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646 Phil. 74


[ A.M. No. RTJ-10-2248*, September 29, 2010 ]




This is an administrative complaint for disbarment and dismissal from judiciary service filed by complainant Judge Adoracion G. Angeles (Judge Angeles) against respondent Hon. Maria Elisa Sempio Diy (Judge Sempio Diy), Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 225, which stemmed from consolidated Criminal Case Nos. Q-95-61294 and Q-95-62690 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Proclyn Pacay" and "People of the Philippines v. P/Insp. Roberto Ganias, " respectively.

Judge Angeles charges respondent Judge Sempio Diy with Violations of Section 15 (1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution; Section 2, Canon 2 and Section 5 Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary; Rule 1.01 and 1.02, Canon 1 and Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct; Number 6 of the Code of Judicial Ethics; Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility; Section 4 paragraph b of Republic Act No. 6713 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; Falsification of Official Documents; and Dishonesty.  Complainant urges the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to examine the numerous violations allegedly committed by the respondent and to make an assessment if, indeed, she is still worthy to wear the judicial robe or, if her continued presence on the bench would unduly tarnish the image of the judiciary.[1]

In her Comment,[2] respondent Judge Sempio Diy vehemently denies the material allegations in the complaint.  She claims that complainant's charges are harsh, rash and baseless, calculated merely to harass and "destroy the reputation of a younger sister in the profession."[3]

As synthesized by the OCA in its Report[4] dated May 7, 2010, the facts of the case are as follows:

Complainant Judge Angeles alleges that she is the private complainant in the above-mentioned cases which, by order of respondent Judge Sempio-Diy dated 20 June 2008, were submitted for decision, and the promulgation of judgment was set for  11 September 2008.  In a subsequent Order dated 8 September 2008, respondent Judge Sempio-Diy moved the promulgation of judgment to 17 September 2008, for the reason that she had a previously scheduled medical consultation concerning a neck ailment. Thereafter, the promulgation of judgment on 17 September 2008 was cancelled and reset to 17 October 2008, with respondent Judge Sempio-Diy citing voluminous case records and health problems as grounds to support her request before the Court of a thirty (30)-day extension.

On 17 October 2008, the promulgation of judgment was once again cancelled and reset to 14 November 2008 on account of a second request for extension of time based on the ground that respondent Judge Sempio-Diy had just recently arrived from a trip to the United States where she attended a symposium on religious freedom. Following a third request for extension of time, the promulgation of judgment was reset for the last time to 12 December 2008.

Finally, the Joint Decision in the subject criminal cases was promulgated on 12 December 2008, wherein all the accused, except for accused SPO1 Roberto C. Carino, were acquitted. To complainant Judge Angeles, the said Decision was belatedly rendered because there was a lapse of six (6) months from the time it was submitted for resolution to the time it was promulgated. She further avers that her personal examination of the case records revealed that no requests for extension of time to decide the subject cases were made by respondent Judge Sempio-Diy. Likewise, she notes that the case records do not show that requests for extension of time, if any had indeed been made by respondent Judge Sempio-Diy, were granted by the Supreme Court. It is her opinion that such requests and Resolutions of the Supreme Court granting the same should be made integral parts of the case records.

As for the reasons proffered by respondent Judge Sempio-Diy for the repeated cancellation and resetting of the dates for promulgation of judgment, complainant Judge Angeles argues that: (1) respondent Judge Sempio-Diy's medical check-up could have been done on any other day that would not conflict with the scheduled promulgation; (2) the neck ailment was not as serious as it was made to appear because respondent Judge Sempio-Diy was able to travel abroad to attend a symposium; and (3) the claim that she needed time to study the voluminous case records is not a valid excuse because respondent Judge Sempio-Diy found time to travel abroad instead of attending to her pending cases.

In fine, complainant Judge Angeles is adamant in her contention that the Joint Decision in the subject criminal cases was rendered way beyond the 90-day period prescribed by the Constitution. In addition, complainant Judge Angeles raises another instance where respondent Judge Sempio-Diy is supposed to have incurred unjustifiable delay.

As it happened, convicted accused SPO1 Roberto C. Carino assailed the Joint Decision by filing an Urgent Motion for Reconsideration on 5 January 2009, which the prosecution countered in its Opposition filed on 14 January 2009. However, it was not until 30 July 2009, or more than six (6) months later, that respondent Judge Sempio-Diy issued an Order submitting the incident for resolution, "it appearing that the accused through counsel has failed to file the necessary pleading despite the period given by the Court." Less than a month later, or on 24 August 2009, respondent Judge Sempio-Diy resolved the pending matter by denying the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration for lack of merit.

Despite the denial of the said Urgent Motion for Reconsideration, things did not sit well for complainant Judge Angeles. For her, the Resolution dated 24 August 2009 was belatedly issued by respondent Judge Sempio-Diy. First and foremost, she contends that the incident should have been submitted for resolution upon the filing of the prosecution's Opposition on 14 January 2009. And yet, it was more than six (6) months later, or only on 30 July 2009, that respondent Judge Sempio-Diy issued the Order submitting the said incident for resolution. Secondly, complainant Judge Angeles asserts that there was no basis for the trial court to have to wait for more than six (6) months before submitting the motion for resolution considering that there exists no order in the case records directing the accused SPO1 Roberto C. Carino, through counsel, to file the necessary pleading. Asserting that there was no basis for submitting the incident for resolution only after the lapse of six (6) months, complainant Judge Angeles further contends that the Resolution issued by respondent Judge Sempio-Diy on 24 August 2009 denying the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration was likewise delayed for a total of more than seven (7) months.

To support her assertions, complainant Judge Angeles attached to her COMPLAINT a Certification issued by Benedict S. Sta. Cruz, Branch Clerk of Court of RTC, Branch 225, Quezon City, wherein the latter attested that, "based on the record of People vs. Proclyn Pacay, et al., Criminal Case Nos. Q-95-61294 and Q-95-62690, it appears that there is no order from the Court directing the defense to file a reply to the Comment/Opposition (to the Motion for Reconsideration) filed by the prosecution on January 14, 2009." She also points out that there appears to be an irregularity in the face of the Order submitting the incident for resolution. In particular, she refers to the date of its issuance - "July 30, 2009"--which is written in a different font when compared to the rest of the contents of the said Order. She, therefore, contends that the said date was "merely typewritten in lieu of another date which was snowpaked."

By failing to decide/resolve the subject cases and the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration within the period mandated by law and jurisprudence, as well as in falsifying official documents, complainant Judge Angeles now stresses, respondent Judge Sempio-Diy violated the pertinent provisions of the Constitution, New Code of Judicial Conduct, Code of Judicial Ethics, Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

For her part, respondent Judge Sempio-Diy belies the accusations hurled at her by complainant Judge Angeles in the latter's COMPLAINT. In her COMMENT dated 2 December 2009, respondent Judge Sempio-Diy counters that she decided the subject cases in due time and within the extended period granted by the Supreme Court. She maintains that the orders resetting the promulgation of judgment were issued in good faith and in the interest of full transparency, pursuant to her request to decide the subject cases expeditiously.

For starters, she notes that she merely inherited the subject cases which had already been previously handled by three (3) other judges from the time they were filed in 1995. Thus, the case records were voluminous.

For another, the first resetting of the promulgation of judgment from 11 September to 17 September 2008 was occasioned by her illness, which assertion she substantiated by way of a Medical Certificate. She points out that the setting of the promulgation of judgment on 17 September 2008 is still within the Constitutionally-prescribed 90-day period for deciding the subject cases.

As for the three (3) subsequent re-settings, she avers that she timely asked for extensions of the period, all of which were granted by the Supreme Court. To support her claim that she did not incur delay in the promulgation of judgment, she appended to her COMMENT certified true copies of her first and second letters/requests addressed to the then Assistant Court Administrator, Jesus Edwin A. Villasor (now Deputy Court Administrator) and other related documents. These requests were favorably considered by the Court and she was granted an extension of a total of ninety (90) days from 18 September 2008.

She likewise attached to her COMMENT a copy of her third letter/request to prove that this was filed prior to the lapse of the original 90-day extended period granted to her. In fine, she insists that there was no unjustified delay when the Joint Decision was finally promulgated on 12 December 2008 as the same was still within the original 90-day extended period reckoned from 18 September 2008. The Court's granting of her third request for an additional thirty (30) days in a Resolution dated 16 February 2009 had, by then, become moot and academic.

While she admits that her letters/requests for extension and the Supreme Court Resolutions granting the same were not attached to the voluminous records of the subject cases, she nevertheless manifests that these were kept in a separate folder.

With regard to the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration, she points out that the delay was inadvertently incurred in good faith. During the hearing of the said motion on 29 January 2009, the request of the defense for time to file the necessary pleadings was granted, for which reason, she says, the said motion could not yet be submitted for resolution. She deemed it prudent to give the parties a reasonable period of time within which to submit their adversarial pleadings. To substantiate this contention, respondent Judge Sempio-Diy attached to her COMMENT the transcript of stenographic notes taken on that day and the Minutes of the proceedings of the same day.

In the light of the foregoing, respondent Judge Sempio-Diy discredits the import of the Certification issued by the Branch Clerk of Court, Benedict S. Sta. Cruz, by arguing that, while there is no order appearing in the case records directing accused SPO1 Carino to file his Reply to the prosecution's Comment to his Urgent Motion for Reconsideration, the said directive appears in the Minutes of the hearing conducted on 29 January 2009. She likewise notes that during the said hearing, the said Branch Clerk of Court was not present.

Respondent Judge Sempio-Diy likewise attributes the inadvertent delay to the "unfortunate crises" that befell her, her mother, and the court's personnel sometime in May to July of 2009. She reported to the Office of the Court Administrator that they received a series of death threats which caused, among others, disorientation. Thus, it was only on 30 July 2009, after the semi-annual inventory, that an Order submitting the matter for resolution was issued. She stresses that the incident was resolved within thirty (30) days from its submission. As for the "snowpaked" correction of the date of the said Order, she avers that this was simply due to a typographical error.[5]

Complainant Judge Angeles filed her Reply to respondent's Comment and, thereafter, respondent Judge Sempio Diy filed her Rejoinder in amplification of their respective claims.  Later, complainant filed her Sur-Rejoinder on February 9, 2010 while respondent filed her Reply to the Sur-Rejoinder on February 18, 2010.

In its evaluation, the OCA found that Judge Sempio Diy cannot be held guilty of unreasonable delay in rendering the Joint Decision in Criminal Case Nos. Q-95-61294 and Q-95-62690 given her seasonably-filed requests for extension of time. The requests were all granted by this Court in the November 24, 2008 Resolution, giving respondent a total extension period of ninety (90) days from September 18, 2008. The OCA, however, opined that respondent should be administratively sanctioned for incurring delay in the resolution of accused Carino's Urgent Motion for Reconsideration.

The OCA recommended that the case be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter against Judge Sempio Diy and that she be fined in the amount of P2,000.00 for her delayed action on a motion for reconsideration with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act would be dealt with more severely.[6]

After a judicious review of the records of the case, this Court determines that the findings of the OCA are well-taken.  However, We modify the recommended disposition in light of the circumstances of the case.

The Court finds no evidence to sustain the charges of delay against Judge Sempio Diy in rendering the Joint Decision in the consolidated Criminal Case Nos. Q-95-61294 and Q-95-62690. It is the stance of the complainant that Judge Sempio Diy merely sat on the cases for an unreasonable length of time and failed to resolve them within the constitutionally prescribed 90-day period. This constituted gross inefficiency warranting the imposition of administrative sanctions. Judge Angeles accuses respondent of concocting requests for extension and making it appear that these requests were granted by this Court. Complainant avers that she perused the records of the consolidated criminal cases but respondent's alleged requests for extension and the Court's Resolutions allowing them were nowhere to be found.

Complainant's contentions fail.

Records reveal that Judge Sempio Diy timely sought for three successive extensions[7] of the period to decide the consolidated criminal cases.  All requests were favorably considered by this Court.[8]  Respondent was granted a total extension period of ninety (90) days to be reckoned from September 18, 2008 or until December 18, 2008.  So, the promulgation of Joint Decision on December 12, 2008 was made well within the 90-day extension period. Complainant should have first verified the veracity and accuracy of her allegations from the records of Branch 225, this Court and the OCA, before hurling accusations of dishonesty and slothful conduct against respondent.  Truly, respondent was charged with a litany of imagined sins relative to her alleged undue delay in deciding the subject consolidated criminal cases without sufficient proof.

We hold, however, that there was indeed delay in resolving accused Carino's Urgent Motion for Reconsideration filed on January 5, 2009.

Respondent Judge Sempio Diy claims that the delay in submitting accused's motion for reconsideration was due to inadvertence and without bad faith on her part.  She explains that she opted to wait for the defense to file its reply to the prosecution's comment on the motion for reconsideration because the offense of which accused was convicted was serious and his liberty was at stake.  She adds that the death threats she and the members of her judicial staff received from May to July 2009, caused them disorientation and contributed further to the delay in the resolution of the subject motion.  She readily admits that it was only after the semi-annual inventory that the pending incidents in the consolidated criminal cases were considered submitted for resolution in the  July 30, 2009 Order.

Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct[9] admonishes all judges to dispose of the court's business promptly and decide cases within the period specified in Section 15 (1) and (2), Article VIII of the Constitution.[10]  This is supplemented by Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, requiring judges to perform all judicial duties efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness.[11]

A careful perusal of the transcript of stenographic notes[12] and the Minutes[13] of the hearing held on January 29, 2009 in Criminal Case Nos.  Q-95-61294 and Q-95-62690, would clearly show that respondent indeed gave the defense ten (10) days to submit its reply to the prosecution's comment on the motion for reconsideration and, thereafter, she would resolve all pending incidents in said consolidated cases.  As correctly observed by the OCA, the reglementary period to resolve the motion in question began to run from February 8, 2009 or after the lapse of ten days  from  January 29, 2009.  Respondent, however, did not act on the matter and allowed a hiatus in the consolidated criminal cases. A judge cannot choose to prolong the period for resolving pending incidents and deciding cases beyond the period authorized by law.  Let it be underscored that it is the sworn duty of judges to administer justice without undue delay under the time-honored precept that justice delayed is justice denied. Judges should act with dispatch in resolving pending incidents, so as not to frustrate and delay the satisfaction of a judgment.[14]

Judge Sempio Diy, having been a member of the judiciary for several years, should not have any trouble disposing the court's business and resolving motions for reconsideration within the required period.  Otherwise, she should formally request this Court for an extension of the deadline to avoid administrative liability.  Unfortunately, she failed to do that in these cases. Delay in resolving motions and incidents within the reglementary period of 90 days fixed by the law cannot be excused or condoned.[15]

Respondent's claim of death threats on her and her staff, even if real, would not constitute a valid excuse for her inaction.  After all, as member of the judiciary, she must display diligence and competence amid all adversities to live up to her oath of office.  Besides, when said threats were received from May to July 2009, the three-month mandatory period for resolving the motion had already expired. Accordingly, respondent cannot rely on said predicament to exonerate her from administrative liability for incurring undue delay in resolving the subject motion.  Although it is true that Judge Sempio Diy finally issued a resolution[16] denying accused Carino's motion for reconsideration on August 24, 2009 or within 30 days from the time the incident was submitted for resolution on July 30, 2009, her inaction on the motion for more than 6 months is not excused.

It appears that respondent has simply forgotten about the pending motion for reconsideration in Criminal Case Nos. Q-95-61294 and Q-95-62690 after said cases became inactive due to the failure of the defense to submit its reply. The realization of the blunder came only during the semi-annual inventory of the court's cases. This situation could have been avoided had respondent adopted an effective system of record management and organization of dockets to monitor the flow of cases for prompt and efficient dispatch of the court's business. Elementary court management practice requires her to keep her own records or notes of cases pending before her sala, especially those that are pending for more than 90 days, so that she can act on them promptly and without delay. In Ricolcol v. Judge Camarista,[17] the Court declared:

A judge ought to know the cases submitted to her for decision or resolution and is expected to keep her own record of cases so that she may act on them promptly. It is incumbent upon her to devise an efficient recording and filing system in her court so that no disorderliness can affect the flow of cases and their speedy disposition. Proper and efficient court management is as much her responsibility. She is the one directly responsible for the proper discharge of her official functions.

The Court reminds the respondent of her duty to closely supervise and monitor the monthly docket inventories to forestall future occurrences of this nature. Pertinently, the Court held in Gordon v. Judge Lilagan:[18]

The physical inventory of cases is instrumental to the expeditious dispensation of justice. Although this responsibility primarily rests in the presiding judge, it is shared with the court staff. This Court has consistently required Judges for a "continuous inventory of cases on a monthly basis so that a trial judge is aware of the status of each case. With the assistance of the branch clerk of court, a checklist should be prepared indicating the steps to be taken to keep the cases moving. In Juan v. Arias [72 SCRA 404 (1976)], the Court underscored the importance of this physical inventory stressing "it is only by this that the judge can keep himself abreast of the status of the pending cases and informed that everything is in order in his court."

Pursuant to A.M. No. 02-9-02-SC,[19] this administrative case against respondent shall also be considered a disciplinary proceeding against her as a member of the bar.[20] Violation of the basic tenets of judicial conduct embodied in the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary and the Code of Judicial Conduct constitutes a breach of Canons 1[21] and 12[22] as well as Rules 1.03[23] and 12.04[24] of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

In determining the sanction to be imposed on errant magistrates, the Court considers the factual milieu of each case, the offending acts or omissions of the judges, as well as previous transgressions, if any.  In the instant case, there is no evidence to show any dubious reason or improper motive that could have compelled respondent to delay the resolution of the subject motion. In fact, when respondent found out about the unresolved subject motion in the consolidated cases, she immediately ordered its

submission for resolution on July 30, 2009.  In the absence of malice, the delay could only be due to inadvertence. It is significant to note that respondent resolved the motion within thirty days from its submission date which clearly showed her effort to zealously attend to her duties. Lastly, it appears that this is her first infraction and the first time for her to face an administrative complaint of this kind.

Under Section 9, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, undue delay in rendering a decision or order constitutes a less serious charge punishable by either suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less than one month nor more than three months or a fine of not more than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00.  However, considering that this is her first infraction due to inadvertence, We believe that admonition will suffice.

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Maria Elisa Sempio Diy is found  to have been in delay in the rendition of an order in Criminal Case Nos. Q-95-61294 and Q-95-62690 and is hereby ADMONISHED to be more circumspect in observing the reglementary period for disposing of motions.


Carpio, (Chairperson), Nachura, Peralta, and Perez,** JJ., concur.

* Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 09-3281-RTJ.

** Designated as additional member in lieu of Justice Roberto A. Abad per raffle dated September 20, 2010.

[1] Rollo, Complaint-Affidavit, pp. 1-15.

[2] Id. at 63-75.

[3] Id. at 72.

[4] Id. at 275-289.

[5] Id. at 275-281.

[6] Id. at 289.

[7]  Id., September 16, 2008 letter-request for 1st extension of 30 days, p. 79; October 16, 2008 letter-request for 2nd extension of 30 days, p. 80; and November 10, 2008 final letter-request, p. 97.

[8] Id., Resolution dated November 24, 2008, pp. 95-96; and Resolution dated February 16, 2009, pp. 135-136.

[9] The New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary (A.M. No. 03-05-01-SC) provides:
"This Code, which shall hereafter be referred to as the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, supersedes the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the Code of Judicial Conduct heretofore applied in the Philippines to the extent that the provisions or concepts therein are embodied in this Code: Provided, however, that in case of deficiency or absence of specific provisions in this New Code, the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the Code of Judicial Conduct shall be applicable in a suppletory character."

[10] Acuzar v. Ocampo, 469 Phil. 479, 485 (2004). Section 15 (1) and (2) of the Constitution provides: "Section 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 lower courts. "(2) A case or matter shall be deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, memorandum required by the Rules of Court or by the court itself."

[11] A.M. No. 03-05-01-SC dated April 27, 2004.

[12] Rollo, pp. 149-152.

[13] Id. at 153.

[14] Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Marcelino L. Sayo, Jr., 431 Phil. 413, 431 (2002).

[15] Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Henry B. Avelino, MTJ No. 05-1606, December 9, 2005, 477 SCRA 9, 17.

[16] Rollo, pp. 57-59.

[17] 371 Phil. 399, 406 (1999).

[18] 414 Phil. 221, 230-231 (2001).

[19] Re: Automatic Conversion of Some Administrative Cases Against Justices of the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan, Judges of Regular and Special Courts, and Court Officials Who Are Lawyers as Disciplinary Proceedings Against Them Both as Officials and as Members of the Philippine Bar dated September 17, 2002.

[20] Juan de la Cruz (A Concerned Citizen of Legazpi City) v. Judge Carretas, A.M. No. RTJ-07-2043, September 5, 2007, 532 SCRA 218, 232.

[21] Canon 1 - A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and for legal processes.

[22] Canon 12 - A lawyer shall exert every effort and consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice.

[23] Rule 1.03 - A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any man's cause.

[24] Rule 12.04 - A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse court processes.

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