RE: COMPLAINT OF EXECUTIVE JUDGE TITO GUSTILO, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, ILOILO CITY, AGAINST CLERK OF COURT MAGDALENA LOMETILLO, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, ILOILO CITY.
D E C I S I O N
In a letter-complaint, dated
In his complaint, Judge Gustilo stated
that on 04 September 1999, a Saturday, the office of the Clerk of Court of the
RTC was closed from 1:30 to 4:30, p.m., in violation of Supreme Court
Administrative Circular No. 2-99, dated 15 January 1999, requiring offices of
the Clerk of Court to maintain a skeletal force on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to
12 noon and from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Judge Gustilo had
learned that the office of the RTC Clerk of Court remained closed on the date
aforesaid when a criminal complaint for violation of Republic Act No. 6425 was
directly received in his chambers instead of it being filed with the office of
the Clerk of Court. The Judge issued a memorandum requiring respondent to
explain why no administrative sanction should be taken against her and other
personnel concerned for their failure to report for duty on
In her comment, respondent averred that pursuant to the Supreme
Court Memorandum Order, dated 19 November 1973, the office of the Clerk of
Court had since then been observing a Saturday work schedule. Respondent
explained that two court personnel, Emilia Manikan and Genoveva Tacorda, were assigned to report for work on
The Court, in its Resolution of
To the mind of this Investigating Judge, respondent Magdalena Lometillo has not been remiss in her job, when on
Neither can the trust and confidence in the office personnel assigned to man the office on the two dates referred to by the respondent be questioned inasmuch as based on their length of service and track records, they are presumed to be familiar with their work and are expected to perform well. Besides, it is the respondent who is in the best position to gauge the competence and reliability of her subordinates in the office, so that when she claimed she trusted and had confidence in such personnel there is no reason to doubt or disbelieve her. That she was proven wrong when these trusted personnel has not lived to her expectations, that should not be taken against her especially so in this case, when she has shown that the lapse on the part of the personnel concerned cannot be traced to any wrongdoing on her part or direct participation in the commission or omission thereof.
Besides, gross neglect connotes a willfull dereliction of duty and implies wrongful intent. The neglect must be of grave character and not merely trivial or unimportant. The charge in the instant case against respondent does not find ample support in the evidence on record that she is guilty thereof. If ever there was any lapse on the part of respondent Lometillo, it was in her failure to call up the office the whole day of March 11, 2000, to check on the personnel on duty that day resulting in her failure to know that these two left the office at noon and failed to come back for the rest of the day.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that this lapse is not serious
or of grievous character as to amount to a gross neglect of duty on her part.
Besides, respondent has offered her apologies and took steps to discipline the personnel
in her office and had been more vigilant in the performance of her duties as
well as in the supervision of the office employees under her. This is shown by
the fact that after this incident of
On the charge of Habitual Tardiness.
As earlier adverted to, respondent did not deny incurring those tardiness alleged in the letter complaint and her
reasons for it are: poor health and traffic problem in
Relevant hereto is Section 22 of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of E.O. No. 292, which considers an officer or employee in the Civil Service to be habitually absent if he incurs unauthorized absences exceeding the allowable 2.5 days monthly credit under the Leave Law for at least three months in a semester or at least three consecutive months during the year. Also:
Any employee shall be considered habitually tardy if he incurs tardiness regardless of number of minutes, ten (10) times a month for at least two months in a semester or at least two consecutive months during the year. In case of claim of ill-health, heads of departments or agencies are required to verify the validity of such claim and if not satisfied with the reason given, should disapprove the application for sick leave. On the other hand, cases of employees who absent themselves from work before the approval of the application should be disapproved outright. (Italics supplied.)
Respondent Lometillo for the months of October and November 1999, incurred 7 and 8 tardiness respectively. January and February 2000, she incurred 9 and 7 tardiness, respectively.
October and November, 1999, are two successive months in a semester; so are January and February, 2000. However, her tardiness for each of the successive months are all less than ten (10). Can it still be considered habitual? Are her grounds for these repeated tardiness valid and legal?
The law speaks of ten (10) as the least number of tardiness incurred in a month for two successive months in a semester before the tardiness can be considered habitual. Therefore, it leaves no room for an interpretation. Less than such number could not be considered habitual. However, her documentary evidence to support her being tardy for so many times, such as her medical certificates and her Applications for Leave are quite irrelevant. That she got sick and has undergone surgery does not necessarily mean that that prevented her from reporting for work punctually because, when she reported for work it only meant that she was physically fit and well, and therefore it follows that her being late to arrive in the office was not brought about by her illness but by some other forces independent thereof. As a matter of fact when she was ill or sick, she was on sick leave.
That there is a monstrous traffic problem in
It is not however correct to conclude that just because the respondent incurred less than ten (10) tardiness in one month for two consecutive months in a semester that she has to be excused. The ten (10) times requirement is only for the purpose of qualifying such tardiness as habitual, which has of course a more severe penalty. To let such number of tardiness of respondent go unheeded would be opening a floodgate of abuse; meaning, one can go on getting tardy for work without getting punished for it provided these number of tardiness do not reach the magic number TEN for each month, which is a very dangerous precedent. Such is not the purpose of the law. Tardiness, except for a very valid and urgent reasons, has got to be stopped as such is the root cause of inefficiency. The number of times that respondent incurred tardiness in this particular case cannot be considered minimal to be ignored. Her reasons for incurring those are likewise less than acceptable.
Thus, the Investigating Judge recommended that -
1) For Gross Neglect of Duty, the evidence on record do not warrant a finding that respondent has committed the act or acts that would make her liable therefore;
2) For Habitual Tardiness, the evidence on record shows that respondent has incurred repeated tardiness each month for two successive months in a semester, twice, without sufficient and justifiable reasons, but considering that these are not habitual, the lesser penalty of REPRIMAND is hereby recommended.
The OCA, in its memorandum, dated
1. that respondent Magdalena L. Lometillo, Clerk of Court, RTC, Iloilo City be FOUND GUILTY of simple neglect of duty in twice failing to observe Saturday court duty as mandated by Administrative Circular No. 2-99 dated 15 January 1999 and accordingly, be SUSPENDED for a period of one (1) month and one (1) day;
2. that respondent be REPRIMANDED for twice incurring repeated tardiness each month for two successive months in a semester, without sufficient and justifiable reasons; and
3. in both instances, respondent be WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 2-99, issued by the Chief Justice on
B. Court offices (e.g. Office of the Clerk) and units which deal directly with the public, such as receiving, process-serving and cashiers units, shall maintain a skeletal force on Saturdays from to , and from to Those assigned to work on Saturdays shall be notified of their assignment at least three days in advance. An employee so assigned shall have a full day-off the following week, on a day to be specified by the Justice/Judge concerned.
Respondent would appear to have complied with her obligation of assigning employees to report for work on Saturdays. Although respondent was not personally accountable for the failure of such personnel so assigned to actually report for work, she, nevertheless, was expected to at least monitor their attendance. All court personnel concerned should be reminded that they, like any other employee in the Judiciary, must be role models in the performance of their tasks and responsibilities. Respondent must be admonished that she is not exempted from this rule.
Respondent has admitted having been tardy during certain days in October and November 1999 and in January and February 2000. Memorandum Circular No. 19, dated 31 August 1999, of the Civil Service Commission, specifically Rule IV, Sec. 52, Article c(4) thereof, states:
c) The following are light offenses with corresponding penalties:
x x x x x x x x x
4) frequent unauthorized tardiness (habitual tardiness):
1st offense - reprimand
2nd offense - suspension 1-30 days
3rd offense - dismissal
Considering that respondents infraction appears to be her first offense, the proper penalty that should be imposed is reprimand.
WHEREFORE, for her failure to properly supervise the personnel under her, respondent Atty. Magdalena Lometillo, Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Iloilo City, is ADMONISHED to be more circumspect in the discharge of her official duties and, for her tardiness, she is REPRIMANDED with warning that a repetition of the same or similar offense would be dealt with severely.
Melo, (Chairman), Panganiban, Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
 Strict observance of working hours and disciplinary action for absenteeism and tardiness.