SC Fines Retired Clerk of Court for Incurring P1.617M Shortage in Court Funds

July 26, 2019

The Supreme Court has fined a retired Clerk of Court of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Gapan City, Nueva Ecija whom it found guilty of serious dishonesty, grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty for incurring P1,617,312.29 shortage in Court funds.

In an 11-page consolidated per curiam decision promulgated on June 8, 2019, the Court ordered retired Clerk of Court IV Erlinda P. Patiag to pay a fine equivalent to her salary for six months computed at the salary rate of her former position to be deducted from the monetary value of her earned leave credits and/or other retirement benefits. Patiag compulsory retired in 2014.

The Court held that Patiag “showed carelessness or indifference in the performance of her duties” and found that she “offered no veritable explanation nor satisfactory reason to support the shortages that she incurred.” The Court emphasized that Patiag’s “failure to comply with Court Circulars and relevant rules designed to promote accountability for public funds, and her failure to manage and properly document the cash collections allocated for various court funds, constitute serious dishonesty, grave misconduct and serious neglect of duty which undermine the public’s faith in the courts and in the administration of justice as a whole, and render her unfit for the position of clerk of court.” The Court further held that Patiag’s willingness to pay her shortages will not absolve her from the consequences of her wrongdoing.

The Court adopted the findings and recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) in two consolidated administrative cases against Patiag in A.M. No. 11-6-60-MTCC on her failure to submit the monthly financial reports of collections for the judiciary funds, and A.M. No. P-13-3122 on the result of the financial audit conducted by the OCA on her books of account.

This Court’s decision struck a chord on the role of Clerks of Court, in view of OCA Circular Nos. 50-95 and 113-2004, Administrative Circular Nos. 35-2004 and 3-2000, SC Circulars No. 13-92 and 5-93, stating that they “perform a delicate function as designated custodians of the court’s funds, revenues, records, properties and premises. As such, they have the duty to immediately deposit the various funds received by them to the authorized government depositories for they are not supposed to keep funds in their custody.”

Patiag’s infractions were due to her failure to submit the monthly financial reports for the following: (1) Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) for the months of May to December 2007 and January 2008 up to the present; (2) the Special Allowance for the Judiciary Fund (SAJF) for the months of May 2007 up to the present; (3) the Fiduciary Fund (FF) for the months of November to December 2006, January 2007, and March 2007 up to the present; and (4) the Sheriff’s Trust Fund (STF) for the months of October 2006 up to the present.

The OCA Audit Team also found that Patiag was not depositing her collections on time; the eight booklets recorded and reported in the monthly reports used for JDF and SAJF collections were missing; there were questionable withdrawals amounting to P1,020,000.00 which were lacking supporting documents authorizing the refund, with blank vouchers bearing only the signatures of the claimants; and the practice of the court of not remitting the collections on time.

(A.M. No. 11-6-60-MTCC, Re: Non-Submission of Monthly Financial Reports of Ms. Erlinda P. Patiag, Clerk of Court, MTCC, Gapan City, Nueva Ecija; A.M. No. P-13-3122, OCA v. Patiag, June 18, 2019)