RTC Clerk Dismissed for Demanding Money in Exchange for Release of Certificate
The Supreme Court has meted out on a clerk of the Butuan City Regional Trail Court (RTC) the ultimate penalty of dismissal from service for gross misconduct.
The case stemmed from a letter-complaint from a person under the nom de plume “Danilo D. Divinagracia” (complainant) who accused Michael Vincent L. Ozon (Ozon), Clerk III of Branch 1, RTC, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, of asking for the amount of PHP 25,000.00 in exchange for the release of the certificate of finality of the former’s case for declaration of nullity of marriage.
Upon investigation by Executive Judge Augustus L. Calo (Executive Judge Calo), it was revealed that at one time, a litigant came crying to the RTC Branch Clerk of Court because the certificate of finality in her case had not yet been issued after repeatedly visiting the court despite giving Ozon PHP 500.00 for its release.
Thereafter, Executive Judge Calo obtained sworn statements from two private individuals who revealed that respondent offered “facilitation services” in declaration of nullity cases. They stated that instead of the usual number of months it would take for processing the service of the decision and the corresponding return card, Ozon would expedite the same process into merely three days by sending the decisions via private courier to the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) in exchange for PHP 5,000.00.
The Court, in a Per Curiam Decision, ruled that Ozon’s bare denial is self-serving and a weak defense vis-à-vis the RTC Branch Clerk of Court’s positive testimony which corroborated complainant’s allegation that Ozon demanded money from litigants for the release of certificates of finality.
In addition, his denial and sophistry cannot defeat the substantial evidence on record consisting of sworn statements, which were corroborated by the factual findings of the Judicial Integrity Board that Ozon mailed the OSG copy of the decisions in 10 declaration of nullity cases via private courier instead of registered mail as required under Section 19(2) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, or the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages.
The Court thus found that the elements of corruption and clear intent to violate the law are present in Ozon’s actions and thus should not be countenanced; otherwise, it would cause damage to the integrity of the Judiciary.
The Supreme Court Public Information Office will upload a copy of the Decision in A.M. No. P-23-077 once it receives the same from the En Banc Clerk of Court.