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487 Phil. 85


[ A.M. No. RTJ-04-1887 (Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 03-1654-RTJ), December 09, 2004 ]




The instant administrative case has its roots in the Comment dated May 10, 2002 of Judge Caroline B. Pangan, Municipal Trial Court, Rosario, La Union, in A.M. No. OCA-IPI No. 02-1206-MTJ,[1] where the latter made allegations of gross ignorance of the law, incompetence, abuse of authority and dereliction of duty against Judge Clifton U. Ganay, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Agoo, La Union, Branch 31, and Judge Samuel R. Martires, RTC, Agoo, La Union, Branch 32. It was alleged therein that the respondents committed the following:
a. The Hon. JUDGE CLIFTON GANAY should be asked to explain why, on the basis of an UNAPPROVED RECOMMENDATION by an Assistant Provincial Prosecutor:
  1. he entertained a Special Proceedings of doubtful pedigree and intervened during the preliminary investigation stage of the investigation of a heinous crime;

  2. and hastily and prematurely ordered the release of the suspect even if an officer duly mandated by law had already found probable cause and has issued a warrant for the arrest of said suspect and even if the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor was still reviewing the case pursuant to law;

  3. and he issued the said order without even following the basic principles of due process;
All of which acts are in clear violation of the new Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure;

That to allow HON. JUDGE CLIFTON U. GANAY to get away with what he did, would be to open the doors to other Judges of the Regional Trial Courts to precipitately and prematurely intervene and influence the preliminary investigation and review of criminal cases under the guise of a Special Proceeding;

c. The HON. JUDGE SAMUEL MARTIREZ (sic) should be asked to explain why:
  1. Despite the fact that a valid Information has been filed in his court for the heinous crime of MURDER, with “NO BAIL” recommended against JOEL “TOTO” ABRIL, he DID NOT ISSUE A WARRANT FOR HIS ARREST and as a result of which the said accused continues to remain at large;

  2. Why, despite the filing of a valid Information for MURDER, with NO BAIL recommended, during the arraignment of the accused JOEL “TOTO” ABRIL on July 3, 2001 and even with the urgings of the prosecution that the said accused be committed, he did not order the arrest, detention and commitment of the said accused.
All of which acts are in violation of the clear provisions of the law.[2]
The complainant alleged that she handled the preliminary investigation of the complaint for murder filed against Joel Abril, docketed as Criminal Case No. 5584. After searching questions were asked, she found probable cause for the filing of the offense charged and directed the issuance of a warrant of arrest so as not to frustrate the ends of justice. Abril then filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to quash the warrant of arrest, which the complainant Judge denied. The case was, thereafter, transmitted to the Provincial Prosecutor. On February 29, 2000, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Pablo Lachica issued a Resolution recommending the dismissal of the case for alleged lack of merit.

Due to the conflicting recommendations of the complainant and Prosecutor Lachica, Provincial Prosecutor Rogelio Hipol created a three-man panel to reinvestigate the case composed of 1st Assistant Prosecutor Julio B. Tecan and 3rd Assistant Prosecutors Oscar B. Corpuz and Georgina D. Hidalgo. The panel sustained the findings of probable cause made by the complainant Judge and resolved to indict Abril. An Information for murder was then filed on August 23, 2000 before the sala of respondent Judge Ganay docketed as Criminal Case No. A-3691.

On July 3, 2001, Abril appeared for arraignment before the sala of respondent Judge Martires. However, the latter did not issue any warrant of arrest despite the charge of murder against Abril. Prosecutor Lachica then filed an Urgent Motion to Dismiss on the ground of lack of evidence, but failed to disclose that a review of the case was being conducted by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor.

Abril filed a petition, which was later amended, before the sala of respondent Judge Ganay entitled “Re: Petition to Quash the Warrant of Arrest and/or for the Release of the Respondent from Detention, Joel ‘Toto’ Abril v. People of the Philippines,” docketed as Special Proceding Case No. A-920. Respondent Judge Ganay granted the amended petition and ordered the release of Abril, despite the fact that the case was still pending review before the Provincial Prosecutor. The complainant alleged that respondent Judge Ganay should have respected the law and the offices tasked with the preliminary investigation and review of the case. Thus, despite the warrant of arrest issued by the complainant Judge, Abril was released prior to his arraignment.

The complainant averred that she was neither impleaded nor notified in the said case, even though she was the one who issued the assailed warrant of arrest; the only respondent in the said case was the Office of the Prosecutor, Agoo, La Union, represented by Prosecutor Lachica. She further contended that respondent Judge Ganay hastily issued the order for the release of Abril, considering that the amended petition was filed only on April 11, 2000; the hearing was thereafter conducted the very next day, while the Order for the release of Abril was issued on April 13, 2000. The complainant contended that respondent Judge Ganay should have informed Abril that his remedy lies with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, pursuant to Section 5, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, a petition for certiorari or prohibition, but not a special proceeding as the latter was not among the allowable special proceedings in the rules.

In his Comment dated February 10, 2003, respondent Judge Ganay denied the allegations against him. He averred that Abril was arrested by virtue of an arrest warrant issued by the complainant Judge on January 10, 2000. Upon his failure to have the said warrant quashed with the issuing court, Abril filed a petition in the sala of respondent Judge Ganay on April 11, 2000, which was captioned as “special proceeding.” Respondent Judge Ganay averred that the quashal of the warrant of arrest issued on January 10, 2000 was specifically prayed for in the petition. The respondent further narrated, thus:
On April 13, 2000, he [Basconcillo] appeared in Court. The Trial Prosecutor was indecisive. Apparently Judge Pangan and Public Prosecutor Pablo Lachica (Chief of Office, Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, Agoo, La Union) were diametrically opposed to each other in their legal positions regarding the case under preliminary investigation, the Public Prosecutor [LACHICA] in favor of DISMISSING the case for lack of evidence while Judge Pangan, acting as a subalterm of the Prosecution, finding probable cause to hold Joel “Toto” Abril for trial.

Eventually, these warring positions would be resolved by the Provincial Prosecutor, when he created a panel of three (3) public prosecutors to resolve them, one way or the other.

BUT IN THE MEANWHILE[,] the lot of Joel “Toto” Abril was miserable because he remained in detention in the slammer.

This explains why he (thru counsel) brought his misery to Branch 31, RTC, under Judge Ganay by petitioning the Court for the quashal of the questionable warrant of arrest which Judge Pangan issued, by virtue of which Abril was arrested.[3]
Thereafter, respondent Judge Ganay issued an Order[4] granting the petition on April 13, 2000, on the ground, among others, that the warrant ordering his arrest was issued hastily and was thus illegal.

Respondent Judge Ganay contended that not all judicial actions are proper subjects of an administrative complaint; otherwise, “there will be no Judge left to man the ramparts of our Temples of Justice.”[5] He posited that the complainant Judge panicked when Abril filed a complaint against her in connection with the arrest warrant she issued. The respondent maintained that the warrant the complainant Judge issued was illegal and that he had to act upon it speedily.

In his Comment dated March 25, 2003, respondent Judge Martires prayed that the charge against him be dismissed for utter lack of merit. He narrated the events that led to the instant administrative case, as follows:
  1. On January 10, 2000, the following incidents transpired, thus:
    1. A Criminal Complaint for Murder dated January 10, 2000 was filed on January 10, 2000 by the NBI Special Investigator against Joel “Toto” Abril before the Municipal Trial Court of Rosario.
    2. On that same day (January 10, 2000), Judge Pangan conducted the preliminary inquiry.
    3. Then, by her Order of January 10, 2000, Judge Pangan ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Correspondingly, a warrant of arrest of even date was issued.
    4. At 3:35 in the afternoon of January 10, 2000, the NBI arrested the accused Joel Abril per its 1st Indorsement dated January 10, 2000 and the Personal Data Sheet of the accused.
    5. By the Commitment Order dated January 10, 2000 of Judge Pangan, the accused was committed to the BJMP of Agoo, La Union.
  2. On January 12, 2000, the accused through his counsel Atty. Hernando Pangasinan, filed a Motion To Quash Criminal Complaint and Warrant of Arrest. The accused argued that the criminal complaint did not state the name of the victim.
  3. On that same day, January 12, 2000, but after the accused filed the aforementioned motion to quash, as shown by the Registry Receipts, the NBI filed a Motion to Admit Amended Complaint.
  4. The following day, by the Order of January 13, 2000, Judge Pangan denied the motion to quash and admitted the amended criminal complaint.
  5. On January 24, 2000, the accused through Atty. Pablo Olarte, filed a Motion for Reconsideration to the Order of January 13, 2000 and/or Motion to Recall Warrant of Arrest.
  6. On February 3, 2000, the Preliminary Investigation started.
  7. Finding the existence of probable cause against the accused for the crime of murder, Judge Pangan in her Resolution of February 10, 2000, DENIED the motion for reconsideration and ordered that the records of the case be forwarded to the Provincial Prosecutor for “appropriate action.”
  8. The Panel of Assistant Provincial Prosecutors, on August 23, 2000, filed the Information dated June 1, 2000, and which was docketed as Criminal Case No. A-3691. The same was raffled to Branch 32 on August 29, 2000.
  9. On October 10, 2000, the private complainant Teodorico Ocol filed a Motion to Transfer Case to Branch 31 dated October 2, 2000, alleging, among others, that he has executed an affidavit of desistance.
  10. Simultaneously, the private complainant, also on October 10, 2000, filed a Motion to Dismiss. Attached to the Motion to Dismiss was his Affidavit of Desistance.
  11. On November 9, 2000, Atty. Felimon Asperin entered his appearance as counsel for the accused and moved that the motion to dismiss be set for hearing.
  12. By the Order of the Court of November 9, 2000, the hearing on the Motion to Dismiss was set on November 14, 2000.
  13. Of the incidents during the hearing of November 14, 2000 the Order of the Court of even date will show[.] The accused and his counsels appeared. The Public Prosecutor informed the Court that the accused filed a petition for review before the Department of Justice (or DOJ, for brevity). Upon agreement of the parties, the arraignment of the accused was reset to December 5, 2000.
  14. On December 5, 2000, the accused objected that he be arraigned and opposed the motion to dismiss in view of the petition for review before the DOJ. However, counsel for the accused manifested that they have also filed a motion to withdraw petition for review but which has not yet been acted upon by the DOJ. The hearing was reset to December 13, 2000.
  15. However, the hearings scheduled on December 13, 2000 and January 22, 2001 were cancelled in view of the unresolved motion to withdraw before the DOJ.
  16. By the Order of February 21, 2001, the Court directed the DOJ to immediately resolve the motion of the accused[;] after all, it was merely a withdrawal of his appeal.
  17. On June 5, 2001, the Court received a copy of DOJ’s Resolution dated May 28, 2001 granting the withdrawal of the appeal.
  18. By the Notice of Hearing dated June 21, 2001, the arraignment of the accused was set on July 3, 2001. The accused was arraigned on that day.
  19. Of matters taken up after the arraignment on July 3, 2000 was the manifestation of Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Pablo Lachica that the accused be committed to the Provincial Jail and that the case be dismissed. Likewise, the prosecutor presented the private complainant to testify on his motion to dismiss and affidavit of desistance. The continuation of hearing was scheduled on October 18, 2001.
  20. On October 18, 2001, the hearing was reset to October 24, 2001. The court directed the issuance of a subpoena to the alleged eyewitness Victoria Alabaso.
  21. Victoria Alabaso appeared on October 24, 2001 but was not presented by the prosecution. Instead, the motion to dismiss was deemed submitted for resolution.
  22. On March 12, 2002, Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Pablo Lachica filed an Urgent Motion To Dismiss.
  23. After hearing the Motion To Dismiss on March 15, 2002, the same was referred by the Court to the Provincial Prosecutor for comments.
  24. On May 7, 2002, the Provincial Prosecutor filed his comments to the motion to dismiss and moved for a REINVESTIGATION. The same was granted by the Order of the Court of June 26, 2002.[6]
While he admitted that he did not issue the warrant of arrest against Abril, respondent Judge Martires explained that he was justified in so doing. After studying the records of the preliminary investigation, as transmitted by the Prosecutor’s Office, he immediately noticed that the accused had already been arrested. There was thus no longer a necessity to issue an arrest warrant or commitment order in such case, as it would be a mere superfluity. He instead scheduled the arraignment of the accused on November 14, 2000.

Judge Martires further averred that while Criminal Case No. A-3691 was raffled to RTC, Branch 32 as early as August 29, 2000, he was not immediately able to schedule the arraignment of the accused. He pointed out that he had not yet then assumed his post as presiding Judge pending his attendance to the Orientation Seminar for newly appointed Judges which was held on October 16-20, 2000, pursuant to A.M. No. 99-7-07-SC issued by the Supreme Court.

Anent the Order issued by Judge Ganay on April 13, 2000, Judge Martires further explained as follows:
By requiring the accused to report to the Officer-in-Charge of Branch 31 every Monday morning starting April 17, 2000 until final orders from Branch 31, the accused was in legal contemplation not at-large as Judge Pangan would want the Honorable Court Administrator to believe. Technically and legally, the accused was under the custody of the law. The Supreme Court in Paderanga vs. Court of Appeals, 247 SCRA 741 (1995), considered the voluntary submission by the accused to the local chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines as being constructively and legally under custody. This mode, according to the High Tribunal, may be exemplified by the so-called “house arrest” or, in case of military offenders, by being “confined to quarters” or restricted to the military camp area.

With the Order of Judge Ganay, a legal or procedural problem was posed. Since the Court of Judge Martires is co-equal in rank with the Court of Judge Ganay Judge Martires, [it] cannot set aside the Order of Judge Ganay of April 13, 2000. And, as the rules of procedure will dictate, it is only Judge Ganay or the Appellate Court who can set aside the aforementioned Order.

So that, if it was really the prosecution’s desire to have the accused committed to jail, it should have done two things. First, by filing a motion before Judge Ganay to set aside its Order of April 13, 2000, and secondly, after the motion is granted to file a motion before Judge Martires to commit the accused to the provincial jail. But the prosecution did none of these, and Judge Martires must not suggest. Otherwise, he will be acting as counsel for the prosecution.

Granting again for the sake of argument that the prosecution has done what is suggested above, still Judge Martires must not issue a commitment order, in light of the motion to dismiss filed by the private complainant. Doing so would be premature. As dictated by the events, the motion to dismiss must first be resolved before any decision for the commitment of the accused is made.[7]
Judge Martires thereafter charged the complainant Judge with gross ignorance of the law, violation of Canon 10, Rules 10.01 and 10.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and violation of Canon 2, Rules 2.01 and 2.04 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, relative to her issuance of the warrant of arrest against Abril, and requested for an investigation on the matter.

In her Reply dated July 11, 2003, the complainant Judge insisted that since Abril had been charged with murder, which is a capital offense, and having been positively identified by an eyewitness-neighbor, a warrant of arrest should have been issued against him. She further averred that an investigation was in order to determine the reason for the difficulty of borrowing records in respondent Judge Martires’ court. The complainant alleged that on the two occasions that she went to Judge Martires’ sala to borrow case records, she was made to wait for almost four (4) hours only to ask permission to read the records. The complainant further alleged the following:
Finally, to substantiate her contention that the issuance of the Warrant of Arrest against Joel Abril is in order, the office of the Provincial Prosecutor, San Fernando City, La Union, sustained her findings and filed the Information against Joel Abril for Murder. Despite several motions for reconsideration, to the extent of instituting another case against another person, a certain Maning Delos Santos, the panel of prosecutors, constituted by 1st Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Julio B. Tecon, 1st Assistant City Proscutor (on detail) Oscar B. Corpuz and 2nd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Georgina D. Hidalgo, repeatedly sustained the filing of Murder charges against Joel Abril and dismissed the case against Delos Santos (Annexes “10,” “19,” “20,” “21” and “22”).[8]
The case was assigned to Court of Appeals Associate Justice Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando for investigation, report and recommendation.

In her Final Report and Recommendation dated May 4, 2004, the Investigating Justice found that upon the complainant Judge’s denial of Abril’s motion to quash the warrant of arrest, including the motion for reconsideration of such motion, the records of the case were transmitted to the Office of the Prosecutor for appropriate action, and remained thereat until the panel of three (3) prosecutors submitted a resolution on June 1, 2000. According to the Investigating Justice:
In the interim that the case was still under review by the prosecutor’s office, there was no “court” to speak of where the accused can file a “motion” to quash warrant of arrest because no information was filed yet in any court. Neither can accused Abril file a request for reinvestigation because as stated, his case was under review with the prosecutor’s office.

Under the circumstances of the case, the act of accused Abril in filing a “petition” before the Regional Trial Court of Agoo, La Union, was the only logical and proper legal remedy at that time. Respondent Judge Ganay correctly stated that the petition was nomenclatured as “special proceeding” by accused Abril’s lawyer probably because the case was “special” in the sense that such kind of petition was not based and patterned upon any of the rules under the Rules of Court. Equity defined as justice outside the law and grounded on the precepts of conscience and not on any sanction of positive law, justifies the act of respondent Judge Ganay in taking cognizance of the petition.[9]
Anent the charges against respondent Judge Martires, the Investigating Justice found the same to have been unsubstantiated, and opined that the respondent Judge exercised his sound discretion in not issuing the warrant of arrest against Abril.

Thus, the Investigating Justice recommended the dismissal of the case against the respondents for lack of merit.

The findings of the Investigating Justice are well-taken.

It bears stressing that it is within the discretion of the Judge to issue a warrant for the arrest of an accused in a criminal case. A Judge is required to personally evaluate the resolution of the prosecutor and its supporting evidence. He may immediately dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable cause. However, if he finds probable cause, then he is mandated by law to issue such warrant.[10] While before, it was mandatory for the investigating Judge to issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused if he found probable cause, the rule now is that the investigating Judge’s power to order the arrest of the accused is limited to instances in which there is a necessity for placing him in custody “in order not to frustrate the ends of justice.” The arrest of the accused can be ordered only in the event that the prosecutor files the case and the Judge of the Regional Trial Court finds probable cause for the issuance of the warrant of arrest.[11]

In the case at bar, both respondent Judges, upon careful perusal of the records of the case before them, exercised their discretion and opted not to issue a warrant of arrest against Abril. As found by the Investigating Justice:
At that precise moment, accused Abril could not avail of the following options mentioned by the Honorable Court Administrator:
“2. X x x to ask the Provincial Fiscal for a reinvestigation of the charge against them. If unsatisfied with the fiscal’s resolution, they can ask for a review by the Minister of Justice (Sec. 1[d], RA 5180 as amended by P.D. 911);

“3. if their petition for review does not prosper, they can file a motion to quash the information in the trial court (Rule 117, Rules of Court).

“4. If the motion is denied, they can appeal the judgment of the court after the case shall have been tried on the merits.”
Records reveal that accused Abril cannot avail of the above remedies in view of the following circumstances:
  1. the records of the case were transmitted to the Provincial Prosecutor, for appropriate action. Technically speaking, Abril’s case was under investigation then. Hence, no reinvestigation can be requested since the matter was obviously undergoing a review or investigation;

  2. no review by the Department of Justice can be made since there was no resolution by the Prosecutor yet;

  3. there was nowhere to file the motion to quash information since there was no “trial court” to speak of as there was no information filed; and

  4. appeal from the complainant’s denial of the motion to quash criminal complaint and/or recall the arrest order is not a plain and speedy remedy.
Accused Abril was committed to prison on January 10, 2000. Immediately thereafter, he filed a motion to quash the criminal complaint in order that he be released from detention and later a motion for reconsideration, which were all denied by the complainant, the MTC Judge conducting the preliminary investigation.

It was only on June 1, 2000 when the panel of three (3) prosecutors rendered a Resolution finding reasons to indict accused Abril for the crime of Murder.

To deny accused Abril of a legal remedy during the interval from his arrest, January 10, 2000, until the filing of the Information on August 23, 2000, would be a blatant denial of his right to due process of law.

Respondent Judge Ganay’s declaration that there is nothing in the warrant of arrest or in the order dated January 10, 2000 issued by complainant which states that there was a need to place Joel “Toto” Abril under immediate custody so as not to frustrate the ends of justice, is correct.

Respondent Judge Martires correctly manifested that while Prosecutor Lachica was requesting for the commitment of accused Abril, Prosecutor Lachica was also manifesting that they would be moving for the dismissal of the case as they would be filing a case against another person.

Confronted with this peculiar situation, respondent Judge Martires rightly did not issue a warrant of arrest. There was no reason to subject accused Abril to incarceration when the prosecution believed that accused Abril was innocent of the crime charged.

That exceptional situation called for the sound discretion of the Judge and respondent Judge Martires correctly exercised his discretion.[12]
It is settled that as a matter of policy, in the absence of fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a Judge in his judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary action even though such acts are erroneous. He cannot be subjected to liability – civil, criminal or administrative – for any of his official acts, no matter how erroneous, as long as he acts in good faith.[13] Only judicial errors tainted with fraud, dishonesty, gross ignorance, bad faith or deliberate intent to do an injustice will be administratively sanctioned.[14] To hold otherwise would be to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment.[15] Furthermore, even in an administrative case, the Rules of Court require that if the respondent Judge should be disciplined for grave misconduct or any graver offense, the evidence against him should be competent and should be derived from direct knowledge. The judiciary to which the respondent belongs demands no less. Before any of its members could be faulted, competent evidence should be presented, especially since the charge is penal in character.[16]

Indeed, while it is our duty to investigate and determine the truth behind every matter in complaints against Judges and other court personnel, it is also our duty to see to it that they are protected and exonerated from baseless administrative charges. The Court will not shirk from its responsibility of imposing discipline upon its magistrates, but neither will it hesitate to shield them from unfounded suits that only serve to disrupt rather than promote the orderly administration of justice.[17]

WHEREFORE, the instant administrative complaint against Judge Clifton U. Ganay and Judge Samuel R. Martires is DISMISSED for lack of merit.


Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Tinga, and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.

[1] Entitled “Joel “Toto” Abril v. Judge Caroline Pangan.”

[2] Rollo, pp. 24-25.

[3] Rollo, pp. 179-180.

[4] The dispositive portion of the said order reads:

WHEREFORE, upon the foregoing premises, this Court orders the release of Joel “Toto” Abril from detention. He should not be allowed to stay one minute longer in the BJMP slammer.

The Jail Warden, BJMP, Agoo, La Union, is hereby directed to release Joel Abril from detention, unless he is facing other criminal charges in this Court or in other Courts wherein his detention is ordered.

Mr. Joel Abril is hereby directed to appear before this Court every Monday morning and register his appearance before the OIC-Branch Clerk of Court (Ms. Precilla Olympia P. Eslao of this Court) starting April 17, 2000 until further orders of this Court.

SO ORDERED. (Rollo, p. 573).

[5] Id. at 210.

[6] Id. at 419-423.

[7] Id. at 435-436.

[8] Id. at 486.

[9] Report and Recommendation, pp. 19-20.

[10] Concerned Citizen of Maddela v. Dela Torre-Yadao, 393 SCRA 217 (2002).

[11] Arcilla v. Palaypayon, 364 SCRA 464 (2001), citing Flores v. Sumaljag, A.M. No. MTJ-97-1115, 290 SCRA 568 (1998).

[12] Report and Recommendation, pp. 21-23.

[13] Balsamo v. Suan, 411 SCRA 189 (2003).

[14] Cruz v. Iturralde, 402 SCRA 65 (2003).

[15] Sacmar v. Reyes-Carpio, 400 SCRA 32 (2003).

[16] Ejercito v. Suerte, 410 SCRA 287 (2003).

[17] Cruz v. Iturralde, supra.

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