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EN BANC

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR,

Petitioner,

- versus -

JUDGE FLORENTINO V. FLORO, JR.,

Respondent.

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Re: RESOLUTION DATED 11 MAY 1999 OF JUDGE FLORENTINO V. FLORO, JR.

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LUZ ARRIEGO,

Petitioner,

- versus -

JUDGE FLORENTINO V. FLORO, JR.,

Respondent.

A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460

A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC

A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988

(Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 99-812-RTJ)

Present:

PANGANIBAN, C.J.,

PUNO,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

MARTINEZ,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

CALLEJO,

AZCUNA,

TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO, and

GARCIA, JJ.

Promulgated:

March 31, 2006

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D E C I S I O N

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

“Equity does not demand that its suitors shall have led blameless lives.”

Justice Brandeis,  Loughran v. Loughran[1]

THE CASES

The First Case: A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460 (Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.)

It was in 1995 that Atty. Florentino V. Floro, Jr. first applied for judgeship.  A pre-requisite psychological evaluation on him then by the Supreme Court Clinic Services (SC Clinic) revealed “(e)vidence of ego disintegration” and “developing psychotic process.”  Judge Floro later voluntarily withdrew  his application.  In June 1998, when he applied anew, the required psychological evaluation exposed problems with self-esteem, mood swings, confusion, social/interpersonal deficits, paranoid ideations, suspiciousness, and perceptual distortions.  Both 1995 and 1998 reports concluded that Atty. Floro was unfit to be a judge.

Because of his impressive academic background, however, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) allowed Atty. Floro to seek a second opinion from private practitioners.  The second opinion appeared favorable thus paving the way to Atty. Floro’s appointment as Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge of Branch 73, Malabon City, on 4 November 1998.

Upon Judge Floro’s personal request, an audit on his sala was conducted by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) from 2 to 3 March 1999.[2]

After conducting the audit, the audit team, led by Atty. Mary Jane Dacarra-Buenaventura, reported its findings to erstwhile Court Administrator, Alfredo L. Benipayo, who submitted his own report/memorandum[3] to then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. dated 13 July 1999 recommending, among other things, that his report be considered as an administrative complaint against Judge Floro and that Judge Floro be subjected to an appropriate psychological or mental examination.  Court Administrator Benipayo recommended as well that Judge Floro be placed under preventive suspension for the duration of the investigation against him.

In a Resolution[4] dated 20 July 1999, the Court en banc adopted the recommendations of the OCA, docketing the complaint as A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460, in view of the commission of the following acts or omissions as reported by the audit team: 

(a)                The act of circulating calling cards containing self-laudatory statements regarding qualifications and for announcing in open court during court session his qualification in violation of Canon 2, Rule 2.02, Canons of Judicial Conduct;

(b)               For allowing the use of his chambers as sleeping quarters;

(c)                For rendering resolutions without written orders in violation of Rule 36, Section 1, 1997 Rules of Procedures;

(d)               For his alleged partiality in criminal cases where he declares that he is pro-accused which is contrary to Canon 2, Rule 2.01, Canons of Judicial Conduct;

(e)                For appearing and signing pleadings in Civil Case No. 46-M-98 pending before Regional Trial Court, Branch 83, Malolos, Bulacan in violation of Canon 5, Rule 5.07, Canons of Judicial Conduct which prohibits a judge from engaging in the private practice of law;

(f)                 For appearing in personal cases without prior authority from the Supreme Court and without filing the corresponding applications for leaves of absence on the scheduled dates of hearing;

(g)                For proceeding with the hearing on the Motion for Release on Recognizance filed by the accused without the presence of the trial prosecutor and propounding questions in the form of examination of the custodian of the accused;

(h)                For using/taking advantage of his moral ascendancy to settle and eventually dismiss Criminal Case No. 20385-MN (for frustrated homicide) in the guise of settling the civil aspect of the case, by persuading the private complainant and the accused to sign the settlement even without the presence of the trial prosecutor;

(i)                  For motu proprio and over the strong objection of the trial prosecutor, ordering the mental and physical examination of the accused based on the ground that the accused is “mahina ang pick-up”;

(j)                 For issuing an Order on 8 March 1999 which varies from that which he issued in open court in Criminal Case No. 20385-MN, for frustrated homicide;

(k)               For violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 Code of Judicial Conduct when he openly criticized the Rules of Court and the Philippine justice system;

(l)                  For the use of highly improper and intemperate language during court proceedings;

(m)              For violation of Circular No. 13[5] dated 1 July 1987.

Per the same resolution of the Court, the matter was referred to Retired Court of Appeals Justice Pedro Ramirez (consultant, OCA) for investigation, report and recommendation within 60 days from receipt.  Judge Floro was directed to comment within ten days from receipt of the resolution and to subject himself to an appropriate psychological or mental examination to be conducted “by the proper office of the Supreme Court or any duly authorized medical and/or mental institution.”  In the same breath, the Court resolved to place Judge Floro under preventive suspension “for the duration of the investigation of the administrative charges against him.”  He was barely eight months into his position.

On 20 August 1999, Judge Floro submitted a Verified Comment where he set forth both affirmative and negative defenses[6] while he filed his “Answer/Compliance” on 26 August 1999.

On 3 March 2000, Judge Floro moved for the provisional/final dismissal of his case for failure to prosecute.[7][8] Subsequently, on 7 July 2000, Judge Floro filed a “Petition for Inhibition/Disqualification” against Justice Ramirez as investigator[9] which was denied by Justice Ramirez in an Order dated 11 July 2000.[10][11] suffered the same fate.[12] On 27 July 2000, Judge Floro submitted the question of Justice Ramirez’s inhibition/disqualification to this Court.[13] On 8 August 2000, the Court ruled against the inhibition of Justice Ramirez.[14] Judge Floro’s motion for reconsideration However, on 21 March 2000, he presented himself as his first witness in the hearing conducted by Justice Ramirez.

On 11 September 2000, the OCA, after having been ordered by the Court to comment on Judge Floro’s motion to dismiss,[15] recommended that the same should be denied.

Judge Floro presented his last witness on 6 March 2001.[16] The day after, Justice Ramirez came out with a “Partial Report” recommending the dismissal of Judge Floro from office “by reason of insanity which renders him incapable and unfit to perform the duties and functions of Judge of the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Malabon, Metro Manila, Branch 73.”[17]

In the meantime, throughout the investigation of the 13 charges against him and even after Justice Ramirez came out with his report and recommendation on 7 March 2001, Judge Floro had been indiscriminately filing cases against those he perceived to have connived to boot him out of office.

A list of the cases Judge Floro filed in the wake of his 20 July 1999 preventive suspension follows:

1.                  OCA IPI No. 00-07-OCA – against Atty. Mary Jane Dacarra-Buenaventura, Team Leader, Judicial Audit Team, Office of the Court Administrator[18]

2.                  OCA IPI No. 00-933-RTJ – against Judge Benjamin Aquino, Jr., Regional Trial Court, Branch 72, Malabon City[19]

3.                  AC No. 5286 – against Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo and Judge Benjamin Aquino, Jr.[20]

4.                  AC No. CBD-00-740 – against Thelma C. Bahia, Court Management Office, Atty. Mary Jane Dacarra-Buenaventura, Atty. II, Court Management Office, both of the Office of the Court Administrator and Atty. Esmeralda G. Dizon, Branch Clerk of Court, Branch 73, Malabon[21]

5.                  AC No. 6282 (CPL No. C-02-0278) – against former Court Administrator Justice Alfredo L. Benipayo and (Ret.) Justice Pedro A. Ramirez, Consultant, Office of the Court Administrator[22]

6.                  A.M. No. 03-8-03-0 – against (Ret.) Justice Pedro A. Ramirez[23]

7.                  A.C. No. 6050 – against (Ret.) Justice Pedro A. Ramirez[24]

On 1 February 2006, Judge Floro moved that the cases he filed, now totaling seven, be dismissed.[25] On 14 February 2006, the Court granted the motion to dismiss.[26]

The Second Case: A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988(Luz Arriego v. Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.)

This charge is likewise the subject matter of charge “h” in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460: “(f)or using/taking advantage of his moral ascendancy to settle and eventually dismiss Criminal Case No. 20385-MN (for frustrated homicide) in the guise of settling the civil aspect of the case, by persuading the private complainant and the accused to sign the settlement even without the presence of the trial prosecutor.”  The complainant Luz Arriego is the mother of the private complainant in Criminal Case No. 20385-MN.

On 28 June 2001, Arriego testified, while court stenographer Jocelyn Japitenga testified on 16 July 2001.  On 31 July 2001, Arriego filed her Formal Offer of Evidence which was opposed by Judge Floro on 21 August 2001.  On 5 September 2001, Judge Floro testified on his behalf while Atty. Galang testified against him on 4 October 2001.  On 16 October 2001, Judge Floro filed a Memorandum in this case.[27]

The Third Case: A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC (Re: Resolution Dated 11 May 1999 of Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.)

As can be gathered from the title, this case concerns a resolution issued by Judge Floro on 11 May 1999 in Special Proceeding Case No. 315-MN “In Re: Petition To Be Admitted A Citizen Of The Philippines, Mary Ng Nei, Petitioner.”  The resolution disposed of the motions for voluntary inhibition of Judge Floro and the reconsideration of the order denying the petition for naturalization filed by petitioner in that case, Mary Ng Nei.

This resolution found its way to the OCA through a letter written by Atty. David S. Narvasa, the petitioner’s counsel.[28] The OCA, through Court Administrator Benipayo, made the following evaluation:

In the subject resolution, Judge Floro, Jr. denied the motion for inhibition and declared it as null and void.  However, he ordered the raffling of the case anew (not re-raffle due to inhibition) so that the petitioner, Mary Ng Nei, will have a chance to have the case be assigned to other judges through an impartial raffle.

When Judge Floro, Jr. denied the motion for inhibition, he should have continued hearing and taking cognizance of the case.  It is improper for him to order the raffle of the case “anew” as this violates Administrative Circular No. 1 (Implementation of Sec. 12, Art. XVIII of the 1987 Constitution) dated January 28, 1988 which provides to wit:

“8. Raffle of Cases:

x x x x

8.3     Special raffles should not be permitted except on verified application of the interested party who seeks issuance of a provisional remedy and only upon a finding by the Executive Judge that unless the special raffle is conducted, irreparable damage shall be suffered by the applicant.  The special raffle shall be conducted by at least two judges in a multiple-sala station.

x x x x”

Based on the foregoing, a judge may not motu proprio order the special raffle of a case since such is only allowed upon a verified application of the interested party seeking a provisional remedy and only upon the Executive Judge’s finding that if a special raffle is not conducted, the applicant will suffer irreparable damage.  Therefore, Judge Floro, Jr.’s order is contrary to the above-mentioned Administrative Circular.

Moreover, it is highly inappropriate for Judge Floro, Jr. to even mention in his resolution that Justice Regino C. Hermosisima, Jr. is his benefactor in his nomination for judgeship.  It is not unusual to hear a judge who speaks highly of a “padrino” (who helped him get his position).  Such remark even if made as an expression of deep gratitude makes the judge guilty of creating a dubious impression about his integrity and independence.  Such flaunting and expression of feelings must be suppressed by the judges concerned.  A judge shall not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment (Canon 2, Rule 2.03, Code of Judicial Conduct).

The merits of the denial of the motion for inhibition and the ruling on the motion for reconsideration are judicial matters which this Office has no authority to review.  The remedy is judicial, not administrative.[29]

The OCA thus recommended that Judge Floro comment on (a) his act of ordering the raffle of the case in violation of Administrative Circular No. 1; and (b) his remark on page 5 of the subject resolution that “Justice Hermosisima, Jr. x x x helped undersigned so much, in the JBC, regarding his nomination x x x.”

In a Resolution dated 17 August 1999, the Court en banc adopted the recommendations of the OCA.[30][31] which was noted by this Court on 7 December 1999.  On 11 January 2000, Judge Floro filed a Formal Offer of Evidence which this Court, in a resolution dated 25 January 2000, referred to Justice Ramirez for inclusion in his report and recommendation. Judge Floro, through his counsel, filed his Comment on 22 October 1999

For the record, the OCA is yet to come up with its report and recommendation in this case as well as in the second case (i.e., A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988). Thus, in a resolution dated 14 February 2006, the Court directed Judge Floro as well as the other parties in these two cases to inform the Court whether or not they are willing to submit A.M. RTJ-06-1988 and A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC for decision on the basis of the pleadings filed and the evidence so far submitted by them or to have the decision in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460 decided ahead of the two.  On 20 February 2006, the OCA, thru Court Administrator Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., manifested its willingness to submit A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC for resolution based on the pleadings and the evidence submitted therein.  Complainant Luz Arriego in A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988 likewise informed this Court, in a Letter dated 28 February 2006, her willingness to submit her case for decision based on the pleadings already submitted and on the evidence previously offered and marked.  On the other hand, on 3 March 2006, Judge Floro manifested his preference to have A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460 decided ahead of A.M. RTJ-06-1988 and A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC.

In the interest of orderly administration of justice, considering that these are consolidated cases, we resolve to render as well a consolidated decision.

But first, the ground rules:  Much has been said across all fronts regarding Judge Floro’s alleged mental illness and its effects on his duties as Judge of a Regional Trial Court.  For our part, figuring out whether Judge Floro is indeed psychologically impaired and/or disabled as concluded by the investigator appointed by this Court is frankly beyond our sphere of competence, involving as it does a purely medical issue; hence, we will have to depend on the findings of the mental health professionals who interviewed/analyzed Judge Floro.  Our job is simply to wade through the evidence, filter out the irrelevant and the irreverent in order to determine once and for all if Judge Floro is indeed guilty of the charges against him.  If the evidence makes out a case against Judge Floro, the next issue is to determine the appropriate penalty to be imposed.

Finally, we will have to determine whether Judge Floro acted with an evil mind or because of a psychological or mental incapacity.  Upon the resolution of this question hinges the applicability of equity.

As an aside, it bears pointing out that some of the charges (“c” and “g”, “h” and “j”, “e” and “f”) will be jointly discussed as they had likewise been jointly discussed by the OCA.  These charges involve common facts and to treat them separately will be superfluous.

DISCUSSION

As alleged and as proven, the 13 specified charges do not warrant the supreme penalty of dismissal against Judge Floro

(a)      Re: Charge of circulating calling cards containing self-laudatory statements regarding qualifications AND for announcing in open court during court session his qualifications in violation of Canon 2, Rule 2.02, Canons of Judicial Conduct

As narrated by the audit team, Judge Floro was circulating calling cards bearing his name as the Presiding Judge of RTC, Branch 73, Malabon City, and indicating therein that he is a “bar exams topnotcher (87.55%)” and with “full second honors”  from the Ateneo de Manila University, A.B. and LL.B.[32] The audit team likewise reported that: “(b)efore the start of court session, Judge Floro is introduced as a private law practitioner, a graduate of Ateneo de Manila University with second honors, and a bar topnotcher during the 1983 Bar Examinations with an average score of 87.55%.  Afterwards, a reading of the Holy Bible, particularly the Book of Revelation  according to Saint John, was made.  The people in the courtroom were given the opportunity to ask Judge Floro questions on the matter read.  No questions were asked; hence the session commenced.”[33]

Judge Floro argues that, per commentary of Justice Ruperto G. Martin,[34] “the use of professional cards containing the name of the lawyer, his title, his office and residence is not improper” and that the word “title” should be broad enough to include a Judge’s legal standing in the bar, his honors duly earned or even his Law School.  Moreover, other lawyers do include in their calling cards their former/present titles/positions like President of the Jaycees, Rotary Club, etc., so where then does one draw the line?  Finally, Judge Floro argues that his cards were not being circulated but were given merely as tokens to close friends or by reciprocity to other callers considering that common sense dictates that he is not allowed by law to seek other professional employment.

As to the charge that he had been announcing in open court his qualifications, Judge Floro counters that it was his branch clerk of court, Atty. Esmeralda Galang-Dizon, who suggested that during his initial court session, she would briefly announce his appointment with an introduction of his school, honors, bar rating and law practice.  Naively, Judge Floro agreed as the introduction was done only during the first week of his assumption into office.

Canon 2, Rule 2.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct says in no uncertain terms that “a judge should not seek publicity for personal vainglory.”  A parallel proscription, this time for lawyers in general, is found in Rule 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility: “a lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, undignified, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services.”  This means that lawyers and judges alike, being limited by the exacting standards of their profession, cannot debase the same by acting as if ordinary merchants hawking their wares.  As succinctly put by a leading authority in legal and judicial ethics, “(i)f lawyers are prohibited from x x x using or permitting the use of any undignified or self-laudatory statement regarding their qualifications or legal services (Rule 3.01, Code of Professional Responsibility), with more reasons should judges be prohibited from seeking publicity for vanity or self-glorification.  Judges are not actors or actresses or politicians, who thrive by publicity.”[35]

The question, therefore, is:  By including self-laudatory details in his professional card, did Judge Floro violate Canon 2, Rule 2.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct?

In Ulep v. Legal Clinic, Inc.,[36] we explained that the use of an ordinary and simple professional card by lawyers is permitted and that the card “may contain only a statement of his name, the name of the law firm which he is connected with, address, telephone number and special branch of law practiced.”  In herein case, Judge Floro’s calling cards cannot be considered as simple and ordinary.  By including therein the honors he received from his law school with a claim of being a bar topnotcher, Judge Floro breached the norms of simplicity and modesty required of judges.

Judge Floro insists, however, that he never circulated his cards as these were just given by him as tokens and/or only to a few who requested the same.[37] The investigation by Justice Ramirez into the matter reveals otherwise.  An eye-witness from the OCA categorically stated that Judge Floro circulated these cards.[38][39] Worse, Judge Floro’s very own witness, a researcher from an adjoining branch, testified that Judge Floro gave her one of these cards.

As this charge involves a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, it should be measured against Rule 140 of the Rules of Court as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC being more favorable to respondent Judge Floro.  Rule 140, before its amendment, automatically classified violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct as serious charges.  As amended, a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct may amount to gross misconduct, which is a serious charge, or it may amount to simple misconduct, which is a less serious charge or it may simply be a case of vulgar and/or unbecoming conduct which is a light charge.

“Misconduct” is defined as wrong or improper conduct while “gross” connotes something “out of all measure; beyond allowance; not to be excused; flagrant; shameful.”[40] For serious misconduct to exist, the judicial act complained of should be corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law or a persistent disregard of well-known legal rules.[41]

With the foregoing as yardstick, we find the act of Judge Floro in circulating calling cards containing self-laudatory statements constitutive of simple misconduct in violation of Canon 2, Rule 2.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct as it appears that Judge Floro was not motivated by any corrupt motive but, from what we can see from the evidence, a persistent and unquenchable thirst for recognition.  Concededly, the need for recognition is an all too human flaw and judges do not cease to be human upon donning the judicial robe.  Considering, however, the proscription against judges seeking publicity for personal vainglory, they are held to a higher standard as they must act within the confines of the code they swore to observe.

As to the charge that Judge Floro, through his branch clerk of court, had been announcing in open court his qualifications, we find that this is likewise violative of Canon 2, Rule 2.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct as it smacks of unnecessary publicity.  Judges should not use the courtroom as platform for announcing their qualifications especially to an audience of lawyers and litigants who very well might interpret such publicity as a sign of insecurity.  Verily, the public looks upon judges as the bastion of justice – confident, competent and true.  And to discover that this is not so, as the judge appears so unsure of his capabilities that he has to court the litigants and their lawyers’ approval, definitely erodes public confidence in the judiciary.

As it is not disputed, however, that these announcements went on for only a week, Judge Floro is guilty of simple misconduct only.

(b)     Re: Charge of allowing the use of his chambers as sleeping quarters

The audit team observed that “inside Judge Floro’s chamber[s], there is a folding bed with cushion located at the right corner of the room.  A man, who was later identified as Judge Floro’s driver, was sleeping.  However, upon seeing the audit team, the driver immediately went out of the room.”[42]

Judge Floro contends that this charge is without legal or factual basis.  The man the audit team saw “sleeping” on his folding bed, J. Torralba, was Judge Floro’s aide or “alalay” whom he allows to rest from time to time (in between periods and especially during court sessions) for humanitarian reasons.  J. Torralba was not sleeping during that time that the audit team was in Branch 73 as he immediately left when he saw the members thereof.

This charge must fail as there is nothing inherently improper or deplorable in Judge Floro having allowed another person to use his folding bed for short periods of time during office hours and while there is no one else in the room.  The situation would have been different if there had been any allegation of misuse or abuse of government funds and/or facilities such as in the case of Presado v. Genova[43] wherein Judge Genova was found guilty of serious misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service when he and his family used his chambers as residential quarters, with the provincial government paying for the electrical bills.

Be that as it may, it does not augur well for a new judge to allow such familiarity from his aide as this becomes fodder for gossip as what had apparently happened in this case.  Judge Floro should have been aware of and attuned to the sensibilities of his staff who were understandably uncomfortable with the uncommon arrangement of a judge allowing his aide easy access to his folding bed.

(c)     Re: Charge of rendering resolutions without written orders in violation of Rule 36, Section 1, 1997 Rules of Procedure

(g)     Re: Charge of proceeding with the hearing on the Motion for Release on Recognizance filed by the accused without the presence of the trial prosecutor and propounding questions in the form of examination of the custodian of the accused

The memorandum report reads:

c.         It was reported by the staff of Branch 73 that regardless of the absence of the trial prosecutor, Judge Floro, Jr. still proceeded with the hearing of the following matters:

(c-1) “Motion for Release on Recognizance” filed by the accused, in Criminal Cases Nos. 20384, 20371, 20246 and 20442 entitled “People vs. Luisito Beltran”, “People vs. Emma Alvarez, et al.”, “People vs. Rowena Camino”, and “People vs. John Richie Villaluz”, respectively.  In the hearing of these motions, Judge Floro, Jr. propounded questions (in a form of direct examination) to the custodian of the accused without the accused being sworn by the administering officer.  (Note: initially, Judge Floro, Jr. ordered the Branch Clerk of Court Dizon to place the accused under oath prior to the start of his questions.  However, COC Dizon refused).  The hearing on the aforesaid motions is an offshoot of a previous hearing wherein the accused had pleaded guilty to a lesser offense.  After the reading of the sentence, Judge Floro, Jr. would automatically inform the accused that they are qualified to apply for probation.  In fact, Judge Floro, Jr. would even instruct his staff to draft the application in behalf of the accused so that a motion for release on recognizance will immediately be heard and be consequently granted.  As appearing in the minutes of the hearing (attached herewith as Annexes “3” to “6”), the custodians of the accused are either a barangay kagawad, barangay tanod or a member of the lupong tagapamayapa.  Likewise, no written order granting the motion for release on recognizance is being issued by Judge Floro, Jr. since according to him neither rules nor circular mandates the issuance of a written order.  Instead, after granting the motion, Judge Floro, Jr. just requires the parties to sign the minutes of the session.  Photocopies of the minutes dated March 4, 1999 in Criminal Cases Nos. 20384-MN; 20373-MN; and 20371-MN are hereto attached as Annexes “3” to “5”.

On March 11, 1999, in Criminal Cases Nos. 20426-MN and 20442-MN, Judge Floro, Jr. granted a similar motion without issuing a written order.  Copies of the minutes are hereto attached as annexes “6” to “7.”[44]

In his Verified Comment, Judge Floro argues that he never violated any rule of procedure with respect to the cases mentioned by the Audit Team, asserting that –

Contrary to the stance of the TEAM, Sec. 1 of Rule 36, Rules of Court refers only to final and not interlocutory orders. Only final orders and judgments are promulgated, rendered and entered.

x x x x

Applying the foregoing well-settled doctrines of law to the case at bar, herein respondent faithfully complied with the requirements of Sec. 7 of P.D. 968 as amended, regarding the applications for release on recognizance, thus:

a.                   The application for release on recognizance, although captioned as MOTION FOR RELEASE ON RECOGNIZANCE, is primarily governed by Sec. 7 of P.D. 968, a Special Law on Probation.

b.         Any Application for Release on Recognizance, is given due course/taken cognizance of by respondent, if on its face, the same bears the rubber stamp mark/receipt by the Office of the City/Public Prosecutor.

c.                   The consistent practice both in RTC, METRO MANILA (all courts), especially in RTC, MALABON, and in Malolos, Bulacan (where respondent practiced from 1985-1998 – almost 14 years), [and especially the practice of former Judge A. V. Cabigao, Br. 73, RTC, Malabon, Metro Manila], is to interview the custodian, in the chambers, regarding his being a responsible member of the community where the accused reside/resides; the questions propounded are in the form of direct and even cross examination questions.

d.                  The accused is not required to be placed on the witness stand, since there is no such requirement. All that is required, is to inform the accused regarding some matters of probation (optional) such as whether he was sentenced previously by a Court, whether or not he has had previous cases, etc.

e.                   Even if RTC Judges in Malabon do not conduct Court hearings on application for release on recognizance, respondent, for caution in most of the applications, included the interview/hearing on the applications for release on recognizance, during criminal trial dates, where a fiscal/trial prosecutor is available; at other times, the hearing is held in the chambers.[45]

The explanation given by Judge Floro betrays his liability for ignorance of the rules on probation under Presidential Decree No. 968 (Probation Law), as amended.  Contrary to his remonstrations, the release of an accused on recognizance entails more than a cursory interview of the custodian and the applicant.  Under the Probation Law,[46] and as we explained in Poso v. Judge Mijares,[47] it is incumbent upon the Judge hearing the application to ascertain first that the applicant is not a “disqualified offender” as “(p)utting the discharge of the accused on hold would have allowed [the judge] more time to pass upon the request for provisional liberty.”

Moreover, from Judge Floro’s explanations, it would seem that he completely did away with the requirement for an investigation report by the probation officer.  Under the Probation Law, the accused’s temporary liberty is warranted only during the period for awaiting the submission of the investigation report on the application for probation and the resolution thereon.[48] As we explained in Poso v. Judge Mijares[49]:

It must be stressed that the statutory sequence of actions, i.e., order to conduct case study prior to action on application for release on recognizance, was prescribed precisely to underscore the interim character of the provisional liberty envisioned under the Probation Law.  Stated differently, the temporary liberty of an applicant for probation is effective no longer than the period for awaiting the submission of the investigation report and the resolution of the petition, which the law mandates as no more than sixty (60) days to finish the case study and report and a maximum of fifteen (15) days from receipt of the report for the trial judge to resolve the application for probation.  By allowing the temporary liberty of the accused even before the order to submit the case study and report, respondent Judge unceremoniously extended the pro tem discharge of the accused to the detriment of the prosecution and the private complainants. (Emphasis supplied)

As to the argument of Judge Floro that his Orders for the release of an accused on recognizance need not be in writing as these are duly reflected in the transcript of stenographic notes, we refer to Echaus v. Court of Appeals[50] wherein we held that “no judgment, or order whether final or interlocutory, has juridical existence until and unless it is set down in writing, signed and promulgated, i.e., delivered by the Judge to the Clerk of Court for filing, release to the parties and implementation.”  Obviously, then, Judge Floro was remiss in his duties as judge when he did not reduce into writing his orders for the release on recognizance of the accused in Criminal Cases No. 20384, 20371, 202426 and 20442 entitled, “People v. Luisito Beltran,” “People v. Emma Alvarez, et al.,” “People v. Rowena Camino,” and “People v. John Richie Villaluz.”[51] From his explanation that such written orders are not necessary, we can surmise that Judge Floro’s failure was not due to inadvertence or negligence on his part but to ignorance of a procedural rule.

In fine, we perceive three fundamental errors in Judge Floro’s handling of probation cases.  First, he ordered the release on recognizance of the accused without the presence of the prosecutor thus depriving the latter of any opportunity to oppose said release.  Second, Judge Floro ordered the release without first requiring the probation officer to render a case study and investigation report on the accused.  Finally, the order granting the release of the accused on recognizance was not reduced into writing.

It would seem from the foregoing that the release of the accused on recognizance, as well as his eventual probation, was already a done deal even before the hearing on his application as Judge Floro took up the cudgels for the accused by instructing his staff to draft the application for probation.  This, Judge Floro did not deny.  Thus, we agree in the observation of the audit team that Judge Floro, as a matter of policy, had been approving applications for release on recognizance hastily and without observing the requirements of the law for said purpose. Verily, we having nothing against courts leaning backward in favor of the accused; in fact, this is a salutary endeavor, but only when the situation so warrants.  In herein case, however, we cannot countenance what Judge Floro did as “the unsolicited fervor to release the accused significantly deprived the prosecution and the private complainants of their right to due process.”[52]

Judge Floro’s insistence that orders made in open court need not be reduced in writing constitutes gross ignorance of the law.  Likewise, his failure to follow the basic rules on probation, constitutes gross ignorance of the law.[53]

Verily, one of the fundamental obligations of a judge is to understand the law fully and uphold it conscientiously.[54] When the law is sufficiently basic, a judge owes it to his office to know and simply apply it for anything less is constitutive of gross ignorance of the law.[55] True, not every judicial error bespeaks ignorance of the law and that, if committed in good faith, does not warrant administrative sanctions.[56] To hold otherwise “would be nothing short of harassing judges to take the fantastic and impossible oath of rendering infallible judgments.”[57] This rule, however, admits of an exception as “good faith in situations of fallible discretion inheres only within the parameters of tolerable judgment and does not apply where the issues are so simple and the applicable legal principle evident and as to be beyond permissible margins of error.”[58][59] Thus, even if a judge acted in good faith but his ignorance is so gross, he should be held administratively liable.

(d)     RE: Charge of partiality in criminal cases where he declared that he is pro-accused which is contrary to Canon 2, Rule 2.01, Canons of Judicial Conduct

The audit team reported that Judge Floro relayed to the members thereof that in criminal cases, he is always “pro-accused” particularly concerning detention prisoners and bonded accused who have to continually pay for the premiums on their bonds during the pendency of their cases.

Judge Floro denies the foregoing charge. He claims that what he did impart upon Atty. Buenaventura was the need for the OCA to remedy his predicament of having 40 detention prisoners and other bonded accused whose cases could not be tried due to the lack of a permanent prosecutor assigned to his sala.  He narrated as well to Atty. Buenaventura the sufferings of detention prisoners languishing in the Malabon/Navotas jail whose cases had not been tried during the vacancy of his sala from February 1997 to 5 November 1998.  At any rate, Judge Floro submits that there is no single evidence or proof submitted by any litigant or private complainant that he sided with the accused.

Atty. Dizon, Judge Floro’s Clerk of Court, on the other hand, categorically stated under oath that Judge Floro, during a staff meeting, admitted to her and the staff of Branch 73 and in the presence of his Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) lawyer that he is pro-accused for the reason that he commiserated with them especially those under detention as he, himself, had been accused by his brother and sister-in-law of so many unfounded offenses.[60]

Between the two versions, the testimony of Atty. Dizon is more credible especially since it is corroborated by independent evidence,[61] e.g., Judge Floro’s unwarranted eagerness in approving application for release on recognizance as previously discussed.

Canon 2.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct states: “A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”  This means that a judge whose duty is to apply the law and dispense justice “should not only be impartial, independent and honest but should be believed and perceived to be impartial, independent and honest” as well.[62] Like Caesar’s wife, a judge must not only be pure but above suspicion.[63] Judge Floro, by broadcasting to his staff and the PAO lawyer that he is pro-accused, opened himself up to suspicion regarding his impartiality.  Prudence and judicial restraint dictate that a judge should reserve personal views and predilections to himself so as not to stir up suspicions of bias and unfairness.  Irresponsible speech or improper conduct of a judge erodes public confidence in the judiciary.[64] “His language, both written and spoken, must be guarded and measured, lest the best of intentions be misconstrued.”[65]

On a more fundamental level, what is required of judges is objectivity if an independent judiciary is to be realized.  And by professing his bias for the accused, Judge Floro is guilty of unbecoming conduct as his capacity for objectivity is put in serious doubt, necessarily eroding the public’s trust in his ability to render justice.   As we held in Castillo v. Juan[66]:

In every litigation, x x x, the manner and attitude of a trial judge are crucial to everyone concerned, the offended party, no less than the accused.  It is not for him to indulge or even to give the appearance of catering to the at-times human failing of yielding to first impressions.  He is to refrain from reaching hasty conclusions or prejudging matters.  It would be deplorable if he lays himself open to the suspicion of reacting to feelings rather than to facts, of being imprisoned in the net of his own sympathies and predilections.  It must be obvious to the parties as well as the public that he follows the traditional mode of adjudication requiring that he hear both sides with patience and understanding to keep the risk of reaching an unjust decision at a minimum.  It is not necessary that he should possess marked proficiency in law, but it is essential that he is to hold the balance true.  What is equally important is that he should avoid any conduct that casts doubt on his impartiality.  What has been said is not merely a matter of judicial ethics.  It is impressed with constitutional significance.

(h)     Re: Charge of using/taking advantage of his moral ascendancy to settle and eventually dismiss Criminal Case No. 20385-MN (for frustrated homicide) in the guise of settling the civil aspect of the case, by persuading the private complainant and the accused to sign the settlement even without the presence of the trial prosecutor.

(j)      Re: Charge of issuing an Order on 8 March 1999 which varies from that which he issued in open court in Criminal Case No. 20385-MN, for frustrated homicide.

The memorandum report states:

During the arraignment and pre-trial of Criminal Case No. 20385-MN entitled: “People vs. Nenita Salvador”, Judge Floro, Jr., in the absence of the public prosecutor and considering that the private complainant was not being represented by a private prosecutor, used his moral ascendancy and influence to convince the private complainant to settle and eventually cause the dismissal of the case in the guise of settling its civil aspect by making the private complainants and the accused sign the settlement. (Copy of the signed stenographic notes is hereto attached as Annex “8”).

x x x x

In an Order dated March 8, 1999 in Criminal Case No. 20385-MN, for frustrated homicide, Judge Floro, Jr. put on record the “manifestations” of the private complainant and the accused relative to their willingness to settle the civil aspect of the case.  In the same order, Judge Floro, Jr. reserved his ruling on the said settlement until after the public prosecutor has given his comment.  However, per report of the court employees in Branch 73, the aforesaid order was actually a revised one or a deviation from the original order given in open court.  Actually, the said criminal case was already settled even without the presence of the public prosecutor.  The settlement was in the nature of absolving not only the civil liability of the accused but the criminal liability as well.  It was further reported that the private complainants signed the compromise agreement due to the insistence or persuasion of Judge Floro, Jr.   The audit team was furnished a copy of the stenographic notes (unsigned draft order) and the revised order (signed).  Copies of the stenographic notes and the revised order are hereto attached as Annexes “8”, “13”, and “14”.  (Note: the stenographic notes were signed by the parties to the case).

In the meantime, the mother of the private complainant in Criminal Case No. 20385-MN, Luz Arriego, filed an administrative case against Judge Floro docketed as A.M. OCA-I.P.I. No. 99-812-RTJ.  In her Affidavit Complaint[67] dated 9 August 1999, she alleged that on 8 March 1999, Judge Floro forced them to settle her daughter’s case against the accused therein despite the absence of the trial prosecutor.  When the parties could not agree on the amount to be paid by the accused for the medical expenses incurred by complaining witness, they requested respondent that they be given time to study the matter and consult a lawyer to which Judge Floro replied that the case be settled immediately, uttering, “ngayon na! ngayon na!” Moreover, Judge Floro allegedly made them believe that the counter-charges filed by the accused against the complaining witness would likewise be dismissed, so they agreed to settle the case.  However, the written Order issued by respondent Judge did not reflect the agreement entered into by the parties in open court.

Judge Floro takes exception to the foregoing OCA report and the complaint filed by Mrs. Arriego, maintaining that the hearing on said case was not only in accordance with the Rules of Court but was also beneficial to the litigants concerned as they openly manifested their willingness to patch up their differences in the spirit of reconciliation.  Then, considering that the parties suggested that they would file the necessary pleadings in due course, Judge Floro waited for such pleadings before the TSN-dictated Order could be reduced to writing.  Meanwhile, in the course of a conversation between Judge Floro and Court Administrator Benipayo, the latter opined that under Section 27 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, an offer of compromise in criminal cases is tantamount to an admission of guilt except in some cases.  With this in mind, the 8 March 1999 Order of the hearing on even date was superseded by the revised written Order likewise dated 8 March 1999.

Judge Floro asserts that contrary to Atty. Buenaventura’s stance that he has no power to revise an Order, courts have plenary power to recall and amend or revise any orally dictated order in substance and in form even motu proprio.

The rule on the matter finds expression in Echaus v. Court of Appeals[68] wherein we declared:

x x x [N]o judgment, or order whether final or interlocutory, has juridical existence until and unless it is set down in writing, signed and promulgated, i.e., delivered by the Judge to the Clerk of Court for filing, release to the parties and implementation, and that indeed, even after promulgation, it does not bind the parties until and unless notice thereof is duly served on them by any of the modes prescribed by law.  This is so even if the order or judgment has in fact been orally pronounced in the presence of the parties, or a draft thereof drawn up and signed and/or copy thereof somehow read or acquired by any party. In truth, even after promulgation (i.e., filing with the clerk of court), and even after service on the parties of notice of an order or judgment, the Court rendering it indisputably has plenary power to recall and amend or revise it in substance or form on motion of any party or even motu proprio, provided that in the case of a final order or judgment, the same has not attained finality. (Emphasis supplied)

In herein case, what was involved was an interlocutory order made in open court – ostensibly a judicial approval of a compromise agreement – which was amended or revised by removing the stamp of judicial approval, the written order merely stating that Judge Floro was reserving its ruling regarding the manifestations of the parties to enter into a compromise agreement after the public prosecutor shall have submitted its comments thereto.[69]

Considering then that it was well within the discretion of Judge Floro to revise his oral order per the Echaus ruling and factoring in his explanation for resorting to such an amendment, we find no basis for the charge of dishonesty (under paragraph “j” of the complaint).

Anent the charge that Judge Floro used his moral ascendancy to settle and eventually dismiss Criminal Case No. 20385-MN (for frustrated homicide) in the guise of settling the civil aspect of the case, by persuading the private complainant and the accused to sign the settlement even without the presence of the trial prosecutor, the same must likewise fail for lack of basis.  The controversial settlement never came to pass.  It was not judicially approved as reflected in the revised Order of 8 March 1999, thus, Mrs. Arriego actually had no cause for complaint.  She cannot, on one hand, complain that the written order did not reflect the agreement reached during the hearing and, on the other hand, claim that this agreement was reached under duress at the instance of Judge Floro.

(i)      For motu proprio and over the strong objection of the trial prosecutor, ordering the mental and physical examination of the accused based on the ground that the accused is “mahina ang pick-up”

The audit team reported that in an Order dated 8 February 1999 in Criminal Case No. 20347-MN, Judge Floro “motu proprio ordered the physical and mental examination of the accused by any physician, over the strong objection of the trial prosecutor, on the ground that the accused is “mahina ang pick-up.”[70]

In refutation, Judge Floro argues --

In the case at bar, respondent/Court carefully observed the demeanor of the accused NESTOR ESCARLAN and noted the manifestations of his counsel de oficio, Atty. E. Gallevo, PAO lawyer, and the comment/objections of the trial prosecutor, Prosecutor J. Diaz, thus:

a.                   Atty. Gallevo manifested to the Court that the accused opted to enter a plea of not guilty;

b.                  But upon query of the Court, the accused approached the bench and he appeared trembling and stammering;

c.                   Atty. Gallevo, upon questions by respondent, readily admitted that accused is “nauutal”, has difficulty of reasoning, of speaking, and very nervous;

d.                  Atty. Gallevo also manifested that the accused often changed his mind regarding the plea, from not guilty to guilty and to not guilty, and so forth;

e.                   Considering the grave situation, Atty. Gallevo, upon citation by the Court/respondent of the pertinent provisions of the Rules, namely Rule 28 (Mental Examination of Persons), Sec. 12 of Rule 116, and Sec. 5(g) of Rule 135, Rules of Court (plenary powers to issue orders to conform to justice), manifested orally that the accused is “mahina ang pick-up”;

f.                    Hence, respondent exercised his sound discretion in issuing the ORDER OF MENTAL EXAMINATION.

The MENTAL examination ORDER finds legal support, since it is well-settled that “the court may order a physical or MENTAL examination of a party where his physical or mental condition is material to the issues involved.” (27 C.J.S. p. 119, cf. MARTIN, p. 107, id.).[71]

PAO lawyer Erwin Joy B. Gallevo took the witness stand for Judge Floro.  He testified that he moved for the suspension of the arraignment of the accused Nestor Escarlan Escancilla in order to assess his mental fitness for trial.[72] As reflected in the Order for suspension, however, and as admitted by Judge Floro himself in his Comment, Atty. Gallevo merely manifested that accused is “mahina ang pick-up.”

Be that as it may, we cannot fault Judge Floro for suspending the arraignment motu proprio and “over the strong objection of the trial prosecutor.”   It must be remembered that the scheduled arraignment took place in February 1999 when the applicable rule was still Section 12(a) of Rule 116 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, which reads:

SEC. 12.          Suspension of arraignment. – The arraignment shall be suspended, if at the time thereof:

(a)                The accused appears to be suffering from an unsound mental condition which effectively renders him unable to fully understand the charge against him and to plead intelligently thereto.  In such case, the court shall order his mental examination and, if necessary, his confinement for such purpose.

The above-cited rule does not require that the suspension be made pursuant to a motion filed by the accused unlike Section 11(a), Rule 116 of the present 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure which decrees that the suspension be made “upon motion by the proper party.”[73] Thus, it was well within the discretion of Judge Floro to order the suspension of the arraignment motu proprio based on his own assessment of the situation.  In fact, jurisprudence imposes upon the Judge the duty to suspend the proceedings if it is found that the accused, even with the aid of counsel, cannot make a proper defense.[74] As we underscored in People v. Alcalde[75]:

Settled is the rule that when a judge is informed or discovers that an accused is apparently in a present condition of insanity or imbecility, it is within his discretion to investigate the matter.  If it be found that by reason of such affliction the accused could not, with the aid of counsel, make a proper defense, it is the duty of the court to suspend the proceedings and commit the accused to a proper place of detention until his faculties are recovered. x x x.

x x x x

The constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him under the Bill of Rights carries with it the correlative obligation to effectively convey to the accused the information to enable him to effectively prepare for his defense.  At the bottom is the issue of fair trial.  While not every aberration of the mind or exhibition of mental deficiency on the part of the accused is sufficient to justify suspension of the proceedings, the trial court must be fully satisfied that the accused would have a fair trial with the assistance the law secures or gives. x x x.

Whether or not Judge Floro was indeed correct in his assessment of the accused’s mental fitness for trial is already beside the point.  If ever he erred, he erred in the side of caution which, under the circumstances of the case, is not an actionable wrong.

(e)      Re: Charge of appearing and signing pleadings in Civil Case No. 46-M-98 pending before Regional Trial Court, Branch 83, Malolos, Bulacan in violation of Canon 5, Rule 5.07, Code of Judicial Conduct which prohibits a judge from engaging in the private practice of law

(f)               Re: Charge of appearing in personal cases without prior authority from the Supreme Court and without filing the corresponding applications for leaves of absence on the scheduled dates of hearing

In support of the above charges, the memorandum report states:

i.          Judge Floro, Jr. informed the audit team that he has personal cases pending before the lower courts in Bulacan.  He admitted that Atty. Bordador, the counsel of record in some of these cases, is just signing the pleadings for him while he (Judge Floro, Jr.) acts as collaborating counsel.  When attending the hearing of the cases, Judge Floro, Jr. admitted that he does not file an application for leave of absence.

Based on the reports gathered by the audit team, Judge Floro, Jr. has a pending civil case in the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan and a criminal case in Municipal Trial Court, Meycauayan, Bulacan.  It is reported that in these cases, he is appearing and filing pleadings in his capacity as party and counsel for himself and even indicating in the pleadings that he is the Presiding Judge of Branch 73, RTC, Malabon.

Upon verification by the audit team, it was found out that Judge Floro, Jr. indeed has a pending case before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 83, Malolos, Bulacan docketed as Civil Case No. 46-M-98, entitled: “In Re: In the Matter of the Petition for Habeas Corpus of Robert V. Floro, Atty. Florentino V. Floro, Jr., Petitioner - versus – Jesie V. Floro and Benjamin V. Floro”. In this case Judge Floro, Jr. filed an “Ex-Parte Motion for Issuance of Entry of Judgment with Manifestation and/or Judicial Admission” wherein he signed as the petitioner and at the same time indicated that he is the presiding judge of RTC, Branch 73, Malabon, Metro Manila. Court stenographer Marissa Garcia, RTC, Branch 83, Malolos, Bulacan confirmed this information. Judge Floro, Jr. even attached a copy of his oath taking and his picture together with President Joseph Estrada to the aforesaid pleading. Photocopy of the said Motion is hereto attached as Annex “9”.

Judge Floro, Jr. has a pending request with the Court Management Office, Office of the Court Administrator, to appear as counsel or collaborating counsel in several civil cases (except the above-mentioned case) pending before lower courts.[76]

Well ensconced is the rule that judges are prohibited from engaging in the private practice of law.  Section 35, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court unequivocally states that: “No judge or other official or employee of the superior courts or of the Office of the Solicitor General, shall engage in private practice as member of the bar or give professional advice to client.”   Canon 5, Rule 5.07 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, on the other hand, provides that: “A judge shall not engage in the private practice of law.”

Judge Floro vehemently denies the foregoing charge claiming that he hired lawyers to attend to his personal cases.[77]

A scrutiny of the voluminous records in this case does not reveal any concrete proof of Judge Floro having appeared as counsel in his personal cases after he had already been appointed Judge except that he prepared a pleading (“Ex Parte Motion For Issuance of Entry of Judgment With Manifestation and/or Judicial Admission”) jointly with his counsel of record in connection with a habeas corpus case he filed against his brothers for the custody of their “mild, mentally-retarded” brother.  He explained, however, that he prepared the said pleading in the heat of anger as he could not accept the judgment of dismissal in that case.[78] He likewise explained that the pleading was signed by him alone due to inadvertence and that he had rectified the same by filing an Amended Manifestation with Affidavit of Merit.[79] Finally, during the hearing of this case, Judge Floro argued that he filed the subject pleading as petitioner and not as counsel.[80]

The proscription against the private practice of law by judges is based on sound public policy, thus:

[T]he rights, duties, privileges and functions of the office of an attorney-at-law are inherently incompatible with the high official functions, duties, powers, discretion and privileges of a judge.  It also aims to ensure that judges give their full time and attention to their judicial duties, prevent them from extending special favors to their own private interests and assure the public of their impartiality in the performance of their functions.  These objectives are dictated by a sense of moral decency and desire to promote the public interest.[81]

Based on the above rationale, it becomes quite evident that what is envisioned by “private practice” is more than an isolated court appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary action, a succession of acts of the same nature habitually or customarily holding one’s self to the public as a lawyer.[82] In herein case, save for the “Motion for Entry of Judgment,” it does not appear from the records that Judge Floro filed other pleadings or appeared in any other court proceedings in connection with his personal cases.  It is safe to conclude, therefore, that Judge Floro’s act of filing the motion for entry of judgment is but an isolated case and does not in any wise constitute private practice of law.   Moreover, we cannot ignore the fact that Judge Floro is obviously not lawyering for any person in this case as he himself is the petitioner.

Be that as it may, though Judge Floro might not be guilty of unauthorized practice of law as defined, he is guilty of unbecoming conduct for signing a pleading wherein he indicated that he is the presiding judge of RTC, Branch 73, Malabon City and for appending to the pleading a copy of his oath with a picture of his oath-taking.  The only logical explanation we can reach for such acts is that Judge Floro was obviously trying to influence or put pressure on a fellow judge by emphasizing that he himself is a judge and is thus in the right.[83] Verily, Canon 2, Rule 2.04 of the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that a “judge shall refrain from influencing in any manner the outcome of litigation or dispute pending before another court or administrative agency.”  By doing what he did, Judge Floro, to say the least, put a fellow judge in a very awkward position.

As to charge (f), the OCA has failed to substantiate its claim that Judge Floro has been attending the hearing of his personal cases without filing for leave of absence.  As Judge Floro vehemently protests the charge as untrue, it was incumbent upon the OCA to prove its case.  Time and again we have held that although administrative proceedings are not strictly bound by formal rules on evidence, the liberality of procedure in administrative actions is still subject to limitations imposed by the fundamental requirement of due process.[84]

(k)    Re: Charge of openly criticizing the Rules of Court and the Philippine justice system

(l)      Re: Charge of use of highly improper and intemperate language during court proceedings

The memorandum report reads:

In the course of the judicial audit, the audit team was able to observe the way Judge Floro, Jr. conducts court proceedings.  With the assistance of the court staff, the team was able to obtain a tape-recorded proceeding conducted by Judge Floro, Jr.  Attached is the transcript of the proceedings (Annex “15”).  The tape record of the court proceedings is also submitted along with this report as Exhibit “A”.

x x x x

The case for hearing that day was Civil Case No. 1256 MM.  A certain Atty. Abelarde was appearing for the plaintiff while Atty. Emmanuel Basa was appearing for the defendant.  During the hearing, it seems that the counsels for both parties were guiding Judge Floro, Jr. on how to proceed with the trial.

There was one instance when Judge Floro, Jr. criticized the Rules of Court, to wit:

“Judge Floro, Jr.: Kasi nga ang may plano nito ay ang Rules of Court, hindi nila maayos ang Rules of Court natin, hindi realistic kinopya lang sa law of California on Civil Procedure; pagdating dito eh … dahil sa kanila maraming nagkakaproblema, masyadong maraming … eh ako wala akong pinagkopyahan yan … but ginawa ko lang yon … Sabi ko si Judge nagko-complain kasi, sabi ko nga pagka ang lawyer hindi alam yan talo na sa akin … except … na hindi papayag … kasi marami diyang …”

In another proceeding conducted on a different day, Judge Floro, Jr., instead of holding trial, discussed, in open court, the case involving his brother.  He even condemned the Philippine justice system and manifested his disgust on the unfairness of the system.  Thus, he said:

“Sabi ko paano ko matatagpuan ang katarungan dito sa korteng eto bulok ang hustisya.  Ang kapatid ko napakayaman, ako walang pera.”

He continued:

“Yung kapatid ko.  Hindi ko makuha kundi makita ko lang.  Bawal kasi; yung kapatid ko retarded, bawal.  In memory of my brother, Robert Floro.  So, ngayon nag-file ako.  Sabi ni Judge Agloro senermonan pa ako, ganun … ganun … Sabi ko paano ko makikita ang katarungan.  Tapos ngayon ang nangyari di Judge na ako, hindi ko pa nakita ang kapatid ko.  Di ngayon, ang ginawa ko na-dismiss na yung case, hindi ko inano kasi wala akong nakikitang katarungan dahil ang kapatid ko ay napakaraming pera.  Alam ko naman kung ang isang court eh parehas o may kiling eh.  Yung abogado niya malakas na malakas doon.  Sana hindi naka-record eto (laughs) baka ako ma-contempt dito.”[85]

Judge Floro denies the foregoing accusations, emphatically arguing that these are all hearsay fabrications supplied by his Clerk of Court, Atty. Dizon, and by disgruntled RTC personnel due to ill or ulterior motives (i.e., to allegedly cover-up their consistent tardiness, habitual absenteeism and gross neglect of duties which were all unearthed by Judge Floro).

As to the tape recording of an alleged court hearing wherein he criticized the Philippine judicial system, Judge Floro contends that this recording was done clandestinely by his staff in violation of the Anti-Wire Tapping Law (Republic Act No. 4200) and, to suit their plans, they twisted the facts by cutting portions thereof.  They also made it appear that the conversation took place in a court proceeding when, in fact, this was inside his chambers.

During the investigation, it was established that the two tapes in question were submitted to the OCA sans the “yellow notes” and the official transcribed copy thereof.[86] This means that the transcribed copy that was submitted by the audit team as Annex “15” is but an unofficial copy and does not, by itself, prove that what was being recorded was a court proceeding.   This being the case, the two tapes, without concrete proof that they were taken officially during a court proceeding, cannot be used against Judge Floro as the unauthorized recording of a private conversation is inadmissible under Rep. Act No. 4200.[87]

Without the tape and transcribed copies of the contents thereof, we are thus left with only Judge Floro’s word against that of Atty. Dizon, his Clerk of Court who testified under oath as to Judge Floro’s alleged propensity to criticize the judiciary and to use intemperate language.  Resolving these particular charges would therefore depend upon which party is more credible.

Atty. Dizon stated on the witness stand that:

Q:        Is Judge Floro guilty of Violation of Canon 1 Rule 1.01 Code of Judicial Conduct when he openly criticized the Rules of Court and the Philippine Justice System?

A:         Yes.  Judge Floro has mentioned to each and everyone of us in branch 73 the alleged “kabulukan ng hustisya”.  Time and again he said the Rules of Court is of no use.  He said that since theory and the practice of law are very different, the Rules of Court does not always apply to different cases.  Not only the justice system did he criticize but likewise Judges and Justices.  He told us . . . and I quote “D’yan sa Malolos sangkatutak ang corrupt na Judges . . . Sa Court of Appeals P25,000.00 ang pinakamababang lagayan diyan.”

To our mind, how can a Judge like him openly criticize the very institution he is now serving?  Where is his respect to the court, to the bar and to the bench?  How can he uphold courts as temples of justice if he himself did not believe in the justice system?

x x x x

Q         What can you say about charge letter “L” which reads for the use of highly improper and intemperate language during court proceedings?

A         Judge Floro, if in the presence of all his staff, during the presence of me, the Court Interpreter, the Legal Researcher, maybe a Clerk, he always discuss matters regarding practitioners in our court. There is one time one Atty. Feliciano a lady lawyer, he said, “Luka-luka, talaga yang babaing yan” and then he would call even not during court session, but during office hours our Court Interpreter “malandi, luka-luka, may fruit of the sun”. So, it did not surprise us one time when during a pre-trial conference in a Civil Case, for Civil Case No. 25-86-MN “Lopez v. Reyes and Mercado”, he uttered offensive language against his fellow judge. Take the transcription of this court proceeding is already adapted by the Court Administrator. It was the content of the tape he sent the Court Administrator. Actually, for consultation and advise after hearing what Judge Floro discussed in open Court, before all of us, the court staff present in the hearing and before the lawyer and the defendants in the case, we were in quandary whether or not to attach in the record the stenographic notes or even the actual transcription of the proceedings because it contained offensive languages against the justice system, against a certain judge, against a certain Clerk of Court named Jude Assanda, against people he is disgusted with. In fact, instead of discussing the merit of the case or the possibility of the amicable settlement between the parties, he integrated this kind of discussion. So, as a Clerk of Court, I may not use my discretion whether or not to advise the stenographer to indeed present the same or attach the same in the record because it contained offensive languages highly improper and intemperate languages like for example, “putang ina”, words like “ako ang anghel ng kamatayan, etcetera, etcetera”.[88]

The denials of Judge Floro are insufficient to discredit the straightforward and candid declarations of Atty. Dizon especially in the light of confirming proofs from Judge Floro himself.

The Court finds the version of Atty. Dizon more credible because subject utterances are consistent with Judge Floro’s claims of intellectual superiority for having graduated with several honors from the Ateneo School of Law and having placed 13th in the bar examinations.  Moreover, his utterances against the judicial system on account of his perception of injustice in the disposition of his brother’s case are not far removed from his reactions to what he perceived were injustices committed against him by the OCA and by the persons who were either in charge of the cases against him or had some sort of participation therein.   Consequently, although there is no direct proof that Judge Floro said what he is claimed to have said, nonetheless, evidence that he sees himself as intellectually superior as well as evidence of his habit of crying foul when things do not go his way, show that it is more likely that he actually criticized the Rules of Court and the judicial system and is thus guilty of unbecoming conduct.  Verily, in administrative cases, the quantum of proof necessary for a finding of guilt is substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.[89] In this case, there is ample and competent proof of violation on Judge Floro’s part.

(m)    Re:  Charge of violating Circular No. 13-87 dated 1 July 1987

The memorandum report stated that Judge Floro –

[D]eviat[ed] from the regular course of trial when he discusses matters involving his personal life and beliefs.  Canon 3, Rule 3.03 provides that “[a] judge shall maintain order and proper decorum in the court.”  A disorderly judge generates disorderly work.  An indecorous judge invites indecorous reactions.  Hence, the need to maintain order and proper decorum in court.  When the judge respects himself, others will respect him too.  When he is orderly, others will follow suit.  Proceedings in court must be conducted formally and solemnly.  The atmosphere must be characterized with honor and dignity befitting the seriousness and importance of a judicial trial called to ascertain the truth.  Anything which tends to detract from this atmosphere must be avoided.  And the judge is supposed to be in control and is therefore responsible for any detraction therefrom.

Circular No. 13 (Guidelines in the Administration of Justice) dated July 1, 1987 provides that trial of cases should be conducted efficiently and expeditiously.  Judges should plan the course and direction of trials so that waste of time is avoided.

Moreover, a judge should avoid being queer in his behavior, appearance and movements.  He must always keep in mind that he is the visible representative of the law. Judge Floro, Jr.’s claims that he is endowed with psychic powers, that he can inflict pain and sickness to people, that he is the angel of death and that he has unseen “little friends” are manifestations of his psychological instability and therefore casts doubt on his capacity to carry out the functions and responsibilities of a judge.  Hence, it is best to subject Judge Floro, Jr. once again to psychiatric or mental examination to ascertain his fitness to remain in the judiciary.[90]

Circular No. 13-87, by itself, does not define nor punish an offense but, as its title would suggest, it merely sets the guidelines in the administration of justice following the ratification of the 1987 Constitution.

The arguments forwarded by the OCA, however, best exemplify the fact that the 13 charges are inextricably linked to the charge of mental/psychological illness which allegedly renders Judge Floro unfit to continue discharging the functions of his office.   This being the case, we will consider the allegation that Judge Floro proclaims himself to be endowed with psychic powers, that he can inflict pain and sickness to people, that he is the angel of death and that he has unseen “little friends” in determining the transcendental issue of his mental/psychological fitness to remain in office.

But before we even go into that, we must determine the appropriate penalty to be imposed for the seven of the 13 charges discussed above.  To recapitulate, we have found Judge Floro guilty, in one way or another, of seven of the 13 charges against him.  Thus:

1)                 Charge “a” - simple misconduct

2)                 Charges “c” and “g” – gross ignorance of the law

3)                 Charge “d” – unbecoming conduct

4)                 Charge “e” – unbecoming conduct

5)                 Charges “k” and “l” – unbecoming conduct

Gross ignorance of the law or procedure is a serious charge.  Under Rule 140 as amended, a judge guilty of a serious charge may be dismissed from the service, suspended from office without salary and other benefits for more than three but not exceeding six months or fined in the amount of P 20,000.00 but not exceeding Pi.e. P[91] 40,000.00 depending on the circumstances of the case.  In herein case, considering that Judge Floro had barely warmed his seat when he was slammed with these charges, his relative inexperience is to be taken in his favor. And, considering further that there is no allegation or proof that he acted in bad faith or with corrupt motives, we hold that a fine is the appropriate penalty.  The fine is to be imposed in the maximum, 40,000.00, as we will treat the findings of simple misconduct and unbecoming conduct as aggravating circumstances.

Judge Floro must be relieved of his position as Judge of RTC Malabon Branch due to a medically disabling condition of the mind that renders him unfit to discharge the functions of his office

As we have explained, the common thread which binds the 13 seemingly unrelated accusations in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460 is the charge of mental illness against Judge Floro embodied in the requirement for him to undergo an appropriate mental or psychological examination and which necessitated his suspension pending investigation.  This charge of mental illness, if true, renders him unfit to perform the functions of his office notwithstanding the fact that, in disposing of the 13 charges, there had been no finding of dismissal from the service against Judge Floro.

The Supreme Court Clinic first had occasion to interview Judge Floro when the latter applied for judgeship (which application he later voluntarily withdrew) way back in September 1995.  The psychological report, as prepared by Cecilia C. Villegas, M.D. (Director III, Chief SC Clinic Services) and Melinda C. Grio (Psychologist), stated in part:

PSYCHIATRIC EVALUATION:

There are evidences of developing psychotic process at present.

REMARKS:

Atty. Floro was observed to be restless and very anxious during the interview.  He was argumentative and over solicitous of questions asked, giving the impressions of marked suspiciousness.  He centered on his academic excellence, an Ateneo de Manila graduate of the College of Law, rated top 13th place in the bar examination.  He emphasized his obsessive and compulsive method of studying, at least 15 hours per day regardless of whether it was school days or vacation time.  Vying for honors all the time and graduated Law as second honor, he calls this self-discipline and self-organization.  He expressed dissatisfaction of his achievements, tend to be a perfectionist and cannot accept failures.  To emphasize his ultra bright mind and analytical system, he related that, for the past 3 to 5 years, he has been experiencing “Psychic vision” every morning and that the biggest secret of the universe are the “unseen things.”  He can predict future events because of “power in psychic phenomenon” as when his bar results was to be released, he saw lights in the sky “no. 13-1,” and he got the 13th place.  He has been practicing “parapsychology” – seeing plenty of “dwendes” around him.

He can talk on and on of bizarre ideas, that tends (sic) to be irrelevant.

Intellectually, he has high assets, however, evidence of ego disintegration are prominent findings, both in the interview (conscious) and psychological test results. (unconscious level).[92]

Approximately three years later, in June 1998, Judge Floro again presented himself to the Supreme Court Clinic when he applied anew for judgeship, this time of RTC Malabon.  Psychologist Beatriz O. Cruz and Celeste P. Vista, M.D. (Psychiatrist and Medical Officer IV) did the interview and evaluation.  Dr. Vista observed:

Atty. Floro has an impressive academic achievements (sic), and he takes pride in this.  During the interview, he was quite reluctant to reveal information about his family background and would rather talk about his work and academic achievements.  However, he failed to integrate his knowledge into a cohesive unit which he can utilize to cope with the various tasks that he undertakes.  This renders him confused and ambivalent with a tendency to vacillate with decision-making.  He also has a low self-esteem and prone to mood swings with the slightest provocation.

From the interview, there seems to have been no drastic change in his personality and level of functioning as a lawyer in private practice. However, he showed a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits.  He has poor social skills and showed discomfort with close social contacts.  Paranoid ideations, suspiciousness of others’ motives as well as perceptual distortions were evident during the interview.

Atty. Floro’s current intelligence function is along the mild mental retardation (68) which is below the expected cognitive efficiency of a judge.  Despite his impressive academic background and achievements, he has lapses in judgment and may have problems with decision-making.  His character traits such as suspiciousness and seclusiveness and preoccupation with paranormal and psychic phenomena though not detrimental to his role as a lawyer, may cloud his judgment, and hamper his primary role as a judge in dispensing justice.  Furthermore, he is at present not intellectually and emotionally equipped to hurdle the responsibilities of a judge and he may decompensate when exposed to anxiety-provoking and stress-laden situation.[93]

It would seem that the JBC disregarded the above-quoted report as it allowed Judge Floro to seek a second opinion from private practitioners.   A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460, however, resurrected the issue of his mental and psychological capacity to preside over a regional trial court.  Thus, the Resolution of 20 July 1999 specifically ordered Judge Floro to submit to “appropriate psychological or mental examination.”

On 1 February 2000, per recommendation of Justice Ramirez,[94] the Court clarified that the “appropriate psychological or mental examination” being adverted to in the Resolution of 20 July 1999 is to be conducted by the SC Clinic.  The Court thereby directed Judge Floro to “submit himself to the SC Clinic for psychological or mental examination, within ten (10) days from notice.”[95] Judge Floro sought reconsideration which was denied by the Court on 22 February 2000.[96]

The order to submit to the appropriate psychological examination by the SC Clinic was reiterated by the Court on 17 October 2000 with the admonition that Judge Floro’s failure to do so would result in appropriate disciplinary sanctions.[97]

On 24 October 2000, Judge Floro sought reconsideration of the 17 October 2000 Resolution with a conjunctive special motion for him to undergo psychiatric examination by any duly authorized medical and/or mental institution.[98] This was denied by the Court on 14 November 2000.[99]

On 10 November 2000, Judge Floro moved, among other things, for the inhibition or disqualification of Supreme Court Clinic doctors[100] and  psychologist[101] with a manifestation that he filed cases against them for revocation of licenses before the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC), the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) and the PAP[102] for alleged gross incompetence and dishonorable conduct under Sec. 24 of Rep. Act No. 2382/1959 Medical Act/Code of Medical Ethics.[103]

On 16 November 2000, Justice Ramirez, with the approval of Court Administrator Benipayo, moved that Judge Floro be sanctioned for obvious contempt in refusing to comply with the 1 February 2000 and 17 October 2000 resolutions.  According to Justice Ramirez, Judge Floro’s filing of administrative cases with the PRC against Dr. Mendoza, et al., is an indication of the latter’s intention to disregard and disobey the legal orders of the Court.[104] The Court en banc agreed in the report of Justice Ramirez, thus Judge Floro was ordered to submit to psychological and mental examination within 10 days from receipt, otherwise, he “shall be ordered arrested and detained at the jail of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) x x x.”[105]

Judge Floro finally complied with the directive on 13 and 15 December 2000.[106] He likewise sought the services of a private practitioner, Dr. Eduardo T. Maaba, who came out with his own evaluation of Judge Floro on 3 January 2001.[107]

Thus, Judge Floro trooped to the Supreme Court Clinic for the third time in December 2000, this time in connection with A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460.  Francianina G. Sanchez, Clinical Psychologist and Chief Judicial Staff Officer reported that “(o)ver all data strongly suggest a delusional disorder with movement in the paranoid direction.”  Dr. Celeste Vista, for her part, stated that:

Based on the clinical data gathered, it appears that Judge Floro is basically a cautious, and suspicious individual with a compulsion to analyze and observe motives in his milieu. Despite his status, cognitive assets and impressive educational background, his current functioning is gauged along the LOW AVERAGE intelligence.

He can function and apply his skills in everyday and routine situations.  However, his test protocol is characterized by disabling indicators.  There is impairment in reality testing which is an indicator of a psychotic process.  He is unable to make an objective assessment and judgment of his milieu.  Hence, he is apt to misconstrue signals from his environment resulting to perceptual distortions, disturbed associations, and lapses in judgment.  Such that, cultural beliefs in dwarfs, psychic and paranormal phenomena and divine gifts of healing have become incorporated in a delusional (false and unshakable beliefs) system, that it has interfered and tainted his occupational and social functioning.  Hence, he is found to be unfit in performing his court duties as a judge.[108]

Pursuant to the aforecited December 2000 interview of Judge Floro, Supreme Court Senior Chief Staff Officer Rosa J. Mendoza, M.D., reported to Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. in March 2001 that –

The findings of mental and psychological incapacity is thus substantially supported by evidence.  Based on the three [3] psychological tests and evaluation of the two [2] psychiatrists, the undersigned has no other recourse but to recommend that Judge Florentino Floro be declared unfit to discharge his duties as a Judge, effective immediately.

Not one to take this last recommendation sitting down, Judge Floro submitted earlier psychological evaluations conducted by several mental health professionals which were all favorable to him.  The first three evaluations were in connection with his application as RTC Judge of Malabon City in 1998 brought about by him having “failed” the examination given by the Supreme Court Clinic.  The report dated 04 September 1998 by staff psychologist, Rowena A. Reyes as noted by clinical Psychologist, Ma. Teresa Gustilo-Villasor of the Metropolitan Psychological Corporation (MPC), states in part:

I.          INTELLECTUAL/COGNITIVE CHARACTERISTICS

SUMMARY OF INTELLECTUAL/COGNITIVE CHARACTERISTICS

1. FFJ can draw from above average intellectual resources to cope with everyday demands. He is able to handle both concrete and abstract requirements of tasks. Alert to details, he has a logical approach in evaluating the relationship between things and ideas.

2.  He thrives in predictable and structured situations, where he can consider solid facts to arrived (sic)at concrete, tangible outcomes. Task-oriented, he can organize procedures and details so as to get things done correctly and on schedule. He uses conventional standards to determine personal progress. Set in his views, he may not readily accept others’ ideas and contributions especially if these oppose his own.

3.  A serious and thorough approach to his commitments is expected of FFJ. Generally, he prefers to control his emotions and does not let this get in the way of his judgment and decisions.

II.         EMOTIONAL/INTERPERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS

FFJ is motivated by the need to be recognized and respected for his undertakings. Achievement-oriented, he sets high personal standards and tends to judge himself and others according to these standards. When things do not develop along desired lines, he may become restless and impatient. Nevertheless, he is careful of his social stature and can be expected to comply with conventional social demands.[109]

Testifying as one of Judge Floro’s witnesses, Rowena A. Reyes opined on cross-examination that “psychologically speaking,” Judge Floro was not fit to be a judge.  Thus:

JUDGE AQUINO:

Q:        Now, that we are telling you that Judge Floro based on his testimony here and on every available records of the proceedings, has been claiming that he [is] possessed with Psychic Powers and he did not tell you that in the interview. Would you consider his failure to tell you about his Psychic Powers to be a fatal [flaw]?

x x x x

A:         Yes, Sir.

Q:        Very grave one, because it will affect the psychological outlook of the patient?

A:         Yes, Sir.

x x x x

Q:        I tell you now, Judge Floro has been claiming in [these] proceedings and you were here when we were cross-examining Mr. Licaoco and you heard that we mentioned in the course of our cross-examination. Would you consider his failure to tell you about his power of by location to be a fatal [flaw] and your assessment of his psychological outlook?

x x x x

A:         Yes, Sir.

Q:        Fatal [flaw]?

A:         Yes, Sir.

Q:        Did Judge Floro tell you also in the course of the interview that he is capable of being in a trance?

A:         He did not.

Q:        So, he did not tell you that while in a trance he could type letters?

A:         He did not.

x x x x

Q:        And reality oriented and a reality oriented person is one who will not be pronouncing or making pronouncement concerning his psychic powers.  Is this not correct?

x x x x

A:         Yes sir.

Q:        A reality oriented person is also one who will not claim that he is capable of having trances in the course of his private activities and even in the course of the performance of his official duty as a Judge.  Will you not agree with that?

A:         I agree with you, Sir.

Q:        And if he will do so, he will not be actually a reality oriented person.  Meaning tatagalugin ko na po nakukuha naman “na ako ay psychic, na ako ay pwedeng ipower ng by location, na kaya kong mag trance.  Gumawa pa ng iba’t iba pang bagay at the same time.”  Yan ay hindi compatible sa pagiging reality oriented?

A:         Yes, Sir.

Q:        And a person who is not reality oriented is not fit to sit as a Judge.

x x x x

Q:        I will add the phrase Psychologically speaking.

x x x x

A:         Yes, Sir.[110]

Another psychiatrist, Pacita Ramos-Salceda, M.D., Senior Consultant Psychiatrist of the Makati Medical Center, stated in her report dated 3  September 1998 that at the time of the interview Judge Floro –

[W]as enthusiastic and confident.  He is well informed about current issues, able to discuss a wide variety of topics intelligently without hesitation.  His thinking is lucid, rational, logical and reality based.  He is well oriented, intelligent, emotionally stable, with very good judgment.  There is no previous history of any psychological disturbances.[111]

This was followed by the evaluation of Eduardo L. Jurilla, M.D.,  dated September 1998, who stated in his report that –

Atty. Floro is an asthenic, medium height, fairly groomed, be-spectacled person with graying hair.  When interviewed he was somewhat anxious, elaborative and at times approximate in his answers.  He was alert, oriented, conscious, cooperative and articulate in Pilipino and English.  He denied any perceptual disturbances.  Stream of thought was logical and goal-directed.  There was pressure of speech with tendency to be argumentative or defensive but there were no flight of ideas, thought blocking, looseness of associations or neologisms.  Delusions were not elicited.  Affect was broad and appropriate but mood was anxious.  There were no abnormal involuntary movements or tics.  Impulse control is good.  Cognition is intact.  Judgment, insight, and other test for higher cortical functions did not reveal abnormal results.

Comments:       The over-all results of this psychiatric evaluation of Atty. Florentino V. Floro, Jr. do not contradict his nomination and appointment to the post he is seeking.[112]

On the witness stand, however, and testifying as Judge Floro’s witness, Dr. Jurilla clarified that the interview had its limitations[113] and he might have missed out certain information left out by his patient.[114] The following exchange is thus instructive:

JUDGE AQUINO:  x x x.  Did Judge Floro tell you in the interview that he has little unseen, unheard friends known as duwendes?

DR. JURILLA:  He did not.

x x x x

Q:        Did you interview Judge Floro or did he [volunteer] to you information about his claim to be the number five psychic in the country?

x x x x

A:         No, Your Honor.

Q:        He did not tell you also that he is gifted also with this so called, psychic phenomena?

A:         He did not.

x x x x

Q:        He did not tell you also that in [traveling] from one place to another, at least four (4) kilometers apart, he used to ride on a big white or whatever it is, horse?

A:         Not during our interview.

x x x x

A:         It is possible like any other psychiatrist or mental health doctor you might have missed some information or it is possible that our clients or patients might not [have] told us everything.

Q:        And if your clients or patients did not tell you things such as those that Judge Floro did not admittedly tell you in the course of the interview, your opinion of the patient would be altered a little?

x x x x

A:         The answer has something to do whether my evaluation may be altered. Yes, Your Honor in the absence of any corroborative contradiction.

Q:        More so, if the presence of confirming events that transpired after the interview, would that be correct?

A:         The interview has its limitations.

Q:        Let us say, what Judge Floro did [not] tell you during the interview are confirmed by events that transpired after the interview, would you not say you have more reason to have your evaluation altered?

A:         Yes.

Q:        Especially so if you will now know that after that interview Judge Floro has been proclaiming himself as the number five psychic in the country [where] no one has called him as a psychic at all?

x x x x

Q:        Would it be really more altered?

A:         I would say so.

x x x x

Q:        Returning to the confirming proofs, meaning after the interview, which are confirmations of what Judge Floro did not tell you during the interview, would your finding of [J]udge Floro be drastically altered if he will tell you that he is capable or possessed of the power of bilocation?

x x x x

A:         I would probably try to for a diagnosis.

Q:        Which may make a drastic alteration of your evaluation of Judge Floro’s mental and psychological x x x?

A:         My diagnosis I will be seeking for an abnormal condition.

Q:        When you said abnormal something would have made you suspect that there was abnormality in the person of Judge Floro?

A:         Given the data.

Q:        We will give you the data or additional information.  Would you also have your evaluation favorable to Judge Floro drastically altered if I tell you that based on record Judge Floro has claimed that while in a trance he is capable of typing a letter?

x x x x

A:         If there is data toward that effect prior to September 1998, probably drastically altered.[115]

Lastly, Judge Floro presented the psychiatric evaluation of Eduardo T. Maaba, M.D.,[116] dated 3 January 2001, the relevant portions of which state:

Affect was adequate and no mood incongruity was observed.  Content of thought did not reveal delusional thought.  He was proud of his achievements in line with his profession and expressed his frustration and dissatisfaction with the way his colleagues are handling his pending administrative cases.  He was observed to be reality-oriented and was not suffering from hallucinations or abnormal perceptual distortions.  Orientation, with respect to time, place and person, was unimpaired.  Judgment and decision-making capacity were adequately functioning.

x x x x

An open-ended clinical interview was conducted at our clinic on December 26, 2000.  He talked about his family and academic achievements.  He claimed to possess a divine gift for prophecy and a gift of healing.  He also talked about a “covenant” made during a dream between him and 3 dwarf friends named Luis, Armand and Angel.  He reported that the first part of his ministry is to cast illness and/or disease and the second part is to heal and alleviate sufferings/pain from disease.

A series of psychological test was administered to Judge Floro on December 28, 2000.  The battery of test consisted of the following: (1) Otis-Lennon Mental Ability Test (2) SRA Language Test (3) Purdue Non-Language Test (4) Sack’s Sentence Completion Test and (5) Draw A Person Test.  Test results and evaluation showed an individual with an Above Average Intelligence.  Projective data, showed an obsessive-compulsive person who is meticulous to details and strive for perfection in tasks assigned to him.  He is reality-oriented and is deemed capable of making day-to-day decisions in his personal as well as professional decisions.  Confusion with regard to sexual identification, was further observed.

Based on the clinical observation and the results of the psychological tests, respondent Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr., was found to be a highly intelligent person who is reality-oriented and is not suffering from any major psychotic disorder.  He is not deluded nor hallucinated and is capable of utilizing his superior intellect in making sound decisions.  His belief in supernatural abilities is culture-bound and needs further studies/work-ups.

On cross-examination by Judge Aquino, however, Dr. Maaba also stated that Judge Floro was unfit to be a judge.[117] The relevant exchanges between Dr. Maaba and Judge Aquino are hereunder reproduced:

JUDGE AQUINO:       And would you say that something is wrong with a judge who shall claim that he is possessed with power of [bi-location]?

x x x x

DR. MAABA: A reality-oriented individual would not claim to be in two (2) places at one time.

Q:        And that something must be wrong?

A:         Yes.

Q:        Okay. Would you say that something is wrong also with a judge claiming in the course of his testimony and in this very case that while [he] was so testifying there is another spirit, another person, another character unseen who is with him at the same time or in tagalog “sumapi sa kanya”.

x x x x

A:         The observation that Judge Floro had unseen companion “sumapi” to me is unbelievable.

Q:        Unbelievable.  And anyone claiming it might be suffering from some delusion?

x x x x

A:         It could be and it could not be considered as perceptual distortion, your Honor.

Q:        No, Delusion.

A:         Delusions, no, but Hallucinations, maybe yes.

Q:        Ah, Hallucination, and which maybe worse?

A:         Both are on the same footing.

Q:        Okay. Would you say that the person declaring in a proceeding as a witness about hallucinatory matters would turn out to be fit to become a judge?

x x x x

A.        If these delusions or hallucinations are part and parcel of a major psychiatric disorder like schizophrenia or an organic mental disorder, this individual suffering from hallucinations or delusions is unfit to sit as a judge, however, there is, this symptom might also exi[s]t in a non-psychotic illness and the hallucinations and delusions could be transient and short in duration.

Q:        But of doubtful capacity to sit as a judge?

A:         Yes, doubtful capacity.

Q:        Now, trance is something covered by the field of which you are practicing with psychiatry.

A:         Yes.

Q:        Would you consider a person claiming in the course of a judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative proceedings particularly in the course of his testimony that while he was doing so, he was under trance normal.

x x x x

A:         Let me explain the phenomenon of trance it is usually considered in the Philippines as part of a culture bound syndrome and it could also be an indication … Basically the phenomenon of trance are often seen in cases of organic mental disorder. It is also common in culture bound syndrome and the effect of person is usually loss of concentration in a particular settings or situations so that a person or a judge hearing a case in court would [lose] concentration and would not be able to follow up testimony of witnesses as well as arguments given by the counsel for the defense and also for the prosecution, so I would say that there is this difficulty in manners of attention span and concentration if that person sitting as a judge experience trance as in the case of Judge Floro, this trance is manifested by flashing of lights and he might not be able to rationalize or to control expressions or as well as physical when he is in a trance.

Q:        Have you heard of a judge claiming that in the course of a proceeding, he was in a trance?

A:         No, I have not encountered any.

Q:        And if you hear one and will be shown records of one maybe such claim you will call that person not a normal person.

A:         Maybe weird.

Q:        I will now show to you portions of the stenographic notes of the proceedings in these cases held on October 10, 2000, afternoon session, page 30 we start with the question of Atty. Dizon. “Atty. Dizon: Mr. witness, can you tell us? Are you in trance at this very precise moment? JUDGE FLORO, JR.: “Nakalakip sila”. I call it a trance, but I distinguished not the trance that you see the – nag-sa-Sto., Nino, naninigas. That’s a trance that is created by the so called… Because Fr. Jaime Bulatao, multi awarded Jesuit priest, considered that as mind projection. He is correct in a sense that those nagta-trance na yan, naninigas, the mind projection or the hypnosis do come, and there is a change in the psychological aspect of the person. But in my case I never was changed physically or mentally. Only the lights and heat will penetrate that person. ATTY. DIZON: That will do. So at this very moment, Mr. witness, “meron kayong kalakip ngayon?”” “Ngayong oras na ito?” JUDGE FLORO: Yes, they are here. Atty. DIZON: Where are they? Judge Floro, Jr.: They cannot be seen but…  ATTY. DIZON: No, can you see them?” To point to us where are they in this room?”, Now that you have read and seen this portion wherein Judge Floro himself admitted that in the course of his testimony in these cases he was in a trance, would you still consider him at least insofar as this claim of his to be a normal person?

A:         No.

Q:        No, okay, so he is not normal. Now, Judge Floro in these proceedings also and I will show to you the transcript of stenographic notes later have claimed that he had, always had and still had a so–called counter part, his other side, other self, what can you say to that claim, would that be the claim of a normal, mental sound person?

A:         No.

Q:        And one who is not normal and mentally sound is of course not fit to sit as judge?

x x x x

A:         Yes.[118]

Based on the foregoing, the OCA, thru Justice Ramirez, reported that:

Upon the testimony of his own witnesses, Drs. Eduardo T. Maaba, Ma. Nieves Celeste and Eduardo L. Jurilla, respondent Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr. is unfit because of insanity to remain in office as Judge of the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Malabon, Metro Manila, Branch 73.

It is weird for respondent Judge to state in one of his pleadings in this case that President Estrada would not finish his term as President.  It is unusual and queer of him to state in his calling card that he is a graduate of Ateneo de Manila, second honors, bar topnotcher with a grade of 87.55% and include in his address the name Colonel Reynaldo Cabauatan who was involved in a coup d’etat attempt.  So is it strange of him to make use of his alleged psychic powers in writing decisions in the cases assigned to his court.  It is improper and grandiose of him to express superiority over other judges in the course of hearings he is conducting and for him to say that he is very successful over many other applicants for the position he has been appointed.  It is abnormal for a Judge to distribute self-serving propaganda.  One who distributes such self-serving propaganda is odd, queer, amusing, irresponsible and abnormal.  A judge suffering from delusion or hallucination is unfit to be one.  So is he who gets into a trance while presiding at the hearing of a case in court.  One need not be a doctor of medicine, a psychiatrist and a psychologist to determine and conclude that a person in such circumstances is mentally unfit or insane and should not be allowed to continue discharging the duties and functions of a judge.  The life, liberty and property of the litigants in the court presided by such judge are in his hands.  Hence, it is imperative that he is free from doubt as to his mental capacity and condition to continue discharging the functions of his office.

RECOMMENDATION

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully recommended that by reason of insanity which renders him incapable and unfit to perform the duties and functions of Judge of the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Malabon, Metro Manila, Branch 73, respondent Florentino V. Floro, Jr. be REMOVED and DISMISSED from such office.[119]

We are in agreement with the OCA that Judge Floro cannot remain as RTC Judge because of the findings of mental impairment that renders him unfit to perform the functions of his office.  We hasten to add, however, that neither the OCA nor this Court is qualified to conclude that Judge Floro is “insane” as, in fact, the psychologists and psychiatrists on his case have never said so.

When Justice Ramirez recommended that Judge Floro be dismissed from the service due to “insanity,” he was apparently using the term in its loose sense.  Insanity is a general layman’s term, a catch–all word referring to various mental disorders. Psychosis is perhaps the appropriate medical term[120] as this is the one used by Drs. Vista and Villegas of the Supreme Court Clinic.  It is of note that the 1995, 1998 and 2000 psychological evaluations all reported signs and symptoms of psychosis.

Courts exist to promote justice; thus aiding to secure the contentment and happiness of the people.[121] An honorable, competent and independent judiciary exists to administer justice in order to promote the stability of government, and the well-being of the people.[122] Carrying much of the weight in this daunting task of administering justice are our front liners, the judges who preside over courts of law and in whose hands are entrusted the destinies of individuals and institutions.  As it has been said, courts will only succeed in their tasks if the judges presiding over them are truly honorable men, competent and independent.[123]

There is no indication that Judge Floro is anything but an honorable man.  And, in fact, in our disposition of the 13 charges against him, we have not found him guilty of gross misconduct or acts or corruption.  However, the findings of psychosis by the mental health professionals assigned to his case indicate gross deficiency in competence and independence.

Moreover, Judge Floro himself admitted that he believes in “psychic visions,” of foreseeing the future because of his power in “psychic phenomenon.”  He believes in “duwendes” and of a covenant with his “dwarf friends Luis, Armand and Angel.”  He believes that he can write while on trance and that he had been seen by several people to have been in two places at the same time.  He has likened himself to the “angel of death” who can inflict pains on people, especially upon those he perceived as corrupt officials of the RTCs of Malabon.  He took to wearing blue robes during court sessions, switching only to black on Fridays.  His own witness testified that Judge Floro explained that he wore black from head to foot on Fridays to recharge his psychic powers. Finally, Judge Floro conducted healing sessions in his chambers during his break time.  All these things validate the findings of the Supreme Court Clinic about Judge Floro’s uncommon beliefs and that such beliefs have spilled over to action.

Lest we be misconstrued, we do not denigrate such belief system.  However, such beliefs, especially since Judge Floro acted on them, are so at odds with the critical and impartial thinking required of a judge under our judicial system.

Psychic phenomena, even assuming such exist, have no place in a judiciary duty bound to apply only positive law and, in its absence, equitable rules and principles in resolving controversies.  Thus, Judge Floro’s reference to psychic phenomena in the decision he rendered in the case of People v. Francisco, Jr.[124] sticks out like a sore thumb.   In said decision, Judge Floro discredited the testimony of the prosecution’s principal witness by concluding that the testimony was a “fairytale” or a “fantastic story.”[125] He then went to state that “psychic phenomena” was destined to cooperate with the stenographer who transcribed the testimony of the witness. The pertinent portion of Judge Floro’s decision is quoted hereunder:

3.         The testimony of the prosecution’s PRINCIPAL witness (sole eyewitness of the incident) NORMANDY is INCREDIBLE, is full of inconsistencies (major and not regarding minor points), ergo, the court concludes that due to several indicia of fraud/perjury (flagrant/palpable deception of the Court), his testimony is not worthy of belief, assuming ex-gratia argumenti, that the same may be admissible, and his Court narrative is hereby declared a FAIRY TALE or a FANTASTIC STORY of a crime scene that is acceptable only for SCREEN/cinematic viewing.  The following details, are proof of the foregoing conclusion:

a.)                NORMANDY swore that he, Ponciano Ineria and Raul Ineria were “sinalubong” by Lando/accused on June 21, 1987 at 2:30 a.m. at alley Wesleyan/Tangos, Navotas, and that he saw the “nagpambuno” between Raul and Ando, and that HE SAW P. INERIA dead, but HE WAS NO LONGER THERE, but he still saw the “nagpambuno”; MORE IMPORTANTLY, he SWORE that HE NOTICED the ACCUSED P. Francisco THE FOLLOWING DAY;

b.)                The foregoing verily demonstrate his 11th HOUR CONCOCTION (Big Lie, having been asked to submit false testimony); for how could have he witnessed the stabbing by accused when he NOTICED him the following day? (TSN dated May 2, 1995, pp. 1-2); assuming arguendo that the TSN was incorrect due to typographical error, or maybe the Court Stenographer III Eloisa B. Domingo might have been SLEEPING during the testimony, so that the word DAY should have been corrected to another word SUITABLE to Normandy’s FAIRY TALE, still, the Court had synthesized the entire NARRATIVE of Normandy, but the Court found no reason that the seeming error ‘DAY’ should be corrected; the Court’s sole/remaining conclusion is that EVEN the STENOGRAPHIC NOTES cooperated by PSYCHIC PHENOMENA perhaps of FOR SURE, in having BEEN DESTINED to be FATEFULLY INSCRIBED WITH THE WORDS FOLLOWING DAY (line 3, p. 3 TSN, id.);[126] (Emphasis supplied)

In State Prosecutors v. Muro[127] we held that –

What is required on the part of judges is objectivity.  An independent judiciary does not mean that judges can resolve specific disputes entirely as they please.  There are both implicit and explicit limits on the way judges perform their role.  Implicit limits include accepted legal values and the explicit limits are substantive and procedural rules of law.[128]

The judge, even when he is free, is still not wholly free.  He is not to innovate at pleasure.  He is not a knight-errant, roaming at will in pursuit of his own ideal of beauty or goodness.  He is to draw his inspiration from consecrated principles.  He is not to yield to spasmodic sentiment, to vague and unregulated benevolence.  He is to exercise a discretion informed by tradition, methodized by analogy, disciplined by system, and subordinate to the “primordial necessity of order in the social life.”[129]

Judge Floro does not meet such requirement of objectivity and his competence for judicial tasks leaves much to be desired.  As reported by the Supreme Court Clinic:

Despite his impressive academic background and achievements, he has lapses in judgment and may have problems with decision-making.  His character traits such as suspiciousness and seclusiveness and preoccupation with paranormal and psychic phenomena though not detrimental to his role as a lawyer, may cloud his judgment, and hamper his primary role as a judge in dispensing justice.  x x x[130]

Judge Floro’s belief system, as well as his actuations in the eight months that he served as RTC judge, indubitably shows his inability to function with the cold neutrality of an impartial judge.

Verily, Judge Floro holds an exalted position in our system of government.  Thus:

Long before a man dons the judicial robes, he has accepted and identified himself with large components of the judge’s role.  Especially if he has aspired to a judge’s status, he is likely to have conducted himself, more or less unconsciously, in the fashion of one who is said to have “the judicial temperament.”  He is likely to have displayed the kinds of behavior that the judge’s role demands.  A large proportion of his experiences on the bench develop and reinforce such conformity, moreover.  The ritualistic elements of investiture and of court procedure, the honorific forms of address, and even the imposing appearance of some court buildings serve to emphasize the demands upon his behavior.  Even the most unscrupulous former ambulance chaser who owes his position to a thoroughly corrupt political organization must conform at least in part to the behaviors expected of him as a judge.[131]

The expectations concerning judicial behavior are more than those expected of other public officials.  Judges are seen as guardians of the law and they must thus identify themselves with the law to an even greater degree than legislators or executives.[132]

As it has been said, “[j]udges administer justice judicially, i.e., not according to some abstract ideas of right and justice, but according to the rules laid down by society in its Code of Laws to which it gives its sanctions. The function of the judge is primarily adjudication.  This is not a mechanical craft but the exercise of a creative art, whether we call it legislative or not, which requires great ability and objectivity.”[133] We, thus, quote Justice Frankfurter, in speaking of the functions of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States:

To practice the requisite detachment and to achieve sufficient objectivity no doubt demands of judges the habit of self-discipline and self-criticism, incertitude that one’s own views are incontestable and alert tolerance toward views not shared.  But these are precisely the presuppositions of our judicial process.  They are precisely the qualities society has a right to expect from those entrusted with … judicial power.

x x x x

The judicial judgment … must move within the limits of accepted notions of justice and is not to be based upon the idiosyncrasies of a merely personal judgment.[134]

In fine, Judge Floro lacks the judicial temperament and the fundamental requirements of competence and objectivity expected of all judges.  He cannot thus be allowed to continue as judge for to do so might result in a serious challenge to the existence of a critical and impartial judiciary.

Equitable considerations entitle Judge Floro backwages and other economic benefits for a period of three (3) years.

In retrospect, we are forced to say that Judge Floro should not have joined the judiciary as RTC judge.  However, we have assiduously reviewed the history of this case and we cannot hold anyone legally responsible for such major and unfortunate faux pas.

Judge Floro did not breach any rule of procedure relative to his application for judgeship.  He went through the entire gamut of tests and interviews and he was nominated by the JBC on the strength of his scholastic achievements.  As to having failed the psychological examinations given by the SC Clinic, it must be pointed out that this was disregarded by the JBC upon Judge Floro’s submission of psychiatric evaluations conducted by mental health professionals from the private sector and which were favorable to him. Nowhere is it alleged that Judge Floro acted less than honorably in procuring these evaluations.

The JBC in 1999 had all the discretion to refer Judge Floro to a private clinic for a second opinion of his mental and psychological fitness.  In performing its functions, the JBC had been guided primarily by the Constitution which prescribes that members of the Judiciary must be, in addition to other requirements, persons of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.[135] It was only on 18 October 2000 when it promulgated JBC-009, the “Rules of the Judicial and Bar Council,” that the JBC put down in writing guidelines or criteria it had previously used in ascertaining “if one seeking such office meets the minimum constitutional qualifications and possesses qualities of mind and heart expected of the Judiciary.”[136] Rule 6 thereof states:

SECTION 1. Good health. – Good physical health and sound mental/psychological and emotional condition of the applicant play a critical role in his capacity and capability to perform the delicate task of administering justice.  x x x

SEC. 2. Psychological/psychiatric tests. – The applicant shall submit to psychological/psychiatric tests to be conducted by the Supreme Court Medical Clinic or by a psychologist and/or psychiatrist duly accredited by the Council.

It would seem that as things stood then, the JBC could very well rely on the evaluation of a private psychologist or psychiatrist not accredited by the JBC.  Thus, the JBC cannot be faulted for accepting the psychological evaluations of mental health professionals not affiliated with the Supreme Court Clinic.

It goes without saying that Judge Floro’s appointment as RTC judge is fait accompli.  What awaits us now is the seemingly overwhelming task of finding the PROPER, JUST AND EQUITABLE solution to Judge Floro’s almost seven years of suspension in the light of the fact that the penalty imposed herein does not merit a suspension of seven years.

Verily, the Supreme Court is vested with the power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts.[137] The Constitution limits this power through the admonition that such rules “shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights.”[138]

Rule 140 of the Rules of Court outlines the procedure to be followed in administrative cases against judges. Glaringly, Rule 140 does not detail the steps to be taken in cases when the judge is preventively suspended pending investigation. This is the state of things even after its amendment by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC which took effect on 1 October 2001.

The Supreme Court’s power to suspend a judge, however, is inherent in its power of administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof.[139] This power -- consistent with the power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts -- is hemmed in only by the Constitution which prescribes that an adjective law cannot, among other things, diminish, increase or modify substantive rights.

The resolution of 20 July 1999 which put Judge Floro under preventive suspension resolved to:

(1)        DIRECT Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr. to answer the foregoing charges against him within ten (10) days from notice; (2) REFER this case to Retired Justice Pedro Ramirez, Consultant, Office of the Court Administrator for investigation, report and recommendation, within sixty (60) days from receipt of the records thereof; (3) SUBJECT Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr. for appropriate psychological or mental examination to be conducted by the proper office of the Supreme Court or any duly authorized medical and/or mental institution.

Moreover, the Court RESOLVED to place Judge Florentino Floro, effective immediately under PREVENTIVE SUSPENSION for the duration of the investigation of the administrative charges against him.[140]

As can be gleaned from the above-quoted resolution, Judge Floro’s suspension, albeit indefinite, was for the duration of the investigation of the 13 charges against him which the Court pegged at 60 days from the time of receipt by the investigator of the records of the case.  Rule 140, as amended, now states that “(t)he investigating Justice or Judge shall terminate the investigation within ninety (90) days from the date of its commencement or within such extension as the Supreme Court may grant”[141] and, “(w)ithin thirty (30) days from the termination of the investigation, the investigating Justice or Judge shall submit to the Supreme Court a report containing findings of fact and recommendation.”[142]

From the foregoing, the rule now is that a Judge can be preventively suspended not only for the entire period of his investigation which would be 90 days (unless extended by the Supreme Court) but also for the 30 days that it would take the investigating judge or justice to come up with his report.  Moreover, the Court may preventively suspend a judge until such time that a final decision is reached in the administrative case against him or her.[143] This is because –

[U]nlike ordinary civil service officials and employees, judges who are charged with a serious offense warranting preventive suspension are not automatically reinstated upon expiration of the ninety (90)-day period, as mandated above. The Court may preventively suspend a judge until a final decision is reached in the administrative case especially where there is a strong likelihood of his guilt or complicity in the offense charged. Indeed, the measure is intended to shield the public from any further damage or wrongdoing that may be caused by the continued assumption of office by the erring judge. It is also intended to protect the courts’ image as temples of justice where litigants are heard, rights and conflicts settled and justice solemnly dispensed.

This is a necessary consequence that a judge must bear for the privilege of occupying an exalted position. Among civil servants, a judge is indeed in a class all its own. After all, in the vast government bureaucracy, judges are beacon lights looked upon as the embodiment of all what is right, just and proper, the ultimate weapons against justice and oppression.[144]

In the case of Judge Floro, he is under preventive suspension up to the present because of the serious charge of mental unfitness aggravated by the fact that the actual investigation into his cases dragged on for a much longer period than 90 days.  And the reasons for the delay, for the most part, can be directly ascribed to Judge Floro himself.  From the records, it would seem that not only did Judge Floro move for several re-settings of the hearings of his cases; he likewise dragged his feet with respect to the order to submit himself to the appropriate psychological/mental examination.   Worse, what started out as single case against him ballooned into 10 cases which were consolidated into one due to common questions of fact and law.[145] All in all, Judge Floro filed seven cases against those he perceived had connived to remove and/or suspend him from office, the last of which he filed on 19 May 2003 against Justice Ramirez.[146]

Be that as it may, EQUITY demands that we exercise utmost compassion in this case considering that the rules on preventive suspension of judges, not having been expressly included in the Rules of Court, are amorphous at best. We have ruled similarly in the case of Judge Philbert Iturralde, thus:

Be that as it may, we cannot in conscience hold that a judge who was placed under preventive suspension pending investigation is not entitled to the payment of back salaries, allowances and other economic benefits for the entire duration of the preventive suspension.  The inequity of the doctrine as applied to judges is clearly apparent, given the peculiar circumstance in which a judge finds himself preventively suspended by the Court “until further orders”.

In this case, Judge Iturralde was preventively suspended for 13½ months, during which period he was not paid his salaries, allowances and other benefits.  Except for a teaching job that the Court permitted him to undertake pending resolution of the administrative case, Judge Iturralde had no other source of income.  He thus incurred several loans to provide for his family’s basic needs.

It would thus be unjust to deprive Judge Iturralde of his back salaries, allowances and other economic benefits for the entire period that he was preventively suspended.  As we have said in Gloria v. Court of Appeals, preventive suspension pending investigation is not a penalty but only a measure intended to enable the disciplining authority to conduct an unhampered formal investigation.  We held that ninety (90) days is ample time to conclude the investigation of an administrative case.  Beyond ninety (90) days, the preventive suspension is no longer justified.  Hence, for purposes of determining the extent of back salaries, allowances and other benefits that a judge may receive during the period of his preventive suspension, we hold that the ninety-day maximum period set in Gloria v. Court of Appeals, should likewise be applied.

Concededly, there may be instances when an investigation would extend beyond ninety (90) days and such may not be entirely unjustified.  Nevertheless, we believe that in such a situation, it would be unfair to withhold his salaries and other economic benefits for the entire duration of the preventive suspension, moreso if the delay in the resolution of the case was not due to his fault.  Upon being found innocent of the administrative charge, his preventive suspension exceeding the ninety-day (90) period actually becomes without basis and would indeed be nothing short of punitive.  It must be emphasized that his subsequent acquittal completely removed the cause for his preventive suspension in the first place.  Necessarily, therefore, we must rectify its effects on just and equitable grounds.[147]

Taking off from the case of Judge Iturralde, we hold that Judge Floro is likewise entitled to the payment of back salaries, allowances and other economic benefits being at the receiving end of a rule peculiar to judges who find themselves preventively suspended by the Court “until further orders” or, as this case, “for the duration of the investigation.”   Judge Iturralde’s suspension of 13 ½ months even pales in comparison to Judge Floro’s suspension of 81 months, more or less.  During this entire excruciating period of waiting, Judge Floro could not practice his profession, thus putting him solely at the mercy of his brother’s largesse.  And, though he was given donations by those who came to him for healing, obviously, these could not compensate for his loss of income as Judge.

Unlike the case of Judge Iturralde, however, wherein we held that the period of suspension exceeding 90 days should be the basis for the payment of back salaries, we hold that, as a matter of equity,  Judge Floro is entitled to back salaries, allowances and other economic benefits for a period corresponding to three of his almost seven years suspension.  We cannot apply the ruling in Gloria that any suspension served beyond 90 days must be compensated as we would be, in effect, rewarding Judge Floro’s propensity to delay the resolution of his case through the indiscriminate filing of administrative cases against those he perceived connived to oust him out of office.  In Judge Iturralde’s case, the investigation was not delayed through any fault of his.  More importantly, Judge Iturralde was ultimately held innocent, thus, using by analogy Gloria v. Court of Appeals, his suspension in excess of 90 days was already in the nature of a penalty which cannot be countenanced precisely because, being innocent, he cannot be penalized.   Judge Floro, on the other hand, and as already discussed, contributed to the delay in the investigation of his cases.  Moreover, unlike Judge Iturralde, Judge Floro has not been adjudged innocent of all the 13 charges against him.

These facts, however, as we have already discussed, do not put Judge Floro beyond the reach of equity.  To paraphrase Justice Brandeis, equity does not demand that its suitors are free of blame.   As we are wont to say:

Equity as the complement of legal jurisdiction seeks to reach and do complete justice where courts of law, through the inflexibility of their rules and want of power to adapt their judgments to the special circumstances of cases, are incompetent so to do.  Equity regards the spirit of and not the letter, the intent and not the form, the substance rather than the circumstance, as it is variously expressed by different courts.[148]

In fine, notwithstanding the fact that Judge Floro is much to blame for the delay in the resolution of his case, equitable considerations constrain us to award him back salaries, allowances and other economic benefits for a period corresponding to three years.  This is because Judge Floro’s separation from the service is not a penalty as we ordinarily understand the word to mean.  It is imposed instead upon Judge Floro out of necessity due to a medically disabling condition of the mind which renders him unfit, at least at present, to continue discharging the functions of his office.

The period of three years seems to us the most equitable under the circumstances.  As discussed, if we were to give him more than three years of back salaries, etc., then it would seem that we are rewarding him for his role in delaying the resolution of these cases (as well as the seven cases he filed which were only dismissed on 14 February 2006 at his own bidding).  On the other hand, if we were to peg the period at less than three years then the same would only be a pittance compared to the seven years suspension he had to live through with Damocles’ sword hanging over his head and with his hands bound as he could not practice his profession.

Judge Floro’s separation from the service moots the case against him docketed as A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC (Re: Resolution Dated 11 May 1999 Of Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.) A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988 (Luz Arriego v. Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.), on the other hand, is dismissed for lack of merit.

A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC

It cannot be gainsaid that Judge Floro’s separation from the service renders moot the complaint in A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC.  As it is, even the most favorable of resolutions in this case will not cause a ripple on the Court’s decision to separate Judge Floro from the service.  Thus, this charge is dismissed for being moot and academic.

A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988

Considering that this case is a replica of charge “h” in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460 and considering that charge “h” is without basis, this particular complaint filed by Luz Arriego must necessarily be dismissed for lack of merit.

Judge Floro’s separation from the service does not carry with it forfeiture of all or part of his accrued benefits nor disqualification from appointment to any other public office including government-owned or controlled corporations.

As Judge Floro’s separation from the service cannot be considered a penalty, such separation does not carry with it the forfeiture of all or part of his accrued benefits nor disqualification from appointment to any other public office including government-owned or controlled corporations.

In fact, the psychological and psychiatric reports, considered as the bedrock of the finding of mental impairment against Judge Floro, cannot be used to disqualify him from re-entering government service for positions that do not require him to dispense justice.  The reports contain statements/findings in Judge Floro’s favor that the Court cannot overlook in all fairness as they deserve equal consideration.  They mention Judge Floro’s assets and strengths and capacity for functionality, with minor modification of work environment.  Thus:

a.                   High intellectual assets as a result of “self-discipline and self- organization.”[149]

b.                  “(I)mpressive academic achievements” with “no drastic change in his personality and level of functioning as a lawyer in private practice.”[150]

c.                   “(C)haracter traits of suspiciousness, seclusiveness, pre-occupation with paranormal and psychic phenomena … not detrimental to his role as a lawyer.”[151]

d.                  “Everyday situations can be comprehended and dealt with in moderate proficiency …. His concern for the details that make up a total field represents his attempts at being systematic and cautious.”[152]

e.         “(E)quipped with analytical power.”[153]

Consequently, while Judge Floro may be dysfunctional as a judge because of the sensitive nature of said position, he may still be successful in other areas of endeavor.

Putting all of the above in perspective, it could very well be that Judge Floro’s current administrative and medical problems are not totally of his making.  He was duly appointed to judgeship and his mental problems, for now, appear to render him unfit with the delicate task of dispensing justice not because of any acts of corruption and debasement on his part but clearly due to a medically disabling condition.

Finally, if Judge Floro’s mental impairment is secondary to genetics[154] and/or adverse environmental factors (and, unfortunately, such essential information is not available), we cannot condemn people for their faulty genes and/or adverse environment – factors they have no control over.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves to:

1)                 FINE Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr. in the total amount of FORTY THOUSAND (P40,000.00) PESOS for seven of the 13 charges against him in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460;

2)                 RELIEVE Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr. of his functions as Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 73, Malabon City and consider him SEPARATED from the service due to a medically disabling condition of the mind that renders him unfit to discharge the functions of his office, effective immediately;

3)                 As a matter of equity, AWARD Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr. back salaries, allowances and other economic benefits corresponding to three (3) years;

4)                 DISMISS the charge in A.M. No. RTJ-06-1988 (Luz Arriego v. Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.) for LACK OF MERIT; and

5)                 DISMISS the charge in A.M. No. 99-7-273-RTC (Re: Resolution Dated 11 May 1999 Of Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr.) for MOOTNESS.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

Chief Justice

REYNATO S. PUNO

Associate Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice



[1] 292 US 216, 229, 78 L ed 1219, 1227, 54 S Ct 684.

[2] OCA’s Annexes “A” to “C”.

[3] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 1-15.

[4] Id., pp. 87-89.

[5] Guidelines In the Administration of Justice.

[6] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 114-141.

[7] Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 428-432.

[8] TSN, 21 March 2000.

[9] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 481-484.

[10] Id., p. 489.

[11] Id., p. 491.

[12] Id., p. 494.

[13] Id., pp. 499-517.

[14] Rollo, Vol. II, p. 218.

[15] Resolution of the Court dated 5 April 2000.  Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 124 & 426.

[16] Danilo Cuarto, TSN, 6 March 2001, pp. 48-57.

[17] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 691-700.

[18] To paraphrase the OCA in its Memorandum dated 9 January 2006:

On 7 December 1999, Judge Floro filed a complaint against Atty. Buenaventura. This is the same complaint, which was docketed as A.M. OCA-IPI No. 00-876-RTC. Judge Floro alleged that during the audit, he informed Atty. Buenaventura of the corrupt acts and practices of Judge Aquino and Clerk of Court Dizon. According to Judge Floro, instead of reporting the matter, Atty. Buenaventura conspired with Judge Aquino and Atty. Dizon and the three came up with the misleading Judicial Audit Report later re-docketed as A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460 which led to the filing of the 13 charges against him and his suspension. He added that the three fabricated the charges to cover up the anomalies.

On 2 March 2000, Atty. Buenaventura filed her Comment.  In a resolution dated 11 July 2000, this Court forwarded the records to Justice Ramirez for inclusion in the investigation in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460.

[19] To paraphrase the OCA in its Memorandum dated 09 January 2006:

On 29 March 2000, Judge Floro filed a complaint dated 28 March 2000 against Judge Benjamin Aquino, Jr. He claimed that Judge Aquino: 1) failed to follow the rules on litigated motions due to corruption and conspiracy with one Fermin Ignacio Domingo alias Fermie Dizon, a fixer or “fianzadora”; 2) does not issue orders for the reduction of bail but merely signs the upper portion of the motion for reduction of bail; and 3) harassed one Gertrudes Mariano, a canteen operator at the justice compound, for informing him of Judge Aquino’s connivance with the “fianzadora”. He added that Judge Aquino connived with the municipal attorney to eject Mariano and Judge Aquino allowed a certain Ine to peddle, cook and serve food in front of the court.

On 18 August 2000, Judge Aquino filed his Comment.  In a resolution dated 31 July 2000, this Court referred the case to Justice Ramirez for investigation, report and recommendation in conjunction with A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460 and OCA IPI No. 00-876-RTC.

[20] To paraphrase the OCA in its Memorandum dated 09 January 2006:

On 21 June 2000, Judge Floro filed this complaint with the Office of the Bar Confidant. He alleged that Court Administrator Benipayo, in conspiracy with Judge Aquino, punished him due to vengeance and professional jealousy, with Judge Aquino convincing Court Administrator Benipayo to recommend his indefinite suspension based on 13 unsubstantiated charges. Judge Floro contended that upon his assumption of office he came to know of the rampant corruption in the Malabon, RTC, of the judicial employees thereat and of the prosecutors. He had a bitter quarrel with Judge Aquino, Jr. due to the unwarranted unloading of cases to his sala aside from other corrupt practices of the latter. Likewise, he had a bitter quarrel with his own Clerk of Court due to these corrupt practices. Thus, to protect himself, he requested for the audit of his sala. The audit was conducted on March 2-3, 1999. Atty. Buenaventura, the audit team leader, submitted her report on 12 March 1999 to respondent Court Administrator Benipayo. Consequently, Court Administrator Benipayo submitted his report and recommendation for Judge Floro’s indefinite preventive suspension to the Supreme Court. Furthermore, Judge Floro assailed as unconstitutional, void and illegal Court Administrator Benipayo’s report and recommendation to the Supreme Court for his indefinite preventive suspension.  Judge Floro thus prayed for the disbarment of respondents Court Administrator Benipayo and Judge Aquino, Jr. and for the issuance of a Permanent Injunction for similar cases of persecution in the future.

In a resolution dated 8 August 2000, this Court noted the complaint and required Court Administrator Benipayo and Judge Aquino, Jr. to comment.  On 18 September 2000, Judge Aquino, Jr. filed his Comment.  In a resolution dated 24 October 2000, this Court noted the Comments of Court Administrator Benipayo and that of Judge Aquino, Jr. and required Judge Floro to file a consolidated reply.  On 21 November 2000 Judge Floro filed a Consolidated Reply.

[21] To paraphrase the OCA in its Memorandum dated 09 January 2006:

On 21 June 2000, Judge Floro filed a disbarment case before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Commission on Bar Discipline against Atty. Bahia, Atty. Buenaventura and Atty. Dizon.  Judge Floro alleged that Attys. Bahia, Buenaventura and Dizon conspired to punish him for vengeance, together with the connivance of Judge Aquino, Jr. and Court Administrator Benipayo who recommended his indefinite preventive suspension based on 13 fabricated and unsubstantiated charges.  Upon the conduct of the audit by Atty. Buenaventura per his request to protect himself from the corruption practiced in the RTC Malabon, Atty. Buenaventura and Atty. Bahia who approved the former’s report, with apparent collusion solely listened and relied on Atty. Dizon and thus manipulated and fabricated the 13 charges against him which resulted to his being punished without legal basis and against his constitutional right to be heard before any disciplinary action is levied against him.

In an order dated 23 June 2000, the Commission on Bar Discipline directed the three respondents to submit their Answer to the complaint.  On 12 July 2000, the respondents filed a motion praying that the case be referred to the Supreme Court and to consolidate the same with the disbarment case filed by Judge Floro against Court Administrator Benipayo and Judge Aquino, Jr.  On 31 July 2000, Judge Floro opposed the motion.  In an order dated 30 August 2000, the Commission on Bar Discipline referred the case to this Court for consolidation with the disbarment case against Justice Benipayo and Judge Aquino, Jr.

In a resolution dated 30 January 2001, this Court noted the order dated 30 August 2000 of the Commission on Bar Discipline and the letter of Judge Floro praying for the consolidation of this case with A.C. No. 5286.  In a resolution dated 21 August 2001, this Court consolidated this case with A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460.

[22] To paraphrase the OCA in its Memorandum dated 09 January 2006:

On 19 February 2002, Judge Floro filed before the Ombudsman a complaint against former Court Administrator Benipayo and Justice Ramirez.  The case was docketed as CPL No. C-02-0278.  He accused Justice Ramirez of violating the rule on confidentiality in administrative proceeding for allegedly furnishing former Court Administrator Benipayo, who had by then been appointed Chairman of the Comelec, copies of the medical report regarding his mental fitness and the Compliance dated 07 March 2001 of Justice Ramirez recommending the dismissal of Judge Floro on the ground of insanity.  Judge Floro also accused former Court Administrator Benipayo of inducing Justice Ramirez to falsify the Compliance dated 07 March 2001 as to indicate that Judge Floro is not mentally fit to be a Judge.

On 5 March 2002, the Ombudsman referred the complaint to this Court.  In a resolution dated 24 February 2004, this case was consolidated with the other cases involving Judge Floro.  In a resolution dated 9 March 2004 this Court ordered the instant complaint (CPL No. C-02-0278) be consolidated with A.M. No. 03-8-03-0 and docketed as A.C. No. 6282.  Both respondents were required to comment on the consolidated complaints.  Justice Benipayo filed his Comment on 19 May 2004.

[23] To paraphrase the OCA in its Memorandum dated 9 January 2006:

In a Complaint dated 2 May 2003, Judge Floro assailed Justice Ramirez’s Report dated 7 March 2001 in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460. This is identical to the complaint in A.C. No. 050.  Upon recommendation of the Court Administrator, the Court, in a resolution of 9 September 2003, referred this administrative complaint to the Office of the Bar Confidant. In a Report and Recommendation dated 23 January 2004, the Office of the Bar Confidant recommended that the complaint be treated as a separate administrative complaint and that respondent be required to file his comment.

[24] To paraphrase the OCA in its Memorandum dated 9 January 2006:

On 19 May 2003, Judge Floro filed a verified complaint dated 2 May 2003 before the Office of the Bar Confidant against Justice Ramirez.    On 27 October 2003, Justice Ramirez filed his Comment while on 6 November 2003 Judge Floro filed a Reply. On 12 November 2003, Justice Ramirez filed a Rejoinder while Judge Floro filed a Sur-Rejoinder on 27 November 2003.

[25] See temporary rollo on the matter.

[26] On 3 March 2006, Judge Floro likewise sought the dismissal of A.M. OCA IPI No. 00-933-RTJ (Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr. v. Judge Benjamin Aquino, Jr).  Judge Aquino, for his part, sought clarification as to whether or not A.M. OCA IPI No. 00-933-RTJ had likewise been dismissed.  On 14 March 2006, we granted Judge Floro’s motion in view of our earlier dismissal of A.M. OCA-IPI No. 00-876-RTC (Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr. v. Judge Benjamin Aquino, Jr., Atty. Esmeralda Galang-Dizon and Atty. Mary Jane Dacarra-Buenaventura) which involved, among other things, the same alleged acts of Judge Aquino in conniving with fixers in the reduction of bail and in allowing a certain “Ine” to establish a canteen in front of the Court.

[27] OCA Memorandum dated 9 January 2006, p. 9.

[28] Rollo (A.M. Mo. 99-7-273-RTC), p. 4.

[29] Id., pp. 4-5.

[30] Id., p. 19.

[31] Id. (A.M. No. RTJ-99-1460), Vol. I, pp. 298-344 & Vol. III, pp. 159-281.

[32] Rollo, Vol. I, p. 6.

[33] Id., p. 8.

[34] Rules of Court, Vol. 6, pp. 122-123 (1981 ed.).

[35] LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS, E. L. Pineda, pp. 341-342 (1994 ed.).

[36] Bar Matter No. 553, 17 June 1993, 223 SCRA 378, 408.

[37] TSN, 7 June 2000, p. 9.

[38] See testimony of Branch Clerk of Court Esmeralda Galang-Dizon , TSN, 25 April 2000, pp. 8-10.

[39] Testimony of Ma. Enrina Talag-Pascual, TSN, 13 February 2001, p. 56.

[40] Office of the Court Administrator v. Fernandez, A.M. No. MTJ-03-1511, 20 August 2004, 437 SCRA 81, 84, citing SPO2 Yap v. Judge Inopiquez, Jr., 451 Phil. 182, 194 (2003).

[41] Francisco v. Cosico, A.M. No. CA-04-37, 16 March 2004, 425 SCRA 521, 525.

[42] Rollo, Vol. I, p. 4.

[43] A.M. No. RTJ-91-657, 21 June 1993, 223 SCRA 489, 499-502.

[44] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 4-5.

[45] Answer/Compliance, rollo, Vol. I, pp. 151-152.

[46] Section 9 of P.D. No. 1990 states:

Sec. 9. Disqualified Offenders. – The benefits of this Decree shall not be extended to those:

(a)     sentenced to serve a maximum term of imprisonment of more than six years;

(b)     convicted of subversion or any crime against the national security or the public order;

(c)     who have previously been convicted by final judgment of an offense punished by imprisonment of not less than one month and one day/or a fine of not less that Two Hundred Pesos;

(d)     who have been once on probation under the provisions of this Decree; and

(e)     who are already serving sentence at the time the substantive provisions of this Decree became applicable pursuant to Section 33 hereof.

[47] A.M. No. RTJ-02-1693, 436 Phil. 295, 318 (2002).

[48] P.D. No. 968, Section 7 as amended, provides:

SEC. 7.    Period for Submission of Investigation Report. - The probation officer shall submit to the court the investigation report on a defendant not later than sixty days from receipt of the order of said court to conduct the investigation. The court shall resolve the petition for probation not later than five days after receipt of said report.

Pending submission of the investigation report and the resolution of the petition, the defendant may be allowed on temporary liberty under his bail filed in the criminal case; Provided, That, in case where no bail was filed or that the defendant is incapable of filing one, the court may allow the release of the defendant on recognizance to the custody of a responsible member of the community  who shall guarantee his appearance whenever required by the court

[49] Supra note 47, pp. 317-318.

[50] G.R. No. 57343, 23 July 1990, 187 SCRA 672, 674.

[51] As to Judge Floro’s Annex “C-2,” which purportedly disproves the audit team’s allegation that he did not reduce into writing his orders made in open court, the same is immaterial as it refers to a totally different case (Crim. Case No. 20774, People of the Philippines v. Joel Solivar y Sta Ana); Rollo, Vol. I, p. 217.

[52] Supra note 47, p. 318.

[53] Id., pp. 318-319.

[54] Id., p. 319.

[55] Id.

[56] Id., p. 314.

[57] Id.

[58] Id., citing Sps. Daracan v. Judge Natividad, 395 Phil. 353, 364 (2000).

[59] Gil v. Judge Lopez, Jr., 449 Phil. 677, 686 (2003).

[60] TSN, 25 April 2000, pp. 27-28.

[61] See TSN, 07 August 2000, p. 17 and charge “h”.

[62] Sps. Nazareno v. Judge Almario, 335 Phil. 1122, 1129 (1997); Bunyi v. Hon. Caraos, 394 Phil. 211, 218 (2000).

[63] Dacera, Jr. v. Judge Dizon, Jr., 391 Phil. 835, 843 (2000).

[64] cf. Cacatian v. Liwanag, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1418, 10 December 2003, 417 SCRA 350, 357.

[65] Fecundo v. Berjamen, G.R. No. 88105, 18 December 1989, 180 SCRA 235, 245, cited in Dacera, Jr. v. Judge Dizon, Jr., supra note 63, p. 843.

[66] G.R. Nos. L-39516-17, 28 January 1975, 62 SCRA 124, 127.  See also State Prosecutors v. Judge Muro, 321 Phil. 474, 482 (1995).

[67] Rollo in OCA I.P.I. 99-812-RTJ, pp. 10-23.

[68] Supra note 50, pp. 674-675 (citations omitted).

[69] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 63-64.

[70] Id., pp. 6-7.

[71] Id., pp. 161-162.

[72] TSN, 6 February 2001, pp. 4-6.

[73] Cf. People v. Alcalde, 432 Phil. 366, 377 (2002).

[74] Id., citing United States v. Guendia, 37 Phil. 337, 345 (1917).

[75] Supra note 73, pp. 378-380 (citations omitted).

[76] Rollo, Vol. I, p. 6

[77] Id., pp. 199-200; pp. 226-250.

[78] Id., p. 237.

[79] Id., p. 238.

[80] TSN, 7 August 2000, p. 22.

[81] Carual v. Judge Brusola, 375 Phil. 464, 477 (1999).

[82] Ziga v. Judge Arejola, 451 Phil. 449, 459 (2003).

[83] Cf. Perez v. Costales, A.M. No. RTJ-04-1876, 23 February 2005, 452 SCRA 139, 145.

[84] Sps. Daracan v. Judge Natividad, supra note 58, p. 370.

[85] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 8-9.

[86] TSN, 25 April 2000, p. 16.

[87] SEC. 4.    Any communication or spoken word, or the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of the same or any part thereof, or any information therein contained obtained or secured by any person in violation of the preceding sections of this Act shall not be admissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.

[88] TSN, 25 April 2000, pp. 21-27.

[89] Cf. Español v. Mupas, A.M. No. MTJ-01-1348, 11 November 2004, 442 SCRA 13, 37.

[90] Rollo, Vol. I, p. 13.

[91] On the other hand, if we were to give separate penalties for the findings of simple misconduct and unbecoming conduct, the result would still be the same under the circumstances.

[92] Rollo, Vol. VIII, pp. 42-43.

[93] Id., pp. 49-50.

[94] Rollo, Vol. I, p. 405.

[95] Per the Court’s Resolution dated 1 February 2000 (Id., p. 430).

[96] Id., p. 449.

[97] Rollo, Vol. II, pp.  471-472.

[98] Id., pp. 476-511.

[99] Id., p. 554. 

[100] R. Mendoza and C. Vista.

[101] Beatriz O. Cruz.

[102] Judge Floro must be referring to the Psychological Association of the Philippines.

[103] Rollo, Vol. III, pp. 283-320.

[104] Id., pp. 321-322.

[105] Id., pp. 323-325.

[106] Report of Francianina G. Sanchez, Clinical Psychologist, Chief Judicial Staff Officer of the SC Clinic.

[107] Rollo, Vol. I, p. 635.

[108] Rollo, Vol. VIII, p. 216.

[109] Rollo, Vol. I, p. 362.

[110] TSN, 6 March 2001, pp. 31-42.

[111] Rollo, Vol. I, p. 364.

[112] Id., p. 363.

[113] TSN, 20 February 2002, p. 35.

[114] Id., p. 33.

[115] TSN, 20 February 2001, pp. 25-43.

[116] Psychiatrist connected with the Niño Jesus Clinic in Bulacan; Rollo, Vol. VI, pp. 117-118.

[117] TSN, 16 January 2001, p. 58.

[118] TSN, 16 January 2001, pp. 28-36.

[119] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 691-700.

[120] See DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS (DSM-IV-TR), pp. 297-344 (Fourth Edition).

[121] Canon 1, Canons of Judicial Ethics.

[122] Preamble, Code of Judicial Conduct.

[123] LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS, E.L. Pineda, p. 327 (1995 ed.).

[124] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 49-61.

[125] Id., p. 7.

[126] Id., p. 56.

[127] Supra note 66, pp. 482-483.

[128] Citing Yash Vyas, quoted in The Lawyers Review, Vol. VIII, 31 October 1994, No. 10.

[129] Citing Justice B.N. Cardozo, quoted in The Lawyers Review, id.

[130] Rollo, Vol. VIII, pp. 49-50.

[131] THE GOVERNMENTAL PROCESS: POLITICAL INTERESTS AND PUBLIC OPINION, David B. Truman, p. 484 (Ramdom House of Canada Ltd., 1964).

[132] Id.

[133] The Art of Being a Judge by Leon R. Yankwich, HANDBOOK FOR JUDGES, edited by Glenn R. Winters, p. 4 (The American Judicature Society, 1975).

[134] Id.

[135] Constitution, Article VIII, Section 7.

[136] WHEREAS clause, JBC-009.

[137] CONSTITUTION, Art. VIII, Sec. 5(5).

[138] Id.

[139] CONSTITUTION, Art. VIII, Sec 6.

[140] Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 87-89.

[141] RULES OF COURT, Rule 140, Sec. 4, par. (b).

[142] RULES OF COURT, Rule 140, Sec. 5.

[143] Re: Payment of Backwages and Other Economic Benefits of Judge Philbert I. Iturralde, RTC Branch 58, Angeles City, A.M. No. 01-10-12-0, 29 March 2005.

[144] Id.

[145] Three are against Judge Floro while the seven are cases filed by him.

[146] These cases have since been dismissed per Resolution dated 14 February 2006 upon motion of Judge Floro himself.

[147] Re: Payment of Backwages and Other Economic Benefits of Judge Philbert I. Iturralde, RTC Branch 58, Angeles City, supra note 143 (citations omitted).

[148] Poso v. Judge Mijares, supra note 47, p. 324 (citations omitted).

[149] See September 1995 Report of Dr. Cecilia Villegas, Dir. III, Chief, SC Clinic; Rollo, Vol. VIII, p. 42.

[150] See 25 June 1998 Report of Dr. Celeste Vista, Medical Officer IV and psychiatrist of the Supreme Court Clinic; Id., p. 49.

[151] Id., pp. 49-50.

[152] See 2000 Report of Clinical Psychologist Francianina G. Sanchez, Chief Judicial Staff Officer of the Supreme Court Clinic; Id., p. 212.

[153] Id.

[154] Judge Floro has admitted that he has a brother who is “mildly retarded.”