SC junks complaint vs. de Castro

MANILA The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed for lack of basis an administrative complaint against retired chief justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.

In its resolution dated January 22, the High Court, through Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, turned down the complaint filed by litigants complaining of delay in the disposition of cases pending before the court.

Ruling in favor of de Castro, who retired on October 10 last year, the High Court pointed out that charges against magistrates of the court cannot be made lightly.

To hold a magistrate administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law, it is not enough that his or action was erroneous; it must also be proven that it was driven by bad faith, dishonesty, or ill motive, the SC said, adding that there is no showing of prima facie case against her.

The Court en banc added that de Castro's mandatory retirement on Oct. 10, 2018 also rendered the complainants' administrative complaint moot.

The case was filed by Elvira N. Enalbes, Rebecca H. Angeles, and Estelita B. Ocampo, who accused de Castro of gross ignorance of the law, gross inefficiency, gross misconduct, gross dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for the latter's alleged failure to decide despite the lapse of more than five years two separate petitions filed by Eligio P. Mallari and his wife Marcelina in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

The Court ruled that the complainants' arguments, which relied on Article VIII, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution requiring the Supreme Court to decide on cases within 24 months from their submission, lack merit.

It noted that as stated in the 1987 Constitution and the Internal Rules of Court, the reckoning of the 24-month period begins only when the last pleading, brief, or memorandum has been submitted before it.

The Court held that (w)hile the 24-month period provided under the 1987 Constitution is persuasive, it does not summarily bind this Court to the disposition of cases brought before it. It is a mere directive to ensure this Court's prompt resolution of cases, and should not be interpreted as an inflexible rule."

The Court ruled that it, being the court of last resort, should be given an ample amount of time to deliberate on cases pending before it.

Ineluctably, leeway must be given to magistrates for them to thoroughly review and reflect on the cases assigned to them. This Court note(s) that all matters brought before it involves rights, which are legally demandable and enforceable. It would be at the height of injustice if cases were hastily decided on at the risk of erroneously dispensing justice.

Ultimately, courts must strike an objective and reasonable balance in disposing cases promptly, while maintaining judicious tenacity in interpreting and applying the law, it added. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency