Chief Justice Renato C. Corona has taken a no-nonsense approach in cracking the judicial whip against misfits in both the Judiciary and the Bar.
The Supreme Court dismissed for gross misconduct a male Regional Trial Court (RTC) clerk who not only failed to comply with Court directives but was also found positive for using prohibited drugs in 2004.
In a 13-page per curiam decision, the Court also ordered the perpetual disqualification from public office of Rene de Guzman, Clerk, RTC of Guimba, Nueva Ecija, Branch 31 and forfeiture of all his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits.
The case stemmed from the complaint of one Atty. Hugo B. Sansano, Jr. relative to the alleged incompetence/inefficiency of the Guimba, Nueva Ecija, RTC in the transmittal of the records of a criminal case. De Guzman and the Officer-in-Charge of the said RTC were eventually cleared of administrative liability, but the Court required the former to comment on allegation that he was using illegal drugs and had been manifesting irrational and queer behavior while at work.
Then Presiding Judge Napoleon R. Sta. Romana (who retired in 2009) requested the Nueva Ecija Provincial Crime Laboratory Office to conduct a drug test on De Guzman who tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (marijuana) and methamphetamine (shabu). On several occasions, the Court required De Guzman file his pleadings on the charge of misconduct relative to the alleged use of prohibited drugs but he failed to comply with the directive.
The Court underscored that De Guzman’s outright dismissal was not grounded only on his being a drug user but was likewise anchored on his contumacious and repeated acts of not heeding the directives of this Court.
“In fine, we agree with the OCA [Office of the Court Administrator] that by his repeated and contumacious conduct of disrespecting the Court’s directives, De Guzman is guilty of gross misconduct and has already forfeited his privilege of being an employee of the Court. Likewise, we can no longer countenance his manifestations of queer behavior, bordering on absurd, irrational, and irresponsible, because it has greatly affected his job performance and efficiency. By using prohibited drugs, and being a front-line representative of the Judiciary, De Guzman has exposed to risk the very institution which he serves. It is only by weeding out the likes of De Guzman from the ranks that we would be able to preserve the integrity of this institution,” the Court said.
The Court also has indefinitely suspended from the practice of law Atty. Oliver Lozano and his daughter Atty. Evangeline Lozano-Endriano for grave professional misconduct. The Court found the Lozanos to have misquoted and misused constitutional provisions and showed “a reckless lack of respect and disregard for our system of justice” for filing sans any legal or factual basis a criminal complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against retired Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. and retired SC Justice Alicia Austria-Martinez. The complaint against the retired justices had been previously dismissed.
The Court held the Lozanos “unfit to continue to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney.” The suspension took effect immediately. The Court also held that any proven violation of the said suspension order would result in the Lozanos’ outright disbarment.
The Court did not give weight to the Lozanos’ claim, among others, that their misquotation of the Constitution was inadvertent and that the mistake was a mere typographical error.
The Lozanos’ criminal complaint against the retired justices stemmed from the latter’s participation in the Resolution in the consolidated First Division cases of Heirs of Antonio Pael v. CA and Destura v. CA. Chief Justice Davide, then Division Chair, and Justice Martinez, were being held accountable by the Lozanos for alleged unlawful acts, including overturning the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals and reversing with a majority of three Justices a decision that should have been approved by five Justices in violation of the Constitution and the law, thus causing “undue injury” to the parties. It turned out that Lozanos were citing the 1973 Constitution.
In a separate ruling penned by Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the Court slapped Atty. James Benedict Florido with a one-year suspension for violating Canon 19 and Rules 1.02 and 15.07 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
The Court held that a lawyer must employ only fair and honest means to attain the lawful objectives of his client and that it’s one’s duty to counsel his clients to use peaceful and lawful methods in seeking justice and refrain from doing an intentional wrong to their adversaries.
Atty. Florido, counsel for the minority stockholders of the Rural Bank of Calape, Inc. (RBCI) Bohol, and his clients forcibly took over the management and the premises of RBCI on April 1, 2002 without a valid court order.
In another ponencia by Senior Justice Carpio, the Court fined (Ret.) Judge Antonio A. Carbonell of the San Fernando City, La Union Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, PhP10,000 for simple misconduct to be deducted from Carbonell’s retirement benefits.
Upholding the OCA’s findings, the Court held that Judge Carbonell, as pairing judge of complainant Judge Mona Lisa T. Tabora of the San Fernando City, La Union RTC, Branch 26, should have the latter’s conformity in rendering his own decision in the civil case they were handling as a matter of judicial courtesy and respect. The Court said that Carbonell had no authority to render a decision on the subject civil case since Judge Tabora was already present and performing her functions in court at that time.
Likewise, the Court found Judge Carbonell not only disregarded the functions of the clerk of court as custodian of court records but also undermined the integrity and confidentiality of the court when he directly furnished the litigant a copy of the subject decision.
Two more employees were sanctioned in two more separate rulings penned by Senior Justice Carpio.
Rhodora A. Rantael, Cashier I, Office of the Clerk of Court, Mandaluyong City Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 60, was fined PhP1,000 for simple misconduct. The Court, however, dismissed for lack of merit the complaint against Cristita L. Caya, Records Officer I, Office of the Clerk of Court, of same MeTC.
The Court directed the Office of the City Prosecutor of Mandaluyong to proceed with the hearings on the criminal complaint for Slander and Physical Injuries filed by Caya against Rantael.
The Court said Rantael’s acts in taunting and uttering invectives at Caya and causing the latter physical harm by pulling her hair within the court premises, and during working hours, exhibit discourtesy and disrespect not only to her co-workers but also to the court, falling short of the standard laid down in the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel. Caya, being the aggrieved party, should not be made answerable to the foul acts done to her by a co-employee, the Court said.
Emma Baldonado Curamen, Court Interpreter I, Municipal Trial Court of Rizal in Nueva, Ecija was suspended for six months and one day without pay for dishonesty and falsification of a public document, particularly a birth certificate. She was warned that a repetition of the same act in the future would be dealt with more severely. (AM No. P-08-2535, OCA v. Reyes, June 23, 2010; AM No. 10-1-13-SC, Re: Subpoena Duces Tecum Dated January 11, 2010 of Acting Director Aleu A. Amante, PIAB-C, Office of the Ombudsman, Res., June 15, 2010; AC No. 5736, Rural Bank of Calape, Inc. Bohol v. Florido, June 18, 2010; AM No. RTJ-08-2145, Judge Tabora v. Judge Carbonell, June 18, 2010; AM No. P-08-2549; AM No. P-09-2632, OCA v. Caya, June 18, 2010, Anonymous v. Curamen, June 18, 2010)