Judge's failure to decide within 15 days election protest constitutes gross inefficiency

In its letter-complaint, the Mamamayan ng Zapote 1, Bacoor, Cavite, alleged that during the May 9, 1994 Barangay Elections, Corazon Gawaran was declared winner for the position of Barangay Captain of Zapote 1, Bacoor, Cavite; that due to certain alleged irregularities, Alfredo L. Paredes filed an election case against Corazon Gawaran; that the case was heard on June 3 and 6, 1994; that after the parties had presented their evidence, respondent asked for ten days to study the case which was followed by another request for additional five days; and that despite the lapse of those extension, respondent failed to resolve the election case. The Office of the Court Administrator found that respondent court should have heard and decided the case within fifteen (15) days under Section 252 of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881). This is an eletion case which ought to have been decided with dispatch; instead, respondent judge rendered the Decision only on 10 January 1996, involving a delay of one (1) year and seven (7) months. The Court agrees with the findings of the Office of the Court Administrator that respondent is indeed guilty of gross inefficiency for a failure to deicde the election case within the mandated period. Based on Section 252 of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881), it is clear that it is the ministerial duty of respondent to resolve election protests within fifteen days from the filing thereof. Thus, respondent was remiss in the performance of his duties when he failed to resolve the election protest within said period. Respondent should have resolved the election protest with dispatch at the latest June 4, 1994. Instead it was only on January 10, 1996, or after one year and seven months to be exact, that the said election protest was finally resolved. Such failure of respondent to decide the election protest within the required period is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency (Ancheta vs. Antonio, 231 SCRA 74 [1994]; citing Longboan vs. Polig, 186 SCRA 557; and Sabado vs. Cajigal, 219 SCRA 800 [1993]). Respondent has violated Rule 3.01 of Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct which calls for a judge to be faithful to the law and to maintain professional competence, and also Rule 3.05 which admonishes all judges to dispose of the court's business promptly and to decide case within the period fixed by law. Additionally, respondent has also violated Administrative Circular No. 7-94 dated April 25, 1994 which directs, among other things, the Metropolitan and the Municipal Trial Courts to try, hear, and decide all cases involving violations of the Election Code as expeditiously as possible. Wherefore, respondent Judge Isauro M. Balderian is found guilty of gross inefficiency, for which infraction he is hereby ordered to pay a fine in the amount of Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000.00), with the stern warning that future similar misconduct on his part will be dealt with more severely. [A.M. No. MTJ-95-1033. December 6, 1996]