Republic of the
DANIEL G. SEVILLA,
JUDGE FRANCISCO S. LINDO, METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 55,
A.M. No. MTJ-08-1714
[Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 08-2016-
CARPIO MORALES, Chairperson,
VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.
February 9, 2011
D E C I S I O N
A trial judge who allows, or abets, or tolerates numerous unreasonable postponements of the trial, whether out of inefficiency or indolence, or out of bias towards a party, is administratively liable.
Sevilla alleged that he was the private complainant in Criminal Case No. J-L00-4260, which was filed on June 10, 2003, and raffled to Branch 55, presided by Judge Lindo; that he testified once in the case, but his testimony pertained only to his personal circumstances; that after he gave such partial testimony, Judge Lindo adjourned the session for lack of material time, and persistently reset the subsequent hearings for lack of material time; that Judge Lindos indifference was designed to force him to accept the offer of an amicable settlement made by the accused; and that Judge Lindos coercion was manifested in open court and in his chamber by telling him in the presence of the accused: Mr. Sevilla, ang hirap mo namang pakiusapan. Konting pera lang yan. Bahala ka maghintay sa wala.
Sevilla asserted that Judge Lindo thereby violated Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires that a judge should administer justice impartially and without delay; that Judge Lindo also violated Section 1, Rule 135 of the Rules of Court, which mandates that justice be impartially administered without unnecessary delay; that Judge Lindos unreasonable resetting of the hearings 12 times rendered inconsequential his right to the speedy disposition of his case; and that such resettings were made upon the instance of Judge Lindo, not upon motion of the parties.
In his comment dated July 26, 2007, Judge Lindo refuted the charge, claiming that the postponements were upon valid grounds; that he set the initial trial on August 17, 2004, but due to Sevillas absence on said date, he ordered the provisional dismissal of the case upon motion of the Defense and with the express conformity of the accused and the public prosecutor; that in the interest of fairness, he set aside the provisional dismissal and reinstated the case upon motion of Sevilla; and that he set the initial trial on October 19, 2004, but the hearing was reset on December 7, 2004, and was further reset on February 1, 2005 due to his official leave of absence.
Judge Lindo cited the other dates of hearings and the corresponding reasons for their postponement, as follows:
Sevilla submitted his reply on
EVALUATION: While it may appear that the reasons or justifications proffered by respondent Judge seem acceptable, a close scrutiny of the results of the judicial audit conducted by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on July 12 to 19, 2007 in the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 55, Malabon City, of which Respondent was the Presiding Judge until he was compulsorily retired from the service on July 24, 2007, revealed that quite a number of cases that have been submitted for decision remained unacted upon. Twenty-three cases, seventeen of which were undecided beyond the 90-day day reglementary period, seven cases with pending incident/motion submitted for resolution which have been unresolved, 6 of which beyond the reglementary period. There were twenty-one cases with no action taken since their filing in court.
The judicial audit also revealed the following findings:
(1) there was no proper recordkeeping;
(2) they had no updated inventory of cases;
(3) there were twenty-one (21) inherited cases inside the chambers of Judge Lindo which were submitted for decision way back in the 80s. There were not reflected in the docket inventories submitted to OCA but these were reportedly just found in 2000 while the branch staff were relocating to another place following a fire that gutted their courthouse in July 2005 and were not properly turned over to him;
(4) case folders of one hundred seventy-five (175) criminal cases were not presented to the audit team for examination;
(5) two hundred seventy (270) criminal cases were not reported/reflected in the docket inventory that was subsequently updated up to 2007;
the telling results of the judicial audit were not an irrefragably clear
manifestation of inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the courts branch, more
particularly its presiding judge, how could the herein respondent Judge
convincingly argue that there was indeed no delay in the disposition of the
case in respect of Criminal Case No. J-L00-4260. This Office, after a
circumspect evaluation of the records at hand, together with the report on the
judicial audit conducted at the MeTC, Branch 55,
be deducted from his retirement benefits.
submitted for the consideration of the Honorable Court is our recommendation
that the instant complaint be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter
and respondent Judge be found GUILTY
of Delay in the Disposition of Cases tantamount to Inefficiency and
Incompetence in the Performance of Official Duties and be meted a fine of
to be deducted from the retirement benefits of the herein respondent Judge who
was compulsorily retired from the service effective July 24, 2007.
On February 17, 2009, Judge Lindo
filed an ex parte manifestation, stating
that he was involved in A.M. No. 08-3-73-MeTC entitled Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted at the Metropolitan Trial
Court, Branch 55, Malabon City, another administrative case; that the
Court, in the resolution dated April 22, 2008, ordered the release of his
retirement benefits subject to the retention of
P100,000.00 and to clearance
requirements; and that the OCAs Docket
Division refused to issue a clearance due to the pendency of this case;
and that the P100,000.00 retention be considered as sufficient for both A.M.
No. 08-3-73-METC and this case.
As the OCAs report stated, Judge
Lindo mandatorily retired from the service on
WHEREFORE, retired Judge Francisco S. Lindo, former Presiding Judge
P20,000.00) in accordance with Section 11, Rule 140 of the
Revised Rules of Court, as amended, to be deducted from the One Hundred
Thousand Pesos ( P100,000,00.) we
ordered withheld from his retirement benefits pursuant to our Resolution dated P80,000.00).
By resolution dated
The only issue is whether or not retired Judge Lindo was administratively liable for the numerous postponements in Criminal Case No. J-L00-4260.
We agree with
and adopt the report and recommendation of the OCA that Judge Lindo be held liable
for delay in the
disposition of his cases that was tantamount to inefficiency and incompetence
in the performance of his official duties, and that he be meted a fine of
to be deducted from his retirement benefits due to his compulsory retirement from
the Judiciary effective July 24, 2007. We point out that the findings of the
OCA were based on the records of Judge Lindos Branch that the OCA subjected to
a judicial audit in anticipation of his mandatory retirement.
Although the postponement of a hearing in a civil or criminal case may at times be unavoidable, the Court disallows undue or unnecessary postponements of court hearings, simply because they cause unreasonable delays in the administration of justice and, thus, undermine the peoples faith in the Judiciary, aside from aggravating the financial and emotional burdens of the litigants. For this reason, the Court has enjoined that postponements and resettings should be allowed only upon meritorious grounds, and has consistently reminded all trial judges to adopt a firm policy against improvident postponements.
The strict judicial policy on postponements applies with more force and greater reason to prosecutions involving violations of BP 22, whose prompt resolution has been ensured by their being now covered by the Rule on Summary Procedure. The Court has pronounced that the Rule on Summary Procedure was precisely adopted to promote a more expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases, and to enforce the constitutional rights of litigants to the speedy disposition of cases.
Yet, Judge Lindo postponed
five hearings for lack of material time without bothering to state the specific
causes why his court lacked material time. He also reset four hearings supposedly
upon the agreement of the parties, which the complainant credibly denied because
that was prejudicial to his interest. He even cancelled the hearing of May 25,
2007 on the ground that he had to file on May 28, 2007 his application for
compulsory retirement and leave of absence until July 24, 2007, and set the
next hearing on August 17, 2007, when he could have set the hearing sooner either
on May 26 or May 27 in view of his impending long period of absence. Considering that we cannot discern any rationality
for his actions in the handling of Criminal Case No. J-L00-4260, a simple BP 22
case involving only
P2,000.00, we can only
adjudge such actuations as smacking either of indolence and utter inefficiency,
or of bias, if not hostility, towards Sevilla, or both.
Judge Lindo cited the
absence of the public prosecutor in one hearing and of the PAO lawyer in two
hearings as justifications for the cancellation of the hearings. Such excuses
for delay were not credible, however, for he could have summoned a relief
prosecutor and a relief PAO attorney, or made arrangements for their attendance
pursuant to the Courts Circular 1-89 (dated
2. The Presiding Judge shall make arrangements with the prosecutor and the CLAO attorney so that a relief prosecutor and CLAO attorney are always available in case the regular prosecutor and CLAO attorney are absent; 
As can be seen, Judge Lindo made or allowed too many unreasonable postponements that inevitably delayed the proceedings and prevented the prompt disposition of Criminal Case No. J-L00-4260 out of manifest bias in favor of the accused, to the prejudice of Sevilla as the complainant in Criminal Case No. J-L00-4260. Thus, he flagrantly violated the letter and spirit both of Rule 1.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which enjoined all judges to administer justice impartially and without delay; and of Canon 6 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, which required him as a trial judge to be prompt in disposing of all matters submitted to him, remembering that justice delayed is often justice denied.
That his conduct proceeded from his bias towards the accused rendered his acts and omissions as gross misconduct. It is settled that the misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law, or disregard of long-standing rules, which must be established by substantial evidence; otherwise, the misconduct is only simple.
Gross misconduct consisting in violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct is a serious charge under Section 8 of Rule 140, Rules of Court, to wit:
Section 8. Serious charges. Serious charges include:
3. Gross misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct;
and is punished under Section 11 of Rule 140, Rules of Court, thuswise:
Section 11. Sanctions. A. If the respondent is guilty of a serious charge, any of the following sanctions may be imposed:
1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or controlled corporations. Provided, however, that the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits;
2. Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months; or
3. A fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00
With Judge Lindo having
earlier retired, only the third sanction of fine can be a practical sanction. In
Hernandez v. De Guzman, the Court imposed a fine
P5,000.00 on the
respondent judge for allowing frequent and groundless postponements of the
hearings in a criminal case. Similarly, in Arquero v. Mendoza, the Court meted a fine
of P5,000.00 on the
respondent judge for allowing unreasonable delay in the proceedings of prosecutions
for a violation of BP 22.
However, the recommendation of the OCA for a fine in the amount of P21,000.00,
to be deducted from his retirement benefits, is fully warranted, considering that Judge Lindo was previously fined for undue
delay in rendering a decision in A.M. No. 08-3-73-METC.
WHEREFORE, we find
and declare respondent retired Judge Francisco S. Lindo guilty of grave
misconduct, and, accordingly, punish him with a fine of
be deducted from his retirement benefits.
The incumbent Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan
Trial Court, Branch 55, in
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
ARTURO D. BRION DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
* In lieu of Justice Maria Lourdes P. A.
Sereno who is on leave per Office Order No. 944 dated
 Rollo, pp. 13-22.
 Penned by Associate Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing (retired), reported in 594 SCRA 492.
 Rollo, p. 114.
 Sevilla v. Quintin, A.M. No.
 Producers Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 125468, October 9, 2000, 342 SCRA 327, 334.
 Re: Report on the Judicial Audit
Conducted in the RTC of Kidapawan, Brs. 17 and 23, Kabacan, Brs. 16 & 17, North
Cotobato, AM No. 96-5-169-RTC, May 9, 2003, 403 SCRA 130, 133; Gallego
v. Doronila, A.M. No. MTJ-00-1278,
 Bernaldez v. Avelino, A.M.No.
 See also Matias v. Plan, A.M. No.
 Civil Service Commission v. Ledesma, G.R.
 A.M. No. RTJ-93-1064,
 A.M. No. MTJ-99-1209,
 Supra, note 10.