in Re Laureta and Maravilla 148 SCRA 382 (1987)
full case CONSTI 1...
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila G.R. No. L-68635 March 12, 1987 IN THE MATTER OF PROCEEDINGS FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST ATTY. WENCESLAO LAURETA, AND OF CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST EVA MARAVILLAILUSTRE in G.R. NO. 68635, entitled "EVA MARAVILLA-ILUSTRE vs. HON. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, ET AL. RESOLUTION PER CURIAM: In almost identical letters dated 20 October 1986, personally sent to Justices Andres R. Narvasa, Ameurfina M. Herrera, and Isagani A. Cruz, and a fourth letter, dated 22 October 1986 addressed to Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, all members of the First Division of this COURT, (mcorporated herein by reference), in feigned ignorance of the Constitutional requirement that the Court's Divisions are composed of, and must act through, at least five (5) members, and in a stance of dangling threats to effect a change of the Court's adverse resolution, petitioner Eva Maravilla Ilustre wrote in part: Please forgive us for taking the Liberty of addressing you this letter which we do hope you will read very carefully. It is important to call your attention to the dismissal of Case No. G.R. 68635 entitled Eva Maravilla Ilustre vs. Hon. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al. by an untenable minute-resolution although an extended one, dated 14 May 1986 which we consider as an just resolution deliberately and knowingly promulgated by the First Division of the Supreme Court of which you are a member. xxx xxx xxx We consider the three minute-resolution: the first dated 14 May 1986; the second, dated 9 July 1986; and the third, 3 September 1986, railroaded with such hurry/ promptitude unequaled in the entire history of the Supreme Court under circumstances that have gone beyond the limits of legal and judicial ethic. xxx xxx xxx Your attention is called to minute-resolution of 9 July 1986 which writes finish to our case before the Supreme Court (... THIS IS FINAL.) There is nothing final in this world We assure you that this case is far from finished by a long shot For at the proper time, we shall so act and bring this case before another forum where the members of the Court can no longer deny our action with minute resolutions that are not only unjust but are knowingly and deuberat only promulgated. The people deserve to know how the members of the highest tribunal of the land perform in the task of decision making by affixing their respective signed on judgments that they render on petitions that they themselves give due course.
Please understand that we are pursuing further remedies in our quest for justice under the law. We intend to hold responsible members of the First Division who participated in the promulgation of these three minute- resolutions in question. For the members thereof cannot claim immunity when their action runs afoul with penal sanctions, even in the performance of official functions; like others, none of the division members are above the law. In our quest for justice, we wish to avoid doing injustice to anyone, particularly the members of the First Division, providing that they had no hand in the promulgation of the resolution in question. That is why we are requesting you to inform us your participation in the promulgation of these resolutions in question. Even we who are poor are also capable of playing fair even to those who take advantage of our poverty by sheer power and influence. We shall then wait for your reply. If, however, we do not hear from you after a week, then we will consider your silence that you supported the dismissal of our petition. We will then be guided accordingly. (Emphasis supplied). The letter also attacked the participation in the case of Justice Pedro L. Yap, Chairman of the First Division in this wise: As Division Chairman, Associate Justice Pedro Yap, as a copy of Resolution dated 14 May 1986 we received indicate, did not even have the elementary courtesy of putting on record that he voluntarily inhibited himself from participating in the promulgation of this minute-resolution, although an extended one, which he should have done consistent with judicial decorum and the Canons of Judicial Ethics. After he is the law partner of Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez counsel for respondents, now the distinguished Solicitor General ... indicative that even at this stage of the proceeding in point of time, the Supreme Court still recognizes Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez as counsel for respondents, even as he is already the Solicitor General. For not withdrawing from the case formally Atty. Ordonez has manifested his unmitigated arrogance that he does not respect the Canons of Professional Ethics, to the actuation of his law partner, Associate Justice Pedro Yap, Chairman of the First Division of the Supreme Court, an act that further aggravates the growing wrinkles in the domain of judicial statesmanship, impressed as it is, with very serious and dangerous implications. (9) By 11 April 1986, date of the reorganization of the First Division, Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez already became the Solicitor General. With such amazingly magical coincidence, Dr. Pedro Yap, law partner of Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez in the law firm Salonga, Ordonez Yap, Padian became the Chairman of the Division. xxx xxx xxx (11) So we see that on 11 August 1986 to 14 May 1986 when some members of the Division were still busy putting their respective offices in order and had possibly have no Idea about the Maravilla case. Was it possible for Chairman Yap to have convinced the Division members that Maravilla petition is without merit and since the members — the new ones knew nothing about the case, readily agreed to the dismissal of the petition by a minute. resolution — an
extended one. After all, this was the case of the Solicitor General. If this is what happened, then we are sorry to say that you were deliberately "had" After ala the 14 May 1986 untenable minute resolution although an extended one, does not bear the signatures of the Division members. The members should have signed the resolution, after ala the Supreme Court had given the petition due course, indicating whether they concur, dissent or otherwise abstain from voting. The letter to Justice Herrera went on to state: We assume, of course, that you had studied the case thoroughly since you were with the original First Division under the chairmanship of then Justice Claudio Teehankee. We assure you that we will bring this case before another forum to hold responsible the members of the Division who participated in the dismissal of the case by the unjust minute-resolutions, knowingly rendered for intended objective that your conscience you are aware. xxx xxx xxx
We leave the next move to you by informing us your participation in the promulgation of the minute-resolutions in question Please do not take this matter rightly for we know justice in the end will prevail. For if we do not hear from you within a week, we will consider your silence as your admission that you supported the dismissal of the petition. In this way, we shall then be guided accordingly. The moment we take action in the plans we are completing, we will then call a press conference with TV and radio coverage. Arrangements in this regard are being done. The people should or ought to know why we were thwarted in our quest for plain justice. xxx xxx xxx Finally, in view of action that we are prepared to take in this case, that will no doubt cause nationwide attention, and there should be anyone that will cause me harm personally, may we request you to show this letter to the authorities concerned so that they will know where to look, when it becomes necessary. (Emphasis supplied) The aforesaid letters were included in the Agenda of the First Division of 22 October 1986, were "Noted," and referred en consulta to the Court en banc. On 28 October 1986, the Court en banc took up the background and history of the case, found no reason to take any further action, and referred the case back to the First Division 11 as set forth in the latter's resolution of October 27, 1986. " In this Resolution, the First Division traced the history of the case, clarified that Justice Yap assumed his position in this Court only on 2 May 1986; that when the resolution of dismissal was issued on 14 May 1986, Justice Abad Santos was the incumbent Chairman of the First Division, and that Justice Yap was unaware that Atty. Ordonez was private respondents' counsel; that upon realization thereof, Justice Yap inhibited himself from further participation in the case; and that Justice Yap was designated Chairman of the First Division only on 14 July 1986, after the compulsory retirement of Justice Vicente Abad Santos on 12 July 1986. The Resolution of the First Division (incorporated herein by reference) concluded thus:
The dispositions in this case were arrived at after careful study. Because a case is resolved against the interests of a party, does not mean that it is an "unjust decision" or that it has been "railroaded". This Division declares without hesitation that it has consistently rendered justice without fear or favor. YAP, J., took no part. On 3 November 1986, petitioner again addressed similar letters to Justices Narvasa, Herrera, and Cruz, (incorporated herein by reference), excerpts from which follow: It is rather amazing that when we wrote you our previous letter, we never dreamed that you would rush, as you did rush for assistance en consults with the Honorable Court en banc. The unfortunate part of it all is the fact that the Court en banc had to promulgate its resolution dated 28 October 1986 which to us when considered in its entirety, is just as untenable as the First Division extended and unsigned minuteresolution of 14 May 1986. Evidently you misunderstood our point of inquiry, to wit: 'Did you or did you not approve the dismissal of our petition under 1) The l4 May l986 minute resolution? Yes or No. 2) The 9 July l986 minute resolution? Yes or No. 3) The 3 Sept. 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No. That was we asked. The other matters contained in our letter were intended merely to give you the highlights of our case. This is what we wanted to know to properly guide us when we finally bring our case to the other forum of justice. Did it ever occur to you that when you and the other members of the First Division referred our letters to the Honorable Court en banc en consults it was all your fault that the Court en banc had to promulgate its unsigned extended minute-resolution that unfortunately exposed the distinguished members of the newly reorganized Supreme Court and, at the same time, convicted themselves as guilty of distorting facts involved in our petition? This, we are sure, will come as a shock to you. We will show you why. xxx xxx xxx This is just a sample of what we will expose to the nation before the other forum of justice where we will soon bring this case beyond the reach of the newly reorganized Supreme Court We are prepared to expose many more of this kind of judicial performance readily constituting truvesty of justice Ponder upon this well because it is our very firm conviction that the people deserve to know how the distinguished members of the highest tribunal of the land perform in duties in this most sensitive area of decision making. Anyhow, whether you referred our letter to the Court en banc consults) or not, the situation remains the same. At the proper time, as we said, we will bring this
case before another forum of justice where the members of the First Division, in fact the Honorable Court en banc may no longer deny our action by mere untenable and unjust minute resolutions. Better believe it that we intend to hold responsible members of the First Division who took part in the promulgation of the untenable and unjust extended minute-resolution that is not even signed by any of those who promulgated it; therefore, to us, is clearly bereft of judicial integrity from its very inception on 14 May 1986. xxx xxx xxx Thus, we will bring this case before another forum of justice as Eva Maravilla Ilustre against the distinguished members of the First Division, in fact against the entire membership of the newly organized Supreme Court (because of its en banc unsigned extended minute-resolution that iswithout judicial integrity, dated 28 October 1986). But do not be mislead (sic) for we are not alone in this fight. Other lawyers, not just by their mere sympathy for me personally and my case, but by their firm conviction that judicial statesmanship must be maintained at nines in the highest tribunal of justice in the land, that they have offered their free legal services when the legal confrontation begins. xxx xxx xxx Paragraph 4, found on page 3 of the en banc resolution projects the most fantastic, most unbelievable picture of Division Chairman Justice Yap. It states — ...When the resolution of dismissal on May 14, 1986, Justice Yap was unaware that Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez was private respondent's counsel. The Honorable Court en banc must think everybody stupid to swallow this statement hook, line and sinker For Justice Yap we say. Tell that to the marines. But more than this, we leave this matter to the conscience of Justice Yap. Ignoramus that we are, unschooled in the domain of law and procedure, but we are learning a few as we promulgated our case within legitimate that we state here that both resolutions that promulgated by the Court en banc of 28 October 1986 and that promulgated by the First Division dated 27 October 1986, are nothing but a desperate attempt when both are considered in their respective entirety, to maneuver without success, some semblance of justification on the untenable and unjust 14 May 1986 extended and unsigned minute-resolution that is bereft of judicial integrity. xxx xxx xxx Thus, if the members of the First Division and those of the Honorable Court en banc think for one minute that because of their respective 4-page minute but extended resolutions apparently impressive for their lack of merit deliberately unsigned that exposed their lack of judicial integrity, that we win now give up the fight, just forget it. Ignoramus that we are, better believe it when we say we are prepared to carry the fight before another forum of justice. When we do, we shall call for a press conference with TV and radio coverage, so that we can present to the entire nation our quest for justice against the steam-roller of power and influence and, at the same time, to call the attention of the people to the manner in
which the members of the highest tribunal of the land perform their respective individual and collective functions in the domain of this most sensitive area of decision making. Allow us to restate our previous and now, our present inquiry, to wit: Did you or did you not approve the dismissal of our petition under — a) The l4 May l986 minute resolution? Yes or No. b) The 9 July l986 minute resolution? Yes or No. c) The 3 Sept. 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No. (Emphasis supplied). True to her threats, after having lost her case before this Court, petitioner filed on 16 December 1986 an Affidavit-Complaint before the Tanodbayan, totally disregarding the facts and circumstances and legal considerations set forth in this Court's aforecited Resolutions of the First Division and en banc. Some Members of this Court were maliciously charged with having knowingly and deliberately rendered, with bad faith, an unjust, extended Minute Resolution "making" her opponents the "illegal owners" of vast estates. Some Justices of the Court of Appeals were similarly maliciously charged with knowingly rendering their "unjust resolution" of 20 January 1984 "through manifest and evident bad faith," when their Resolution had in fact and law been upheld by this Court. Additionally, Solicitor General Sedfrey A. Ordonez and Justice Pedro Yap of this Court were also maliciously charged with having used their power and influence in persuading and inducing the members of the First Division of this Court into promulgating their "unjust extended Minute Resolution of 14 May 1986." All the foregoing, in complete disregard of the Resolutions of this Court, as the tribunal of last resort, 1) upholding the challenged judgment of the Court of Appeals; 2) dismissing the Petition on the ground that the doctrine of res judicata was clearly applicable not only as to the probate of the Will of the decedent but also as to the heirship of petitioner, among others, and their right to intervene and participate in the proceedings; and 3) finding that there was no attempt whatsoever on the part of Justice Yap nor Solicitor General Ordonez to unduly influence the members of the First Division. The Complaint before the Tanodbayan (incorporated herein by reference) was allegedly filed "in my quest for justice, something that has been closed to me by the Supreme Court forever" and specifically charged: CHARGE NO. ONE — Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez and Justice Pedro Yap of 1) "persuading, inducing, influencing the members of the newly organized First Division ... into promulgating their unjust, extended minute RESOLUTION of 14 May 1986, knowingly with deliberate intent with such unusual hurry promptitude unequaled in the entire history of the Supreme Court base on insignificant issues and deliberately evading/prevaricating the more important substantial ones raised in my petition, in violation of Section 3, sub-letter (a) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, ... ; and
(2) Under the same Section 3, sub-letter (e) of the same Republic Act ... for causing me and the other heirs of Ponciano Maravilla undue injury by using their power and influence as Solicitor-General and Associate Justice, respectively. ... CHARGE NO. TWO —
Associate Justices Luis Javellana, Vicente Mendoza and Serafin Cuevas, members of the then FOURTH SPECIAL CASES DIVISION, Intermediate Appellate Court — 1) For knowingly rendering their unjust RESOLUTION dated 20 January 1984 in the exercise of their functions through manifest and evident bad faith in CA-G.R. No. SP13680, entitled "Francisco Q. Maravilla, et al. v. Hon. Antonia Corpus Macandog, et al." in violation of article 204 of the revised Penal Code,2) For causing me and the other heirs such undue injury' by deliberately, knowingly rendering their unjust RESOLUTION dated 20 January 1984 ... in violation of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, Section 3 (e) thereof. CHARGE NO THREE — Associate Justice Vicente Abad Santos (retired) then Chairman of the First Division of the Supreme Court as of 14 May 1986, and Associate Justice Isagani Cruz, Andres Narvasa, Ameurfina M. Herrera and Pedro Yap, ... — 1) For knowingly and deliberately rendering their unjust extended MINUTE RESOLUTION of 14 May 1986 dismissing my petition in G.R. No. 68635, ... with manifest and evident bad faith to make the clients of Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez now the distinguished Solicitor General the 'illegal owners' of the vast estates of my aunt Digna Maravilla ...; 2) Under Section 3, sub-letter (e) Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, ... for deliberately causing us heirs of Ponciano Maravilla undue injury by depriving us of our rights over my aunt's vast estates because of their manifest and evident bad faith in knowingly promulgating their unjust extended minute RESOLUTION of 14 May 1986, deliberately intended to make the clients of Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez, now the Solicitor General the "illegal owners" of my aunt Digna Maravilla's estates when under the law, these Ordonez clients are not entitled to own these vast properties whether under testate or intestate succession or mixed succession (Emphasis supplied). Atty. Laureta himself reportedly circulated copies of the Complaint to the press, which was widely publicized in almost all dailies on 23 December 1986, without any copy furnished this Court nor the members who were charged. The issue of the Daily Express of 23 December 1986 published a banner headline reading — ORDONEZ, 8 JUSTICES FACE GRAFT CHARGES thereby making it unjustly appear that the Justices of this Court and the other respondents were charged with "graft and corruption" when the Complaint was actually filed by a disgruntled litigant and her counsel after having lost her case thrice in this Court. On 26 December 1986, the Tanodbayan (Ombudsman) dismissed petitioner's Complaint and decreed in the dispositive portion of his Resolution (herein incorporated by reference) that: WHEREFORE, all the premises considered, this Office resolves to dismiss the complaint against Justices Pedro Yap, Isagani Cruz, Andres Narvasa, Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, Vicente Abad Santos, and will continue evaluating the complaint
against Justices Serafin Cuevas, Luis Javellana and Vicente Mendoza, Solicitor General Sedfrey Ordonez and the private respondents. The aforestated Resolution indicated at the bottom of the last page: Copy Furnished: DEAN WENCESLAO LAURETA Counsel for the Complainant 919 Prudencio Street Sampaloc, Manila In the Resolution of this Court en banc, dated January 29, 1986, it required: (1) Petitioner Eva Maravilla Ilustre to show cause, with in ten (10) days from notice, why she should not be held in contempt for her aforecited statements, conduct, acts and charges against the Supreme Court and/or official actions of the Justices concerned, which statements, unless satisfactorily explained, transcend the permissible bounds of propriety and undermine and degrade the administration of justice; and (2) Atty. Wenceslao Laureta, as an officer of the Court, to show cause, within ten (10) days from notice, why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for the aforecited statements, conduct, acts and charges against the Supreme Court and the official actions of the Justices concerned, and for hiding therefrom in anonymity behind his client's name, in an alleged quest for justice but with the manifest intent to bring the Justices into disrepute and to subvert public confidence in the Courts and the orderly administration of justice. (pp. 383-384, Rollo). (1) In her Compliance-Answer filed on February 9, 1987, wherein Eva Maravilla Ilustre prays that the contempt proceedings against her be dismissed, she contends, in essence, that: (1) "there was no intention to affront the honor and dignity" of the Court; (2) the letters addressed to the individual Justices were private in character and were never meant for anybody, much less the Supreme Court en banc, "there (being) a constitutional mandate affording protection to privacy of communications;" (3) if her statements in those letters were really contemptuous, the Court "should have immediately taken disciplinary proceedings" against her, and not having done so, the Court has "forfeited" that right and is now "estopped" from doing so; this citation for contempt is a "vindictive reprisal" for her having filed the complaint before the Tanodbayan, "an action that lacks sincerity, taken not in the spirit of judicial statemanship;" (4) she instituted the complaint before the Tanodbayan "in my honest behalf that I lost my case before the Supreme Court not because of lack of merit or of its own merits, assisted by attorneys who offered their services in the prosecution of my case;" (5) the newspaper publicity of this case "was no fault of mine; neither is it the fault of my former counsel Dean Wenceslao Laureta, " who prevailed upon her to call off the press conference with TV and radio coverage; that she is not a "disgruntled litigant" who thrice lost before the Court, rather, she has challenged the validity of the resolutions of the Court "containing distortion of facts, conjectures and mistaken inferences" particularly, in that (a) there is no res judicata, (b) the Court of
Appeals in its decision declared that the judgment of the trial Court had long attained finality, so that it can no longer be set aside, (c) her 11 opponents," clients of Atty. Ordonez, are not entitled to own her aunt's "vast properties" whether under the law of testate or intestate succession or mixed succession," (d) that the statement in this Court's Resolution that the Court of Appeals had denied intervention is an "unadulterated distortion of the facts;" (b) the statement in the en banc Resolution that some Justices of the Court of Appeals were similarly maliciously charged with knowingly rendering their "unjust resolution" of 20 January 1984 is a bit "premature, a pre-judgment over a case over which this Court does not have jurisdiction;" (7) Atty. Laureta is not her counsel in the case before the Tanodbayan; (8) before the latter body, she has "established not only probable cause but has also proved the collective culpability (of the Justices concerned) as charged;" (9) and that her 53 page Motion for Reconsideration before the Tanodbayan is made an integral part of her Answer. (2) In his own Answer, Atty. Laureta maintains substantially that: (1) he is not respondent Ilustre's counsel before the Tanodbayan and that she has consulted and/or engaged the services of other attorneys in the course of the prosecution of her case, fike Atty. Edgardo M. Salandanan and Atty. Vedastro B. Gesmundo; that he just learned from other sources that respondent llustre was planning to bring her case to the Tanodbayan with the assistance of other lawyers who offered her their legal services; (2) it was he who dissuaded her from calling her intended press conference and from circulating copies of her complaint "not only in the performance of duty as an officer of the court, but also as a former president of Manila III Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and as a professional lecturer in Legal and Judicial Ethics in some Manila law schools in his desire to protect and uphold the honor and dignity of the Supreme Court as the highest tribunal of the land." He should, therefore, be given "a little bit of credit for what he did" instead of taking this disciplinary proceeding against him; that Ms. Ilustre is not a "disgruntled litigant" who "lost her case thrice in this Court;" (3) he did not prepare respondent Ilustre's letters to the individual Justices, I appearances to the contrary notwithstanding," that these letters were "never, at any time, considered as constituting contempt of court" in the resolutions of this Court, otherwise, "it would have taken immediate disciplinary action as it is doing now;" the Court has lost its right to consider the statements in the letters as constituting contempt and it is now "estopped" from proceeding with this disciplinary action; (4) by doing so, this Court has "unmistakably revealed the intent and character that underlie its present action as a vindictive judicial vengeance, inconsistent with the spirit of judicial statesmanship by hiding behind the well-recognized fact that the Supreme Court is supreme in the domain of the administration of justice;" (5) "there was no disregard intended to the Resolution of the Honorable Court, as the tribunal of last resort, relative to its upholding the judgment of the Court of Appeals;" he is just doing "his duty as an officer of the court to put the records in this regard in their proper light;" particularly (a) that the judgment of the trial court had attained its finality long ago, (b) the doctrine of res judicata is inapplicable, otherwise, this Court would not have remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for review, (c) the observation in the First Division's extended Resolution of 14 July 1986 that Justice Yap was unaware that Atty. Ordonez was private respondents' counsel "defies every vestige of human understanding," that Justice Yap had forthwith inhibited himself from participating in the case is not borne out by the record of this case. Justice Yap had "never voluntarily entered on the record his inhibition" when he should have done so when respondent Ilustre's petition was taken up; Justice Yap's partner, Atty. Ordonez, continued to be recognized by this Court as counsel for private respondents even as he was the Solicitor General; (b) finally, "appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, he has not colted acts unworthy of his profession. The truth of the matter is, he should at least be credited in whatever small way for his acts and efforts taken by him to protect and uphold the honor and dignity of the Honorable Court. We find the explanations of both Ms. Ilustre and Atty. Laureta unsatisfactory. Their claims that they had done nothing that could constitute an affront to the honor and dignity of this Court dissipate in
the face of attendant facts and circumstances and "defy every vestige of human understanding," to use their own language. Indeed, they should not "think that they will win a hearing by the sheer multiplication of words." (Mathew 6:7). Respondents' reliance on the "privacy of communication" is misplaced. Letters addressed to individual Justices, in connection with the performance of their judicial functions become part of the judicial record and are a matter of concern for the entire Court. The contumacious character of those letters constrained the First Division to refer the same to the Court en banc, en consults and so that the Court en banc could pass upon the judicial acts of the Division. It was only in the exercise of forbearance by the Court that it refrained from issuing immediately a show cause order in the expectancy that after having read the Resolution of the Court en banc of October 28, 1986, respondents would realize the unjustness and unfairness of their accusations. The Court is far from "estopped" in initiating these proceedings. The Chief Justice had promptly announced his Statement, dated December 23, 1986, that "the Supreme Court will take appropriate steps on the matter upon its resumption of sessions on the first working day of the year. " There is no vindicative reprisal involved. The Court's authority and duty under the premises is unmistakable. It must act to preserve its honor and dignity from the scurrilous attacks of an irate lawyer, mouthed by his client, and to safeguard the morals and ethics of the legal profession. We are not convinced that Atty. Laureta had nothing to do with respondent Ilustre's letters to the individual Justices, nor with the com plaint filed before the Tanodbayan. In the Motion for Reconsideration, dated June 11, 1986, filed by Atty. Laureta in the main petition, he stressed: 10. The composition of the First Division was reduced to five members. Strangely enough, about one month later, the Honorable Court promulgated its extended resolution with such promptitude in the entire history of the Supreme Court, unequaled in a manner of speaking, ... In the Manifestation and Motion, dated June 25, 1986, filed by Atty. Laureta (p. 311, Rollo), the same phrases were incanted: the promptitude with which the Resolution of 14 May 1986 was promulgated (par. 9, Motion for Reconsideration, p. 5) unequaled in the entire history of the Supreme Court in so far as petitions given due course is concerned ... (Emphasis given) Those same terms are reproduced verbatim in the letters ostensibly authored by respondent Ilustre addressed to the individual Justices whom respondents have charged. Thus: We consider the three minute resolutions ... railroaded with such hurry/promptitude unequalled in the entire history of the Supreme Court under circumstances that have gone beyond the limits of legal and judicial ethics" ltr., to Justice Narvasa, p. 2; Itr., to Justice Herrera, p. 2; Itr., to Justice Cruz, p. 2). xxx xxx xxx with such unusual hurry/promptitude unequalled in the entire history of the Supreme Court (Ltr., to Justice Narvasa, p. 5; Itr., to Justice Herrera, p. 5; Itr., to Justice Cruz, p. 5).
The same terminologies are reiterated in the Complaint and in the Motion for Reconsideration filed before the Tanodbayan (p. 2). Further, in his Manifestation & Motion, dated June 25, 1986, Atty. Laureta stated: counsel for petitioner personally inquired from Division Clerk of Court Corazon Served the following: (1) When was the above-entitled case deliberated by the First Division? (2) Are there recorded minutes of such deliberation? (3) Who among the members of the Division voted for dismissal of the petition to be promulgated by resolution and who did not, if any? (4) Who prepared the Resolution? (p.312, Rollo). Atty. Laureta's obsession to receive the answer to his queries surfaces again in the second letters dated November 3, 1986 to the individual Justices under the supposed signatures of respondent Ilustre, thus: Evidently you misunderstood our point of in our first letter. It is a very simple inquiry, to wit Did you or did you not approve the dismissal of our petition under 1) The l4 May l986 minute resoluTion? Yes or No 2) The 9 July l986 minute resoluTion? Yes or No 3) The 3 Sept. 1986 minute resolution? Yes or No. (Emphasis supplied) ltr., to Justice Narvasa, p. 1; to Justice Herrera, p. 1; to Justice Cruz, p. 1) Additionally, the disparaging remarks like: exertion of "undue" and "powerful influence" by Atty. Ordonez and Justice Yap; "distortion of facts, conjectures and mistaken references"; "untenable minute resolution although extend. "unjust minute resolution" repeated by Atty. Laureta in his several pleadings, echoed and re-echoed in the individual letters to the Justices, as well as in the Complaint and the Motion for Reconsideration before the Tanodbayan, reveal the not-too-hidden hand of Atty. Laureta. The foregoing is bolstered by the reports received by the members of the Court that copies of the complaint filed with the Tanodbayan were distributed to the editors of the metropolitan newspapers in envelopes bearing the name of respondent Laureta, who was heard over the radio speaking on the same complaint, and that he was following up the complaint and the motion for reconsideration of the order of dismissal of the Tanodbayan. Furthermore, respondent Laureta as his co-respondent Ilustre's lawyer had control of the proceedings. As stressed by this Court in an early case, as such lawyer, "Whatever steps his client takes should be within his knowledge and responsibility. Indeed, Canon 16 of the Canons of Legal E times should be reminded him that '(a) lawyer should use his best efforts to restrain and to prevent his clients from doing those things which the lawyer himself ought not to do, particularly with reference to their conduct towards courts, judicial officers, jurors, witnesses and suitors. If a client pursuits in such wrongdoing the lawyer should terminate their relation.' " (In Re: Contempt
Proceedings in Surigao Mineral Reservation Board vs. Cloribel, 31 SCRA 1, 23) Respondent Laureta manifestly failed to discharge such responsibility. For all intents and purposes, he appears to have encouraged and abetted his client in denigrating the members of the First Division of this Court, by baselessly charging them with rendering an "unjust" resolution with "deliberate bad faith," because of his stubborn insistence on his untenable arguments which had been rejected as without merit by the Court's First Division, whose Resolution was upheld by the Court en banc. Worse, the dissemination in the print and broadcast media in bold captions falsely depicting the Justices as "FAC(ING) GRAFT CHARGES" instead of the baseless rantings of a disgruntled litigant appear to have been timed to place them in a bad light at the height of the Christmas season. We come now to the specific accusations of respondents. They charge Associate Justices Vicente Abad Santos (retired) then Chairman of the First Division of the Supreme Court as of May 14,1986, Andres Narvasa, Ameurfina M. Herrera, and Pedro Yap for knowingly and deliberately rendering their "unjust, extended Resolution of May 14, 1986" dismissing their petition in this case with manifest and evident bad faith to make the clients of Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez (now the Solicitor General) the "illegal owners" of the estates of Digna Maravilla, thereby causing the heirs of Ponciano Maravilla (Digna's eldest brother) undue injury by depriving them of their rights over the estates of Digna Maravilla (Charge No. Three before the Tanodbayan). They further charge Justice Yap (and Atty. Sedfrey Ordonez) of having 11 persuade(ed), inducted(ed) and influence(ed) the members of the newly organized First Division into promulgating their "unjust, extended minute Resolution of 14 May 1986" (Charge No. One before the Tanodbayan), which Resolution, (the "Division Resolution, " for short) is herewith attached as Annex "A ". Preliminarily, respondents deny that respondent Ilustre lost three times in this Court. It cannot be denied, however, that, as stated in the Resolution of October 28, 1986 of the Court en banc, this is the third time (in fact, the fourth, if we include Fernandez, et al. vs. Maravilla, L-18799, 10 SCRA 589 ) that a controversy involving the estate of the late Digna Maravilla is elevated to this Court. The first was in G.R. No. L-23225 (37 SCRA 672 , where this Court ruled: IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the decree of the court below denying probate of the 1944 will of Digna Maravilla (Exhibit "A") is reversed and the said testament is hereby ordered probated. Let the records be returned to the Court of origin for further proceedings conformable to law. ... As stated in the en banc Resolution of October 28, 1986 (hereto attached as Annex " B ", and hereinafter referred to as the "Banc Decision") while respondent Ilustre was not a party in that case, upon remand of the case to the probate Court, she and other children of the deceased brothers and sisters of the testatrix filed two Motions for Intervention. Respondent Ilustre's participation in the state involved, therefore, harks back to that first case. The Court of Appeals resolved the issue of intervention in CA-G.R. No. 05394, entitled "Heirs of Pastor Maravilla, et al. vs. Hon. Ernesto S. Tengco, et al." in a Decision penned by Justice Venicio E scolin (hereinafter referred to as the "Escolin Decision") wherein it was categorically ruled that there was no point to allowing intervention on the part of respondent Ilustre, et al., "for failure to show any right or interest in the estate in question. " Thus: (2) As heretofore stated, private respondents, in their counter-petition for mandamus, seek this Court's resolution on the petitioners' motion for intervention in Sp. Proc. No. 4977. In their respective pleadings and memoranda, the parties have lengthily discussed the issue of whether or not petitioners may be allowed to intervene; and the same may as well be determined in the present case, if only 'to avoid or, at least,
minimize further protracted controversy' between the parties (PCIB vs. Hon. Escolin, 56 SCRA 266). A resolution of this issue should render moot and academic the question anent the disqualification of respondent Judge. We agree with private respondents that petitioners' motions for intervention are devoid of merit, for failure on their part to show any right or interest in the estate in question. There is no dispute that the last will and testament of the late Digna Maravilla had already been admitted to probate in a final judgment which the Supreme Court promulgated on March 2, 1971 (G.R. No. L-23225). In the said will Digna instituted her husband Herminio Maravilla as — xxx xxx xxx The above testamentary provision for the universal heirship of Herminio Maravilla over the residue of the decedent's present and future property legally and completely excluded the petitioners, as collateral relatives of the testatrix, from inheriting any part of the latter's estate through intestate succession or mixed succession. Having no forced or compulsory heirs, except her husband, the testatrix had the absolute freedom to institute the latter as her sole, universal heir, and such freedom is recognized by Article 842 of the Civil Code which provides: ART. 842. One who has no compulsory heirs may dispose by will of all his estate or any part of it in favor of any person having capacity to succeed. One who has compulsory heirs may dispose of his estate provided he does not contravene the provisions of this Code with regard to the legitimate of said heirs. There is therefore no point in allowing the petitioners, who clearly appear to have no interest in the estate, to intervene in the proceedings involving the settlement thereof. xxx xxx xxx The aforesaid Decision was affirmed by this Court in G.R. No. L-46155 on November 9, 1977 and has become final. That was the second case involving the estate filed before this Court. Respondents' contention, therefore, that the statement in the Banc Resolution "that the Court of Appeals had denied intervention" is an "unadulterated distortion of the facts" is obviously erroneous and intended to mislead. The "Escolin Decision" (in CA-G.R. No. 05394-R), which had become final, also finally foreclosed any claim that respondent Ilustre, and those who sought to intervene with her, may have had on the estate of Digna Maravilla. In unmistakable terms, what the Court of Appeals held in that Decision, affirmed by this Court, bears repeating: The above testamentary provision for the universal heirship of Herminio Maravilla over the residue of the decedent's present and future property legally and completely excluded the petitioners, as collateral relatives of the testatrix, from inheriting any part of the latter's estate through intestate succession or mixed succession. ...
To circumvent that judgment, however, two years later, or on February 29, 1979, respondent Ilustre, with respondent Laureta as counsel, filed a complaint for partition of Digna Maravilla's estate and for damages against the heirs of Digna Maravilla's husband, who had then passed away (docketed as Civil Case No. X-404), before the Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental, San Carlos City, Branch X, presided over by Judge Antonia Corpuz Macandog. That Court, after declaring defendants therein (private respondents in the petition under review) in default, ordered "all properties of Digna Maravilla mentioned in this case to go back to their trunk of origin, the plaintiffs herein who are represented by Eva Maravilla Ilustre and Eva Maravilla Ilustre herself" (hereinafter referred to as the "Macandog Decision"). In addition, the judgment awarded damages to the respondent Ilustre, et al., (the plaintiffs therein), and the sum of P100,000.00 to their counsel, respondent Laureta. A special civil action for certiorari was filed by the defeated parties (private respondents in the petition under review) before this Court, docketed as G.R. No. L-58014, praying that the lower Court's declaration of default in Civil Case No. X-404 and all other actions or decisions taken thereafter be declared null and void and that the dismissal of the complaint be ordered. On January 21, 1982, this Court resolved to refer the case to the Court of Appeals in aid of its appellate jurisdiction, questions of fact being involved. In a Decision dated January 14, 1983, the Court of Appeals (Fourth Division)', 1 in AC-G.R. SP No. 13680 (hereafter called the Busran Decision"), dismissed the petition and denied certiorari stating in one breath that "the judgment subject of assail had long become final" (at p. 13), and in another "for all we know, the judgment below had already attained finality long ago." The reason relied upon was that petitioners therein had the remedy of appeal but instead availed of Certiorari, which is not a substitute therefor. On motion for reconsideration, however, filed by petitioners (private respondents in the petition under review), in that appealed case AC-GR SP No. 13680), the same Court of Appeals (Fourth Special Cases Division) 2 in its Resolution of January 20, 1984 (the "Javellana Resolution"), reconsidered and set aside the BusRan Decision" and entered another one: 1. Annulling the order of default of the Hon. respondent Court dated 29 April 1980 and its decision dated 11 August 1981; and 2. Dismissing private respondents' complaint in Civil Case No. X-404 and ordering the Hon. respondent Court not to take further action therein. Respondent Ilustre challenged that reversal in the present Petition for Review filed on October 22, 1984. This is the third case brought before this Court involving the same estate. Review was denied in an extended Resolution by the First Division of this Court in the challenged Resolution of May 14, 1986, for the following reasons: The appealed Decision stands on firm legal grounds. (1) The Order of Default of the Trial Court was issued in grave abuse of discretion. The Answer was only one day late besides the fact that when so filed, the Order of default had not yet been issued by the Trial Court. (2) While appeal is, indeed, the remedy from a judgment by default, certiorari may be resorted to when a party has been illegally declared in 4 default Omico Mining & Industrial Corporation vs. Vallejos 63 SCRA 300-301 [19751), or where it is
necessary to restore order to proceedings in the Court below (Lim Tanhu vs. Ramolete, 66 SCRA 462-463 [19751). (3) More importantly, the judgment of the Trial Court, in Civil Case No. X-404 declaring that the Testatrix's collateral relatives have a rightful claim to her estate to the exclusion of the husband who was designated her sole and universal heir, nullifies the Will already probated by final judgment and overturns the pronouncements of both the Appellate Court and this Court on the case. There being former judgments on the issues which have become final rendered by Courts having jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties, the said judgments having been rendered on the merits, and there being between the prior and subsequent action Identity of parties, subject matter and substantial Identity of cause of action, it is clear that the complaint below in Civil Case X-404 is barred by the principle of res adjudicata, and whatever transpired therein are nun and void ab initio and without any legal effect. To rule otherwise would upset the fundamental issue on which res judicata rests that parties ought not to be permitted to litigate the same issue more than once, that when a right or fact has been judicially determined, the judgment of the Court, so long as it remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them in law or estate (Sarabia vs. Sec. of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2 SCRA 54 ). ACCORDINGLY, the review sought for is denied and respondent Court's judgment in CA-G.R. SP No. 13080 is hereby affirmed. SO ORDERED. Respondents decry the fact that the First Division set aside the due course Order and denied review in an extended Minute Resolution instead of in a signed Decision. They allege that said Resolution was "railroaded with such hurry/promptitude unequalled in the entire history of the Supreme Court under circumstances that have gone beyond the limits of legal and judicial ethics," unduly "persuaded, induced and influenced" by Solicitor General Ordonez and Justice Pedro Yap. Nothing is farthest from the truth. As explained in the "Banc Resolution" The petition for review was assigned to the then First Division of seven Justices, which initially gave it due course because the resolution of the Intermediate Appellate Court had reversed a decision originally rendered by the then Court of Appeals, and in order to have more time for further study. Pleadings were submitted, the last being on May 3, 1985, which can be considered as the date when this case was submitted for resolution. The First Division of seven (7) was not able to act on the case up to the February, 1986 political upheaval The last incident in the case was a motion for the early release of decision filed by petitioner on November 19, 1985. When this Court was reorganized in April of 1986, the membership of the First Division was reduced to five (5) Justices. Taking account of the motion of petitioner
for early release of decision, the new First Division, then chairmanned by Justice Abad Santos, realizing that the doctrine of res judicata was clearly applicable not only as to the probate of the will but also as to the heirship of petitioner, among others, and their right to intervene and participate in the proceedings — resolved, on May 14, 1986 to dismiss the petition through an extended resolution which at the same time recalled the due course order. The new Division of 5 acted unanimously. The recall of a due course Order after a review of the records of the case is a common occurrence in the Court. Respondents speak as if it were only their petition which has been subjected to such recall. They have lost all objectivity in this regard. They are hardly qualified, and cannot presume to speak of the I entire history" of the Supreme Court. As to the participation of Justice Yap in the ease, the "Banc Resolution" stated: Justice Yap clarified that he was an official mission to Switzerland for the Presidential Conunission on Good Government after his appointment to the Supreme Court an April 11, 1986 and did not assume his position in the Supreme Court his return on May 2, 1986. When the resolution of dismissal on May 14, 1986 was issued, Justice Yap was unaware that Atty. Sedfrey Ordonez was private respondent's counsel. On June 11, 1986, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which was taken up by the First Division on July 9, 1986 with Justice Abad Santos still the Chairman. This time, Justice Yap, realizing that his former partner, Atty. Ordonez, had submitted the pleadings for petitioner, inhibited himself and Justice Edgardo L. Paras was designated under Special Order No. 21, dated July 9, 1986, to sit in the Division in his place. The motion for reconsideration was denied with finality on July 9, 1986. Justice Yap was designated Chairman of the First Division on July 14, 1986. On August 7, 1986, petitioner asked leave to file a second motion for reconsideration, which was denied on September 3, 1986, entry of judgment of the May 14, 1986 resolution having been made on July 28, 1986. Justice Yap again took no part in the deliberation of the case. But respondents continue to claim derisively that Justice Yap could not have been "unaware" of the appearance of Atty. Sedfrey Ordonez. They reacted by saying "ten it to the marines" (Letters of November 3, 1986 to Justices Narvasa, Herrera, and Cruz, at p. 8, respectively). But that was the true and untarnished fact. With so many cases being handled by the Court, the appearances of lawyers during deliberative sessions very often escape attention, concentration being centered on the issues to be resolved. Respondents also fault the Court for "still recogniz(ing) Atty. Ordonez as counsel" for their opponents in the case. In the same " Banc Resolution," it was clarified: A copy of the resolution, dated May 14, 1986, was sent by the Releasing Clerks to Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordonez as his name still appears on the cover page of the Rollo. It was not necessarily because the Supreme Court still recognizes him as counsel for respondents (at p. 4) The fact of the matter is that even Atty. Laureta continued to recognize Atty. Ordonez as counsel as shown by his pleadings filed before the Court, which inevitably contained the notation "copy furnished Atty. Sedfrey Ordonez." No withdrawal of appearance having been presented by Atty.
Ordonez in the main petition, his name continues to be in the Rollo of the case and the personnel concerned continue to furnish him with copies of Resolutions of this Court. In respect of the charge that the Resolutions of the First Division of May 14, 1986, July 9, 1986 denying the Motion for Reconsideration with finality, and September 3, 1986 denying leave to file a second motion for reconsideration since entry of judgment of the May 14, 1986 Resolution had been made on July 28, 1986, were "unjust" and were "railroaded," the Banc Resolution, adopting the Division Resolution, explained: The aforesaid resolutions were by no means 'railroaded.' The pleadings filed by the parties, as in any other case, were included in the Agenda of the First Division as soon as feasible. The Division acts promptly on all Agenda items, and the minutes of its deliberations are released as soon as possible after Agenda day. xxx xxx xxx The dispositions in this case were arrived at after careful study. Because a case is resolved against the interests of a party, does not mean that it is an 'unjust decision;' or that it has been "railroaded." This Division declares without hesitation that it has consistently rendered justice without fear or favor. (at p. 4) Respondents insist that the doctrine of "res judicata" is inapplicable. In their own words "the ordered probate of the 1944 Will of Digna Maravilla by judgment of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. L-23225 is conclusive only as to the genuineness and due execution of said will but not upon the validity of testamentary provision, particularly with the invalid designation of Herminio Maravilla as sole and universal heir of Digna Maravilla." On this point, the "Javellana Resolution," in reversing the Busran Decision" AC-GR SP No. 13680), aptly held: The then Court of Appeals held that the questioned decision does not run counter to the decision of the Hon. Supreme Court in G.R. No. L-23225 admitting the will of Digna Maravilla to probate because the latter refers to the extrinsic validity of the will while the former concerns its intrinsic validity. We cannot agree with this observation because it is quite clear from the questioned decision that the will was in effect declared not to have been freely and voluntarily executed by the deceased Digna Maravilla but was the result of the evil and fraudulent machinations of her husband, Herminio Maravilla, and sets aside said will The declaration that private respondents, as collateral relatives of the deceased Digna Maravilla, are entitled to her estate, is an indication that the Hon. respondent Court has nullified the will. Private respondents are not compulsory heirs and, in the absence of their being named legatees or devisees in the will, they could only lay claim to the estate of Digna Maravilla if the latter died without a will, pursuant to Art. 1003 of the New Civil Code, to wit: Art. 1003. If there are no descendants ascendants, illegitimate children or a surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased in accordance with the following articles.'
However, assuming arguendo, that the matter complain d of by private respondents referred only to the intrinsic validity of the will, still, it was improper for them to have instituted a separate action in a court other than that in which the probate proceeding was pending. xxx xxx xxx It seems clear from these provisions of the law that while the estate is being settled in the Court of First Instance in a special proceeding, no ordinary action can be maintained in that court or in any other court by a person claiming to be the heir, against the executor or against other persons claiming to be heirs, for the purpose of having the rights of the plaintiffs in the estate determined The very purpose of the trial or hearing provided for in section 753 is to settle and determine those questions, and until they are settled and determined in that proceeding and under that section no action such as the present one can be maintained. Considering that the "Escolin Decision, " as affirmed by this Court on November 9, 1977 in G.R. No. L-46155, had become final, the "Javellana Resolution" aptly observed: 3. The questioned decision of the Hon. respondent Court dated 12 August 1981 (referring to the "Macandog Decision") unsettles and reviews issues which had long been laid to rest by the Hon. Supreme Court and the then Court of Appeals. But respondents ask: if res judicata were applicable, why did this Court, in G.R. No. L-50814, refer the case to the Court of Appeals? The answer is simple. The issue of whether the remedy of petitioners' in that case was appeal and not certiorari had to be resolved. If certiorari were proper, then the "Macandog Decision" had not become final. If appeal, its finality would be the consequence. The "Javellana Resolution," which -reversed the Busran Decision," held that certiorari was proper when a party has been illegally declared in default. It follows that the "Macandog Decision" had not attained finality. Still undaunted, respondents claim that the Court of Appeals "deliberately evaded divaricated" two important issues: (1) that the judgment of the Trial Court (in CC No. X-404) had attained finality as in fact the Court of Appeals had held that the "judgment of assail had long become final," and (2) that Digna Maravilla's husband could not be instituted as the sole and universal heir of the wife on indestructible ground of moral impossibility and could not inherit wife's vast estate on the ground of utter unworthiness. The penchant of respondents for making misleading statements is again obvious. It was not in the "Javellana Resolution" that the Court of Appeals held that "the judgment of assail (referring to the 'Macandog Decision') had long become final." That was in the BurRan Decision," which was precisely reversed by the " Javellana Resolution." As to the alleged unworthiness of the husband to inherit from his wife, the "Javellana Resolution" pointedly observed: The last will and testament of Digna Maravilla which instituted her husband, Herminio Maravilla, as her sole and universal heir, was admitted to probate, pursuant to a final judgment of the Hon. Supreme Court in G.R. No. L-23225, 27 February 1971. This probate foreclosed all questions as to the age and mental capacity of the testator, the
signing of the document by the testator, or by someone in his behalf, and the acknowledgment of the instrument by him in the presence of the required member of witnesses who affix their signatures to the will to attest the act. In re Estate of Johnson, 39 Phil. 156, 168). Yet, more than ten years later, the Hon. respondent Court would nullify the effects of the probate by declaring that Digna Maravilla did not voluntarily and sanely execute the probated last will and testament, unifying the institution of Herminio Maravilla as her sole and universal heir, and ordering the return of the properties of Digna Maravilla to the trunk of origin. The soundness of the legal conclusions arrived at in the "Escolin Decision" and "Javellana Resolution" commends itself. Only a disgruntled litigant and a defeated lawyer would claim that those judgments were accepted "hook, line and sinker" by this Court. The doctrine of res judicata is inescapably applicable. Thus it was that the First Division, in its challenged Resolution of May 14, 1986, found it unnecessary, after further study, to have a signed Decision and, instead, recalled the due course Order, which it had previously issued to give it "more time for further study" (p. 2, Banc Resolution, October 28, 1986). Contrary to respondents' claim, the Court is not "duty bound" to render signed Decisions all the time. It has ample discretion to formulate Decisions and/or minute Resolutions, provided a legal basis is given, depending on its evaluation of a case. But obdurately enough, respondents have seen fit to take their case to the Tanodbayan charging the members of the First Division of this Court collectively with having knowingly and deliberately rendered an "unjust extended minute Resolution" with deliberate bad faith in violation of Article 204 of the Revised Penal Code 3 and for deliberately causing "undue injury" to respondent Ilustre and her co-heirs because of the 11 unjust Resolution" promulgated, in violation of the AntiGraft and Corrupt Practices Act. 4 Respondents' action is brazenly unjustifiable. Nor can they plead ignorance. As aptly declared in the Chief Justice's Statement of December 24, 1986, which the Court hereby adopts in toto, "(I)t is elementary that the Supreme Court is supreme the third great department of government entrusted exclusively with the judicial power to adjudicate with finality all justiciable disputes, public and private. No other department or agency may pass upon its judgments or declare them "unjust." " It is elementary that "(A)s has ever been stressed since the early case ofArnedo vs. Llorente (18 Phil. 257, 263 ) "controlling and irresistible reasons of public policy and of sound practice in the courts demand that at the risk of occasional error, judgments of courts determining controversies submitted to them should become final at some definite time fixed by law, or by a rule of practice recognized by law, so as to be thereafter beyond the control even of the court which rendered them for the purpose of correcting errors of fact or of law, into which, in the opinion of the court it may have fallen. The very purpose for which the courts are organized is to put an end to controversy, to decide the questions submitted to the litigants, and to determine the respective rights of the parties." (Luzon Brokerage Co., Inc. vs. Maritime Bldg., Co., Inc., 86 SCRA 305, 316-317) Respondents should know that the provisions of Article 204 of the Revised Penal Code as to "rendering knowingly unjust judgment" refer to an individual judge who does so "in any case submitted to him for decision" and even then, it is not the prosecutor who would pass judgment on the "unjustness" of the decision rendered by him but the proper appellate court with jurisdiction to review the same, either the Court of Appeals and/or the Supreme Court. Respondents should likewise know that said penal article has no application to the members of a collegiate court such as this Court or its Divisions who reach their conclusions in consultation and accordingly render their collective judgment after due deliberation. It also follows, consequently, that a charge of violation of the AntiGraft and Corrupt Practices Act on the ground that such a collective decision is "unjust" cannot prosper.
The Chief Justice's Statement of the supremacy of the Supreme Court's judicial power is by no means a "display of arrogance" as per respondents' puerile contention, but a restatement of the fundamental principle of separation of powers and checks and balances under a republican form of government such as ours, viz. that the three co-equal branches of government, the executive, legislative and judicial, are each supreme and independent within the limits of its own sphere Neither one can interfere with the performance of the duties of the other. (Forbes vs. Chuoco 16 Phil. 534 ). As restated by the late Justice Jose P. Laurel in the 1936 landmark case of Angara vs. Electoral Commission (63 Phil. 134), our Constitution "as a definition of the powers of government"placed upon the judiciary the great burden of "determining the nature, scope and extent of such powers" and 'when the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not assert any superiority over the other departments . . . but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation entrusted to it by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which the instrument secures and guarantees to them.' " As an officer of the Court, respondent Laureta, should realize that the cardinal principle he would grossly impair and violate is that of the independence of the judiciary, which the members of the bar are called upon to defend and preserve. The independence of the judiciary is the indispensable means for enforcing the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. To subject to the threat and ordeal of investigation and prosecution, a judge, more so a member of the Supreme Court for official acts done by him in good faith and in the regular exercise of official duty and judicial functions is to subvert and undermine that very independence of the judiciary, and subordinate the judiciary to the executive. "For it is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself. Liability to answer to everyone who might feel himself aggrieved by the action of the judge would be inconsistent with the possession of this freedom, and would destroy that independence without which no judiciary can be either respectable or useful." (Bradley vs. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335). Indeed, resolutions of the Supreme Court as a collegiate court, whether en banc or division, speak for themselves and are entitled to full faith and credence and are beyond investigation or inquiry under the same principle of conclusiveness of enrolled bills of the legislature. (U.S. vs. Pons 34 Phil 729; Gardiner, et al. vs. Parades, et al., 61 Phil. 118; Mabanag vs. Lopez Vito, 78 Phil. 1) The Supreme Court's pronouncement of the doctrine that "(I)t is well settled that the enrolled bill . . . is conclusive upon the courts as regards the tenor of the measure passed by Congress and approved by the President. If there has been any mistake in the printing of the bill before it was certified by the officers of Congress and approved by the Executive [as claimed by petitioner-importer who unsuccessfully sought refund of margin fees] — on which we cannot speculate, without jeopardizing the principle of separation of powers and undermining one of the cornerstones of our democratic system — the remedy is by amendment or curative legislation, not by judicial decree" is fully and reciprocally applicable to Supreme Court orders, resolutions and decisions, mutatis mutandis (Casco Phil. Chemical Co., Inc. vs. Gimenez, 7 SCRA 347, 350. (Citing Primicias vs. Paredes, 61 Phil. 118, 120; Mabanag vs. Lopez Vito, 78 Phil. 1; Macias vs. Comelec, 3 SCRA 1) The Court has consistently stressed that "the doctrine of separation of powers calls for the executive, legislative and judicial departments being left alone to discharge their duties as they see fit (Tan vs. Macapagal, 43 SCRA 677). It has thus maintained in the same way that the judiciary has a right to expect that neither the President nor Congress would cast doubt on the mainspring of its orders or decisions, it should refrain from speculating as to alleged hidden forces at work that could have impelled either coordinate branch into acting the way it did. The concept of separation of powers presupposes mutual respect by and between the three departments of the government. (Tecson vs. Salas, 34 SCRA 275, 286-287)
To allow litigants to go beyond the Court's resolution and claim that the members acted "with deliberate bad faith" and rendered and "unjust resolution" in disregard or violation of the duty of their high office to act upon their own independent consideration and judgment of the matter at hand would be to destroy the authenticity, integrity and conclusiveness of such collegiate acts and resolutions and to disregard utterly the presumption of regular performance of official duty. To allow such collateral attack would destroy the separation of powers and undermine the role of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of all justiciable disputes. Dissatisfied litigants and/or their counsels cannot without violating the separation of powers mandated by the Constitution relitigate in another forum the final judgment of this Court on legal issues submitted by them and their adversaries for final determination to and by the Supreme Court and which fall within the judicial power to determine and adjudicate exclusively vested by the Constitution in the Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as may be established by law. In resume, we find that respondent Ilustre has transcended the permissible bounds of fair comment and criticism to the detriment of the orderly administration of justice in her letters addressed to the individual Justices quoted in the show-cause Resolution of this Court en banc, particularly the underlined portions thereof; in the language of the charges she filed before the Tanodbayan quoted and underscored in the same Resolution; in her statements, conduct, acts and charges against the Supreme Court and/or the official actions of the Justices concerned and her ascription of improper motives to them; and in her unjustified outburst that she can no longer expect justice from this Court. The fact that said letters are not technically considered pleadings, nor the fact that they were submitted after the main petition had been finally resolved does not detract from the gravity of the contempt committed. The constitutional right of freedom of speech or right to privacy cannot be used as a shield for contemptuous acts against the Court. We likewise find that Atty. Laureta has committed acts unbecoming an officer of the Court for his stance of dangling threats of bringing the matter to the "proper forum" to effect a change of the Court's adverse Resolution; for his lack of respect for and exposing to public ridicule, the two highest Courts of the land by challenging in bad faith their integrity and claiming that they knowingly rendered unjust judgments (Montecillo vs. Gica 60 SCRA 234 ); for authoring, or at the very least, assisting and/or abetting and/or not preventing the contemptuous statements, conduct, acts and malicious charges of his client, respondent Ilustre, notwithstanding his disclaimer that he had absolutely nothing to do with them, which we find disputed by the facts and circumstances of record as above stated; for totally disregarding the facts and circumstances and legal considerations set forth in this Court's Resolutions of the First Division and en banc, as the Tribunal of last resort; for making it appear that the Justices of this Court and other respondents before the Tanodbayan are charged with "graft and corruption" when the complaint before the Tanodbayan, in essence, is a tirade from a disgruntled litigant and a defeated counsel in a case that has been brought thrice before this Court, and who would readily accept anything but the soundness of the judgments of the Courts concerned, all with the manifest intent to bring the Justices of this Court and of the Court of Appeals into disrepute and to subvert public confidence in the Courts. Atty. Laureta should be reminded that his first duty is not to his client but to the administration of justice; to that end, his chent's success is wholly subordinate; and his conduct ought to and must always be scrupulously observant of law and ethics. For like the Court itself, "a lawyer is an instrument or agency to advance the ends of justice." (Surigao Mineral Conservation Board vs. Cloribel, 31 SCRA 1 ; Castaneda vs. Ago, 65 SCRA 505 [1975[). In assessing the penalty on respondent Laureta, the Court notes that "disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are suit generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they do not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but are rather investigations by the Court into the conduct of one of its officers.
Not being intended to inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaint nor a prosecutor therein. It may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his actions as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by their misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney." Viewed in the light of the demonstrated persistence of grave misconduct and undermining public confidence in the honor and integrity of the Court and its members (at a time when the Court is exerting every effort to regain public confidence in our courts after the trauma and debacle undergone by them in the past regime), the Court shall impose upon him an indefinite suspension, leaving it to him to prove at some future and opportune time, that he shag have once again regained the fitness to be allowed to resume the practice of law as an officer of the Courts. (In re: Almacen, 31 SCRA 562) ACCORDINGLY, (1) respondent Eva Maravilla Ilustre is hereby held in contempt, and is hereby fined in the amount of P1,000.00 only, mindful that the power of contempt should be exercised on the preservative and not on the vindictive principle of punishment; and (2) Atty. Wenceslao Laureta is found guilty of grave professional misconduct, rendering him unfit to continue to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney, and is hereby suspended from the practice of law until further Orders, the suspension to take effect immediately. Let copies of this Resolution be circulated to all Courts of the country for their information and guidance, and spread in the personal record of Atty. Wenceslao Laureta. SO ORDERED. Teehankee, C.J., Fernan, Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Alampay, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento and Cortes, JJ., concur. Yap, J., took no part. Footnotes 1 Composed of Justices Busran (ponente), Coquia and Zosa, as members. 2 Composed of Justices Cuevas, Mendoza and Javena ponente 3 ART. 204. Knowingly rendering unjust judgment. Any judge who shall knowingly render an unjust judgment in any case submitted to him for decision, shall be punished by prision mayor and perpetual absolute disqualification. 4 SEC. 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. — xxx xxx xxx (e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his
official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. ...