EN BANC

[A.M. No. 00-06-09-SC.  November 10, 2004]

RE: IMPOSITION OF CORRESPONDING PENALTIES FOR HABITUAL TARDINESS COMMITTED DURING THE FIRST SEMESTER OF 2004 BY THE FOLLOWING EMPLOYEES OF THIS COURT: MARIA LIZA S. ALMOJUELA, EFREN ASCRATE, MARITA FLORA C. AYLLON, JOSE EMMANUEL DAVID M. EVA III, REYNALDO B. IGLESIAS, RESURRECCION M. ILAGAN, AURORA E. QUINTOS, MA. FE M. SANTIAGO, ARIEL N. VICEDO, ANTONIO M. ACUÑA, ARMANDO D. GUARIN and  ROMEO C. FABIA.

D E C I S I O N

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

In her Memorandum dated September 2, 2004,[1] Atty. Eden T. Candelaria, Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief Administrative Officer of this Court, recommended the imposition of administrative penalties upon the twelve (12) above-named employees of this Court who committed habitual tardiness during the first semester of 2004.  Her recommendation is pursuant to Civil Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular No. 04[2] dated January 22, 1991 and CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19[3] dated August 31, 1999.

On July 23, 2004, the Leave Division submitted to Atty. Candelaria a list of employees who incurred habitual tardiness for the first semester of the year 2004.  Atty. Candelaria then required these employees to explain within five (5) days from notice why no disciplinary action should be taken against them.   The following are their names and their respective explanations:

1.  MARITA FLORA C. AYLLON, Training Specialist I, Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA). – She was tardy 11 times in January and 10 times in May because she has been suffering from insomia for the past months and has difficulty in adjusting her sleeping time.

2.  RESURRECCION M. ILAGAN, Records Officer III, Records Division, Office of the Administrative Services (OAS). – She incurred tardiness 12 times in February and 13 times in June.   She explained that she has been suffering from chronic headache, hypertension and degenerative osteoarthritis.

3.  EFREN ASCRATE, Court Stenographer I, Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ). – He was late 11 times in January, 10 times in February, and 15 times in May.   He explained that he has been sick.

4. MARIA LIZA S. ALMOJUELA, Information Officer II, Public Information Office (PIO). – She was tardy 15 times in March, 19 times in April, 11 times in May, and 14 times in June.   She admitted her infractions and offered no explanation.  She, however, made the assurance to comply with office regulations.

5.  JOSE EMMANUEL DAVID M. EVA III, Information Officer V, PIO. –  He was tardy 12 times in March and 10 times in April.   He explained that his tardiness was due to the nature of his job.   He usually worked beyond office hours and consequently, late for work the following morning.

6.  MA. FE M. SANTIAGO, Cash Clerk III, Fiscal Management Office, Office of the Court Administrator (OCA). – She was tardy 12 times in March, 10 times in April, and 11 times in June.   She explained that she has no housemaid and has to attend to the needs of her children before reporting for work.

7.  REYNALDO B. IGLESIAS, Utility Worker I, Fiscal Management Officer, OCA. – He incurred tardiness 10 times in March and 10 times in May because he has been attending to his sick child.

8.  AURORA E. QUINTOS, Administrative Officer III, EWBD, OCA. –  She was tardy 12 times in May and 10 times in June.   She explained that she was not tardy 12 times in the month of June since she filed applications for half-day leave of absence 3 times.

9.  ARIEL N. VICEDO, Clerk II, Judicial Records  Office (JRO). –  He was tardy 11 times in March and 10 times in June.   He explained that he is the sole breadwinner of the family, a single parent and attends personally to the needs of his children.

10.           ANTONIO M. ACUÑA, Air-Conditioning Technician I, Halls of Justice, Pasig City. –  He was late 10 times each in January and March because he brought his brother, suffering from diabetes, to the hospital for regular check-up.

11.           ARMANDO D. GUARIN, Construction and Maintenance General Foreman, Halls of Justice, Dagupan City. – He was late 10 times each in January and February, and 13 times in June.   He explained that he is the sole breadwinner of the family and that his wife has been sick since January this year.   Moreover, there had been heavy traffic in Dagupan City.

12.           ROMEO C. FABIA, Utility Worker II, Halls of Justice, Dagupan City. –  He was tardy 14 times in January, 12 times in February, 13 times in March, and 12 times in April.   He explained that he had sleepless nights looking for his eldest daughter who eloped with her boyfriend.

In the same Memorandum,[4] Atty. Candelaria reported that Ma. Fe Santiago, Resurreccion Ilagan and Efren Ascrate were previously sanctioned for having committed habitual tardiness in 1999, 2000 and 2003.[5]

Thus, Atty. Candelaria, in her Memorandum, recommended that Ma. Fe Santiago, Resurreccion Ilagan and Efren Ascrate be suspended for five (5) days without pay, this being their second incursion of habitual tardiness.  She further recommended that the following employees be reprimanded for their first offense of habitual tardiness:

1.       Ms. Maria Liza Almojuela;

2.       Ms. Marita Flora Ayllon;

3.       Mr. Jose Emmanuel David Eva III;

4.       Mr. Reynaldo Iglesias;

5.       Ms. Aurora Quintos;

6.       Mr. Ariel Vicedo;

7.       Mr. Antonio Acuña;

8.       Mr. Armando Guarin; and

9.       Mr. Romeo C. Fabia.

Significantly, on November 04, 2004, in A.M. No. 2004-19-SC,[6] Efren Ascrate was found guilty of dishonesty for falsifying his daily time record, and was dismissed from the service with forfeiture of all 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 and financial institutions.

CSC Memorandum Circular No. 04, Series of 1991, as amended, provides that “An officer or employee of the civil service shall be considered habitually tardy if he incurs tardiness, regardless of the number of minutes, ten (10) times a month for at least two (2) months in a semester or at least two (2) consecutive months during the year.  x x x.”[7]

There is no question that the above-named employees incurred habitual tardiness.  Such infraction cannot be countenanced for it seriously impairs efficiency and hampers public service.  By being habitually tardy, they have fallen short of the stringent standard of conduct demanded from everyone connected with the civil service, specially the administration of justice.  By reason of the nature and functions of their office, the officials and employees of the Judiciary must be role models in the faithful observance of the constitutional cannon that public office is a public trust.[8] Inherent in this mandate are the observance of prescribed office hours and the efficient use of every moment thereof for public service.[9]

Verily, to inspire public respect for the justice system, the court officials and employees are at all times behooved to strictly observe official time.  As punctuality is a virtue, absenteeism and tardiness are impermissible.[10]

As correctly found by Atty. Candelaria, none of the reasons relied upon by respondents to justify their habitual tardiness merits our consideration.  We have ruled that family obligations, performance of household chores, traffic problems, health conditions, domestic and financial concerns are not sufficient reasons to excuse habitual tardiness.[11]

Under Sec. 52 (C) (4), Rule VI of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, Series of 1999,[12] habitual tardiness is penalized as follows:

First offense             –          Reprimand

Second offense        –          Suspension for 1-30 days

Third offense                        –          Dismissal from the service

Atty. Candelaria’s findings and recommendation herein are well taken except in the case of Efren Ascrate.  The penalty of suspension, as recommended, can no longer be imposed upon him considering that he was dismissed from the service on November 04, 2004 per A.M. No. 2004-19-SC.  Thus, he can only be meted the penalty of fine equivalent to his three (3) months salary.[13]

WHEREFORE, we find the following employees of this Court administratively liable for habitual tardiness and impose upon them the corresponding penalties:

a.       Efren Ascrate, who was dismissed from the service on November 04, 2004 per A.M. No. 2004-19-SC, is FINED in the amount equivalent to his three (3) months salary;

b.       Resurreccion M. Ilagan and Ma. Fe M. Santiago are SUSPENDED from office for five (5) days without pay, this being their second offense;

c.       Maria Liza S. Almojuela, Marita Flora C. Ayllon, Jose Emmanuel David M. Eva III, Reynaldo B. Iglesias, Aurora E. Quintos, Ariel N. Vicedo, Antonio M. Acuña, Armando D. Guarin and Romeo C. Fabia are REPRIMANDED for  being habitually tardy for the first time.

Furthermore, they (except Efren Ascrate) are WARNED that a repetition of the same or a similar offense will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Chico-Nazario, and Garcia, JJ., concur.

Puno, J., on official leave.

Corona, and Tinga, JJ., on leave.



[1] Rollo at 1-10.

[2] Policy on Absenteeism and Tardiness.

[3] Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.

[4] Rollo at 2-3.

[5] In our En Banc Resolution in A.M. No. 01-4-07-OCA dated May 4, 2001, Ma. Fe Santiago was suspended for one (1) month without pay for habitual tardiness incurred in 1999 and 2000; while Resurreccion Ilagan (in A.M. No. 00-6-09-SC, August 8, 2000) and Efren Ascrate (in A.M. No. 00-06-09-SC, March 16, 2004) were both reprimanded for having been habitually tardy in 1999 and 2003, respectively.

[6] Re: Alleged Violation by Mr. Efren Ascrate of Civil Service Rules on Absenteeism and Tardiness.

[7] Cited in Re: Imposition of Corresponding Penalties for Habitual Tardiness Committed During the First and Second Semesters of 2003 by the following Employees of this Court: (names of employees omitted), A.M. No. 00-06-09-SC, March 16, 2004.

[8] Section 1, Article XI, 1987 Constitution.

[9] Administrative Circular No. 2-99 entitled “Strict Observance of Working Hours and Disciplinary Action for Absenteeism and Tardiness.”

[10] Administrative Circular No. 1-99 entitled “Enhancing the Dignity of Courts as Temples of Justice and Promoting Respect for Their Officials and Employees.”

[11] Re: Imposition of Corresponding Penalties for Habitual Tardiness Committed During the First and Second Semesters of 2003 by the following Employees of this Court: (names of employees omitted), supra, citing Re: Imposition of Corresponding Penalties for Habitual Tardiness Committed During the Second Semester of 2002, A.M. No. 00-6-09-SC, August 14, 2003.

[12] Id.

[13] Section 56 (e) of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service provides:

“SEC. 56.  Duration and Effect of Administrative Penalties.– x x x

a.         x x x

x x x

e.         The penalty of fine shall be in an amount not exceeding six (6) months salary of respondent.  The computation thereof shall be based on the salary rate of the respondent when the decision becomes final and executory.”