Notes on Rule 71: Contempt of Court

Contempt of court is “a defiance of the authority, justice or dignity of the court: such conduct as tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or to interfere with or prejudice parties litigants or their witnesses during litigation.” Succinctly, it is the despising of the authority, justice, or dignity of the court. Rule 71 provides for two forms of contumacious acts – direct and indirect.

A willful and deliberate violation of the rule against forum shopping is a ground for summary dismissal of the case, and may also constitute direct contempt.

An order of direct contempt is not immediately executory or enforceable. The contemnor must be afforded a reasonable remedy to extricate or purge himself of the contempt. Where the person adjudged in direct contempt by any court avails of the remedy of certiorari or prohibition, the execution of the judgment shall be suspended pending resolution of such petition provided the contemnor files a bond fixed by the court which rendered the judgment and conditioned that he will abide by and perform the judgment should the petition be decided against him.

Respondent Judge’s blunder was compounded when she immediately cited complainant in contempt of court and issued the bench warrant without requiring the latter to explain the reason for his non-appearance and non-compliance with a standing order. Under Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, complainant’s alleged disobedience is an indirect contempt the punishment for which requires that a respondent should be first asked to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt.

Respondent also abused her contempt powers. If at all, complainant was guilty of indirect contempt and not direct contempt. For not affording complainant the opportunity to explain why he should not be cited in contempt, she blatantly disregarded Rule 71 of the Rules of Court.

Indirect contempt refers to contumacious acts perpetrated outside of the sitting of the court and may include misbehavior of an officer of a court in the performance of his official duties or in his official transactions, disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, judgment, or command of a court, or injunction granted by a court or a judge, any abuse or any unlawful

interference with the process or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt, or any improper conduct tending directly or indirectly to impede, obstruct or degrade the administration of justice.Before one may be convicted of indirect contempt, there must be compliance with the following requisites:

(a) a charge in writing to be filed;
(b) an opportunity for respondent to comment thereon within such period as may be fixed by the court; and,
(c) an opportunity to be heard by himself or by counsel.

A person may be charged with indirect contempt only by either of two alternative ways, namely: (1) by a verified petition, if initiated by a party; or (2) by an order or any other formal charge requiring the respondent to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt, if made by a court against which the contempt is committed. In short, a charge of indirect contempt must be initiated through a verified petition, unless the charge is directly made by the court against which the contemptuous act is committed. Use of falsified and forged documents constitutes indirect contempt not direct contempt.

To read more about direct and indirect contempt, please check the following cases:

[1] Rodriguez vs. Blancaflor, G.R. No. 190171, March 14, 2011;
[2] Judge Dolores Espanol vs. Atty. Benjamin Formoso, G.R. No. 150949, June 21, 2007;
[3] Mallari vs. Government Service Insurance System, G.R. No. 157659, January 25, 2010;
[4] Tabujara vs. Judge Asdala, A.M. No. RTJ-08-2126 [Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 08-2896-RTJ], January 20, 2009 Jan 20, En Banc;
[5] Tokio Marine Malayan Insurance Company Inc. vs. Valdez, G.R. No. 150107, January 28, 2008; and
[6] Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC) vs. Philippine Countryside Rural Bank, Inc., G.R. No. 176438, January 24, 2011.