Baseless administrative case vs. CA justices dismissed - A.M. OCA IPI No. 11-184-CA-J

A.M. OCA IPI No. 11-184-CA-J

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It is evident to us that Ongjoco’s objective in filing the administrative complaint was to take respondent Justices to task for the regular performance of their sworn duty of upholding the rule of law. He would thereby lay the groundwork for getting back at them for not favoring his unworthy cause. Such actuations cannot be tolerated at all, for even a mere threat of administrative investigation and prosecution made against a judge to influence or intimidate him in his regular performance of the judicial office always subverts and undermines the independence of the Judiciary.[20]

We seize this occasion, therefore, to stress once again that disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions brought against any judge in relation to the performance of his official functions are neither complementary to nor suppletory of appropriate judicial remedies, nor a substitute for such remedies.[21] Any party who may feel aggrieved should resort to these remedies, and exhaust them, instead of resorting to disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions. We explained why in In Re: Joaquin T. Borromeo:[22]

Given the nature of the judicial function, the power vested by the Constitution in the Supreme Court and the lower courts established by law, the question submits to only one answer: the administrative or criminal remedies are neither alternative or cumulative to judicial review where such review is available, and must wait on the result thereof.

Simple reflection will make this proposition amply clear, and demonstrate that any contrary postulation can have only intolerable legal implications. Allowing a party who feels aggrieved by a judicial order or decision not yet final and executory to mount an administrative, civil or criminal prosecution for unjust judgment against the issuing judge would, at a minimum and as an indispensable first step, confer the prosecutor (Ombudsman) with an incongruous function pertaining, not to him, but to the courts: the determination of whether the questioned disposition is erroneous in its findings of fact or conclusions of law, or both. If he does proceed despite that impediment, whatever determination he makes could well set off a proliferation of administrative or criminal litigation, a possibility hereafter more fully explored.

Such actions are impermissible and cannot prosper. It is not, as already pointed out, within the power of public prosecutors, or the Ombudsman or his Deputies, directly or vicariously, to review judgments or final orders or resolutions of the Courts of the land. The power of review—by appeal or special civil action—is not only lodged exclusively in the Courts themselves but must be exercised in accordance with a well-defined and long established hierarchy, and long standing processes and procedures. No other review is allowed; otherwise litigation would be interminable, and vexatiously repetitive.

In this regard, we reiterate that a judge’s failure to correctly interpret the law or to properly appreciate the evidence presented does not necessarily incur administrative liability,[23] for to hold him administratively accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision he renders, assuming he has erred, will be nothing short of harassment and will make his position doubly unbearable. His judicial office will then be rendered untenable, because no one called upon to try the facts or to interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment.[24] Administrative sanction and criminal liability should be visited on him only when the error is so gross, deliberate and malicious, or is committed with evident bad faith,[25] or only in clear cases of violations by him of the standards and norms of propriety and good behavior prescribed by law and the rules of procedure, or fixed and defined by pertinent jurisprudence.[26]

What the Court sees herein is Ongjoco’s proclivity to indiscriminately file complaints. His proclivity reminds us now of Joaquin T. Borromeo whom this Court pronounced guilty of indirect contempt of court he “repeatedly committed over time, despite warnings and instructions given to him.”[27] The Court imposed the penalty for contempt of court “to the end that he may ponder his serious errors and grave misconduct and learn due respect for the Courts and their authority.”[28]

Having determined that the administrative charge against respondent Justices had no factual and legal bases, we cannot hesitate to shield them by immediately rejecting the charge. We do so because unfounded administrative charges do not contribute anything worthwhile to the orderly administration of justice; instead, they retard it.

Nor should we just let such rejected charge pass and go unchallenged. We recognize that unfounded administrative charges against judges really degrade the judicial office, and interfere with the due performance of their work for the Judiciary. Hence, we deem to be warranted to now direct Ongjoco to fully explain his act of filing an utterly baseless charge against respondent Justices.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court: (a) DISMISSES the administrative complaint against Associate Justice Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr., Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato, Jr., and Associate Justice Florito S. Macalino for its utter lack of merit; and (b) ORDERS Engr. Oscar L. Ongjoco to show cause in writing within ten (10) days from notice why he should not be punished for indirect contempt of court for degrading the judicial office of respondent Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals, and for interfering with the due performance of their work for the Judiciary.

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