3 CA justices cleared of ‘delay’ rap
MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court has cleared three Court of Appeals justices accused of inordinate delay in the resolution of a petition for review that the litigants had filed in a property dispute.
Voting 14-0, the high court, in a resolution released April 14, said that Justices Celia Librea-Leagogo, Elihu Ybañez and Amy Lazaro-Javier of the Court of Appeals Special 16th Division had no administrative liability as they satisfactorily explained the reasons for the delay.
Litigants Wenefredo Parreño, Ronnie Cuevas and Joseph Denamarca said their case was submitted for resolution in the Court of Appeals on June 26, 2012. But at the time they filed their complaint in the Supreme Court on Feb. 8 last year, the three justices assigned to the case had yet to render a decision.
The complainants said the delay violated Section 15(1), Article VIII of the Constitution, which provides that all cases submitted to lower collegiate courts, such as the Court of Appeals, must be resolved within 12 months from the date of submission.
The three earlier filed a protest in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-National Capital Region against the issuance of a transfer certificate of title for two lots in Taguig City.
The agency, the DENR and the Office of the President consecutively dismissed the case, leading the three litigants to elevate the matter to the Court of Appeals.
Asked to comment on the administrative complaint, Leagogo denied liability for any undue delay because of her short stint as division chair. She said she served as chair of the division from June 4 to July 5, 2012.
Older cases prioritized
Leagogo also said that Ybañez, the ponente or assigned writer of the decision in the case, remained so when he was transferred to other divisions twice, before finally promulgating the decision on Feb. 28, 2014.
Ybañez, for his part, said he had given “utmost priority” to the case, which he had assigned to a member of his legal staff. However, the staff member fell seriously ill and due to a lack of personnel and a heavy caseload, he hired a contractual lawyer who later resigned.
The justice said he was not remiss in his duty to promptly administer justice and that he prioritized disposing of the older cases assigned to him.
Javier said her participation in the case was limited to the adoption of a resolution submitting the case for decision. She said she was only a substitute of the division’s then regular member, Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes.
The Supreme Court found the explanations of the justices acceptable and dismissed the administrative complaint for lack of merit.
The high court said both Leagogo and Javier were exculpated due to the reorganizations in the appeals court that led to their reassignments.
“The delay could not be said to have been incurred by Justice Ybañez with malice or deliberate attempt to impede the dispensation of justice. His explanation, being entirely plausible, is accepted,” said the high court in the ruling written by Justice Lucas Bersamin.
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