Macariola v. Asuncion, A.M. No. 133-J, 31 May 1992
TOPIC: POLITICAL LAW
Bernardita R. Macariola charged respondent Judge Elias B. Asuncion of the Court of First Instance of Leyte, now Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals, with “acts unbecoming a judge.”
Siblings filed a case against Bernardita R. Macariola filed under Civil Case No. 3010 of the Court of First Instance of Leyte concerning the properties left by the deceased Francisco Reyes, the common father of the plaintiff and defendant.
The court divided the properties. The decision in civil case 3010 became final for lack of an appeal, and on October 16, 1963, a project of partition was submitted to Judge Asuncion which is marked Exh. A. Notwithstanding the fact that the project of partition was not signed by the parties themselves but only by the respective counsel of plaintiffs and defendant, Judge Asuncion approved it in his Order.
Part of the disputed lots is Lot 1184 which was subdivided into 5 parts denominated as Lot 1184-A to 1184-E inclusive. Lot 1184-E which had an area of 2,172.5556 sq. meters was sold on July 31, 1964 to Dr. Arcadio Galapon (Exh. 2) who was issued transfer certificate of title No. 2338 of the Register of Deeds of the city of Tacloban.
On March 6, 1965, Dr. Arcadio Galapon and his wife Sold a portion of Lot 1184-E with an area of around 1,306 sq. meters to Judge Asuncion and his wife, Victoria S. Asuncion (Exh. 11), which particular portion was declared by the latter for taxation purposes (Exh. F).
On August 31, 1966, spouses Asuncion and spouses Galapon conveyed their respective shares and interest in Lot 1184-E to “The Traders Manufacturing and Fishing Industries Inc,” where he served as as the President and Mrs. Asuncion as the secretary.
Complainant Bernardita R. Macariola filed on August 9, 1968 alleging four causes of action.
- that respondent Judge Asuncion violated Article 1491, paragraph 5, of the New Civil Code in acquiring by purchase a portion of Lot No. 1184-E which was one of those properties involved in Civil Case No. 3010 decided by him;
- that he likewise violated Article 14, paragraphs I and 5 of the Code of Commerce, Section 3, paragraph H, of R.A. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Civil Service Rules, and Canon 25 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, by associating himself with the Traders Manufacturing and Fishing Industries, Inc., as a stockholder and a ranking officer while he was a judge of the Court of First Instance of Leyte;
- Judge did not violate paragraph 5, Article 1491 of the New Civil Code in acquiring by purchase a portion of Lot 1184-E which was in litigation in his court, it was, however, improper for him to have acquired the same. He should be reminded of Canon 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics which requires that:
“A judge’s official conduct should be free from the appearance of impropriety, and his personal behavior, not only upon the bench and in the performance of judicial duties, but also in his everyday life, should be beyond reproach.”
And as aptly observed by the Investigating Justice: “… it was unwise and indiscreet on the part of respondent to have purchased or acquired a portion of a piece of property that was or had been in litigation in his court and caused it to be transferred to a corporation of which he and his wife were ranking officers at the time of such transfer. One who occupies an exalted position in the judiciary has the duty and responsibility of maintaining the faith and trust of the citizenry in the courts of justice, so that not only must he be truly honest and just, but his actuations must be such as not give cause for doubt and mistrust in the uprightness of his administration of justice.
- With respect to the second cause of action, the complainant alleged that respondent Judge violated paragraphs 1 and 5, Article 14 of the Code of Commerce when he associated himself with the Traders Manufacturing and Fishing Industries, Inc. as a stockholder and a ranking officer, said corporation having been organized to engage in business.
Said Article provides that:
Article 14 —
The following cannot engage in commerce, either in person or by proxy, nor can they hold any office or have any direct, administrative, or financial intervention in commercial or industrial companies within the limits of the districts, provinces, or towns in which they discharge their duties:
- Justices of the Supreme Court, judges and officials of the department of public prosecution in active service. This provision shall not be applicable to mayors, municipal judges, and municipal prosecuting attorneys nor to those who by chance are temporarily discharging the functions of judge or prosecuting attorney.
xxx xxx xxx
- Those who by virtue of laws or special provisions may not engage in commerce in a determinate territory. It is Our considered view that although the aforestated provision is incorporated in the Code of Commerce which is part of the commercial laws of the Philippines, it, however, partakes of the nature of a political law as it regulates the relationship between the government and certain public officers and employees, like justices and judges.
Political Law has been defined as that branch of public law which deals with the organization and operation of the governmental organs of the State and define the relations of the state with the inhabitants of its territory (People vs. Perfecto, 43 Phil. 887, 897 ). It may be recalled that political law embraces constitutional law, law of public corporations, administrative law including the law on public officers and elections.
Specifically, Article 14 of the Code of Commerce partakes more of the nature of an administrative law because it regulates the conduct of certain public officers and employees with respect to engaging in business: hence, political in essence. It is significant to note that the present Code of Commerce is the Spanish Code of Commerce of 1885, with some modifications made by the “Commission de Codificacion de las Provincias de Ultramar,” which was extended to the Philippines by the Royal Decree of August 6, 1888, and took effect as law in this jurisdiction on December 1, 1888.
Upon the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States and later on from the United States to the Republic of the Philippines, Article 14 of this 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.
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