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464 Phil. 1


[ A.M. No. MTJ-02-1436, January 12, 2004 ]




In a Decision[1] dated April 3, 2003, this Court found respondent Judge Jose S. Jacinto guilty of culpable lapses in supervising court employees and issuing orders through the telephone, in violation of Supreme Court Circular No. 26-97 and Section 6, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Court; and imposed upon him a fine of P11,000.00.

On May 12, 2003, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied by this Court in a Resolution dated June 16, 2003.[2]

Undeterred, respondent filed the present “Urgent Appeal,” entreating this Court to grant him utmost compassion and understanding by relaxing the stringent application of its disciplinary rules.  He implores this Court to consider his dedicated service in the Judiciary for the last sixteen (16) years.  He claims that he acted in good faith; this is his first administrative transgression; and he has been devoted to his judicial duties.  If the fine imposed upon him is not reduced, it will bar his promotion as RTC judge.  He thus prays that the fine of P11,000.00 imposed upon him be reduced to P5,000.00.

Respondent’s earnest plea for understanding and compassion and his desire to be promoted as RTC judge impel us to take a second hard look at his case.

In his “Urgent Appeal,”[3] respondent alleged as follows:
“On the first issue – violation of Supreme Court Circular No. 26-97 – this Honorable Court ruled:
‘Here, the Clerk of Court did not issue the receipt for the payment of the cash bond posted by the accused.  Instead, the original receipt was attached to the records of Criminal Case No. 2641.  Respondent should have instructed the Clerk of Court to comply with Circular No. 26-97 quoted above.  As aptly stated by Court Administrator Velasco in his Report, ‘respondent judge can be declared culpable for lapses in supervision of the court employees, resulting in non-compliance with the provision of Circular No. 26-97.’
“With due respect, I have not committed any lapse in the supervision of the court employees in MCTC Lubang-Looc, Occidental Mindoro.  I have repeatedly emphasized to the court personnel not only in MCTC Lubang-Looc but also in MTC Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro, to adhere strictly to all circulars, memoranda, directives and instructions coming from this Honorable Supreme Court.  Despite such reminders, however, still this thing happened.  Of course, I do not wash my hands off concerning these lapses.  As I said in my motion for reconsideration, I accepted the verdict of this Honorable Court.  However, in mitigation of the fine meted on me in the amount of P11,000.00, which I respectfully submit is too high and is not in accord with the attendant circumstances, this Honorable Court ought to consider the following: (a) that compliance with the aforementioned Circular No. 26-97 is directed to both judges and clerks of court.  More so, it should be the clerks of court who have the primary responsibility to comply with said circular because they are the custodians of court funds and revenues; (b) that I was not remiss in the management of any court because of the repeated verbal reminders I issued to the court personnel to adhere strictly to circulars, memoranda, instructions and directives of this Honorable Court; (c) my Clerk of Court has IMMEDIATELY ISSUED the receipt for the payment of the cash bond posted by the accused.  But the Clerk of Court was wrong and acted erroneously when instead of issuing the receipt to the payor, the accused in Criminal Case No. 2641, the receipt was attached to the records of the said case.

“On the second issue – violation of Section I, Rule 36 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure – this Honorable Court ruled:
‘On the charge that respondent issued orders by telephone, he should have known that Municipal Circuit Trial Courts are courts of record and that, therefore, their proceedings must be in writing.  Also, he should have complied with Section 1, Rule 36 of the 1997 Rules of Procedure, as amended, x x x.’
“In all candor, I am aware of the fact that Municipal Circuit Trial Court are court of record and that their proceedings must be in writing, and of Section 1, Rule 36 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.  With due respect, however, this Honorable Court should have considered the following mitigating circumstances as to justify the imposition of a lighter fine, to wit:
‘a) Aside from my official station at the Municipal Trial Court, Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro, I am also a Judge-designate of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Lubang-Looc, Occident Mindoro.  My schedule in Lubang-Looc is usually on the third week of every month.  However, there are some instances when my schedule is cancelled due to the following reasons:  demands of my caseloads in my official station; weather conditions; and unavailability of transportation from Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro (my residence) to Batangas, then to Manila (Pier 6) and finally to Lubang Island.  In case my monthly Lubang schedule is cancelled and/or after my one (1) week stay in Lubang-Looc, Occidental Mindoro, I have a standing instruction to my MCTC Clerk of Court in particular and to all my court personnel in general that if there are pleadings or motions filed by the parties or counsels which require my immediate resolution or action, I shall promptly and officially informed by means of ‘long distance call’ so I could act and dictate my order accordingly thru the same communication to avoid undue delay or injustice to the party/movant.

‘b) With this set-up, I was able to deliver the mandated speedy disposition/administration of justice and, in fact, resulted to resounding approbation by both party litigants in Lubang-Looc, Occidental Mindoro, where there is a dearth of practicing lawyers.

‘c) I have continuously applied the foregoing procedure with respect to urgent pending incidents only for almost five (5) years and there are no complaints whatsoever from party litigants for the said period except herein complainant who has an axe to grind against respondent considering the variety of charges lodged against me, but which, except for violation of Circular 26-97 and issuing orders by telephone, have been found unfounded and baseless by the Honorable Court Administrator and adopted by this Honorable Court.

‘d) I acted in utmost faith in resorting to this procedure I have adopted in MCTC Lubang-Looc and I have very good motives and intentions which is solely for the speedy disposition of urgent pleadings filed in my court especially the fact that Lubang-Looc is in a remote island.’

x             x           x
“Aside from the foregoing mitigating circumstances, there are other circumstances which could also mitigate my liability for the lapses which I committed: a) this is the first time that I have been administratively charged before this Honorable Supreme Court; b) I have practically reduced my backlog in both MCTC of Lubang-Looc and in the MTC, Sta. Cruz, both in Occidental Mindoro; c) I was designated by this Honorable Supreme Court as the Acting Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Parañaque City, Branch 78, effective March 27, 2001 by virtue of Administrative Order No. 30-2001, which is a reflection of my competence, honesty and dedication in the performance of my duties as a regular Judge of MTC Sta. Cruz and as Judge-designate of Lubang-Looc, Occidental Mindoro.

“Considering the foregoing mitigating circumstances, may I therefore, implore Your Honors to reduce the fine of P11,000.00 imposed upon me by this Honorable Court which corresponds to the penalty for the offense of less serious charge which carries a fine of more than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00”

x         x          x
While we are moved by respondent judge’s plea for compassion, let it be stressed that neither good faith nor long unblemished service in the judiciary can fully justify his administrative offenses.

At any rate, there are counterweights which may be considered in determining whether the fine of P11,000.00 imposed upon respondent may be reduced.

In Office of the Court Administrator vs. Panganiban,[4] we held:
“For there are present in this case mitigating circumstances in her favor.  First is the fact that this is respondent judge’s first offence.  That this is a mitigating circumstance in her favor has been settled by our cases.

“Second is her long and exemplary service in the judiciary.

x          x         x

“Fourth is that after having been administratively charged, respondent readily acknowledged her fault.  x x x These additional extenuating circumstances x x x  warrant the reduction of the recommended penalty from P100,000.00 to P12,000.00.”
We scrutinized closely respondent’s record and found no trace of wrongdoing on his part, except the instant administrative lapses.  This is the first time that he has been administratively charged.  He has rendered service in the judiciary for the past sixteen (16) years.  And he humbly acknowledged his transgressions and offered his most sincere apology.

Following our ruling in Office of the Court Administrator vs. Panganiban cited above, we hold that the foregoing extenuating circumstances in his favor warrant the reduction of the fine imposed upon him from P11,000.00 to P5,000.00.

WHEREFORE, respondent’s motion for reconsideration is GRANTED.  Our Decision dated April 3, 2003 is hereby MODIFIED in the sense that respondent Judge Jose S. Jacinto is FINED only in the sum of P5,000.00.


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

[1] Rollo at 122-131.

[2] Id. at 141.

[3] Id. at 142-149.

[4] A.M. No. RTJ-96-1350, August 18, 1997, 277 SCRA 499, citing Report on the Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of the Records of Cases in MTCC – Br. 2, Batangas City, 248 SCRA 36 (1999); Re: Judge Fernando Agdamag, 254 SCRA 644, 650 (1996); Ben D. Marcos vs. Judge Paul C.Arcangel, A.M. No. RTJ-91-712, July 9, 1996.

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