THIRD DIVISION

[A.M. No. P-04-1867.  September 23, 2005]

RE: HABITUAL TARDINESS OF MA. SOCORRO E. ARNAEZ, COURT STENOGRAPHER III, RTC, BRANCH 18, CEBU CITY

D E C I S I O N

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

In a letter dated March 12, 2003, Deputy Court Administrator (DCA) Zenaida N. Elepaño informed Judge Galicano C. Arriesgado of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Cebu City, that Ma. Socorro E. Arnaez, Court Stenographer III of the same Branch, incurred habitual tardiness in violation of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular No. 23, Series of 1998.  In the same letter, DCA Elepaño requested Judge Arriesgado to direct Ms. Arnaez to explain within 72 hours “why she should not be reprimanded” for defying the said Circular.

On April 10, 2003, in compliance with the Memorandum of Judge Arriesgado, Arnaez sent him a letter explaining that she is both the father and mother to her seven (7) children.  Thus, she solely assumes the duties of taking care of them and attending to all their needs.  Before she leaves the house for work, she prepares their food and sees to it that all things are in their proper places.  Worse, her husband visits them only “in his own sweet time.”[1]

On March 15, 2004, Hermogena F. Bayani, Supreme Court Judicial Staff Officer, Leave Division, Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), issued a Certification[2] stating that Arnaez incurred tardiness on the following dates:

“August 2002                        10 times

October 2002                       12 times

February 2003                      10 times

March 2003                           11 times”

In his Report of June 30, 2004, Court Administrator Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.,[3] made the following Evaluation:

EVALUATION:  Civil Service Memorandum Circular No. 23, Series of 1998, provides that:

‘Any employee 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 consecutive months during the year.’

From the foregoing, it appears that Ms. Arnaez had indeed violated the rule on tardiness.  The explanation of Ms. Arnaez does not merit consideration to justify her tardiness.  As held by the court in A.M. No. 00-06-09-SC, moral obligations, performance of household chores, traffic problems, health conditions, domestic and financial concerns are not sufficient reasons to excuse habitual tardiness.  By being habitually tardy, employees have fallen short of the stringent standard of conduct demanded from everyone connected with the administration of justice.  By reason of the nature and functions of their office, officials and employees of the Judiciary must be role models in the faithful observance of the constitutional canon the public office is a public trust.”

Accordingly, the Court Administrator recommended that 1) this case be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter; and 2) Ma. Socorro E. Aranez be reprimanded with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.

We agree with the findings and recommendation of the Court Administrator.

There is no question that the above-named respondent incurred habitual tardiness.  Such administrative offense seriously compromises efficiency and hampers public service.  By being habitually tardy, she has fallen short of the stringent standard of conduct demanded from everyone connected with the administration of justice.  By reason of the nature and functions of the Judiciary where she belongs, its employees must be role models in the faithful observance of the constitutional canon that public office is a public trust.[4] Inherent in this mandate is the observance of prescribed office hours and the efficient use of every moment thereof for public service, if only to recompense the Government, and ultimately, the people who shoulder the cost of maintaining the Judiciary.[5] Thus, to inspire public respect for the justice system, court officials and employees are at all times behooved to strictly observe official time.  As punctuality is a virtue, absenteeism and tardiness are impermissible.[6]

As correctly found by Court Administrator Velasco, none of the reasons relied upon by herein respondent to justify her habitual tardiness merits our consideration.  We have ruled that moral obligations, performance of household chores, traffic problems, health conditions, domestic and financial concerns are not sufficient reasons to excuse habitual tardiness.[7]

Under Sec. 52 (C) (4), Rule VI of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, Series of 1999,[8] habitual tardiness is penalized as follows:

First Offense – Reprimand

Second Offense – Suspension for 1-30 days

Third Offense – Dismissal from the service

Considering that this is the first time respondent incurred habitual tardiness, she should be merely reprimanded.

WHEREFORE, we find Ma. Socorro E. Arnaez, Court Stenographer III, RTC, Branch 18, Cebu City, administratively liable for habitual tardiness. She is hereby REPRIMANDED and WARNED that a repetition of the same or a similar offense will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.

SO ORDERED.

Panganiban, (Chairman), Corona, Carpio-Morales, and Garcia, JJ., concur.



[1] Rollo at 6.

[2] Id. at 4.

[3] Id. at 1.

[4] Section 1, Article XI, 1987 Constitution; see also Re: Imposition of Corresponding Penalties for Habitual Tardiness Committed During Second Semesters of 2004 by the following Employees of this Court: x x x, A.M. No. 00-06-09-SC, July 27, 2005.

[5] Administrative Circular No. 2-99, “Strict Observance of Working Hours and Disciplinary Action for Absenteeism and Tardiness,” dated January 15, 1999.

[6] Administrative Circular No. 1-99, “Enhancing the Dignity of Courts as Temples of Justice and Promoting Respect for their Officials and Employees,” dated January 15, 1999.

[7] Id., citing In Re: Imposition of Corresponding Penalties for Habitual Tardiness Committed During the Secon Semester of 2002, A.M. No. 00-6-09-SC, 409 SCRA 9, August 14, 2003.

[8] Supra.