Zaldivar v. Gonzales
Zaldivar V Gonzales...
CASE: Enrique Zaldivar, petitioner, v. Hon. Sandiganbayan and Hon. Raul M. Gonzales, claiming to be and acting as Tanodbayan-Ombudsman under the 1987 Constitution DATE: October 7, 1988 DOCTRINE: The Supreme Court has the authority to discipline officers of the court and members of the Bar. This authority stems from the Court’s constitutional mandate to regulate the admission to and practice of law (Art. VIII, Sec. 5 (5) of the 1987 Constitution). Necessary for its own protection against interference are its power to discipline attorneys and the contempt power. The power to exclude persons from the practice of law is a necessary incident of the power to admit. Art. VIII, Sec. 5 (5): The Supreme Court shall have the following powers: Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law... FACTS: Antique Governor Enrique Zaldivar is one of the defendants in criminal cases (for violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) pending before the Sandiganbayan after the Office of Tandodbayan conducted a preliminary investigation and filed the criminal information in the said case. Respondent Gonzales was the Tanodbayan-Ombudsman at the time. On Sept. 10, 1987, Zaldivar filed a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus, alleging that under the 1987 Constitution, Gonzales, as the Tanodbayan, no longer had the power and authority to independently investigate and institute criminal cases for graft and corruption against public officials and employees. Thus, the infos filed against him were null and void. The Court issued a TRO for the Sandiganbayan to cease and desist from trying his case. Zaldivar filed a second Petition for Cert. and Prohib., naming only Gonzales as the respondent, invoking the same grounds. This is to assail the Sept. 24, 1987 Res. of the Tanodbayan which recommended the filing of additional criminal charges against him and five others. Nov. 24, 1987 - The Court required Gonzales to comment on the matter and issued a TRO. Nov. 20 – Four days prior, the Tanodbayan instituted another criminal case with the Sandiganbayan and the latter issued on Nov. 23 an Order of Arrest for Zaldivar and his co-accused. The Court moved in and issued a TRO to enjoin respondents from acting in the criminal case and enforcing the arrest warrant. Zaldivar filed a Motion to Cite in Contempt directed at Gonzales, citing two bases: a) His part in the criminal information against Zaldivar and b) his allegedly contemptuous statements made to the media. (published on Nov. 30 at the Phil. Daily Globe) His statement, in effect, cast the Supreme Court in a bad light. In a per curiam decision, Court nullifed the criminal information against Zaldivar and ordered Gonzales to cease and desist from conducting investigations and filing criminal cases with the Sandiganbayan. Gonzales filed a Motion for Recon. and made statements unrelated to any legal issue in the Court’ Decision or in his own Motion, attaching three handwritten notes which were allegedly sent by some SC members. This, he also sent to the media. Court issued a Resolution to require Gonzales to explain why he shouldn’t be cited for contempt of court for making statements that dealt with matters subjudice (under judicial consideration) and were offensive and disrespectful to the Court. In reply, Gonzales claimed that the said Res. overturned the presumption of innocence against him and made him doubt of the Court’s impartiality. He asked four SC members to inhibit themselves (Omnibus Motion for Extension and Inhibition). He followed it up by filing pleadings, one of which urged for the transfer of administrative proceedings against him to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Solicitor General.
ISSUES: 1. Whether or not the SC should inhibit itself from taking upon the administrative proceeding on the grounds that Gonzales cannot expect due process and impartial judgement from the Court COURT: NO RATIO: (Please refer to the doctrine) a) At play here are the inherent power to discipline attorneys and the contempt power. Between the two, the former is broader than the power to punish for contempt. Contempt may be committed both by lawyers and non-lawyers in and out of the court. However, if the contemnor is a lawyer, then it constitutes as a professional misconduct that warrants the disciplinary authority of the SC. b) Said power is corollary to the Court’s exclusive power of admission to the Bar. A lawyer is not just a professional, but a member of Court. Any act which can obstruct the administration of justice constitutes not only professional misconduct, but also contumacious conduct warranting the application of contempt power. c) In its exercise of the two powers, the Court is NOT acting as an offended party, prosecutor, and judge at the same time. Its disciplinary proceeding is sui generis and is neither civil nor criminal. It is an investigation by the Court into the conduct of its officers. Its purpose is to preserve the purity of legal profession and the proper and honest administration of justice. SC acts as a collegiate court so it is an entity separate and distinct from individual members. (In Re Almacen case). d) To ask the Court to inhibit will be tantamount to asking them to abdicate their Constitutionally-mandated responsibility. It is also not necessary for the Court to disclaim any bias against Gonzales that would prevent them from acting. Reference to the IBP or SolGen is not an exclusive procedure under Rule 139-B of the Revised Rules of Court. e) The proceeding is not addressed to the fact that Gonzales criticized the court. It is addressed rather to the nature and manner it was carried out. 2. Whether or not the statements made by Gonzeles are contumacious or as warranting exercise for the disciplinary authority COURT: YES, it has been established that the respondent made the following points: -
Supreme Court in its per curiam decision was an act of retaliation against him for his position that the ‘Supreme Court justices cannot claim immunity from suit or investigation by government prosecutors’ and that ‘he was stopped from investigating cases involving protégés or friends of the Justices.’ SC improperly pressured him to decide in favour of colleagues and friends of the Court, even the dismissal cases of two of its members. (Was alleged with the submission of handwritten notes) The Court dismissed judges without rhyme or reason and disbarred lawyers without due process
RATIO: The statements were baseless. Gonzales tried to paint the Court as an unjudicial institution that can render erroneous decisions as reprisal against critics and can deny judges and lawyers due process of law. a) The Court’s decision couldn’t have been an act of retaliation because as early as Sept. 10, 1987, Gonzales’ authority to act as Tanodbayan had already been questioned. This was 7 months before the Court rendered its assailed decision and 8 months before the TRO. (Before Gonzales issued the statements in the media). Said notes had no relation to the issues in the criminal cases. Gonzales’ third accusation also didn’t connect with his other statements.
b) He has not been denied due process. The respondents in administrative cases he cited were all given opportunity to explain their side and submit evidence in support thereof – which are required in due process. Doesn’t have to be a trialtype proceeding. c) The universe of the Court revolves around the daily demands of law and justice and duty, not around a respondent or any other person. d) Proof of actual injury sustained by the Court from his statement is not essential for a finding of contempt or for the application of the disciplinary authority of the Court. 3. Whether or not Gonzales was acting in the exercise of his constitutional right of free speech and that he was protected under the doctrines of qualified privileged communication and fair criticism in public interest, therefore he shouldn’t be held liable for contempt COURT: NO RATIO: a) Constitutional guarantee of free speech is not absolute and that this freedom must be adjusted and accommodated with the requirements of an equally important public interest – maintenance of the integrity and orderly functioning of the administration of justice b) He’s a Special Prosecutor, with duties to the Republic and Supreme Court, and with a heavier burden to uphold its dignity and to promote it than a private practicing lawyer. c) His criticisms of the Court must be bona fide. In the case at bar, his statements, particularly the one where he alleged that members of the Supreme Court approached him, are of no relation to the Zaldivar case. 4. Whether or not the punishment for contempt is the proper remedy (Respondent wanted a libel suit) COURT: YES RATIO: Although a libel suit is an available remedy of the individual members of the Court against the respondent, it’s not exclusive. Gonzales falsely attacked the Court as an institution so libel suits cannot be an adequate remedy. VERDICT: Court Resolved to SUSPEND Atty. Raul M. Gonzalez from the practice of law indefinitely and until further orders from this Court, the suspension to take effect immediately