Case law teaches us that a judge is the visible representation of the law, and more importantly of justice; he or she must, therefore, be the first to follow the law and weave an example for the others to follow. Interestingly, in Julianito M. Salvador v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., etc., a case where Judge Limsiaco was also the respondent, we already had the occasion to impress upon him the clear import of the directives of the Court, thus:
For a judge to exhibit indifference to a resolution requiring him to comment on the accusations in the complaint thoroughly and substantially is gross misconduct, and may even be considered as outright disrespect for the Court. The office of the judge requires him to obey all the lawful orders of his superiors. After all, a resolution of the Supreme Court is not a mere request and should be complied with promptly and completely. Such failure to comply accordingly betrays not only a recalcitrant streak in character, but has likewise been considered as an utter lack of interest to remain with, if not contempt of the judicial system.
We also cited in that case our ruling in Josephine C. Martinez v. Judge Cesar N. Zoleta and emphasized that obedience to our lawful orders and directives should not be merely selective obedience, but must be full:
[A] resolution of the Supreme Court requiring comment on an administrative complaint against officials and employees of the judiciary should not be construed as a mere request from the Court. Nor should it be complied with partially, inadequately or selectively. Respondents in administrative complaints should comment on all accusations or allegations against them in the administrative complaints because it is their duty to preserve the integrity of the judiciary. Moreover, the Court should not and will not tolerate future indifference of respondents to administrative complaints and to resolutions requiring comment on such administrative complaints.
As demonstrated by his present acts, we find it clear that Judge Limsiaco failed to heed the above pronouncements. We observe that in A.M. No. MTJ-01-1362, Judge Limsiaco did not fully obey our directives. Judge Limsiaco failed to file the required comment to our show cause resolution despite several opportunities given to him by the Court. His disobedience was aggravated by his insincere representations in his motions for extension of time that he would file the required comments.
The records also show Judge Limsiaco’s failure to comply with our decision and orders. In A.M. No. MTJ-01-1362, Judge Limsiaco failed to file his comment/answer to the charge of irregularity pertaining to his approval of applications for bail in several criminal cases before him. He also failed to pay the P40,000.00 fine which we imposed by way of administrative penalty for his gross ignorance of the law and procedure and violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Incidentally, in A.M. No. MTJ-11-1785, Judge Limsiaco failed to file his comment on the verified complaint despite several orders issued by the Court.
We cannot overemphasize that compliance with the rules, directives and circulars issued by the Court is one of the foremost duties that a judge accepts upon assumption to office. This duty is verbalized in Canon 1 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct:
SECTION 7. Judges shall encourage and uphold safeguards for the discharge of judicial duties in order to maintain and enhance the institutional and operational independence of the Judiciary.
SECTION 8. Judges shall exhibit and promote high standards of judicial conduct in order to reinforce public confidence in the Judiciary, which is fundamental to the maintenance of judicial independence.
The obligation to uphold the dignity of his office and the institution which he belongs to is also found in Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct under Rule 2.01 which mandates a judge to behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
Under the circumstances, the conduct exhibited by Judge Limsiaco constitutes no less than clear acts of defiance against the Court’s authority. His conduct also reveals his deliberate disrespect and indifference to the authority of the Court, shown by his failure to heed our warnings and directives. Judge Limsiaco’s actions further disclose his inability to accept our instructions. Moreover, his conduct failed to provide a good example for other court personnel, and the public as well, in placing significance to the Court’s directives and the importance of complying with them.
We cannot allow this type of behavior especially on a judge. Public confidence in the judiciary can only be achieved when the court personnel conduct themselves in a dignified manner befitting the public office they are holding. They should avoid conduct or any demeanor that may tarnish or diminish the authority of the Supreme Court.
Under existing jurisprudence, we have held judges administratively liable for failing to comply with our directives and circulars.
In Sinaon, Sr., we penalized a judge for his deliberate failure to comply with our directive requiring him to file a comment. We disciplined another judge in Noe Cangco Zarate v. Judge Isauro M. Balderian for his refusal to comply with the Court’s resolution requiring him to file a comment on the administrative charge against him. In Request of Judge Eduardo F. Cartagena, etc., we dismissed the judge for his repeated violation of a circular of the Supreme Court. In fact, we have already reprimanded and warned Judge Limsiaco for his failure to timely heed the Court’s directives in Salvador.
A judge’s duty to his public office
Given the factual circumstances in A.M. No. MTJ-11-1785, the considerable delay Judge Limsiaco incurred in deciding the subject ejectment case has been clearly established by the records and by his own admission. Judge Limsiaco admitted that he decided the ejectment case only onFebruary 4, 2008. In turn, the records show that Judge Limsiaco did not deny Guinanao’s claim that the ejectment case was submitted for resolution as early asApril 25, 2005. Thus, it took Judge Limsiaco more than two (2) years to decide the subject ejectment case after it was declared submitted for resolution.
The delay in deciding a case within the reglementary period constitutes a violation of Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct which mandates judges to perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with promptness. In line with jurisprudence, Judge Limsiaco is also liable for gross inefficiency for his failure to decide a case within the reglementary period.
Under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC dated September 11, 2001, violation of Supreme Court rules, directives and circulars, and gross inefficiency are categorized as less serious charges with the following sanctions: (a) suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less than one or more than three months; or (b) a fine of more than P10,000.00 but not exceeding P20,000.00.
In determining the proper imposable penalty, we also consider Judge Limsiaco’s work history which reflects how he performed his judicial functions as a judge. We observed that there are several administrative cases already decided against Judge Limsiaco that show his inability to properly discharge his judicial duties.
In Salvador, we penalized Judge Limsiaco for having been found guilty of undue delay in rendering a decision, imposing on him a P20,000.00 fine, with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar infraction in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
In Helen Gamboa-Mijares v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., we found Judge Limsiaco guilty of gross misconduct and imposed on him a P20,000.00 fine, with a warning that a more severe penalty would be imposed in case of the same of similar act in the future.
In Atty. Adoniram P. Pamplona v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., we resolved to impose a P20,000.00 fine on Judge Limsiaco for gross ignorance of the law and procedure, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar offense would be dealt with more severely. The Court also resolved in the said case to re-docket, as a regular administrative case, the charge for oppression and grave abuse of authority relative to Judge Limsiaco’s handling of two criminal cases.
In Re: Withholding of Salary of Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., etc., we imposed a P5,000.00 fine, with warning, against Judge Limsiaco for his delay in the submission of the monthly report of cases and for twice ignoring the OCA’s directive to explain the delay.
Moreover, in the recent case of Florenda Tobias v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., where Judge Limsiaco was charged with corruption, the Court found him liable for gross misconduct and imposed a fine in the amount of P25,000.00.
Lastly, we also note the existence of two other administrative cases filed against Judge Limsiaco that are presently pending with the Court. The first case is Mario B. Tapinco v. Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., where Judge Limsiaco is charged with grave misconduct, obstruction of justice, and abuse of authority in connection with his invalid issuance of an order for the provisional release of an accused. The second case entitled Unauthorized Hearings Conducted by Judge Manuel Q. Limsiaco, Jr., MCTC, et al., is a complaint charging Judge Limsiaco of violating the Court’s Administrative Circular No. 3, dated July 14, 1978 which prohibits the conduct of hearings in another station without any authority from the Court.
We find that his conduct as a repeat offender exhibits his unworthiness to don the judicial robes and merits a sanction heavier than what is provided by our rules and jurisprudence. Under the circumstances, Judge Limsiaco should be dismissed from the service. We, however, note that onMay 17, 2009, Judge Limsiaco has retired from judicial service. We also note that Judge Limsiaco has not yet applied for his retirement benefits. Thus, in lieu of the penalty of dismissal for his unethical conduct and gross inefficiency in performing his duties as a member of the bench, we declare all his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, forfeited. Furthermore, he is barred from re-employment in any branch or service of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.