Blog Lecture No. 28: Contempt

Ok class! Let’s get into another hot topic.

What is contempt?

Contempt is disrespectful behavior towards a court or a quasi-judicial body (translation: a body that is almost like a court), or disobedience to their orders.

What are the kinds of contempt punishable?

They are:

1. Direct Contempt
2. Indirect Contempt

What is Direct Contempt?

It is misbehavior in the presence of or so near a court as to obstruct or interrupt the proceedings before the same.

It includes disrespect toward the court, offensive personalities toward others, or refusal to be sworn or to answer as a witness, or to subscribe an affidavit or deposition when lawfully required to do so. (from Section 1, Rule 71 of the 1997 Revised Rules on Civil Procedure)

Can you give an example?

Of course!

Calling the judge (or justice) a friggin’ a-hole, improper attire, loud ringtones/message tones during hearing, challenging adverse counsel to a fight in the court’s presence, cursing, etc. may be considered direct contempt is done in the presence of or so near the court.

What is Indirect Contempt?

Simply put, the following acts that are not committed in the court’s presence and punished only after due process constitute indirect contempt:

(a) Misbehavior of an officer of a court in the performance of his official duties or in his official transactions;

(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, or judgment of a court, including the act of a person who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts or induces another to enter into or upon such real property, for the purpose of executing acts of ownership or possession, or in any manner disturbs the possession given to the person adjudged to be entitled thereto;

(c) Any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the processes or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt under section 1 of this Rule;

(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice;

(e) Assuming to be an attorney or an officer of a court, and acting as such without authority;

(f) Failure to obey a subpoena duly served;

(g) The rescue, or attempted rescue, of a person or property in the custody of an officer by virtue of an order or process of a court held by him. (Section 3, Rule 71)

Can you give examples?

Why not?

1. Overly provocative or fighting words used in filed pleadings

2. Refusal to vacate premises despite a valid and final court order to do the same

3. Making bomb threats so that court proceedings do not continue

4. Laying land mines around the courthouse to prevent the judges and their staff from doing their jobs

5. Illegally representing oneself as an attorney in court proceedings

6. Not showing up in court despite a duly served subpoena ad testificandum

7. Illegally taking sequestered property subject of a case and in court custody.

What is the difference between direct and indirect contempt?

Direct Contempt is committed in the court’s presence or so near the court while Indirect Contempt is not committed within or near the court’s presence. It may be done through pleadings, though.

Direct Contempt is punished summarily. This means a judge (or justice) can immediately cite an offending person in direct contempt and mete out the punishment for it. An offender has to go through due process before being cited for indirect contempt.

Because it is summary, it cannot be appealed, unlike indirect contempt.

What is the penalty for Direct Contempt?

1. If done before a Regional Trial Court, its equivalent or a higher court (Court of Appeals or Supreme Court), a maximum fine of P2,000.00 or a maximum prison term of ten days, or a combination of both fine and imprisonment.

2. If done before courts lower than a Regional Trial Court, a maximum fine of P200.00 or a maximum prison sentence of 1 day, or again, a combination of both fine and imprisonment.

What is the penalty for Indirect Contempt?

1. If done before a Regional Trial Court, its equivalent or a higher court (Court of Appeals or Supreme Court), a maximum fine of P30,000.00 or a maximum prison term of six months, or a combination of both fine and imprisonment.

2. If done before courts lower than a Regional Trial Court, a maximum fine of P5,000.00 or a maximum prison sentence of one month, or again, a combination of both fine and imprisonment.

If there is disobedience to a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction, the penalty also includes restitution for the damage caused or done.

How about contempt of Congress? Is there such a thing?

Yes. Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code, a person becomes criminally liable for disobeying, without legal excuse, summons issued by the National Assembly or any of its committees; or refusing, when present (1) to be sworn or placed under affirmation, or (2) to answer any legal inquiry, or (3) to produce any books, papers, documents, or records in his possession when required to do so by said bodies in the exercise of their functions.

Accordingly, any of those acts may also constitute contempt of Congress and could be punished as such independent of criminal prosecution. (taken from this link).

How about other agencies like the SEC?

Yes. But charges of indirect contempt must be filed with the regular courts…



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4 responses to “Blog Lecture No. 28: Contempt

  1. Hi Punzi. This quite interesting especially on the emphasis of contempt to the order and summons of Congress. In my early years as a law student, I was a little disoriented how contempt of Congress’ writs become punishable that often I interchange it with criminal contempt. This subject is a little tricky.

  2. ahh these reminds me of the famous lawsuits of celebrities like lolit solis and rosanna roces! laging merong “contempt of court” sa mga issues nila..

  3. Anonymous

    Lawyers cited for indirect contempt should likewise be recommended for disbarment. April 22, 2005, Supreme Court Third Division. Counsel Atty. Teodorico Fernandez referred to Commission on Bar Discipline and “strongly warned to refrain form any further attempts in making a MOCKERY OF JUDICIAL PROCESS.” Such stern warning and language from a Supreme Court Justice..We still have morals in this Highest Court of the land.

  4. Anonymous

    On August 22, 2005 the SC 3rd Division ruled with Finality the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Atty. Fernandez. Unfortunately they where able to again frustrate the delivery of Justice by filling in lower court Injunction against the winning litigant. Few Good Men left in the Judiciary should stand up and correct this. Let us saved our beloved country.

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