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A.M. No. 2005-20-SC - RE: VIOLATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE CIRCULAR NO. 14-2002 BY MR. GEMINIANO P. PEREZ

A.M. No. 2005-20-SC - RE: VIOLATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE CIRCULAR NO. 14-2002 BY MR. GEMINIANO P. PEREZ

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.M. NO. 2005-20-SC : March 23, 2006]

RE: VIOLATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE CIRCULAR NO. 14-2002 By MR. GEMINIANO P. PEREZ,

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

The Facts

In a Memorandum dated 15 July 2005, the Office of Administrative Services ("OAS") directed Geminiano P. Perez ("Perez"), SC Supervising Judicial Staff Officer of the Records Control Division of this Court, to submit his Comment/Explanation for having been late or tardy for a total of 46 times covering the period from January to June 2005, as follows:

DATETIMEDATETIME
Jan. 04, 2005 11:49 Apr. 04, 2005 12:58
Jan. 05, 2005 12:52 Apr. 07, 2005 13:21
Jan. 06, 2005 13:57 Apr. 11, 2005 11:41
Jan. 11, 2005 14:00 Apr. 14, 2005 13:24
Jan. 13, 2005 14:29 Apr. 18, 2005 12:02
Jan. 14, 2005 13:53 Apr. 25, 2005 12:24
Jan. 19, 2005 12:54 May 03, 2005 09:05
Jan. 20, 2005 12:34 May 09, 2005 12:26
Feb. 01, 2005 13:00 May 10, 2005 12:09
Feb. 07, 2005 15:29 May 13, 2005 12:24
Feb. 08, 2005 09:22 May 16, 2005 12:44
Feb. 09, 2005 09:39 May 17, 2005 12:23
Feb. 14, 2005 14:00 May 20, 2005 10:31
Feb. 24, 2005 15:03 May 25, 2005 14:41
Feb. 28, 2005 14:45 May 26, 2005 10:59
Mar. 01, 2005 09:32 May 30, 2005 12:16
Mar. 04, 2005 14:33 June 09, 2005 14:05
Mar. 08, 2005 14:15 June 14, 2005 13:26
Mar. 11, 2005 09:29 June 15, 2005 11:21
Mar. 15, 2005 14:00 June 17, 2005 14:59
Mar. 18, 2005 10:21 June 20, 2005 11:59
Mar. 21, 2005 10:31 June 27, 2005 11:45
Mar. 28, 2005 09:31 June 29, 2005 12:27

The OAS charges respondent for tardiness in violation of Administrative Circular No. 14-2002 (A.C. No. 14-2002).

In his Comment, Perez admitted he had incurred numerous tardiness during the months from January to June 2005 but he has not violated the Civil Service Commission's rule on tardiness, i.e., 10 times or more in a month for two months in a semester, or for two consecutive months in a year. He alleges, however, that employees of the judiciary affected by A.C. No. 14-2002 are burdened twice by the rule because for the same class of offense, government employees including employees of the judiciary are already covered by the pertinent rules of the Civil Service Commission. He posits the view that the additional burden on judiciary employees is violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

OAS Memorandum

The OAS asserts that A.C. No. 14-2002 is an office rule on attendance and tardiness and any violation thereof is a ground for disciplinary action. The willful failure to follow reasonable office rules and regulation is subject to disciplinary action under Section 22(c) on Light Offenses, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended by CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, s. 1999.

As regards the 46 times Perez was late for work, the OAS is of the opinion that "even if the absences and habitual tardiness do not qualify as 'habitual' or 'frequent' under CSC MC No. 04, s.1991," the same can already be dealt with severity.

The OAS recommends that since this is the second infraction of Perez, the penalty of suspension for 30 days without pay should be imposed.

The Court's Ruling

It is the opinion of OAS that since this is the second infraction of Perez, the penalty of suspension without pay should be imposed. It should be recalled that it was the OAS that recommended the dismissal of the first administrative case. It cannot be said that there was a second offense when the first offense was considered dismissed through no fault of Perez. The first administrative case should not be counted in determining the penalty to be imposed in the case at bar since that first administrative case was dismissed.

It should be stressed here that Perez is being charged for being late or tardy for 46 times for the period covering January to June 2005 allegedly in violation of an office rule, specifically A.C. No. 14-2002. A.C. No. 14-20021 is a reiteration of the Civil Service Commission's policy on habitual absenteeism. A.C. No. 14-2002 particularly deals with habitual absenteeism, not tardiness. The title of the circular itself is clear: "Reiterating the Civil Service Commission's Policy on Habitual Absenteeism." The circular provided, thus:

WHEREAS, there is a need to further reiterate the provisions of said Memorandum Circular particularly that portion pertaining to habitual absenteeism as records show that there are several employees who incurred absences which are more than the allowable 2.5 days monthly leave earnings under the leave laws;

WHEREFORE, the following portion of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 04, s. 1991 on Habitual Absenteeism is hereby reiterated anew for the guidance of all employees:

"A. HABITUAL ABSENTEEISM

1. An officer or employee in the civil service shall be considered habitually absent if he incurs unauthorized absences exceeding the allowable 2.5 days monthly leave credit under the leave law for at least three (3) months in a semester or at least three (3) consecutive months during the year;

2. In case of claim of ill health, heads of department of agencies are encouraged to verify the validity of such claim and, if not satisfied with the reason given, should disapprove the application for sick leave. On the other hand, cases of employees who absent themselves from work before approval of their application should be disapproved outright; andcralawlibrary

3. In the discretion of the [h]ead of any department, agency or office, any government physician may be authorized to do a spot check on employees who are supposed to be on sick leave. Those found violating the leave laws, rules or regulations shall be dealt with accordingly by filing appropriate administrative cases against them."

Notably in A.C. No. 14-2002, the circular speaks only of absences and habitual absences. There is no provision or guideline on tardiness, unlike in Administrative Circular No. 2-992 (A.C. No. 2-99) where absenteeism and tardiness are expressly and jointly stated in the same paragraph. In A.C. No. 2-99, the title itself is clear: "Strict Observance of Working Hours and Disciplinary Action for Absenteeism and Tardiness". Paragraph II thereof states:

II. Absenteeism and tardiness, even if such do not qualify as "habitual" or "frequent" under Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 04, Series of 1991, shall be dealt with severely, and any falsification of daily time records to cover-up for such absenteeism and/or tardiness shall constitute gross dishonesty or serious misconduct. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary

Perez is not being charged with falsification of daily time record under A.C. No. 2-99. Neither is he being charged for violation of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 04, s. 1991 providing that "[A]ny employee shall be considered habitually tardy if he incurs tardiness, regardless of the number of minutes, ten (10) times a month for at least two (2) months in a semester or at least two (2) consecutive months during the year." While Perez admits having incurred tardiness, he was not late 10 or more times a month for at least two months in a semester or for at least two consecutive months during the year. What the OAS is charging Perez is for tardiness in violation of A.C. No. 14-2002. And as mentioned above, A.C. No. 14-2002 does not apply to tardiness but habitual absenteeism. Therefore, it cannot be said that Perez violated A.C. No. 14-2002 for being late 46 times from January to June 2005. Verily, Perez should be exonerated of the administrative charge.

While no penalty can be imposed upon Perez in the instant case, the Court deems it necessary to remind respondent Perez of his duty as an employee of the court. By reason of the nature and functions of the Judiciary where he belongs, court employees must be role models in the faithful observance of the constitutional canon that a public office is a public trust. Inherent in this mandate is the observance of prescribed office hours and the efficient use of every moment thereof for public service, if only to recompense the Government, and ultimately, the people who shoulder the cost of maintaining the Judiciary. Thus, to inspire public respect for the justice system, court officials and employees should at all times strictly observe official time. As punctuality is a virtue, absenteeism and tardiness are impermissible.3

WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the instant administrative matter is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.


Endnotes:


1 Issued on 18 March 2002, to take effect on the first day of April 2002.

2 dated 15 January 1999.

3 Re: Habitual Tardiness of Ma. Socorro E. Arnaez, Court Stenographer III, RTC, Branch 18, Cebu City, A.M. No. P-04-1867, 23 September 2005, 470 SCRA 604.

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