Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

 

EN BANC

 

 

OFFICE OF THE COURT A.M. No. P-11-2887

ADMINISTRATOR, (formerly A.M. No. 09-2-32-MTC

Complainant, Re: Report on the Financial Audit

Conducted on the Books of Accounts

- versus - of the Municipal Trial Court,

Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija)

 

MARISSA U. ANGELES, Clerk of Court

II, Municipal Trial Court, Pantabangan,

Nueva Ecija,

Respondent.

x----------------------------------------------x

 

JUDGE ANALIE C. ALDEA-AROCENA, A.M. No. P-10-2880

Complainant, (formerly OCA IPI No. 08-2782-P)

 

Present:

CORONA, C.J.,

CARPIO,

CARPIO MORALES,

VELASCO,

- versus - NACHURA,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION,

PERALTA,

BERSAMIN,

DEL CASTILLO,

ABAD,

VILLARAMA, JR.,

MARISSA U. ANGELES, Clerk of Court II, PEREZ,

Municipal Trial Court, Pantabangan, MENDOZA, and

Nueva Ecija, SERENO, JJ.

Respondent.

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

 

 

D E C I S I O N

 

PER CURIAM:

 

For resolution are the present administrative matters which were consolidated pursuant to the Courts Resolution of March 9, 2009.[1]

The Antecedents

A.M. No. P-10-2880 arose from the 1st Indorsement, dated February 19, 2008, with accompanying documents[2] of Judge Analie C. Aldea-Arocena [Municipal Trial Court (MTC), Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija] to Executive Judge Cicero D. Jurado of the Regional Trial Court [(RTC), Branch 38, San Jose City], informing him of the alleged failure of Ms. Marissa U. Angeles (Clerk of Court of the MTC, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija) to remit/deposit cash and bail bonds and other collections of the court. A.M. No. 09-2-32-MTC, on the other hand, pertains to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) Audit Teams Report[3] on the financial examination conducted on the books of accounts of the MTC in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, for the period March 1, 1992 to February 28, 2008.

On November 26, 2008, the Court resolved to:

1.      TREAT the 1st Indorsement dated February 19, 2008 of Judge Arocena as an administrative complaint for Grave Misconduct against Clerk of Court Angeles;

2.      TREAT Clerk of Court Angeles letter to Judge Arocena dated January 14, 2008 as her comment to the complaint against her;

3.      REFER the complaint to Executive Judge Jurado, Jr. for investigation, report and recommendation within sixty (60) days from notice; and

4.      SUSPEND Clerk of Court Angeles from office effective immediately upon receipt hereof, until further orders from this Court.[4]

 

Further, the Court required the Court Management Office (CMO) of the OCA to submit the corresponding audit report.

In the meantime, Judge Cynthia Martinez Florendo was appointed acting presiding judge of the RTC, Branch 38, San Jose City, and as Executive Judge of the RTC, San Jose City, replacing Judge Jurado who transferred to the RTC, Manila on January 16, 2008.

On March 12, 2009, pursuant to the Courts Resolution of November 26, 2008, the case records of A.M. No. P-06-2276 (formerly OCA IPI No. 03-16-03), entitled Beatriz F. Villar v. Marissa U. Angeles, were transmitted[5] to Judge Florendo, prompting her to request that she be given the authority to investigate A.M. No. P-10-2880 in her capacity as Executive Judge.

Upon the OCAs recommendation, the Court, in its Resolution dated November 16, 2009,[6] granted Judge Florendos request for authority to investigate A.M. No. P-10-2880.

In the resolution[7] consolidating the two cases, the Court directed Angeles to (1) restitute the balance of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) shortage of P398.20, and submit to the OCA the machine-validated copy of the deposit slip as proof; and (2) submit valid documents that withdrawn cash bonds and undeposited cash bond collections amounting to P64,200.00 and P64,000.00, respectively, were deposited in the Courts Fiduciary Fund (FF) savings account, or were refunded to the concerned bondsmen/litigants; otherwise, to restitute these amounts.

The Court also directed Ms. Ligaya G. Linsangan, court interpreter and former OIC clerk of court of the same court, to (1) restitute P3,000.00, representing withdrawals of cash bonds, by depositing the amount to the Courts FF savings account, and submit to the OCA a machine-validated deposit slip as proof; (2) submit to the OCA machine-validated copies of deposit slips of undeposited cash bond collections amounting to P40,000.00, otherwise, to restitute the amount; and (3) submit to the OCA valid documents (court order, acknowledgement receipt or official receipt) supporting the withdrawals made on the Courts FF savings account, amounting to P15,695.98.

The Court likewise directed Mrs. Nirvana P. Rubi, OIC court interpreter, to submit to the OCA valid documents supporting the withdrawals made on the FF savings account amounting to P11,000.00.

Finally, the Court directed Judge Arocena to ensure strict compliance with the Courts issuances, particularly on the handling of judiciary funds, to avoid repetition of the same accountability problem that involved Angeles and Linsangan.

Judge Florendos Evaluation and Recommendation

In an Evaluation and Recommendation dated November 27, 2009,[8] Judge Florendo recommended Angeles dismissal for dishonesty and grave misconduct. The recommendation was based on the facts outlined below.

On November 20, 2007, Marissa Uraga, the common-law wife of Ramon Tuazon, the accused in Criminal Case No. 2752, executed an affidavit stating that she deposited with Angeles P12,000.00 representing her husbands bail bond, only to find out later that the receipt Angeles issued was only for P6,000.00.[9] Further, a Ms. Vivian Tuazon also executed an affidavit stating that she gave P500.00 to Angeles on October 28, 2006, as additional payment for the bail bond of his brother in the same case, but Angeles did not issue a receipt for the amount.[10]

By memorandum dated January 8, 2008, Judge Arocena asked Angeles to comment on the allegations contained in the two affidavits.[11] In another memorandum dated February 5, 2008, Judge Arocena directed Angeles to remit to the MTC a total of P13,000.00 representing (1) the bail bond in Criminal Case No. 7664 (People of the Philippines v. Freddie Joaquin and Dario Joaquin) under O.R. No. 12575739 for P10,000.00, and (2) the bail bond deposit in Criminal Case No. 2670 (People of the Philippines v. Romeo Borja, et al.) under O.R. No. 12575748 for P3,000.00, to be deposited in the Land Bank of the Philippines, Cabanatuan City.[12] In a third memorandum dated February 5, 2008, Judge Arocena directed Angeles to remit to the Court the P8,000 she received from one Jose Presto as partial settlement in Civil Case No. 235.[13]

On January 15, 2008, Angeles submitted her letter/comment[14] denying receipt of P12,000.00 from Uraga. She claimed that what she received was only the reduced bail bond of P6,000.00. She admitted receipt of P500.00 from Vivian Tuazon but explained that the amount represented the bail bond fee. She also admitted receipt of P8,000.00 from the defendant in Civil Case No. 235 but claimed that it was given for safekeeping until the settlement amount could be raised. She disclosed that in 2002, Court Interpreter Ligaya Linsangan replaced her as accountable officer; since then, she had never handled any money matters for the court.

Judge Florendo commenced investigation of the administrative matter on September 9, 2009. The matter was submitted for resolution on November 20, 2009. On the same day, Angeles tendered her resignation.[15]

 

Judge Florendos Findings

Judge Florendos findings were clearly laid out and its pertinent portions are reproduced below.

In her Position Paper dated October 29, 2009, respondent attached as Annex C the Sinumpaang Salaysay of Marissa Uraga and Vivian Tuazon dated March 12, 2008 wherein they swore that:

2.      Na pinirmahan naming (sic) ang nasabing affidavits (referring to the Affidavit they signed on November 20, 2007) nang hindi nauunawaan ang mga nilalaman xxx

3.      Na aming nauunawaan na ang ibinigay naming P6,000.00 (at hindi P12,000.00 katulad ng nasaad sa affidavit) xxx

5. Na amin nang pinapawalang bias (sic) ang mga nakasaad sa aming naunang Affidavit sapagkat hindi namin nauunawaan ang mga nakasaad dito xxx

6. Na aming pinatutunayan na walang anumang naging pagkukulang o pagkakamali si Gng. Marissa Angeles xxx.

To strengthen her defense, respondent thru counsel presented Marissa Uraga as witness. During the examination however, testimony of said witness proved to be more of evidence for the complainant rather than for the respondent. Part of her testimony enunciates:

Q.    Miss Marissa, why did you sign this Sinumpaang Salaysay dated March 12, 2008?

A.    I signed the document because she returned the amount of Php6,000.00 which is the reduced bail for my husband xxx

Q.    And what is the Php6,000.00 you are referring to as an (sic) amount returned to you by Miss Marissa Angeles?

A.    It was intended for my husbands bailbond which was originally in the amount of Php12,000.00. We gave her Php12,000.00 wherein it was reduced into (sic) Php6,000.00 and the amount of Php6,000.00 was returned to me.

Q.                When did you give this Php12,000.00?

A. (witness is trying to recall the date and said October 2007)

Q. And when was this Php6,000.00 returned to you?

A. March 12, 2008, maam. (page 8 of TSN dated November 16, 2009)

Vivian Tuazon was also presented by the respondent as witness. She stated the following during her examination:

Q. No. 5; Na amin nang pinapawalang bisa ang mga nakasaad sa aming naunang Affidavit sapagkat hindi namin nauunawaan ang mga nakasaad dito xxx

A. No sir, but we are withdrawing the said affidavit because the amount of Php6,000.00 has been returned to us xxx

Q. What is your reason why you signed this Sinumpaang Salaysay (referring to the Salaysay dated March 12, 2008).

A. My reason is since the document was that (sic) they paid us the amount of Php6,000.00 and therefore there was nothing to argue about. (page[s] 16-17 of TSN dated November 16, 2009)

Said testimonies only proved that it was in fact Php12,000.00 which was handed to the respondent as reflected in the first affidavit and the testimonies during direct examination, and not the reduced amount of Php6,000.00. It also proved that Marissa Uraga did not seek to reduce the bail fixed at Php12,000.00, otherwise, she could just have tendered the amount of Php6,000.00. Said testimony likewise show (sic) that respondent returned the Php6,000.00-excess only on March 12, 2008 or almost five (5) months after having received the same from the bondsman and on the same date the Sinumpaang Salaysay refuting the first Affidavit was executed.

Respondent took the witness stand on November 20, 2009 and with the intention of rebutting having received the amount of Php12,000.00, presented as proof the order of the late Judge Joselito R. Dela Cruz dated October 27, 2006 wherein it was stated that the accused in Criminal Case No. 2752, posted his cash bond in the amount of Php6,000.00 (Exh. 2).

Review of said order however clearly shows that the original amount written was twelve thousand pesos but the word twelve and the number 12 [were] erased and [were] replaced by six and 6, respectively, without any initial. Said erasures heightened doubt on the mind of the Court. Even giving the respondent the benefit of the doubt that she did not cause the erasures in said Order, still, she was not able to explain why she did not call the attention of Marissa Uraga when the latter tendered the amount of Php12,000.00 when she (respondent) could just have received the amount of Php6,000.00 plus Php500.00 as bailbond fee or better yet, upon receipt of Php12,000.00, she could just handed back the amount of Php5,500.00 to Marissa Uraga.

In the instant case, respondent returned the money only on March 12, 2008, five (5) months after the deposit of Php12,000.00 was made. For her receipt of money in excess of the deposit required and for failure to return said excess immediately to the bondsman, there is clear violation of her duty as Clerk of Court, as collection officer, and as an employee of the government. Said violations constitute grave misconduct and make her unworthy of trust. As public servant and as an officer of the court, the Clerk of Court must exhibit at all times the highest sense of honesty and integrity. (A.M. No. P-94-1031, July 1, 2003) Clearly, respondent fell short of the honesty required of her by the position she holds. Under Section 52 [,] Rule IV of the Administrative Rules of Procedure, dishonesty is a grave offense which has a corresponding penalty of dismissal for first offense.

Dishonesty which is defined by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) as any act of which shows lack of integrity or a disposition to defraud, cheat, deceive or betray. It consists of an intent to violate the truth, in a matter of fact relevant to ones office or connected with the performance of his duties xxx (A.M. No. P-05-1985, Civil Service Commission vs. Santos, Ernie P. Perocho, Jr.)[.]

In the instant case, the failure of the respondent to call the attention of Marissa Uraga regarding the excess of the amount paid is an indication of predisposition to defraud her. The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees enunciates the States policy of promoting high standard of ethics and utmost responsibility in the public service and no other office in the government service exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an employee than in the judiciary (Bellosillo vs. Rivera, 435 Phil. 1)[.]

 

As to the failure to issue the corresponding

official receipt upon payment

Vivian Tuazon in her affidavit dated November 20, 2007 stated that the respondent did not issue receipt upon her payment of the additional Php500.00.

Likewise during Marissa Uragas testimony[,] she stated the foregoing:

Q. When you said Php12,000.00, were you not issued a receipt to the amount of Php12,000.00?

A. She told me there was no receipt available then. (page 9, TSN dated November 16, 2009)

Both evidence proved that respondent failed to issue official receipts for said transactions.

Likewise, respondent admitted having received Php8,000.00 from Jose Presto, one of the defendants in Civil Case No. 235 representing settlement to BSKI alleging in her letter dated January 14, 2008 that I (respondent) received said amount for safekeeping only. It is our customary practice with then late Judge Joselito R. Dela Cruz to receive money for settlement if the defendant has insufficient amount for the settlement of his obligation. Despite having received another Memorandum on February 5, 2008 requiring her to remit said money to the Court, respondent was able to remit the same only on March 10, 2008. (Annex D of the Motion to Admit Addendum to Respondents Position Paper)

There was no showing that respondent issued receipt for said deposit.

Clerks of Court, being accountable officers, are mandated to requisition receipts from proper agencies, such as the Property Division of the Office of the Court Administrator, since issuance of temporary receipts is prohibited. (2.1.2.3b.3 of the 2002 Revised Manual for Clerks of Court) Thus, issuance of temporary receipts, more so none issuance at all as in this case, is a clear violation of said prohibition as it would create doubt on the validity of said exactions and would have an effect on the trustworthiness of the employee as well as the Court itself.

As to the failure to immediately remit to the

Fiduciary Savings Account with the LBP the cash bonds

deposited by the accused in Criminal Cases 2664 and 2670

On January 15, 2008, respondent acknowledged receipt of the amount xxx P10,000 PESOS, bail bond deposit in Criminal Case No. 2664 xxx under date of April 25, 2005 xxx and the amount of xxx P3,000 PESOS xxx bail bond deposit in Criminal Case No. 2670 xxx. (Rollo, page 29)

And on her letter addressed to Judge Arocena, after having received Memorandum No. 2 requiring her to remit said bail bond to LBP, respondent even asked for an extension to remit said accountabilities until February 29, 2008. (Rollo, page 34)

Said acknowledgement and letter proved respondents failure to deposit to LBP the said bonds immediately[,] in clear violation of circulars.

SC Circular Nos. 13-92 and 5-93 provide the guidelines for the proper administration of court funds. It is mandated therein that all fiduciary collections shall be deposited immediately by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with an authorized government depository bank. In page 392 of The 2002 Revised Manual for Clerks of Court, i.e. 2.1.2.2.c.1, it was mandated that (a)ll collections from bail bonds, rental deposits and other fiduciary collections shall be deposited immediately by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with an authorized government depository bank, the Land Bank of the Philippines.

In the instant case, respondent Angeles violated the foregoing guidelines issued by the Court. Clearly, there was gross neglect of duty. The records show that respondent received several bail bond deposits but failed to remit the same to the LBP. Undoubtedly, respondent committed a serious infraction in her failure to deposit on time the courts collection. Her subsequent turnover of said cash deposits will not exonerate her from liability.

Clerks of Court are presumed to know their duty to immediately deposit with the authorized government depositories the various funds they receive, for they are not supposed to keep funds in their personal possession. Even undue delay in the remittances of the amounts that they collect at the very least constitutes misfeasance. (A.M. No. P-05-2065, April 2, 2009)

Her failure to deposit said amount is prejudicial to the Court since it was not able to earn interest income during the time the same was in respondents possession. Likewise, failure to immediately remit the same after having been mandated to do so, creates on the mind of the Court the possibility that said money was appropriated by the respondent for her personal use.

Such conduct raises grave doubts regarding the trustworthiness and integrity of the employee. The failure to remit the funds in due time constitutes gross dishonesty and gross misconduct. It diminishes the faith of the people in the Judiciary. Dishonesty, being in the nature of a grave offense, carries the extreme penalty of dismissal from the service even if committed for the first time. (Ibid)

As to failure to remit to the proper authorities

monies received for safekeeping immediately upon suspension

For the sake of argument, supposing it is valid for her to safe keep monies for settlement without corresponding receipt, perusal of the records would show, despite respondents allegation in her position paper that said money remained intact, that respondent was able to remit only said amount to the OIC Clerk of Court on March 10, 2008, or more than a month after having received Judge Arocenas mandate for her to remit the same.

This belated remittance likewise creates doubt as to the integrity and trustworthiness of the respondent.[16]

 

The Courts Ruling

We find Judge Florendos recommendation to be well-founded. As the judge aptly put it, Angeles failed to dispute or disprove the charges against her. We, thus, find Angeles liable for (1) failure to immediately account for the excess in the cash bond she received; (2) failure to issue appropriate receipts; (3) failure to safekeep monies received; and, (4) failure to remit/deposit cash bonds in the government depository (Land Bank of the Philippines) upon receipt. Angeles infractions constituted dishonesty and grave misconduct for which she deserves to be dismissed from the service.

Angeles resignation, as Judge Florendo noted, is of no consequence, as there is no showing in the records that the Court accepted her resignation. Even as Judge Florendo believed that Angeles should be dismissed from the service, she, nonetheless, recommended that Angeles be allowed to enjoy her accrued benefits in recognition of her 25 years of service in the government.

We now consider A.M. No. 09-2-32-MTC where the Court directed[17] Angeles to (1) restitute the balance of the JDF amounting to P398.20, and submit to the CMO-OCA a copy of the machine-validated deposit slip as proof of the restitution; and (2) submit valid documents showing that withdrawn cash bonds amounting to P64,200.00 and undeposited cash bonds of P64,000.00 were deposited in the Courts FF or were refunded to the concerned bondsmen/litigants, otherwise, to restitute said amounts.

On May 15, 2009, Angeles submitted to the OCA her memorandum of compliance with the Courts directives.[18] It was accompanied by several annexes purporting to show in detail her compliance, but the OCA does not appear to have validated the compliance. In this light, we find that compliance with the Courts directives of March 9, 2009 needs to be validated; otherwise, the proceeds of her separation benefits shall be applied to her accountabilities.

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, Ms. Marissa U. Angeles, Clerk of Court II, MTC, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, is declared LIABLE for dishonesty and grave misconduct, and is DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all benefits except accrued leave credits, if any, and with prejudice to her re-employment in any branch or service of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.

The Court Management Office of the Office of the Court Administrator is DIRECTED to validate and confirm Angeles compliance with the Courts directives of March 9, 2009; otherwise, part or the whole of what Angeles shall receive as accrued benefits should answer for her accountabilities, if any.

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice Associate Justice

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice Associate Justice

 

 

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice Associate Justice

 

 

 

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice Associate Justice

 

 

No part. Acted on the matter as Court Administrator

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR. JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice Associate Justice

 

 

 

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO

Associate Justice Associate Justice



[1] Rollo (A.M. No. 09-2-32-MTC), p. 52.

[2] Rollo (A.M. No. P-10-2880), pp. 167-170.

[3] Rollo (A.M. No. 09-2-32-MTC), pp. 4-10.

[4] Rollo (A.M. No. P-10-2880), p. 1.

[5] Id. at 118.

[6] Id. at 85.

[7] Supra note 1.

[8] Rollo (A.M. No. P-10-2280), pp. 274-281.

[9] Id. at 176.

[10] Id. at 177.

[11] Id. at 168.

[12] Id. at 169.

[13] Id. at 170.

[14] Id. at 171.

[15] Supra note 8, at 7, par. 3.

[16] A.M. No. P-10-2880, pp. 276.

[17] Supra note 1.

[18] Rollo (A.M. No. 09-2-32-MTC), pp. 56-71.