SECOND DIVISION

 

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR,

                                Complainant,

 

 

 

 

                        - versus -

 

 

 

 

 

CRISTITA L. CAYA, Records Officer  I,

and RHODORA A. RANTAEL, Cashier I, both from the Office of the Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Mandaluyong City,

                                Respondents.

         A.M. No. P-09-2632

 

 

 

        Present:

 

        carpio, J., Chairperson,

        NACHURA,

        LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,*

        PERALTA, and

        ABAD, JJ.

       

 

 

 

 

 

        Promulgated:

 

        June 18, 2010

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DECISION

 

 

CARPIO, J.:

 

 

The Case

 

 

          This administrative case arose from an Affidavit-Complaint dated 4 July 2008 filed by Cristita L. Caya (Caya), Records Officer I, Office of the Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Mandaluyong City, Branch 60, against Rhodora A. Rantael (Rantael), Cashier I of the same court, for conduct unbecoming a court employee, violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standard for public officials and employees, oppression and gross violence against a co-employee.

 The Facts

          In her Affidavit-Complaint dated 4 July 2008 submitted to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), complainant Caya narrated that on 17 December 2007, while in the vicinity of the MeTC, she was surprised when she heard Rantael quarreling with a judge on the telephone.  A co-employee, Joan Yerro, grabbed the phone from Rantael in order to prevent the situation from worsening.  Rantael, for no apparent reason, aired out her anger at Caya by shouting her name and throwing abusive and cursing words at her.  The situation escalated when Rantael grabbed Caya by the hair and dragged her outside the office while taunting her to fight.  As a result, Caya sustained physical injuries and emotional stress. 

 

          In support of her complaint, Caya attached: (1) the Medical Certificate dated 22 January 2008 of the attending physician who examined her for her physical injuries;  (2) the incident report she filed with the Mandaluyong City Police Station; (3) the Sinumpaang Salaysay dated 28 January 2008 and 31 January 2008, respectively, of Myrna G. Galope (Galope) and Ma. Lourdes G. Rodriguez, witnesses to the incident; and (4) the Supplementary Affidavit dated 4 July 2008 of Galope stating that Rantael admitted to her the reason for her actions.

 

         In her Comment dated 6 August 2008, Rantael disclosed that the incident was triggered by the gossip spread around by Caya and Arden Magsombol-Rañosa (Rañosa), the Branch Clerk of Court of MeTC, Mandaluyong City, Branch 59, about Judge Myrna Lim-Verano (Judge Verano) of the Regional Trial Court, Muntinlupa City, Branch 205.  Rantael’s husband worked at the same court as Judge Verano and allegedly Caya and Rañosa made it appear that Rantael and her husband were spreading ugly rumors about Judge Verano.

 

         Rantael admitted conversing with Judge Verano over the telephone on 18 December 2007, not 17 December 2007 as alleged in Caya’s affidavit-complaint.  Judge Verano apparently heard the rumors and accused Rantael as the source.  Rantael denied the allegation and pointed to Caya as the real source of the gossip.

 

         Rantael acknowledged that she uttered invectives at Caya because she felt hurt and wanted to do something about it.  Rantael denied that she initiated the physical assault but instead alleged that she only fought back by pulling Caya’s hair after Caya slapped her on the face.

 

         In her Reply dated 18 August 2008, Caya stated that Rantael’s Comment only confirmed the truth of the charges in the complaint that Rantael verbally abused and physically assaulted her.  Caya denied that she slapped Rantael on the face.

 

          Meanwhile, Caya filed a criminal complaint for slander and physical injuries with the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) in Mandaluyong.  In a Resolution dated 22 February 2008, the OCP indorsed the complaint to the OCA since the parties are both court personnel and the incident took place inside court premises.  Thus, the OCP deemed it proper to refer the case to the Court to give due respect and recognition to the administrative authority of the Court over its employees.

 

          In a Letter dated 26 June 2008 addressed to the OCA, Caya questioned the OCP’s resolution and requested that the referral be set aside and the criminal case be resolved based on the merits.

 

The OCA’s Report and Recommendation

         

          On 20 March 2009, the OCA submitted its Report finding both Caya and Rantael at fault for the incident which occurred within the confines of the MeTC.  The OCA declared that Caya and Rantael admitted to trading verbal barbs and inflicting physical injuries on each other without due regard to the consequences of their actions.  Thus, regardless of who between the two started the quarrel, such incident sullied the image of the judiciary.

 

          With regard to the criminal complaint for slander and physical injuries filed by Caya with the OCP, the OCA found that the referral of the case to the Court was not in accord with established jurisprudence, citing the case of Maceda v. Vasquez.[1]  The OCA stated that the mere fact that the parties involved in the criminal case were court personnel does not ipso facto divest the OCP of authority to hear said case.  The OCP can still proceed with the criminal aspect of the incident while the Court can hold them  administratively liable for violating existing court circulars and guidelines.

 

          The OCA recommended that:

 

(1)        the instant administrative matter be RE-DOCKETED as a regular          administrative case against both Cristita L. Caya, Office of the        Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Mandaluyong City, and             respondent Rhodora A. Rantael, Cashier I of the same office;

 

(2)               Cristita L. Caya and Rhodora A. Rantael be FOUND GUILTY of        misconduct and FINED in the amount of one thousand pesos (Php             1,000.00) each, with a warning that a repetition of the same or         similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely; and

 

 

(3)               the Office of the City Prosecutor of Mandaluyong City be          DIRECTED to proceed with the hearings on the criminal             complaint for Slander and Physical Injuries filed by Cristita Caya             against Rhodora Rantael.

 

 

          In a Resolution dated 22 April 2009, the Court resolved to note the affidavit-complaint, comment and reply submitted by the parties; to re-docket the instant administrative matter as a regular administrative case against both complainant Caya and respondent Rantael; and to note the Report dated 20 March 2009 of the OCA.

 

          Caya filed an Omnibus Motion dated 27 June 2009 for reconsideration of the Resolution dated 22 April 2009 and for the formal investigation of the complaint.  Caya stated that she was surprised that the resolution re-docketed the case and made her a respondent in the administrative complaint together with Rantael against whom she initially filed said complaint.  Caya asked that she be dropped from the case as a respondent and Rantael be disciplined and sanctioned accordingly.  Caya also requested for a formal investigation to determine the culpability of the parties and to allow her and her witnesses to substantiate the complaint.

 

          In her Comment/Opposition to the Omnibus Motion dated 15 July 2009, Rantael prayed that the Omnibus Motion be denied for being bare, unsubstantiated and self-serving and that she be dismissed as a respondent in the case or in the alternative that a formal investigation and hearing be conducted.

 

          In a Resolution dated 27 July 2009, the Court referred the omnibus motion for reconsideration and the comment/opposition to the OCA for evaluation, report and recommendation.

 

          On 25 August 2009, the OCA submitted its Report recommending that:

 

         (1)        the Omnibus Motion, dated 27 June 2009, of Cristita L. Caya   seeking a reconsideration of the Resolution, dated 22 April 2009,          and for a formal investigation of the complaint, be DENIED for lack of sufficient basis;

 

            (2)        that Cristita L. Caya and Rhodora A. Rantael, both of the          Metropolitan Trial Court, Office of the Clerk of Court,       Mandaluyong City, be FOUND GUILTY of Simple Misconduct           and FINED in the amount of One Thousand Pesos (Php 1,000.00) each, with warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts in    the future shall be dealt with more severely; and

 

            (3)        the Office of the City Prosecutor, Mandaluyong City, be            FURNISHED with a copy of the Resolution of the Court on this matter.

 

 

          Caya filed a Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration dated 2 February 2010.  Caya stated that her right to due process was violated when the OCA unilaterally made her a respondent to a case she filed against a co-employee who had caused her much suffering and humiliation.  Caya prayed that the previous resolution be set aside and a new one rendered holding Rantael guilty of the administrative offenses charged.

 

The Court’s Ruling

 

          After a careful review of the records of the case, we find reasonable grounds to hold Rantael administratively liable for simple misconduct.  We also find that the complaint against Caya should be dismissed.

          In administrative proceedings, the quantum of proof necessary for a finding of guilt is substantial evidence or such evidence as a reasonable mind may accept as adequate to support a conclusion.[2]  Caya, as the complainant, has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the allegations in her complaint.

 

          Caya submitted her affidavit-complaint reciting the facts of the incident, a medical certificate showing that she sustained physical injuries during the altercation, and documentary evidence of witnesses attesting to the truth of her narration of facts. 

         

          Rantael, on the other hand, did not deny the allegations in the complaint.  She admitted that she shouted and cursed at Caya during office hours and within the vicinity of the court where both of them are employed.  Rantael’s justification for her acts centered on the ugly rumors about a judge that Caya allegedly started and which pointed to Rantael as the source of such gossip.   Rantael reasoned that her emotions got the better of her since she only wanted to defend herself from all the false accusations. 

         

          Rantael also admitted physically assaulting Caya by pulling her hair.  However, she rationalized such act by stating that Caya provoked her when the latter first slapped her on the face. 

 

          We find that these explanations do not excuse Rantael’s actions.

 

          In De Vera, Jr. v. Rimando,[3] we held that court employees are supposed to be well-mannered, civil and considerate in their actuations, both in their relations with co-workers and the transacting public.  Boorishness, foul language, and any misbehavior in court premises diminish its sanctity and dignity.

 

          The acts of Rantael in taunting and uttering invectives at Caya and causing the latter physical harm by pulling her hair within the court premises, and during working hours, exhibit discourtesy and disrespect not only to her co-workers but also to the court.  Such behavior of letting personal hatred affect public performance falls short of the standard laid down in A.M. No. 03-16-13-SC or the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel which took effect on 1 June 2004.

 

          Rantael, as the wrongdoer, should bear the burden alone.  As a court employee, she should have exercised restraint and prudence in dealing with a co-employee.  Being the victim of malicious rumors or unfounded accusations cannot justify resorting to physical violence against a co-worker.

 

          Without doubt, Rantael’s actuations failed to live up to the high standard required of personnel in the judicial service. Thus, she must be held administratively liable for simple misconduct.  Simple misconduct has been defined as an unacceptable behavior that transgresses the established rules of conduct for public officers.[4]  We adhere to the OCA’s recommendation of a fine of P1,000.00 with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

 

          With regard to Caya, being the aggrieved party, she should not be made answerable to the foul acts done to her by a co-employee.  We find that the complaint against her should be dismissed.  Caya’s act of filing administrative and criminal complaints against Rantael clearly demonstrates that she was offended and humiliated by the incident and she only wanted justice for the foul acts done to her person. 

 

          However, in her Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration dated 2 February 2010, Caya asserted that her right to due process was violated since the OCA unilaterally made her respondent to a case she filed against Rantael.  We find that Rantael’s Comment dated 6 August 2008 constitutes a counter-complaint against Caya who filed a Reply dated 18 August 2008.  This Reply allowed Caya to present her defense to the counter-complaint.  Thus, there is no violation of Caya’s right to due process. 

 

          Further, we adopt the findings of the OCA that the OCP of Mandaluyong should proceed with the criminal complaint for slander and physical injuries filed by Caya against Rantael.

 

          It bears stressing that any fighting or misunderstanding between and among court personnel becomes a disgraceful sight reflecting adversely on the good image of the judiciary.  Professionalism, respect for the rights of others, good manners, and right conduct are expected of all judicial officers and employees.[5]

 

          WHEREFORE, we find respondent Rhodora A. Rantael, Cashier I, Office of the Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Mandaluyong City, Branch 60, GUILTY of simple misconduct and FINE her P1,000.00 with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely. 

 

          We DISMISS the complaint against Cristita L. Caya, Records Officer I, Office of the Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Mandaluyong City, Branch 60, for lack of merit.

          We DIRECT the Office of the City Prosecutor of Mandaluyong to proceed with the hearings on the criminal complaint for Slander and Physical Injuries filed by Cristita L. Caya against Rhodora A. Rantael.

 

          SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

                                                          ANTONIO T. CARPIO

                                                                Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

 

 

                           ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA               

          Associate Justice  

   

  

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO   DIOSDADO M. PERALTA                                       

                     Associate Justice                                  Associate Justice                  

 

 

 

 

         

                                           ROBERTO A. ABAD

                                                 Associate Justice                                                             

 

 



*               Designated additional member per Raffle dated 6 January 2010.

[1]              G.R. No. 102781, 22 April 1993, 221 SCRA 464.  This case involved the authority of the Ombudsman to investigate criminal complaints against judges and court personnel.  The Court held that when it took cognizance of the case involving a judge who falsified his certificate of service, it had no intention to divest the Office of the Ombudsman with its authority to investigate the criminal aspect (i.e. falsification of document) of the complaint.  “A judge who falsifies his certificate of service is administratively liable to the Supreme Court for serious misconduct and inefficiency under the Rules of Court, and criminally liable to the State under the Revised Penal Code for this felonious act.”

[2]               Bondoc v. Bulosan, A.M. No. P-05-2058, 25 June 2007, 525 SCRA 459, citing Ebero v. Camposano, 469 Phil. 426 (2004).

[3]               A.M. No. P-03-1672, 8 June 2007, 524 SCRA 25.

[4]               Spouses Bautista v. Sula, A.M. No. P-04-1920, 17 August 2007, 530 SCRA 406, citing Castelo v. Florendo, 459 Phil. 581 (2003).

[5]               Cervantes v. Cardeño, 501 Phil. 13 (2005).