A.M No. P-89-348

These consolidated cases refer to three complaints filed with the Court Administrator against Melchor Divinagracia, Aide at the Office of the Clerk of Court, of the Regional Trial Court, Iloilo City.

On August 3, 1989 Estelita Padrones, wife of an accused in certain criminal cases pending in the above Regional Trial Court, wrote Ricardo llarde, Executive Judge thereof, accusing Mr. Divinagracia of collecting the total sum of P6,750.00 from her, allegedly in payment for a surety bond for the provisional release of her husband, but which he allegedly converted for his personal use.
In his answer, Divinagracia did not deny having received the above amount from the complainant, but insisted that he sought merely to assist her.  He also claims that he has returned P1,300.00.
Not too long later, or on August 11, 1989, Esperanza Divinagracia wrote Judge Ilarde, alleging that Mr. Divinagracia collected from her the sum of P1,300.00, allegedly as “grease money” for the prosecutor, in order to expedite certain pending criminal proceedings involving the death of her brother.
In his answer, the respondent claimed that the complainant had voluntarily given him money for expenses in following up the case, and that he volunteered assistance because they were blood relatives.
As a result of the twin complaints, Judge Ilarde commenced an investigation.  The same was heard on June 19, 1990, in which Padrones and Joshua Alim, a radio announcer, presented evidence and marked the affidavits of Mary Ann Castro, Herminia Capagal, and Roque Berdugo, the respondent’s co-employees at the Iloilo Clerk of Court’s office.  The respondent, on the other hand, presented an affidavit of desistance allegedly executed by Padrones.
Judge Ilarde later submitted his findings and found that the respondent had first approached Padrones at the time her husband was turned over to the Regional Trial Court, and asked money allegedly for documentary stamps required for the bail bond, in the sum of P500.00.  Subsequently, he collected a total of P850.00 more, allegedly for “raffle” and other expenses.  He also received the total of P5,400.00 more, in payment to a certain Atty. Marañon to have the recommended bail allegedly reduced, for a grand total of P6,750.00.
Judge Ilarde further reported that on February 3, 1989, Padrones made inquiries from the respondent concerning the bail and the release of her husband.  The respondent reportedly replied that he was sick and had spent all her money for medicine, but promised to return it.
Judge Ilarde likewise found that the respondent had met Divinagracia by chance at the capitol building, as the latter was following up the case with the provincial prosecutor, who had issued a resolution recommending the filing of an information.  The complainant was worried why no warrant of arrest had been issued, and forthwith, the respondent volunteered to make a personal inquiry with the prosecutor.  Meanwhile, the latter asked a total of P300.00 from her, allegedly for his expenses.  A week later, he collected P800.00 more to enable him supposedly to expedite the case.  Subsequently, he asked for P1,500.00, although the complainant could afford just P200.00.  The sum was allegedly for the raffle of the case and the issuance of the appropriate warrant.  By then, the complainant had given a total of P1,300.00.
According to Judge Ilarde, the complainant herself personally followed up the issuance of warrant in question and apparently had it in no time.  The respondent himself later returned the money given to him.
On July 21, 1989, the complainant saw Herminia Capagal of the Clerk of Court’s office, who disclosed that the respondent never gave her office any money and informed her that her office did not require payment of money.
On December 9, 1989, the respondent himself saw Capagal at the provincial capitol building, and in the words of Judge Ilarde, “pointing a finger and casting dagger looks at her,” and uttered:  “What is it that you are spreading around?  You daughter of a whore, by and by I will kill you.  Why are you testifying against me?  If you don’t desist testifying against me, we will have to kill each other!”
Apparently, the respondent’s outburst was due to Capagal’s participation in the investigation of the respondent, and cooperation with the complainants.
Judge Ilarde found Melchor Divinagracia guilty as charged, first, of two counts of dishonesty (for collecting money from Padrones and Divinagracia), second, of grave misconduct (for confronting Capagal).  He recommended the penalty of six months suspension without pay and reprimand.
On September 18, 1990, Deputy Administrator Juanito Bernad[*] submitted his findings confirming Judge Ilarde’s findings.  He demurred, however, as to the penalty, and submitted that six months suspension without pay “is not commensurate with the gravity of the offenses.”
The records establish the fact that on the occasions above-mentioned, Melchor Divinagracia did approach Estelita Padrones and Esperanza Divinagracia, purportedly, to assist them:  as to Padrones, to enable her to post bail for her detained husband, and as to Divinagracia, to expedite her case pending with the office of the provincial prosecutor.  In both cases, however, all the respondent did was to milk, in a manner of speaking, the two for money which, in the first place, neither were required to pay as a legal obligation to him or to the proper authorities, and in the second place, were not in fact paid to persons whom he represented he was paying (for the bail bond and alleged raffling of the case with respect to Padrones, and for alleged grease money to the prosecutor handling the case, with respect to Divinagracia).  The records show on the other hand that the respondent pocketed the amounts he collected, although he made full restitution later.
It is one of the acts constituting estafa, to falsely pretend “to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions…”[1] and so also, to pretend “to have bribed any Government employee…”[2] By professing to have influence and “connections” in the courts the respondent succeeded in collecting the sum of P6,750.00 from Padrones and P1,300.00 from Divinagracia.  This is estafa and at the very least, dishonesty.
Although the respondent restored the money subsequently, restitution will not mitigate administrative liability because by his brazen conduct, he had consummated an act that by itself is a disservice to the administration of justice and an affront to image of the courts before the public.
Worse, he sought to obstruct the very investigation being conducted by Judge Ilarde by harassing Herminia Capagal and heaping reproaches on her for cooperating in that investigation.  This is not only grave misconduct on his part but also indicates his lack of remorse for what he had done to his two victims.
We agree with the Office of the Court Administrator that six months suspension is too lenient amid the gravity of the offenses charged.  It may be true that the respondent has been in the service for eighteen years, he has blemished his record irreparably and in the circumstances, we believe that dismissal is warranted.
WHEREFORE, Melchor Divinagracia is hereby found guilty of two (2) counts of dishonesty and one (1) count of grave misconduct, and is hereby DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado, and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur.


A.M No. P-88-238

This administrative matter refers to the charges of gross misconduct and falsification of official document brought by complainant Judge Generoso V. Mirasol of the Municipal Trial Court of Pio Duran, Albay against his Clerk of Court, Jose de la Torre, Jr.

On July 28, 1988, the complainant Judge filed a letter-complaint,[1] entitled “Report,” with the Court Administrator seeking the dismissal of the respondent from the service based on the following grounds:
1) That the respondent had caused the release of the accused in Criminal Case No. 1351 entitled People vs. Aquino Nares (for Homicide) without an approved Bail Bond and with the use of a falsified Order of Release;
2) That in violation of office rules and regulations, the respondent had brought out court records to his house; and
3) That the respondent had extorted money from some parties in cases pending in court in exchange for an action in their favor.
The respondent Clerk of Court filed his Answer one year later, or on December 29, 1989, after this Court ordered him to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for failure to comply with its previous resolution dated September 28, 1988, ordering him to answer the administrative complaint filed by the petitioner.[2] In his belated Answer, the respondent alleged that the petitioner’s complaint has no basis in fact or in law.
In a resolution of the Court En Banc dated June 7, 1990, the case was referred to Executive Judge Rafael Santelices, Regional Trial Court, Ligao, Albay for investigation, report, and recommendation.  The latter set the case for investigation on August 8, 1990.  But the investigation was postponed several times at the instance of the respondent.  The investigation finally took off on October 27, 1990, with Judge Jose S. Sañez as the Investigating Judge, replacing Judge Santelices who was appointed Presiding Judge of Branch 2 of the Regional Trial Court of Legazpi City.
During the investigation, the complainant manifested that he was not pursuing his charge of extortion because of the difficulty in securing witnesses.  He, however, presented evidence to substantiate the two other grounds, namely:  (1) that of falsifying a court order on the basis of which, the accused in Criminal Case No. 1351 was released; and (2) that of bringing court records out of the court room in violation of his (Judge Mirasol’s) office memorandum.
The factual background of this case, as found by the Investigating Judge and substantiated by evidence, is as follows:
xxx                            xxx                               xxx
x x x [u]pon complaint of the mother of the victim in Criminal Case No. 1351 for Homicide entitled PEOPLE vs. AQUINO NARES who it appeared was discharged from his detention, he [Judge Generoso V. Mirasol] ordered the physical inventory of all his active cases.  As far as he could recall he did not remember approving any bail for the accused in this case nor had he signed an order directing the release of the accused from his detention.  When he asked for the records of this case, the same was (sic) not immediately produced by the respondent who is the records custodian being the clerk of court of his court.  x x x
When eventually the records (of Criminal Case No. 1351) was (sic) produced and he went over it (sic), he discovered in the records of said criminal case that there was a bail bond bearing only the signatures of the accused and the latter’s alleged bondsmen (Exh. A to A-5) and the original copy (of) an Order dated June 22, 1987, with his name typed on the usual right hand side below the body and underneath it an initial of the respondent and on the left hand side the handwritten name or signature of the accused Aquino Nares, approving the bail and ordering the accused’s release from his detention (Exh. “D”).  When later he [Judge Mirasol] went to the office of the Station Commander to verify on what basis was the accused Aquino Nares released, he discovered that Nares was released pursuant to a duplicate or carbon original of the Order dated June 22, 1987 (Exh. “E”), stamped “Original Signed” above his typewritten name and underneath his name the initials of the respondent [Exh. “E-1″) which duplicate original was given to him by the police.  Accordingly, he requested for a certification from the police the entry in the blotter dated June 22, 1987, recording the reason for the release of the accused (Exh. “C”) which Entry No. 332 reads as follows:
For record purposes:  Aquino Nares y Losañes, accused in CC NO. 1351 for Homicide in the MTC, Pioduran, Albay, was released from detention by virtue of an order of release signed by Hon. Generoso V. Mirasol, presiding Judge MTC, Pioduran, Albay, dated June 22, 1987.” (Exh. “C-1″).
x x x In his report to the Court Administrator dated July 28, 1988 he [Judge Mirasol] attached the xerox copies of the unfilled bail bond and the original copy of the order together with the duplicate or carbon original of the same order given by the police (Supreme Court Record, pp. 3 to 6).  A month after, he discovered that the bail bond was already filled up this time showing that the bail bond was approved by the OIC Mayor Constantino del Mundo.  Similarly, he also discovered that the original copy of the Order dated June 22, 1987, now bore the signature of said OIC del Mundo who signed it for and in his (Judge Mirasol’s) absence.  So he (Judge Mirasol) had the tampered bail bond and original order again xeroxed and together with the certification he had previously requested from the police and sent these to the Court Administrator attached to his letter dated November 19, 1989 (Supreme Court Record, pp. 12-15).
As borne (sic) by the records of Criminal Case No. 1351 which consist only of 150 pages, the complainant Judge eventually dismissed the case because the offended party failed to prosecute the same with the latter’s continued failure to appear in the case.  x x x
2. On the Charge of Bringing Home Court Records:
In connection with this charge, petitioner [complainant Judge Mirasol] declared that he has both oral (sic) and written memorandum [sic] (Exh. F) to all court personnels [sic] against the bringing home of court records.  Despite this, the respondent took home the records of Criminal Case No. 1339 entitled PEOPLE vs. CHARLIE OSTRIN for Theft.  This was discovered on March 2, 1990 on the day that the accused was to be arraigned.  The accused in said criminal case as well as the opposing counsels in said case had to wait till almost 11:00 o’clock in the morning for the accused’s arraignment because the records of said case was [sic] not in the court.  Only after, Rodolfo Belbes, the court process server, was ordered by the Judge to get the records at respondent’s house was the arraignment conducted.[3] x x x
With regard to the first charge, the respondent denied any participation in the preparation of the bailbond, except suggesting to the principal and his bondsmen to affix their signatures thereon even prior to completion.  He further alleged that in so far as the Order was concerned, his only participation was to prepare and type the same, after which he affixed his initials and stamped the carbon copies of the “Order” with “Original Signed.”
The respondent likewise denied bringing home the records of Criminal Case No. 1339.  He testified that it was his sister-in-law, Joseline Caballas, the court stenographer, who took the same to his (respondent’s) house for the purpose of seeking his assistance in sending the next notices and subpoenas to the parties in the said case.  Believing the records to be in safe hands and after the complainant Judge announced that the hearing in Criminal Case No. 1339 had been postponed, Joseline Caballas allegedly left the records with him, until they were picked up the following day by the court’s process server when the hearing proceeded anyway.
In his twelve-page Report dated December 21, 1990, the Investigating Judge found the respondent guilty as charged and recommended his dismissal from the service.  Thus:
xxx                            xxx                               xxx
From the evidence submitted by the parties during the investigation, the undersigned investigator finds strong and clear evidence that indeed as charged by Judge Generoso V. Mirasol, Jr., his Clerk of Court, the respondent Jose dela Torre, Jr. falsified the Order dated June 22, 1987.  That as a result and on the basis of said falsified order the accused, Aquino Nares in Criminal Case No. 1351 who was charged with Homicide, was eventually released from his detention.  Further, there is evidence to show that in order to cover his misdeeds after its discovery, the respondent tampered the records by making it appear that both the bail bond and the release order were approved and signed by the then OIC Mayor Constantino del Mundo.
xxx                            xxx                               xxx
x x x And with respect to the second ground, there is the testimony of both Rodolfo Belbes and Joseline Caballas that it was the latter who took the records of Criminal Case No. 1339 to respondent’s house because the then Staff Assistant wanted the assistance or help of the respondent in the sending of the notices.  However, when it is considered that Miss Caballas is the respondent’s sister-in-law, Rodolfo Belbes is a boarder in the respondent’s house and the similarly flimsiest of reason given why the records of Criminal Case No. 1339 was [sic] taken to the respondent’s house on March 1, 1990, namely, that the Staff Assistant who had been 3 or 4 years ahead in the judiciary than Caballas wanted allegedly the help of the respondent in the sending of notices and subpoenas on the next hearing of said case, one is tempted to ignore such explanation.  x x x
xxx                            xxx                               xxx
x x x [t]his investigator suddenly finds himself helpless, in view of the result of his investigation and the gravity of the charge, to recommend a disciplinary action less than or short of what the complainant had prayed for in his complaint if the judiciary is to continue to have the trust, respect and faith of the public.[4]
We are in full accord with the finding of the Investigating Judge that the evidence of guilt against the respondent is clear and strong.  The herein respondent has committed not only one, but several acts constituting grounds for disciplinary action provided for in Sec. 36 (b) of P.D. 807, known as the “Civil Service Decree of the Philippines,” to wit[5]:
xxx                            xxx                               xxx
(b) The following shall be grounds for disciplinary action:
(1)   Dishonesty;
x x x
(4) Misconduct;
x x x
(12) Violation of existing x x x; reasonable office regulations;
(13) Falsification of official document;
x x x
(25) Insubordination;
x x x
(27) Conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
These same grounds are reproduced in Section 46(b), Chapter I, Subtitle A, Title I, Book V of Executive Order No. 292, or the “Administrative Code of 1987.”[6]
The respondent clerk of court is guilty of dishonesty, gross misconduct, and falsification of official documents when he caused to appear that the complainant Judge had approved the bailbond, and ordered the release of the accused in Criminal Case No. 1351, entitled, “People v. A. Nares,” when in fact said Judge did not, as borne out by the records of the case.  When the respondent’s unlawful and dishonest acts were discovered by the complainant Judge, he committed another falsification by accomplishing another bailbond and preparing another release order signed by then OIC Mayor Constantino del Mundo, purporting approval in the absence of complainant judge.  To all legal intents and purposes, the respondent Clerk of Court usurped the functions of the Judge and when found out he tried to cover it up thus aggravating it with another crime.
Likewise, the respondent violated existing reasonable office regulations issued by the complainant Judge ordering him and the other court personnel not to bring to their homes court records.  Despite the said order, the records of Criminal Case No. 1339 were found in respondent’s house on the day of the hearing of the case.  He posits the lame excuse that the Staff Assistant needed his help in preparing the notices and subpoenas to the parties in the case.
Court records are confidential documents.  They must not be taken out of the court without proper authority and without the necessary safeguards to ensure their confi­dentiality and integrity.  No such authority and safeguards were shown to obtain in the present case.  Rather, there is an office memorandum expressly prohibiting it.
We find the reported acts and gross misconduct of the respondent clerk of court sufficiently and satisfactorily proven by incontrovertible evidence submitted by the complainant and now on record.  These acts and gross misconduct destroy the good image of the Judiciary.  We can not countenance them and neither do we allow the perpetrators, like the respondent herein, to remain in office one minute longer.
xxx                            xxx                               xxx
Those who are involved in the administration of justice from the highest to the lowest level must live up to the strictest standard of honesty and integrity in the public service.  x x x
xxx                            xxx                               xxx
x x x [T]hose who cannot live up to this criterion should get out of the government service.  It is as simple as that.[7]
WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent clerk of court, Jose de la Torre, Jr., is hereby DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of his retirement benefits, if any, and with prejudice to his reinstatement in government service, including government-owned or-controlled corporations.
SO ORDERED.
Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado, and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur.

A.M. No. 90-11-2709-RTC

In connection with his appointment as Deputy Sheriff, Regional Trial Court, Manila, effective July 1, 1983, Mr. Rodolfo Torrella submitted his Personal Data Sheet dated June 30, 1983, wherein he represented that he passed the Career Service (Sub-Profesional) examination given on July 21, 1968 at Manila by the Civil Service Commission, when in fact and in truth, his name does not appear in the list of those who passed that examination; and that in support of his aforementioned appointment, Torrella also submitted his supposed previous appointment as Deputy Sheriff, Court of First Instance of Manila, effective November 11, 1975 purportedly approved by the Civil Service Commission; however, upon verification, the records of the Commission did not show that said appointment was acted upon by the Commission.  The signature appearing thereon, purporting to be the signature of Mrs. M.L. Mayuga-Leaño, was found to be spurious.

After a preliminary investigation conducted by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the Board found a prima facie case of dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the Service existed against respondent deputy sheriff, Torrella. The MSPB filed a formal charge against him on March 17, 1986, required him to submit his answer in writing and under oath, within five (5) days from receipt, and to attach thereto a sworn statement of his testimony and those of his witnesses, if any, and other documentary evidence in support of his answer.  He was also directed to state whether he would have a formal investigation or waive his right thereto (p. 69, Rollo).
Respondent deputy sheriff denied the charges against him.  He alleged that the false information in his Personal Data Sheet regarding his non-existent civil service eligibility was based on the certification given to him by his superior in 1974; that he honestly believed it was true as it was allegedly signed by the officers of the Civil Service Commission.  He denied any participation in or personal knowledge of the forgery of the signature on his appointment.  He elected to have a formal investigation and the assistance of counsel.
After numerous postponements at the instance of the respondent, the prosecution presented its evidence ex parte at the hearing on February 27, 1989, personal notice of which had been served to the respondent and his counsel.
After the hearing, the MSPB rendered a decision No. 557 on May 9, 1990 finding that:
“After careful scrutiny of the records of the case, the Board finds the overwhelming unrebutted evidence of the prosecution which points to the fact that indeed respondent is guilty as charged.
“There is no dispute that respondent Rodolfo Torrella submitted a Personal Data Sheet dated June 30, 1983 in support of his reappointment as RTC Deputy Sheriff Branch XIV, Manila wherein in item 18, he claimed to have passed the Career Service (Subprof) Examination on July 21, 1968.
“x x x                         x x x                             x x x
“The claim of respondent in his answer that the certificate eligibility was given to him by his immediate superior deserves scant consideration.  The records of this Commission and as testified by the witness (Ms. Isles) showed that the name of respondent Torrella does not appear in the passing and failing lists in the Career Service (Prof. * Subprof.) examination on the date as claimed by him.
“The Board noted that the appointment dated November 11, 1975 as Deputy Sheriff, issued to respondent was a change of status of appointment from temporary to permanent.  During the hearing, witness Ms. Leano vehemently denied having approved the appointment of respondent and stated that the signature appearing on the face of the appointment is not her signature.  She even submitted her specimen signature to prove that there are discrepancies compared to signature reflected in the appointment.  Hence, the appointment in question was not pass upon [by] the Commission for attestation considering that the signature of the authorized approving official is spurious or forged.  It bears stressing that the Commission normally acts through its authorized representative in the performance of its function in attesting appointments.
“Such being the case, the appointment in question is certainly a spurious document in view of the fact that it did not pass through the Commission for approval since it bears the forged signature of the approving official.
“In summation the records is (sic) replete with substantial evidence to prove the guilt of respondent as charged.  Moreover, his failure to appear in several scheduled hearings despite due notice is a manifestation that he has no evidence to support his defense and his claim of innocence.
“Foregoing premises considered, this Board finds respondent guilty as charged.  Wherefore, he is hereby dismissed from the service effective upon receipt of the decision.
“Let copies of the decision [be] furnished the Court Administrator, Supreme Court; the Regional Trial Court, Branch XIV, Manila for their information and reference.” (pp. 39-40, Rollo.)
Respondent’s motion for reconsideration was denied by the MSPB on September 11, 1990 (p. 24, Rollo).
The MSPB notified this Court through Deputy Clerk of Court Adelaide Baumann, of the dismissal of Torrella from the service.  That information was relayed by Attorney Baumann to Executive Judge Bernardo P. Pardo of the Regional Trial Court of Manila.
On July 10, 1990, Judge Pardo recommended to this Court that the dismissal of Torrella from the service be approved with forfeiture of his retirement benefits (p. 1, Rollo).
After deliberating on the records of the case, the Court finds Judge Pardo’s recommendation to be well taken, hence, hereby approves it.  There is no doubt that respondent obtained his appointment through falsification of his civil service eligibility.  He is guilty of dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service.  His appointment as deputy sheriff based on forgery and misrepresentation, is null and void.  Ordinarily, he should restore the salaries and benefits he has received under that void appointment, if not for the fact that he has actually rendered service and performed the functions of the position.  Nevertheless, his occupancy of the office should not be prolonged a moment longer.
WHEREFORE, the respondent, Rodolfo Torrella, is dismissed from the service as Deputy Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court, Branch XIV, Manila, without retirement pay and other monetary benefits, effective immediately.  Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Court Administrator, the Finance Officer and Cashier of the Court, the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Region and the Presiding Judge, Branch XIV, Regional Trial Court of Manila for immediate implementation.
SO ORDERED.
Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Grino-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado, and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur

A. M. No. RTJ-90-570

This case stems from a complaint against respondent judge for “gross negligence of duties and misconduct and clear violation of the provisions of the Judiciary Act” due to his failure to timely decide Criminal Case No. 3254 entitled People of the Philippines v. Lolita P. Luna filed by complainant Antonio Soyangco for violation of the Bouncing Checks Law (B.P. Blg. 22).  Apparently, said case was submitted for decision as early as October, 1984 and as of the filing of the administrative complaint against respondent on 31 August 1990, or for more than five years, the decision in that case had not yet been rendered (Rollo, p. 1).

Pursuant to the resolution of the Court dated 27 September 1990 (Rollo, p. 6), respondent submitted his comment, denominated as answer, to the complaint, alleging inter alia that the decision in the criminal case had been finished and ready for promulgation even before he received his copy of the complaint; that he gave priority to the trial and disposition of cases for subversion and rebellion and other criminal cases where the accused were all detained, including for violations of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, also known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, which are entitled to be given preference under said law; that in the course of disposing of these cases, trials, which were held from Monday to Friday every morning and sometimes even in the afternoons, occupied most of his working hours; that aside from handling cases in his own sala, he was designated by the Court to also take cognizance of all cases in Branch 1 for 16 months; that he was appointed by the Court as Executive Judge, which position entails a number of demanding administrative duties; that it was only in 1988, since his appointment in 1983, that he was able to hire a legal researcher, owing to the strict professional requirements originally imposed for said position; and, that there is a dearth of research materials in his court, the only reference being eighty volumes of the Supreme Court Reports Annotated, so that he had to conduct outside legal research that took precious time off decision making (Rollo, pp. 7 – 9).
On 6 December 1990, the Court referred this case to Associate Justice Nathanael P. de Pano, Jr. of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and recommendation (Rollo, p. 10).  In compliance therewith, said investigating Justice submitted on 13 February 1991 a report on what transpired during the hearing, as follows:
First, the case of “People of the Philippines vs. Lolita P. Luna,” complained of by the complainant as not yet decided, has already been decided, the accused therein having been sentenced to pay a fine of more than P60,000.00.  Section 1 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 grants discretion to trial Judge (sic) to impose imprisonment, or fine, or both fine and imprisonment in cases involving violation of the “Bouncing Checks” law.  The complainant expressly acknowledged that the case had been so decided.
Second, the complainant, after understanding the respondent’s situation as a presiding judge, then expressed his desire to desist from pursuing his complaint.  He had thought that he was entitled to personal indemnity in the case that he had initiated against the accused, Lolita P. Luna.  The undersigned (investigating Justice) gave the complainant some time to reflect on his decision to desist from pursuing his complaint.  After conferring with a companion, a certain Mr. Pizaro, complainant’s brother-in-law, who appeared to be a well-informed person, the complainant affirmed his decision to desist from pursuing his complaint.
Third, the respondent Judge had, on his own, explained that he had not deliberately sat on the above case, the parties involved not being known to him in any manner.  And considering the contents of his verified answer, the undersigned has no reason to doubt that this was true.  It does appear that the respondent Judge was overburdened, had handled two salas for more than one year (from April, 1987 to August, 1988) and was Executive Judge of Branches 1, 2 and 3 of the Regional Trial Courts (sic) stationed in Bataan from March, 1987 to August, 1988.  (pp. 7 – 8, Report.)
Justice de Pano recommended that respondent be exonerated from the charges leveled against him in view of the desistance made by the complainant such that there is nothing more to support the accusations made in this case.
The Court disagrees.
It is clear from the answer/comment filed by respondent that the allegations in the complaint are true, that indeed, respondent left unattended for more than five years the case for violation of B.P. Blg. 22.  In fact, respondent makes no attempt at a denial.  He is, therefore, already guilty of dereliction of his duties as judge.
Respondent seeks, however, to justify this neglect by his above-enumerated recital of circumstances which were beyond his control.  While the same appear to be valid grounds for a little delay, they can only serve to mitigate but not to erase his administrative liability.  We find that failure to decide a case, particularly one involving a simple violation of the Bouncing Checks Law, for over five years is an inordinate amount of procrastination tantamount to gross negligence.  It is not enough for judges to pen their decisions; it is also important to promulgate and make them known to all concerned at the earliest possible time and within the mandated period (Nidua vs. Lazaro, 174 SCRA 581; see also Mangulabnan vs. Judge Tecson 101 SCRA 810).
Complainant’s voluntary desistance from pursuing the case any further is of no moment and the Court is not thereby stripped of its jurisdiction over respondent.  This is so not only because respondent does not contest the omission imputed against him, which anyway is also supported by the public records.  More importantly, this rests on constitutional grounds and sound public policy.  The Supreme Court has administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof (Section 6, Article VIII, Constitution) and sitting en banc has the power to discipline judges of lower courts (Section 11, Article VIII, Constitution).  To condition the pursuance of administrative actions upon the will of every complainant who may, for one reason or another, condone a detestable act is to strip the Court of this supervisory power to discipline erring members of the judiciary, whose anomalous actuations as administrators of justice affect public interest (Anguluan vs. Taguba, 93 SCRA 179, citing Vasquez vs. Malvar, 85 SCRA 10).
WHEREFORE, the respondent judge, Romeo G. Maglalang, is hereby penalized with a FINE in the amount of Eleven Thousand Pesos (P11,000.00) and with the WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to respondent’s record.
SO ORDERED.
Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado, and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur.

A.M. No. P-89-327

In a sworn letter-complaint dated April 7, 1989 Atty. Thelma Garcia, Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Dumaguete City, charged Mr. Romeo Eullaran, Staff Assistant II of the same court with alleged violation of Rule 9, Section 36, subsections 3, 4, 8, 15, 17, 25 and 27 of P.D. 807, Civil Service Decree of the Philippines.

Complainant alleged that respondent committed the alleged violations in the following manner:

“1.
That respondent does not perform his regular functions and refuses to perform those assigned to him, in violation of Subsec. (3), Neglect of Duty;
2.
That on March 31, 1989, at about 2:30 P.M., respondent entered the Office of the Clerk of Court drunk, fought with Gilbert Solis, causing disruption in the normal functions, a violation of Subsec. (4), Misconduct;
3.
Respondent’s non-performance of his function and non-observance of office hours violates Sub-sec. (8), inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties;
4.
Respondent has more unauthorized absences than days present, violation of Subsec. (13), Frequent unauthorized absences;
5.
Respondent is always late when reporting for duty, a violation of Subsec. (14), Tardiness in reporting for duty, loafing or frequent unauthorized absences from duty during regular office hours;
6.
Respondent appeared many times during office hours in the office under the influence of liquor and sometimes drunk, a violation of Subsec. 15, Habitual drunkenness;
7.
Respondent refused to perform official duty as Clerk, a violation of Subsec. 17, Refusal to perform official duty;
8.
Respondent wilfully disobeys instructions from his superior, such as filing of daily time record and leave of absences, a violation of Subsec. (25), Insubordination;
9.
Respondent’s refusal to perform his duties, habitual absenteeism and tardiness, misbehavior, disrupting operation of the office and disobedience in filing daily time records and leave of absences are violations of Subsec. (27), Conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service;
x x x.”

In substantiating her complaint, complainant submitted a letter dated April 3, 1989 addressed to the Executive Judge, RTC, Dumaguete City which states a narration of incidents which led to an accusation for alleged misconduct and on the alleged habitual absentism, tardiness and inefficiency (Annex “A”) and in addition thereto, affidavits of four other court employees namely:  Gilbert Solis, Fidel Factoran, Rodolfo Forniza and Rogelio Baylon, marked as Annexes “B,” “C,” “D,” “E,” all in corroboration of the activities complained of.
The Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City, pursuant to this Court’s Administrative Order No. 6 dated June 30, 1975 issued an order dated April 8, 1989 ordering respondent Romeo Eullaran to submit within seventy-two (72) hours after receipt, his answer to the complaint and to indicate therein whether or not a formal investigation is preferred.
Respondent failed to file his answer without any reason given for such failure despite the extension of time given him to answer.  Meanwhile, his request for temporary assignment at RTC Branch 36 was granted per Order dated April 18, 1989.
In a Report and Recommendation dated May 4, 1989, submitted pursuant to Section 40, P.D. 807, the Executive Judge took notice of the failure of the respondent to file his answer and “interpreted the same as an admission of guilt on his part” and opined that the instant case appeared “proper for summary proceedings under Section 40, P.D. 807″ in view of the following circumstances present:  a) the charge is serious and evidence is strong; b) respondent is notoriously undesirable.  The sworn statements and documents submitted were considered direct evidence for the complainant and recommended that proper penalty be imposed upon the respondent.
By way of a 7th indorsement dated August 13, 1990 of Deputy Court Administrator Juanito Bernard, respondent Romeo Eullaran was given the chance of being heard and to refute the allegations against him.
Respondent submitted his comment dated September 14, 1990 and stated therein that “he has not intentionally, knowingly, and maliciously committed the charges lodged against him x x x x.  He admits having committed unintentional omission or mistake.” (Rollo, p. 45)
Anent the charge of misconduct and habitual drunkenness, respondent claimed that the incident on March 31, 1989 complained of, was indeed regrettable.  While he also admits that after lunch, on said date, he took a bottle or two of beer, he claimed that he is not a habitual drinker, as alleged by the complainant.  He also claimed that whenever he drinks, he drinks outside office hours.  Moreover, he claimed that the quarrel between him and Gilbert G. Solis, was cause by personal misunderstanding, which was immediately patched up.
Regarding the charge of unauthorized absences and tardiness in reporting for duty, respondent contended that the records would show that he has filed the corresponding vacation or sick leave applications.  The alleged unauthorized absences were due to health reasons and hence, notice thereof and the filing of the required application for sick leave could not be filed within the prescribed period.  He too admits that sometimes he is tardy in reporting for duty, especially on Mondays following weekends, whenever he goes to his hometown some kilometers away from Dumaguete City.  But again, this is few and far between.  Respondent denied that he has been loafing during office hours.  In his defense, he claimed that he takes a few minutes rest after doing his work or during coffee breaks at a place near the court buildings.
Respondent finally claimed that he honestly believed that he conducted himself in the performance of his duties at his best and if he conducted himself to the prejudice of the service such behavior was not intended and without malice.
We find the explanation of the respondent unsatisfactory.  He was not able to refute the accusations made against him.  As can be noted in his comment, the reasons given by the respondent are on the contrary, demonstrative of whimsical and abusive acts of a government employee which are prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The conduct and behavior of everyone connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice, like the courts below, from the presiding judge to the lowest clerk, should be circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility (Montemayor v. Collado, 107 SCRA 258).  A public office is a public trust and all public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people.  This Court cannot countenance any act or omission which diminish or tend to diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary.
Premises considered, the Court Resolved to hold respondent liable as charged.
ACCORDINGLY, a FINE of Four Thousand Pesos (P4,000.00) is imposed on respondent Romeo Eullaran, payable to this Court within ten (10) days from notice with STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely.  Let a copy of this resolution be attached to respondent’s personal records.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, (Chairman), Cruz, Gancayco, and Griño-Aquino, JJ., concur.

A.M No. RTJ-90-466

This is an administrative complaint filed by Dominga Azor against Judge Sofronio G. Sayo of the RTC of Pasay City, Branch 111, charging the latter with negligence, gross incompetence and gross ignorance of the law on account of his dismissal of the suit for Damages arising from Malicious Prosecution.

The facts of the case are briefly as follows:
Dominga Azor, together with her husband Narciso Azor (now deceased), Josephine Azor and Ramon Manuel filed a suit for Damages arising from Malicious Prosecution against Marcelo Ty, David Reyes, and Remigio Zari.
The complaint alleges that on August 4, 1975, the plaintiffs (in the lower court) filed a criminal case against Ty for Violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; that in retaliation against the said graft charge, Ty maliciously filed charges of perjury against them which were investigated by then Assistant Fiscal Reyes; that without ascertaining if there was probable cause against the plaintiffs, Reyes filed the corresponding cases for perjury against them, which cases were tried by then City Court Judge Zari who arbitrarily sentenced them to imprisonment; that said decision, however, was reversed on appeal, thus, the plaintiffs, who were acquitted, sued Ty, Reyes and Zari for damages arising from malicious prosecution.
In his Answer, Ty alleged that in 1974, the plaintiffs filed a falsification case against one Juan Azor at the CIS District Office in Canlubang, Laguna; that being a CIS Agent, he investigated the falsification charge but he found no evidence to substantiate the same; that he recommended its dismissal, as a result of which, the plaintiffs charged him administratively with extortion and filed graft charges against him before the Circuit Criminal Court; that he was suspended from office for several months until he was acquitted by the Circuit Criminal Court; and that he filed perjury charges against the plaintiffs who according to him, had executed affidavits containing false statements against him.
Reyes, in answer to the complaint, alleged that after considering the evidence submitted by Ty on the perjury charges against the plaintiffs, he found prima facie evidence to sustain the same, thus, he recommended the filing of the corresponding informations against the plaintiffs, and his recommendation was approved by the City Fiscal of Quezon City; that he observed all the procedures and guidelines set forth in PD No. 77 when he conducted the preliminary investigation; and that he acted well within his official discretion when he resolved to recommend the filing of said charges against the plaintiffs.
Zari, likewise, in his answer, alleged that he tried the perjury cases against the plaintiffs, who were afforded ample opportunity to ventilate their defenses, in accordance with procedure and the law; that his decision convicting the plaintiffs was not motivated by ill-will nor personal vengeance but was based on his judgment and appreciation of the evidence and the law; that plaintiffs’ acquittal on appeal was grounded on reasonable doubt; and that the administrative complaint (filed by the plaintiffs against him for having rendered the questioned decision) with the Supreme Court docketed as ADM. MATTER NO. 1847 CTJ (Narciso Azor, et al. vs. Hon. Remigio Zari) was dismissed for lack of cause of action on November 15, 1978.  (Annex H, pp. 2-3).
After the presentation of the evidence for the prosecution, Zari filed a Motion for Judgment on a Demurrer to Evidence.
Judge Sayo denied the said motion in an Order dated September 15, 1988 (Annex “E”), observing that —
“x x x The mass of evidentiary details at this stage of the proceedings apparently support the allegations in the complaint and the defendants are called upon to produce exculpatory or rebuttal evidence in their behalves and cannot expect the Court to imagine or surmise possible circumstances or situations which might justify rejection of such factual conclusions plaintiffs had attempted to establish.  xxx” (p. 4, Petition)
Notwithstanding such pronouncement, the defendants waived their right to adduce evidence.
On November 3, 1989, however, Judge Sayo rendered a decision in favor of the defendants, the dispositive portion of which reads —
“WHEREFORE, finding no merit in plaintiffs’ complaint, the same is hereby dismissed, with costs against the plaintiffs.  For utter lack of evidence, the counterclaims of defendants are likewise dismissed.
SO ORDERED.” (p. 7, Annex H)
Dominga Azor filed the instant administrative complaint against Judge Sayo, charging the latter, among others, with negligence, incompetence and gross ignorance of the law as a result of his dismissal of the Damages arising from Malicious prosecution case.  Dominga Azor claims that Judge Sayo’s decision is not supported by the facts and the evidence on record, for while he denied the demurrer, Judge Sayo rendered judgment in favor of the defendants who failed to adduce evidence at the trial.
There is need to impress upon the complainant that a denial of the demurrer is not a final order but merely an interlocutory one.  Such an order or judgment is only provisional, as it determines some point or matter but is not a final decision of the whole controversy.  (p. 731, Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Edition).
A perusal of the decision complained of belies the claim that the same is not supported by the facts and the evidence on record.  In dismissing the complaint for Damages arising from Malicious Prosecution, Judge Sayo took into account all the documentary evidence submitted by the parties and the testimonial evidence adduced at the trial.
A review of the facts thus established and the applicable law clearly shows that the plaintiffs are not entitled to the relief sought.
Ty had ample reasons to believe that he had sufficient cause of action to file perjury charges against the plaintiffs who had charged him with extortion and graft but had failed to prove the same.  Assistant City Fiscal Reyes and City Court Judge Zari were not moved by any malicious intent when they sustained Ty’s action against the plaintiffs.  Absent any malice on their part, the defendants in the civil case for damages, cannot also be made liable for damages when the upper court reversed the judgments against the plaintiffs.  At most, they only committed an honest error of judgment.  (Phil. Match Co. Ltd. vs. City of Cebu, 81 SCRA 109).
To constitute malicious prosecution, there must be proof that the prosecution was prompted by a sinister design to vex and humiliate a person and that it was initiated deliberately by the defendant, knowing that his charge was false and groundless.  Manila Gas Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, 110 SCRA 602)
WHEREFORE, there being no sufficient basis to warrant further proceedings, the instant administrative complaint is hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Grino-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado, and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur.

A.M No. MTJ-86-27

These Administrative Matters were consolidated since they involve the same issues, arise from the same set of facts and have the same respondents.  Administrative Matter No. MTJ-86-27 is a complaint filed on October 13, 1986 by George M. Minor and four other members of the Board of Directors of the Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative I, Inc. (ZAMSURECO) against Delfin E. Agbu, Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge of Ramon Magsaysay, Midsalip and Don Mariano Marcos, Province of Zamboanga del Sur and Loreto M. Quinto, Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge of the Municipal Circuit Court of Dumingag, Mahayag and Josefina, also of the same province as elective members of the Board of Directors of ZAMSURECO, Judge Agbu from 1980 and Judge Quinto from 1986.

The complainants invoke an en banc resolution of the Supreme Court of May 29, 1980 enjoining judges from acting as directors of an electric cooperative on the ground that their duties and functions as such will prejudice and interfere with the expeditious and proper administration of justice.[1]
The respondent judges are charged with dishonesty, breach of trust and gross misconduct.
The complainants pray that the respondent judges be ordered (a) to desist from acting and sitting as directors of ZAMSURECO, (b) to restitute or refund to the cooperative all financial emoluments availed of, received and actually enjoyed as such Directors, (c) for having committed dishonesty, breach of trust and misconduct as members of the bench and Bar, that they be subjected to grave disciplinary action if not outright dismissal from the service as judges and disbarment as attorneys, as well as for such administrative sanctions as the law may warrant.
Complying with this Court’s en banc resolution dated November 11, 1986 the respondents filed separate ANSWERS but were one in asserting that they have a perfect right to become members of the Board of Directors of ZAMSURECO and entitled to all rights and privileges appurtenant thereto citing Section 21 paragraph 2 of P.D. No. 269.[2] The respondents also assert that sitting in the Board of Directors of ZAMSURECO does not interfere with the performance of their functions since the Board meets only twice a month and on Saturdays.
Respondent Judge Agbu admitted the existence of the ruling in the case cited in the complaint but expressed doubt about “the propriety of the ruling because its (sic) not a ruling on the merit of a case but a mere denial by the Supreme Court to the judge who sought permission to act and sit in the board of directors on the theory that sitting in the board may interfer (sic) with the function of the judge, which is manifestly erroneous because said judge should have not ask (sic) permission under the above-quoted provision of law.  Besides, had it been the intention of the Supreme Court to prohibit judges from becoming director or holding any position therein, it should have circularized said ruling for the guidance of all judges serving as director in different electric cooperative (sic) throughout the country.”
Respondent Judge Agbu asserted that he does not question the Supreme Court’s power of supervision and control but contends that in the exercise of such authority, individual rights should be respected.  He asserts impairment of substantive rights granted him by law and invokes the equal protection of laws because he is singled out in the prohibition while the complainants who are also government employees are allowed to continue.
On January 2, 1987 this Court received a telegram from Rustico V. Villorejo informing that MTC Judge Delfin Agbu and MTC Judge Loreto Quinto were still sitting as Directors of ZAMSURECO despite the letter-directive from Justice Maximo A. Maceren, Assistant to the Court Administrator,[3] to resign from their positions.  The Villorejo telegram requesting implementation of said letter-directive and the action taken on it is Administrative Matter No. 87-1-2705-TEL.
This Court by resolution dated January 8, 1987 directed MTC Judges Delfin Agbu and Loreto Quinto to tender their resignations immediately from their positions or suffer the consequences, considering that their acting and sitting as such will constitute an interference in the expeditious performance of their judicial functions.
On January 28, 1987 the respondent judges filed a motion for reconsideration of the en banc resolution of January 8, 1987 stating that the letter-directive of September 18, 1986 of Justice Maceren was premised on a question that “if it is true, you are directed to resign.” Because the respondents did not consider the telegraphic complaint true, they did not resign believing that to do so would be admitting false allegations against them.
They also referred to Administrative Matter No. MTJ-86-27 (George Minor, et al. v. Judges Delfin E. Agbu and Loreto Quinto) to which they had filed their ANSWER as required.  They disclaimed any desire to defy this Court but prayed the court to reconsider implementation of the directive to resign until Adm. Matter No. MTJ-86-27 is decided.
On February 12, 1987 this Court denied the motion for reconsideration and resolved to require the respondent judges (a) to SHOW CAUSE why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for their failure to resign immediately as directors of ZAMSURECO and (b) to comply within 72 hours with the resolution of January 8, 1987.
Meanwhile the President and Chairman of ZAMSURECO and Rustico Villorejo informed the Chief Justice that the respondent judges continue to sit in the Board.[4]
Respondent Judge Quinto in a letter dated February 26, 1987 and received on March 2, 1987 informed this Court of his compliance with the resolution of February 12, 1987 which he received on February 23rd.  However, he tendered a conditional resignation, hoping that on the basis of his manifestation, this Court would reconsider its decision.
He states that lower court judges are “the lowest paid and impoverished” because they are still sending their children to school and that the P800 allowance as director helps alleviate the financial problem of his family.  He repeats the assertion that the twice a month meetings on Saturdays do not interfere with the performance of his functions due to the “few number of pending cases” in his court.  Furthermore, he reiterates that P.D. No. 269 does not prohibit judges from being elected as officers of electric cooperatives and that the Supreme Court policy disqualifying them is contrary to P.D. 269.
Respondent Judge Delfin E. Agbu filed his explanation dated February 24, 1987 and received by this Court on March 10, 1987.  He expressed his belief that the Supreme Court directive is arbitrary and therefore filed a motion for reconsideration which the Supreme Court denied in its February 12, 1987 resolution.  He reiterated that it was never his intention to defy the directive of the Supreme Court but was simply asking for clarification because in a similar case, Administrative Matter No. MTJ-86-27 (Minor, et al v. Agbu and Quinto) respondents raised factual and legal issues which the Supreme Court has not ruled on.  Unlike Judge Quinto, respondent Judge Agbu has not complied with the directives to resign from the ZAMSURECO board.
The legal issues raised by the respondents are not new.  In Lapena v. Marcos, Administrative Matter No. 1969-MJ. June 29, 1982, 114 SCRA 574, 578, this Court held:

. . . Judges and personnel of the Judiciary are not explicitly disqualified by P.D. 269 to become members or Directors of Electric Cooperatives.  However, We have resolved and adopted in our resolution dated May 29, 1980[5] to enjoin judges from acting as directors of an electric cooperative on the ground that their duties and function as such will prejudice and interfere with the expeditious and proper administration of justice.  This policy adopted by the Court enjoining judges from participating in the affairs of electric cooperatives stands and must be complied with.

This policy was adopted by the Supreme Court in the exercise of its constitutional power of administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof to ensure impartial, expeditious and proper administration of justice.  It has been consistently applied from the date of its promulgation on May 29, 1980 and the attention of the respondent judges was repeatedly called to it.  They were directed to resign from their positions as directors of ZAMSURECO in the letter-directive of September 18, 1986.  The legal issues they raise in their answers have been squarely dealt with in Lapena v. Marcos, supra, in an en banc resolution of the Supreme Court published in 114 SCRA 572.  In an en banc resolution dated January 8, 1987 this Court directed the respondents to tender their resignation from their positions as directors of ZAMSURECO immediately or suffer the consequences; on February 12, 1987 this Court denied their joint motion for reconsideration and resolved to require them to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them and to comply within 72 hours from notice, with the resolution of January 9, 1987.  Respondent Judge Quinto complied by tendering a conditional resignation accompanied with a manifestation seeking a reconsideration of this Court’s ruling.  While respondent Judge Agbu submitted an explanation, he has not complied with this Court’s resolutions of January 8, 1987 and February 12, 1987.  He reiterates the view that the directive is arbitrary and that he seeks a clarification because this Court had not yet ruled on Administrative Matter No. MTJ-86-27 (George M. Minor, et al. v. Judge Delfin E. Agbu and Loreto Quinto).
Considering the above, this Court finds that the failure of the respondent judges to comply with the policy enjoining them from participating in the affairs of electric cooperatives after this Court had directed them to tender their resignation by en banc resolution of January 8, 1987 reiterated in the resolution dated February 12, 1987 merits disciplinary action.
Respondent Judge Loreto Quinto who filed a conditional resignation is hereby reprimanded for failure to comply immediately with this Court’s directive.
Respondent Judge Agbu who obdurately refuses to comply with this Court’s resolutions to resign his position as director of ZAMSURECO is hereby suspended from his position as judge of the Ramon Magsaysay, Don Mariano Marcos and Midsalip Municipal Circuit Trial Court for a period of six (6) months.
Considering further that from January 13, 1987 when the respondents received this Court’s Resolution of January 8, 1987 directly addressed to them requiring them immediately to resign from their positions as directors of ZAMSURECO, this Court had made abundantly clear its firm policy inhibiting judges from sitting in the board of electric cooperatives, the respondent judges can not in good faith claim that they are entitled to the per diems, allowances and other benefits they drew as ZAMSURECO directors from that date.  This Court therefore directs the respondent judges to make restitution of the amounts received from Zamsureco starting January 13, 1987.
SO ORDERED.
Teehankee, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Sarmiento, and Cortes, JJ., concur. Yap and Fernan, JJ., on leave. Bidin, J., certified by J. Teehankee, that he voted for and concurred in the above Resolution.


[1] Administrative Matter No. 12691-MC, Re:  Request of Judge Concepcion Salud for permission to act and sit as Director of Cagayan Electric Cooperative (CAGELCO):  Minutes of en banc resolution, May 29, 1980, reiterated in Lapena v. Marcos, Administrative Matter No. 1969-MJ, June 29, 1982, 114 SCRA 572 and in Administrative Matter No. 84-8-4156-MTC.
[2] National Electrification Decree of August 6, 1973.
[3] Acting on a telegram from Atty. Tecson, Chairman, Zamboanga del Sur Human Rights and Reconciliation Organization requesting disqualification of MTC Judges Agbu and Quinto, addressed to the Chief Justice and received on September 15, 1986.
[4] Letters to the Chief Justice, dated February 9, 1987 and February 5, 1987, respectively.
[5] Re:  Letter-Protest against Judge Cesar Maravilla to sit and act as a Director of the Tablas Island Cooperative, Inc. (TIBLCO):  Minutes of en banc resolution, August 30, 1984)

A.M No. R-148-RTJ

These Administrative Matters were consolidated since they involve the same issues, arise from the same set of facts and have the same respondents.  Administrative Matter No. MTJ-86-27 is a complaint filed on October 13, 1986 by George M. Minor and four other members of the Board of Directors of the Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative I, Inc. (ZAMSURECO) against Delfin E. Agbu, Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge of Ramon Magsaysay, Midsalip and Don Mariano Marcos, Province of Zamboanga del Sur and Loreto M. Quinto, Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge of the Municipal Circuit Court of Dumingag, Mahayag and Josefina, also of the same province as elective members of the Board of Directors of ZAMSURECO, Judge Agbu from 1980 and Judge Quinto from 1986.

The complainants invoke an en banc resolution of the Supreme Court of May 29, 1980 enjoining judges from acting as directors of an electric cooperative on the ground that their duties and functions as such will prejudice and interfere with the expeditious and proper administration of justice.[1]
The respondent judges are charged with dishonesty, breach of trust and gross misconduct.
The complainants pray that the respondent judges be ordered (a) to desist from acting and sitting as directors of ZAMSURECO, (b) to restitute or refund to the cooperative all financial emoluments availed of, received and actually enjoyed as such Directors, (c) for having committed dishonesty, breach of trust and misconduct as members of the bench and Bar, that they be subjected to grave disciplinary action if not outright dismissal from the service as judges and disbarment as attorneys, as well as for such administrative sanctions as the law may warrant.
Complying with this Court’s en banc resolution dated November 11, 1986 the respondents filed separate ANSWERS but were one in asserting that they have a perfect right to become members of the Board of Directors of ZAMSURECO and entitled to all rights and privileges appurtenant thereto citing Section 21 paragraph 2 of P.D. No. 269.[2] The respondents also assert that sitting in the Board of Directors of ZAMSURECO does not interfere with the performance of their functions since the Board meets only twice a month and on Saturdays.
Respondent Judge Agbu admitted the existence of the ruling in the case cited in the complaint but expressed doubt about “the propriety of the ruling because its (sic) not a ruling on the merit of a case but a mere denial by the Supreme Court to the judge who sought permission to act and sit in the board of directors on the theory that sitting in the board may interfer (sic) with the function of the judge, which is manifestly erroneous because said judge should have not ask (sic) permission under the above-quoted provision of law.  Besides, had it been the intention of the Supreme Court to prohibit judges from becoming director or holding any position therein, it should have circularized said ruling for the guidance of all judges serving as director in different electric cooperative (sic) throughout the country.”
Respondent Judge Agbu asserted that he does not question the Supreme Court’s power of supervision and control but contends that in the exercise of such authority, individual rights should be respected.  He asserts impairment of substantive rights granted him by law and invokes the equal protection of laws because he is singled out in the prohibition while the complainants who are also government employees are allowed to continue.
On January 2, 1987 this Court received a telegram from Rustico V. Villorejo informing that MTC Judge Delfin Agbu and MTC Judge Loreto Quinto were still sitting as Directors of ZAMSURECO despite the letter-directive from Justice Maximo A. Maceren, Assistant to the Court Administrator,[3] to resign from their positions.  The Villorejo telegram requesting implementation of said letter-directive and the action taken on it is Administrative Matter No. 87-1-2705-TEL.
This Court by resolution dated January 8, 1987 directed MTC Judges Delfin Agbu and Loreto Quinto to tender their resignations immediately from their positions or suffer the consequences, considering that their acting and sitting as such will constitute an interference in the expeditious performance of their judicial functions.
On January 28, 1987 the respondent judges filed a motion for reconsideration of the en banc resolution of January 8, 1987 stating that the letter-directive of September 18, 1986 of Justice Maceren was premised on a question that “if it is true, you are directed to resign.” Because the respondents did not consider the telegraphic complaint true, they did not resign believing that to do so would be admitting false allegations against them.
They also referred to Administrative Matter No. MTJ-86-27 (George Minor, et al. v. Judges Delfin E. Agbu and Loreto Quinto) to which they had filed their ANSWER as required.  They disclaimed any desire to defy this Court but prayed the court to reconsider implementation of the directive to resign until Adm. Matter No. MTJ-86-27 is decided.
On February 12, 1987 this Court denied the motion for reconsideration and resolved to require the respondent judges (a) to SHOW CAUSE why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for their failure to resign immediately as directors of ZAMSURECO and (b) to comply within 72 hours with the resolution of January 8, 1987.
Meanwhile the President and Chairman of ZAMSURECO and Rustico Villorejo informed the Chief Justice that the respondent judges continue to sit in the Board.[4]
Respondent Judge Quinto in a letter dated February 26, 1987 and received on March 2, 1987 informed this Court of his compliance with the resolution of February 12, 1987 which he received on February 23rd.  However, he tendered a conditional resignation, hoping that on the basis of his manifestation, this Court would reconsider its decision.
He states that lower court judges are “the lowest paid and impoverished” because they are still sending their children to school and that the P800 allowance as director helps alleviate the financial problem of his family.  He repeats the assertion that the twice a month meetings on Saturdays do not interfere with the performance of his functions due to the “few number of pending cases” in his court.  Furthermore, he reiterates that P.D. No. 269 does not prohibit judges from being elected as officers of electric cooperatives and that the Supreme Court policy disqualifying them is contrary to P.D. 269.
Respondent Judge Delfin E. Agbu filed his explanation dated February 24, 1987 and received by this Court on March 10, 1987.  He expressed his belief that the Supreme Court directive is arbitrary and therefore filed a motion for reconsideration which the Supreme Court denied in its February 12, 1987 resolution.  He reiterated that it was never his intention to defy the directive of the Supreme Court but was simply asking for clarification because in a similar case, Administrative Matter No. MTJ-86-27 (Minor, et al v. Agbu and Quinto) respondents raised factual and legal issues which the Supreme Court has not ruled on.  Unlike Judge Quinto, respondent Judge Agbu has not complied with the directives to resign from the ZAMSURECO board.
The legal issues raised by the respondents are not new.  In Lapena v. Marcos, Administrative Matter No. 1969-MJ. June 29, 1982, 114 SCRA 574, 578, this Court held:

. . . Judges and personnel of the Judiciary are not explicitly disqualified by P.D. 269 to become members or Directors of Electric Cooperatives.  However, We have resolved and adopted in our resolution dated May 29, 1980[5] to enjoin judges from acting as directors of an electric cooperative on the ground that their duties and function as such will prejudice and interfere with the expeditious and proper administration of justice.  This policy adopted by the Court enjoining judges from participating in the affairs of electric cooperatives stands and must be complied with.

This policy was adopted by the Supreme Court in the exercise of its constitutional power of administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof to ensure impartial, expeditious and proper administration of justice.  It has been consistently applied from the date of its promulgation on May 29, 1980 and the attention of the respondent judges was repeatedly called to it.  They were directed to resign from their positions as directors of ZAMSURECO in the letter-directive of September 18, 1986.  The legal issues they raise in their answers have been squarely dealt with in Lapena v. Marcos, supra, in an en banc resolution of the Supreme Court published in 114 SCRA 572.  In an en banc resolution dated January 8, 1987 this Court directed the respondents to tender their resignation from their positions as directors of ZAMSURECO immediately or suffer the consequences; on February 12, 1987 this Court denied their joint motion for reconsideration and resolved to require them to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them and to comply within 72 hours from notice, with the resolution of January 9, 1987.  Respondent Judge Quinto complied by tendering a conditional resignation accompanied with a manifestation seeking a reconsideration of this Court’s ruling.  While respondent Judge Agbu submitted an explanation, he has not complied with this Court’s resolutions of January 8, 1987 and February 12, 1987.  He reiterates the view that the directive is arbitrary and that he seeks a clarification because this Court had not yet ruled on Administrative Matter No. MTJ-86-27 (George M. Minor, et al. v. Judge Delfin E. Agbu and Loreto Quinto).
Considering the above, this Court finds that the failure of the respondent judges to comply with the policy enjoining them from participating in the affairs of electric cooperatives after this Court had directed them to tender their resignation by en banc resolution of January 8, 1987 reiterated in the resolution dated February 12, 1987 merits disciplinary action.
Respondent Judge Loreto Quinto who filed a conditional resignation is hereby reprimanded for failure to comply immediately with this Court’s directive.
Respondent Judge Agbu who obdurately refuses to comply with this Court’s resolutions to resign his position as director of ZAMSURECO is hereby suspended from his position as judge of the Ramon Magsaysay, Don Mariano Marcos and Midsalip Municipal Circuit Trial Court for a period of six (6) months.
Considering further that from January 13, 1987 when the respondents received this Court’s Resolution of January 8, 1987 directly addressed to them requiring them immediately to resign from their positions as directors of ZAMSURECO, this Court had made abundantly clear its firm policy inhibiting judges from sitting in the board of electric cooperatives, the respondent judges can not in good faith claim that they are entitled to the per diems, allowances and other benefits they drew as ZAMSURECO directors from that date.  This Court therefore directs the respondent judges to make restitution of the amounts received from Zamsureco starting January 13, 1987.
SO ORDERED.
Teehankee, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Sarmiento, and Cortes, JJ., concur. Yap and Fernan, JJ., on leave. Bidin, J., certified by J. Teehankee, that he voted for and concurred in the above Resolution.


[1] Administrative Matter No. 12691-MC, Re:  Request of Judge Concepcion Salud for permission to act and sit as Director of Cagayan Electric Cooperative (CAGELCO):  Minutes of en banc resolution, May 29, 1980, reiterated in Lapena v. Marcos, Administrative Matter No. 1969-MJ, June 29, 1982, 114 SCRA 572 and in Administrative Matter No. 84-8-4156-MTC.
[2] National Electrification Decree of August 6, 1973.
[3] Acting on a telegram from Atty. Tecson, Chairman, Zamboanga del Sur Human Rights and Reconciliation Organization requesting disqualification of MTC Judges Agbu and Quinto, addressed to the Chief Justice and received on September 15, 1986.
[4] Letters to the Chief Justice, dated February 9, 1987 and February 5, 1987, respectively.
[5] Re:  Letter-Protest against Judge Cesar Maravilla to sit and act as a Director of the Tablas Island Cooperative, Inc. (TIBLCO):  Minutes of en banc resolution, August 30, 1984)

A.M No. 1059-MJ

In two separate complaints, dated August 7 and 8, 1975, complainant Demetrio A. Yu charged respondent Municipal Judge Jose Consolacion-Serrano of Catanauan, Quezon with malicious and gross delay in the administration of justice on two counts, specified as follows:

1) In Criminal Case No. 3994 (People vs. Yu), where complainant was accused of Serious Oral Defamation before respondent judge’s court (the case was transferred to Municipal Judge Procopio Morales of General Luna, Quezon, after respondent judge had inhibited himself from trying it) respondent judge unreasonably and deliberately delayed the promulgation of the decision of acquittal notwithstanding the fact that the decision had already been rendered by Judge Morales as early as May 6, 1974, and the records of the case transmitted to his court for promulgation thereof; (and complainant was to learn of the decision of acquittal only during the investigation of his complaint in 1978); and

2) In Criminal Case No. 5015 (People vs. Severino Abelilla, et. al.), for Qualified Theft, filed on September 1973 and where the complainant was the principal complaining witness, respondent judge failed to set the case for hearing without valid excuse for a period of more than two (2) years.
In a 1st Indorsement dated August 26, 1975, respondent judge was required to submit his comments on the complaint, and after complainant’s submittal of his reply to respondent’s comment, the Court resolved, in its resolution of September 28, 1977, to refer the administrative case to the Executive Judge of Quezon for investigation, report and recommendation.

Judge Juan B. Montecillo, Executive Judge of the Court of First Instance of Quezon, submitted his Report dated December 20, 1978, finding respondent judge delinquent in the performance of his official duties, and recommended that administrative sanctions be imposed on the respondent judge, as follows: “The Court specifically recommends that the respondent Judge is delinquent in his duties as such in the administration of justice and the facts show that it took time before a case is set for hearing and terminated. The issuance of a wrong certification to the auditing team on the court record of the complainant have caused damage to the career and blemished the reputation of the said complainant considering that he is an incumbent member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Catanauan, Quezon. The issuance of an erroneous certification as to the criminal records of a citizen will reflect on the image and integrity of all courts in charge of the administration of justice, considering that the mistake seems to have been committed deliberately. On the third issue of whether the Judge concerned is liable for the approval of a conflicting monthly reports of cases, the false report of which this Court believes that it was deliberate in nature and shifts the responsibility to his clerk must be condemned. Finally, on the loss of the records of docketed Criminal Case No. 3994, this is a grave responsibility of the respondent Judge inasmuch as it may result to infidelity of public documents and may warrant the filing of a charge if malice can be proven.”

The records show that Criminal Case No. 5015 was filed before respondent judge’s court on September 29, 1973. Accused Forneste was arrested on November 8, 1973, and the other accused Abelilla, on November 11, 1973. The case was set for arraignment and hearing on February 25, 1974 but the same did not take place for lack of notice to the parties. It was reset for June 11, 1974, after the lapse of four (4) months. Arraignment and hearing again did not take place due to alleged lack of lawyers to be appointed as counsel de oficio, even if there were lawyers in the community such as Atty. Cuvin, the Election Registrar of Catanauan, Atty. Dionisio Baticulon, a practising lawyer, and Atty. Antonio Gonzales, a municipal councilor, all of whom are residents of the municipality. When complainant made inquiries from respondent judge as to when the case would be again set for hearing, respondent judge answered him that, “Marunong ka pa sa akin ay marami kaming trahajo” and “Pilosopo ka. Pahihirapan kita sa kaso.” Complainant made a total of eight (8) inquiries from respondent as to when said Criminal Case No. 5015 would be set for hearing. It was only after this administrative case was filed on August 7, 1975 that respondent judge inhibited himself from trying the case and Judge Gil Savedia of the Municipal Court of Macalelon, Quezon, was designated to hear it. From the time that said Criminal Case No. 5015 was filed on September 29, 1973 up to the time respondent inhibited himself from trying it on August 7, 1975, or a period of almost two (2) years, he did not hold a single hearing on said case.

In the other case, Criminal Case No. 3994, which was filed on November 2, 1972 against herein complainant for Serious Oral Defamation, respondent judge inhibited himself from trying the case and Judge Procopio Morales of General Luna, Quezon, was designated to try it. After Judge Morales had terminated trial and rendered his decision on May 6, 1974, he transmitted the records to the Clerk of Court of Catanauan, Quezon, for promulgation. However, the decision of acquittal was never formally promulgated by respondent judge (obviously due to their mutual antagonism) and it was only after this administrative case was filed in August 1975 and during the investigation thereof in 1978 that complainant learned of his acquittal when a copy of the decision was retrieved from and produced by Judge Morales. It was also established during the investigation that the original copy of the decision as well as the records of Criminal Case No. 3994 are missing and could not be located – a cover-up that as observed by the Investigating Judge may result in a charge of infidelity in the custody of public documents.

According to complainant’s testimony, he asked Judge Morales as early as June, 1974, when the decision in Criminal Case No. 3994 would be promulgated and Judge Morales told him that the decision was already with respondent’s Clerk of Court. Complainant then approached respondent judge to inquire about the status of the case and the latter replied that he had not yet received the decision from Judge Morales. Complainant then went back to Judge Morales and informed him about what the respondent judge told him but Judge Morales insisted that the decision was already with the Clerk of Court of Catanauan. Complainant then went back to the respondent judge who this time told him that “he (respondent judge) is in charge of the case and it is up for him when to promulgate the decision.”[1]

The foregoing established facts show that respondent judge had deliberately and maliciously delayed for years the disposition of Criminal Case Nos. 3994 and 5015 and the promulgation of the decision of acquittal in the latter case notwithstanding the reglementary 90-day period for him to do so.

The record also amply supports the Investigating Judge’s finding that the false certification to the effect that complainant Demetrio Yu still had a pending criminal case against him (Criminal Case No. 3994), when in fact, the said case had long been decided by Judge Procopio Morales to whom the case was assigned and said decision duly submitted for promulgation by respondent judge, was issued knowingly and deliberately by respondent judge. The fact that Criminal Case No. 3994 was no longer included in the monthly report of pending cases for October, 1974, shows that said case was already terminated when the respondent judge issued his false certification in June, 1975.

It also appears that respondent judge signed and submitted to this Court conflicting monthly reports of pending cases. When the attention of the respondent judge was called to the inconsistencies in his reports, he contended that he signed the same without reviewing them as he relied solely on the reports of pending cases prepared by his clerk of court. This fact as well as the loss of the original copy of the decision in Criminal Case No. 3994 and the records thereof show at the very least respondent judge’s gross neglect or inefficiency in the performance of his duties as municipal judge. As stated by the Court in the analogous case of Tadiar vs. Cases[2] “respondent could not use the clerk of court as the scapegoat for his remissness and slothfulness.”

In the cited case of Tadiar vs. Cases, the Court dismissed the respondent judge for gross negligence in not resolving a motion to dismiss within ninety days after its submission for resolution, and for his failure to file the original or a copy of his order acquitting an accused in two criminal cases in the office of the Municipal Court of San Fernando, La Union so as to enable the clerk of court to make the proper service upon the parties. Thus, it appeared that although the cases were supposed to have been dismissed, the order dismissing them was not on file in the records of the two cases. The Court, in ordering his dismissal from office, held that he “made a mockery of the adjudication process. His conduct impaired public confidence in the fair and honest administration of justice.”

The records of this Court further show that respondent judge had been twice given warning by the Court in two previous administrative cases, Administrative Matter No. 128-MJ, entitled Coral vs. Consolacion-Serrano[3] and in Administrative Matter No. 998-MJ, entitled Rosario vs. Judge Consolacion-Serrano[4]. In Administrative Matter No. 128-MJ, this Court, after considering the facts of the case, found that respondent judge “betrayed a deficiency in prudence, discretion and judgment which a member of the judiciary must profess to a high degree if he is to be a symbol of law and justice in the community which he serves,” pointing out that:
“x x x What disturbs or rather shocks US is the action of respondent in taking advantage as admitted by him of the martial law and asking the military authorities to summon Segundina Coral and secure from the latter a retraction of her complaint. The falsity of the complaint of Segundina Coral is beside the point, for even if the complaint were unfounded and “fishy” to use respondent’s own words, nonetheless, it was highly improper to say the least, for respondent judge to have gone to the military and asked the latter to call the herein complainant and interrogate her in connection with the complaint filed with the Department of Justice. Undoubtedly, the only possible reason for the recourse to the military was to instill apprehension and fear in the heart and mind of Segundina Coral which respondent succeeded to do as shown by the fact that Segundina signed an affidavit of retraction prepared by PC Sgt. Anonuevo, which, she, however, subsequently disowned before the proper officials in the Department of Justice.”
Respondent judge was severely reprimanded and warned that more drastic action would be taken should such deficiency in prudence and judgment be manifested in the exercise of his judicial functions.

In Administrative Matter No. 998-MJ, respondent judge was likewise admonished for having incurred too much delay in forwarding the records of a criminal case to the Court of First Instance after the accused therein waived the second stage of the preliminary investigation and warned that a repetition of the same or other infractions will be more severely dealt with.

It is clear, therefore, that respondent judge had been given sufficient warnings in connection with the performance of his judicial functions. Notwithstanding such admonitions and warnings, respondent judge is again found to have been remiss in the performance of his duties. Respondent judge, having shown himself not to be a fitting example of official integrity, responsibility and efficiency, must now be separated from the service, as recommended by the Court Administrator.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds respondent Municipal Judge Jose Consolacion-Serrano guilty of malicious and gross delay in the administration of justice, prejudicial to the public interest, and he is hereby dismissed from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and pay and with prejudice to reinstatement in any branch of the government or any of its agencies or instrumentalities. This decision is immediately executory.
Barredo, Makasiar, Concepcion, Jr., Fernandez, Guerrero, De Castro, Melencio-Herrera, Ericta, Plana, and Escolin, JJ., concur. Fernando, C.J., and Abad Santos, J., on official leave. Aquino, J., no part.

A.M No. P-888

This is an administrative complaint filed by complainant, Primo San Pedro,  against respondent Provincial Sheriff, Atty. Flor F. Resurreccion of Malolos,  Bulacan, for alleged “neglect of duty”.The records disclose that complainant on November 4, 1974 filed Civil Case  No. 4558-M with the CFI of Bulacan, and correspondingly paid the sheriff’s fees  under Official Receipt Nos. 9094375, 9094376, and 9094377. Despite payment of  the requisite sheriff’s fees and corresponding summons having been issued to the  defendant, the same was not served by the office of the Provincial Sheriff up to  the filing of this administrative complaint on December 20, 1974.

In his comment,[1] respondent sheriff  claims that the neglect of duty for not serving the summons was not his fault  but the fault of Deputy Sheriff Renato Valerio, who was assigned to serve the  summons to the defendant. He alleges that Mr. Valerio left the country for  Canada in 1975 without obtaining clearance from his office and without making  the necessary turnover of the pertinent court processes under his (Valerio)  custody and responsibility including the summons issued in Civil Case No.  4558-M.

Executive Judge Roque Tamayo of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan to  whom this case was referred for investigation, report and recommendation,  scheduled twice a formal investigation. On those two occasions, complainant  Primo San Pedro failed to appear despite due notice. Thus, the Executive Judge  recommended dismissal of the complaint in view of complainant’s lack of interest  to prosecute his case.

The fact that complainant had lost interest in prosecuting the case does not  warrant the dismissal of the instant case. The records alone provide a  sufficient basis for the determination of respondent’s administrative liability.

The tenor of respondent’s comment is to impress this Court that since a  deputy sheriff was assigned to serve the summons in Civil Case No. 4558-M, he is  no longer responsible for the acts of his deputy.

Respondent Sheriff is in error. The duty to serve writs, execute all  processes and carry into effect all orders issuing from the court is primarily  assigned to the sheriffs. While this duty may be delegated by the sheriffs to  their deputies, sheriffs are not relieved of responsibility from their duty to  execute and serve promptly writs and other court processes. Hence, despite due  delegation or assignment thereof, sheriffs still retain their responsibility and  are duty-bound to supervise and see to it that these court processes are served  and returned to the issuing court with reasonable celerity and promptness. In  the instant case, if respondent sheriff was not negligent of his duty to  exercise close and strict supervision over his deputy, the failure of the  service of summons could have been avoided.

Besides, this Court is not unmindful that the same respondent, Flor  Resurreccion, was already admonished in a previous resolution[2] “to exercise a closer and stricter  supervision over the process-servers under him so as to avoid a repetition of  delayed returns of service.” Notwithstanding this previous admonition,  respondent was again remiss in the performance of his official function which  interferred with, impeded, or obstructed the processes of the Court resulting in  a setback in the administration of justice.

WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, respondent Provincial Sheriff  Flor F. Resurreccion is hereby suspended for a period of one (1) month without  pay, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be  dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED. Teehankee, Acting C.J.,  (Chairman), Makasiar, Fernandez, Melencio-Herrera, and Plana, JJ., concur.