Macariola v. Asuncion, 114 SCRA 77, May 31, 1982
(En Banc), J. Makasiar
(En Banc), J. Makasiar
Facts: When the decision in Civil Case No. 3010 rendered by respondent Hon. Judge Elias B. Asuncion of Court of First Instance of Leyte became final on June 8, 1863 for lack of an appeal, a project of partition was submitted to him which he later approved in an Order dated October 23, 1963. Among the parties thereto was complainant Bernardita R. Macariola.
One of the properties mentioned in the project of partition was Lot 1184. This lot according to the decision rendered by Judge Asuncion was adjudicated to the plaintiffs Reyes in equal shares subdividing Lot 1184 into five lots denominated as Lot 1184-A to 1184-E.
On July 31, 1964 Lot 1184-E was sold to Dr. Arcadio Galapon who later sold a portion of Lot 1184-E to Judge Asuncion and his wife Victoria Asuncion. Thereafter spouses Asuncion and spouses Galapon conveyed their respective shares and interests in Lot 1184-E to the Traders Manufacturing and Fishing Industries Inc. wherein Judge Asuncion was the president.
Macariola then filed an instant complaint on August 9, 1968 docketed as Civil Case No. 4234 in the CFI of Leyte against Judge Asuncion with "acts unbecoming a judge" alleging that Judge Asuncion in acquiring by purchase a portion of Lot 1184-E violated Article 1491 par. 5 of the New Civil Code, Art. 14, pars. 1 and 5 of the Code of Commerce, Sec. 3 par. H of R.A. 3019, Sec. 12 Rule XVIII of the Civil Service Rules and Canon 25 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
On November 2, 1970, Judge Jose Nepomuceno of the CFI of Leyte rendered a decision dismissing the complaints against Judge Asuncion.
After the investigation, report and recommendation conducted by Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma of the Court of Appeals, she recommended on her decision dated March 27, 1971 that Judge Asuncion be exonerated.
Issue: Does Judge Asuncion, now Associate Justice of Court of Appeals violated any law in acquiring by purchase a parcel of Lot 1184-E which he previously decided in a Civil Case No. 3010 and his engagement in business by joining a private corporation during his incumbency as a judge of the CFI of Leyte constitute an "act unbecoming of a judge"?
Ruling: No. The respondent Judge Asuncion's actuation does not constitute of an "act unbecoming of a judge." But he is reminded to be more discreet in his private and business activities.
SC ruled that the prohibition in Article 1491 par. 5 of the New Civil Code applies only to operate, the sale or assignment of the property during the pendency of the litigation involving the property. Respondent judge purchased a portion of Lot 1184-E on March 6, 1965, the in Civil Case No. 3010 which he rendered on June 8, 1963 was already final because none of the parties therein filed an appeal within the reglementary period. Hence, the lot in question was no longer subject to litigation. Furthermore, Judge Asuncion did not buy the lot in question directly from the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 3010 but from Dr. Arcadio Galapon who earlier purchased Lot1184-E from the plaintiffs Reyes after the finality of the decision in Civil Case No. 3010.
SC stated that upon the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the US and later on from the US to the Republic of the Philippines, Article 14 of Code of Commerce must be deemed to have been abrogated because where there is change of sovereignty, the political laws of the former sovereign, whether compatible or not with those of the new sovereign, are automatically abrogated, unless they are expressly re-enacted by affirmative act of the new sovereign. There appears no enabling or affirmative act that continued the effectivity of the aforestated provision of the Code of Commerce, consequently, Art. 14 of the Code of Commerce has no legal and binding effect and cannot apply to the respondent Judge Asuncion.
Respondent Judge cannot also be held liable to par. H, Section 3 of R.A. 3019 because the business of the corporation in which respondent participated had obviously no relation or connection with his judicial office.
SC stated that respondent judge and his wife deserve the commendation for their immediate withdrawal from the firm 22 days after its incorporation realizing that their interest contravenes the Canon 25 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.