[A.M. No. P-02-1597. February 17, 2003]

MARY GRACE G. FRIAS, complainant, vs. PALERMO AGUILAR, Clerk III, Regional Trial Court (Branch 46), San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, respondent.



Before us is an administrative matter which stemmed from a complaint filed by Mary Grace G. Frias with the Office of the Court Administrator on February 20, 2001 against Palermo Aguilar, Clerk III in the Regional Trial Court (Branch 46) of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, for his willful failure to pay just debts in violation of Presidential Decree No. 6.

The Affidavit-Complaint alleges that: complainant is the manager while the respondent is a member of the San Jose Vendors Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc. at San Jose, Occidental Mindoro; on various dates in 1997 and 1998 the cooperative granted Aguilar several loans; as of December 31, 2000, accumulated interests and penalties on the loans amount to P63,244.96; inspite repeated demands from the cooperative, Aguilar refused to pay the said loans; and efforts were made to settle the case through barangay conciliation but Aguilar failed to attend the scheduled meetings despite summons from the barangay authorities.

In his Comment, dated June 13, 2001, Aguilar contends that: he is a founding member of the San Jose Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc; as a contributing member, he has earned a share in the capital of the cooperative in the amount of P25,729.86 as of June 1, 2000; he admits having secured various loans from the cooperative; he is not evading his obligation to pay these loans; his income comes from his employment as a court employee, largely augmented by planting rice and onion; for the past two years, he encountered problems in farming brought about by sudden changes in the weather; he had difficulty coping with the mounting expenses of his family; to prove his predicament, the mortgage on his house is in danger of being foreclosed by the Philippine National Bank; he had several discussions with the cooperatives Credit Committee and the Chairman of the Board asking them that he be given reprieve with respect to the payment of his obligations; he even offered his share in the capital of the cooperative but his offer was rejected; the officers of the cooperative are singling him out because they did not file any complaint against those persons who also have delinquent accounts with the cooperative; he offers to settle his debts if the time comes that he can afford to pay.

In her Reply-Affidavit, complainant denies that Aguilar had several discussions with the Credit Committee and the Board of Directors of the cooperative regarding the settlement of his obligations. Instead, the complainant claims that on several occasions, the members of the Credit Committee invited Aguilar to confer with them regarding his loans but he refused to heed their invitations. The complainant also denies that the officers of the cooperative have singled him out and asserts that the court records will show that they have also filed charges against the other delinquent borrowers of the cooperative.

On April 9, 2002, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) submitted to the Court its recommendation that Aguilar be reprimanded and advised to be more prudent in handling his financial obligations.

On June 26, 2002, the Court docketed the instant case as a regular administrative matter and required the parties to manifest whether or not they are willing to submit the case for resolution based on the pleadings filed. In compliance, both parties manifested their agreement to submit the case for resolution.

We agree with the findings of the OCA and approve the recommended penalty. Respondent Aguilar admits that he has outstanding obligations with the cooperative. It may be true that he has difficulty in paying said obligations with the cooperative and such difficulty is compounded by the decrease in his income from farming. However, we find that his financial difficulty is not a sufficient reason to excuse him from paying his debts. Having incurred just debts he has the moral and legal duty to pay them when they become due. In the instant case, we find Aguilars offer to pay his debts only if his financial situation permits him to and his failure to attend the meetings set by the barangay authorities for the purpose of settling his obligations with the cooperative as tantamount to a willful refusal to pay such debts.

Hence, Aguilars actuations warrant disciplinary action. As a court employee, he must comply with just contractual obligations, act fairly and adhere to high ethical standards to preserve the courts integrity.[1]

The applicable law in the present case is E.O. No. 292, otherwise known as the Revised Administrative Code of 1987. A public employees willful failure to pay just debts is a ground for disciplinary action. Under Rule XIV, Section 22 of the Rules Implementing Book V of E.O. 292, as modified by Rule IV, Section 52, (C) (10) of Resolution No. 991936 of the Civil Service Commission, otherwise known as the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, just debts pertains to: 1) claims adjudicated by a court of law; or, 2) claims the existence and justness of which are admitted by the debtor. Aguilars obligation falls under the second classification.

Under the same Rules, willful failure to pay just debts is classified as a light offense and the corresponding penalty for the first offense is reprimand. Having committed this offense for the first time, Aguilar falls under this category.

WHEREFORE, respondent Palermo Aguilar is REPRIMANDED for his failure to pay his just debts and sternly WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

Let copy of herein Resolution be attached to his 201 files.


Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Quisumbing and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.

[1] Garciano vs. Oyao, 102 SCRA 195, 201.