There is no dispute as the antecedent facts that gave rise to the instant petition involving close relatives who are either aunties, nieces and nephews or first-cousins.
The case involves private respondent filing a complaint for specific performance and Damages against petitioners.
Subsequently petitioners filed their answer with counterclaims and affirmative defenses. Before pre-trial can be conducted, petitioners filed a motion for a hearing on their affirmative defenses some of which are grounds for a motion to dismiss and therefore be subjected of a preliminary hearing pursuant to sec 6 of rule 16 of the rules of court.
The respondent judge denied petitioner’s motion without conducting a hearing. Respondent judge however did not stop with the denial but went on to RULE on the merits of the affirmative defenses stating as follows:
- Statute of frauds does not apply in this case because the contract which is subject matter of this case is already an executed contract
- That statute of frauds applies only to executory contracts
- Contention of defendants that the claims of the plaintiff are already extinguished by full payment thereof does not appear to be indubitable because the plaintiffs denied under oath the due execution and genuineness of the receipts given
This prompted petitioners to file a petition for certiorari including a pending a resolution on a motion for reconsideration.
During pendency of such MR Petitioners filed a subsequent motion to the judge to suspend proceedings.
The judge however did not suspend proceedings and set the case for pre-trial
Atty Lim counsel of petitioners filed to reset trial on the ground that he had a previous commitment in Japan. Atty Espina, who attended the pre-trial to explain Atty Lims absence, manifested to respondent judge that petitioners were willing to explore a possibility of an amicable settlement.
The judge then replied, that settlement is nil at best.
Trial ensued and it was here that Atty Lim again filed a motion praying to reset hearing due to medical tests and treatment and that his law partner Atty Espina would also not be able to attend in his behalf because the latter had to attend his brothers wedding in Leyte.
The motion to reset was disregarded however and trial still proceeded
Peitioners filed a motion to inhibit judge from further sittin in the case on the grounds of partiality, pre-judgement and gross ignorance of the law. (but was denied)
MR was filed but was also denied.
The CA opined that Judge Dicdican displayed petulance and impatience in his handling of the case, a norm of behavior inconsistent with the cold neutrality of an impartial judge.
Whether or not Judge Dicdican should be inhibited from the case
The Supreme Court held that it cannot see how judge Dicdican’s actions translate to bias and partiality.
In his order, judge dicdican admitted documentary evidence of plaintiffs. He allowed parties to be heard and that he decided the case based on their submissions.
We do not agree, either, with the CA finding that the petitioners witnesses were allowed to answer all questions asked of them, even if respondent judge had not yet ruled on the applicability of statute of frauds
Aside from the fact that these objections are sweeping and unsubstantiated, they should have raised before the trial judge himself based on the provisions provided in Rule 132 on the rules of evidence on striking out of answers.
Respondents have not shown that they were in any way denied their right to object to questions propounded in the course of the hearing.