Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

A.M. No. MTJ-00-1252           December 17, 2002

NELSON RODRIGUEZ and RICARDO CAMACHO, complainants,
vs.
JUDGE RODOLFO S. GATDULA, respondent.

D E C I S I O N

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

An administrative complaint against a judge cannot be pursued simultaneously with the judicial remedies accorded to parties aggrieved by his erroneous order or judgment. Administrative remedies are neither alternative nor cumulative to judicial review where such review is available to the aggrieved parties and the same has not yet been resolved with finality. For until there is a final declaration by the appellate court that the challenged order or judgment is manifestly erroneous, there will be no basis to conclude whether respondent judge is administratively liable. This doctrine set out in In Re: Joaquin T. Borromeo,1 and subsequently reiterated in several cases2 by this Court, find application to the instant administrative complaint against Judge Rodolfo S. Gatdula of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Balanga, Bataan. He is being charged with gross ignorance of the law, gross negligence and/or abuse of authority3 in connection with his orders and decision in Civil Case No. 1701.

On November 25, 1994, Mariveles Pawnshop Corporation, represented by Natividad Candido, filed with the MTC of Balanga, Bataan a complaint for forcible entry against Ricardo Camacho and Marilou Hernandez, docketed as Civil Case No. 1701. The complaint alleges inter alia that Natividad Candido is the President and General Manager of Mariveles Pawnshop Corporation; and that defendants, by means of strategy and stealth, took possession and control over its pawnshop stall in Balanga, Bataan.

In their answer, defendants alleged that Natividad had been ousted from her position as President of plaintiff corporation and that Camacho replaced her as General Manager of its Balanga branch; and that Natividad has no authority to file the forcible entry suit on behalf of plaintiff corporation.

On February 22, 1995, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint contending in essence that the court has no jurisdiction over the case because it involves an intra-corporate dispute which was then within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

On March 8, 1995, respondent judge denied the motion to set the above motion for hearing.

On April 16, 1997, he rendered a decision in favor of plaintiff corporation, the dispositive portion of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered, ordering the defendants and their representatives to immediately vacate the premises of Mariveles Pawnshop Inc., located at the Plaza Arcade, Balanga, Bataan, and to restore to plaintiff Natividad Candido the full possession thereof including all articles and money found therein, valued at P2,000,000.00 and to pay rental which is fixed at P8,000.00 per month beginning July 21, 1994.

"The counterclaim of the defendants are hereby dismissed, they not being substantiated by evidence.

"Cost against the defendants."4

Subsequently, plaintiff filed a motion for execution of the decision on the ground that the defendants failed to post supersedeas bond representing the rentals due. In the meantime, defendants seasonably filed a notice of appeal.

On June 5, 1997, respondent issued an Order granting plaintiff’s motion for execution due to defendants’ failure to post a supersedeas bond.

On June 9, 1997, defendants filed a petition for certiorari with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Balanga, Bataan, assailing the MTC order directing the issuance of a writ of execution. On the same date, Camacho, claiming to be the vice-president of plaintiff corporation, and Nelson Rodriguez, claiming to be the incumbent president of the same corporation, filed with this Court the instant administrative complaint against respondent judge for ignorance of the law, alleging that he:

1) failed to resolve their motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction since it involves an intra-corporate dispute;

2) erred in requiring defendants to post a supersedeas bond amounting to Two Million (P2,000,000.00) Pesos to stay the execution of his decision; and

3) awarded possession of the pawnshop to Natividad alone, notwithstanding that the real plaintiff in the case is Mariveles Pawnshop, Inc.5

In a letter6 dated September 1, 1997, addressed to then Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo, respondent judge denied the administrative charges, contending that defendants never alleged in their pleadings submitted to his court that the issue involves an intra-corporate dispute. When he awarded possession of the disputed pawnshop stall to Natividad, it was in her capacity as President and General Manager of plaintiff corporation. Moreover, he issued the writ of execution because defendants’ counsel manifested that his clients would not file a supersedeas bond together with their notice of appeal.

On December 1, 1999, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), through then Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo, found that respondent judge’s actions "were not free from the appearance of impropriety" and recommended that he be fined Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos.

In a Resolution7 dated January 19, 2000, this Court ordered that this case be docketed as an administrative matter and required the parties to manifest, within twenty (20) days from notice, whether they are submitting the case for decision on the basis of the pleadings already submitted.

Both parties filed their respective manifestations that they are willing to have the case so decided.

The main issue for our resolution is whether the instant administrative complaint for gross ignorance of the law is permissible in light of the filing by complainants of a notice of appeal and a petition for certiorari assailing respondent judge’s decision and his order of execution.

Recently, this Court, in Abraham L. Mendova vs. Crisanto B. Afable, Presiding Judge, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Julian-Sulat, Eastern Samar,8 pertinently ruled:

"It is axiomatic, as this Court has repeatedly stressed, that an administrative complaint is not the appropriate remedy for every irregular or erroneous order or decision issued by a judge where a judicial remedy is available, such as a motion for reconsideration, or an appeal. For, obviously, if subsequent developments prove the judge’s challenged act to be correct, there would be no occasion to proceed against him at all. Besides, to hold a judge administratively accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision he renders, assuming he has erred, would be nothing short of harassment and would make his position doubly unbearable. To hold otherwise would be to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment. It is only where the error is so gross, deliberate and malicious, or incurred with evident bad faith that administrative sanctions may be imposed against the erring judge."9 (emphasis ours)

Mendova cites Flores vs. Abesamis,10 wherein this Court held:

"As everyone knows, the law provides ample judicial remedies against errors or irregularities being committed by a Trial Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction. The ordinary remedies against errors or irregularities which may be regarded as normal in nature (i.e., error in appreciation or admission of evidence, or in construction or application of procedural or substantive law or legal principle) include a motion for reconsideration (or after rendition of judgment or final order, a motion for new trial), and appeal. The extraordinary remedies against error or irregularities which may be deemed extraordinary in character (i.e., whimsical, capricious, despotic exercise of power or neglect of duty, etc.) are, inter alia, the special civil action of certiorari, prohibition or mandamus, or a motion for inhibition, a petition for change of venue, as the case may be.

"Now, the established doctrine and policy is that disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions against Judges are not complementary or suppletory of, nor a substitute for, these judicial remedies, whether ordinary or extraordinary. Resort to and exhaustion of these judicial remedies, as well as the entry of judgment in the corresponding action or proceeding, are pre-requisites for the taking of other measures against the persons of the judges concerned, whether of civil, administrative, or criminal nature. It is only after the available judicial remedies have been exhausted and the appellate tribunals have spoken with finality, that the door to an inquiry into his criminal, civil, or administrative liability may be said to have opened, or closed.

"Flores (complainant) resorted to administrative prosecution (or institution of criminal actions) as a substitute for or supplement to the specific modes of appeals or review provided by law from court judgments or orders, on the theory that the Judges’ orders had caused him ‘undue injury.’ This is impermissible, as this Court has already more than once ruled. Law and logic decree that ‘administrative or criminal remedies are neither alternative nor cumulative to judicial review where such review is available, and must wait on the result thereof’ (See In Re: Wenceslao Laureta, 148 SCRA 382, 417-418 [1987]; In Re: Joaquin T. Borromeo, 241 SCRA 405 [1995]). x x x.

"x x x. In fine, Flores filed his administrative and criminal complaints prematurely, before ascertainment of the existence of foundation therefore; x x x." (emphasis ours)

In the present case, the complainants filed this administrative case against respondent judge while their appeal and petition for certiorari challenging his decision and order were still pending with the RTC. Following our settled pronouncements cited above, the instant complaint is impermissible.

It is worthwhile to note that defendants’ petition for certiorari was granted by the RTC. In fact, it issued a preliminary injunction restraining the MTC from enforcing its writ of execution.11 Aggrieved by the RTC decision, plaintiff corporation filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus which was dismissed in its Decision dated March 25, 1998. Their motion for reconsideration was likewise denied by the Appellate Court.12 Thus, plaintiff filed with this Court a petition for review on certiorari challenging the Court of Appeals’ Decision. This Court granted the petition in its Decision dated January 15, 2002 in G.R. No. 13675, Natividad Candido and Mariveles pawnshop, Inc. vs. Ricardo Camacho and Marilou Hernandez, the pertinent portions of which read:

"Anent the first two issues [(a) whether a supersedeas bond is necessary to stay execution pending appeal, and (b) whether payment of back rentals is also necessary to stay execution], Section 8, Rule 70 of the old Rules of Court provides that to stay the execution of the MTC decision in favor of the plaintiff in an ejectment case, the defendant must: (1) perfect his appeal, (2) post the supersedeas bond, and (3) periodically deposit the rentals accruing during the pendency of his appeal. Compliance with all three requisites is mandatory to stay execution.

"x x x

"In the case at bar, the MTC decision in the forcible entry case ordered the posting of the supersedeas bond in the following amount: two million pesos as damages (representing the value of the pawned articles and operating capital inside the pawnshop) and payment of rentals in the amount of P8,000.00 per month x x x. The respondents filed a notice of appeal with the MTC but did not pay the damages and rentals adjudged. Instead, they went to the RTC on certiorari and assailed the fixing of the two million pesos as damages.

"The failure of the respondents to post the supersedeas bond to the extent of the back rentals as adjudged in the MTC decision rendered said decision immediately executory. The fact that the respondents assailed the inclusion of the two million pesos in the supersedeas bond as damages does not excuse them from posting the bond to the extent of the back rentals adjudged. To be sure, the supersedeas bond consists not only of the damages adjudged as it also includes the back rentals mentioned in the MTC decision. Thus, for failure to post the supersedeas bond to the extent of the amount of the unpaid rentals, the MTC decision became immediately executory. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals erred in holding that, as the damages was improperly awarded, the respondents need not post a supersedeas bond.

"x x x

"In the case at bar, the remedy of the respondents is to file an appeal within the reglementary period after the issuance of the MTC decision. However, insofar as assailing the MTC’s order of execution, we hold that respondents’ appeal thereof would be too slow and inadequate to prevent the injurious effect of respondents’ imminent dispossession of the property. Thus, respodents’ filing of a petition for certiorari to assail the MTC order for immediate execution of its decision is proper. However, we note that respondents’ petition for certiorari was not limited for said purpose as they likewise assailed the main decision of the MTC in the same petition. This is improper as appeal is still their appropriate remedy under the former Rules of Court (Section14, Rule 40 – Appeal from Inferior Courts to Courts of First Instance). What compounded the matter is that respondents had already a pending notice of appeal with the MTC to assail its decision in the forcible entry case. Clearly, by also assailing the decision of the MTC in the forcible entry case in their subsequent petition for certiorari, respondents are guilty of forum-shopping which carries the sanction of dismissal of both the petition for certiorari and the appeal filed by the respondents with the RTC.

"IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is GRANTED. The impugned decision of the Court of Appeals, dated May 25 1998, and its Resolution, dated December 9, 1998, in CA-GR. No. 44633 are SET ASIDE. The preliminary injunction issued by the Regional Trial Court in its Order dated June 30, 1997, in Civil Case No. 6651 against the immediate execution of the decision of the Municipal Trial Court in the forcible entry case is LIFTED AND SET ASIDE. In addition, both the appeal and the petition for certiorari filed by the respondents before the Regional Trial Court of Bataan in Civil Case No. 6651 are DISMISSED for violation of the non-forum shopping rule."13 (emphasis ours)

< align="justify"p>Clearly, this Court, in G.R. No. 13675, upheld the validity of respondent judge’s decision and order of execution in Civil Case No. 1701 for forcible entry, the very same decision and order now being assailed in this administrative complaint. To be sure, respondent judge is not ignorant of the law.

WHEREFORE, this case against Judge Rodolfo S. Gatdula is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairman), Panganiban, Corona, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.


Footnotes


1 241 SCRA 405 (1995).

2 See Mendova vs. Afable, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1402 (December 4, 2002); Frani vs. Pagayatan, 363 SCRA 707, 713-714 (2001); Caguioa vs. Laviña, 345 SCRA 49 (2000); Flores vs. Abesamis, 275 SCRA 302 (1997).

3 Court (3rd Div) Resolution dated January 19, 2000 ordered the re-docketing of OCA IPI No. 97-336-MTJ as a regular administrative matter.

4 Rollo, at 55.

5 Complaint Affidavit dated June 9, 1997, Rollo, at 3.

6 Rollo, at 60-65.

7 Id., at 98.

8 A.M. No. MTJ-02-1402, December 4, 2002.

9 Citing Santos vs. Orlino, 296 SCRA 101, 106-107 (1998); In Re: Joaquin T. Borromeo, 241 SCRA 405, 407-408, 464-465 (1995); Rodrigo vs. Quijano, 79 SCRA 10, 12 (1977); Dizon vs. De Borja, 37 SCRA 46, 52 (1971); Urbina vs. Maceren, 57 SCRA 403, 407 (1974).

10 275 SCRA 302, 316-317 (1997).

11 Natividad Candido and Mariveles Pawnshop, Inc. vs. Ricardo Camacho and Marilou Hernandez, G.R. No. 13675, January 15, 2002.

12 Id.

13 Id.


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