Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Marcoleta vs. Borra [A.C. No. 7732 March 30, 2009]

Facts: A Complaint for disbarment was filed by Atty. Rodante D. Marcoleta against Commissioners Resurreccion Z. Borra (Borra) and Romeo A. Brawner (Brawner) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) charging them with violating Canons 1 (1.01, 1.02 and 1.03) and 3 (3.01, 3.02, 3.05 and 3.06) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Canons 4, 5, 6 and 17 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics. Additionally, Borra and Brawner charges respondents of violating Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. 

During the 2007 National and Local Elections, the warring factions of Borra together with Brawner and Diogenes S. Osabel (Osabel) each filed a separate list of nominees for the party-list group Alagad. 

With Alagad winning a seat in the House of Representatives, the two protagonists contested the right to represent the party. By Omnibus Resolution of July 18, 2007, the dispute was resolved by the Comelec’s First Division in favor of Osabel. Commissioner Borra wrote the ponencia while Commissioner Brawner concurred. 

The dispute was elevated to the Comelec En Banc which, by Resolution of November 6, 2007, reversed the First Division Resolution and reinstated the certificate of nomination of complainant’s group. For failing to muster the required majority voting, however, the Comelec ordered the re-hearing of the controversy. Notwithstanding the conduct of a re-hearing, the necessary majority vote could not still be obtained. The Comelec’s First Division’s Omnibus Resolution was eventually affirmed. Hence, arose the present complaint for disbarment. 

Complainant filed a Supplemental Complaint, this time charging respondent Brawner of "tamper[ing] the record of the proceedings in [SPA No. 07-020]" by falsely alleging in an Order dated February 5, 2008 that there had been a re-hearing; that both parties had agreed to simultaneously file their memoranda during the re-hearing; and that the parties filed their respective memoranda. 

In his Comment, Borra contends that the Code of Judicial Conduct and Canons of Judicial Ethics cannot be made to apply to him and his co-respondent, they not being members of the judiciary; and that since they perform quasi-judicial functions as well as administrative duties, they are bound by the Comelec’s own set of internal rules and procedure over and above a Code of Conduct that prescribes the norms and standards of behavior to be observed by the officials and employees of the Comelec, a constitutional body. 

Issue: WHETHER OR NOT CANON 3 OF THE NEW CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT FOR THE PHILIPPINE JUDICIARY APPLICABLE TO OFFICERS OF COMELEC EXERCISING QUASI-JUDICIAL DUTIES. 

Held: NO. The Court takes notice that Borra retired from the Comelec on February 2, 2008 while Brawner passed away on May 29, 2008. 

As regards Brawner then, the present case is already moot. 

As for Borra and Brawner’s invocation of Section 58 of Article VII of the Omnibus Election Code reading: 

The chairman and members of the Commission shall be subject to the canons of judicial ethics in the discharge of their functions. 

The same relates to the quasi-judicial function of the Comelec, which function rests on judgment or discretion, so that while it is of judicial nature or character, it does not involve the exercise of functions of a judge. 

The same provision thus directs that in the exercise of the Comelec’s quasi-judicial power, the chairman and members should be guided by the canons of judicial ethics. However, it bears emphasis that the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary applies only to courts of law, of which the Comelec is not, hence, sanctions pertaining to violations thereof are made exclusively applicable to judges and justices in the judiciary, not to quasi-judicial officers like the Comelec chairman and members, who have their own codes of conduct to steer them. 

Even if the Court were to gauge the assailed actions of Borra under the Code of Professional Responsibility, no specific incidents and sufficient evidence can be gathered to show that he did engage in dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct in his capacity as a lawyer. It bears reiteration that the acts particularized in the complaint pertain to Borra’s duties as a Comelec commissioner. 

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