SC Dismisses Three CA Employees for Using Shabu
The Supreme Court has imposed the penalty of dismissal from the service against three employees of the Court of Appeals (CA) for testing positive, for the second time, for the use of illegal drug methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as shabu.
In a Per Curiam Decision, the Court En Banc found Garry U. Caliwan (Caliwan), Edmundo T. Malit (Malit), and Frederick C. Mauricio (Mauricio), all employees of the CA, administratively liable for the serious charge of Use of Illegal Drugs or Substances under Section 14(o) of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as further amended by A.M. No. 21-08-09-SC.
In 2022, Caliwan, Malit, and Mauricio tested positive for shabu, in a random drug test conducted by the CA. The result of the random drug test was confirmed by Labtox Analytical Laboratory, Inc., an accredited laboratory facility by the Department of Health-Dangerous Drugs Board.
Following an investigation, the CA transmitted the case records to the Judicial Integrity Board (JIB), which recommended to the Court En Banc that Caliwan, Malit, and Mauricio be found guilty of the Use of Illegal Drugs or Substances and dismissed from the service accordingly. In Mauricio’s case, the JIB, noting his early retirement, recommended that he be sanctioned with the accessory penalties of forfeiture of his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from public office in lieu of dismissal from the service.
In resolving the case, the Court first clarified that the use of prohibited drugs now squarely falls under the serious charge of Possession and/or Use of Illegal Drugs or Substances, not Grave Misconduct, when it is committed by members, officials, employees, and personnel of the Judiciary, as governed by Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended.
Further, under A.M. No. 23-02-11-SC or the Guidelines for the Implementation of a Drug-Free Policy in the Philippine Judiciary, there are two scenarios under which a court employee shall be charged with the Possession and/or Use of Illegal Drugs or Substances: (1) when he or she tests positive for drug use through a random drug test; and (2) when he or she voluntarily submits himself or herself to drug testing and is found positive for drug use for a second time, despite having completed the treatment and/or drug rehabilitation program.
Applying the foregoing to the present case, the Court found that the administrative liabilities of Caliwan, Malit, and Mauricio for the Use of Illegal Drugs or Substances have been sufficiently proven not only by the positive results of the random drug test held in 2022, but also by their own admissions.
The Court thus agreed with the JIB that the penalty of dismissal from the service is proper and commensurate with the gravity of the offense that respondents committed considering that this is the second time that they have tested positive for dangerous drugs in a random drug test, and they did so after having been given a chance by the CA to undergo treatment and rehabilitation.
Under Section 17 (1)(a) of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended, a respondent found guilty of a serious charge may be sanctioned with dismissal from service with the accessory penalties; suspension; or fine.
In determining the proper penalty, the Court explained that it could not consider the mitigating circumstances that Caliwan and Mauricio had raised to temper the disciplinary sanction against them because the framework of aggravation and mitigation of penalties under Section 20 of Rule 140, as amended, was not applicable when the penalty imposed is dismissal from the service, as in this case.
As for Mauricio, since he had already opted for early retirement, the Court was constrained to impose on Mauricio only the accessory penalties of forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except his accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification or reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned and/or –controlled corporations as he can no longer be dismissed from service.
The Court concluded by reminding all court personnel to always act above board and beyond suspicion to earn and keep the respect of the public for the Judiciary.
Recognizing that drug abuse within the Philippine Judiciary would severely affect its honor, dignity, and integrity as well as impede the effectiveness and efficiency of judicial officials and employees, the Court, in 2023, issued the Guidelines for the Implementation of a Drug-Free Policy in the Philippine Judiciary.
Under the Guidelines, drug testing has been made a pre-employment requirement in the Judiciary. Court employees shall also be subjected to a random mandatory drug test during the course of their employment in the Judiciary.
Employees found positive for dangerous drug use shall be dealt with administratively, and such finding shall be a ground for suspension or termination, subject to the provisions of the Civil Service Law and A.M. No. 21-08-09-SC.
The Guidelines applies to all officials or personnel of the Judiciary, regardless of status of appointment, who are employed at the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Court of Tax Appeals, and the first- and second-level courts under the direct supervision of the Office of the Court Administrator. It likewise covers employees in the Judicial and Bar Council, JIB, Philippine Judicial Academy, Office of the Judiciary Marshals, Mandatory Continuing Legal Office, and all other offices placed under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Public Information Office will upload a copy of the Decision in A.M. No. CA-23-001-P ([Formerly JIB FPI No. 22-013-CA-P]) once it receives the same from the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)