SC junks administrative charges vs 3 justices

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The Supreme Court (SC) has junked administrative raps against three justices of the Court of Appeals (CA).

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The SC ruled that the complaint filed by a lawyer is “being devoid of legal and factual merit” against Justices Maria Elisa Sempio Diy, Ramon Paul L. Hernando, and Carmelita Salandanan-Manahan, when they were still stationed in CA Visayas, particularly in Cebu City.

The three justices are currently stationed in CA Manila.

The complainant attorney had accused them of impartiality for dismissing outright a petition for review where he was counsel.

In a 10-page ruling of the SC, it opined that aside for lacking any merit in the complaint of Atty. Mariano R. Pefianco, the lawyer is now also in danger of being cited for contempt.

The SC has mandated complainant Atty. Mariano R. Pefianco to show cause in writing why he should not be punished for indirect contempt of court “for his apparent tendency to file unsubstantiated administrative cases against judges and justices. Pefianco earlier filed an administrative complainant Justice Hernando, which was also dismissed by the High Court.

“This is to emphasize that unfounded administrative charges against members of the bench degrade the judicial office and greatly interfere with the due performance of their functions in the Judiciary,” the ruling states.

Similarly, the 15-man tribunal has ordered that the case for investigation to the Office of the Bar Confidant to determine whether Pefianco has violated the terms and conditions of his suspension from the practice of law, which this court imposed upon him in a resolution dated August 12, 2012, in AC No. 6116. Pefianco was suspended for one year from the practice of law for violation of the lawyer’s oath and code of professional responsibility.

“[U]nless his suspension has been lifted by this Court, the complainant remains to be suspended and is prohibited from engaging in the practice of law. We have held that the lifting of suspension from the practice of law is not automatic upon the end of the period stated in the decision; an order from the Court lifting the suspension is necessary to enable the suspended lawyer to resume his or her legal practice.”

Pefianco was counsel for petitioners in CA G.R. CEB SP No. 06984 (Del Rosario, et al. v. Pagtanac, et al.) pending before the CA handled by the respondent-justices then of the CA Cebu City Station.

He filed the letter-complaint with the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Justice, which referred the same to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA). On April 1, 2014, the OCA forwarded the letter-complaint to the Office of the Chief Justice for appropriate action, and the case was docketed accordingly.

However, Justices Diy and Manahan reasoned that the outright dismissal was due to procedural infirmities, and was warranted and supported by the rules of court and by jurisprudence. For his part, Justice Hernando contended that complaint was “baseless and vexatious” and must be dismissed outright because the remedy for the complainant’s case is judicial, not administrative, in nature.

The SC ruled that the accusations “will not suffice to sustain a claim of impartiality” and that “[t]he evidence of bias must be clear and convincing.” It said that it found nothing in the administrative complaint and in the records to sufficiently convince that the respondent-Justices were impartial in issuing their assailed resolution dated January 17, 2013.

JOMAR CANLAS

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