Rule 71 of the Rules of Court provides:
SECTION. 1. Direct contempt punished summarily. ─ A person 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, may be summarily adjudged in contempt by such court and punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand pesos or imprisonment not exceeding ten (10) days, or both, if it be a Regional Trial Court or a court of equivalent or higher rank; or by a fine not exceeding two hundred pesos or imprisonment not exceeding (1) day, or both, if it be a lower court.
SEC. 2. Remedy therefrom. ─ The person adjudged in direct contempt by any court may not appeal therefrom, but may avail himself of the remedies of certiorari or prohibition. The execution of the judgment shall be suspended pending resolution of such petition, provided such person file a bond fixed by the court which rendered the judgment and conditioned that he will abide by and perform the judgment should the petition be decided against him. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Failure to follow basic legal commands as prescribed by law and the rules is tantamount to gross ignorance of the law. By accepting the exalted position of a judge, respondent ought to have been familiar with the legal norms and precepts as well as the procedural rules.
Contrary to respondent’s claim, complainant has no remedy of appeal, as the above-quoted Section 2 of Rule 71 shows. And the penalty for direct contempt if imprisonment is imposed should not, as Section 1 of Rule 71 provides, exceed 10 days. As stated earlier, complainant was detained for 19 days or 9 days more than the limit imposed by the Rules.
More. Respondent did not fix the bond, in violation of the same Section 2 of Rule 71, which complainant could have posted had she desired to challenge the order. And on the same day the Order was issued, respondent ordered the confinement of complainant to the provincial jail.
Oclarit v. Paderanga instructs:
… [A]n order of direct contempt is not immediately executory or enforceable. The contemner must be afforded a reasonable remedy to extricate or purge himself of the contempt. Thus, in the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, the Court introduced a new provision granting a remedy to a person adjudged in direct contempt by any court. Such person may not appeal therefrom, but may avail himself of certiorari or prohibition. In such case, the execution of the judgment shall be suspended pending resolution of such petition provided the contemner files a bond fixed by the court which rendered the judgment and conditioned that he will abide by and perform the judgment should the petition be decided against him. (underscoring supplied)
Under Section 8 (of Rule 140, gross ignorance of the law or procedure is classified as a serious charge which is, under Section 11(A), punishable by:
- Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government- owned or –controlled corporations. Provided, however, That the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits;
- Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months; or
- A fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00
Respondent having been repeatedly penalized by this Court, with suspension and fine, as shown by the above-listed administrative charges, the recommended penalty of P21,000 should be increased to P30,000.
WHEREFORE, for gross ignorance of the law and procedure, Judge Sibanah Usman is FINED in the amount of Thirty Thousand (P30,000) Pesos, with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.