Monday, January 17, 2011

Administrative complaint against judges/justices and court personnel; formalities.

A.M. OCA IPI No. 08-127-CA-J

A.M. OCA IPI No. 08-127-CA-J
January 11, 20111


x x x.

After an assiduous study of the parties’ allegations and counter-allegations, with due consideration of the documents they submitted to bolster their respective positions, the Court is constrained to dismiss the instant case for being unsubstantiated.

Both the letter-complaints of April 30, 2008 and June 18, 2008 are unverified, while the June 3, 2010 Omnibus Reply and Manifestation of complainants is not under oath. It must be noted that most of the complainants are lawyers, and are presumed and ought to know the formal requirement of verification for administrative complaints as stated under Section 1, Rule 140:

SECTION 1. How instituted.¾Proceedings for the discipline of Judges of regular and special courts and Justices of the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan may be instituted motu proprio by the Supreme Court or upon a verified complaint, supported by affidavits of persons who have personal knowledge of the facts alleged therein or by documents which may substantiate their allegations, or upon an anonymous complaint, supported by public records of indubitable integrity. The complaint shall be in writing and shall state clearly and concisely the acts and omissions constituting violations of standards of conduct prescribed for Judges by law, the Rules of Court, or the Code of Judicial Conduct. (Emphasis supplied.)

The above rule provides three ways by which administrative proceedings against judges may be instituted: (1) motu proprio by the Supreme Court; (2) upon verified complaint with affidavits of persons having personal knowledge of the facts alleged therein or by documents which may substantiate said allegations; or (3) upon an anonymous complaint supported by public records of indubitable integrity.[21]

Indeed, complainants not only failed to execute a verified complaint but also never submitted their affidavits showing personal knowledge of the allegations embodied in their letter-complaints. To cover this procedural deficiency, they assert that the Court properly recognized their letter-complaints as an anonymous complaint, relying on Sinsuat v. Hidalgo.[22]

In Sinsuat, the Court took cognizance of the unverified motion and subsequent letters of complainants submitted to the Office of the Court Administrator as an anonymous complaint, since therein respondent Judge Hidalgo admitted complainants’ material allegations and “the motion and letters sufficiently averred the specific acts upon which respondent’s alleged administrative liability was anchored. And the averments are verifiable from the records of the trial court and the CA’s Decision.”[23] In short, the unverified complaint was properly considered as an anonymous complaint, since the material allegations were not only admitted by respondent judge but are also verifiable from public records of indubitable integrity, i.e., records of the trial court, as aptly found by the CA.

This is not the case in this instant. Complainants’ reliance on Sinsuat is misplaced. For one, even a passing perusal of the Comment and Supplemental Comment does not show respondent Justice Elbinias admitting the allegations in the letter-complaints. For another, the averments and material allegations of complainants are neither verifiable from public records of indubitable integrity nor supported or substantiated by other competent evidence submitted by complainants.

The formal faux pas of complainants could have been remedied by the submission under oath of their subsequent pleadings, particularly the Omnibus Reply, where they traversed the points and defenses raised by respondent vis-à-vis their allegations. And they could have appended thereto their respective affidavits attesting to their personal knowledge of the facts of their material allegations. But, as it is, complainants chose not to place their Omnibus Reply under oath, much less submitted their affidavits. Verily, after receiving copies of respondent’s Comment and Supplemental Comment, they had ample opportunity but chose not to correct the deficiencies of their complaints while submitting the instant case for resolution based on the pleadings filed sans their affidavits.

x x x.

In Anonymous Complaint against Pershing T. Yared, Sheriff III, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Canlaon City, this Court reiterated the rule pertaining to anonymous complaints, thus:

At the outset, the Court stresses that an anonymous complaints is always received with great caution, originating as it does from an unknown author. However, a complaint of such sort does not always justify its outright dismissal for being baseless or unfounded for such complaint may be easily verified and may, without much difficulty, be substantiated and established by other competent evidence.[27] (Emphasis supplied.)

In the instant case, the charges of Gross Inefficiency; Bribe Solicitation; Drinking Liquor in Office Premises; Personal Use of Government Property and Resources; Falsification of a Favored Employee’s Daily Time Record; Disrespect Towards fellow Justices; Oppression through Intemperate, Oppressive and Threatening Language; and Grave Abuse of Authority are neither supported by public records nor substantiated by competent evidence.

Public records do not support any of the allegations. The incident involving Engr. Rowell T. Magalang, Administrative Officer, Maintenance and Utility Unit of the CA Mindanao – Station merely shows a misunderstanding between respondent and the engineer concerned.[28] As regards those of complainants Roxas and Abugho relative to their unauthorized absence on March 19, 2008, it is embodied in the letter[29] of even date by Justice Elbinias to the Personnel Officer of the CA Mindanao – Station, Ruby Jane B. Rivera, which evidently shows what it is. Complainants allege the nastiness of respondent in marking absent Abugho and Roxas that day even if they were present, only on account of their going out of the office for a few minutes to buy food. Respondent counters that both were absent and not around when he looked for them on March 19, 2008, as he would not have informed the CA Personnel Officer if it were not so. Since the utility worker and the driver are expected to be at the office during office hours, then it is logical that if they were not around, then they could not be present.

It is well-settled that in administrative proceedings, the burden of proof that respondent committed the acts complained of rests on the complainant.[30] In the instant case, complainants have not shown, much less submitted, substantial evidence supporting their allegations.

x x x.