Supreme Court E-Library
Information At Your Fingertips


  View printer friendly version

325 Phil. 111

EN BANC

[ Adm. Matter No. RTJ-94-4-156, March 13, 1996 ]

REPORT ON THE JUDICIAL AUDIT AND PHYSICAL INVENTORY OF THE CASES IN RTC-BR. 138, MAKATI CITY. JUDGE FERNANDO P. AGDAMAG, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

BELLOSILLO, J.:

NARROWING the gap between the number of cases filed and that disposed of is the primary concern of the Court. Thus members of the judiciary are enjoined to act with promptitude and dispatch in the discharge of their functions. The full realization of this goal indeed hinges on the industry and dedication of every trial judge. He cannot afford therefore to be sluggish in the resolution of incidents pending before him and the drafting and formalization of his decisions. Here, we are called upon to determine whether respondent Judge who has since compulsorily retired met this standard while still in office and to make answerable whatever retirement benefit he may have left with the Court.

A judicial audit and physical inventory of cases pending in RTC-Br. 138, Makati City, then presided over by respondent Judge, was conducted by a team from the Office of the Court Administrator. The audit disclosed that as of the end of February 1994 Br. 138 had a total of 860 cases with 278 cases still undecided although already submitted for decision, 250 of which were already beyond the 90-day period fixed by law. Worse, some of the cases were submitted for decision or resolution as early as 1985. Yet, when respondent Judge submitted his Monthly Report of Cases for December 1993 he indicated on Item VI thereof re List Of Cases Submitted For Decision But Not Yet Decided At The End Of The Month that only Civil Case No. 89-5312 was deemed Submitted for decision.

The audit team also reported that Judge Agdamag went on leave several times, i.e., from 15 July to 8 August 1993; 16-31 August 1993; 1-15 September 1993; 13-21 October 1993; 3-19 November 1993; 1-3 December 1993; 4-6 January 1994; 17-31 January 1994; 7-28 February 1994; 7-30 March 1994; and 11-30 April 1994.

On 31 May 1994 we required Judge Agdamag to explain why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for failing to resolve the 250 cases submitted for decision or resolution within the 90-day reglementary period.

In his compliance, Judge Agdamag explained that the cases accumulated in his sala due to the absence of a clerk of court for long periods of time.

We found the explanation of Judge Agdamag thoroughly unsatisfactory. Accordingly we again asked respondent to explain why he reported to the Office of the Court Administrator that he only had one case submitted for decision as of the end of December 1993 when it appeared that he had 278 cases submitted for decision at that time. Parenthetically, we also asked him to explain how he was able to collect his monthly salary despite his considerable backlog of cases and frequent leaves of absence without adequate reason.

Finally on 25 August 1994 Judge Agdamag clarified his infractions adverted to above-

First. There was no deliberate intent on his part to mislead the Office of the Court Administrator into believing that there was only one case submitted for decision as of the end of December 1993. The entry was made by a member of his staff who also explained that such was the prevailing practice among the courts in Makati.

Second. The Disbursing Officer of the Office of the Clerk of Court of Makati distributed the court personnel’s paychecks every month, thus he continued to receive his monthly salary despite his backlog of cases.

Third. He frequently went on leave of absence in order to process his retirement requirements and work on his backlog. From March to May 1994 he resolved 100 out of the 278 cases submitted for decision.

Fourth. He suffered from myocardial infraction sometime in 1986.

Fifth. He had served the government for more than 40 years but was never charged administratively nor required to explain any misbehavior.

On 30 May 1994 Judge Agdamag compulsorily retired from the government service. In a letter dated 7 June 1994 he requested that he be allowed to receive the cash equivalent of his accumulated leave credits.

On 18 October 1994 this Court granted the payment of the retirement benefits of Judge Agdamag but withheld therefrom the amount of P50,000.00 to answer for any contingent liability that might be adjudged against him on account of his failure to decide cases within the reglementary period.

The narration of facts clearly shows that respondent Judge sorely failed to dispose of his court’s business promptly and decide his cases within the prescribed periods in violation of Rule 3.05, Canon 3, of the Code of Judicial Conduct. In Secretary of Justice v. Legaspi[1] we had occasion to "once more impress upon the members of the Judiciary their sworn duty of administering justice without undue delay under the time-honored precept that justice delayed is justice denied. The present clogged condition of the court’s docket in all levels of our judicial system cannot be cleared unless each and every judge earnestly and painstakingly takes it upon himself to comply faithfully with the mandate of the law. No less important than the speedy termination of hearings and trials of cases is the promptness and dispatch in the making of decisions and judgment, the signing thereof and filing the same with the Clerk of Court."

The reasons cited by Judge Agdamag cannot mitigate his negligence; on the contrary, they aggravate his misconduct.

We find unacceptable his claim that it was not his intention to deliberately mislead this Court into believing that only one case was submitted for decision for the month of December 1993 but that the Monthly Report Of Cases was prepared not by him but by a member of his staff. A perusal of his report however discloses that it was noted and signed by respondent himself. It must be underscored that proper court management is one of the primary responsibilities of a trial judge pursuant to Rule 3.09, Canon 3, of the Code of Judicial Conduct.[2] Upon the judge invariably rests the duty to take note of the cases submitted for decision and decide them within the reglementary period.[3] In his desire to exculpate himself and place the blame on his staff, Judge Agdamag forgot that " he sits not only to judge litigated cases with the least possible delay but that his responsibilities include being an effective manager of the Court and its personnel."[4] Judge Agdamag is presumed to be cognizant of his responsibilities as a worthy minister of the law. At the very least he is expected to keep abreast with his pocket.

Noticeably, Judge Agdamag continued receiving his monthly salary despite his clogged docket because he did not indicate in his monthly report or certificate of service the unresolved cases in his sala. Definitely, the Disbursing Officer of the Office of the Clerk of Court of Makati would not have delivered his monthly salary had respondent truthfully reported said backlog. As officers of the court judges are duty bound to scrupulously adhere and hold sacred the tenets of their profession. They must be reminded, lest they have already conveniently forgotten, that a certificate of service is not merely a means to one’s paycheck. Failure to resolve cases submitted for decision within the period fixed by law constitutes a serious violation of the constitutional right of the parties to a speedy disposition of their cases. This transgression is compounded when respondent continued to collect his salaries upon certification that he had but one case submitted for decision.[5] The act becomes more odious because it was committed by an officer of the court. Instead of being the embodiment of competence, integrity, probity and independence,[6] he has allowed himself to be an instrument of fraud. The sapient course for the judge to take upon learning that he could not possibly decide the cases already submitted for decision within the prescribed period was to request for an extension of time instead of taking frequent leaves of absence. We are at a loss as to why respondent opted to go on leave a number of times despite the numerous cases pending in his sala. We cannot believe that he frequently went on leave in order to resolve his pending cases, otherwise, he could have unclogged his docket. On the contrary, his presence was indispensable in order to dispose of the cases needing his attention. The records do not support his argument. Some of the cases were already submitted for decision as early as 1985 while he started going on leave in 1993. By his own admission, it was only sometime between March and May 1994 or after the judicial audit had been conducted that he allegedly resolved 100 cases out of the 278 cases already submitted for decision. If this statement is true then respondent could have easily disposed of the cases within the time frame prescribed by law if he put his mind to it.

In fine, we cannot countenance the delay incurred by respondent. It is unreasonable, inexcusable and a manifest gross inefficiency on his part. The fraudulent certification of the monthly report likewise constitutes gross misconduct, for by it the judge uncaringly abdicated his duty to safeguard the constitutional right of the people to speedy disposition of their cases. His inefficiency and gross misconduct have hindered our "efforts to eradicate docket congestion and delay, which efforts include revising the Rules of Court, implementing new procedures like continuous trial and monitoring the performance of judges and court personnel."[7]

WHEREFORE, upon recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator and considering that respondent JUDGE FERNANDO P. AGDAMAG is already compulsorily retired from government service as of 30 May 1994, and additionally taking into account his age and failing health he is FINED P40,000.00 the same to be taken from the amount the Court withheld from his retirement benefits.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado, Davide Jr., Romero, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., and Panganiban, JJ., concur.


[1]
A.C. No. 269-J, 10 September 1981, 107 SCRA 247, citing Castro v. Malazo, AM. No. 1237-CAR, 21 August 1980, 99 SCRA 164.

[2] A judge should organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient dispatch of business, and require at all times the observance of high standards of public service and fidelity (Nidua v. Lazaro, Adm. Matter Nos. R-465-MTJ and 87-9-2310, 29 June 1989, 174 SCRA 586, citing Secretary of Justice v. Legaspi, see Note 1).

[3] Adriano v. Sto. Domingo, Adm. Matter No. RTJ-90-583, 4 October 1991, 202 SCRA 449.

[4] Sabitsana Jr. v. Villamor, RTJ No. 90-474, 4 October 1991, 202 SCRA 439 citing Canon 3, Rule 3.08 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which provides: A judge should diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain professional competence in court management, and facilitate the performance of the administrative functions of other judges and court personnel.

[5] Id., p. 440; Re: Report on the Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of the Record of Cases in RTC, Br. 43, Roxas, Mindoro Oriental, Adm. Matter No. 93-9-1249-RTC, 22 September 1994, 236 SCRA 636, citing Magdamo v. Pahimulin, Adm. Matter No. 662-MJ, 30 September 1976, 73 SCRA 110.

[6] Rule 1.01, Canon 1 Of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

[7] See Note 5, p. 638.

© Supreme Court E-Library 2012
This website was designed and developed, and is maintained, by the E-Library Technical Staff.