EN BANC

 

LOURDES       CLAVITE-VIDAL,

DIRECTOR   IV,       REGION 10,

CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION,

                                   Complainant,

 

 

 

 

 

                   - versus -

 

 

 

 

 

 

NORAIDA  A. AGUAM, COURT STENOGRAPHER  I, SHARI’A CIRCUIT   COURT,  GANASSI-BINIDAYAN-BAGAYAWAN,

LANAO DEL SUR,

                                   Respondent.

 

       A.M. No. SCC-10-13-P

          

       Present:

 

       CARPIO, J.,

       VELASCO, JR.,

       LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

       BRION,

       PERALTA,

       BERSAMIN,

       DEL CASTILLO,

       ABAD,

       VILLARAMA, JR.,

       PEREZ,*

       MENDOZA,**

       SERENO,

       REYES, and

       PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.

 

       Promulgated:

 

        June 26, 2012

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

 

RESOLUTION

 

PER CURIAM:

        

         We resolve another case of impersonation in taking a Civil Service examination.  The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) agreed with the Investigating Judge that respondent court stenographer Noraida A. Aguam is guilty of dishonesty and should be dismissed from the service.

         First, the antecedent facts and the result of the investigation.

         In a letter[1] dated August 13, 2009, Director IV Lourdes Clavite-Vidal of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) referred to the OCA for appropriate action the records of respondent Aguam.  Director Vidal stated that a person purporting to be Aguam took the Career Service Subprofessional[2] examination held on December 1, 1996 at Room No. 5, City Central School, Cagayan de Oro City, and got a grade of 80% in the examination.  But upon verification of Aguam's eligibility, the CSC found that Aguam’s picture and handwriting on her January 14, 1997 Personal Data Sheet differ from those on the Picture Seat Plan during the examination.

         Our esteemed colleague, Mr. Justice Jose P. Perez, in his capacity as then Court Administrator, required Aguam to file her comment to Director Vidal’s letter.[3]

         In her comment[4] dated January 19, 2010, Aguam said that she personally took and passed the aforesaid examination.  Aguam claimed that her picture on the Picture Seat Plan is an old picture taken when she was still in high school and single, while her picture on the Personal Data Sheet was taken after giving birth to four children and suffering another miscarriage.  Aguam also claimed that the signatures on the two documents are hers and were not made by two different persons.  Her signature on the Picture Seat Plan was signed under pressure during the examination.  On the other hand, she signed the Personal Data Sheet without pressure and having the leisure of time.

         The case was then referred to Judge Rasad G. Balindong for investigation.  After due proceedings, Judge Balindong submitted his investigation report finding Aguam guilty of serious dishonesty and recommending Aguam’s dismissal from the service.  Judge Balindong said that during the May 24, 2011 hearing, he approached Aguam to observe her physically and compare her face with the pictures on the Picture Seat Plan and Personal Data Sheet.  Judge Balindong found that the picture on the Personal Data Sheet is that of Aguam while the one on the Picture Seat Plan is not hers.[5]  Judge Balindong also found that Aguam's specimen signatures submitted before him were different from Aguam's purported signature on the Picture Seat Plan.  Judge Balindong concluded that the signature on the Picture Seat Plan and the one on the Personal Data Sheet were written by two different persons.[6]  Judge Balindong opined that Aguam’s representation that she herself took the examination when in fact somebody else took it for her constitutes dishonesty.[7]

         In its own evaluation report[8] dated November 29, 2011, the OCA concurred with the findings of Judge Balindong and recommended that:

         IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, we respectfully submit for the consideration of the Honorable Court the recommendation that Noraida A. Aguam, Court Stenographer I, Shari'a Circuit Court Ganassi-Binidayan-[B]agayawan, Lanao del Sur, be found GUILTY of the administrative offense of DISHONESTY and be DISMISSED from the service, with the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from government service and forfeiture of all retirement benefits except leave credits already accrued.[9]

         We agree that Aguam is indeed guilty of dishonesty.

         The fact of impersonation was proven with certainty.  Judge Balindong observed upon approaching Aguam during a hearing that she is not the person whose picture was attached to the Picture Seat Plan.  This finding debunks Aguam's claim that she attached her high school picture on the Picture Seat Plan.  The records also validate Judge Balindong’s finding that Aguam’s specimen signatures written on a piece of paper[10] are starkly different from Aguam’s supposed signature on the Picture Seat Plan.[11]  Then there is the discernible difference in Aguam’s handwriting and signature on the Personal Data Sheet[12] and the impersonator’s handwriting and signature on the Picture Seat Plan.  Taken together, the evidence leads to no other conclusion than that somebody else took the examination using Aguam’s identity.

         We also affirm Judge Balindong’s opinion that for Aguam to assert that she herself took and passed the examination when in fact somebody else took it for her constitutes dishonesty.[13]

         It must be stressed that every employee of the Judiciary should be an example of integrity, uprightness and honesty.  Like any public servant, she must exhibit the highest sense of honesty and integrity not only in the performance of her official duties but also in her personal and private dealings with other people, to preserve the court’s good name and standing.  The image of a court of justice is mirrored in the conduct, official and otherwise, of the personnel who work thereat, from the judge to the lowest of its personnel.  Court personnel have been enjoined to adhere to the exacting standards of morality and decency in their professional and private conduct in order to preserve the good name and integrity of the courts of justice.[14]  Here, Aguam failed to meet these stringent standards set for a judicial employee and does not therefore deserve to remain with the Judiciary.

         Relatedly, we have consistently held that the proper penalty to be imposed on employees found guilty of an offense of this nature is dismissal from the service.  In Cruz v. Civil Service Commission,[15] Civil Service Commission v. Sta. Ana,[16] and Concerned Citizen v. Dominga Nawen Abad,[17] we dismissed the employees found guilty of similar offenses.  In Cruz, Zenaida Paitim masqueraded as Gilda Cruz and took the Civil Service examination in behalf of Cruz.  We said that both Paitim and Cruz merited the penalty of dismissal.[18]  In Sta. Ana, somebody else took the Civil Service examination for Sta. Ana.  We dismissed Sta. Ana for dishonesty.[19]  In Abad, the evidence disproved Abad’s claim that she personally took the examination.  We held that for Abad to assert that she herself took the examination when in fact somebody else took it for her constitutes dishonesty.  Thus, we dismissed Abad for her offense.[20]  We find no reason to deviate from our consistent rulings.  Under Section 52(A)(1) of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, dishonesty is a grave offense punishable by dismissal for the first offense.  Under Section 58(a) of the same rules, the penalty of dismissal carries with it cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service.  The OCA properly excluded forfeiture of accrued leave credits, pursuant to our ruling in Sta. Ana and Abad.[21]

         WHEREFORE, we find respondent Noraida A. Aguam, Court Stenographer I, Shari’a Circuit Court, Ganassi-Binidayan-Bagayawan, Lanao del Sur, LIABLE for dishonesty.  She is hereby DISMISSED from the service with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of all her retirement benefits except her accrued leave credits, and with perpetual disqualification for reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.

         This Resolution is immediately EXECUTORY.

         SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Senior Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice

(No Part)

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice

(On official leave)

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO

Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES

Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE

Associate Justice

 



*       No part.

**     On official leave.

[1]       Rollo, p. 2.

[2]       Id. at 14.

[3]       Id. at 20.

[4]       Id. at 22-23.

[5]       Id. at 217.

[6]       Id.

[7]       Id. at 218.

[8]       Id. at 337-342.

[9]       Id. at 342.

[10]     Id. at 154.

[11]     Id. at 119.

[12]     Id. at 115-116.

[13]     See Concerned Citizen v. Dominga Nawen Abad, A.M. No. P-11-2907, January 31, 2012, p. 3 and Civil Service Commission v. Sta. Ana, A.M. No. P-03-1696, April 30, 2003, 402 SCRA 49, 56.

[14]     Id. at 4; id. at 56-57.

[15]     G.R. No. 144464, November 27, 2001, 370 SCRA 650.

[16]        Supra note 13.

[17]        Supra note 13.

[18]     Supra note 15 at 655.

[19]     Supra note 13 at 56-57.

[20]        Supra note 13 at 3, 5.

[21]     Id. at 4; supra note 13 at 57.