzaga-Reyes, J., no part.



[1] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 138-139.

[2] Ibid., p. 140.

[3] Ibid., pp. 202-203.

[4] Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 452-453.

[5] Report and Recommendations, p. 9.

[6] Ibid., p. 11.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., pp. 12-13.

[9] Ibid., pp. 13-14.

[10] Ibid., pp. 17-18.

[11] Ibid., p. 25.

[12] Ibid., p. 26.

[13] Ibid., p. 26.

[14] Ibid., pp. 27-28.

[15] Ibid., pp. 28-30.

[16] Ibid., p. 30.

[17] Ibid., pp. 31-32.

[18] Report, pp. 37-38.

[19] Report, p. 39.

[20] Report, p. 40.

[21] Composed of Associate Justices Teodoro R. Padilla, Abraham F. Sarmiento and Carolina C. Grio-Aquino.

[22] Ibid., pp. 41-45.

[23] At p. 69.

[24] Ibid., pp. 47-51.

[25] Ibid., pp. 56-57.

[26] Ibid., pp. 57-61.

[27] Ibid., pp. 63-68.