MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has dismissed the administrative case against retired Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.
In dismissing the case, the high court said there is not enough evidence to prove the allegation that she has sat on a case despite a deadline set by the law and the rules of court.
The decision was written by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen and released by the high court’s Public Information Office.
The complaint against De Castro was filed by Elvira N. Enalbes, Rebecca H. Angeles, and Estelita B. Ocampo, who accused De Castro of gross ignorance of the law, gross inefficiency, gross misconduct, gross dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
This stemmed from her alleged failure to decide, despite the lapse of more than five years, on two separate petitions filed by spouses Eligio P. Mallari and Marcelina I. Mallari in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
The complainants said that under Article VIII, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution, the high court has 24 months to resolve a case.
In dismissing the complaint, the SC explained that under the 1987 Constitution and the Internal Rules of Court, the reckoning of the 24-month period begins only when the last pleading has been submitted before it.
The court said that “(w)hile the 24-month period provided under the 1987 Constitution is persuasive, it does not summarily bind this Court to the disposition of cases brought before it. It is a mere directive to ensure this Court’s prompt resolution of cases, and should not be interpreted as an inflexible rule.”
It added that being the court of last resort “should be given an ample amount of time to deliberate on cases pending before it.”
“Ineluctably, leeway must be given to magistrates for them to thoroughly review and reflect on the cases assigned to them,” the high court added.
The court also said that all cases filed before them involve rights which are legally demandable and enforceable.
“It would be at the height of injustice if cases were hastily decided on at the risk of erroneously dispensing justice,” it added.
As a final note, the court ruled that the prescribed time limit “should not be ignored as to render nugatory the spirit which breathes life to the letter of the 1987 Constitution.”
“Ultimately, courts must strike an objective and reasonable balance in disposing of cases promptly, while maintaining judicious tenacity in interpreting and applying the law,” it said. /ee
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