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414 Phil. 675

THIRD DIVISION

[ A.M. No. 01-2-47-RTC, August 09, 2001 ]

RE:  REPORT ON THE JUDICIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED IN THE RTC-BR. 26, MANILA, PRESIDED BY JUDGE GUILLERMO L. LOJA.

D E C I S I O N

GONZAGA-REYES, J.:

Pursuant to the Court's policy of conducting judicial audit of all cases pending before the sala of retiring judges, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) conducted a judicial audit and physical inventory of cases in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 26, Manila.  Presiding Judge Guillermo Loja was due for compulsory retirement on June 27, 2001.

The audit team found a total caseload of 509 consisting of 275 criminal cases and 234 civil cases (exclusive of decided, archived, dismissed and suspended cases) based on the records actually presented to and examined by them. The audit team did not have difficulty in auditing the court since it was "properly managed." However, listed in its report are twenty-four (24) civil cases which were submitted for decision but were not decided within the reglementary period.  Nineteen (19) civil cases were likewise unacted upon for a considerable length of time, namely:

99-95440
98-89943
00-96311
99-95496
99-92546
98-86948
99-93490
97-84766
99-93599
99-95760
97-84333
92-63279
97-82876
99-95095
00-98038
98-91743
98-91827
00-96543
97-82263

In the Resolution dated March 5, 2001, respondent Judge Loja was required to explain in writing why no administrative sanction should be imposed upon him for failure to decide/resolve the aforementioned civil cases within the reglementary period and to inform this Court, through the Office of the Court Administrator, whether or not these cases have already been decided/resolved and to submit copies of the decisions/resolutions. Respondent Judge was likewise directed to take appropriate action on the above-listed cases which were unacted upon for a considerable length of time.

On April 18, 2001, Respondent Judge, in compliance with the Resolution of March 5, 2001, submitted his explanation stating that he had faithfully resolved/decided the cases mentioned in the resolution, except for four (4) cases which remained unacted upon, to wit:

CASE NO.
TITLE
1. 82-02375
Allied Banking vs. Northern
2. 83-18026
de Vera vs. PANELCO
3. 86-34187
Mla House vs. BSP
4. 93-65968
Ong vs. Romero

Respondent Judge Loja further stated that aside from the fact that three (3) of these four (4) cases were inherited from his immediate predecessor (now retired Justice Corona Ibay Somera) who was promoted to the Court of Appeals, incomplete transcript of stenographic notes hampered respondent's timely disposal of these cases and that some of the stenographers had already transferred to other offices.

The following is the tabulation of the findings of the audit team and the comment of respondent Judge Loja:

Case No.
Parties
Submitted
Due
Decided
Remarks
1.98-91084
Villasenor v. Arranz
12-11-98
03-11-98
01-31-01
Delay of 1yr 10mos+
2.97-81695
Domingo v. Moran
06-08-00
09-06-00
09-01-00
No delay
3.98-90177
Pono v. Pono
04-02-00
07-01-00
07-03-00
Delay of 1 day
4.99-93844
Sanchez v. Sanchez
05-04-00
08-02-00
10-11-00
Delay of 2mos.+
5.98-90929
Cruz
07-14-00
10-12-00
11-06-00
Delay of 23 days
6.82-02375
Allied Banking v. Northern Mindanao
06-23-96
09-21-96
Not yet decided
Delay of 4yrs. 9mos.+ Partly tried
7.93-65968
Ong v. Romero
03-08-96
06-06-96
Not yet decided
Delay of 4 yrs.+ Partly tried
8.85-33911
Camacho v.
03-13-92
06-11-92
10-16-00
Delay of 8yrs. Pilipinas Shell 4mos.+ Inherited
9.83-18026
De Vera v. Pangasinan
03-03-94
06-01-92
Not yet decided
Delay of 8yrs.3mos.+ Partly tried
10.98-90755
Pac-Atlantic v. Bumwoo Phil.
07-03-00
10-1-00
10-30-00
Delay of 29 days.
11.95-73098
Marasigan v. Collera
05-26-00
08-24-00
08-10-00
No delay
12.95-73942
Manas v. Arungayan
04-21-00
07-20-00
01-09-01
Delay of 5mos.+
13.99-92780
Valdez Malone v.
07-02-99
9-30-99
12-11-00
Delay of 1yr. Valdez 2mos+
14.98-91963
Adriatico v. Leynes
08-06-00
11-04-00
12-14-00
Delay of 1mo.+
15.99-94640
Bitangcor v. LRC
03-10-00
06-8-00
06-07-00
No delay
16.98-91350
Sandoval v. LRC
10-15-00
01-13-00
01-12-00
No delay
17.98-90760
Macapagal
01-27-00
04-16-00
04-26-00
No delay
18.96-80047
Lictawa v. Balagot
05-22-00
08-20-00
01-12-00
Delay of 4mos+
19.96-28184
Foremost v.
01-17-00
04-16-00
01-30-01
Delay of 9mos. Unknown Owners Note: Dismissed because parties had settled.
20.86-34187
Manila House v. Boy Scout
08-21-99
11-19-99
Not yet decided
Delay of 1yr. 7mos+ Partly tried
21.97-83763
Teodisio v. Lopez
12-10-98
03-10-99
04-04-00
Delay of 1yr. 1mo+
22.96-79570
Luzon Sales v. Lopez Sugar
12-27-99
03-27-00
03-23-00
No delay
23.99-92743
Liao v. Cle-Ver Chemicals
07-09-98
10-07-98
01-31-01
2yrs.3mos. Note: dismissed because appellant failed to file memorandum
24.99-93761
Vivas v. Vivas
06-08-00
09-06-00
08-04-00
No delay
25.97-83222
Lucido v. Isla
02-24-00
05-24-00
10-12-00
Delay of 4mos+

The Memorandum dated July 31, 2001 of the Office of the Court Administrator reveals that respondent Judge Loja was appointed to RTC-Branch 26 in December 1993. Respondent Judge did not incur any delay in seven (7) of the cases enumerated in the report while thirteen (13) cases were decided/resolved beyond the reglementary period and four (4) cases were not decided at all.  Of the twenty-five (25) enumerated cases, respondent Judge Loja should be held responsible for only thirteen (13) cases where he incurred an average delay ranging from one (1) to more than eight (8) years. With respect to the four (4) cases which were not decided before his retirement, the reglementary period has expired.  Of the cases enumerated by the audit team, only four (4) cases were not yet decided.  In respondent Judge Loja's report on the cases where no further actions were taken, one (1) remained unresolved until he retired.

The Office of the Court Administrator recommended that respondent Judge be fined a "nominal amount" of five thousand (P5,000.00) pesos for gross inefficiency in view of his failure to decide thirteen (13) cases within the reglementary period and his failure to resolve five (5) cases before he retired.

We adopt the findings of the Office of the Court Administrator.

Section 15 (1) of Article VIII of the Constitution provides that all cases filed before lower courts must be decided within three (3) months from the time it is submitted for decision.  Likewise, Rule 1.02, Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge "should administer justice ... without delay." Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the same Code directs a judge to "dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the required periods." A judge is mandated to render judgment not more than ninety (90) days from the time the case is submitted for decision and his inability to decide a case within the required period is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency which would subject him to administrative sanction.[1]

Respondent Judge explained that he was not able to timely dispose of  his cases  because of incomplete transcripts of stenographic notes and the transfer of the stenographers to other offices.  We have ruled, however, that judges are required to take down notes and to proceed in the preparation of decisions, even without the transcript of stenographic notes[2] as the reglementary period continues to run with or without them.[3] Moreover, judges are allowed, upon their request and for justifiable reasons, to ask for an extension of the reglementary period to decide cases.

Likewise, the fact that respondent judge has been the presiding judge of two (2) court salas should not be made an excuse and will not save him from administrative sanction.[4] The trial court judge, being the paradigm of justice in the first instance, is exhorted to dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the required periods.[5] A judge should always be imbued with a high sense of duty and responsibility in the discharge of his obligation to promptly administer justice.[6]

Taking into account, however, the explanation of respondent judge for his failure to decide/dispose promptly the subject cases and his expeditious action on the resolution of this Court, which shows a determined effort on the part of respondent Judge Loja to attend to his duties with greater zeal, and in view of his past record showing that in 1998, he was number one in the Top 10 Judges of the RTC-Manila with respect to the disposal of cases and he was second in 1999, we find well-taken the recommendation of the Court Administrator to impose only a nominal fine, which we hereby reduce to two thousand (P2,00.00) pesos.[7]

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Guillermo Loja is hereby adjudged administratively liable for the delay in deciding the subject cases and is FINED in the amount of Two Thousand (P2,000.00) Pesos to be deducted from the retirement benefits due him.

SO ORDERED.

Melo, (Chairman), Vitug, and Panganiban, JJ., concur.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., on leave.
 


[1] Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC Br. 68, Camiling, Tarlac, 305 SCRA 61; Bernardo vs. Farbos, 307 SCRA 28; Canson vs. Garchitorena, 311 SCRA 268.

[2] Tauro vs. Colet, 306 SCRA 340.

[3] Celino vs. Abrogar, 245 SCRA 304; Re: Judge Danilo M. Tenerife, 255 SCRA 184.

[4] Casia vs. Gestapo, Jr., 312 SCRA 204.

[5] Casia vs. Gestapo, Jr., supra; Canson vs. Garchitorena, 311 SCRA 268.

[6] Amion vs. Chiongson, 301 SCRA 614.

[7] See also, Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Br. 68, Camiling, Tarlac, 305 SCRA 61 (En Banc); Re: Cases Left Undecided by Judge Narciso M. Bumanglag, Jr., 306 SCRA 50.

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