In the case of SPOUSES RODOLFO and SYLVIA CABICO vs. UDGE EVELYN L. DIMACULANGAN-QUERIJERO, EN BANC, A.M. No. RTJ-02-1735, April 27, 2007, the Supreme Court found a judge liable for GROSS IGNORANCE OF THE LAW and imposed on her a fine of P21,000, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future shall merit a more severe sanction.
The Court held that the mere filing of affidavit of desistance or “Salaysay ng Pag-uurong ng Habla” by the aggrieved party herself, does not ipso facto make the criminal case dismissible. In rape case under Article 266-C, the law does not include desistance of the offended party as a ground for extinction of criminal liability whether total or partial.
Under Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code, criminal liability is totally extinguished by the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to pecuniary penalties, liability therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment; service of the sentence; amnesty, which completely extinguishes the penalty and all its effects; absolute pardon; prescription of the crime; prescription of the penalty; the marriage of the offended woman, as provided in Article 344 of this Code.
Under Article 94 of the Revised Penal Code, criminal liability is extinguished partially by conditional pardon; commutation of the sentence; and for good conduct allowances which the culprit may earn while he is serving his sentence.
May I digest the said case below, thus:
X x x.
The complaint presented the issues of manifest partiality of respondent Judge in favor of the accused; discourtesy in insulting complainant in open court; and gross ignorance of the law in dismissing the criminal complaint against one of the accused despite the fact that being at large, the court has not obtained jurisdiction over his person.
x x x [T]he mere filing of affidavit of desistance or “Salaysay ng Pag-uurong ng Habla” by the aggrieved party herself, does not ipso facto make the criminal case dismissible. Article 266-C does not include desistance of the offended party as a ground for extinction of criminal liability whether total or partial.
x x x x
Respondent judge committed gross ignorance of the law when she issued the order dated 12 October 2001, dismissing the criminal case with prejudice against both accused after the latter had paid their individual civil liability. x x x
On the issue of respondent’s partiality towards the accused, the same was very much apparent when respondent issued an order on 12 October 2001 dismissing the complaint against all three accused, she stated therein that the civil liability has been paid and that private complainant was no longer interested in the criminal aspect of the case, despite of the fact that on the same date complainant and the victim refused to sign the affidavit of desistance prepared for them. Due to respondent’s haste to dismiss the criminal complaint, she even forgot the fact that the accused therein Rayshawn de la Rosa has not yet been arraigned. It was only on 21 November 2001 that the two accused were arraigned.
X x x.
There is no question that on 12 October 2001, respondent Judge dismissed with prejudice Criminal Case Nos. 10384-AF and 10383-AFagainst Dela Rosa and Azarcon after they had paid their individual civil liability. This is in utter disregard and in gross ignorance of the law, for payment of civil liability does not extinguish criminal liability. Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code provides:
How criminal liability is totally extinguished. — Criminal liability is totally extinguished:
1. By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to pecuniary penalties, liability therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment;
2. By service of the sentence;
3. By amnesty, which completely extinguishes the penalty and all its effects;
4. By absolute pardon;
5. By prescription of the crime;
6. By prescription of the penalty;
7. By the marriage of the offended woman, as provided in Article 344 of this Code.
On the other hand, Article 94 of the Revised Penal Code provides:
Partial extinction of criminal liability. — Criminal liability is extinguished partially:
1. By conditional pardon;
2. By commutation of the sentence; and
3. For good conduct allowances which the culprit may earn while he is serving his sentence.
The victim’s affidavit of desistance could not have justified the dismissal of the criminal cases. Republic Act No. 8353, otherwise known as the “Anti-Rape Law of 1997,” has reclassified rape as a crime against persons. Hence, any public prosecutor, even without the complaint of the victim or her parents, or guardian, can prosecute the offender.
Even if we consider the victim’s affidavit of desistance, still it would not justify the dismissal. By itself, an affidavit of desistance or pardon is not a ground for the dismissal of an action, once the action has been instituted in court. Here, the victim made the so-called pardon of the accused after the institution of the action. Hence, the victim had already lost the right or absolute privilege to decide whether the rape charge should proceed because the case had already reached and must therefore continue to be heard by the trial court.
When a law or a rule is basic, a judge owes it to his office to simply apply the law. Anything less is gross ignorance of the law. As an advocate of justice and a visible representation of the law, a judge is expected to keep abreast with and be proficient in the interpretation of our laws. A judge should be acquainted with legal norms and precepts as well as with statutes and procedural rules. Having accepted the exalted position of a judge, respondent Judge owes the public and the court she sits in proficiency in the law. Respondent Judge failed to live up to these standards.
Respondent Judge has also clearly violated Rule 2.01 of Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which provides:
A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
Respondent Judge showed partiality in favor of the accused when she issued her 12 October 2001 order dismissing the subject criminal case. Respondent Judge stated in her order that she dismissed the criminal case because Dela Rosa and Azarcon had already paid their civil liability and “private complainant was no longer interested in the criminal aspect of the case.” However, the record reveals that on the same day that the dismissal order was issued, complainant Sylvia Cabico and the victim had also refused to sign the affidavit of desistance that was prepared for them.
Also, respondent Judge dismissed with prejudice the criminal case against Dela Rosa even when he had not been arraigned. By her own admission, respondent Judge made an “oversight that accused Dela Rosa was already under the jurisdiction of the court.” Thus, in her order of 21 November 2001, respondent Judge ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Dela Rosa.
Respondent Judge’s actuations in the premises only betray her gross ignorance of procedural rules. Jurisdiction over the person of the accused is acquired by arrest.
Rule 3.01, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that a judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence. Unfamiliarity with the Rules of Court is a sign of incompetence. When a judge displays an utter lack of familiarity with the rules, such incompetence erodes the public’s confidence in the competence of our courts. Basic rules of procedure must be at the palm of a judge’s hands.
When the law is so elementary, not to be aware of it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. When the inefficiency springs from a failure to consider so basic and elemental a rule, a law, or a principle in the discharge of his duties, the judge is either too incompetent and undeserving of the position and title he holds or is too vicious that the oversight or omission was deliberately done in bad faith and in grave abuse of judicial authority.
We cannot countenance respondent Judge’s discourtesy in insulting Sylvia Cabico during the hearing on 12 October 2001. Respondent Judge’s statement was unbecoming a judge. Her behavior towards Sylvia Cabico betrayed her impatience in the conduct of the hearing.
A display of petulance and impatience in the conduct of a trial is a norm of behavior incompatible with the needful attitude and sobriety of a good judge. Respondent Judge’s actuations violated Rule 3.04 of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, thus:
Rule 3.04. -- A judge should be patient, attentive, and courteous to lawyers, especially the inexperienced, to litigants, witnesses, and others appearing before the court. A judge should avoid unconsciously falling into the attitude of mind that the litigants are made for the courts, instead of the courts for the litigants.
Clearly, respondent Judge has failed to observe courtesy and civility to the litigants who appeared before her.
Respondent Judge’s reliance on Section 2(a), Rule 18 of the Rules of Court in disposing of the criminal case is misplaced. While the effort of respondent Judge to hasten the resolution of the cases before her is commendable, that task, however, should not be done in utter disregard of the rudiments of the law and procedure. The duty to dispose of the court business promptly and to decide cases within the reglementary periods should be consistent with a faithful compliance with the prescribed set of procedures. The avowed purpose of acting on cases as early as possible does not justify even the slightest abuse of judicial authority and discretion or excuse due observance of the basic elements of the rule of law.
A judge must render justice without resorting to uncalled for shortcuts. Respondent Judge failed to live up to the standards required of her high position.
Under Rule 140, Section 8(9) of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, gross ignorance of the law or procedure is classified as a serious charge and penalized with dismissal, suspension, or a fine ranging from above P20,000 to P40,000.
Under the circumstances prevailing in the present case, we find that a fine of P21,000 is in order.
X x x.