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Persons Case Digest: Marcos v. Judge Fernando Vil. Pamintuan (2011)

Marcos v. Judge Fernando Vil. Pamintuan
A.M. RTJ-07-2062, Jan 18, 2011

Lessons Applicable: Ignorance of the Law

·         Judge Reyes in an order on May 30, 1996 dismissed Civil Case No. 3383-R due to forum shopping and ordered that that the Buddha statuette in the custody of this Court be immediately released to the children of the late Rogelio Roxas in trust for the estate of the late Rogelio Roxas
·         RTC: Denied the separate motions for reconsideration by the parties
·         Judge Pamintuan in an order dated May 9, 2006 set the case for hearing on June 29, 2006 purportedly to formally and finally release the Golden Buddha to its rightful owner.
o    Marcos was one of the subpoenaed parties, being a person with interest in the case
o    Buddha Statuette or Buddha replica is awarded to the estate of Rogelio Roxas.  However, the Buddha Statuette or Buddha replica shall be under custodia legis until the final settlement of the estate of the late Rogelio Roxas, or upon the appointment of his estate’s administrator
o    Also ruled that the Golden Buddha in its custody is a fake one
·         November 15, 2006: Marcos filed a complaint-affidavit charging Judge Pamintuan with Gross Ignorance of the Law for reversing motu proprio the final and executory order of then Acting Presiding Judge Antonio Reyes in Civil Case No. 3383-R, entitled “Albert D. Umali, in his capacity as the exclusive administrator and as President of the Treasure Hunters Association of the Philippines v. Jose D. Roxas, et al.
o    Pamintuan Commented that Marcos should have filed a motion for reconsideration instead of filing an administrative complaint.
o    Marcos, in her Reply-Affidavit, cited Section 1 of Rule 37 which provides that only the aggrieved party may file a motion for reconsideration within the period for taking an appeal
·         Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) recommended that Judge Pamintuan be dismissed from the service with the additional penalty of forfeiture of all his retirement benefits and disqualification from re-employment in the government service, including government owned or controlled corporations, for Gross Ignorance of the Law and for violation of Canon 4 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
o    A final judgment may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law.  Should judgment of lower courts – which may normally be subject to review by higher tribunals – become final and executory before, or without exhaustion of all recourse of appeal, they too become inviolable, impervious to modification. 
·         Judge Pamintuan was placed under preventive suspension pending resolution of the administrative case to stop him from committing further damage to the judiciary.
·         Judge Pamintuan moved for reconsideration and eventually filed a Motion for Early Resolution of Motion for Reconsideration and to Submit the Case for Decision.
·         Judge Pamintuan then sent a letter requesting for his backpay and benefits covering the period of his preventive suspension - denied for being premature and for lack of merit

ISSUE: W/N Judge Pamintuan is guilty of Gross Ignorance of the Law

HELD:  Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan of the RTC of Baguio City, Branch 3, is DISMISSED from the service
·         Judge Pamintuan should have realized that the trial court did not rule on that point that the Golden Buddha is fake in its May 30, 1996 Order (even in its September 2, 1996 Order)
·         Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct:
o    SECTION 6.  Judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly, but in exercising such rights, they shall always conduct themselves in such manner as to preserve the dignity of the judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.
·         The doctrine of immutability and inalterability of a final judgment has a two-fold purpose, to wit:
  1. to avoid delay in the administration of justice and thus, procedurally, to make orderly the discharge of judicial business
  2. to put an end to judicial controversies, at the risk of occasional errors, which is precisely why courts exist.
·         Notably, this is NOT Judge Pamintuan’s first and sole administrative case.  Judge Pamintuan was charged with Gross Ignorance of the Law, Gross Violation of the Constitutional Rights of the Accused, Arrogance and Violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and was suspended for 1 year. Having been previously warned and punished for various infractions, Judge Pamintuan now deserves the ultimate administrative penalty − dismissal from service