Zaldivar v Gonzales
ZALDIVAR V GONZALES...
ZALDIVAR V GONZALES PER CURIAM; October 7, 1988 (joey capones)
NATURE Petition to review the decision of the Sandiganbayan
FACTS Enrique A. Zaldivar had a pending case for graft and corruption in the Sandiganbayan initiated by Tanodbayan Gonzalez. Zaldivar filed a petition in the SC alleging that Gonzalez, as Tanodbayan and under the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, was no longer vested with power and authority independently to investigate and to institute criminal cases for graft and corruption against public officials and employees, and hence the information filed in his criminal cases were all null and void. The SC issued a temporary restraining order. Petitioner later filed another petition because Gonzalez filed additional criminal charges against petitioner and five other individuals. Gonzalez instituted another criminal case in the Sandiganbayan. Four days later, the SC issued another TRO. Zaldivar then filed a petition to cite in contempt Special Prosecutor Gonzalez for filing new information before the Sandiganbayan and for making contemptuous statements to the media. In a news art in the Phil Daily Globe, Gonzalez made the ff. statements: (1) while the rich and influential persons get favorable actions from the SC, it’s difficult for an ordinary litigant to get his petition to be given due course, (2) while Pres. Aquino had been prodding him to prosecute graft cases even if they involve the high and mighty, the SC had been restraining him, (3) while he doesn’t wish to discuss the merits of the Zaldivar petition before the SC, He was disturbed that the order can aggravate the thinking of some people that affluent persons can prevent the progress of a trial. The SC ordered the nullification of the criminal cases and for Gonzalez to cease and desist from further acting on Zaldivar’s case In the motion for reconsideration, Gonzales claimed that 3 handwritten notes, sent by some members of the SC interceding for cases pending before his office, were in his possession. He said that he doubts whether the judges will remain impartial to him, there being at least 4 members who definitely won’t, and prayed that these 4 inhibit themselves in the deliberation. When this was denied, he filed a motion to transfer administrative proceedings to the IBP. He also released statements to the press saying, in effect, that the SC deliberately rendered an erroneous decision, that members of the SC have improperly pressured him to render decisions favorable to their friends and colleagues, and that the Sc dismisses judges without rhyme or reason and disbars lawyers without due process. Gonzalez didn’t deny he said/wrote those statements. His defense is that he was just exercising his freedom of speech.
ISSUES 1. WON the SC should punish Gonzalez for contempt of court and give administrative sanctions 2. WON Gonzales is not liable because he was just using his constitutional right of freedom of speech.
HELD 1. YES Ratio Statements which constitute gross disrespect of the Court, and degrade the SC and the entire system of justice are clearly contemptuous. The SC should exercise its disciplinary authority over the source. Reasoning The SC cited several cases wherein the Court held that the statements were contemptuous and warranting the exercise of the court’s authority. These are: (1). Monteciollo v. Gica – Atty del Mar moved to reconsider a decision of the CA with a veiled threat that he should interpose his next appeal to the President. He said the court knowingly rendered an unjust judgment thru negotiations. He was convicted of contempt of court. (2) Surigao Mineral Reservation Board v. Cloribel – counsel asked CJ Concepcion and J Castro to inhibit themselves from judging the case since the brother of Castro was the VP of favored party and CJ’s son was the Secretary of the Board of Investments. He even threatened that if he didn’t get a favorable decision, he’d bring the case to the World Court and invoke the Hickenlooper Amendment requiring the cutting off of all aid to the Philippines. 3. In re Almacen – the SC committed a great unjust to his client; justice administered by the SC wasn’t only blind, but also deaf and dumb; he’ll argue the cause of his client in the people’s forum (published in Manilla Times). Almacen was suspended from the practice of law because he exceeded the boundaries of fair criticism. 4. Paragas v. Cruz – counsel alleged that the SC violated the Constitution, which was a ground for impeachment; hoped that an incident wherein 2 SC employees were killed wouldn’t happen again (covert threat upon the members of the Court) 5. In re Sotto – a newspaper reporter refused to divulge his source and was sent to jail. Atty. Sotto published in a newspaper that the SC erroneously interpreted the law, they’re narrow-minded, and that the members of the SC should be changed. He was held in contempt of Court. 6. Salcedo v. Hernandez – Atty Francisco: the Court’s resolution is erroneous and is a mockery of the popular will expressed at the polls. 2. NO
Ratio A lawyer’s right of free expression may have to be more limited than that of a layman. Reasoning The freedom of speech and of expression, like all constitutional freedoms, is not absolute and that the freedom of expression needs on occasion to be adjusted and accommodated with the requirements of equally important public interests. One of the fundamental public interests is the maintenance of the integrity and orderly functioning of the administration of justice. The lawyer’s duty to render respectful subordination to the courts is essential to the orderly administration of justice. [Discussion on the SC’s power to discipline its lawyers] The SC, as the regulator and guardian of the legal profession, has plenary disciplinary auth over attorneys. This stems from the Court’s Constitutional mandate to regulate admission to the practice of law, which includes as well authority to regulate the practice itself. This is an inherent power incidental to the proper administration of justice and essential to an orderly discharge of judicial functions. It also has inherent power to punish for contempt, to control in the furtherance of justice the conduct of ministerial officers of the court including lawyers and all other persons connected in any manner with a case before the Court. This is necessary for its own protection against improper interference with the due administration of justice and not dependent upon the complaint of the litigant. There are two related powers here: (1) Court’s inherent power to discipline attorneys – broader than contempt power; lawyer doesn’t need to be in contempt of court to be punished under this; (2) contempt power - may be committed by both lawyers and non-lawyers, in and out of court; if this is done by a lawyer, it’s usually accompanied with professional misconduct. A lawyer is not just a professional but also an officer of the court and as such, is called upon to share in the task and responsibility of dispensing justice and resolving disputes in society. Any act which tends to obstruct the administration of justice constitutes both professional misconduct calling for the exercise of disciplinary action against him and conduct warranting application of the contempt power. Disposition Atty. Raul M. Gonzales was found guilty of contempt of court in facie curiae and of gross misconduct as an officer of the court and member of the Bar. He was suspended from the practice of law indefinitely.