Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Indirect contempt not appreciated; Sec. 3, Rule 71.

SANGGUNIANG PANLUNGSOD NG BAGUIO CITY vs. JADEWELL PARKING SYSTEMS CORPORATION, G.R. No. 160025, April 23, 2014; with companion cases: GR 163052; G.R. No. 164107; G.R. No. 165564; G.R. No. 172215; G.R. No. 172216; G.R. No. 173043; G.R. No. 174879; G.R. No. 181488. 

"x x x.

2. On G.R. Nos. 163052, 164107,
165564, 172216, 173043 and 174879
(The Contempt Petitions)

Section 3 of Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure enumerates the acts constituting indirect contempt, thus:

(a) Misbehavior of an officer of a court in the performance of his official duties or in his official transactions;

(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, or judgment of a court, including the act of a person who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts or induces another to enter into or upon such real property, for the purpose of executing acts of ownership or possession, or in any manner disturbs the possession given to the person adjudged to be entitled thereto;

(c) Any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the processes or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt under Section 1 of this Rule;

(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice;

(e) Assuming to be an attorney or an officer of a court, and acting as such without authority;

(f) Failure to obey a subpoena duly served;

(g) The rescue, or attempted rescue, of a person or property in the custody of an officer by virtue of an order or process of a court held by him.

But nothing in this section shall be so construed as to prevent the court from issuing process to bring the respondent into court, or from holding him in custody pending such proceedings.

The rule alerts us to three possible situations, wherein, in the context of the facts of these petitions, contumacious behaviour could have been committed by public respondents. First, disobedience or resistance to a lawful order of this Court under paragraph (b). Second, unlawful interference with the proceedings of this Court under paragraph (c). Third, improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impeded, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice by this Court under paragraph (d).

Jadewell, in G.R. Nos. 163052, 164107, 165564, 172216, 173043, and 174879, bases its charges of indirect contempt against public respondents on a claim that any action that tends to stop the implementation of the MOA is contumacious. Such actions include desistance orders to desist against Jadewell itself, the second act of unilateral rescission of the MOA; orders to other public officers to prevent Jadewell from exercising its authority under the MOA; and the official encouragement for motorists to resist attempts of Jadewell to collect parking fees or clamp/tow vehicles that do not observe the parking regulations.

We find scant jurisprudence to guide us on this matter. The closest situation is that presented in Southern Broadcasting Network v. Davao Light and Power,162 penned by Justice Felix Makasiar. In that case, petitioner’s representative, Carmen Pacquing, wrote a letter to President Marcos asking for his intervention so that her Motion for Reconsideration (MR) of the resolution of this Court denying her Petition could be favorably granted. Respondent Davao Light asked that petitioner Pacquing be cited for contempt, arguing that her act in writing to the President asking him to intervene in the case showed disrespect to and disregard for the authority of this Court as the final arbiter of all cases. We found petitioner Pacquing guilty of contempt, thus:

x x x. WE hold that such actuation of herein petitioner’s representative only bespeaks more of her contumacious attempt to trifle with the orderly administration of justice because if she know that this Court will ultimately decide the case "regardless of the President’s intervention," then she should have desisted from writing to the President.

In the light of the foregoing, there is no doubt that Mrs. Pacquing committed an "improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice" (Section 3, par. [d] Rule 71, Rules of Court) and impair the respect due to the courts of justice in general, and the Supreme Court, in particular.

In the above case, respondent Carmen Pacquing was clearly asking the President to commit an improper act – to influence the Supreme Court – that obstructs the orderly administration of justice, as the Court is constitutionally required to act independently free from the promptings of the President. Pacquing clearly violated both Sections (c) and (d) of Section 3, Rule 71.

No such similar situation occurred here. Public respondents never asked anyone to employ pressure or influence on this Court for the former’s benefit.

Instead, the acts that have been allegedly committed by public respondents are acts done pursuant to their belief that: (a) the MOA has been validly voided, and more importantly, (b) that Jadewell’s personnel do not have the legal authority to perform the governmental function of administering the regulation of on-street and off-street parking, of towing or clamping vehicles that violate such regulation, and of collecting parking fees from motorists.

It is important to note that the Court never gave a mandatory injunction that is couched in a way that requires public respondents to fully comply with the terms of the MOA. The writ of preliminary mandatory injunction (WPMI) issued on 9 February 2005 is directed to Mayor Yaranon only, and it directs him to perform only one specific act: to reopen, and maintain open, the street and premises then being occupied and operated by Jadewell.

Mayor Yaranon did not immediately comply with this WPMI. Thus, this Court fined himP10,000 on 20 April 2005, and ordered the NBI to arrest him if he further failed to comply with the WPMI. Subsequently, Mayor Yaranon paid the fine, and there is nothing on record to show that he has, since April of 2005, further defied this Court on that score.

The Court did not issue a WPMI specifically ordering the parties to observe the terms of the MOA. Thus, public respondents were not expressly prohibited to act on their beliefs regarding the validity or invalidity of the MOA, or, the authority or lack of authority of Jadewell personnel to perform governmental functions in the streets of Baguio.

This is an important result, because to hold otherwise is to effectively grant one of the parties a mandatory injunction even without an express resolution to this effect from the Court. Without an express order, the pendency of a suit before the Supreme Court is not a prima facie entitlement of provisional relief to either party.

Public respondents therefore were, at liberty to question and inform the public of their belief regarding the lack of authority of Jadewell and its personnel to regulate public parking in Baguio. They were certainly free to formally write Jadewell on their beliefs and pass the corresponding resolutions to this effect. The mayor was also not under legal compulsion to renew Jadewell’s business permit in view of his opinion that Jadewell was exceeding its allowable area of operation, which Jadewell was not able to fully disprove. This is especially true for two important reasons: (1) there is an uncontested cease and desist order that was issued by the DOTC-CAR on 13 March 2002 which Jadewell defied well into 2005, and (2) public respondents are city officials of Baguio who have the legal duty to ensure the laws are being followed, including laws that define who may enforce regulations on public parking.

That Jadewell personnel do not have the legal authority to enforce regulations on public parking is categorical from the Letter dated 1 February 2001 by the Regional Director of the DOTC-CAR denying the request of Jadewell for the deputation of its personnel.163

We therefore do not find any of the public respondents who were then officials of the City of Baguio, liable for indirect contempt, and thereby dismiss G.R. Nos. 163052, 164107, 165564, 173043 and 174879. In G.R. 174879, we have already pronounced that the Sanggunian was within its full right to perform the second act of rescission, and thus, it is even with more reason, that its members and the City Legal Officer cannot be held in contempt therefor. We deny the prayer in the petitions to disbar the respondents therein who are lawyers.

We also do not find Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan liable for contempt in G.R. No. 172216.

Jadewell wants this Court to cite Judge Pamintuan for contempt for issuing a writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction ordering Jadewell to stop collecting parking fees; to refrain from supervising the parking in Baguio City; as well as to hold in abeyance the implementation of the MOA and its enabling ordinance.164

It was only on 5 June 2006 that this Court, in G.R. No. 172215, issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)165 directing the trial court to discontinue the proceedings in Civil Case No. 6089-R. Upon receipt by Judge Pamintuan of the TRO, he immediately ordered the cancellation of the 29 June 2006 hearing.166

We do not consider the promulgation of the assailed writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction against Jadewell as a defiance of our writ issued on 9 February 2005, considering, it was directed against Mayor Yaranon only. We have held in Leonidas v. Supnet that "a party cannot be held in indirect contempt for disobeying a court order which is not addressed to him."167 We note that Judge Pamintuan observed deference to the Orders of this Court when he immediately suspended the proceedings in Civil Case No. 6089-R upon receipt of the TRO.

X x x.”