Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

 

A.M. No. MTJ-981147 July 2, 1998

JESUS S. CONDUCTO, complainant,

vs.

JUDGE ILUMINADO C. MONZON, respondent.

R E S O L U T I O N

 

DAVIDE, JR., J.:

In a sworn letter-complaint dated 14 October 1996, 1 complainant charged respondent Judge Iluminado C. Monzon of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, San Pablo City, with ignorance of law, in that he deliberately refused to suspend a barangay chairman who was charged before his court with the crime of unlawful appointment under Article 244 of the Revised Penal Code.

The factual antecedents recited in the letter-complaint are not controverted.

On 30 August 1993, complainant filed a complaint with the Sangguniang Panlungsod of San Pablo City against one Benjamin Maghirang, the barangay chairman of Barangay III-E of San Pablo City, for abuse of authority, serious irregularity and violation of law in that, among other things, said respondent Maghirang appointed his sister-in-law, Mrs. Florian Maghirang, to the position of barangay secretary on 17 May 1989 in violation of Section 394 of the Local Government Code. At the same time, complainant filed a complaint for violation of Article 244 of the Revised Penal Code with the Office of the City Prosecutor against Maghirang, which was, however, dismissed 2 on 30 September 1993 on the ground that Maghirang's sister-in-law was appointed before the effectivity of the Local Government Code of 1991, which prohibits a punong barangay from appointing a relative within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity as barangay secretary. The order of dismissal was submitted to the Office of the Deputy Ombudsrnan for Luzon.

On 22 October 1993, complainant obtained Opinion No. 246, s. 1993 3 from Director Jacob Montesa of the Department of Interior and Local Government, which declared that the appointment issued by Maghirang to his sister-in-law violated paragraph (2), Section 95 of B.P. Blg. 337, the Local Government Code prior to the Local Government Code of 1991.

In its Revised Resolution of 29 November 1993, 4 the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon dismissed the case, but ordered Maghirang to replace his sister-in-law as barangay secretary.

On 20 December 1993, complainant moved that the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon reconsider 5 the order of 29 November 1993, in light of Opinion No. 246, s. 1993 of Director Montesa.

Acting on the motion, Francisco Samala, Graft Investigation Officer II of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, issued an order 6 on 8 February 1994 granting the motion for reconsideration and recommending the filing of an information for unlawful appointment (Article 244 of the Revised Penal Code) against Maghirang. The recommendation was duly approved by Manuel C. Domingo, Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon.

In a 3rd indorsement dated 4 March 1994, 7 the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon transmitted the record of the case to the Office of the City Prosecutor of San Pablo City and instructed the latter to file the corresponding information against Maghirang with the proper court and to prosecute the case. The information for violation of Article 244 of the Revised Penal Code was forthwith filed with the Municipal Trial Court in Cities in San Pablo City and docketed as Criminal Case No. 26240. On 11 April 1994, the presiding judge, respondent herein, issued a warrant for the arrest of Maghirang, with a recommendation of a P200.00 bond for his provisional liberty.

With prior leave from the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, on 4 May 1995, the City Prosecutor filed, in Criminal Case No. 26240, a motion for the suspension 8 of accused Maghirang pursuant to Section 13 of R.A. No. 3019, as amended, which reads, in part:

Sec. 13. Any incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this Act or under Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code or for any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property whether as a single or as complex offense and in whatever stage of execution and mode of participation, is pending in Court, shall be suspended from office.

In his Order of 30 June 1995, 9 respondent judge denied the motion for suspension on the ground that:

[T]he alleged offense of UNLAWFUL APPOINTMENT under Article 244 of the Revised Penal Code was committed on May 17, 1989, during [Maghirang's] terms (sic) of office from 1989 to 1994 and said accused was again re-elected as Barangay Chairman during the last Barangay Election of May 9, 1994, hence, offenses committed during previous term is (sic) not a cause for removal (Lizarez vs. Hechanova, et al., G.R. No. L-22059, May 17, 1965); an order of suspension from office relating to a given term may not be the basis of contempt with respect to ones (sic) assumption of the same office under a new term (Oliveros vs. Villaluz, G.R. No. L-34636, May 30, 1971) and, the Court should never remove a public officer for acts done prior to his present term of office. To do otherwise would deprieve (sic) the people of their right to elect their officer. When the people have elected a man to office, it must be assumed that they did this with knowledge of his life and character, and that they disregarded or forgave his fault or mis conduct (sic), if he had been guilty if any. (Aguinaldo vs. Santos, et al., G.R. No. 94115, August 21, 1992).

The prosecution moved for reconsideration 10 of the order, alleging that the court had confused removal as a penalty in administrative cases and the "temporary removal from office (or suspension) as a means of preventing the public official, while the criminal case against him is pending, from exerting undue influence, intimidate (sic) witnesses which may affect the outcome of the case; the former is a penalty or sanction whereas the latter is a mere procedural remedy." Accordingly, "while a re-elected public official cannot be administratively punished by removing him from office for offenses committed during his previous term, . . . said public official can be temporarily removed to prevent him from wielding undue influence which will definitely be a hindrance for justice to take its natural course." The prosecution then enumerated the cases decided by this Court reiterating the rule that what a re-election of a public official obliterates are only administrative, not criminal, liabilities, incurred during previous terms. 11

In his order of 3 August 1995, 12 respondent denied the motion for reconsideration, thus:

There is no dispute that the suspension sought by the prosecution is premised upon the act charged allegedly committed during the accused [sic] previous term as Barangay Chairman of Brgy. III-E. San Pablo City, who was subsequently re-elected as Barangay Chairman again during the last Barangay Election of May 9, 1994. Certainly, had not the accused been re-elected the prosecution will not file the instant motion to suspend him as there is no legal basis or the issue has become academic.

The instant case run [sic] parallel with the case of Lizares vs. Hechanova, et al., L-22059, May 17, 1966, 17 SCRA 58, wherein the Supreme Court subscribed to the rule denying the right to remove from office because of misconduct during a prior term.

It is opined by the Court that preventive suspension is applicable only if there is [sic] administrative case filed against a local official who is at the same time criminally charged in Court. At present, the records of the Court shows [sic] that there is no pending administrative case existing or filed against the accused.

It was held in the concluding paragraph of the decision by the Honorable Supreme Court in Lizares vs. Hechanova, et al., that "Since petitioner, having been duly re-elected, is no longer amenable to administrative sanctions for any acts committed during his former tenure, the determination whether the respondent validly acted in imposing upon him one month's suspension for act [sic] done during his previous term as mayor is now merely of theoretical interest.

Complainant then moved that respondent inhibit himself from Criminal Case No. 26240. In his order of 21 September 1995, 13 respondent voluntarily inhibited himself. The case was assigned to Judge Adelardo S. Escoses per order of Executive Judge Bienvenido V. Reyes of the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City.

On 15 October 1996, complainant filed his sworn letter-complaint with the Office of the Court Administrator.

In his comment dated 14 February 1997, filed in compliance with the resolution of this Court of 27 January 1997, respondent asserted that he had been "continuously keeping abreast of legal and jurisprudential development [sic] in the law" since he passed the 1955 Bar Examinations; and that he issued the two challenged orders "only after due appreciation of prevailing jurisprudence on the matter," citing authorities in support thereof. He thus prayed for dismissal of this case, arguing that to warrant a finding of ignorance of law and abuse of authority, the error must be "so gross and patent as to produce an inference of ignorance or bad faith or that the judge knowingly rendered an unjust decision." 14 He emphasized, likewise, that the error had to be "so grave and on so fundamental a point as to warrant condemnation of the judge as patently ignorant or negligent;" 15 "otherwise, to hold a judge administratively accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision he renders, assuming that he has erred, would be nothing short of harassment and that would be intolerable." 16

Respondent further alleged that he earned complainant's ire after denying the latter's Motion for the Suspension of Barangay Chairman Maghirang, which was filed only after Maghirang was re-elected in 1994; and that complainant made inconsistent claims, concretely, while in his letter of 4 September 1995 requesting respondent to inhibit from the case, complainant declared that he believed in respondent's integrity, competence and dignity, after he denied the request, complainant branded respondent as a "judge of poor caliber and understanding of the law, very incompetent and has no place in Court of Justice."

Finally, respondent Judge avowed that he would not dare soil his judicial robe at this time, for he had only three (3) years and nine (9) months more before reaching the compulsory age of retirement of seventy (70); and that for the last 25 years as municipal judge in the seven (7) towns of Laguna and as presiding judge of the MTCC, San Pablo City, he had maintained his integrity.

In compliance with the Court's resolution of 9 March 1998, the parties, by way of separate letters, informed the Court that they agreed to have this case decided on the basis of the pleadings already filed, with respondent explicitly specifying that only the complaint and the comment thereon be considered.

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) recommends that this Court hold respondent liable for ignorance of the law and that he be reprimanded with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely. In support thereof, the OCA makes the following findings and conclusions:

The claim of respondent Judge that a local official who is criminally charged can be preventively suspended only if there is an administrative case filed against him is without basis. Section 13 of RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) states that:

Suspension and loss of benefits Any incumbent public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this Act or under Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code or for any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property whether as a simple or as a complex offense and in whatever stage of execution and mode of participation, is pending in court, shall be suspended from office.

It is well settled that Section 13 of RA 3019 makes it mandatory for the Sandiganbayan (or the Court) to suspend any public officer against whom a valid information charging violation of this law, Book II, Title 7 of the RPC, or any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property is filed in court. The court trying a case has neither discretion nor duty to determine whether preventive suspension is required to prevent the accused from using his office to intimidate witnesses or frustrate his prosecution or continue committing malfeasance in office. All that is required is for the court to make a finding that the accused stands charged under a valid information for any of the above-described crimes for the purpose of granting or denying the sought for suspension. (Bolastig vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 110503 [August 4, 1994], 235 SCRA 103).

In the same case, the Court held that "as applied to criminal prosecutions under RA 3019, preventive suspension will last for less than ninety (90) days only if the case is decided within that period; otherwise, it will continue for ninety (90) days."

Barangay Chairman Benjamin Maghirang was charged with Unlawful Appointment, punishable under Article 244, Title 7, Book II of the Revised Penal Code. Therefore, it was mandatory on Judge Monzon's part, considering the Motion filed, to order the suspension of Maghirang for a maximum period of ninety (90) days. This, he failed and refused to do.

Judge Monzon's contention denying complainant's Motion for Suspension because "offenses committed during the previous term (is) not a cause for removal during the present term" is untenable. In the case of Rodolfo E. Aguinaldo vs. Hen. Luis Santos and Melvin Vargas, 212 SCRA 768, the Court held that "the rule is that a public official cannot be removed for administrative misconduct committed during a prior term since his re-election to office operates as a condonation of the officer's previous misconduct committed during a prior term, to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him therefor. The foregoing rule, however, finds no application to criminal cases . . . (Emphasis supplied)

Likewise, it was specifically declared in the case of Ingco vs. Sanchez, G.R. No. L-23220, 18 December 1967, 21 SCRA 1292, that "The ruling, therefore, that "when the people have elected a man to office it must be assumed that they did this with knowledge of his life and character and that they disregarded or forgave his faults or misconduct if he had been guilty of any" refers only to an action for removal from office and does not apply to a criminal case." (Emphasis ours)

Clearly, even if the alleged unlawful appointment was committed during Maghirang's first term as barangay chairman and the Motion for his suspension was only filed in 1995 during his second term, his re-election is not a bar to his suspension as the suspension sought for is in connection with criminal case.

Respondent's denial of complainant's Motion for Reconsideration left the complainant with no other judicial remedy. Since a case for Unlawful Appointment is covered by Summary Procedure, complainant is prohibited from filing a petition for certiorari, mandamus or prohibition involving an interlocutory order issued by the court. Neither can he file an appeal from the court's adverse final judgment, incorporating in his appeal the grounds assailing the interlocutory orders, as this will put the accused in double jeopardy.

All things considered, while concededly, respondent Judge manifested his ignorance of the law in denying complainant's Motion for Suspension of Brgy. Chairman Maghirang, there was nothing shown however to indicate that he acted in bad faith or with malice. Be that as it may, it would also do well to note that good faith and lack of malicious intent cannot completely free respondent from liability.

This Court, in the case of Libarios and Dabalos, 199 SCRA 48, ruled:

In the absence of fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a judge done in his judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary action, even though such acts may be erroneous. But, while judges should not be disciplined for inefficiency on account merely of occasional mistakes or errors of judgment, yet, it is highly imperative that they should be conversant with basic principles.

A judge owes it to the public and the administration of justice to know the law he is supposed to apply to a given controversy. He is called upon to exhibit more than a cursory acquaintance with the statutes and procedural rules. There will be faith in the administration of justice only if there be a belief on the part of litigants that the occupants of the bench cannot justly be accused of a deficiency in their grasp of legal principles.

The findings and conclusions of the Office of the Court Administrator are in order. However, the penalty recommended, i.e., reprimand, is too light, in view of the fact that despite his claim that he has been "continuously keeping abreast of legal and jurisprudential development [sic] in law" ever since he passed the Bar Examinations in 1995, respondent, wittingly or otherwise, failed to recall that as early as 18 December 1967 in Ingco v. Sanchez, 17 this Court explicitly ruled that the re-election of a public official extinguishes only the administrative, but not the criminal, liability incurred by him during his previous term of office, thus:

The ruling, therefore, that "when the people have elected a man to his office it must be assumed that they did this with knowledge of his life and character and that they disregarded or forgave his faults or misconduct if he had been guilty of any" refers only to an action for removal from office and does not apply to a criminal case, because a crime is a public wrong more atrocious in character than mere misfeasance or malfeasance committed by a public officer in the discharge of his duties, and is injurious not only to a person or group of persons but to the State as a whole. This must be the reason why Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code, which enumerates the grounds for extinction of criminal liability, does not include reelection to office as one of them, at least insofar as a public officer is concerned. Also, under the Constitution, it is only the President who may grant the pardon of a criminal offense.

In Ingco, this Court did not yield to petitioner's insistence that he was benefited by the ruling in Pascual v. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija 18 that a public officer should never be removed for acts done prior to his present term of office, as follows:

There is a whale of a difference between the two cases. The basis of the investigation which has been commenced here, and which is sought to be restrained, is a criminal accusation the object of which is to cause the indictment and punishment of petitioner-appellant as a private citizen; whereas in the cases cited, the subject of the investigation was an administrative charge against the officers therein involved and its object was merely to cause his suspension or removal from public office. While the criminal cases involves the character of the mayor as a private citizen and the People of the Philippines as a community is a party to the case, an administrative case involves only his actuations as a public officer as [they] affect the populace of the municipality where he serves. 19

Then on 20 June 1969, in Luciano v. The Provincial Governor, et al., 20 this Court likewise categorically declared that criminal liabilities incurred by an elective public official during his previous term of office were not extinguished by his re-election, and that Pascual v. Provincial Governor and Lizares v. Hechanova referred only to administrative liabilities committed during the previous term of an elective official, thus:

1. The first problem we are to grapple with is the legal effect of the reelection of respondent municipal officials. Said respondents would want to impress upon us the fact that in the last general elections of November 14, 1967 the Makati electorate reelected all of them, except that Vice-Mayor Teotimo Gealogo, a councilor prior thereto, was elevated to vice-mayor. These respondents contend that their reelection erected a bar to their removal from office for misconduct committed prior to November 14, 1967. It is to be recalled that the acts averred in the criminal information in Criminal Case 18821 and for which they were convicted allegedly occurred on or about July 26, 1967, or prior to the 1967 elections. They ground their position on Pascual vs. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija, 106 Phil. 466, and Lizares vs. Hechanova, 17 SCRA 58.

A circumspect view leaves us unconvinced of the soundness of respondents' position. The two cases relied upon have laid down the precept that a reelected public officer is no longer amenable to administrative sanctions for acts committed during his former tenure. But the present case rests on an entirely different factual and legal setting. We are not here confronted with administrative charges to which the two cited cases refer. Here involved is a criminal prosecution under a special statute, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019).

Then again, on 30 May 1974, in Oliveros v. Villaluz, 21 this Court held:

I

The first question presented for determination is whether a criminal offense for violation of Republic Act 3019 committed by an elective officer during one term may be the basis of his suspension in a subsequent term in the event of his reelection to office.

Petitioner concedes that "the power and authority of respondent judge to continue trying the criminal case against petitioner may not in any way be affected by the fact of petitioner's reelection," but contends that "said respondent's power to preventively suspend petitioner under section 13 of Republic Act 3019 became inefficacious upon petitioner's reelection" arguing that the power of the courts cannot be placed over that of sovereign and supreme people who ordained his return to office.

Petitioner's reliance on the loose language used in Pascual vs. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija that "each term is separate from other terms and that the reelection to office operates as a condonation of the officer's previous misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him therefor" is misplaced.

The Court has in subsequent cases made it clear that the Pascual ruling (which dealt with administrative liability) applies exclusively to administrative and not to criminal liability and sanctions. Thus, in Ingco vs. Sanchez the court ruled that the reelection of a public officer for a new term does not in any manner wipe out the criminal liability incurred by him in a previous term.

In Luciano vs. Provincial Governor the Court stressed that the cases of Pascual and Lizares are authority for the precept that "a reelected public officer is no longer amenable to administrative sanctions for acts committed during his former tenure" but that as to criminal prosecutions, particularly, for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as in the case at bar, the same are not barred by reelection of the public officer, since, inter alia, one of the penalties attached to the offense is perpetual disqualification from public office and it "is patently offensive to the objectives and the letter of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practice Act . . . that an official may amass wealth thru graft and corrupt practices and thereafter use the same to purchase reelection and thereby launder his evil acts."

Punishment for a crime is a vindication for an offense against the State and the body politic. The small segment of the national electorate that constitutes the electorate of the municipality of Antipolo has no power to condone a crime against the public justice of the State and the entire body politic. Reelection to public office is not provided for in Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code as a mode of extinguishing criminal liability incurred by a public officer prior to his reelection. On the contrary, Article 9 of the Anti-Graft Act imposes as one of the penalties in case of conviction perpetual disqualification from public office and Article 30 of the Revised Penal Code declares that such penalty of perpetual disqualification entails "the deprivation of the public offices and employments which the offender may have held, even if conferred by popular election."

It is manifest then, that such condonation of an officer's fault or misconduct during a previous expired term by virtue of his reelection to office for a new term can be deemed to apply only to his administrative and not to his criminal guilt. As succinctly stated in then Solicitor General (now Associate Justice) Felix Q. Antonio's memorandum for the State, "to hold that petitioner's reelection erased his criminal liability would in effect transfer the determination of the criminal culpability of an erring official from the court to which it was lodged by law into the changing and transient whim and caprice of the electorate. This cannot be so, for while his constituents may condone the misdeed of a corrupt official by returning him back to office, a criminal action initiated against the latter can only be heard and tried by a court of justice, his nefarious act having been committed against the very State whose laws he had sworn to faithfully obey and uphold. A contrary rule would erode the very system upon which our government is based, which is one of laws and not of men."

Finally, on 21 August 1992, in Aguinaldo v. Santos, 22 this Court stated:

Clearly then, the rule is that a public official cannot be removed from administrative misconduct committed during a prior term, since his re-election to office operates as a condonation of the officer's previous misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him therefor. The foregoing rule, however, finds no application to criminal cases pending against petitioner for acts he may have committed during the failed coup.

Thus far, no ruling to the contrary has even rippled the doctrine enunciated in the above-mentioned cases. If respondent has truly been continuously keeping abreast of legal and jurisprudential development [sic] in the law," it was impossible for him to have missed or misread these cases. What detracts from his claim of assiduity is the fact that he even cited the cases of Oliveros v. Villaluz and Aguinaldo v. Santos in support of his 30 June 1995 order. What is then evident is that respondent either did not thoroughly read these cases or that he simply miscomprehended them. The latter, of course, would only manifest either incompetence, since both cases were written in plain and simple language thereby foreclosing any possibility of misunderstanding or confusion; or deliberate disregard of a long settled doctrine pronounced by this Court.

While diligence in keeping up-to-date with the decisions of this Court is a commendable virtue of judges and, of course, members of the Bar comprehending the decisions is a different matter, for it is in that area where one's competence may then be put to the test and proven. Thus, it has been said that a judge is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules; it is imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles and aware of well-settled and authoritative doctrines. 23 He should strive for excellence, exceeded only by his passion for truth, to the end that he be the personification of justice and the Rule of Law. 24

Needless to state, respondent was, in this instance, wanting in the desired level of mastery of a revered doctrine on a simple issue.

On the other hand, if respondent judge deliberately disregarded the doctrine laid down in Ingco v. Sanchez and reiterated in the succeeding cases of Luciano v. Provincial Governor, Oliveros v. Villaluz and Aguinaldo v. Santos, it may then be said that he simply wished to enjoy the privilege of overruling this Court's doctrinal pronouncements. On this point, and as a reminder to all judges, it is apropos to quote what this Court said sixty-one years ago in People v. Vera: 25

As already observed by this Court in Shioji vs. Harvey [1922], 43 Phil., 333, 337), and reiterated in subsequent cases "if each and every Court of First Instance could enjoy the privilege of overruling decisions of the Supreme Court, there would be no end to litigation, and judicial chaos would result." A becoming modesty of inferior courts demands conscious realization of the position that they occupy in the interrelation and operation of the integrated judicial system of the nation.

Likewise, in Luzon Stevedoring Corp. v. Court of Appeals: 26

The spirit and initiative and independence on the part of men of the robe may at times be commendable, but certainly not when this Court, not once but at least four times, had indicated what the rule should be. We had spoken clearly and unequivocally. There was no ambiguity in what we said. Our meaning was clear and unmistakable. We did take pains to explain why it must be thus. We were within our power in doing so. It would not be too much to expect, then, that tribunals in the lower rungs of the judiciary would at the very least, take notice and yield deference. Justice Laurel had indicated in terms too clear for misinterpretation what is expected of them. Thus: "A becoming modesty of inferior court[s] demands conscious realization of the position that they occupy in the interrelation and operation of the integrated judicial system of the nation." 27 In the constitutional sense, respondent Court is not excluded from such a category. The grave abuse of discretion is thus manifest.

In Caram Resources Corp v. Contreras, 28 this Court affirmed that by tradition and in our system of judicial administration, this Court has the last word on what the law is, and that its decisions applying or interpreting the Constitution and laws form part of this country's legal system. 29 All other courts should then be guided by the decisions of this Court. To judges who find it difficult to do so, Vivo v. Cloribel 30 warned:

Now, if a Judge of a lower Court feels, in the fulfillment of his mission of deciding cases, that the application of a doctrine promulgated by this Superiority is against his way of reasoning, or against his conscience, he may state his opinion on the matter, but rather than disposing of the case in accordance with his personal views he must first think that it is his duty to apply the law as interpreted by the Highest Court of the Land, and that any deviation from the principle laid down by the latter would unavoidably cause, as a sequel, unnecessary inconveniences, delays and expenses to the litigants. And if despite of what is here said, a Judge, still believes that he cannot follow Our rulings, then he has no other alternative than to place himself in the position that he could properly avoid the duty of having to render judgment on the case concerned (Art. 9, C.C.), and he has only one legal way to do that.

Finally, the last sentence of Canon 18 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics directs a judge to administer his office with due regard to the integrity of the system of the law itself, remembering that he is not a depository of arbitrary power, but a judge under the sanction of law.

That having been said, we cannot but conclude that the recommended penalty of reprimand is not commensurate with the misdeed committed. A fine of P5,000.00, with a warning that a commission of similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely is, at the very least, appropriate, considering respondent is due for compulsory retirement on 29 November 2000 and that this is his first offense.

WHEREFORE, for incompetence as a result of ignorance of a settled doctrine interpreting a law, or deliberate disregard of such doctrine in violation of Canon 18 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, respondent Judge Iluminado C. Monzon is hereby FINED in the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) and warned that the commission of similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Vitug, Panganiban and Quisumbing, JJ., concur.

# Footnotes

1 Rollo, 2-5.

2 Rollo, 8.

3 Id., 11-12.

4 Id., 13-14.

5 Id., 17-18.

6 Id., 19.

7 Rollo, 20.

8 Id., 26-27.

9 Id., 30.

10 Rollo, 33-35.

11 Pascual v. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija, G.R. No. 11959, 31 October 1959; Lizares v. Hechanova, G.R. No. L-22059, 17 May 1966; Oliveros v. Villaluz, G.R. No. L-34636, 30 May 1974; Aguinaldo v. Santos, G.R. No. 94115, 21 August 1992); Ingco v. Sanchez, 21 SCRA 1292).

12 Id., 36-37.

13 Rollo, 39.

14 Citing Ramirez v. Corpuz-Macandog, 144 SCRA 462, 474-475 [1986]; Dela Cruz v. Concepcion, 235 SCRA 597 [1994]; Roa v. Imbing, 231 SCRA 57 [1994].

15 Citing Negado v. Autojay, 222 SCRA 295, 297 [1993].

16 Citing Bengzon v. Adaoag, A.M. MTJ-95-1045, Nov. 28, 1995.

17 21 SCRA 1292, 1295 [1967].

18 106 Phil. 466.

19 At 1294-1295.

20 28 SCRA 517, 526-527 [1969].

21 57 SCRA 163, 169-171.

22 212 SCRA 768, 773.

23 Estoya v. Abraham Singson, 237 SCRA 1, 21, citing Aducayen v. Flores, 51 SCRA 78 [1973]; Ajeno v. Inserto, 71 SCRA 166 [1976]; Ubongen v. Mayo, 99 SCRA 30 [1980]; Libarios v. Dabalos, 199 SCRA 48 [1991]; Lim v. Domagas, 227 SCRA 258 [1993].

24 Id., at 22, citing Cuaresma v. Aguilar, 226 SCRA 73 [1993].

25 65 Phil. 56, 82 [1937].

26 34 SCRA 73, 78-79 [1970].

27 Citing People v. Vera, supra note 25.

28 237 SCRA 724, 735 [1994].

29 Art. 8, Civil Code.

30 18 SCRA 713 [1966].


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