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Gutierrez vs.

Belan (1998)
A.M. No. MTJ-95-1059
Subject: A judge is expected to act with good dispatch in motions for inhibition
against him
Nimfa Albos filed filed a complaint for grave oral defamation against Rebecca
Songalia. Albos, accompanied by her mother, went to the Metropolitan Trial Court
(MTC) to verify the status of the case. They were told by the Clerk of Court that the
complaint was not yet signed by the judge. They went to see Judge Eugenio Alba,
the judge who handles the case, to inquire about it. The latter reacted by throwing
the complaint on top of his table and by exclaiming Here they are. I am returning
them to you anyway, they are useless. You will lose in your case.
Albos hired a lawyer. The latter filed a complaint against Songalia with,
instead, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Leyte. Acting thereon, Assistant
Prosecutor Yolanda Paganda filed the corresponding information with the MTC of
Tanauan. They also filed a motion asking Judge Alba to inhibit himself from trying
the case. Judge Alba refused to act on the motion and even allegedly challenged
Albos lawyer to a fight. The judge subsequently dismissed the case.
Judge Alba denied the allegations of the complainant and sought to justify his
conduct on the case. He said that he dismissed the case on the motion of the other
party as Albos and his counsel failed to appear in court several times. He also added
that his failure to sign the complaint for grave oral defamation was because he has
been conducting lectures regarding the Barangay Law.
A judge is expected to act with good dispatch in motions for inhibition
against him
1. A judge is bound never to consider lightly a motion for his inhibition that
questions or puts to doubt, however insignificant, his supposed predilection to a
case pending before him. While he must exercise great prudence and utmost
caution in considering and evaluating a challenge to his impartiality, he is expected,
nevertheless, to act with good dispatch. Any delay, let alone an inaction, on his part
can only fuel, whether justified or not, an intensified distrust on his capability to
render dispassionate judgment on the case.
2. It is true the Judge Belan cannot be said to have been completely out of line in
conducting lectures to various barangay units on the rudiments of the Barangay
Law. After all, judges are, and they should be, encouraged to engage in any lawful
enterprise that may help bring about an improved administration of justice. But, be
that as it may, judges must not allow themselves to be thereby distracted from the
performance of their judicial tasks which must remain at all times to be their
foremost and overriding concern.

3. Judge Belan was reprimanded, and he is admonished to observe greater assiduity

in giving priority to his official duties.