Republic of the
FLORENDA V. TOBIAS,
- versus -
MANUEL Q. LIMSIACO, JR., Presiding
Judge, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Valladolid-San Enrique-Pulupandan,
A.M. No. MTJ-09-1734
[Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 07-1933-MTJ]
CARPIO, J., Chairperson,
January 19, 2011
This administrative case stemmed from the complaint filed by complainant Florenda V. Tobias against respondent Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., Presiding Judge of the Fourth Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Valladolid-San Enrique-Pulupandan, Negros Occidental. Complainant charged respondent with corruption for allegedly offering package deals to litigants who plan to file cases in his court.
In her verified Complaint
P30,000.00, respondent would provide the lawyer, prepare the
necessary pleadings, and ensure a favorable decision in the ejectment case
which they contemplated to file against the spouses Raymundo and Francisca
Batalla. Fegidero allegedly required them to pay the initial amount of P10,000.00
and the remaining balance would be paid in the course of the proceedings. It was made clear that they would not get any
judicial relief from their squatter problem unless they accepted the package
Further, complainant alleged that on
P10,000.00 to respondent at his
residence. Subsequently, an ejectment
case was filed in respondents court, entitled Reynold
V. Tobias, represented by his Attorneyin-fact Lorna V. Vollmer v. Spouses
Raymundo Batalla and Francisca Batalla, docketed as Civil Case No.
06-007-V. Respondent allegedly assigned a certain Atty.
Robert G. Juanillo to represent the complainant in the ejectment case. Complainant stated that respondent, however,
immediately demanded for an additional payment of P10,000.00. She
allegedly refused to give the additional amount and earned the ire of
respondent. She asked her sister, Lorna
Vollmer, to request Atty. Robert Juanillo to voluntarily withdraw as counsel,
which he did on
In his Comment,
respondent denounced the allegation that he offers package deals to
prospective litigants as malicious, baseless and a lie. He denied that he demanded from complainant the
additional payment of
P10,000.00. He alleged that he does not know
complainant and she is a total stranger to him.
Respondent attached to his Comment the Affidavit
P10,000.00 from complainants
sister, Lorna Vollmer. From the P10,000.00,
he paid filing fees and miscellaneous
fees in the amount of P3,707.00, while the remaining balance of P6,293.00
was paid to him for his services, consisting of the preparation and filing of the
complaint for ejectment, including acceptance fee.
Respondent also attached to his Comment the Affidavit
Meanwhile, the ejectment case was assigned to Judge Herminigildo S.
Octaviano, Municipal Trial Court in Cities,
In his Report dated
Moreover, complainant testified that respondent neither personally received
from her the initial payment of
P10,000.00 for the alleged package deal
nor personally asked from her for an
additional payment of P10,000.00. It was her sister, Lorna Vollmer, who told
her through telephone about the demand for an additional P10,000.00, but
she (complainant) did not send the money.
Complainant testified that she was the one who went to the house of Atty. Robert Juanillo, bringing with her the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel prepared by respondent for Atty. Juanillo to sign.
Respondent and Court Stenographer Salvacion Fegidero categorically
denied the accusation that they had a package deal with Lorna Vollmer.
Respondent testified that he met and
talked with Vollmer when she went to his court to inquire about the filing of
an ejectment case against the spouses Raymundo and Francisca Batalla. Respondent advised Vollmer that since there
was no lawyer in
P10,000.00 from Vollmer.
Further, respondent testified that he met with complainant after the ejectment case was filed, when she went to his court and told him that she was withdrawing the services of Atty. Robert Juanillo. Respondent admitted that he prepared the motion for the withdrawal of appearance of Atty. Juanillo, since respondent wanted to help complainant as she said it was urgent, but respondent did not charge her.
Atty. Robert Juanillo testified that he received the amount of
from Lorna Vollmer at the Municipal Court of Valladolid, Negros
Occidental. From the amount, he paid
filing fees amounting to P3,707.00 to the Clerk of Court of the
Municipal Circuit Court of Valladolid-Pulupandan and San Enrique, which payment
was evidenced by five official receipts. Atty. Juanillo testified that the
balance of P6,293.00 was payment
for his legal services.
Court Stenographer Salvacion Fegidero denied that she was involved in
the alleged package deal complained of by Florenda Tobias. She testified that she met Lorna Vollmer for
the first time when Vollmer went to the court in Villadolid and asked if there was a lawyer in
Investigating Judge Guanzon found that the complainant did not have
personal knowledge of the alleged package deals to litigants who file cases
in the court of respondent. The allegations in the Complaint were all based on
the information relayed to complainant though telephone by her sister, Lorna
Vollmer. During the investigation, complainant admitted that respondent did not
personally receive from her the amount of
P10,000.00 as payment for the alleged
package deal, and respondent did not ask
from her an additional P10,000.00.
According to Investigating Judge Guanzon, the only person who could have
shed light on the alleged offer of package deals to litigants was Lorna
Vollmer, complainants sister. Unfortunately, Vollmer was not present during
the investigation. Per manifestation of complainant, Vollmer was then in
Nevertheless, Investigating Judge Guanzon stated that although the alleged offer of package deals by respondent to litigants was unsubstantiated, it was improper for respondent to talk to prospective litigants in his court and to recommend lawyers to handle cases. Likewise, Judge Guanzon found respondents act of preparing the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel of Atty. Robert Juanillo to be improper and unethical.
Investigating Judge Guanzon recommended the dismissal of the administrative complaint against respondent as regards the alleged offer of package deals to litigants who plan to file cases in his court. However, Judge Guanzon recommended that respondent be reprimanded for talking to a prospective litigant in his court, recommending the counsel to handle the case, and preparing the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel of Atty. Robert Juanillo, which pleading was filed in respondents court and was acted upon by him.
In a Resolution dated
The OCA found respondents acts, consisting of (1) advising Lorna Vollmer
about the ejectment case she was about to file before his court; (2)
recommending Atty. Robert Juanillo as counsel of the complainant in the
ejectment case; and (3) helping complainant to prepare the Motion to Withdraw
as Counsel, to be violative of the rules on integrity, impartiality,
and propriety contained
in the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary. The OCA recommended that the case be
re-docketed as a regular administrative matter and that respondent be found
guilty of gross misconduct constituting violations of the New Code of Judicial
Conduct and be fined in the amount of
In a Resolution dated
The Court agrees with the findings of Investigating Judge Guanzon that complainant failed to prove by substantial evidence her allegation that respondent offers package deals to prospective litigants in his court.
However, the investigation revealed that respondent committed acts unbecoming of a judge, in particular, talking to a prospective litigant in his court, recommending a lawyer to the litigant, and preparing the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel of Atty. Robert Juanillo, which pleading was filed in his court and was acted upon by him. The conduct of a judge should be beyond reproach and reflective of the integrity of his office. Indeed, as stated by the OCA, the said acts of respondent violate Section 1 of Canon 2 (Integrity), Section 2 of Canon 3 (Impartiality), and Section 1 of Canon 4 (Propriety) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, thus:
Integrity is essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but also to the personal demeanor of judges.
SECTION 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.
x x x x
Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial office. It applies not only to the decision itself but also to the process by which the decision is made.
x x x x
SEC. 2. Judges shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of court, maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal profession and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of the judiciary.
Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the activities of a judge.
SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.
SEC. 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.
The aforementioned acts of respondent constitute gross misconduct. Misconduct means a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, willful in character, improper or wrong behavior. Gross has been defined as out of all measure, beyond allowance; flagrant; shameful; such conduct as is not to be excused. Respondents act of preparing the Motion to Withdraw the Appearance of Atty. Juanillo as counsel of complainant is inexcusable. In so doing, respondent exhibited improper conduct that tarnished the integrity and impartiality of his court, considering that the said motion was filed in his own sala and was acted upon by him.
Gross misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct is a serious charge under Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court. Under Section 11, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, the sanctions against a respondent guilty of a serious charge may be any of the following:
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
A fine of more
P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00.
In imposing the proper sanction
against respondent, the Court takes note that respondent had been found guilty
of grave misconduct in A.M. No. MTJ-03-1509 and was fined
P20,000.00, with a
warning against repetition of the same or similar act. Moreover, per verification from court
records, respondent compulsorily retired from the service on
WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., former Presiding Judge of
the Fourth Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Valladolid-San Enrique-Pulupandan,
Negros Occidental, is found GUILTY
of gross misconduct for which he is FINED in the amount of Twenty-five
Thousand Pesos (
The Office of the Court Administrator is DIRECTED to deduct the fine of P25,000.00
from the retirement benefits due to Judge Limsiaco, Jr.
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice Associate Justice
 Rollo, pp. 8-9.
 Also referred to as Fedigero in the Report of Investigating Judge Guanzon.
 Rollo, p. 41.
 New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, Canon 2, Sec. 1.
 New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, Canon 3, Sec. 2.
 New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, Canon 4, Sec. 1.
v. Ibay, A.M. No. RTJ-06-1984,
 Go v. Costelo, Jr., A.M. No. P-08-2450,
 Entitled Discipline of Judges of Regular and Special Courts and Justices of the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan.
 Gamboa-Mijares v. Judge Limsiaco, Jr., 458 Phil. 282 (2003).