CASE BRIEF 2008-0563

CASE: Lt. Gen. Alfonso P. Dagudag(Ret.) vs. Judge Maximo Paderanga, Regional Trial Court, Branch 38, Cagayan de Oro City [A.M. No. RTJ-06-2017 June 19, 2008]

PONENTE: Per Curiam

SUBJECT:

  1. Administrative Law – Doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies; Doctrine of primary jurisdiction; Gross ignorance of the law.
  2. Rules on Civil Procedure – Provisional Remedies: Replevin
  3. New Code of Judicial Conduct – Canon 6

FACTS: A team composed of representatives from the PNPRMG, DENR, and the Philippine Coast Guard inspected the container vans of NMC Container Lines, Inc. and discovered the undocumented forest products.

Since no one has claimed to be the owner of these illegal forest products, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) issued a seizure receipt to NMC Container Lines, Inc. Thereafter, they are confiscated in favor of the government.

However, a certain Roger C. Edma (Edma) filed a complaint before Judge Paderanga praying that a writ of replevin be issued ordering the DENR, CENRO, Lt. Gen. Alfonso P. Dagudag (Gen. Dagudag), Head of Task Force Sagip Kalikasan and others to deliver the forest products to him. Judge Paderanga issued a writ of replevin.

A motion to dismiss was filed by the DENR, CENRO, and Gen. Dagudag praying, among others, that Edma failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Judge Paderanga denied the same.

Gen. Dagudag filed with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) an affidavit-complaint charging Judge Paderanga with gross ignorance of the law and conduct unbecoming a judge. Gen. Dagudag stated that during the hearing, Judge Paderanga showed manifest partiality in favor of Edma and that the DENR’s counsel was lambasted, cajoled and intimidated by Judge Paderanga using words such as “SHUT UP” and “THAT’S BALONEY.” The stenographic notes reveal the following exchanges:

“Atty. Luego: Your Honor, we want to have this motion because that is…

Judge Paderanga: I am asking you why did you not make any rejoinder[?]

x x x x

Atty. Luego: I apologize, Your Honor. We are ready to…

Judge Paderanga: Ready to what? Proceed.

Atty. Luego: Yes, Your Honor. We filed this motion to quash replevin, Your Honor, on the grounds, first and foremost, it is our contention, Your Honor, with all due respect of [sic] this Honorable Court, that the writ of replevin dated March 29, 2005 was improper, Your Honor, for the reasons that the lumber, subject matter of this case, were apprehended in accordance with…

Judge Paderanga: Where is your proof that it was apprehended? Where is your proof? Is that apprehension proven by a seizure receipt? Where is your seizure receipt?

Atty. Luego: Under the rules…

Judge Paderanga: Where is your seizure receipt? You read your rules. What does [sic] the rules say? Where in your rules does it say that it does not need any seizure receipt? You look at your rules. You point out the rules. You take out your rules and then you point out. Do you have the rules?

x x x x

Atty. Luego: Your Honor, there was no seizure receipt, but during the apprehension, Your Honor, there was no claimant.

Judge Paderanga: Answer me. Is there a seizure receipt?

Atty. Luego: But during the apprehension, Your Honor, no owner has [sic] appeared.

x x x x

Atty. Luego: According to [the] rules, Your Honor, if there is no…

Judge Paderanga: Whom are you seizing it from? To [sic] whom are you taking it from?

Atty. Luego: From the shipping company, Your Honor.

x x x x

Atty. Luego: Your Honor please, the shipping company denied the ownership of that lumber.

x x x x

Atty. Luego: But the shipping company, Your Honor,…

Judge Paderanga: Shut up. That’s baloney. You are seizing it from nobody. Then how can you seize it from the shipping company. Are you not? You are a lawyer. Who is in possession of the property? The shipping company. Why did you not issue [a] seizure receipt to the shipping company?

Atty. Luego: But the… May I continue, Your Honor?

x x x x

Judge Paderanga: Stop talking about the shipping company. Still you did not issue a seizure receipt here. Well, I’m telling you you should have issued [a] seizure receipt to the shipping company.

x x x x

Judge Paderanga: You are a lawyer. You should know how to write pleadings. You write the pleadings the way it should be, not the way you think it should be.

Atty. Luego: I’m sorry, Your Honor.

Judge Paderanga: You are an officer of the court. You should be careful with your language. You say that I am wrong. It’s you who are [sic] wrong because you do not read the law.

x x x x

Judge Paderanga: Then you read the law. How dare you say that the Court is wrong.

x x x x

Judge Paderanga: Are you not representing [the DENR]?

Atty. Luego: Yes, in this case, Your Honor.

Judge Paderanga: Then you are representing them. They are your clients. What kind of a lawyer are you?

x x x x

Atty. Tiamson: Specifically it was stated in the [Factoran] versus Court of Appeals [case] that the Court should not interfere, Your Honor.

Judge Paderanga: No.

x x x x

Judge Paderanga: The problem with you people is you do not use your heads.

Atty. Tiamson: We use our heads, your Honor.

x x x x

Atty. Tiamson: Your Honor, we would like to put on record that we use our heads, your Honor.”

ISSUES:

  1. Whether the replevin suit should be dismissed by Judge Paderanga.
  2. Whether Judge Paderanga is liable for gross ignorance of the law and for conduct unbecoming a judge.
  3. Whether Judge Paderanga is liable for conduct unbecoming a judge.

RULING:

1. Judge Paderanga should have dismissed the replevin suit outright for three reasons. First, under the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, courts cannot take cognizance of cases pending before administrative agencies. A party must exhaust all administrative remedies before he can resort to the courts. In Paat v. Court of Appeals(G.R. No. 111107, 10 January 1997), the Court held that:

“This Court in a long line of cases has consistently held that before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, it is a pre-condition that he should have availed of all the means of administrative processes afforded him. Hence, if a remedy within the administrative machinery can still be resorted to by giving the administrative officer concerned every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his jurisdiction then such remedy should be exhausted first before court’s judicial power can be sought. The premature invocation of court’s intervention is fatal to one’s cause of action. Accordingly, absent any finding of waiver or estoppel the case is susceptible of dismissal for lack of cause of action.”

In the instant case, Edma did not resort to, or avail of, any administrative remedy. He went straight to court and filed a complaint for replevin and damages. Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended, states that (1) all actions and decisions of the Bureau of Forest Development Director are subject to review by the DENR Secretary; (2) the decisions of the DENR Secretary are appealable to the President; and (3) courts cannot review the decisions of the DENR Secretary except through a special civil action for certiorari or prohibition.

Second, under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, courts cannot take cognizance of cases pending before administrative agencies of special competence. In Tabao v. Judge Lilagan (416 Phil. 710), the Court held that:

Under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, courts cannot take cognizance of cases pending before administrative agencies of special competence. x x x The prudent thing for respondent judge to have done was to dismiss the replevin suit outright.”

Third, the forest products are already in custodia legis and thus cannot be the subject of replevin. There was a violation of the Revised Forestry Code and the DENR seized the forest products in accordance with law. In Calub v. Court of Appeals, [387 Phil. 67, 79 (2000)] the Court held that properties lawfully seized by the DENR cannot be the subject of replevin.

2. Judge Paderanga’s acts of taking cognizance of the replevin suit and of issuing the writ of replevin constitute gross ignorance of the law.

Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary states that competence is a prerequisite to the due performance of judicial office. Section 3 of Canon 6 states that judges shall take reasonable steps to maintain and enhance their knowledge necessary for the proper performance of judicial duties. Judges should keep themselves abreast with legal developments and show acquaintance with laws.

The rule that courts cannot prematurely take cognizance of cases pending before administrative agencies is basic. There was no reason for Judge Paderanga to make an exception to this rule. The forest products were in the custody of the DENR and Edma had not availed of any administrative remedy. Judge Paderanga should have dismissed the replevin suit outright.

3. The OCA found Judge Paderanga liable for using inappropriate language in court: “We x x x find respondent’s intemperate use of “Shut up!” and “Baloney!” well nigh inappropriate in court proceedings. The utterances are uncalled for.”

Indeed, the transcripts of stenographic notes show that Judge Paderanga was impatient, discourteous, and undignified in court.

Section 6, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary states that judges shall be patient, dignified, and courteous in relation to lawyers. Rule 3.04, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct states that judges should be patient and courteous to lawyers, especially the inexperienced. They should avoid the attitude that the litigants are made for the courts, instead of the courts for the litigants.

Judge Paderanga’s refusal to consider the motion to quash the writ of replevin, repeated interruption of the lawyers, and utterance of “shut up,” “that’s baloney,” “how dare you say that the court is wrong,” “what kind of a lawyer are you?,” and “the problem with you people is you do not use your heads” are undignified and very unbecoming a judge.

The Fallo: He was dismissed from service.

The Court notes that this is Judge Paderanga’s third offense. In Office of the Court Administrator v. Paderanga (See: Brief Case No. 2005-0985), the Court held him liable for grave abuse of authority and simple misconduct for unceremoniously citing a lawyer in contempt while declaring himself as having “absolute power” and for repeatedly telling a lawyer to “shut up.”

Also, in  Beltran, Jr. v. Paderanga (See: Brief Case No. 2001-0064), the Court held him liable for undue delay in rendering an order for the delay of nine months in resolving an amended formal offer of exhibits. In both cases, the Court sternly warned Judge Paderanga that the commission of another offense shall be dealt with more severely. The instant case and the two cases decided against him demonstrate Judge Paderanga’s arrogance, incorrigibility, and unfitness to become a judge.
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THINGS DECIDED:

A)      Under the Doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, it is a pre-condition that he should have availed of all the means of administrative processes afforded him.

B)       Under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, courts cannot take cognizance of cases pending before administrative agencies of special competence.

(C)     In Calub v. Court of Appeals, [387 Phil. 67, 79 (2000)] the Court held that properties lawfully seized by the DENR cannot be the subject of replevin.

(D)     Judges shall take reasonable steps to maintain and enhance their knowledge necessary for the proper performance of judicial duties. Judges should keep themselves abreast with legal developments and show acquaintance with laws.

‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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