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Quizon v. Baltazar !

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Complainants Paula Quizon, Teresita Hipolito, Victoria Samia, Benjamin Vergara, Romulo de Jesus, Benigno Ramos, and Honorato Layug - teachers and officers of Parent-Teachers Association of Dolores Elementary School, Mabalacat, Pampanga.!

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Letter to Secretary of Department of Public Information: Complainants, together with six others, aired their complaint against the Barrio Captain and other barrio officials of Dolores, Mabalacat for abuses and harassment allegedly perpetrated by the said officials against the signatories to the letter.!

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Barrio Captain Amado M. Rimorin then filed a complaint for libel against the complainants in the Municipal Court of Mabalacat, presided by respondent Judge Baltazar.!

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The preliminary investigation of the case was set by respondent at 8:30 in the morning.!

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Due to non-appearance of their lawyer, Quizon requested for a postponement as soon as the court session was opened at 9 am.!

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Respondent denied the motion and proceeded with the preliminary investigation although the accused were not represented by counsel. The PI lasted less than an hour.!

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The next day, respondent issued a warrant of arrest against the complainants herein.!

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Said warrant was served the very same day at nighttime.!

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After complainants had been taken into custody, the son of Paula Quizon went to Baltazar’s house in the middle of the night to ask for the reduction of the bail bond of his mother which had been set at P1,000.!

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Respondent waited until the next day when he reduced the bond to P500 thus complainants had to spend the night in jail.!

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Respondent is neither a judge of the municipal court of the city or capital of the province, so complainants charged Baltazar with grave ignorance of the law and criminal negligence in conducting the preliminary investigation of a libel case.!

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Complainants also claim that respondent acted with partiality in his official actuations relative to the case because the Barrio Captain and his councilmen are fanatical political followers of the Mayor who is identified to be a close friend of Baltazar.!

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In taking cognizance of the libel case, respondent was clearly without jurisdiction.!

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The DOJ already circularized to all city judges and municipal judges relative to the provisions of the amended Article 360 of the RPC: IT SHOULD BE NOTED FROM THESE PROVISIONS THAT A COMPLAINT OR INFORMATION FOR LIBEL MAY BE FILED ONLY IN THE CFI. THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE CRIMINAL CASE MAY, HOWEVER, BE CONDUCTED BY THE CITY COURT OF THE CITY OR THE MUNICIPAL COURT OF THE CAPITAL OF THE PROVINCE WHERE THE CASE IS FILED.!

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ALSO, OTHER MATTERS:!

- The letter of complainants to the Secretary of Department of Public Information and which forms the basis for the libel complaint, is clearly a privileged communication, so inoffensively worded that not even a single name of the barrio officials referred to as committing the abuses and harassment is mentioned.!

- The accused in the libel case are all teachers, five of them ladies, and members of the Parent-Teachers Association of Barrio Dolores, Mabalacat. Respondent therefore acted injuriously and with the unjustified haste in denying the motion to postpone the PI on the ground that the accused therein had no counsel, especially if we consider that it was the first time that a motion to postpone was ever made.!

- In proceeding with the PI and in terminating the same in just less than an hour, without any written record of the proceedings taken, respondent again violated a clear mandate of the law which provides that no warrant shall be issued by any municipal judge in any criminal case filed with him unless he first examines the witness or witnesses personally, and the examination shall be under oath and reduced to writing in the form of searching questions and answers.!

- When a petition to reduce the bail bond was presented to respondent at his house to enable complainants to obtain their temporary release and thus be spared from having to spend the night in jail, Baltazar did not act on the petition the and there but instead waited until the next morning, as if to insure that complainants would have to stay in jail for at least a night.!

- As for the partiality charge: not all too clear and convincing.!

- GUILTY OF GRAVE IGNORANCE OF THE LAW.!

- PENALTY: SUSPENSION WITHOUT PAY FOR A PERIOD OF 6 MONTHS.