CEBU CITY — The Supreme Court (SC) has cracked the whip on a Cebu City judge and her clerk of court for failing to resolve several cases on time, mismanaging court records, among other infractions.
Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Judge Rosabella Tormis of Branch 4 was ordered dismissed from service after she was found guilty of “gross inefficiency, violation of SC rules, directives, and circulars, as well as gross ignorance of the law.”
Lawyer Reynaldo Teves, clerk of court of MTCC Branch 4, was also dismissed from the service for two counts of simple neglect of duty.
The High Court ordered the forfeiture of all their benefits and priviledges, except accrued leave credits. They were also barred from reemployment in any government office.
The High Court found Tormis liable for undue delay in the dispoition of cases, mismanagement of the court records, non-promulgation of decisions, and issuing a warrant of arrest without first apprising the acused of the charges.
On the other hand, Teves was cited for mismanagement of case records and failure to set case for promulgation.
“The honor and integrity of the judicial system is moeasured not only by the fairness and correctness of decisions rendered but also by the efficiency with which disputes are resolved,” the high tribunal said in a decision promulgated on March 12.
The Philippine Daily Inqurier tried to get Tormis’ reaction on Tuesday but a court employee said she was in a private hospital to attend to her ailing husband, Guillermo.
Tormis, 63, assumed office on June 22, 1999. Her service was interrupted when she was suspended for three separate instances for various reasons.
One of these was repeated defiance of the court’s order to furnish the complainant in another administrative case of her comment.
She was found guilty of gross misconduct for abusing her judicial authority when she personally accepted the cash bail bond of the accused.
The dismissal from the service of both Teves and Tormis stemmed from the audit report submitted by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), which has supervision over the trial courts.
In its report, the OCA found out that MTCC Branch 4 did not maintain a docket book or any similar system for record-keeping and monitoring.
The OCA also found several irregularities including the failure of Tormis to render a decision on 11 criminal cases despite the lapse of “considerable length of time.
Two cases had not been decided for more than 10 years.
At least 112 criminal and 83 civil cases had been submitted for decision but Tormis had not issued a verdict on these cases despite the laspe of the 90-day period.
Under the law, the court has 90 days after the end of the trial to render a decision.
At least 172 criminal and 63 civil cases were with pending incidents for resolution. Of the 172 criminal cases, 145 cases involve violation of city ordinances/traffic rules with pending motions to archive.
The court failed to comply with the guidelines in the archiving of cases.
It also took Tormis a long time to take an initial action on 223 cases filed in her court while she had not taken action on 3,491 cases.
In her explanation to the OCA, Tormis said she faithfully conducted semestral physical inventory of the case records except during the period comprising her three suspensions because she was denied access to her courtroom and case records.
She said the three separate suspensions issued against her caused the delay in the disposition of cases pending in her court.
Tormis said she had satisfactorily complied with the directive to decide the cases submitted for decision.
While recognizing the suspensions of Tormis as one of the reasons for the delay in the disposition of cases, the OCA noticed that several of the cases had been overdue for decision or resolution even prior to her suspension.
The OCA had recommended a fine of P80,000 be imposed on Tormis for undue delay in rendering a decision; P20,000 for failure to comply with her duty to provide efficient court management system, and another P20,000 for ordering the arrest of the accused even before she was apprised of the charges against her.
Teves explained that MTCC Branch 4 did not have a general docket book because they had not been provided by the high court with the needed supplies.
He said that the alleged errors in his reports can be attributed to the discrepancy in the procedure or in the appreciation in preparing the reports.
Teves also claimed that the non-promulgation of judgements can be justified since most of the cases were resolved based on compromise agreements, plea of guilt, dismissal by reason of an affidavit of desistance, among others.
The OCA recommended that Teves be ordered to pay a fine in the amount equivalent to two months pay for mismanagement of the case records.
But the high tribunal didn’t adopt OCA’s recommendations and instead increased the penalty to dismissal from the service.
In an en banc decision led by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, the higgh tribunal noted the work history of Tormis and Teves who were sanctioned for several administrative cases filed against them.
It noted that Tormis has two pending cases against her.
“Her conduct as a repeat offender exhibits her unworthiness to don the judicial robes and merits a sanction heavier than what is provided by our rules and jurisprudence,” the high court said.
It said Teves’ “repeated infractions seriously compromise efficiency and hamper public service which the court can no longer tolerate.”
“Obviously, with his past infractions and having been warned that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely, Mr. Teves has not reformed. Thus, the penalty of dismissal from service is proper,” the high court said.