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Administrative Law

CORAZON TENORIO, represented by IMELDA TENORIO- A.M. No. P-10-2817


ORTIZ,
[Formerly OCA I.P.I. No.
Complainant,
09-3089-P]

Present:
- versus -

CORONA, C.J., Chairperson,

VELASCO, JR.,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

DEL CASTILLO, and


ALYN C. PERLAS, Sheriff III,
PEREZ, JJ.
Respondent.

Promulgated:

January 26, 2011

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

This administrative complaint against Sheriff Alyn C. Perlas (Sheriff Perlas), Office of the Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial
Court (MeTC) of Pasig City stems from a complaint filed by Corazon Tenorio (Tenorio), represented by her attorney-in-fact Imelda
Tenorio-Ortiz, charging Sheriff Perlas with Oppression, Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct under Republic Act No. (RA) 6713 and
with violations of RA 3019 relative to the implementation of the Writ of Preliminary Attachment in Civil Case No. 15251, entitled 747
Lumber and Construction Supply v. Spouses Edgardo Pile and Marissa Pile for Sum of Money.

The facts of the case, as gathered from the records, are as follows:
According to the letter-complaint of Tenorio, on December 22, 2008, Sheriff Perlas, accompanied by other persons,
arrived at her store, Ten Rey Gravel and Sand and Construction Materials, located at No. 377 McArthur Highway, Corazon,
Calumpit, Bulacan.1[1] Upon their arrival, Sheriff Perlas served upon her a Notice of Levy on Attachment clearly addressed to
spouses Edgardo Pile and Marissa Pile (spouses Pile) of Apalit, Pampanga.2[2] Tenorio emphasized that Sheriff Perlas served the
notice in a discourteous and arrogant manner.3[3]

After this, Tenorio showed Sheriff Perlas the Certificate of Car Registration of their two (2) units of dump trucks and
pleaded to her not to take the trucks away because they were the registered owners of the trucks. However, despite this, Sheriff
Perlas forcibly took the two (2) units of trucks without even verifying with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) as to who were the
true registered owners of the trucks.4[4]

Aggrieved, Tenorio filed a Complaint-Affidavit dated January 12, 2009 before the Office of the Court Administrator,
charging Sheriff Perlas with Oppression, Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct under RA 6713 and with Violation of RA 3019.
According to Tenorio, Sheriff Perlas used her public office as Sheriff to oppress and harass her. Further, Tenorio said that the
humiliating manner by which Sheriff Perlas rudely and insolently served the Notice of Levy on her caused her serious mental
anxieties, moral shock, and sleepless nights.5[5]

Finally, Tenorio added in her Complaint-Affidavit that Sheriff Perlas received PhP 50,000 from 747 Lumber & Construction
Supply, Inc. as evidenced by the affidavit of Edgardo Pile.6[6] In his affidavit, Edgardo Pile stated that he saw the trucks parked in
the vicinity of 747 Lumber & Construction Supply; and that despite explaining to the owner of the store who the true owners of the
subject vehicles were, he refused to surrender them, saying that he paid Sheriff Perlas money for them.
On March 24, 2009, Sheriff Perlas filed her comment stating that Tenorio already earlier instituted a complaint for
Damages against her before the Municipal Trial Court of Calumpit, Bulacan for the same incident subject of the instant case. She
filed an answer in the said civil case which she is adopting in the instant administrative case.

In her answer, Sheriff Perlas denied all the allegations and recounted that on December 17, 2008, Judge Marina Gaerlan-
Mejorada issued a Writ of Preliminary Attachment against Spouses Pile in relation to Civil Case No. 15251.7[7] Consequently, on
December 22, 2008, she, together with the plaintiffs representative in the civil case, George Clemente (Clemente), proceeded to
implement the writ.8[8] However, upon arriving at Ten Rey General Merchandise, the defendants spouses Pile were not present.

Clemente insisted that they proceed to spouses Piles other address, which turns out to be the address of Tenorio, mother
of Marissa Pile. When they reached the place, Sheriff Perlas noticed two (2) trucks with the body markings TEN REY and with plate
numbers TJE 757 and TBU 705. She believed in good faith that these trucks belong to Spouses Pile and tried to obtain the
certificates of registration from the drivers. When the drivers and Tenorio failed to produce certificates of registration, she assumed
the vehicles were owned by spouses Pile.9[9]

Further, Sheriff Perlas claimed that she acted within the scope of her authority and maintained that she was not arrogant,
discourteous or callous.10[10]

On March 16, 2009, the MeTC issued an Order resolving in its ratio decidendi that:

x x x A considerable period of time had lapsed and yet, no such indemnity bond was filed by the
plaintiff, hence, based on the provision of Section 14, Rule 57 of the Rules of Court the sheriff shall not be
bound to keep the property under attachment emphasizing the point that the properties levied upon in this case
may now be released to third-party claimant Corazon R. Tenorio, whose proofs of title or right of possession
over the properties in litis have proven to be persuasive.11[11]
On June 17, 2009, Tenorio submitted a Manifestation to the Office of the Court Administrator seeking the dismissal of the
instant administrative case against Sheriff Perlas due to the fact that the trucks had already been released and that Sheriff Perlas
already personally apologized to her for whatever damage and inconvenience that the Writ of Preliminary Attachment may have
caused her. In addition, Tenorio pointed out that both parties had already settled amicably and jointly moved for the dismissal of the
civil case for damages filed against Sheriff Perlas.

On May 14, 2010, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez (Court Administrator) issued his evaluation and
recommendation on the case. In his evaluation, the Court Administrator found that respondent Sheriff Perlas was grossly inefficient
and guilty of misconduct in implementing the Writ on December 22, 2008. As a result, the Court Administrator recommended the
following:

(1) The complaint against Alyn C. Perlas, Sheriff III, OCC MeTC, Pasig City, be RE-DOCKETED as a regular
administrative matter;
(2) Sheriff Perlas be found GUILTY of Simple Misconduct and be FINED in the amount of Eleven Thousand
Pesos (P11,000.00) with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the a similar offense in the future will be
dealt with more severely in the future; and
(3) Respondent Perlas be directed to EXPLAIN within ten (10) days from notice the receipt of P 50,000 from
the plaintiff for the service of the Writ of Preliminary Attachment and Notice of Levy on Attachment.

We find the evaluation and recommendations of the Court Administrator well-taken.

Well-settled is the rule that [t]he duty of a sheriff in enforcing writs of execution is ministerial and not discretionary.12[12]
However, errors in the levy of properties do not necessarily give rise to liability if circumstances exist showing that the erroneous
levy was done in good faith.13[13]

In the instant case, the conduct of Sheriff Perlas in implementing the Writ is inexcusable. The facts clearly show that the
two (2) trucks seized by her did not belong to the spouses Pile but to herein complainant, Tenorio. What is more, she could have
acted in good faith and checked from the LTO the identity of the registered owners of the said vehicles before proceeding with their
seizure.

In Malmis v. Bungabong, the Court explained the proper conduct that sheriffs must exercise when performing their
functions, viz:
While it is true that sheriffs must comply with their mandated ministerial duty to serve court writs,
execute all processes and carry into effect all court orders promptly and expeditiously, it needs to be pointed out
that this ministerial duty is not without limitation. In the performance of their duties, they are deemed to know
what is inherently right and inherently wrong and are bound to discharge such duties with prudence, caution
and attention which careful men usually exercise in the management of their affairs. As agents of the law,
sheriffs are called upon to discharge their functions with due care and utmost diligence because, in serving the
courts processes and implementing its order, they cannot afford to err without affecting the integrity of their
office and the efficient administration of justice.14[14] (Emphasis supplied.)

Thus, Sheriff Perlas explanations deserve scant consideration. She failed to discharge her functions with due care and utmost
diligence. Mere failure on the part of Tenorio and the drivers to present the certificates of registration of the vehicles at the time of
taking should have prompted her to exhaust all means to discover the true identity of the owners.

Moreover, as to the alleged turn-over of the trucks made by Sheriff Perlas in favor of the attaching party after receiving
money from the latter, there is lack of substantial evidence to prove it. Administrative proceedings are governed by the substantial
evidence rule, i.e., such amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.15[15] The standard of substantial evidence is justified when there is reasonable ground to believe that respondent is
responsible for the misconduct complained of, even if such evidence is not overwhelming or even preponderant.16[16] In the instant
case, aside from the affidavit of Edgardo Pile, no other evidence was presented by the complainant to support the allegation that
Sheriff Perlas received the money. Such cannot be considered substantial enough to support a finding of a serious charge.

Accordingly, Sheriff Perlas is only guilty of misconduct in the discharge of her functions. Misconduct is a transgression of
an established rule of action. More particularly, misconduct is the unlawful behavior of a public officer. It means the intentional
wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule of law or standard of behavior, especially by a government official.17[17] In order for
misconduct to constitute an administrative offense, it should be related to or connected with the performance of the official functions
and duties of a public officer.18[18]
Under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, simple misconduct is considered a less
serious offense, sanctioned with suspension without pay for not less than one (1) month but not more than three (3) months, or a
fine of not less than ten thousand tesos (PhP 10,000) but not exceeding twenty thousand pesos (PhP 20,000).

WHEREFORE, respondent Sheriff Alyn C. Perlas is found GUILTY of simple misconduct. She is meted the penalty of a
FINE of eleven thousand pesos (PhP 11,000). She is STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of similar or analogous infractions in the
future shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.
OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR A.M. No. P-90-488
Complainant,

Present:

CORONA, C.J.,

CARPIO,

CARPIO-MORALES,

VELASCO,
- versus -
NACHURA,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION,

PERALTA,

BERSAMIN,*

DEL CASTILLO,

ABAD,

VILLARAMA, JR.,

PEREZ,
JOSE M. RAMANO, Deputy Sheriff, Regional Trial Court,
Branch 140, Makati City,
MENDOZA and

Respondent.
SERENO, JJ.

Promulgated:

January 25, 2011

x-------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

PER CURIAM:

The instant administrative complaint before us stemmed from a criminal case for violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019,
otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act, which was filed by Jose S. Dela Riva against respondent Jose M.
Ramano, Deputy Sheriff, of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 140.
The facts, as culled from the records, are as follows:

On July 6, 1990, complainant Jose S. Dela Riva filed before the Sandiganbayan, an Information for violation of Section 3
(f) of R.A. No. 3019, as amended, against respondent Jose M. Ramano (Ramano) for alleged extortion, deliberate delay in serving
court processes, and refusal to levy, relative to Civil Case No. 35349. The complaint against Ramano was docketed as Criminal
Case No. 15166 entitled People of the Philippines v. Jose M. Ramano.

Thus, on August 7, 1990, pursuant to the En Banc Resolution19[1] dated March 12, 1981, then Court Administrator
Meynardo A. Tiro filed the instant administrative case against Ramano.

Subsequently, in a Resolution dated August 27, 1990, the Court required Ramano to file his Comment on the instant
complaint.

In his Comment, Ramano adopted his previous Comments filed before the Office of the Ombudsman and the
Sandiganbayan. He maintained his denial of the charges against him. He reiterated that the delay in the implementation of the Writ
of Execution was due to complainant Dela Rivas continued and unexplained refusal to consult with his lawyer, as well as his failure
to locate and point out the properties to be levied upon. He vehemently denied complainant's allegation of extortion and his demand
for a 35% share on all recoveries.

On October 10, 1990, the Court resolved to hold in abeyance the administrative proceedings in the instant case pending
judgment in Criminal Case No. 15166.
On November 4, 1991, the Sandiganbayan rendered a Decision convicting Ramano for violation of RA 3019. Ramano
moved for reconsideration, but was denied on June 15, 1992. The petition for review on certiorari was also dismissed by this Court
and, subsequently, an entry of judgment was issued on March 25, 1993. Later, due to Ramano's failure to appear during the
promulgation of judgment on June 15, 1993, the court ordered his arrest. To this date, Ramano remains at-large.

Moreover, per records of the Office of Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), Ramano had
been absent from work without official leave since July 1, 1993. The Court, however, resolved to hold in abeyance the action of
dropping Ramano from the service due to the pendency of the instant complaint.

On February 13, 2008, the Court referred the instant administrative matter to the OCA for evaluation, report and
recommendation.
On May 19, 2008, in its Report,20[2] the OCA considered the Sandiganbayan's findings that Ramano refused to take any
sincere or determined effort to implement the Writ of Execution in order to compel complainant Dela Riva to agree to his demand for
a 35% share in whatever may be collected. It concluded that Ramano's refusal to perform his duty was deliberate and was adopted
as a means to obtain some consideration.
The OCA likewise pointed out that Ramano is technically a fugitive as he has remained at-large for more than a decade
since his conviction having been absent from work without leave since July 1993.
Thus, considering that in administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required, the OCA found Ramano guilty
of serious misconduct and recommended his dismissal from service with forfeiture of all benefits, except accrued leave credits.

We adopt the recommendation of the OCA.

Sheriffs ought to know that they have a sworn responsibility to serve writs of execution with utmost dispatch. When writs
are placed in their hands, it is their ministerial duty to proceed with reasonable celerity and promptness to execute them in
accordance with their mandate. Unless restrained by a court order, they should see to it that the execution of judgments are not
unduly delayed. Accordingly, they must comply with their mandated ministerial duty as speedily as possible.21[3]

In the instant case, it was established that Ramano had been negligent in implementing the subject writ due to
complainant Dela Rivas refusal to give in to respondent's demand that he be given 35% share of whatever may be collected from
the implementation of the writ. Apparently, complainant Dela Riva even provided substantial leads to assist Ramano in pursuing the
implementaion of the writ, but the latter stubbornly refused to facilitate it. While pointing the blame to complainant Dela Riva's
alleged continued and unexplained refusal to consult with his counsel, as well as failure to locate the properties to be levied upon,
Ramano himself failed to even make inquiries and verification with the pertinent government offices, such as the Office of Philippine
Coast Guard, Land Transportation Office, or the Register of Deeds, which could have been helpful in locating the properties subject
to execution. The Court also found no other reason why complainant Dela Riva would institute a criminal action against the accused
if he was innocent of the charges.

Significantly, the decision finding Ramano guilty of violation of R.A. No. 3019 has already attained finality, as per entry of
judgment dated March 25, 1993. Likewise, as per records, Ramano had not been reporting for work since July 1, 1993. This does
not speak well of Ramano's claim of innocence, considering that his disappearance can be viewed as indication of his guilt as well
as resistance to lawful orders of the court.

As employees of the court who play an important role in the administration of justice, high standards are expected of
sheriffs. This Court expounded in Vda. de Abellera v. Dalisay:22[4]

At the grassroots of our judicial machinery, sheriffs and deputy sheriffs are indispensably in close
contact with the litigants, hence, their conduct should be geared towards maintaining the prestige and integrity
of the court, for the image of a court of justice is necessarily mirrored in the conduct, official or otherwise, of the
men and women who work thereat, from the judge to the least and lowest of its personnel; hence, it becomes
the imperative sacred duty of each and everyone in the court to maintain its good name and standing as a
temple of justice. x x x23[5]

Time and again, this Court has pointed out the heavy burden and responsibility which court personnel are saddled with in
view of their exalted positions as keepers of the public faith. They should, therefore, be constantly reminded that any impression of
impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of official functions must be avoided. Those who work in the judiciary must
adhere to high ethical standards to preserve the courts good name and standing. They should be examples of responsibility,
competence and efficiency, and they must discharge their duties with due care and utmost diligence, since they are officers of the
court and agents of the law. Indeed, any conduct, act or omission on the part of those who would violate the norm of public
accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary shall not be countenanced.24[6]

WHEREFORE, the Court finds JOSE M. RAMANO, Deputy Sheriff, Regional Trial Court, Branch 140, Makati City,
GUILTY of GROSS MISCONDUCT25[7] and orders his DISMISSAL from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and
privileges, except accrued leave credits, if any, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government,
including government-owned or controlled corporations.

SO ORDERED.
OFFICE OF THE COURT A.M. No. P-09-2715

ADMINISTRATOR, (formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 02-1383-RTJ)

Complainant,

Present:

CARPIO MORALES, J., Chairperson,

BRION,

BERSAMIN,

- versus - VILLARAMA, JR., and

SERENO, JJ.

Promulgated:

EFREN E. TOLOSA, Sheriff IV, June 13, 2011

Regional Trial Court, Office of the

Clerk of Court, Sorsogon City,

Respondent.

x----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

D E CI S I O N

BRION, J.:

This administrative complaint stemmed from the administrative complaint, docketed as A.M. I.P.I. No. 02-1383-RTJ, filed
by Gerardo D. Espiritu against Judge Jose L. Madrid of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 51, Sorsogon City, and Sheriff
Ariosto Letada of the RTC, Branch 52, Sorsogon City, for Undue Delay in the Disposition of a Case and/or Manifest Bias or Partiality
relative to the implementation of the Writ of Execution in Civil Case No. 5327, entitled Loreto Brondial, et al. v. Vicente Go, et al. The
complaint in A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 02-1383-RTJ was dismissed in a Resolution dated September 15, 2003,26[1] for the failure of
complainant Espiritu to substantiate his claim that Judge Madrid and Sheriff Letada conspired with each other in the non-
implementation of the writ. In the same Resolution, the Court directed the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to take
appropriate action on its report that Efren E. Tolosa, Sheriff IV, Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC, Sorsogon City, who was the one
originally designated to implement the writ of execution, violated Section 9, par. 2, Rule 39 of the Rules of Civil Procedure27[2]
when he did not turn over the checks that came into his possession to the Clerk of Court of the court that issued the writ on the
same day he received them.

In a letter dated October 21, 2003 of then Deputy Court Administrator, later Court Administrator and now Justice Jose P.
Perez, Tolosa was asked to explain his failure to immediately turn over the checks as required by the Rules.

In his letter-explanation dated November 1, 2003,28[3] Tolosa alleged: (1) he received the checks issued by the
defendant in Civil Case No. 5327 but these were postdated and received on the condition that they would be returned to the
defendant should the plaintiffs refuse to accept them; (2) the encashed amount of the checks, as well as the checks that have not
been encashed, has already been withdrawn by Atty. Rofebar T. Gerona, counsel for the plaintiffs, from the Clerk of Court on
December 21, 2000; and (3) there are two plaintiffs in the civil case and they might have been doing some action without the
knowledge of their counsel.

The OCA found Tolosas explanation insufficient to excuse him from liability for his patent violation of Section 9, par. 2,
Rule 39 of the Rules on Civil Procedure, and recommended that he be fined in the amount of P5,000.00, with a warning that a
repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.29[4]

In a Resolution dated November 16, 2009,30[5] the Court directed the OCA to docket separately the complaint against
Tolosa; hence, the present administrative complaint.
Asked to manifest to the Court whether he was willing to submit the case against him for resolution, based on the
records/pleadings, Tolosa filed his answer, offering his sincere apology for the misinterpretation he had done in connection with the
case and praying that the case against him be dismissed.31[6]

The Antecedent Facts

Espiritu is one of the legal heirs of one of the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 5327. In a decision dated March 26, 1990, the
RTC ordered the defendants therein, Vicente Go, et al., to pay jointly and severally the plaintiffs the sum of P20,000.00 as actual or
compensatory damages, P5,000.00 as attorneys fees and P3,000.00 as litigation expenses, and to pay the costs, with legal interest
from the date of the decision until they are fully paid.32[7]

Both parties appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA). In a decision dated May 14, 1997, the CA affirmed the RTC decision
with modification as to the damages awarded to the plaintiffs, as follows: P80,000.00 as actual or compensatory damages with
interest at 6% per annum from the date of the filing of the complaint; P20,000.00 and P10,000.00 as moral and exemplary damages,
respectively; P5,000.00 as attorneys fees; and P3,000.00 as litigation expenses, with interest of 6% per annum from the date the
defendants were served a copy of the decision of the lower court, until the amounts are actually paid.33[8]

The defendants contested the CA decision in a petition for review on certiorari filed with the Supreme Court. In a
Resolution dated October 21, 1998, the Court dismissed the petition. The dismissal became final and executory on December 7,
1998.34[9]

On February 16, 2000, upon the plaintiffs motion, the RTC directed the issuance of a Writ of Execution. Accordingly,
Branch Clerk of Court William D. Erlano issued the corresponding Writ of Execution on February 29, 2000, directing the Provincial
Sheriff or any of his deputies to enforce and implement the decision pursuant to the provision of the Rules of Court and to make a
return of the writ within the time provided for by law.35[10] The respondent was furnished a copy of the writ on March 31, 2000.
Three (3) months thereafter, or on July 3, 2000, the complainants mother wrote Clerk of Court Marilyn D. Valino inquiring
about the status of the writ. In a 1st Indorsement dated July 4, 2000,36[11] Clerk of Court Valino forwarded the letter to Tolosa,
directing him to immediately execute and/or implement the Writ of Execution in accordance with the decision and [in consonance]
with the existing rules, and inviting his attention to the provisions of Section 14, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.

On July 17, 2000, Tolosa complied and submitted a Sheriffs Partial Return,37[12] reporting that he attempted to serve the
writ twice, on April 17, 2000 and May 12, 2000, but defendant Vicente Go was not in his house on both occasions. He was able to
implement the writ only on June 14, 2000. He reported that he received from defendant Vicente Go several postdated checks in the
total amount of P118,000.00, in partial satisfaction of the judgment, and that he informed the complainants counsel of his receipt of
the checks. Counsel did not make any comment on whether to accept the checks or not.

On September 22, 2000, Espiritu, apparently unaware that there was a partial implementation of the writ, wrote Judge
Madrid, complaining that Tolosa has failed to do his task, as mandated by the Rules of Court, despite that several months have
passed and requesting that a substitute Sheriff be designated.38[13] In a 1st Indorsement dated September 26, 2000, Judge Madrid
required Tolosa to comment on Espiritus letter.39[14]

On October 10, 2000, Tolosa filed his comment/manifestation,40[15] explaining that as early as July 17, 2000, he already
made a partial return of the Writ of Execution and that he had encashed the matured checks in the amount of P60,000.00. On the
same day, he deposited the amount of P60,000.00 with the Branch Clerk of Court of the RTC, Branch 51, together with the other
postdated checks. He enclosed an Acknowledgment Receipt dated October 10, 2000, signed by Branch Clerk of Court
Erlano.41[16]
The Courts Ruling

The Court finds that the respondent committed two offenses in this case, (1) failure to make a return of the writ within the
period provided by the Rules of Court; and (2) failure to turn over the checks he received by virtue of the implementation of the writ,
to the court issuing it within the same day he received them.

Section 14, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court42[17] makes it mandatory for a sheriff to make a return of the writ of execution
to the Clerk of Court or to the Judge issuing it immediately upon satisfaction, in part or in full, of the judgment. If the judgment cannot
be satisfied in full, the sheriff shall make a report to the court within thirty (30) days after his receipt of the writ and state why full
satisfaction could not be made. The sheriff shall continue to make a report to the court every (30) days on the proceedings taken
thereon until the judgment is satisfied in full, or its effectivity expires. Failure of a sheriff to make periodic reports on the status of a
writ of execution warrants administrative liability.43[18] The reason behind this requirement is to update the court on the status of
the execution and to take the necessary steps to ensure the speedy execution of decisions.44[19]

The writ was placed in the hands of Tolosa on March 31, 2000 but he submitted a Sheriffs Partial Return only on July 17,
2000. He submitted the return only after Espiritus mother wrote Clerk of Court Valino, complaining that he had not taken any action
on the writ. Tolosa attributes the delay in the submission of his Sheriffs Return on the failure of the plaintiffs to decide whether or not
to accept the checks delivered to him. He allegedly verbally informed Atty. Gerona, the plaintiffs counsel, but the latter could not
definitely decide what to do with the checks. He believed that Atty. Gerona was the proper person to know because he was the one
who requested the implementation of the writ. He further claimed that he was not sure whom to deal with because there were
several persons claiming to be the legal heirs and persistently making demands from him of the amounts he received.

The Court finds Sheriff Tolosas explanation on his delay to make a return of the writ in due time flimsy and untenable. The
duty of a sheriff to make a return of the writ is ministerial and it is not his duty to wait for the plaintiff to decide whether or not to
accept the checks as payment. A purely ministerial act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in the context of a given
set of facts, in a prescribed manner and without regard to the exercise of his own judgment, upon the propriety or impropriety of the
act done.45[20] When a writ is placed in the hands of a sheriff, it is his duty, in the absence of any instructions to the contrary, to
proceed with celerity and promptness to execute it according to its mandate.46[21] The Writ of Execution, issued by Branch Clerk of
Court Erlano, specifically directed Tolosa to enforce and implement the decision pursuant to the provision of the Rules of Court, and
to return the writ within the time provided for by law47[22] but he simply ignored the instructions to him.

The OCA correctly found that Tolosa violated Section 9, par. 2, Rule 39 of the Rules of Civil Procedure when he failed to
turn over all the amounts he received by reason of implementing the writ, within the same day to the clerk of court that issued it.
Sheriff Tolosa received, on June 14, 2000 from defendant Vicente Go five (5) checks, in varying amounts and different dates of
maturity in the total amount of P118,000.00, in partial satisfaction of the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. He encashed the matured
check for P60,000.00, without having been authorized to do so. He kept in his possession the P60,000.00 cash and the four
remaining checks. He turned them over to the clerk of court only on October 10, 2000. The amount of P60,000.00 and the four
postdated checks were eventually delivered to the plaintiffs only on December 21, 2000. Tolosas acts of keeping and encashing the
checks that matured spawned suspicion regarding his true intentions.

A sheriff has no discretion whatsoever with respect to the disposition of the amounts he receives. If he finds that there is a
need to clarify what to do with the checks, prudence and reasonableness dictate that clarification be sought immediately from the
clerk or judge issuing it. He cannot escape liability for the misinterpretation he had done in connection with the case. Having been in
the service for more than 26 years, respondent sheriff cannot wrongly interpret basic rules without appearing grossly incompetent or
in bad faith.48[23]

As an officer of the court, sheriffs are chargeable with the knowledge of what is the proper action to take in case there are
questions in the writ which need to be clarified, and the knowledge of what he is bound to comply.49[24] He is expected to know the
rules of procedure pertaining to his functions as an officer of the court,50[25] relative to the implementation of writs of execution, and
should, at all times, show a high degree of professionalism in the performance of his duties. Any act deviating from the procedure
laid down by the Rules is misconduct that warrants disciplinary action.51[26]

Misconduct is defined as a transgression of some established or definite rule of action; more particularly, it is an unlawful
behavior by the public officer. The misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, and willful intent to
violate the law or to disregard established rules. For clear violation of established rules, coupled with having encashed the checks
which matured without having been authorized to do so, the Court finds Tolosa guilty of Grave Misconduct, tempered only by his
length of service. The Court takes into consideration Tolosas long years of service in the judiciary of about 25 years. Thus, in lieu of
the dismissal that Section 52(A)(3), Rule IV of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service commands,
we find the penalty of suspension for six (6) months appropriate.

WHEREFORE, Sheriff Efren E. Tolosa, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Office of the Clerk of Court, Sorsogon City is
found GUILTY of grave misconduct and he is hereby imposed the penalty of SUSPENSION of six (6) months without pay with a
STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.
DANELLA G. SONIDO, A.M. No. P-10-2794

Complainant, (formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 08-2937-P)

Present:

CARPIO MORALES, J.,Chairperson,

BRION,

BERSAMIN,

- versus - VILLARAMA, JR., and

SERENO, JJ.

Promulgated:

June 1, 2011

JOSEFINA G. ILOCSO, Clerk III, Regional Trial Court,


Branch 80, Morong, Rizal,

Respondent.

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D E CI S I O N

BRION, J.:

We resolve the present administrative matter which arose from the affidavit-complaint filed, on September 5, 2008,52[1]
by Danella G. Sonido (Sonido), charging Clerk III Josefina G. Ilocso, Regional Trial Court, Branch 80, Morong, Rizal (Branch 80),
with Obstruction of Justice and Grave Misconduct.
The Factual Background

Sonido is the mother of Nathalie Mae G. Sonido who filed with the Rizal Prosecution Office a complaint against one Kristel
Ann S. Asebo for violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, in
Criminal Case No. 08-7977.

In a resolution dated December 19, 2006,53[2] the Rizal Prosecution Office recommended the filing of an information
against Kristel for violation of Section 5, par. 1, R.A. No. 9262. The information states:

That on or about the 27th day of February, 2006, in the Municipality of Teresa, Province of Rizal,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the former
sweetheart of the complainant[,] Nathalie Mae G. Sonido, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
show the videos of the complainant to other persons showing the sensitive parts of her body, thereby causing
mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to one Nathalie Mae G. Sonido.54[3]

Sonido received a copy of the resolution on January 28, 2008.55[4] The following day, January 29, 2008,56[5] she went to
the Metropolitan Trial Court in Morong, Rizal, to inquire about the status of the case. She was told that the case had been raffled to
Branch 80. When she asked whom she should talk to about the case at Branch 80, she was advised to see Ilocso or Ka Pining,
which she did. Ilocso then told Sonido that she would prepare the warrant of arrest. She advised Sonido to return the following day
to get a copy of the warrant. Sonido returned the next day and several more times thereafter, but Ilocso consistently failed to give
her a copy of the warrant and instead gave excuses for her repeated failures.

Exasperated about the delay in the issuance of the warrant of arrest, Sonido confronted Ilocso about it. Ilocso allegedly
assured Sonido that copies of the warrant had already been mailed to the proper authorities for implementation. Sonido claimed,
however, that it was only on June 26, 2008 that Ilocso gave her a copy of the warrant with the remark, sige ipahuli mo na yan.
Thankful that she was finally able to get a copy of the warrant, Sonido even gave Ilocso P100.00. She immediately gave the warrant
to SPO3 Minerva SG Marcelino, a police investigator, for execution.
The following day, June 27, 2008, Sonido alleged that she learned from PO1 Alsander R. Ecalnir (a member of the
Teresa, Rizal Police and a resident of Morong) that the warrant had not been implemented as Kristel left the country in May 2008 to
work as a caregiver in Taiwan. Sonido was dejected by this turn of events; her efforts to have Kristel arrested had all been in vain.
She also doubts if Ilocso had really sent copies of the warrant of arrest to the police authorities, as Kristel was apparently able to
secure police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearances for her travel to Taiwan. She believes that Ilocso gave her a
copy of the warrant of arrest when Kristel had already left the country.

Sonido inquired from the police of Morong and Teresa, Rizal if they had received copies of the warrant of arrest; they both
answered in the negative.57[6] She even called up the NBI to inquire on the matter, and she got the same answer.

In her Comment58[7] submitted on October 27, 2008, Ilocso denied Sonidos accusations, dismissing them as mere
suspicions. She alleged that her failure to release the warrant of arrest resulted from mere memory lapse and was an honest
mistake on her part. She maintained that she had no intention of causing Sonido any harm.

Ilocso also attributed the delay or omission in the preparation and release of the warrant of arrest to her heavy workload
as clerk in charge of criminal cases in a court where almost 700 cases were pending. She further explained that from January 21,
2008 to February 8, 2008, the Supreme Court conducted a judicial audit at Branch 80, and she was personally tasked to make
available to the audit team all the folders of the criminal cases for inventory. Additionally, she assisted in the preparation of the
courts semestral inventory report for July to December 2007, and the monthly case reports for March and April 2008.

Ilocso claimed that because of her heavy workload which caused her to suffer from fatigue and stress, she almost forgot
Sonidos request for a copy of the warrant of arrest. She emphasized that she did not have the slightest intention of delaying the
early disposition of the criminal case. She extended her apologies to the Court and to Sonido.

On the recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator, the Court resolved to (1) re-docket the complaint as a
regular administrative matter; and (2) require the parties to manifest whether they were willing to submit the case for decision on the
basis of the records.59[8]

Sonido submitted the case for decision in a Manifestation filed on August 10, 2010.60[9] Ilocso asked for time to submit
additional evidence,61[10] which the Court granted.62[11]
On September 2, 2010, Ilocso filed a supplemental comment.63[12] She reiterated substantially the same arguments
which she had raised earlier. Again, she blamed her busy schedule for her inability to have the warrant of arrest released. She even
denied receiving P100.00 from Sonido, saying that she did not accept the money as she was shamed by the delay in the release of
the warrant.

To explain the Morong Police Station certification64[13] that it had not received a copy of the warrant as of June 30, 2008,
Ilocso claimed that she had not yet endorsed the warrant to the Morong police when she gave Sonido a copy. The same was true
with the other government authorities Sonido dealt with. She said that she and her co-employees had difficulty in locating the case
record as its folder was very thin.

Finally, she informed the Court that the parties in the criminal case, who went through mediation under the auspices of the
Philippine Mediation Center, executed a compromise agreement on December 2, 2009.65[14] Nathalie, the complainant in the
criminal case, executed an affidavit of desistance66[15] and asked for the dismissal of the case, which the court granted.67[16]
Ilocso prayed for the dismissal of the present administrative matter as the delay in the release of the warrant of arrest was
not deliberate and [she] failed, in good faith, to promptly locate it.68[17]

The Courts Ruling

We find that respondent Ilocso has been gravely remiss in the performance of her duties in Criminal Case No. 08-7977,
resulting not only in the delay in the service of a copy of the warrant to Sonido (notwithstanding her repeated assurances in that
regard), but in the failure to arrest the accused because copies of the warrant of arrest were not sent to the police authorities.
Because of the failure to timely serve the warrant, the accused escaped arrest and was able to leave the country and place herself
beyond the reach of the warrant.

Kristel, the accused in the criminal case, left the country for a job in Taiwan in May 2008. Sonido, the mother of the
complainant in the criminal case, Nathalie, was given a copy of the warrant only on June 26, 2008, after having been given a run
around by Ilocso. Looking back at what happened, Sonidos ordeal started when she went to Ilocso to ask for a copy of the warrant
after she (Sonido) received, on January 28, 2008, a copy of the resolution finding probable cause in the criminal case against
Kristel. Ilocso told Sonido to return the next day, but when she did, she still failed to get a copy of the warrant. Sonido returned
several more times with the same results. Ilocso instead gave her all kinds of excuses, e.g., that she had not yet prepared the
warrant but she was already working on it; that nobody was there to sign the warrant; or that she lost the folder and could not locate
it.

The OCA found Ilocso guilty of simple neglect of duty and recommended that she be suspended for one month without
pay.69[18]

We disagree with this finding as Ilocsos infraction is more serious than simple neglect of duty. The delay in the release of
the warrant of arrest in Criminal Case No. 08-7977 did not happen because Ilocso simply forgot about it or her workload was so
heavy that it took her several months to prepare and release it.

The delay, to our mind, was by design and was not an innocent lapse or mistake. Ilocso waited for the proper time to give
Sonido a copy of the warrant and to send copies to the implementing police authorities. The proper time obviously was when the
accused could no longer be arrested because she had already left the country. Ilocsos promises, her excuses, the delay from the
filing of the information to the release of the warrant of arrest, the time of the release to Sonido of a copy of the warrant, and the
timing of the departure of the accused for Taiwan all lead us to conclude that the release of the warrant was delayed to favor the
accused.

Ilocso could not have missed the urgency of Sonidos request for a copy of the warrant of arrest. She kept on coming back
for it until she could not stand the long wait anymore. She confronted Ilocso about it. How could Ilocso have forgotten, as she
claimed, Sonidos request when she herself admitted that Sonido saw her no less than five times70[19] to ask for a copy of the
warrant? Ilocso only gave Sonido a copy of the warrant when it was already too late as it could no longer be served on the accused.
These circumstances, to our mind, only show that there was a design to allow the accused to evade the service of a warrant of
arrest. It took Ilocso almost five (5) months, from the time of Sonidos initial inquiry, to prepare and release the warrant to the proper
authorities.

For knowingly delaying the release of the warrant of arrest in Criminal Case No. 08-7977, Ilocso had placed the court in a
very negative light. It prejudiced the Courts standing in the community as it projected an image of a Court that is unable to enforce
its processes on time. For this reason, we find her liable not only for simple neglect of duty, but for the more serious offense of
conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

In Liberty M. Toledo v. Liza E. Perez, etc.,71[20] we held that while the Rules do not provide a definition or enumeration of
the acts that constitute conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, they refer to acts or omissions that violate the norm of
public accountability and diminish or tend to diminish the peoples faith in the judiciary.

Without doubt, Ilocsos very much delayed action on Sonidos request for a copy of the warrant of arrest in the criminal
case and in the delivery of the warrant to the police authorities cast doubts on the capability of the court to administer justice fairly
and expeditiously. Any misconduct similar to Ilocsos act is likely to reflect adversely on the administration of justice.72[21] Thus,
Ilocso should be made to answer for her infraction in a way that will serve as a lesson to everyone in the judiciary to be forthright in
his dealings with the public, and to act speedily on matters within his area of responsibility, regardless of who is involved. To be
sure, the prejudice she caused and her liability for her conduct can in no way be extinguished or mitigated by the issuance of a
second warrant of arrest, or by the complainants subsequent voluntary desistance from pursuing the case. The harm had already
been done on the aggrieved party and on the judiciary when these developments transpired.

The Civil Service Commission classifies conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service as a grave offense
punishable by suspension without pay from six (6) months and one (1) day to one (1) year for the first offense, and dismissal from
the service for the second offense.73[22] In light of the brazen way Ilocso hoodwinked Sonido and given the prejudice she caused to
the institution she serves, we deem a suspension for one (1) year without pay an appropriate penalty.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, Josefina G. Ilocso, Clerk III, Regional Trial Court, Branch 80, Morong, Rizal, is
declared LIABLE for Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. She shall suffer the penalty of SUSPENSION for one (1)
year without pay, and is WARNED that a similar offense in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.
FILIPINA SAMSON, G.R. No. 178454

Petitioner,

Present:

CARPIO MORALES, J.,

- versus - Chairperson,

BRION,

BERSAMIN,

VILLARAMA, JR., and

SERENO, JJ.
JULIA A. RESTRIVERA, Promulgated:

Respondent.

March 28, 2011

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Petitioner Filipina Samson appeals the Decision74[1] dated October 31, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP
No. 83422 and its Resolution75[2] dated June 8, 2007, denying her motion for reconsideration. The CA affirmed the Ombudsman in
finding petitioner guilty of violating Section 4(b)76[3] of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and
Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The facts are as follows:

Petitioner is a government employee, being a department head of the Population Commission with office at the Provincial
Capitol, Trece Martirez City, Cavite.

Sometime in March 2001, petitioner agreed to help her friend, respondent Julia A. Restrivera, to have the latters land
located in Carmona, Cavite, registered under the Torrens System. Petitioner said that the expenses would reach P150,000 and
accepted P50,000 from respondent to cover the initial expenses for the titling of respondents land. However, petitioner failed to
accomplish her task because it was found out that the land is government property. When petitioner failed to return the P50,000,
respondent sued her for estafa. Respondent also filed an administrative complaint for grave misconduct or conduct unbecoming a
public officer against petitioner before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman found petitioner guilty of violating Section 4(b) of R.A. No. 6713 and suspended her from office for six
months without pay. The Ombudsman ruled that petitioner failed to abide by the standard set in Section 4(b) of R.A. No. 6713 and
deprived the government of the benefit of committed service when she embarked on her private interest to help respondent secure a
certificate of title over the latters land.77[4]

Upon motion for reconsideration, the Ombudsman, in an Order78[5] dated March 15, 2004, reduced the penalty to three
months suspension without pay. According to the Ombudsman, petitioners acceptance of respondents payment created a
perception that petitioner is a fixer. Her act fell short of the standard of personal conduct required by Section 4(b) of R.A. No. 6713
that public officials shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage. The
Ombudsman held:

x x x [petitioner] admitted x x x that she indeed received the amount of P50,000.00 from the
[respondent] and even contracted Engr. Liberato Patromo, alleged Licensed Geodetic Engineer to do the
surveys.

While it may be true that [petitioner] did not actually deal with the other government agencies for the
processing of the titles of the subject property, we believe, however, that her mere act in accepting the money
from the [respondent] with the assurance that she would work for the issuance of the title is already enough to
create a perception that she is a fixer. Section 4(b) of [R.A.] No. 6713 mandates that public officials and
employees shall endeavor to discourage wrong perception of their roles as dispenser or peddler of undue
patronage.

xxxx

x x x [petitioners] act to x x x restore the amount of [P50,000] was to avoid possible sanctions.

x x x [d]uring the conciliation proceedings held on 19 October 2002 at the barangay level, it was
agreed upon by both parties that [petitioner] be given until 28 February 2003 within which to pay the amount of
P50,000.00 including interest. If it was true that [petitioner] had available money to pay and had been persistent
in returning the amount of [P50,000.00] to the [respondent], she would have easily given the same right at that
moment (on 19 October 2002) in the presence of the Barangay Officials.79[6] x x x. (Stress in the original.)
The CA on appeal affirmed the Ombudsmans Order dated March 19, 2004. The CA ruled that contrary to petitioners
contentions, the Ombudsman has jurisdiction even if the act complained of is a private matter. The CA also ruled that petitioner
violated the norms of conduct required of her as a public officer when she demanded and received the amount of P50,000 on the
representation that she can secure a title to respondents property and for failing to return the amount. The CA stressed that Section
4(b) of R.A. No. 6713 requires petitioner to perform and discharge her duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism,
intelligence and skill, and to endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of her role as a dispenser and peddler of undue
patronage.80[7]

Hence, this petition which raises the following issues:

1. Does the Ombudsman have jurisdiction over a case involving a private dealing by a government employee or
where the act complained of is not related to the performance of official duty?

2. Did the CA commit grave abuse of discretion in finding petitioner administratively liable despite the dismissal of
the estafa case?

3. Did the CA commit grave abuse of discretion in not imposing a lower penalty in view of mitigating
circumstances?81[8]

Petitioner insists that where the act complained of is not related to the performance of official duty, the Ombudsman has
no jurisdiction. Petitioner also imputes grave abuse of discretion on the part of the CA for holding her administratively liable. She
points out that the estafa case was dismissed upon a finding that she was not guilty of fraud or deceit, hence misconduct cannot be
attributed to her. And even assuming that she is guilty of misconduct, she is entitled to the benefit of mitigating circumstances such
as the fact that this is the first charge against her in her long years of public service.82[9]

Respondent counters that the issues raised in the instant petition are the same issues that the CA correctly
resolved.83[10] She also alleges that petitioner failed to observe the mandate that public office is a public trust when she meddled in
an affair that belongs to another agency and received an amount for undelivered work.84[11]

We affirm the CA and Ombudsman that petitioner is administratively liable. We hasten to add, however, that petitioner is
guilty of conduct unbecoming a public officer.

On the first issue, we agree with the CA that the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over respondents complaint against
petitioner although the act complained of involves a private deal between them.85[12] Section 13(1),86[13] Article XI of the 1987
Constitution states that the Ombudsman can investigate on its own or on complaint by any person any act or omission of any public
official or employee when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, or improper. Under Section 1687[14] of R.A. No. 6770,
otherwise known as the Ombudsman Act of 1989, the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman encompasses all kinds of malfeasance,
misfeasance, and nonfeasance committed by any public officer or employee during his/her tenure. Section 1988[15] of R.A. No.
6770 also states that the Ombudsman shall act on all complaints relating, but not limited, to acts or omissions which are unfair or
irregular. Thus, even if the complaint concerns an act of the public official or employee which is not service-connected, the case is
within the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. The law does not qualify the nature of the illegal act or omission of the public official or
employee that the Ombudsman may investigate. It does not require that the act or omission be related to or be connected with or
arise from the performance of official duty. Since the law does not distinguish, neither should we.89[16]

On the second issue, it is wrong for petitioner to say that since the estafa case against her was dismissed, she cannot be
found administratively liable. It is settled that administrative cases may proceed independently of criminal proceedings, and may
continue despite the dismissal of the criminal charges.90[17]

For proper consideration instead is petitioners liability under Sec. 4(A)(b) of R.A. No. 6713.

We quote the full text of Section 4 of R.A. No. 6713:

SEC. 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. - (A) Every public official and employee
shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties:

(a) Commitment to public interest. - Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public
interest over and above personal interest. All government resources and powers of their respective offices must
be employed and used efficiently, effectively, honestly and economically, particularly to avoid wastage in public
funds and revenues.

(b) Professionalism. - Public officials and employees shall perform and discharge their duties with the
highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill. They shall enter public service with utmost
devotion and dedication to duty. They shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as
dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage.
(c) Justness and sincerity. - Public officials and employees shall remain true to the people at all times.
They must act with justness and sincerity and shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the
underprivileged. They shall at all times respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to
law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest. They shall not
dispense or extend undue favors on account of their office to their relatives whether by consanguinity or affinity
except with respect to appointments of such relatives to positions considered strictly confidential or as members
of their personal staff whose terms are coterminous with theirs.

(d) Political neutrality. - Public officials and employees shall provide service to everyone without unfair
discrimination and regardless of party affiliation or preference.

(e) Responsiveness to the public. - Public officials and employees shall extend prompt, courteous,
and adequate service to the public. Unless otherwise provided by law or when required by the public interest,
public officials and employees shall provide information on their policies and procedures in clear and
understandable language, ensure openness of information, public consultations and hearings whenever
appropriate, encourage suggestions, simplify and systematize policy, rules and procedures, avoid red tape and
develop an understanding and appreciation of the socioeconomic conditions prevailing in the country, especially
in the depressed rural and urban areas.

(f) Nationalism and patriotism. - Public officials and employees shall at all times be loyal to the
Republic and to the Filipino people, promote the use of locally-produced goods, resources and technology and
encourage appreciation and pride of country and people. They shall endeavor to maintain and defend Philippine
sovereignty against foreign intrusion.

(g) Commitment to democracy. - Public officials and employees shall commit themselves to the
democratic way of life and values, maintain the principle of public accountability, and manifest by deed the
supremacy of civilian authority over the military. They shall at all times uphold the Constitution and put loyalty to
country above loyalty to persons or party.

(h) Simple living. - Public officials and employees and their families shall lead modest lives
appropriate to their positions and income. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth
in any form.

(B) The Civil Service Commission shall adopt positive measures to promote (1) observance of these
standards including the dissemination of information programs and workshops authorizing merit increases
beyond regular progression steps, to a limited number of employees recognized by their office colleagues to be
outstanding in their observance of ethical standards; and (2) continuing research and experimentation on
measures which provide positive motivation to public officials and employees in raising the general level of
observance of these standards.

Both the Ombudsman and CA found the petitioner administratively liable for violating Section 4(A)(b) on professionalism.
Professionalism is defined as the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession. A professional refers to a
person who engages in an activity with great competence. Indeed, to call a person a professional is to describe him as competent,
efficient, experienced, proficient or polished.91[18] In the context of Section 4 (A)(b) of R.A. No. 6713, the observance of
professionalism also means upholding the integrity of public office by endeavoring to discourage wrong perception of their roles as
dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage. Thus, a public official or employee should avoid any appearance of impropriety affecting
the integrity of government services. However, it should be noted that Section 4(A) enumerates the standards of personal conduct
for public officers with reference to execution of official duties.

In the case at bar, the Ombudsman concluded that petitioner failed to carry out the standard of professionalism by
devoting herself on her personal interest to the detriment of her solemn public duty. The Ombudsman said that petitioners act
deprived the government of her committed service because the generation of a certificate of title was not within her line of public
service. In denying petitioners motion for reconsideration, the Ombudsman said that it would have been sufficient if petitioner just
referred the respondent to the persons/officials incharge of the processing of the documents for the issuance of a certificate of title.
While it may be true that she did not actually deal with the other government agencies for the processing of the titles of the subject
property, petitioners act of accepting the money from respondent with the assurance that she would work for the issuance of the title
is already enough to create a perception that she is a fixer.
On its part, the CA rejected petitioners argument that an isolated act is insufficient to create those wrong perceptions or
the impression of influence peddling. It held that the law enjoins public officers, at all times to respect the rights of others and refrain
from doing acts contrary to law, good customs, public order, public policy, public safety and public interest. Thus, it is not the
plurality of the acts that is being punished but the commission of the act itself.

Evidently, both the Ombudsman and CA interpreted Section 4(A) of R.A. No. 6713 as broad enough to apply even to
private transactions that have no connection to the duties of ones office. We hold, however, that petitioner may not be penalized for
violation of Section 4 (A)(b) of R.A. No. 6713. The reason though does not lie in the fact that the act complained of is not at all
related to petitioners discharge of her duties as department head of the Population Commission.

In addition to its directive under Section 4(B), Congress authorized92[19] the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to
promulgate the rules and regulations necessary to implement R.A. No. 6713. Accordingly, the CSC issued the Rules Implementing
the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (hereafter, Implementing Rules). Rule V of the
Implementing Rules provides for an Incentive and Rewards System for public officials and employees who have demonstrated
exemplary service and conduct on the basis of their observance of the norms of conduct laid down in Section 4 of R.A. No. 6713, to
wit:

RULE V. INCENTIVES AND REWARDS SYSTEM

SECTION 1. Incentives and rewards shall be granted officials and employees who have demonstrated
exemplary service and conduct on the basis of their observance of the norms of conduct laid down in Section 4
of the Code, namely:

(a) Commitment to public interest. - x x x

(b) Professionalism. - x x x

(c) Justness and sincerity. - x x x

(d) Political neutrality. - x x x

(e) Responsiveness to the public. - x x x

(f) Nationalism and patriotism. - x x x

(g) Commitment to democracy. - x x x

(h) Simple living. - x x x

On the other hand, Rule X of the Implementing Rules enumerates grounds for administrative disciplinary action, as
follows:

RULE X. GROUNDS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE DISCIPLINARY ACTION

SECTION 1. In addition to the grounds for administrative disciplinary action prescribed under existing
laws, the acts and omissions of any official or employee, whether or not he holds office or employment in a
casual, temporary, hold-over, permanent or regular capacity, declared unlawful or prohibited by the Code, shall
constitute grounds for administrative disciplinary action, and without prejudice to criminal and civil liabilities
provided herein, such as:

(a) Directly or indirectly having financial and material interest in any transaction requiring the approval
of his office. x x x.
(b) Owning, controlling, managing or accepting employment as officer, employee, consultant,
counsel, broker, agent, trustee, or nominee in any private enterprise regulated, supervised or licensed by his
office, unless expressly allowed by law;

(c) Engaging in the private practice of his profession unless authorized by the Constitution, law or
regulation, provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with his official functions;

(d) Recommending any person to any position in a private enterprise which has a regular or pending
official transaction with his office, unless such recommendation or referral is mandated by (1) law, or (2)
international agreements, commitment and obligation, or as part of the functions of his office;

xxxx

(e) Disclosing or misusing confidential or classified information officially known to him by reason of his
office and not made available to the public, to further his private interests or give undue advantage to anyone,
or to prejudice the public interest;

(f) Soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything
of monetary value which in the course of his official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated
by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of, his office. x x x.

xxxx

(g) Obtaining or using any statement filed under the Code for any purpose contrary to morals or
public policy or any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to
the general public;

(h) Unfair discrimination in rendering public service due to party affiliation or preference;

(i) Disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines and to the Filipino people;

(j) Failure to act promptly on letters and request within fifteen (15) days from receipt, except as
otherwise provided in these Rules;

(k) Failure to process documents and complete action on documents and papers within a reasonable
time from preparation thereof, except as otherwise provided in these Rules;

(l) Failure to attend to anyone who wants to avail himself of the services of the office, or to act
promptly and expeditiously on public personal transactions;

(m) Failure to file sworn statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, and disclosure of business
interests and financial connections; and

(n) Failure to resign from his position in the private business enterprise within thirty (30) days from
assumption of public office when conflict of interest arises, and/or failure to divest himself of his shareholdings
or interests in private business enterprise within sixty (60) days from such assumption of public office when
conflict of interest arises: Provided, however, that for those who are already in the service and a conflict of
interest arises, the official or employee must either resign or divest himself of said interests within the periods
herein-above provided, reckoned from the date when the conflict of interest had arisen.

In Domingo v. Office of the Ombudsman,93[20] this Court had the occasion to rule that failure to abide by the norms of
conduct under Section 4(A)(b) of R.A. No. 6713, in relation to its implementing rules, is not a ground for disciplinary action, to wit:

The charge of violation of Section 4(b) of R.A. No. 6713 deserves further comment. The provision
commands that public officials and employees shall perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree
of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill. Said provision merely enunciates professionalism as an
ideal norm of conduct to be observed by public servants, in addition to commitment to public interest, justness
and sincerity, political neutrality, responsiveness to the public, nationalism and patriotism, commitment to
democracy and simple living. Following this perspective, Rule V of the Implementing Rules of R.A. No. 6713
adopted by the Civil Service Commission mandates the grant of incentives and rewards to officials and
employees who demonstrate exemplary service and conduct based on their observance of the norms of
conduct laid down in Section 4. In other words, under the mandated incentives and rewards system, officials
and employees who comply with the high standard set by law would be rewarded. Those who fail to do so
cannot expect the same favorable treatment. However, the Implementing Rules does not provide that they will
have to be sanctioned for failure to observe these norms of conduct. Indeed, Rule X of the Implementing Rules
affirms as grounds for administrative disciplinary action only acts declared unlawful or prohibited by the Code.
Rule X specifically mentions at least twenty three (23) acts or omissions as grounds for administrative
disciplinary action. Failure to abide by the norms of conduct under Section 4(b) of R.A. No. 6713 is not one of
them. (Emphasis supplied.)

Consequently, the Court dismissed the charge of violation of Section 4(A)(b) of R.A. No. 6713 in that case.

We find no compelling reason to depart from our pronouncement in Domingo. Thus, we reverse the CA and Ombudsman
that petitioner is administratively liable under Section 4(A)(b) of R.A. No. 6713. In so ruling, we do no less and no more than apply
the law and its implementing rules issued by the CSC under the authority given to it by Congress. Needless to stress, said rules
partake the nature of a statute and are binding as if written in the law itself. They have the force and effect of law and enjoy the
presumption of constitutionality and legality until they are set aside with finality in an appropriate case by a competent court.94[21]

But is petitioner nonetheless guilty of grave misconduct, which is a ground for disciplinary action under R.A. No. 6713?

We also rule in the negative.

Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross
negligence by a public officer. The misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to
violate the law or to disregard established rules, which must be proved by substantial evidence. Otherwise, the misconduct is only
simple.95[22] Conversely, one cannot be found guilty of misconduct in the absence of substantial evidence. In one case, we
affirmed a finding of grave misconduct because there was substantial evidence of voluntary disregard of established rules in the
procurement of supplies as well as of manifest intent to disregard said rules.96[23] We have also ruled that complicity in the
transgression of a regulation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue constitutes simple misconduct only as there was failure to establish
flagrancy in respondents act for her to be held liable of gross misconduct.97[24] On the other hand, we have likewise dismissed a
complaint for knowingly rendering an unjust order, gross ignorance of the law, and grave misconduct, since the complainant did not
even indicate the particular acts of the judge which were allegedly violative of the Code of Judicial Conduct.98[25]
In this case, respondent failed to prove (1) petitioners violation of an established and definite rule of action or unlawful
behavior or gross negligence, and (2) any of the aggravating elements of corruption, willful intent to violate a law or to disregard
established rules on the part of petitioner. In fact, respondent could merely point to petitioners alleged failure to observe the
mandate that public office is a public trust when petitioner allegedly meddled in an affair that belongs to another agency and
received an amount for undelivered work.

True, public officers and employees must be guided by the principle enshrined in the Constitution that public office is a
public trust. However, respondents allegation that petitioner meddled in an affair that belongs to another agency is a serious but
unproven accusation. Respondent did not even say what acts of interference were done by petitioner. Neither did respondent say in
which government agency petitioner committed interference. And causing the survey of respondents land can hardly be considered
as meddling in the affairs of another government agency by petitioner who is connected with the Population Commission. It does not
show that petitioner made an illegal deal or any deal with any government agency. Even the Ombudsman has recognized this fact.
The survey shows only that petitioner contracted a surveyor. Respondent said nothing on the propriety or legality of what petitioner
did. The survey shows that petitioner also started to work on her task under their agreement. Thus, respondents allegation that
petitioner received an amount for undelivered work is not entirely correct. Rather, petitioner failed to fully accomplish her task in view
of the legal obstacle that the land is government property.

However, the foregoing does not mean that petitioner is absolved of any administrative liability.

But first, we need to modify the CA finding that petitioner demanded the amount of P50,000 from respondent because
respondent did not even say that petitioner demanded money from her.99[26] We find in the allegations and counter-allegations that
respondent came to petitioners house in Bian, Laguna, and asked petitioner if she can help respondent secure a title to her land
which she intends to sell. Petitioner agreed to help. When respondent asked about the cost, petitioner said P150,000 and accepted
P50,000 from respondent to cover the initial expenses.100[27]

We agree with the common finding of the Ombudsman and the CA that, in the aftermath of the aborted transaction,
petitioner still failed to return the amount she accepted. As aptly stated by the Ombudsman, if petitioner was persistent in returning
the amount of P50,000 until the preliminary investigation of the estafa case on September 18, 2003,101[28] there would have been
no need for the parties agreement that petitioner be given until February 28, 2003 to pay said amount including interest. Indeed,
petitioners belated attempt to return the amount was intended to avoid possible sanctions and impelled solely by the filing of the
estafa case against her.

For reneging on her promise to return aforesaid amount, petitioner is guilty of conduct unbecoming a public officer. In
Joson v. Macapagal, we have also ruled that the respondents therein were guilty of conduct unbecoming of government employees
when they reneged on their promise to have pertinent documents notarized and submitted to the Government Service Insurance
System after the complainants rights over the subject property were transferred to the sister of one of the respondents.102[29]
Recently, in Assistant Special Prosecutor III Rohermia J. Jamsani-Rodriguez v. Justices Gregory S. Ong, et al., we said that
unbecoming conduct means improper performance and applies to a broader range of transgressions of rules not only of social
behavior but of ethical practice or logical procedure or prescribed method.103[30]
This Court has too often declared that any act that falls short of the exacting standards for public office shall not be
countenanced.104[31] The Constitution categorically declares as follows:

SECTION 1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be
accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with
patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.105[32]

Petitioner should have complied with her promise to return the amount to respondent after failing to accomplish the task
she had willingly accepted. However, she waited until respondent sued her for estafa, thus reinforcing the latters suspicion that
petitioner misappropriated her money. Although the element of deceit was not proven in the criminal case respondent filed against
the petitioner, it is clear that by her actuations, petitioner violated basic social and ethical norms in her private dealings. Even if
unrelated to her duties as a public officer, petitioners transgression could erode the publics trust in government employees, moreso
because she holds a high position in the service.

As to the penalty, we reprimanded the respondents in Joson and imposed a fine in Jamsani-Rodriguez. Under the circumstances
of this case, a fine of P15,000 in lieu of the three months suspension is proper. In imposing said fine, we have considered as a mitigating
circumstance petitioners 37 years of public service and the fact that this is the first charge against her.106[33] Section 53107[34] of the
Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service provides that mitigating circumstances such as length of service shall
be considered. And since petitioner has earlier agreed to return the amount of P50,000 including interest, we find it proper to order her to
comply with said agreement. Eventually, the parties may even find time to rekindle their friendship.

WHEREFORE, we SET ASIDE the Decision dated October 31, 2006 of the Court of Appeals and its Resolution dated
June 8, 2007 in CA-G.R. SP No. 83422, as well as the Decision dated January 6, 2004 and Order dated March 15, 2004 of the
Ombudsman in OMB-L-A-03-0552-F, and ENTER a new judgment as follows:

We find petitioner GUILTY of conduct unbecoming a public officer and impose upon her a FINE of P15,000.00 to be paid
at the Office of the Ombudsman within five (5) days from finality of this Decision.

We also ORDER petitioner to return to respondent the amount of P50,000.00 with interest thereon at 12% per annum
from March 2001 until the said amount shall have been fully paid.

With costs against the petitioner.

SO ORDERED.
GERARDO Q. FERRERAS, A.M. No. P-05-2085
Complainant,
Present:

PUNO, C.J.,

- versus CARPIO,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

VELASCO, JR.,
RUDY P. ECLIPSE, Utility Worker I, Regional Trial
Court, Branch 66, Baler, Aurora, NACHURA,
Respondent.
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION,

PERALTA,

BERSAMIN,

DEL CASTILLO,

ABAD,

VILLARAMA, JR.,

PEREZ, and

MENDOZA, JJ.

Promulgated:

_________________

x-------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
PER CURIAM:

The instant administrative case stems from the Letter108[1] dated April 15, 2005 of Executive Judge Corazon D. Soluren, Regional
Trial Court (RTC), Baler, Aurora, transmitting for appropriate action and disposition, the Memorandum for The Executive Judge,
RTC, Baler, Aurora of Gerardo Q. Ferreras, Evidence Custodian, Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, Baler, Aurora. Enclosed in the
said letter were the following documents which served as the basis for the administrative complaint against Rudy Eclipse, Utility
Worker I, RTC, Branch 66, Baler, Aurora, for Tampering of Evidence allegedly committed within the premises of the Bulwagan ng
Katarungan of the RTC on February 13, 2004 at 2:30 a.m.:

1. Memorandum of Preliminary Investigation in I.S. No. 2004-387 entitled GERARDO Q. FERRERAS v.


RUDY P. ECLIPSE for TAMPERING OF EVIDENCE;109[2]

2. Sworn Statement of Mr. Gerardo Q. Ferreras, evidence custodian, dated November 9, 2004;110[3]

3. Sworn Statement of Mr. Ronald M. Gusilatar, Security Guard, dated November 9, 2004;111[4]

4. Sworn Statement of Mrs. Marivic S. Ritual dated December 10, 2004;112[5]

5. Photocopy of Security Logbook page 266 with the entry showing that Mr. Rudy P. Eclipse entered the
Court Building at 4:00 am on February 13, 2004 and with an entry stating that Mr. Rudy P. Eclipse
changed the right shock;113[6]

6. Pictures of the motorcycle with the tampered shock.


On May 26, 2005, Acting Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepao of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) required respondent
Eclipse to file his Comment,114[7] which the latter complied with on July 8, 2005.115[8] Subsequently, complainant filed his Reply to
the said Comment.116[9]

In view of the conflicting versions presented by the parties, a formal hearing was deemed necessary; thus, upon the
recommendation of the OCA in its Report dated September 15, 2005, the Court resolved to: (a) REDOCKET the instant
administrative case as a regular administrative complaint against Rudy P. Eclipse; and (b) REFER the matter to the Executive
Judge, RTC, Baler, Aurora, for investigation, report and recommendation sixty (60) days from receipt of the record.117[10]

On November 14, 2005, the Court referred the case to the Executive Judge of the RTC, Baler, Aurora for investigation, report and
recommendation. On February 25, 2006, Executive Judge Corazon D. Soluren made her report and recommendation.

The facts were summarized by Executive Judge Soluren as follows:

THE COMPLAINT

Complainant Gerardo Q. Ferreras, hereinafter referred to as Ferreras, charged respondent Rudy P. Eclipse,
hereinafter referred to as Eclipse, of having changed the rear right shock of a blue Yamaha RS 100 motorcycle,
with chassis and motor No. 4PF214216 and plate number RF-2658, which was submitted as an evidence to the
Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (OPP) of Aurora. The offense allegedly took place on February 13, 2004 at
2:30 oclock in the morning inside the RTC Building at Baler, Aurora, where the said OPP is also located. It was
allegedly seen by Ronald Gusilatar, the security guard of the building at the time.

The two branches of the RTC at Baler, Aurora, and the OPP are housed in the same building, which is guarded
by security guards. Happenings in the building are entered in a logbook kept by the security guards.

When asked by the undersigned at the preliminary conference held on November 18, 2005, the parties opted to
have counsels of their own and to have formal hearings on the complaint. Thus, hearings were set on
December 1, 2, 7 and 9, 2005 and the parties, assisted by Atty. Jobert Reyes of the Public Attorneys Office and
Atty. Gerardo Noveras, respectively, presented their witnesses and documentary evidence. Additional hearing
dates were agreed upon due to some valid reasons, such as the unavailability of counsels and/or witnesses on
some hearing dates.

VERSION OF THE COMPLAINANT

Complainant Ferreras presented as witnesses: Ronald Gusilatar, himself, Rommel Gonzales, Marivic
Ritual and Eric Carillo.

Sometime before the incident took place on February 13, 2004, Ferreras, evidence custodian of the OPP since
October 1, 1988, received a blue-colored Yamaha RS 100 motorcycle which was confiscated by the police from
a certain Ronnie Sollegue y Juego, a suspect in a drug-related case. The motorcycle was placed outside the
door of the OPP but within the RTC building.

Ronald Gusilatar, hereinafter referred to as Gusilatar, was one of the security guards securing the building.
When Gusilatar became a security guard in January 2004, he was told by Eclipse to makisama ka (get along
with others/cooperate with others), which he did because Eclipse was known to be very close to the Honorable
Judge Armando A. Yanga (hereinafter referred to as Judge Yanga), Presiding Judge of Branch 66, RTC, Baler,
Aurora, and then Executive Judge who approved his (Gusilatars) employment, and to be the cause of the
dismissal of some security guards, particularly of one named Nano (Nato) Sollano.

Eclipse, being a Utility Worker I who lives near the RTC and has a tricycle with a blue Yamaha RS 100, usually
came before or about 4:00 oclock in the morning to clean the building. On Febuary 13, 2004, at 2:30 oclock in
the morning, when Gusilatar was the guard on duty, Eclipse entered the building. The lights of the building were
put on. When Gusilatar stood up and walked away from the security guards table near the entrance door of the
building, he saw Eclipse near the blue-colored Yamaha motorcycle, one of three motorcycles placed near the
door of the OPP. He saw Eclipse take out the rear right shock of the blue-colored motorcycle and changed it
with another, which later turned out to be damaged. Thereafter, Eclipse, with the shock under his armpit, went
out of the building and went home. Gusilatar did not stop him because he remembered Eclipses advice to
makisama ka. After Eclipse [had] left, he went near the motorcycles and looked at the blue-colored motorcycle,
the rear right shock of which was taken and replaced with another by Eclipse. Then, he made an entry in the
security logbook that Eclipse changed the shock of the motorcycle at 2:30 oclock in the morning of February 13,
2004. He did not inform Judge Yanga and the provincial prosecutors about the incident but he told it to some
court employees about three days after the incident.

In compliance with an order of Judge Yanga, dated September 10, 2004, Ferreras released the motorcycle to
its owner Marivic Ritual on October 7, 2004. Ritual noticed that the rear right shock of her motorcycle appeared
to have been changed. She was then accompanied by the chief mechanic of Norkis, seller of said motorcycle,
who informed her that the rear right shock of the motorcycle was changed. As she [had] purchased it on
installment basis, the motorcycle was brought to Norkis.

Eric Carillo of Norkis testified that when the Yamaha motorcycle was released from the OPP on October 7,
2004, he noticed that there were missing and damaged parts of the same. They did not immediately do
anything to the motorcycle. However, after a week, he detached the rear shock as it was already disconnected.
He noticed that it was damaged and [was] an old one.

When she was informed of the missing and damaged parts of the Yamaha, Marivic Ritual went back to the RTC
and met Gusilatar, the guard on duty at the time, who told her he knew about the replacement of the shock of
her motorcycle. She informed Ferreras of what was told to her and the latter made his own investigation. He
found out that the tricycle of Eclipse was involved in an accident before February 13, 2004 and its shock was
damaged. He sometimes looked at the motorcycle of the tricycle being used by Eclipse whenever said tricycle
passed through the RTC, particularly the rear right shock which he observed to have no damage.

With the affidavit of said Gusilatar as his evidence, Ferreras, without getting the conformity of his superior,
Provincial Prosecutor Jesse Pimentel who was then in Manila for an operation, filed a complaint for tampering
of evidence against Eclipse with the OPP and the instant administrative complaint. The highest official of the
OPP tried to influence him to withdraw the complaints but he refused. The complaint with the OPP was
eventually dismissed by one of the assistant provincial prosecutors allegedly for insufficiency of evidence.

On November 4, 2004, before he has executed his affidavit about the replacement of the rear right shock by
Eclipse, Gusilatar, his cousin, Fidel Arcilla (Sheriff of the OCC, RTC) and Leopoldo Cruz (Utility Worker I,
Branch 96, RTC) were summoned by Judge Yanga. At his office, Judge Yanga charged Gusilatar with aiding
Arcilla, against whom said Judge [had] filed an administrative case and who, in turn, filed a counter-charge
against said Judge, by allegedly punching in Arcillas Daily Time Record (DTR) upon said Arcillas bidding, and
said punching was allegedly reported to said Judge by Eclipse who saw the incident. Gusilatar denied Judge
Yangas charge and Leopoldo Cruz admitted he did it by mistake as he thought it was his card, but Judge Yanga
refused to believe said Leopoldo Cruz and insisted on the guilt of Gusilatar. Gusilatars employment was
eventually terminated as Judge Yanga informed the security agency about his alleged infractions of the said
agencys rules and regulations.

As part of his preparations for the complaint against Eclipse, Ferreras had the motorcycle photographed by
Rommel Gonzales, at the RTC building near the OPP and at Norkis where the motorcycle was taken after its
release by virtue of Judge Yangas order. He also took possession of the shock which was used to replace the
rear right shock of the Yamaha RS 100 motorcycle of Marivic Ritual.

He presented the following documentary evidence:

Exhibit A - Sinumpaang Salaysay of Gerardo


and submarkings Ferreras, dated November 9, 2004, to prove that a certain blue
RS 100 Yamaha motorcycle with chassis and motor number
4PF214216 and bearing plate number RF-2658 was under the
custody of the OPP, that the rear right shock of the motorcycle
was replaced by Eclipse on February 13, 2004 at around 2:30
oclock in the morning and the incident was witnessed by Ronald
Gusilatar, and as part of the testimony of said Ferreras.

Exhibit B - Sinumpaang Salaysay of Ronald Gusilatar, dated November 9,


2004, to prove that he was the guard on duty at the time Eclipse
replaced the rear right shock of the motorcycle, that he saw
Eclipse engage himself in some activities over the motorcycle for
about ten minutes and thereafter pass by his table with the shock
inserted at his armpit.

Exhibit C - Relevant page of guards logbook and submarkings


(certified photocopy of page 266 the security logbook
indicating 0230 HRS. Mr. Eclipse change right shock), to prove that
Eclipse replaced the rear right shock of the motorcycle at around 2:30 oclock in
Exhibit D - Photographs of the motorcycle taken and and submarkings
authenticated in open court by Rommel Gonzales, to prove
that the motorcycle depicted in the photographs is the same
one whose rear right shock was replaced by
Eclipse, and as part of the testimony
of Rommel Gonzales.

Exhibit E - Order of Release of the said motorcycle,


and submarkings dated September 10, 2004, issued by
then Executive Judge Armando A.
Yanga, to prove that the motorcycle was
indeed under the custody of the OPP at
the time of the replacement of its rear right shock; that it was
released from the custody of the OPP on October 7, 2004 at
around 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, and as part of the testimony
of Ferreras.

Exhibit F - Sinumpaang Salaysay of Marivic


and submarkings Ritual y Sindac, to prove that Marivic
Ritual was the owner of the motorcycle
when it was released and she noticed
the difference in color of the rear right
shock with the other shock of the
motorcycle that she conducted her own
inquiry about said shock and she learned
about the replacement by Eclipse on
February 13, 2004 at 2:30 oclock in the
morning.

Exhibit G - Pasalungat na Sinumpaang Salaysay of Rudy Eclipse, dated May


31, 2005, to impeach the testimony of said Eclipse. (Stated in
paragraph 3 of the affidavit is that it is not true that he went to the
RTC building at 2:30 oclock in the morning of February 13, 2004
because at that time he was at his house sleeping).

VERSION OF THE RESPONDENT

Respondent Eclipse denied the charges of Ferreras. He presented himself and RTC security guard Gilbert
Glemao as his witnesses.

The respondent testified that he became a Utility Worker I of Branch 66 of the RTC in 2001 and that he usually
goes to the RTC building at 4:00 oclock in the morning to do his janitorial work and never [goes] there earlier
than a few minutes [before] said time. He [knows] that Gusilatar owns a tricycle colored blue with a Yamaha 100
RS as motorcycle.

On said February 13, 2004, when he went to the RTC building at 4:00 a.m., he met Gusilatar at the door of the
building. Gusilatar was carrying something wrapped in newspaper which he placed in his tricycle. When he
asked what it was, Gusilatar did not answer. When he went to throw garbage at a drum, he saw the newspaper-
wrapped thing in his (Gusilatars) tricycle. He opened the newspaper wrapper and saw a shock blue in color. On
February 16, 2004, he verbally reported the incident to Judge Yanga who did not act on it.

On November 4, 2004, he saw Gusilatar take the DTR of Fidel Arcilla from the box on top of the security guard
table and punched it on the bundy clock. Present then was Leopoldo Cruz. He reported the incident to Judge
Yanga and on the same day, Judge Yanga called Gusilatar. Before Christmas of 2004, Gusilatar ceased being
[the] security guard of the RTC building.

In December 2004, when Gusilatar was still a security guard, he received summons from the Office of the
Provincial Prosecutor and that was the time he came to know that Ferreras filed a criminal charge for tampering
of evidence against him, with Gusilatar as one of his witnesses. He executed a Pasalungat na Salaysay
(counter-affidavit), dated May 31, 2005, denying the charges because he was sleeping at his house when the
shock was allegedly replaced. He did not mention in said counter-affidavit that the shock was taken by
Gusilatar. He forgot about it as he was on May 31, 2005, still grieving over the death of his father on September
21, 2004 for which reason he went to their province on September 18, 2004 and stayed there for one week.

In the complaint against him at the OPP, he submitted the affidavit of Judge Yanga which supported him. The
complaint was eventually dismissed by the OPP for insufficiency of evidence.

Respondent Eclipse believes the charge was made by Ferreras in conspiracy with Gusilatar and Arcilla, in order
to have him dismissed from the service.

Security Guard Glemao of the Combined Blue Dragon Security and Services, Inc. testified that he was the
security guard who took over from Gusilatar in the morning of February 13, 2004. He did not see the entry about
the replacement of the shock on said date.

Glemao testified, among others, that during the time that Judge Yanga was the Executive Judge, the security
guards of the building allowed Eclipse to enter the RTC building even before 4:00 oclock in the morning; that in
November 2004, after Gusilatar was called by Judge Yanga about the Arcillas DTR incident on November 4,
2004, Gusilatar informed [him] that he might be terminated from the service by Judge Yanga because of the
said DTR incident and that Eclipse [had] replaced the shock of the motorcycle but he [did not make] an entry
about it in the logbook. Glemao did not immediately look for the entry in the logbook as he did so only after one
hour had lapsed after Gusilatar left him. Within the period that Guisilatar was with him, he did not see Gusilatar
make an entry in the logbook, which was kept in the big drawer of the security guards table. However, when he
looked into the logbook after the said one hour, he saw the entry on February 13, 2004 about the replacement
of the motorcycle shock.

Of the documentary exhibits offered by the respondent, only the following was admitted:

Exhibit 1 - Memorandum of Preliminary Investigation of the Office of the


Prosecutor of Aurora, to prove that Ferreras has conflicting
statements on the manner of his receipt of the motorcycle, subject
matter of the complaint.

The affidavit of Judge Yanga, who was the Executive Judge at the time of the replacement incident, was not
admitted because said Judge refused to be presented on the witness stand in order to affirm and confirm the
contents of his affidavit. The respondent and his counsel did not insist on the presentation of Judge
Yanga.118[11]

From the above-stated facts, Executive Judge Soluren made the following findings and recommendation:

It has been established during the investigation of the instant complaint that Eclipse knew that the motorcycle
was submitted to the OPP as an evidence in a drug-related case and should therefore have been left untouched
and that he owned a tricycle with a blue Yamaha RS 100 motorcycle on February 13, 2004, the time of the
motorcycle shock replacement incident. He has been identified by a person (Gusilatar) who has seen him take
the rear right shock and replace it with a damaged one. The fact that the shock of the motorcycle was replaced
with a damaged one (and other parts were also taken) was established by the testimonies of the owner (Marivic
Ritual) and the seller (Eric Carillo) of the subject motorcycle. That the shock taken from the motorcycle was
installed in the motorcycle of Eclipse which was used by him after the incident in question was proven by
Ferreras, who looked at the motorcycle of Eclipses tricycle whenever the same passed the RTC.

When Gusilatar positively identified Eclipse as the person who took the new rear right shock of the motorcycle
and replaced it with a damaged one, such positive identification prevails over the denial of the latter. x x x.

Against this evidence of the complainant, those offered by the respondent are found wanting as demonstrated
by the following.
When charged before the OPP for tampering of evidence, docketed as I.S. No. 2004-387, Eclipse submitted
Exhibit G, a Pasalungat na Salaysay (Counter-affidavit) where he alleged, among others, that he did not commit
the offense charged and that at the said date and time, he was at his house sleeping. However, in the comment
on this administrative complaint, dated June 9, 2005, which he submitted to the Office of the Court
Administrator, he claimed that he [had] never gone to the RTC building earlier than a few minutes before 4:00
oclock in the morning; that on February 13, 2004, date of the replacement of the rear motor shock, he saw
Gusilatar take some parts of the Yamaha RS 100 placed at the RTC building as an evidence in a criminal case,
wrapped them in newspaper and placed them inside his (Gusilatars) tricycle which [had] the same painting and
trademark as the motorcycle exhibit, and that he verbally reported to then Executive Judge Yanga the said
taking of some parts of the motorcycle by Gusilatar on February 16, 2004, the next working day.

It is clear that in the abovementioned counter-affidavit and comment, Eclipse made inconsistent claims as in the
counter-affidavit, he claimed to be sleeping at his house at the time of the alleged replacement of the shock of
the Yamaha motorcycle, whereas in the comment, he saw Gusilatar take the parts of the Yamaha motorcycle
and even reported it to then Executive Judge Yanga on the next working day. How could he see Gusilatar if he
was sleeping at his house, which [was] across the street, to the right side of the RTC building after 2 or 3
houses away, with leafy mango trees blocking the view? Definitely, he could not. Moreover, if he did report the
same to Judge Yanga, why did the latter not do an investigation? Maybe it is because there was no such report.

Eclipse averred that he never entered the RTC building earlier than a few minutes before 4:00 oclock in the
morning. An examination of the logbook, however, disclosed that Eclipse [had] on several dates entered the
RTC building earlier than just a few minutes before 4:00 oclock in the morning, such as on November 9, 2003 at
3:45 a.m., December 4, 2003 at 3:40 a.m.; February 16, 2004 at 3:45 a.m.; February 24, 2004 at 3:45 a.m.;
March 17, 2004 at 3:35 a.m., June 6 and 25, 2004 at 3:30 a.m., June 28, 2004 at 3:25 a.m., August 6, 2004 at
3:00 a.m.; August 10, 2004 at 3:36 a.m., August 13, 2004 at 3:30 a.m., September 10 and 13, 2004 at 3:30
a.m., and October 20, 2004 at 3:10 a.m. Hence, there is a great possibility that he went to the RTC building on
February 13, 2004 at the time indicated therein 2:30 oclock in the morning.

Eclipse testified that he [had] reported the incident on the next working day to Judge Yanga. Yet, he did not
state this in the counter-affidavit that he first submitted to the OPP on May 31, 2005. It is clear, therefore, that
this is just an afterthought and it probably was hatched when Judge Yanga executed and submitted his affidavit
to support him in the instant complaint. It is quite unfortunate that Judge Yanga refused to testify before the
undersigned in order to confirm/affirm the affidavit he [had] executed in support of Eclipse. xxx It is apparent to
the undersigned that the defense of Eclipse during the investigation of the instant complaint was patterned after
the allegations stated in Judge Yangas affidavit which was executed on June 15, 2005, more than a year after
the motorcycle shock incident.

Eclipse tried to shatter the truthfulness of the entry made by Gusilatar about the replacement of the shock on
February 13, 2004 by claiming that the entry seemed to have been only inserted as the ball pen used [had] ink
which [was] darker than that used in the other entries on the same page of the logbook and there [was] no
space between said entry and the one that immediately preceded it. Gusilatar satisfactorily explained that there
were several ball pens in the drawers of the security guards table which they could use and he used one or two
of the same, such that the ball pen which he took from the drawer for the said entry about the shock could have
been different from the other ones he used for the other entries. A scrutiny of said entries by the undersigned
showed that the darker shade of the entry in question could have been caused by the greater pressure exerted
in writing it.

With respect to the lack of space between the entries, there [were] also entries in the same logbook wherein
there were no spaces between the entries. These appear on the same page 266 and among others, on pages
3,5,7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 24,26, 35, 36, 41, 44; in the month of February 2004, on pages 214, 217,
225, 236, 260, 263, 267, 273, 287, 288, 291, 299, 314, 322, 326; and in the month of March 2004, on pages
326, 330, 337, 338, 348, 349, 361, 363, 365, 370, 375, 379, 393 of the logbook. Hence, the entry on February
13, 2004 is not an isolated case, which proves that it was made on the date and time indicated therein.

Eclipse also questioned the entry in the logbook made by Gusilatar at the end of his duty at about 8:00 oclock in
the morning wherein he wrote: Remarks. Negative Reports. He [claims] that this entry means there were no
untoward happenings in the early morning of February 13, 2004 during Gusilatars duty, such as the
theft/replacement of the motorcycle shock. This was adequately explained by Gusilatar when he testified that he
did not want the incoming security guard to scrutinize the logbook and see his entry which might destroy his
desire to makikisama with Eclipse and other employees of the RTC. Considering the reputation of Eclipse as
being the cause of the dismissal of some security guards, he could not be blamed in being careful not to
antagonize said Eclipse.

Security guard Gilbert Glemao, when presented as witness by Eclipse, testified that he succeeded Gusilatar as
security guard on February 13, 2004. However, Gusilatar did not tell him about the replacement of shock
incident. It was only in November 2004, after Gusilatar was called by Judge Yanga to explain the Arcillas DTR
punching incident on November 4, 2004, that said Gusilatar told him about the said shock replacement incident
and his failure to enter the same in the logbook and confided to him that he might be dismissed by Judge Yanga
because of the DTR incident. Unfortunately, he did not immediately look in the logbook as he allowed one hour
to pass after Gusilatar left him before he did so. Within the time that Gusilatar was with him, he did not see
Gusilatar make an entry in the logbook, which was kept in the big drawer of the security guards table. However,
when he looked into the logbook, he saw the entry on February 13, 2004 about the replacement of the
motorcyclye shock. With such testimony, the fact that the entry was made on February 13, 2004, as claimed by
Gusilatar and seen in the logbook could not be overturned.

Undaunted, Eclipse averred that the charge was orchestrated by Ferreras, Gusilatar and Fidel Arcilla in
vengeance for his reporting them to then Executive Judge Yanga regarding the alleged punching in of the time
card of Arcilla by Gusilatar on November 4, 2004. This seems unbelievable as to the time the entry was made
on February 13, 2004, the incident of DTR punching [had] not yet happened. Furthermore, the undersigned
[had] personal knowledge even before the instant complaint was filed that it was not Gusilatar who punched the
card but Leopoldo Cruz, who did so by mistake, and this was confirmed to her by said Leopoldo Cruz. Yet,
Eclipse and then Executive Judge Yanga made it appear to have been committed by Gusilatar which led to said
security guards termination of service.

xxxx

As a last-ditch attempt to have the complaint dismissed, Ferreras submitted to the undersigned on December 1,
2005, an affidavit where he alleged, among others, that the information given to him by Gusilatar could be
tainted because the latter had an axe to grind against Eclipse as he (Gusilatar) believes that the latter (Eclipse)
was responsible in reporting to then Executive Judge Yanga that he unlawfully punched the DTR of an
employee of the RTC which set in motion an investigation resulting to the separation of said Gusilatar from his
employment and that the case was a product of misunderstanding between me (Ferreras) and Rudy Eclipse
because prior to the filing of the same, me (sic) had a shouting match within the premises of the RTC which was
witnessed by some employees. He, however, admitted that he made the affidavit without the assistance of his
counsel, that the same was prepared with the assistance of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Jonald F.
Hernandez and Prosecutor Dante P. Sindac, both of whom are under their superior who allegedly tried to
convince him to withdraw the complaint.

xxxx

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

WHEREFORE, the undersigned hereby reports that from the evidence and testimonies submitted during the
investigation of the complaint, there is no doubt that respondent Rudy Eclipse has committed the act of
dishonesty and/or grave misconduct when, with felonious intent, he stole the new rear right shock of the
Yamaha motorcycle submitted to the OPP as evidence in a criminal case and replaced it with a damaged one to
prevent detection.

Much as the undersigned would like to retain the respondent in the service as he is the main provider for his
family, she has no other recourse but to recommend the DISMISSAL of respondent RUDY P. ECLIPSE
because it is so provided by the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.119[12]

Then Court Administrator Christopher O. Lock, in his Memorandum dated July 19, 2006, adopted the findings of Executive Judge
Soluren and made the following recommendation:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the undersigned respectfully recommends to the Honorable Court that
Rudy Eclipse, Utility Worker I, RTC, Branch 66, Baler, Aurora, having been found guilty of grave misconduct
and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, be DISMISSED from the service, with forfeiture of all
benefits, except accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to re-employment in the government service or any of
its subdivision, instrumentalities and agencies, including government owned or controlled corporations.

After our own evaluation of the record, and taking into account the report and recommendations submitted by both the Investigating
Judge and the OCA, we agree with the conclusion reached by them that respondent is administratively guilty of the offense charged.

When the issue is the credibility of witnesses, the function of evaluating it is primarily lodged in the investigating judge. The rule
which concedes due respect, and even finality, to the assessment of credibility of witnesses by trial judges in civil and criminal cases
where preponderance of evidence and proof beyond reasonable doubt, respectively, are required, applies a fortiori to administrative
cases where the quantum of proof required is only substantial evidence. The investigating judge is in a better position to pass
judgment on the credibility of witnesses, having personally heard them when they testified and observed their deportment and
manner of testifying.120[13] We find no reason to depart from this rule.

In Loyao, Jr. v. Caube,121[14] the Court defined misconduct in this wise:


Misconduct is defined as any unlawful conduct on the part of a person concerned in the administration of justice
prejudicial to the rights of the parties or to the right determination of the cause. It generally means wrongful,
improper or unlawful conduct motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose. The term, however,
does not necessarily imply corruption or criminal intent. On the other hand, the term gross connotes something
out of all measure; beyond allowance; not to be excused; flagrant; shameful.

Dishonesty has been defined as

Intentionally making a false statement in any material fact, or practicing or attempting to practice any deception
or fraud in securing his examination, registration, appointment or promotion. It is also understood to imply a
disposition to lie, cheat, deceive, or defraud; untrustworthiness; lack of integrity; lack of honesty, probity or
integrity in principle; lack of fairness and straightforwardness; disposition to defraud, deceive or betray.122[15]

With the foregoing as yardstick, we find the act of respondent -- of taking off the shock absorber of the motorcycle, which forms part
of the prosecutions evidence without the knowledge of the evidence custodian or the owner, for personal gain, and thereafter
replacing the same with a damaged one to prevent detection of the same -- to be constitutive of dishonesty and grave misconduct.
In Office of the Court Administrator v. Juan,123[16] we found respondent therein guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct for
taking a CZ Pistol marked as an exhibit in a criminal case for parricide. Again, in Office of the Court of Administrator v.
Ferrer,124[17] we found a utility worker guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct for the loss of a .45 caliber pistol and three
magazines with nine rounds of live ammunition, which had been offered in evidence in a criminal case, despite the courts
acceptance of his resignation.

The Court reiterates the well-settled rule that a public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees are duty-bound to serve
with the highest degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency and shall remain accountable to the people. Persons
involved in the administration of justice ought to live up to the strictest standard of honesty and integrity in the public service. The
conduct of personnel connected with the courts should, at all times, be circumspect to preserve the integrity and dignity of our courts
of justice. As forerunners in the administration of justice, they ought to live up to the strictest standards of honesty and integrity,
considering that their positions primarily involve service to the public.125[18]
Thus, with two Justices taking no part in the decision of the case, the Court finds the respondent guilty of dishonesty and grave
misconduct. As the acts committed by respondent constitute grave offenses under Section 23(a) and (c), Rule XIV of the Omnibus
Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292 and Other Pertinent Civil Service Laws, as amended by CSC Memorandum
Circular No. 19, s. 1999, the commensurate penalty of dismissal, even if committed for the first time, must be meted out.
WHEREFORE, respondent Rudy P. Eclipse, Utility Worker I, Regional Trial Court, Branch 66, Baler, Aurora, having been found
GUILTY of dishonesty and grave misconduct, is DISMISSED from the service effective immediately, with forfeiture of all retirement
benefits, except accrued leave credits, with prejudice to his reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government,
including government-owned and controlled corporations.

SO ORDERED.