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Indirect Contempt

Civil Procedure Contempt Indirect Contempt


What are the kinds of contempt according to the manner of commission? 

There are two kinds of contempt under this classification:

1. Direct Contempt 
2. Indirect Contempt



What is Indirect Contempt?


Constructive or indirect contempt is not committed in the presence of or so near the judge and can be punished only after hearing. It consists of willful disobedience of the lawful process or order of the court.

It is not committed in the presence of the court, but done at a distance which tends to belittle, degrade, obstruct or embarrass the court and justice. 


What are the grounds for indirect contempt?


After a charge in writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the respondent to comment thereon within such period as may be fixed by the court and to be heard by himself or counsel, a person guilty of any of the following acts may be punished for indirect contempt;

(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. (Sec. 3, Rule 71)

● Misbehavior means something more than adverse comment or disrespect. There is no question that in contempt the intent goes to the gravamen of the offense. Thus, the good faith, or lack of it, of the alleged contemnor should be considered. Where the act complained of is ambiguous or does not clearly show on its face that it is contempt, and is one which, if the party is acting in good faith, is within his rights, the presence or absence of a contumacious intent is, in some instances, held to be determinative of its character. A person should not be condemned for contempt where he contends for what he believes to be right and in good faith institutes proceedings for the purpose, however erroneous may be his conclusion as to his rights. To constitute contempt, the act must be done willfully and for an illegitimate or improper purpose. (Lorenzo Shipping Corporation vs. Distribution Management Association, G.R. No. 155849, August 31, 2011)


How is indirect contempt proceedings commenced?


Indirect contempt proceedings is commenced in two ways, namely: (a) by order or formal charge initiated by the court motu proprio; and, (b) through a verified petition.

1. Motu proprio. - Proceedings for indirect contempt may be initiated motu propio 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.

2. Verified petition. - In all other cases, charges for indirect contempt shall be commenced by a verified petition with supporting particulars and certified true copies of documents or papers involved therein, and upon full compliance with the requirements for filing initiatory pleadings for civil actions in the court concerned.

If the contempt charges arose out of or are related to a principal action pending in the court, the petition for contempt shall allege that fact but said petition shall be docketed, heard and decided separately, unless the court in its discretion orders the consolidation of the contempt charge and the principal action for joint hearing and decision. (Sec 4, Rule 71)


In what court should indirect contempt be filed?


Where the charge for indirect contempt is to be filed depends upon the level of the court against which the contempt was committed.

(a) Where the act was committed against a Regional Trial Court or a court of equivalent or higher rank, or against an officer appointed by it, the charge may be filed with such court.

(b) Where the act was committed against a lower court, the charge may be filed with the Regional Trial Court in which the lower court is sitting. It may also be filed in the lower court against which the contempt was allegedly committed. The decision of the lower court is subject to appeal to the Regional Trial Court (Sec. 5, Rule 71, Rules of Court; En Bane Resolution, SC, July 21, 1998).

(c) Where the act was committed against persons or entities exercising quasi-judicial functions, the charge shall be filed in the Regional Trial Court of the place wherein the contempt was committed (Sec. 12, Rule 71, Rules of Court).


What is the penalty for indirect contempt?


The punishment for indirect contempt depends upon the level of the court against which the act was committed.

(a) Where the act was committed against a Regional Trial Court or a court of equivalent or higher rank, he may be punished by a fine not exceeding P30,000.00 or imprisonment not exceeding six , or (6) months both.

(b) Where the act was committed against a lower court, he may be punished by a fine not exceeding  P5,000.00 or imprisonment not exceeding one (1) month, or both.

If the contempt consists in the violation of a writ of injunction, temporary restraining order or status quo order, he may also be ordered to make complete restitution to the party injured by such violation of the property involved or such amount as may be alleged and proved. (Sec 7, Rule 71)

(c) Where the act was committed against a person or entity exercising quasi judicial functions, the penalty imposed shall depend upon the provisions of the law which authorizes a penalty for contempt against such persons or entities.

If the contempt consists in the refusal or omission to do an act which is yet within the power of the respondent to perform, he may be imprisoned by order of the court concerned until he performs it (Sec. 8, Rule 71).


What is the remedy of the person adjudged in direct contempt?


A person adjudged in indirect contempt may appeal to the proper court in the same manner as in criminal cases. (Sec 11, Rule 71)

If petitioner is declared not liable, that he did not commit an act of contempt, the adverse party cannot appeal following the rule in criminal prosecution on double jeopardy.


May the execution of the judgment be suspended?


The execution of the judgment or final order shall not be suspended until the person adjudged in contempt posts a bond in an amount fixed by the court from which the appeal is taken, conditioned that if the appeal be decided against him he will abide by and perform the judgment or final order. (Sec 11, Rule 71)

 

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