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A.M. No. P-07-2305 - Formerly OCA-I.P.I. No. 07-2487-P - MARLITO R. ROBLES v. SHERWIN M. BALOLOY, ET AL.

A.M. No. P-07-2305 - Formerly OCA-I.P.I. No. 07-2487-P - MARLITO R. ROBLES v. SHERWIN M. BALOLOY, ET AL.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[A.M. NO. P-07-2305 : April 4, 2007]
[Formerly OCA-I.P.I. No. 07-2487-P]

MARLITO R. ROBLES, Complainant, v. SHERWIN M. BALOLOY CARPIO, and LORNA M. RAMORES, CARPIO MORALES, Respondents.

R E S O L U T I O N

TINGA, J.:

For resolution is an administrative complaint1 filed by Marlito R. Robles against Sherwin M. Baloloy, Process Server, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 130, Caloocan City, for Usurpation of Authority and Trespass to Dwelling, and against Lorna M. Ramores, Utility Worker, Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC), RTC, Caloocan City for Perjury and Falsification of Public Document amounting to Misconduct in Office.

According to complainant, respondent Baloloy, together with Norvel J. Flores and a group of men, arrived at their residence on 5 July 2006 at around eight o'clock in the morning to conduct a demolition operation. Another group also arrived in a white SWAT vehicle and was armed with a demolition permit which was not shown to complainant. When complainant asked if the group had a court order authorizing the demolition, Baloloy allegedly replied in the affirmative showing complainant a piece of paper without allowing the latter to examine the same. When asked of his identity, Baloloy allegedly introduced himself as a sheriff from the RTC of Caloocan City. Despite their agreement to discuss the matter at the barangay hall, Baloloy proceeded to complainant's house and demanded that the occupants vacate the premises immediately as the demolition would soon be started. Respondent Baloloy allegedly did the same to the occupants of other houses nearby. It was only when complainant threatened to call the media that the demolition crew left the premises.

As regards respondent Ramores, complainant alleges that he saw her with another woman at the demolition site, clad in office uniform and talking to some members of the demolition crew.

Upon inquiry with the RTC of Caloocan City, complainant learned that Baloloy is not a sheriff but a process server detailed at the OCC,RTC and that Ramores is a utility worker in the same office. He further discovered from Atty. Avelinda Dabalos of the OCC, that respondents had no right to even be present at complainant's residence as there was no pending case filed against complainant or his family. Ramores even made it appear in her daily time record (DTR) that she was in the office from 7:19 a.m. to 4:46 p.m. on the day of the attempted demolition.2

In her Comment3 dated 30 August 2006, respondent Ramores denies the charges against her and claims that complainant, not being an injured party, has no personality to file the instant complaint against her. According to her, she was the one who punched her DTR on the day in question so it cannot be said that she falsified it. While she admits to being present at the site, she avers that she was there only to bring money to her son, Baloloy. She was there only for a brief moment and with the permission of the officer-in-charge of the OCC who even asked her to buy index cards for the court. She alleges that her leaving the office was properly documented on the daily attendance sheet, which practice is allowed under Civil Service rules, specifically Book V of Executive Order No. 292, as amended.

In his Reply4 to Ramores's Comment, complainant counters that he has personality to file the instant complaint as a taxpayer and as an injured party because respondents sought to demolish his house. He accuses Ramores of lying as to the reason why she was at the demolition site. He allegedly saw her there from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. which cannot be considered a brief stay. If indeed she properly documented her attendance, she failed to present copies of these documents as proof. Complainant adds that when he talked to Atty. Darwin Cañete, respondents' immediate superior, he cannot remember the latter telling him that Ramores's leaving the office premises was in fact with permission. Instead, Atty. Cañete asked complainant to settle the matter with respondents, giving complainant the impression that Atty. Cañete would like to cover up the behavior for his subordinates.

For his part, Baloloy filed a Counter-Affidavit5 previously submitted to Assistant City Prosecutor Ethel Kathleen Tugade in relation to the criminal complaints filed by complainant against him for Trespass to Dwelling and Usurpation of Authority. He prayed that the same be adopted as his Comment to the instant administrative complaint.6

Baloloy vehemently denies the charges against him. He avers that Norvel Flores is the attorney-in-fact of Ms. Andrea Demeza, the owner of the property being illegally occupied by complainant and his family. Said property had been previously inspected by the Office of the Building Official and reported to be a threat to the safety of the occupants and other residents in the area due to its dilapidated condition. Upon application of Flores, a demolition permit7 was issued by the Building Official pursuant to the National Building Code of the Philippines. The illegal occupants were allegedly given notice and demand letters to vacate the premises. Flores, being his friend and former neighbor, sought Baloloy's help in taking care of the needs of the demolition crew during the demolition. When Baloloy arrived at the demolition site, complainant and Flores were already engaged in a heated argument, leaving the demolition crew idle. In the hope of settling the matter amicably as complainant's behavior was already rude and threatening, Baloloy allegedly suggested that they discuss the matter in the barangay hall. Complainant agreed to this suggestion. However, Baloloy noticed complainant head home and began to put up barricades. This angered Flores who then ordered his men to start the demolition. At this juncture, Baloloy claims he felt the need to make a final plea to the occupants to vacate the premises and to bring with them their belongings so that no one will get hurt during the impending demolition. He, however, denies physically entering complainant's house. Complainant then allegedly rushed inside his house and demanded to be shown a court order. Baloloy alleges that he explained to complainant that there is no court order but only a demolition permit and the building will be demolished as a dangerous structure. He further explained that he is from the RTC but that it is his father who is the sheriff and not him when complainant asked, "sine-sheriff na ba kami, saan ang court order?"8 Complainant allegedly started rousing the other illegal occupants to fight off the demolition crew so that some of them picked up things to throw at the demolition crew, forcing the demolition crew to withdraw from the premises. Seeing that things could get worse, Baloloy claims sending a text message to his mother, Ramores, to inform her that he cannot join her for lunch as they had not yet proceeded with the demolition. Ramores then replied that she would come over to see what was going on and to say hello to Flores's wife to whom she was godmother. Ramores allegedly stayed for only ten minutes. Flores later decided to defer the demolition as complainant continued his threats and invectives.

Baloloy argues that he could not be guilty of usurpation of authority because at no time did he represent himself as a sheriff nor did he perform any task related to the duties of a sheriff especially since the demolition was to be conducted under the National Building Code. He claims he was not even in his office uniform at that time. Neither could he be found guilty of trespassing because he never stepped inside the subject building and his presence at the premises was with the knowledge and permission of the owner of the property,. He then prays for the dismissal of the complaint for being baseless, fabricated and self-serving.

In its Report9 dated 5 February 2007, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) found that the evidence adduced by complainant is insufficient to hold respondents liable. It observed that complainant should have at least presented corroborative evidence such as affidavits of witnesses to prove his allegations. However, the OCA recommended that respondents be reprimanded for being at the demolition site. According to the OCA, such act gave the appearance of impropriety and falls short of the judicial standard of impartial service, violating the norm of public accountability. Observed the OCA, thus:

Respondents, however, deserve strong admonition from this Court for their admitted act of being present at the site where the demolition was to be conducted with the end in view of assisting and helping a private citizen carry through a demolition activity. Although respondent Ramores claims that she just went to the site to give money to her son, the same is belied by the very assertion of respondent Baloloy that she went there "to see what is going on and to say hello to Maribeth Flores, to whom she was the godmother at her wedding (sic)." Indeed, respondents' act falls short of the exacting standards of impartial service in the judiciary required of all court employees.

x    x    x

As such, employees of the judiciary must be wary, and should "tread carefully" when assisting other persons even if such assistance sought would call for the exercise of acts unrelated to their official functions. Such assistance should not in anyway [sic] compromise the public's trust in the justice system. Personal interests, i.e., pecuniary benefit in the transaction, must give way to the accommodation of the public. This is enunciated in the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA No. 6713) which aims to promote a high standard of ethics and utmost responsibility in the public service. The respondent is hereby enjoined to observe such conduct. x x x

Hence, the OCA submitted the following recommendations:

Respectfully submitted for the consideration of the Honorable Court is our recommendation that the instant complaint be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative matter and respondents be REPRIMANDED for their acts that compromised the public's trust in the justice system, with a STERN WARNING that commission of similar act in the future will be dealt with more severely.

We adopt the recommendations of the OCA.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

It is well-settled that in administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving, by substantial evidence, the allegations in the complaint.10 In the instant case, complainant failed to substantiate his accusations, as his bare allegations do not suffice.

Nevertheless, we hold respondents liable for their unauthorized presence at the demolition site. While they assert the legality of the attempted demolition and the rationale behind their presence at the subject premises, they failed to present proof that they were authorized to leave their respective posts on the day and time in question. Furthermore, the OCA correctly observed that respondents' presence thereat, although seemingly harmless, is in fact unnecessary and imprudent. What is more, respondents gave conflicting explanations as to why Ramores was at the demolition site, which circumstance reflects a lack of forthrightness on the part of one or both of them.

Respondents should remember that the image of the courts as a true temple of justice is mirrored in the conduct, official or otherwise, of the men and women who work thereat.11 Hence, their conduct must at all times be characterized by propriety and decorum and

above all else, be above suspicion so as to earn and keep the respect of the public for the judiciary.12 Furthermore, their unauthorized absence from their posts during regular office hours robs the Court of their time and effort best reserved for public service. Such unofficial absences however short may interrupt the smooth flow of government function thus rendering public service inutile.13

WHEREFORE, the recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator is APPROVED. Respondents Sherwin M. Baloloy, Process Server, and Lorna M. Ramores, Utility Worker, both of the Regional Trial Court, Office of the Clerk of Court, Caloocan City are hereby REPRIMANDED for their acts that compromised the public's trust in the justice system. They are STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Endnotes:


1 Rollo, pp. 6-14 with annexes.

2 As per Certification by Atty. Darwin G. Cañete; rollo, p. 14.

3 Id. at 19-21.

4 See OCA Report, id. at 2-3.

5 Id. at 27-39 with annexes.

6 As per respondent's Manifestation dated 16 October 2006; id. at 26.

7 Id. at 39.

8 Id. at 31.

9 Id. at 1-5.

10 Morales, Sr. v. Judge Dumlao, 427 Phil. 56, 62 (2002).

11 Gutierrez, et al. v. Quitalig, A.M. No. P-02-1545, 2 April 2003, 400 SCRA 391, 398, citing Re: Administrative Matters OCA IPI No. 97-228-P (Santelices v. Samar); and OCA IPI No. 97-383-P (Santelices v. Samar), 15 January 2002, 373 SCRA 78.

12 Rural Bank of Francisco F. Balagtas (Bulacan), Inc. v. Pangilinan, 307 SCRA 725 (1999); Alawi v. Alauya, A.M. SDC-97-2-P, 24 February 1997, 268 SCRA 628, 637, citing Apaga v. Ponce, 245 SCRA 233 (1995).

13 Macalua v. Tiu, Jr., A.M. No. P-97-1236, 11 July 1997, 275 SCRA 320, 327.

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