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355 Phil. 337


[ A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337, August 05, 1998 ]


[ A.M. NO.97-8-242-RTC.  AUGUST 5, 1998]




Respondent is Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 9, Tacliban City. These are two (2) administrative cases filed against him for (1) serious misconduct, negligence, and inefficiency for failure to decide, in A.M. RTJ-96-1337, 27 cases and, in A.M. 97-8-242-RTC, 69 cases, or a total of 96 cases, within the 90-day reglementary period, and (2) falsification of public documents for falsely stating in the certificates of service submitted by him covering the period all cases submitted to him for resolution in order to be able to draw his salary.

A.M. No. RTJ 96-1337

This case arose from respondent judge's request, dated November 16, 1995,[1] for a 90-day extension within which to decide 40 criminal and civil cases on the alleged ground that the transcripts of stenographic notes taken in the case were incomplete.

The office of the Court Administrator (OCA) discovered that earlier, on September 6, 1995, respondent judge had been required by then Court Administratorr Ernani Cruz-Paño to report on the status of 50 cases which had not been decided within the 90-day limit. Instead of complying with the directive, respondent judge filed the aforesaid request for extension of time. The OCA found that 27 of the cases covered by respondent judge's request for extension has already become due for decision in view of the 90-day reglementary period and yet had remained undecided. Of the 27 cases, 15 had been submitted for decision way back in 1994. The OCA found that although the transcripts of stenographic notes in some of these cases were incomplete, the majority of the said cases had been entirely heard by respondent so that he had no good reason for his failure to decide them on time. Verification made by the OCA of respondent judge had misrepresented that he had no criminal and civil cases which had not been decided within the 90-day period.

On January 23, 1996, respondent's request for extension of time to decide the cases in question was granted. At the same time, he was required to comment on the charges of serious misconduct, negligence, and inefficiency for the delay in deciding the cases, and falsification of his certificates of service.

In a letter dated February 21, 1996,[2] respondent explained that the unresolved cases were either current or could not be decided because they were left by the judges before him without complete transcripts of stenographic notes. He claimed that efforts were being made to require the stenographic notes. He claimed that effort were being made to require the stenographic concerned to submit the transcripts.

With respect to the second charge, respondent alleged that the making of the certificates of service which he had submitted was "merely routinary" and that he had no intention to falsify them because the fact was that the true status of the cases was duly reflected in the monthly reports he had submitted to the OCA. Respondent also averred that he had been suffering from diabetes for the past seven years and that his failure to decide the 27 cases was due to his illness.

On March 12, 1996, the matter was referred to Associate Justice Arturo B. Buena of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report, and recommendation. Although respondent had already commented on the findings of the OCA pursuant to the Court's resolution of January 23, 1996, he was nevertheless required to submit his answer to the formal administrative complaint subsequently filed against him.

On April 26, 1993,[3] respondent judge filed his answer in which he reiterated what he had said in his comment. He further stated that if the charges against him were found warranted, he was willing to be fined in an amount equivalent to his salary for one year, as the OCA had recommended, provided however, he was allowed to retire under the optional or the disability retirement program.

On January 14, 1997, Associate Justice Buena of the Court of Appeals submitted his report,[4] the pertinent portions of which state:
"The case was set for hearing on July 10, 1996 at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon at which both parties were present. However, the counsel for the complainant moved for the postponed of the hearing to July 11, 1996 to afford them more time to study the case.

"In the hearing on July 11, 1996, the respondent whom the undersigned investigator noticed to be disoriented and had difficulty in speaking, manifested that there is no point in hearing the case since he is willing to pay a fine equivalent to one (1) year of his basic salary as recommended by the OCA provided that he will be allowed to retire under optional or disability retirement.

"Since the respondent was not willing to proceed with the hearing, the undersigned investigator directed him to submit a written manifestation within ten (10) days so that the same may be attached to the records to form part thereof.

"Respondent alleges [in him manifestation] that most of the undecided cases were inherited cases from former Judge Gil Sta. Maria (deceased), Benjamin T. Pongos and Fortunato B. Operario both of whom retired from service. This could be a valid justification for respondent's failure to decide these cases, if he did not hear them, in the absence of complete transcription of the stenographic notes of the proceedings therein. However, he did not identify said inherited cases in the list of cases for which he requested the Supreme Court for the three (3) months extension to decide.

"That respondent is sick of diabetes millitus for the past seven years and that he suffered a mild stroke causing his 'slurred speech, body weakness, frequent dizziness and drawling of saliva', which he cites in his Manifestation is verifiable from his medical record, hence may be admitted subject to verification. As matter of fact, the undersigned investigator, noticed the respondent's physical condition and attributes the same to respondent's unwillingness to proceed with the full blown investigation scheduled on July 10-11, 1996. Still, the seriousness of respondent's illness cannot justify his failure to perform his duties. As ruled in Impao vs. Makilala, 178 SCRA 541:

'If indeed respondent found it difficult to discharge the functions of a municipal judge, then he should have retired voluntarily instead of clinging to his office at the expense of the litigants, his staff and the general public.'
"Respondent further maintains that he is not liable for falsification of his certificates of service as allegedly explained in his Answer that "there is no falsification of my certificates of service because the same are submitted to the Supreme Court by the undersigned in good faith x x x in the sense that the matter of the non-resolution of the 27 civil and criminal cases beyond the 90-day reglementary period had been conspicuously and repeatedly placed on record in each and every monthly report of his court without fail or fanfare' is (sic) not acceptable. The respondent's certificates of service from July, 1994 to December, 1995 (Annexes "A" to "S"; pp. 18-68, Rollo), invariably certify that 'all special proceedings, applications, petitions, motions and all civil and criminal cases which have been under submission for decision or determination for a period of ninety (90) days or more have been decided on or before the end of each month.["] Considering that the aforecited certification in his certificates of service is belied by the fact that there are cases submitted for decision that have remained undecided for which reason respondent requested for a three (3) months extension within which to decide them, he cannot escape liability therefore. Anyway, the respondent was candid enough to admit in his Manifestation that notwithstanding his explanations, he is of the firm belief that 'the same will not exculpated him from the charges levelled against him by the Office of the Administrator' (p. 3, Respondent's Manifestation).

"In view of the respondent's refusal to proceed with the hearing of this case before the undersigned Investigator for reasons stated in his Manifestation dated July 26, 1996, no testimonial evidence can be submitted with this Report. Under the authority of the decision of the Supreme Court in Uy vs. Mercado, 154 SCRA 567, there is no need to conduct a formal investigation of this case as the records sufficiently provide a clear basis for determination of the judge's administrative liability. In addition, the respondent judge's distinct manifestation that he does not interpose any objection to the recommendation of the office of the Court Administrator that he be fined the sum equivalent to his one year salary xxx for us (sic) long as he is allowed to retire pursuant to the case of Secretary of Justice vs. Legaspi, 107 SCRA 223, renders the conduct of a full blown investigation of his case unnecessary.

"1. On the basis of the records, the respondent judge may be declared guilty of:

"(a) delay in the administration of justice amounting to:

"(a.1) serious misconduct, negligence and inefficiency under Rule 140, paragraph 1 of Revised Rules of Court, Section 67 of the Judiciary Act of 1948; and

"(a.2) violation of Section 15, paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution and Rules 3.05, 3.08 and 3.09 of the Code of Judicial Conduct; and

"(b) falsification of his certificate of service for the period July 1994 to December 1995.

"2. As to the penalty to be imposed upon respondent, it is respectfully recommended that the penalty of fine equivalent to respondent's salary for one (1) year as recommended by the OCA to which respondent interpose no objection provided he is allowed to retire, be imposed upon respondent."
A.M. No. 97-8-242-RTC

This case originated from the letter, dated March 20, 1997, of a certain Alipio Repollo[5] requesting the speedy resolution of Civil Case No. 92-07-117, entitled "Alipio Repollo v. Asia Copra, Inc., et al." which had been pending for decision by respondent judge since May 22, 1996. On August 26, 1997,[6] the Court required respondent judge to answer.

In his comment dated October 9, 1997,[7] respondent judge informed the Court that he had rendered his decision in Civil case No. 92-07-117 on October 7, 1997. He explained that the delay in the decision of the case was due to his suspension from November 10, 1996 to October 3, 1997 and to the fact that the transcript of stenographic notes was submitted by the stenographers only on October 6, 1997. (Judge Butalid was suspended by the Court in another administrative case against him, i.e., A.M. No. RTJ-98-1407, OCA vs. Judge Walerico B. Butalid [formerly A.M. No. 96-10-372-RTC, Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in RTC, Branch 9, Tacloban City], for (1) gross dishonesty for misrepresenting to the Court that the reason for his failure to decide cases was the fact that transcripts of stenographic notes were incomplete and for altering the dates when seven (7) cases were submitted for decision to make it appear that they were decided within the reglementary period; (2) gross insubordination for refusing to allow the audit team from the OCA to conduct physical inventory of the records of cases pending in his sala as ordered by his Court; and (3) gross inefficiency for failure to decide 71 other cases beyond the prescribed period.)

On December 4, 1997, Judge Frisco T. Lilagan submitted to the court the list of cases pending before respondent judge.

The Court then referred this matter to the OCA for evaluation.

On March 17, 1998, the OCA submitted a report[8] stating:
"The aforestated decision rendered by Judge Butalid in civil Case No. 92-07-117 renders moot and academic the request of Mr. Repollo. What remains to be resolve is the plight of cases still pending decision, to wit:
Criminal Cases Nos.
Criminal Cases Nos.
Civil Cases Nos.
Civil Cases Nos.
LRC Case No.

"Two matters have come about from Mr. Alipio's letter-request, to wit: (1) the resolution of Civil Case No. 92-07-177; and (b) the information that there are many other cases pending decision in Branch 9.

"On the first, it is noted that Judge Butalid decided Civil Case No. 92-07-177 after notice for request albeit delay was already incurred in terminating the case. May it be recalled that the case was submitted for decision on May 22, 1996 per information of Mr. Repollo, while Judge Butalid was placed under preventive suspension only on November 10, 1996
"On the second matter arising from this concern, it appears propitious to interject other pending administrative matters involving undecided cases pending in Branch 9, to wit:

"1. A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337 (Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Walerico B. Butalid) where this Office recommended that respondent be FINED in the amount equivalent to his ONE (1) YEARS SALARY for falsification of public document and twenty-seven unresolved cases beyond the reglementary period; and

"2. A.M. No. 96-10-372-RTC (Re: Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 9, Tacloban City) where this office recommended that respondent be SUSPEND for SIX (6) MONTHS for gross negligence and inefficiency amounting to misconduct in office for several cases decided and pending beyond reglementary period.

"A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337 covers twenty-seven (27) cases pending decision beyond the reglementary period.

"A.M. No. 96-10-372-RTC, on the other hand, particularly the second judicial audit spans over ninety-four (94) cases decided or still pending decisions after the lapse of the ninety-four (90) day period. The number is reduced to seventy-one (71) if exclusive of the cases already covered by A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337.

"The instant A.M. No. 97-8-242-RTC" on the other hand, manifests seventy three (73) cases pending decision, sixty-nine (69), excluding the cases falling under the aforementioned administrative matters. Atty. Lagado failed to mention in his Memo Receipt whether these cases are still within the reglementary period to decide. Efforts to verify the dates of submission of the cases for decision went to naught when verification of the monthly report of cases submitted by Branch 9 for October 1997, particularly Item No. V [under the head 'LIST OF CASES SUBMITTED FOR DECISION BYT NOT YET DECIDED AT THE END OF THE MONTH - Include cases Previously Submitted For Decision That Are Still Undecided'] shows 'NONE' thereunder. It is noteworthy to mention likewise that Branch 9 failed to submit its semestral report both for June 1997 and December 1997, hence, there appears no means to secure the information needed.

"This Office, however, respectfully makes its intelligent deduction that based on the following premises, the due date of each case is well beyond the reglementary period.

"a) Judge Butalid could not have ordered submitted (sic) for decision all the cases contained in the list within the three month period prior to his preventive suspension on November 10, 1996 so that they could be considered still within the reglementary period when his service was interupted;

"b) Judge Navidad, who assumed as acting presiding judge of Branch 9, could not have ordered submitted (sic) for decision all the cases contained in the list within the almost eleven month assignment at Branch 9; and

"c) even between them they could not have accumulated the said number of cases submitted for decision.

"This Office is impressed anew of Judge Butalid's evident disregard of the constitutional mandate to decide cases within the period provided. All the administrative matters pending reflect at least one hundred (100) cases, more or less, submitted for decision which remain pending decisions and others decided well beyond the deadline.

"Judge Butalid's conduct is clearly prejudicial to the service and not concordant with the interest of justice. The number of cases pending decision in his sala defines the quality of justices he serves. One can just imagine with sympathy the agonies of the litigants who await that justice be served. As oft said "Justice delayed is justice denied." It is respectfully advanced that on the merit of this observation, he reliquished his prerogative and fitness to remain in the service.

"WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, it is respectfully recommended that: (a) A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337 and A.M. No. 96-10-372-RTC be CONSOLIDATED with A.M. No. 97-8-242-RTC; (b) Judge Butalid be DISMISSED from the service for utter failure to render the quality of performance required of the member of the judiciary in all the three administrative matters." (Underscoring supplied)


Based on the reports of Associate Justice Buena, in A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337, and the OCA, in A.M. No. 97-8-242-RTC, the Court finds respondent Judge Walerico B. Butalid guilty as charged.

First. Respondent failed to decide within the 90-day reglementary period a total of 96 cases which had been submitted for decision, 27 in A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337 and 69 in A.M. No. 97-8-242-RTC. Section 15 of Article VIII of the Constitution provides:
"SEC. 15. (1) All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this constitution must be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission for the Supreme Court, and, unless reduced by the Supreme court. Twelve months for all lower collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower courts."
To implement the constitutional mandate, Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, provides:
" A judge shall dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the required periods."
This court has constantly impressed upon judges - may it not be said without success - the need to decide cases promptly and expeditiously, for it cannot be gainsaid that justice delayed is justice denied. Delay in the disposition of cases undermines the people's faith and confidence in the judiciary.[9] Hence, judges are enjoined to decide cases with dispatch. Their failure to do so constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants the imposition of administrative sanctions on them.[10]

The Court finds respondent judge's failure to decide 96 cases within the time required by law to be inexcusable. He claims that some of these cases were left by his predecessors without complete transcripts of stenographic notes. Respondent judge has not specified, however, which of the cases were "inherited" by him. On the other hand, the OCA found that the majority of these cases had been entirely heard by respondent judge so that there is really no reason why he was not able to decide them within the prescribed period. The fact that the stenographic notes have not yet been transcribed is not a valid excuse for his failure to decide the cases. As this Court has time and again emphasized, regardless of the availability of the transcript of stenographic notes, the 90-day period for deciding cases should be observed by all judges,[11] unless they have been granted additional time to dispose of cases.

Respondent judge claims that he has been suffering from diabetes for the last seven (7) years and that he recently suffered a mild stroke which impaired his ability to dispose of cases. The demands of public service cannot, however, abide his illness. Respondent judge could have followed the suggestion made in another case to retire voluntarily instead of clinging to his post at the expense of the litigants and the public in general if he found it difficult to discharge the functions of his office.[12] Or he could have asked for extension of time to dispose of these cases instead of allowing the period for deciding to lapse.[13] He did neither. He requested an extension of time only on November 16, 1995, that is, after he had already been required to report on the status of 50 unresolved cases on September 6, 1995 and the period for deciding cases had lapsed.

It is clear from the foregoing that respondent judge had no reason for not being able to decide cases on time. The fact that, after being required by the Court to explain, respondent judge was able to decide the 27 cases in A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337 negates his claim that because of illness and the un availability of the transcripts of stenographic notes in some cases, he was not able to dispose of his cases on time. This fact shows quite clearly that with due diligence, respondent judge could have decided the cases within the time prescribed by law.

Second. Respondent judge contends that he considered the making of certificates of service to be "merely routinary" and that although he stated in the certificates he submitted for the period July 1994 to December 1995 that he had no case submitted for decision within 90 days of the making of the certificates, he never had any criminal intent to falsify. He cites the fact that the true status of the cases was faithfully reflected in his monthly reports of cases submitted to OCA.

This contention makes a mockery of the certificate of service. As this Court has said, a certificate of service is an instrument essential to the fulfillment by the judges of their duty to speedily dispose of their cases as mandated by the Constitution.[14] A judge who fails to decide cases within the prescribed period but collects his salary upon a false certificates is guilty of dishonesty and deserves the condemnation of all right thinking men.

Respondent's assertion that the certificate of service is a mere routine requirement, and that in any event, the Court has no basis for disciplining him because neither this Court nor Congress has provided for any sanction for the failure of judges to decide cases submitted within the period prescribed by the Constitution smacks of arrogance and defiance which warrant his dismissal from the service and the rejection of his offer to be fined his infractions provided he is allowed to retire either under the optional or the disability program.

Under Section 6 of Article VIII of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has administrative supervision of all courts and the personnel thereof. The Court's power of supervision carries with it the power to discipline and impose appropriate sanctions for the commission of administrative offenses. Indeed, this is the first time the authority of the Court to discipline judges for failure to decide cases on time has been questioned. To the contrary, in a case,[15] a judge was dismissed from the service for gross inefficiency for failure to decide 91 cases beyond the prescribed period, and for falsification of his certificates of service. In the instant case, Judge Butalid failed to decide 96 cases within the 90-day reglementary period, and falsified his certificates of service from July 1994 to December 1995 in order to conceal his failure. The Court cannot compromise on the enforcement of the duty of judges to decide cases on time. We have time and again said that judges should be the embodiment of competence and integrity.[16] Respondent judge failed to live up to the honor and responsibilities of his office. His transgression, taken in their totality, justify the imposition of the supreme penalty of dismissal from the service.[17]


Under Service 23, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules implementing Book V of Executive Order 292, the Administrative Code of 1987, gross negligence in the performance of duty, dishonesty, and falsification of public document are considered grave offenses for which the penalty of dismissal is prescribed. Section 9 of the said Rule likewise provides that the penalty of dismissal shall carry with it cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of leave credits, and retirement benefits, and the disqualification for re-employment in the government service. This penalty is without prejudice to criminal liability of the respondent.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Walerico Butalid is hereby DISMISSED from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and leave credits to which he may be entitled, and with prejudice to his re-employment in any branch or agency of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.

This decision is immediately executory and respondent judge is directed to cease and desist from performing the functions of his office.


Narvasa C J, Regalado, Davide Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Martinez, Quisumbing and Purisima JJ., concur

[1] Rollo of A.M. No. RTJ-96-1337, pp. 4-7.

[2] Id., pp.87-89.

[3] Id., pp. 228-233.

[4] Id. pp. 276-280.

[5] Rollo of A.M. no. 97-8-242-RTC, p.4.

[6] Id., p.6

[7] Id., p. 10.

[8] Id., pp. 29-34.

[9] Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Branch 16 of Laoag City, Presided by Judge Luis B. Bello, Jr., 247 SCRA 519 (1995).

[10] Report on Audit and Physical Inventory of the records of Cases in the Municipal Trial Court of Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija, A.M. No. 95-6-55-MTC, July 28, 1997.

[11] Balagot vs. Opinion, 195 SCRA 429 (1991) citing Lawan vs. Moleta, 90 SCRA 579 (1979) and reiterated in Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Branch 16 of Laog City, Presided by Judge Luis B. Bello, Jr., 247 SCRA 519(1995).

[12] Impao vs. Makilala, 178 SCRA 541 (1989).

[13] Guintu vs. Lucero, 261 SCRA (1996) citing Cruz vs. Basa, 218 SCRA 551 (1993).

[14] Re: Report the Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of the Record of Cases in RTC, Branch 43, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, 236 SCRA 631 (1994) citing Sabitsana, Jr. vs. Villamor, 202 SCRA 435 (1991)

[15] Re: Report on Audit and Physical Inventory of the records and Cases in the RTC, Branch 128, Kalookan City, 238 SCRA 248 (1994).

[16] Canon 1, Rule 1.01; Canon 3, Rule 3.01.

[17] Re: Report on Audit and Physical Inventory of the records of Cases in the RTC, Branch 128, Kalookan City, 238 SCRA 238 (1994); Re: Report on the Judicial Audit and Physical Inventory of the Records of Cases in RTC, Branch 43, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, 236 SCRA 631 (1994); Guintu vs. Lucero, 261 SCRA 1 (1996).

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