By By Atty. Romulo P. Atencia
The Special Civil Action of Certiorari
posted 7-Apr-2016  ·  
6,922 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is a special civil action specifically directed against the person, court, agency or party who committed not only a mistake of judgment but an error of jurisdiction, to nullify their invalid acts. The petition is filed with the appellate court, in the name/s of the real-party in interest -- the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. As thus defined, the real parties-in-interest in criminal cases are the People of the Philippines who is the party plaintiff, and the accused who is the party defendant. The accused may hire any lawyer of good standing as his counsel of choice. On the part of the government, the Office of the Solicitor General is the office mandated to appear and defend the government in the case. This is so because the OSG is the law office of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. The OSG’s mandated duty is to represent the government, including its agencies and instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of a lawyer. When authorized by the President or head of the Office concerned, the OSG also represents government owned or controlled corporations.

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As to the judge himself whose acts are alleged to have been committed with grave abuse of discretion or done without or in excess of jurisdiction, he is impleaded in the petition for certiorari as a nominal party only because one of the issues involved therein is whether or not he committed the claimed error. But that does not make him a real party-in-interest or vests him with authority to file a motion for reconsideration or to appeal the decisions of the appellate court in case it reverses his ruling. The judge whose acts are complained of has no legal standing to file any answer or motion for reconsideration in the certiorari case, since he is but a nominal party in the same. Section 5, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is quite explicit in stating this rule, thus: “SEC. 5. Respondents and costs in certain cases. - When the petition filed relates to the acts or omissions of a judge, court, quasi-judicial agency, tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person, the petitioner shall join, as private respondent or respondents with such public respondent or respondents, the person or persons interested in sustaining the proceedings in the court; and it shall be the duty of such private respondents to appear and defend, both in his or their own behalf and in behalf of the public respondent or respondents affected by the proceedings, and the costs awarded in such proceedings in favor of the petitioner shall be against the private respondents only, and not against the judge, court, quasi-judicial agency, tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person impleaded as public respondent.” Unless otherwise specifically directed by the court where the petition is pending, the judge whose acts are being questioned shall not appear in or file an answer or comment to the petition or any pleading therein. 

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The trial court must be detached and impartial, not only when hearing and resolving the case before it, but even when its judgment is brought on appeal before a higher court. The SC has repeatedly cautioned that a judge of a court must keep in mind that he is an adjudicator who must settle the controversies between parties in accordance with the evidence and the applicable laws, regulations, and/or jurisprudence. His judgment should already clearly and completely state his findings of fact and law. There must be no more need for him to justify further his judgment when it is appealed before appellate courts. When the judge intervenes as a party in the appealed case, he inevitably forsakes his detachment and impartiality, and his interest in the case becomes personal since his objective now is no longer only to settle the controversy between the original parties (which he had already accomplished by rendering his questioned order or  judgment), but more significantly, to refute the appellant’s assignment of errors, defend his judgment, and prevent it from being overturned on appeal. As explained by Justice J.B.L. Reyes more than half a century ago, a judge is not an active combatant in such proceeding and must leave the opposing parties to contend their individual positions and the appellate court to decide the issues without his active participation. When a judge actively participates in the appeal of his judgment, he, in a way, ceases to be judicial and has become adversarial instead. Indeed, the judge dangerously departs from his role as adjudicator and becomes an advocate. A trial judge’s mandated function is to hear and decide cases, not to litigate.

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In fact, some judges have been disciplined by the Highest Court for intervening in certiorari cases filed to question the legality of their acts. The SC told them that, in a way, they have ceased to be neutral and have turned into antagonists themselves. It emphasized that “the judge should maintain a detached attitude from the case and should not waste his time by taking an active part in a proceeding which relates to official actuations in a case but should apply himself to his principal task of hearing and adjudicating the cases in his court. He is merely a nominal party to the case and has no personal interest nor personality therein."  According to the Highest Court, Section 5, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is simple and straightforward enough in stating that "unless otherwise specifically directed by the court where the petition is pending, the public respondents shall not appear in or file an answer or comment to the petition or any pleading therein. If the case is elevated to a higher court by either party, the public respondents shall be included therein as nominal parties. However, unless otherwise specifically directed by the court, they shall not appear or participate in the proceedings therein."  In one case, the SC ruled that the judge who participated in a petition for certiorari questioning his official acts subjected the court presided by said judge to distrust and accusations of partiality. The erring judge was suspended for a period of three months.

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