GSIS vs Cancino-Erum (A.M. No. RTJ-09-2182 September 5, 2012)

GSIS vs Cancino-Erum
A.M. No. RTJ-09-2182 September 5, 2012

Facts: This administrative complaint emanated from the filing on July 18, 2008 by one Belinda Martizano (Martizano) of a suit to restrain the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Stradcom Corporation (STRADCOM), Insurance Commission, and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) from implementing DOTC Department Order No. 2007-28 (DO 2007-28), an issuance that constituted the LTO the sole insurance provider of compulsory third party liability (CTPL) that was required for the registration of motor vehicles. The suit, docketed as Civil Case No. MC08-3660 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Mandaluyong City, claimed that the implementation of DO 2007-28 would deprive Martizano of her livelihood as an insurance agent.3 She applied for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO). On July 21, 2008, Civil Case No. MC08-3660 was raffled and assigned to Branch 213 of the RTC, presided by respondent Judge Carlos A. Valenzuela. On October 2, 2008, GSIS charged respondent RTC Judge Maria A. CancinoErum, the then Executive Judge of the RTC in Mandaluyong City, with grave misconduct, gross ignorance of the law, and violation of the Rules of Court. On the same date, GSIS also charged Judge Valenzuela with grave misconduct, gross ignorance of the law, violation of the Rules of Court, and knowingly rendering an unjust order.6 The charges against the respondents were both based on the non-raffling of Civil Case No.MC08-3660. Allegedly, Judge Erum violated Section 2, Rule 20 of the Rules of Court by assigning Civil Case No. MC08-3660 to Branch 213 without the benefit of a raffle.

Issues: Whether or not the filing of an administrative complaint is the proper remedy against erring judges.

Whether or not respondent Judge violated the rule on raffling of cases.

Held: No. Administrative case is improper for Judges – We have always regarded as a fundamental precept that an administrative complaint against a judge is inappropriate as a remedy for the correction of an act or omission complained of where the remedy of appeal or certiorari is a recourse available to an aggrieved party. Two reasons underlie this fundamental precept, namely: (a) to hold otherwise is to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or to interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment; and (b) to follow a different rule can mean a deluge of complaints, legitimate or otherwise, and our judges will then be immersed in and be ceaselessly occupied with answering charges brought against them instead of performing their judicial functions.

No. The 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure has expressly made the raffle the exclusive method of assigning cases among several branches of a court in a judicial station by providing in Section 2 of Rule 20, as follows:

Section 2. Assignment of Cases. – The assignment of cases to the different branches of a court shall be done exclusively by raffle. The assignment shall be done in open session of which adequate notice shall be given so as to afford interested parties the opportunity to be present.

The avowed purpose of instituting raffle as the exclusive method of assigning cases among several branches of a court in the same station is two-fold: one, to equalize the distribution of the cases among the several branches, and thereby foster the Court’s policy of promoting speedy and efficient disposition of cases; and, two, to ensure the impartial adjudication of cases and thereby obviate any suspicion regarding assignment of cases to predetermined judges.

Circular No. 7, supra, stated that only the maximum number of cases, according to their dates of filing, as could be equally distributed to all the branches in the particular station or grouping should be included in the raffle; and that cases in excess of the number sufficient for equal distribution should be included in the next scheduled raffle.

Despite not strictly following the procedure under Circular No. 7 in assigning Civil Case No. MC08-3660 to Branch 213, the respondents as members of the Raffle Committee could not be held to have violated the rule on the exclusivity of raffle because there were obviously less TRO or injunction cases available at anytime for raffling than the number of Branches of the RTC. Given the urgent nature of TRO or injunction cases, each of them had to be immediately attended to. This peculiarity must have led to the adoption of the practice of raffling such cases despite their number being less than the number of the Branches in Mandaluyong City. The practice did not absolutely contravene Circular No. 7 in view of the circular itself expressly excepting under its fourth paragraph, supra, any incidental or interlocutory matter of such urgent nature (like a TRO application) that might not wait for the regular raffle.

The urgent nature of an injunction or TRO case demands prompt action and immediate attention, thereby compelling the filing of the case in the proper court without delay.

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