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[ GR No. 64276, Jun 10, 1986 ]



226 Phil. 193


[ G.R. No. 64276, June 10, 1986 ]




On March 18, 1982, private respondents Samir Beiruty, said to be a citizen/national of Jordan, and Mohammed Al-Sulaim, said to be an Arabian national/citizen (Private Respondents, for short), both of whom are businessmen, arrived at the Manila  International Airport aboard Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd.  (hereinafter referred to simply as Cathay) from Hongkong.  However, for want of visas, Private Respondents were denied entry and they had to return to Hongkong.

Essentially alleging that they lost two baggages "containing valuables and very important documents such as bid tenders, award/subcontract of their joint venture with their Philippine partner," on their way back to Hongkong due to Cathay personnel's negligence, Private Respondents filed a Complaint for Damages against Cathay, dated March 29, 1982, before the then Court of First Instance of Rizal (Pasay City), Branch XXVII, now the Regional Trial Court, Branch CX, in the same locality, presided by respondent, Hon. Manuel V. Romillo, Jr. (Respondent Judge, for short).

On May 5, 1982, Cathay received the summons and a copy of the Complaint.  It filed two Motions for Extension to File Answer, one for 15 days or up to June 4, 1982, and the other for 10 days until June 14, 1982.  Respondent Judge failed to take action on either Motion.

On June 11, 1982, or before the expiration of the second extension requested, Cathay filed its Answer stating inter alia, that Private Respondents "have no cause of action" against it (Cathay).  On June 29, 1982, Private Respondents filed a Motion to Declare Cathay in Default.  Cathay opposed said Motion on July 2, 1982.  On June 30, 1982, even before Cathay could file its opposition, Respondent Judge issued the questioned default Order for Cathay's "failure to file its Answer within the reglementary period." Private Respond­ents then presented their evidence ex-parte before the Deputy Clerk of Court.

On November 9, 1982, Respondent Judge rendered the questioned judgment by default, the decretal part of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, judgment by default is Hereby rendered ordering the defendant to pay plaintiffs the following:
a) P412,960.00 as actual or compensatory damages;

b) P19,500,000.00 as and for loss of earnings or unrealized profits;

c) P3,000,000.00 as moral damages;

d) P500,000.00 as exemplary damages;

e) P500,000.00 as and for attorney's fees; and

f) the costs of suit."[1]
Cathay received a copy of the judgment by default on December 9, 1982 together with the default Order.  It was only then, for some unknown reason, that Cathay learned of the default Order.

On January 7, 1983, or within thirty (30) days from receipt of the default judgment, Cathay filed its Motion to Lift Order of Default and to Set Aside Decision dated November 9, 1982.

On February 15, 1983, said Motion was denied by Respondent Judge on the ground that the same "was filed almost seven (7) months from issuance of the Order of Default" and the default judgment had by then already become final and executory.

Respondent Judge granted a Writ of Execution on February 22, 1983 on the same ground adding that the Motion to lift the Order of default and to set aside the default judgment did not have the effect of suspending the period for perfecting an appeal.

The next day, February 23, Cathay filed a notice of appeal, which was disallowed by Respondent Judge for having been filed out of time.

On June 17, 1983, Cathay filed before us this Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus with Urgent Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order questioning Respondent Judge's default Order dated June 30, 1982, the default judgment dated November 9, 1982, and the other Orders issued in the case below.

We issued a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining Respondent Judge, et al. from executing the default judgment and from holding any aircraft or properties of Cathay prepa­ratory to execution.

On March 4, 1986, this Court (the First Division) pronounced judgment as follows:
"Accordingly, the questioned order of default dated June 30, 1982, the default judgment of November 9, 1982, the order of February 15, 1983 denying the motion to lift the said order and judgment, and all proceedings taken thereafter in the court a quo are hereby annulled and set aside.  The Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court in Pasay City is directed to cause the re-raffle of Civil Case No. 0018-P (Beiruty and Al-Sulaim vs. Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd.).  The lower court is ordered to admit thereafter petitioner's answer and set the case for pre-trial and trial on the merits, after which another judgment shall be rendered upon the evidence presented.  Treble costs against private respondents.

"Respondent Judge is hereby ordered to show cause within ten (10) days from notice why he should not be dealt with administratively for having awarded in favor of private respondents what per se appear as outrageously exorbitant damages."[2]
This Resolution deals with the administrative aspect of the case.

Respondent Judge filed his Compliance on March 20, 1986, averring:
"4. That, confronted with various options, Respondent Judge believes that the causes for his award of damages are better discussed in the Decision itself which is self-explanatory to the effect that the awards are based on the evidence on record and/or conclusions arrived at therefrom, in relation to the law applicable thereon; and

"5. That consequently, your Respondent Judge most respectfully invites your Honors to please read the Decision, which is self-explanatory, together with the transcripts of stenographic notes and the exhibits which are hereto annexed, if necessary.

"WHEREFORE, after finding that the causes for the awards are satisfactory, that Respondent Judge be not dealt with administratively."
In the context of the circumstances prevailing herein, we find that Respondent Judge had acted with bad faith considering the following circumstances:  (1) he did not resolve Cathay's two (2) Motions for extension to file an Answer, obviously to pave the way for declaring it in default and expedite judgment; (2) he issued the default Order on June 30, 1982 despite the fact that Cathay had filed its Answer on June 11, 1982 even before the expiration of the second extension it had requested, and although there was no indication of any intent on the part of Cathay to delay the case or that the admission of the Answer would in any way prejudice Private Respondents; (3) Cathay was notified of the said default Order, dated June 30, 1982, only on December 9, 1982, or roughly six (6) months thereafter; (4) Respondent Judge denied Cathay the right to appeal on the ground that the Motion to lift the default Order and to set aside his Decision was filed seven (7) months from issuance of the Order of default although Cathay was served said Order only when it received copy of the Decision; (5) Respondent Judge completely disregarded this Court's repeated injunction to have every litigated case tried on the merits as much as possible[3]; and (6) despite the absence of any trial on the merits, and without having given Cathay a chance to dispute Private Respondents' claim for damages, he awarded in the default judgment "outrageously exorbitant damages" in favor of Private Respondents.  The amount of P19,500,000.00 "as and for loss of earnings or unrealized profits" is, at best, speculative.  The actual or compensatory damages of P412,960.00 awarded for Private Respondents' "plane fares, hotel bills, representations and other valuables" covered not only the "particular project" for which said Private Respondents came to the Philippines but also "various other projects which were all cancelled and/or-jeopardized by rea­son of this unfortunate incident." In other words, the award was blown out of proportion.  The moral damages of P3,000,000.00 for moral suffering, etc. because Private Respondents were allegedly "herded and detained like animals" after having been denied entry into the Philippines, are unconscionable, absent indubitable proof that Cathay personnel were the ones, in fact, responsible for such alleged treatment.  The other awards of exemplary damages of P500,000.00 and attorney's fees for a similar amount are similarly excessive and unjustifiable.

Under the circumstances, we find no need to conduct further hearings in this administrative phase of the Certiorari case against Respondent Judge under the principle of res ipsa loquitur.

ACCORDINGLY, this Court finds respondent Regional Trial Judge, Manuel V. Romillo, guilty of grave and serious misconduct affecting his integrity and efficiency, and con­sidering the responsibility of this Court for the just and proper functioning of the Judiciary as well as for the maintenance of the people's faith in the dispensation of justice in this country[4], it is hereby ordered that Respondent Judge be DISMISSED from the service.  All leave and retirement benefits and privileges to which he may be entitled are here­by forfeited with prejudice to being reinstated in any branch of government service, including government-owned and/or controlled agencies or corporations.

This Resolution is immediately executory.


Teehankee, C.J., Abad Santos, Yap, Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Alampay, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, and Paras, JJ., concur.
Feria and Fernan, JJ., on leave.

[1] Annex "H", p. 68, Rollo.

[2] Rollo, p. 378.

[3] Akut vs. Court of Appeals, 116 SCRA 213, 220 (1982) citing Gerian vs. Boncaros, 93 SCRA 862 (1979).

[4] People vs. Valenzuela, 135 SCRA 712 (1985).