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669 Phil. 612; 108 OG No. 29, 3528 (July 16, 2012)


[ A.M. No. 07-9-214-MTCC, July 26, 2011 ]




Judge Francisco P. Rabang III (Judge Rabang), the Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Cotabato City, filed an application dated 16 May 2007 for indefinite leave and travel abroad. Judge Cader P. Indar, Al Haj (Judge Indar), the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Maguindanao and Cotabato City, sent a letter to then Deputy Court Administrator Reuben De la Cruz seeking guidance on Judge Rabang's application for indefinite leave. Judge Indar deferred action on the leave application due to the following reasons: (1) the leave was not specific as to the kind of leave applied for, the number of working days and where to spend it; and (2) Judge Rabang had not accounted for his absences from 2 to 10 April 2007 and from 25 April to 15 May 2007 when Judge Rabang neither performed his functions nor reported in office. Judge Indar further stated that Judge Rabang previously took a two-month leave of absence for the period February to March 2007 but returned to office only on 11 April 2007.

On 10 October 2007, this Court issued a Resolution directing Judge Rabang to explain in writing his failure to comply with Memorandum Order No. 14-2000.[1] In the same Resolution, the Court likewise disapproved Judge Rabang's application for indefinite leave of absence and his absences were considered unauthorized. The Court further directed Judge Rabang to immediately report back to work; otherwise, his name would be dropped from the Rolls. The Financial Management Office was directed to withhold his salaries and benefits.

On 24 October 2008, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) reported that, according to Presiding Judge Annabelle D. P. Piang of the MTCC, Cotabato City, Judge Rabang's residence at No. 8 Notre Dame Avenue, Rosary Heights, Cotabato City was always closed and a househelper only reports from time to time to clean the house, which is now on sale. Clerk of Court IV Wilfredo S. Guanzon, also of the MTCC, Cotabato City, notified the OCA that the 10 October 2007 Resolution was sent to Judge Rabang's father, who is a retired judge, through LBC, a private courier, because Judge Rabang was no longer reporting for duty.

On 9 February 2009, the Court directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to locate the whereabouts of Judge Rabang. The NBI reported that Judge Rabang left for Canada sometime in 2007 and is residing at 1265 Wilson Avenue, North York, Ontario Apartment 308 M3M 159, Canada. His wife, Bernadette, is working there as a Staff Nurse. Sometime in October 2008, one of Judge Rabang's sons died in Canada and his mother Athena went there to attend the wake.

In its Memorandum dated 15 February 2011, the OCA reported that Judge Rabang has been absent from his station and out of the country for more than three years already. The OCA opined that Judge Rabang violated Memorandum Order No. 14-2000 when he departed for abroad without the knowledge and permission of the Court. He has abandoned his sala for no justifiable reason. The OCA recommended that Judge Rabang be dismissed from the service for misconduct and abandonment of office with forfeiture of his salaries and allowances as well as retirement benefits, except his accrued leave credits, and that he be barred from re-employment in all branches of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations. The OCA further recommended that Judge Rabang's position in the MTCC, Cotabato City, be declared vacant.

The Office of Administrative Services of the OCA issued a Certification dated 1 February 2011 stating that Judge Rabang had 71.042 days vacation leave and 232.042 days sick leave credits as of 15 May 2007, and that Judge Rabang applied for vacation leave from 1 February to 31 March 2007. However, he did not submit any application for leave for his absences from 2 to 10 April 2007 and 25 April to 15 May 2007. His application for indefinite leave beginning 16 May 2007 was disapproved and considered unauthorized in the 10 October 2007 Resolution. His father, a retired judge, was sent a copy of the Resolution of 10 October 2007 which, among other things, directed Judge Rabang to report back to work. But Judge Rabang still has not complied with the Court's resolution. Up to this date, Judge Rabang has not returned to work. Judge Rabang has been absent from his station and out of the country for more than four years now. Efforts have been exerted to locate the whereabouts of Judge Rabang. The NBI, which assisted the Court in locating him, has reported that Judge Rabang is now residing in Canada. Judge Rabang should have been more conscious of his court duties. As a judge and a court official, Judge Rabang has the duty to perform his functions promptly and regularly. He should have been aware that, in frequently leaving his station, he has caused great disservice to many litigants and has denied them speedy justice.[2] Definitely, Judge Rabang's continued absence for more than four years now has caused great disservice to numerous litigants.

We have ruled that the absenteeism of judges or court employees and/or their irregular attendance at work is a serious charge that may warrant the imposition of the penalty of dismissal or suspension from service.[3] Frequent and prolonged leaves without permission from the Court and abandonment of office have been considered gross misconduct. Gross misconduct is a serious charge under Section 8, Rule 140 and may be punishable by dismissal from service, suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than 3 but not exceeding 6 months, or a fine of more than P20,000 but not exceeding P40,000.

In Leaves of Absence Without Approval of Judge Calderon,[4] the Court considered Judge Calderon's frequent and prolonged absence for almost a straight period of three years to be inexcusable. The Court concluded that Judge Calderon had habitually abandoned his sala. Judge Calderon was found guilty of gross misconduct and abandonment of office and was consequently dismissed from the service with forfeiture of all benefits.

In the present case, Judge Rabang has been absent without leave or AWOL for more than four years from the time he left for abroad in May 2007. There has been no word from him since then. Judge Rabang's attitude betrays his lack of concern for his office. It is clear that Judge Rabang has abandoned his office and committed gross misconduct.

Judge Rabang is presumed to know his duties and responsibilities under the Code of Judicial Conduct. Rule 1.02, Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that a judge should administer justice impartially and without delay. Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the same Code decrees that a judge shall dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the required periods. Rule 3.09, Canon 3 further provides that a judge should organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficiant dispatch of business, and required at all times the observance of high standards of public service and fidelity.

In Yu-Asensi v. Judge Villanueva,[5] the Court explained:

x x x the Canons of Judicial Ethics (which) enjoin judges to be punctual in the performance of their judicial duties, recognizing that the time of litigants, witnesses and attorneys are of value, and that if the judge is not punctual in his habits, he sets a bad example to the bar and tend to create dissatisfaction in the administration of justice.

The Code of Judicial Conduct decrees that a judge should administer justice impartially and without delay. A judge should likewise be imbued with a high sense of duty and responsibility in the discharge of his obligation to promptly administer justice. The trial court judges being the paradigms of justice in the first instance have, time and again, been exhorted to dispose of the court's business promptly and to decide cases within the required period because delay results in undermining the people's faith in the judiciary from whom the prompt hearing of their supplications is anticipated and expected, and reinforces in the minds of the litigants the impression that the wheels of justice grind ever so slowly.

Unauthorized absence and irregular attendance are detrimental to the dispensation of justice and, more often than not, result in undue delay in the disposition of cases; they also translate to waste of public funds when the absent officials and employees are nevertheless paid despite their absence.[6]

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS Judge Francisco P. Rabang III of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Cotabato City from the service for Gross Misconduct and Abandonment of Office, with FORFEITURE of all benefits due him, except accrued leave benefits, if any, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations. His position in the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Cotabato City is declared VACANT. This Decision is immediately executory.


Corona, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr.,Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Abad, Villarama, Jr., and Mendoza, JJ., concur.
Del Castillo, J., on leave.
Perez, J., no part. acted on matter as Court Adm.
Sereno, J., on official leave.

[1] Dated 6 November 2000, it provides that "x x x no official or employee of the Supreme Court in particular and the Judiciary in general, shall leave for any foreign country, whether on official business or official time or at one's own expenses, without first obtaining permission from the Supreme Court through the Chief Justice and the Chairmen of the Divisions pursuant to the Resolution in A.M. No. 99-12-08-SC."

[2] Leaves of Absence Without Approval of Judge Calderon, 361 Phil. 763, 771 (1999); Request of Judge Cartagena, 347 Phil. 39, 44 (1997).

[3] Mercado v. Salcedo, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1781 and A.M. No. RTJ-03-1782, 16 October 2009, 604 SCRA 4, 23-24.

[4] 361 Phil. 763 (1999).

[5] 379 Phil. 258, 268-269 (2000).

[6] Supra note 3.

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