Re: Letter Dated March 9, 2020 of Department of Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, MD, MSC.

A.M. No. 20-08-05-SC

FACTS:

The instant administrative matter stemmed from the Blacklisting Order dated 20 May 2019 issued by the Department of Health (DOH) against JBros Construction Corporation (JBROS) for alleged irregularities and failure to deliver on Phase II of its “Barangay Health Stations Project.” JBROS contested the blacklisting order by filing separate petitions in two (2) Regional Trial Courts, with said courts issuing contrasting orders.

First, JBROS filed a Petition for Certiorari with application for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or Status Quo Ante Order and a Writ of Preliminary Injunction with the RTC of Manila. Presiding Judge Renato Z. Encisco denied the prayer of JBROS for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction. JBROS withdrew the case.

JBROS refiled the case designating it as a “Petition for Interim Measure of Protection in Aid of Arbitration under the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act (R.A. No. 9285)” with an urgent motion for ex parte issuance of a 20-day Temporary Restraining Order of Protection (TROP). The case was raffled to Branch 27, RTC, Manila. Judge Patrimonio-Soriaso issued a writ of preliminary injunction directing the DOH to desist from implementing the termination of the contract, recall the blacklisting order and submit a Delisting Order to the GPPB notifying it of the delisting of JBROS. The DOH, through the Office of the Solicitor General, has since filed a Motion for Inhibition and a Motion for Reconsideration. 

OCA found sufficient grounds to make Judge Soriaso administratively liable when she issued a writ of preliminary injunction against the earlier dismissal order of Judge Enciso in violation of the doctrine of judicial stability and her failure to recognize that JBROS had committed forum shopping. 

Judge Soriaso disavowed any liability to the charge of violation of forum shopping claiming that the two petitions, the one filed before the sala of Judge Enciso and the other in her sala, were two different cases that do not preclude one another, thereby concluding that no violation was made. Also, Judge Soriaso avers she did not violate the doctrine of judicial stability when she took cognizance of the special proceeding, the civil case before Judge Enciso being already dismissed; thus no outstanding order was contradicted by her grant of the writ of preliminary injunction. Lastly, she raises good faith and argues that she did not know of the existence of the case filed before the sala of Judge Enciso and the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction was based on the facts presented during the hearing.

ISSUE: 

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Whether Judge Soriaso be made administratively liable for violating the doctrine of judicial stability as well as the rule on forum shopping.

HELD: 

YES. The doctrine of judicial stability or the doctrine of non­interference states that the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction may not be interfered with by any court of concurrent jurisdiction. The rationale for the same is founded on the concept of jurisdiction – verily, a court that acquires jurisdiction over the case and renders judgment therein has jurisdiction over its judgment, to the exclusion of all other coordinate courts, for its execution and over all its incidents, and to control, in furtherance of justice, the conduct of ministerial officers acting in connection with this judgment. Here, if Judge Soriaso had just heeded the information provided by the DOH regarding the existence of the earlier decision of Judge Enciso, she would have been more circumspect in the eventual issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction realizing the ruse propagated by JBROS to get a favorable judgment.

Jurisprudentially, the test for determining forum shopping is whether in the two (or more) cases pending, there is identity of parties, rights or causes of action, and reliefs sought.  Here, while the nomenclature used was different, both cases seek the same outcome. Also, both cases involve the same parties. Lastly, the same evidence is required to prove both cases. The OCA is, therefore, correct in finding Judge Soriaso guilty of gross ignorance of the law for violating the rule on forum shopping and the doctrine of judicial stability.

The Court resolves to impose a fine amounting to Forty Thousand Pesos (P40,000.00) for gross ignorance of the rules of procedure and another Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) for violating Administrative Circular No. 7-99.

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