By Rey Panaligan
Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta has ordered a strict monitoring of temporary restraining orders (TROs), status quo ante orders (SQAOs), writs of preliminary injunction (WPIs), and orders on voluntary inhibitions issued by justices of the Court of Appeals (CA), Sandiganbayan and Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), and judges of the trial courts.
While the administrative order on TROs, SQAOs, and WPIs did not mention about complaints from litigants and other parties as bases for its issuance, legal circles viewed the directive as a concrete move of the Supreme Court (SC) to curb abuses and to enforce immediate corrective measures.
Even President Duterte has cited certain abuses committed by some members of the judiciary in the issuance of TROs, SQAOs, and WPIs.
A TRO is “an urgent order by the court temporarily forbidding the defendant or respondent to do a threatened act until a hearing on the matter at issue can be heard to prevent grave injustice and irreparable injury to the applicant or petitioner.”
SQAO directs the parties to a case to maintain or keep “the last actual peaceful and uncontested situation that precedes a controversy.”
WPI, on the other hand, is a “provisional order granted at any stage of an action or proceeding prior to the judgment or final order, requiring a party or a court, agency or person to refrain from a particular act or acts, or require the performance of a particular act or acts.”
The two administrative orders were issued to the justices and judges of the lower courts. Copies were not immediately available.
A press statement issued by the SC’s public information office (PIO) stated that in Administrative Order (AO) No. 63-2020, Chief Justice Peralta required the concerned justice and judges to the submit to the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) starting March 1 copies of the TROs, SQAOs, and WPIs they issued within five days from such issuance.
The justices and judges are also required to copy furnish the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) and the submission can be done either by mail or through email.
Several years ago, the SC had required the submission of TROs and WPIs but it was discontinued because of the incorporation of the details in the monthly report of cases submitted to the OCA.
But Peralta said the monthly reports do not reflect the qualitative details of the TROs, SQAOs and WPIs issued.
Under the circular, justices and judges are required to submit the specific details of the TROs, SQAOs, and WPIs they issued. These are case number, case title, nature of the case, date of filing of the complaint or relevant motion, date of the issued TRO, SQAO or WPI, and status of the case.
On WPIs, Peralta cited the SC previous ruling: “Injunction is an extraordinary remedy to be resorted to when there is a pressing necessity to avoid injurious consequences that cannot be remedied under any standard compensation. A court may issue an injunction only if it is fully convinced of its extreme necessity and after it has complied with the procedural requirements set by law.”
He added that in another previous case, the SC ruled that “every court should remember that an injunction should not be granted lightly or precipitately because it is a limitation upon the freedom of the defendant’s action. It should be granted only when the court is fully satisfied that the law permits it and the emergency demands it, for no power exists whose exercise is more delicate, which requires greater caution and deliberation, or is more dangerous in a doubtful case, than the issuance of an injunction.”
In AO No. 62-2020, Peralta required the concerned justices and judges to address “persistent reports that some justices and judges have been voluntarily inhibiting from cases assigned or raffled to them on grounds that are neither just nor valid.”
Peralta reminded them “to perform their judicial duties without favor, bias or prejudice” as mandated by Section 1, Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, and to “carry out judicial duties with appropriate consideration for all persons, such as the parties, witnesses, lawyers, court staff and judicial colleagues, without differentiation on any irrelevant ground, immaterial to the proper performance of such duties under Section 3, Canon 5 of the same Code.”
He stressed that while the Rules of Court provide that “a judge may, in the exercise of his sound discretion, disqualify himself from sitting in a case, case law teaches us that this does not give the judge the unfettered discretion to decide whether he should desist from hearing a case.”
“The inhibition must be for just and valid causes. The mere imputation of bias or partiality is not enough ground for a judge to inhibit, especially when it is without any basis,” he added.
Copies of orders of voluntary inhibition should be submitted to the OCJ, copy furnished OCA, within five days from issuance, the AO stated.