In the first place, there was nothing contumacious in the submission to the court of a motion for approval of compromise agreement reached before a barangay captain in a case pending before the court. It is not required that a compromise agreement be executed before the court. It may be executed before anyone or even among the parties themselves and then submitted to the court for approval.
In the second place, the presiding judge must state expressly in the order the facts constituting the contemptuous behavior of petitioner and declaring him in direct contempt of court.
In this case, the court did not state the specific cause for declaring petitioner guilty of direct contempt of court. Indeed, it would seem that the court cited petitioner for direct contempt of court for submitting such compromise agreement for approval though the compromise was reached before a barangay captain. As we said, there is nothing contumacious in such act. However, the impression of lawyers in the courtroom at that time was that the presiding judge was irked because petitioner shouted back and banged the table as petitioner charged the presiding judge with arrogance. This incident is not recorded in the transcript, leaving us in doubt if it occurred. It is apparent, however, that the presiding judge continuously ordered petitioner to “shut up.”
Even then, an 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.
In fact, petitioner asked the court presided over by respondent judge to fix a bail for his temporary liberty pending the filing of a petition for certiorari. This written motion was filed on the first hour the very next day. It was timely filed because the written order of contempt was issued only the next day and given to petitioner when he was in jail. The respondent judge did not act on the motion. By such inaction, respondent judge deprived petitioner of an effective relief from an order of direct contempt of court. This is a violation of the Rules on contempt of court. Under Rule 65, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, petitioner has sixty (60) days within which to file his petition.
We find that respondent judge gravely abused his discretion in declaring petitioner guilty of direct contempt of court, sentencing him to pay a fine of P1,000.00 and to serve one day in jail. It was the respondent judge who first shouted successively at petitioner to “shut up.” When petitioner persisted in making his explanation, the court declared him in direct contempt, to the extent of stating that the judge had “absolute power.” The lawyer’s remarks explaining his position in the case under consideration do not necessarily assume the level of contumely that justifies the court to exercise the power of contempt. Courts must be slow to punish for direct contempt. This drastic power must be used sparingly in cases of clearly contumacious behavior in facie curiae. The salutary rule is that the power to punish for contempt must be exercised on the preservative, not vindicative principle, and on the corrective and not retaliatory idea of punishment. The courts must exercise the power to punish for contempt for purposes that are impersonal, because that power is intended as a safeguard not for the judges as persons but for the functions that they exercise.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Court GRANTS the petition and renders judgment declaring VOID the order finding petitioner guilty of direct contempt of court in Civil Case No. 99-194, and sentencing him to pay a fine of P1,000.00 and to serve one (1) day in jail. The court orders respondent judge to reimburse petitioner the sum of P1,000.00, not out of the amount paid by petitioner to the court but from his own funds. The Court regrets that petitioner had to serve time in jail by a despotic act of respondent judge.
The Court orders the Court Administrator, Supreme Court, to file an administrative charge against respondent Judge Maximo G.W. Paderanga, Regional Trial Judge, Regional Trial Court, Misamis Oriental, Branch 38, Cagayan de Oro City, for gross misconduct and grave abuse of authority, within fifteen (15) days from notice.
This decision is immediately executory.
Costs against respondent Judge.