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Nerissa Perez vs. Court of Appeals Case Digest


Facts: Ray Perez, a doctor, and Nerissa, a registered nurse were married. They had a son named RJ. In 1998, Nerissa began working in the United States. She became a resident alien in February 1992. Ray stayed with her in the U.S. twice but unlike his wife, however, he had only a tourist visa and was not employed.

In 1993, the couple and their baby arrived in Cebu. After a few weeks, only Nerissa returned to the U.S. She alleged that they came home only for a five-week vacation and that they all had round-trip tickets. However, her husband stayed behind to take care of his sick mother and promised to follow her with the baby. According to Ray, they had agreed to reside permanently in the Philippines but once Nerissa was in New York, she changed her mind and continued working. She was supposed to come back immediately after winding up her affairs there.

When Nerissa came home a few days before RJ's first birthday, the couple was no longer on good terms. Nerissa was forced to move to her parents home. Nerissa filed a petition for habeas corpus asking respondent Ray to surrender the custody of their son, RJ, to her.

The trial court awarded the custody of RJ to Nerissa, citing the second paragraph of Article 213 of the Family Code which provides that no child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise. The CA reversed the trial court's order and awarded custody of the boy to his father.


Issue:  As between father and mother, who should have rightful custody of a child under 7 years of age?


Held:  When the parents of the child are separated, Article 213 of the Family Code is the applicable law. It provides:

"ART. 213. In case of separation of the parents, parental authority shall be exercised by the parent designated by the Court. The Court shall take into account all relevant considerations, especially the choice of the child over seven years of age, unless the parent chosen is unfit.

No child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise."

Since the Code does not qualify the word separation to mean legal separation decreed by a court, couples who are separated in fact, such as petitioner and private respondent, are covered within its terms.

The provisions of law quoted above clearly mandate that a child under seven years of age shall not be separated from his mother unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise. The use of the word shall in Article 213 of the Family Code and Rule 99, Section 6 of the Revised Rules of Court connotes a mandatory character.

The general rule that a child under seven years of age shall not be separated from his mother finds its raison detre in the basic need of a child for his mothers loving care. Only the most compelling of reasons shall justify the courts awarding the custody of such a child to someone other than his mother, such as her unfitness to exercise sole parental authority. In the past the following grounds have been considered ample justification to deprive a mother of custody and parental authority: neglect, abandonment, unemployment and immorality, habitual drunkenness, drug addiction, maltreatment of the child, insanity and being sick with a communicable disease.

The decision under review casts doubt on petitioners capability to take care of the child, particularly since she works on twelve-hour shifts thrice weekly, at times, even at night. There being no one to help her look after the child, it is alleged that she cannot properly attend to him. This conclusion is as unwarranted as it is unreasonable. First, her present work schedule is not so unmanageable as to deprive her of quality time for Ray II. Quite a number of working mothers who are away from home for longer periods of time are still able to raise a family well, applying time management principles judiciously. Second, many a mother, finding herself in such a position, has invited her own mother or relative to join her abroad, providing the latter with plane tickets and liberal allowances, to look after the child until he is able to take care of himself. Others go on leave from work until such time as the child can be entrusted to day-care centers. Delegating child care temporarily to qualified persons who run day-care centers does not detract from being a good mother, as long as the latter exercises supervision, for even in our culture, children are often brought up by housemaids or yayas under the eagle eyes of the mother. (Nerissa Perez vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 118870. March 29, 1996)

Special Proceedings Case Digests

Republic vs. Sagun Case Digest


Facts: Nora Fe Sagun is the legitimate child of Albert S. Chan, a Chinese national, and Marta Borromeo, a Filipino citizen. She was born on August 8, 1959 in Baguio City and did not elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. In 1992, at the age of 33 and after getting married to Alex Sagun, she executed an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines. Said document was notarized but was not recorded and registered with the Local Civil Registrar of Baguio City.

In 2005, Sagun applied for a Philippine passport. Her application was denied due to the citizenship of her father and there being no annotation on her birth certificate that she has elected Philippine citizenship. Consequently, she sought a judicial declaration of her election of Philippine citizenship averring that she was raised as a Filipino and she is a registered voter in Baguio City and had voted in local and national elections as shown in the Voter Certification. She asserted that by virtue of her positive acts, she has effectively elected Philippine citizenship and such fact should be annotated on her record of birth so as to entitle her to the issuance of a Philippine passport.

After hearing, the trial court granted the petition and declaring Sagun a Filipino citizen.

Petitioner, through the OSG, directly filed a petition for review on certiorari, pointing out that while Sagun executed an oath of allegiance before a notary public, there was no affidavit of her election of Philippine citizenship. Additionally, her oath of allegiance which was not registered with the nearest local civil registry was executed when she was already 33 years old or 12 years after she reached the age of majority.


Issues: 

1. Is an action or proceeding for judicial declaration of Philippine citizenship procedurally and jurisdictionally permissible?

2. Has Norma complied with the procedural requirements in the election of Philippine citizenship?


Held: 

1. No. There is no proceeding established by law, or the Rules for the judicial declaration of the citizenship of an individual. There is no specific legislation authorizing the institution of a judicial proceeding to declare that a given person is part of our citizenry. Clearly, it was erroneous for the trial court to make a specific declaration of respondents Filipino citizenship as such pronouncement was not within the courts competence.

2. When respondent was born on August 8, 1959, the governing charter was the 1935 Constitution, which declares as citizens of the Philippines those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. Sec. 1, Art. IV of the 1935 Constitution reads:

Section 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:
x x x x
(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and, upon reaching the age of majority, elect Philippine citizenship.

Under Article IV, Section 1(4) of the 1935 Constitution, the citizenship of a legitimate child born of a Filipino mother and an alien father followed the citizenship of the father, unless, upon reaching the age of majority, the child elected Philippine citizenship. Being a legitimate child, respondents citizenship followed that of her father who is Chinese, unless upon reaching the age of majority, she elects Philippine citizenship. For respondent to be considered a Filipino citizen, she must have validly elected Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.

Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 625, enacted pursuant to Section 1(4), Article IV of the 1935 Constitution, prescribes the procedure that should be followed in order to make a valid election of Philippine citizenship, to wit:

Section 1. The option to elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with subsection (4), [S]ection 1, Article IV, of the Constitution shall be expressed in a statement to be signed and sworn to by the party concerned before any officer authorized to administer oaths, and shall be filed with the nearest civil registry. The said party shall accompany the aforesaid statement with the oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the Government of the Philippines.

Based on the foregoing, the statutory formalities of electing Philippine citizenship are: (1) a statement of election under oath; (2) an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and Government of the Philippines; and (3) registration of the statement of election and of the oath with the nearest civil registry.

Furthermore, no election of Philippine citizenship shall be accepted for registration under C.A. No. 625 unless the party exercising the right of election has complied with the requirements of the Alien Registration Act of 1950. In other words, he should first be required to register as an alien. Pertinently, the person electing Philippine citizenship is required to file a petition with the Commission of Immigration and Deportation (now Bureau of Immigration) for the cancellation of his alien certificate of registration based on his aforesaid election of Philippine citizenship and said Office will initially decide, based on the evidence presented the validity or invalidity of said election. Afterwards, the same is elevated to the Ministry (now Department) of Justice for final determination and review.

It should be stressed that there is no specific statutory or procedural rule which authorizes the direct filing of a petition for declaration of election of Philippine citizenship before the courts. The special proceeding provided under Section 2, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court on Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry, merely allows any interested party to file an action for cancellation or correction of entry in the civil registry, i.e., election, loss and recovery of citizenship, which is not the relief prayed for by the respondent.

Be that as it may, even if we set aside this procedural infirmity, still the trial courts conclusion that respondent duly elected Philippine citizenship is erroneous since the records undisputably show that respondent failed to comply with the legal requirements for a valid election. Specifically, respondent had not executed a sworn statement of her election of Philippine citizenship. The only documentary evidence submitted by respondent in support of her claim of alleged election was her oath of allegiance, executed 12 years after she reached the age of majority, which was unregistered. As aptly pointed out by the petitioner, even assuming arguendo that respondents oath of allegiance suffices, its execution was not within a reasonable time after respondent attained the age of majority and was not registered with the nearest civil registry as required under Section 1 of C.A. No. 625. The phrase reasonable time has been interpreted to mean that the election should be made generally within three (3) years from reaching the age of majority. Moreover, there was no satisfactory explanation proffered by respondent for the delay and the failure to register with the nearest local civil registry.

Based on the foregoing circumstances, respondent clearly failed to comply with the procedural requirements for a valid and effective election of Philippine citizenship. Respondent cannot assert that the exercise of suffrage and the participation in election exercises constitutes a positive act of election of Philippine citizenship since the law specifically lays down the requirements for acquisition of citizenship by election. The mere exercise of suffrage, continuous and uninterrupted stay in the Philippines, and other similar acts showing exercise of Philippine citizenship cannot take the place of election of Philippine citizenship. Hence, respondent cannot now be allowed to seek the intervention of the court to confer upon her Philippine citizenship when clearly she has failed to validly elect Philippine citizenship. As we held in Ching, the prescribed procedure in electing Philippine citizenship is certainly not a tedious and painstaking process. All that is required of the elector is to execute an affidavit of election of Philippine citizenship and, thereafter, file the same with the nearest civil registry. Having failed to comply with the foregoing requirements, respondents petition before the trial court must be denied. (Republic vs. Sagun, G.R. No. 187567, February 15, 2012)

Special Proceedings Case Digests

Chin Ah Foo vs. Concepcion Case Digest


Facts: Judge Concepcion acquitted Chin Ah Foo of the crime of murder on the plea of insanity and ordered his treatment in San Lazaro Hospital, in accordance with article 8 of the Penal Code, with the admonition that the accused be not permitted to leave the said institution without first obtaining the permission of the court. In compliance with this order, Chin Ah Foo was confined for approximately two years in the hospital. During this period, his wife and father-in-law exerted efforts to obtain his release. The family of the victim opposed to the allowance of the motions contending that Chin Ah Foo was still insane as certified by the doctors. Judge Concepcion allowed Chin Ah Foo to leave the hospital based on Article 8, paragraph 1, of the Penal Code which states that: "When the imbecile or lunatic has committed an act which the law defines as a grave felony, the court shall order his confinement in one of the asylums established for persons thus afflicted, which he shall not be permitted to leave without first obtaining the permission of the same court." The family of the victim filed a petition for certiorari questioning the order of the respondent judge. They argued that under Section 1048 of the Administrative Code, the Director of Health has authority to say when a patient may be discharged from an insane asylum.


Issue:  May a judge who ordered the confinement of an insane person in an asylum subsequently permit the insane person to leave the asylum without the acquiescence of the Director of Health?


Held:  No. Article 8 of the Penal Code has not been impliedly repealed by section 1048 of the Administrative Code. Article 8 of the Penal Code and section 1048 of the Administrative Code can be construed so that both can stand together.

The Director of Health was without power to release, without proper judicial authority, any person confined by order of the court in an asylum pursuant to the provisions of article 8 of the Penal Code. Conversely, any person confined by order of the court in an asylum in accordance with article 8 of the Penal Code cannot be discharged from custody in an insane asylum until the views of the Director of Health have been ascertained as to whether or not the person is temporarily or permanently cured or may be released without danger.

Respondent judge exceeded his authority when he issued his orders without first having before him the opinion of the Director of Health. (Chin Ah Foo and Yee Shee vs. Concepcion and Lee Voo, G.R. No. 33281, March 31, 1930)

Bagtas vs. Santos Case Digest


Facts: Maricel ran away from her parents Antonio and Rosita Gallardo to live with her boyfriend. Maricel became pregnant and gave birth to Maryl Joy. Maricel's boyfriend left her. Maricel returned to her parents but ran away again and went to Noel and Lydia. There, she entrusted to the two the custody of Maryl, and left behind a note relinquishing her parental rights over Maryl in their favor.

When Spouses Gallardo learned about this, they tried to obtain the custody of Maryl but Noel and Lydia refused. Thus, Spouses Gallardo filed a petition for habeas corpus before the RTC. At the RTC, both parties agreed to a shared custody of Maryl, where the grandparents took custody of her during weekends. The Regional Trial Court approved the agreement. Unfortunately, Spouses Gallardo took Maryl away and brought her to Samar. Hence, Noel and Lydia filed a motion to cite in contempt Spouses Gallardo. They also filed a motion to dismiss the petition for habeas corpus based on Rule 17 of the Rules of Court, citing the plaintiff’s refusal to comply with a lawful order of the court.

The RTC cited Spouses Gallardo in contempt and dismissed the petition for habeas corpus filed by them for mootness, since Maryl was already in their custody. Noel and Lydia filed a Motion for Reconsideration alleging that the action should have been dismissed pursuant to Section 3, Rule 17, of the Rules of Court. They prayed that Maryl Joy be returned to them to preserve the status quo ante. The RTC denied the MR ruling that the sole purpose for the filing of the petition is to cause the production before the Court of the person of Maryl, not a determination of the legality or illegality of custody.


Issue: Was the sole purpose of the petition for habeas corpus the production of Maryl Joy before the trial court and that it would be moot upon said production?


Held:  No. Section 1, Rule 102, of the Rules of Court states that the writ of habeas corpus shall extend to all cases where the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the persons entitled thereto. In cases involving minors, the purpose of a petition for habeas corpus is not limited to the production of the child before the court. The main purpose of the petition for habeas corpus is to determine who has the rightful custody over the child.

The RTC erred when it hastily dismissed the action for having become moot after Maryl Joy was produced before the trial court. It should have conducted a trial to determine who had the rightful custody over Maryl Joy. In dismissing the action, the RTC, in effect, granted the petition for habeas corpus and awarded the custody of Maryl Joy to the Spouses Gallardo without sufficient basis.

It is true that Article 214 of the Civil Code states that in case of absence or unsuitability of the parents, substitute parental authority shall be exercised by the surviving grandparent. Article 216 also states that in default of parents or a judicially appointed guardian, the surviving grandparent shall exercise substitute parental authority over the child. However, in determining who has the rightful custody over a child, the child’s welfare is the most important consideration. The court is not bound by any legal right of a person over the child.

There are three requisites in petitions for habeas corpus involving minors: (1) the petitioner has a right of custody over the minor, (2) the respondent is withholding the rightful custody over the minor, and (3) the best interest of the minor demands that he or she be in the custody of the petitioner. In the present case, these requisites are not clearly established because the RTC hastily dismissed the action and awarded the custody of Maryl Joy to Spouses Gallardo without conducting any trial.

Case to the RTC for the purpose of receiving evidence to determine the fitness of the Antonio and Rosita to have custody of Maryl Joy. (Bagtas vs. Judge Santos, G.R. No. 166682, November 27, 2009)

Special Proceedings Case Digests

De Joya vs. Jail Warden of Batangas City


Facts: Petitioner Norma De Joya was charged separately with violations of BP 22. When arraigned in both cases, petitioner pleaded not guilty. While trial was going on, petitioner jumped bail.  No evidence was thereby adduced in her defense in any of the two cases. The Court found the her guilty. Petitioner remained at large and no appeal was filed from any of the said decisions. After five years, petitioner was finally arrested while she was applying for an NBI clearance. She was forthwith detained at the Batangas City Jail. Subsequently, she filed an urgent motion with the MTC of Batangas City asking the court to apply SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 retroactively pursuant to Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code and to order her release from detention. In an Order dated August 15, 2003, the trial court denied the motion on three grounds: (a) its decision convicting the petitioner of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 had long become final and executory; hence, could no longer be amended to change the penalty imposed therein; (b) the SC Circular should be applied prospectively; and (c) the SC Circular did not amend B.P. Blg. 22, a substantive law, but merely encourages trial court judges to have a uniform imposition of fine. Petitioner thus filed a petition for habeas corpus before the Supreme Court praying for her release from the Batangas City Jail on the claim that her detention was illegal.


Issue: Is petitioner entitled to a writ habeas corpus?


Held:  No. Section 4, Rule 102 of the Rules of Court, as amended, provides that the writ of habeas corpus is not allowed if the person alleged to be restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge or by virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record:

Sec. 4.  When writ not allowed or discharged authorized. If it appears that the person alleged to be restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge or by virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record, and that the court or judge had jurisdiction to issue the process, render the judgment; or make the order, the writ shall not be allowed; or if the jurisdiction appears after the writ is allowed, the person shall not be discharged by reason of any informality or defect in the process, judgment, or order.  Nor shall anything in this rule be held to authorize the discharge of a person charged with or convicted of an offense in the Philippines, or of a person suffering imprisonment under lawful judgment.

In this case, the petitioner was arrested and detained pursuant to the final judgment of the MTC of Batangas City, convicting her of violation of B.P. Blg. 22. Irrefragably then, the petitioner is not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus.

Petitioners reliance of our ruling in Ordonez v. Vinarao that a convicted person is entitled to benefit from the reduction of penalty introduced by the new law, citing People v. Simon, is misplaced.  Thus, her plea that as provided for in Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code, SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 as modified by SC Admin. Circular No. 13-2001 should benefit her has no basis.

First.  SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 is not a penal law; hence, Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code is not applicable. The circular applies only to those cases pending as of the date of its effectivity and not to cases already terminated by final judgment.

Second.  As explained by the Court in SC Admin. Circular No. 13-2001, SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 merely lays down a rule of preference in the application of the penalties for violation of B.P. Blg. 22.  It does not amend B.P. Blg. 22, nor defeat the legislative intent behind the law.  SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 merely urges the courts to take into account not only the purpose of the law but also the circumstances of the accused whether he acted in good faith or on a clear mistake of fact without taint of negligence and such other circumstance which the trial court or the appellate court believes relevant to the penalty to be imposed.

The clear tenor and intention of Administrative Circular No. 12-2000 is not to remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty, but to lay down a rule of preference in the application of the penalties provided for in B.P. Blg. 22. The pursuit of this purpose clearly does not foreclose the possibility of imprisonment for violators of B.P. Blg. 22.  Neither does it defeat the legislative intent behind the law. (De Joya vs. Jail Warden of Batangas City, G.R. Nos. 159418-19.  December 10, 2003)

Habeas Corpus Special Proceedings Case Digests

PNB vs. CA Case Digest


What are the Remedies of a Mortgagee in Mortgages Involving an Estate?

Facts: Spouses Antonio and Asuncion Chua were the owners of a parcel of land covered by a TCT and registered in their names. Upon the death of Antonio, the probate court appointed his son, private respondent Allan Chua as special administrator of the intestate estate. The court also authorized Allan to obtain a loan accommodation from PNB to be secured by a real estate mortgage over the above-mentioned parcel of land, which Allan did for P450,000.00 with interest.

For failure to pay the loan in full, the bank extrajudicially foreclosed the real estate mortgage. During the auction, PNB was the highest bidder. However, the loan had a payable balance. To claim this deficiency, PNB instituted an action with the RTC against Asuncion and Allan. The RTC dismissed PNB’s complaint. The CA affirmed the decision. PNB appealed contending that under prevailing jurisprudence, when the proceeds from an extrajudicial foreclosure is not enough to pay off the loan, the mortgagee can file a civil case against the mortgagor to satisfy the deficiency. 


Issue: May PNB still pursue by civil action the recovery of the balance of indebtedness after having foreclosed the property securing the same?


Held:  No. Under Section 7, Rule 89, once the deed of real estate mortgage is recorded in the proper Registry of Deeds, together with the corresponding court order authorizing the administrator to mortgage the property, said deed shall be valid as if it has been executed by the deceased himself.

In the present case, it is undisputed that the conditions under the aforecited rule have been complied with. It follows that Sec. 7 of Rule 86, appropriately applies to the controversy at hand. Case law holds that this rule grants to the mortgagee three distinct, independent and mutually exclusive remedies that can be alternatively pursued by the mortgage creditor for the satisfaction of his credit in case the mortgagor dies, among them:

(1) to waive the mortgage and claim the entire debt from the estate of the mortgagor as an ordinary claim;

(2) to foreclose the mortgage judicially and prove any deficiency as an ordinary claim; and

(3) to rely on the mortgage exclusively, foreclosing the same at any time before it is barred by prescription without right to file a claim for any deficiency.

Petitioner herein has chosen the mortgage-creditors option of extrajudicially foreclosing the mortgaged property of the Chuas. This choice now bars any subsequent deficiency claim against the estate of the deceased, Antonio M. Chua. Petitioner may no longer avail of the complaint for the recovery of the balance of indebtedness against said estate, after petitioner foreclosed the property securing the mortgage in its favor. It follows that in this case no further liability remains on the part of respondents and the late Antonio M. Chuas estate.

Petitioner cited Prudential Bank v. Martinez as precedent for holding that in extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage, when the proceeds of the sale are insufficient to pay the debt, the mortgagee has the right to recover the deficiency from the mortgagor. However, it must be pointed out the cited cases involve ordinary debts secured by a mortgage. The case at bar, we must stress, involves a foreclosure of mortgage arising out of a settlement of estate, wherein the administrator mortgaged a property belonging to the estate of the decedent, pursuant to an authority given by the probate court. As the Court of Appeals correctly stated, the Rules of Court on Special Proceedings comes into play decisively. (PNB vs. CA et al, G.R. No. 121597, June 29, 2001)

Claims against Estate Special Proceedings Case Digests

Fuentes vs. Albarracin Case Digest


Facts: JS Francisco and Sons filed cases for forcible entry against Fuentes, et. al.. The cases were raffled to the sala of Judge Albarracin. After trial, judgments were rendered in favor of plaintiff corporation. Fuentes filed with the RTC a petition for annulment of judgments. Fuentes requested respondent judge to await the result of the annulment of judgments case. Respondent judge, however, still issued writ of demolition. This prompted complainants to file a petition for prohibition to restrain respondent judge from further acting on the subject cases during the pendency of the case for annulment of judgments. Meanwhile, the sheriff failed to fully implement the demolition. Plaintiff corporation thus filed the Urgent Ex-Parte Motion which was eventually granted.

Fuentes thus filed an adminstrative case against Judge Albarracin for Gross Ignorance of the Law and/or Procedure and Grave Abuse of Discretion. It was the contention of Fuentes that they did not receive a copy of the ex-parte motion nor was the motion set for hearing. Albarracin asserts that a hearing is not necessary because the special writ of demolition had already been granted after several hearings and the ex-parte motion was merely for the enforcement or implementation of said writ. He argues that the RTC where the forcible entry cases were elevated did not issue any TRO or any injunctive relief to restrain him from granting the motion to enforce/implement the writ of demolition.

The OCA concluded that the allegation that respondent judge violated Sections 5 and 6 of Rule 15 of the Revised Rules of Court had no leg to stand on. The ex-parte motion was merely to request the branch sheriff to implement the special writ of demolition which had long been issued by the court after several hearings. As such, it could be considered as a non-litigable motion which may be acted upon by the court without prejudicing the rights of Fuentes. Thus, the OCA recommended that the administrative case be dismissed for lack of merit and that complainants be FINED.


Issue: Should Fuentes be fined for filing a baseless administrative case?


Held:  SC sustained the findings of the OCA except as to the imposition of fine on complainants.

As to the recommendation to impose fine on the complainants, we rule that the circumstances of the case fail to warrant such course of action. The OCA cannot just penalize complainants by way of imposing fine on them without the benefit of a thorough determination of the liability based on evidence adduced by the parties. They must be given an opportunity to refute the charges by adducing evidence on specific charges against them, not in a mere administrative case which involves a matter different from the alleged culpability of the complainants. This requirement is fundamentally a part of due process enshrined in the Constitution that a person can only be penalized for a charge of which he was sufficiently informed and only after he was given an opportunity to be heard and present evidence to prove the contrary.

Nonetheless, assuming that the acts of the complainants may be considered as delaying tactics, remedial action may be enforced against them through contempt of court proceedings. A brief review of the rules governing contempt proceedings is useful.

Contempt of court is a defiance of the authority, justice or dignity of the court, such conduct as tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or to interfere with or prejudice parties, litigant or their witnesses during litigation.

There are two kinds of contempt punishable by law: direct contempt and indirect contempt. Direct contempt is committed when a person is guilty of misbehavior in the presence of or so near a court as to obstruct or interrupt the proceedings before the same, including disrespect toward the court, offensive personalities toward others, or refusal to be sworn or to answer as a witness, or to subscribe an affidavit or deposition when lawfully required to do so. Indirect contempt or constructive contempt is that which is committed out of the presence of the court. Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice would constitute indirect contempt. The employment of delaying tactics to obstruct the administration of justice falls under this latter category.

Section 3, Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court provides for the following requisites prior to conviction of indirect contempt: (a) a charge in writing to be filed; (b) an opportunity given to the respondent to comment thereon within such period as may be fixed by the court; and (c) to be heard by himself or counsel. With respect to constructive contempts or those which are committed without the actual presence of the court, it is essential that a hearing be allowed and the contemner permitted, if he so desires, to interpose a defense to the charges before punishment is imposed. The proceedings for punishment of indirect contempt are criminal in nature. The modes of procedure and rules of evidence adopted in contempt proceedings are similar in nature to those used in criminal prosecutions.

Section 4 of Rule 71, however, provides that proceedings for indirect contempt may be initiated motu proprio by the court against which the contempt was committed by an order or any other formal charge requiring the respondent to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt. There is no way for this Court to initiate indirect contempt proceedings against complainants for the injury was not committed against this tribunal, but against respondent judge.

There is no basis for this Court to initiate contempt proceedings or condemn the complainants to suffer the penalty for contempt, considering that the contemptuous act was not directed against the Court itself. The penalty as recommended by the OCA cannot be sustained and the question of whether the complainants should be penalized for filing the instant complaint is best litigated in a separate proceeding, if warranted, within the confines of Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court. (Fuentes vs. Albarracin, A.M. No. MTJ-05-1587. April 15, 2005)

Civil Procedure Case Digests Contempt

 

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