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A.M. No. P-09-2598 Formerly A.M. No. 08-3-65-MCTC - Report on the financial audit conducted in the MCTC-Maddela, Quirino

A.M. No. P-09-2598 Formerly A.M. No. 08-3-65-MCTC - Report on the financial audit conducted in the MCTC-Maddela, Quirino

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.M. NO. P-09-2598 : February 12, 2009]
(Formerly A.M. No. 08-3-65-MCTC)

REPORT ON THE FINANCIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED IN THE MCTC-MADDELA, QUIRINO

D E C I S I O N

PER CURIAM:

This administrative case arose from a letter dated 19 May 2006 of Hon. Josephine B. Gayagay, then Acting Presiding Judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC), Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino, addressed to the Court Administrator, informing the Court of the continuous absence without leave (AWOL) of Mrs. Francisca B. Dueñas, Clerk of Court II, of the same court, since 19 April 2006. Also, Judge Gayagay requested an immediate audit of Mrs. Dueñas's accountabilities since no report of her financial transactions have been submitted since 2005.

On 14 March 2007, the First Division of this Court issued a Resolution dropping Mrs. Dueñas from the rolls and declaring her position vacant, thus:

It appearing from the records that Ms. Francisca B. Dueñas failed to submit her daily time records (DTRs)/bundy cards since April 2006 up to present and did not file any application for leave, the Court resolves:

(1) to DROP Ms. Francisca B. Dueñas from the rolls effective 19 April 2006 for having been on Absence Without Official Leave [AWOL] since said date pursuant to Sec. 63, Rule XVI of the Omnibus Rules on Leave, as amended by Resolution No. 99-1885 dated August 23, 1999;

(2) to INFORM Ms. Dueñas of her separation from the service at the address appearing on her 201 file, that is, Diduyon, Maddela, Quirino; andcralawlibrary

(3) to declare her position as Clerk of Court VACANT.

On 26 June 2006, Deputy Court Administrator Jose P. Perez confirmed the designation of Mrs. Evelyn P. Cadavis, Court Interpreter I, as Officer-in-Charge effective 19 April 2006.

A checklist of requirements dated 16 June 2006 was sent to Mrs. Dueñas, along with a directive for her to submit the documents needed to update her records as an accountable officer of the MCTC. Accordingly, a financial audit team was formed to examine all the records/documents for all funds of the MCTC for the period 1 January 1997 up to 31 January 2007.

During the internal control evaluation, the financial audit team asked for summation of the duties and responsibilities of the personnel involved in the collection and disbursement of funds of the MCTC.

In her compliance, Mrs. Cadavis informed the team that after her designation as Officer-in-Charge, she only issued receipts for the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and Special Allowance for the Judiciary Fund (SAJF) collections. The cash bonds for the Fiduciary Fund were duly deposited with and receipted by the Municipal Treasurer's Office of Maddela, Quirino. No disbursement/withdrawal of collections was made from the Fiduciary Fund during Mrs. Cadavis's period of accountability, from 19 April 2006 up to 31 January 2007.

Based on the documents presented, the financial audit team submitted the following report on the result of the audit it conducted on the books of accounts of Mrs. Dueñas (for the period 1 January 1997 to 18 April 2006) and Mrs. Cadavis (for the period 19 April 2006 to 31 January 2007):

A. Cash Count Examination

As of examination date, the court has unremittted collections amounting to One Hundred Pesos (P100.00) broken down to these funds: a) Judiciary Development Fund - P19.20; and b) Special allowance for the Judiciary Fund - P80.80. Both amounts were deposited to their respective accounts on 5 March 2007.

B. Missing Booklets of Official Receipts

The inventory of used and unused official receipts revealed that two (2) booklets of official receipts remain unaccounted. The following official receipts were not presented to the team as of audit date, to wit:

SERIAL NUMBERSFUND USEDPERIOD COVERED
17509251-300JDF1/7/03-1/28/03
12883201-250Fiduciary Fund2/20/01-2/21/06

The following official receipts were unused as of cash count examination:

SERIAL NUMBERSQUANTITY
4912601-49130007 booklets
4913601-49140008 booklets
4912571-491260030 pcs.
4913561-491360040 pcs.
TOTAL15 bklts. & 70 pcs.

It was observed that aside from the official receipts requisitioned from the Property Division, [Office of the Court Administrator (OCA)], the court also made use of twenty (20) booklets of official receipts from the Municipal Treasurer's Office for JDF and SAJF collections covering the period February 2005 to January 2006. Also, one (1) booklet bearing serial numbers 4912901-4912950 was borrowed and properly turned-over to the Regional Trial Court, Maddela, Quirino.

C. JUDICIARY DEVELOPMENT FUND

Mrs. Dueñas (1/1/97 to 4/18/06)

Total Collections - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 135,241.90
Less: Total Remittances - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 131,033.40
Shortage - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P 4,208.50

i. Delayed remittance of collections

Audit findings revealed that Mrs. Dueñas belatedly deposited the collections for JDF to its account. Starting year 2003, remittances were made several months after the date of collection, thus depriving the court of interests that should have been earned had the collections been deposited prudently. Also, collections were not remitted in full, indicating that Mrs. Dueñas misappropriated the collections for her personal use. Below is the summary of the delayed remittances:

PERIOD COVEREDAMOUNT COLLECTEDDATE REMITTEDAMOUNT REMITTED
July-Sept 2003P 8,406.009/15/03 & 9/30/03P 8,279.00
Jan-May 200415,407.005/18/04 & 5/27/0415,293.00
June-Aug 20049,446.008/4/047,922.00
Nov 2005-Feb 20063,986.602/2/06980.00

Although, Mrs. Dueñas submitted monthly reports during the periods mentioned, it did not reflect any deposit for the said months. Instead, an accumulated deposit was made months after, which include collections for the previous months.

Mrs. Cadavis (4/19/06 to 1/31/07)

Total Collections - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 16,615.00
Less: Total Remittances - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 16,813.20
Over-remittance - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P (198.20)

Over-remittance of collections amounting to P198.20 shall accrue to the account of the National Government.

D. GENERAL FUND

Mrs. Dueñas (1/1/97 to 11/10/03)

Total Collections - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 47,629.90
Less: Total Remittances - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 47,741.90
Over-remittance - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P (112.00)

The over-remittance amounting to P112.00 shall accrue to the account of the National Government.

E. SPECIAL ALLOWANCE FOR THE JUDICIARY FUND

Mrs. Dueñas (11/11/03 to 4/18/06)

Total Collections - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 62,425.40
Less: Total Remittances - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 48,222.60
Shortage - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P 14,202.80

i. Delayed remittance of collections

Similarly, delayed remittances were evidently observed in this fund. Collections accumulated and were deposited months after. Likewise, collections were not remitted in full, indicative of misappropriation of collections. Below is the summary of the delayed remittances.

PERIOD COVEREDAMOUNT COLLECTEDDATE REMITTEDAMOUNT REMITTED
Jan-May 20042,238.005/24/04 & 5/27/042,207.00
June-Aug 20041,205.008/4/04830.00
Jan-Apr 200613,536.805/12/062,181.60

ii. Non-submission of Monthly Reports

Aside from the considerable delays in the remittances of collections, Mrs. Dueñas did not submit reports of collections and deposits for the said fund. The subsidiary ledger maintained by the Accounting Division, Financial Management Office, OCA shows that no monthly reports were submitted for the period December 2005 to March 2006.

Mrs. Cadavis (4/19/06 to 1/31/07)

Total Collections - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 44,285.00
Less: Total Remittances - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 44,324.00
Over-remittance - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P (39.00)

Over-remittance of collections amounting to P39.00 shall accrue to the account of the National Government.

F. FIDUCIARY FUND

Mrs. Dueñas (1/1/97 to 4/18/06)

The court's Fiduciary Fund was last audited on 31 December 1996 and found no shortages and overages. For this audit period, the determination of collections was based solely on the cash books and monthly reports, since the triplicate copies of official receipts (for the period 20 February 2001 to 21 February 2006, or a period of 5 years) were found to be missing. To determine the withdrawals, the team was left with no choice but to base it on the available records of lawful court orders and acknowledgement receipts. Some withdrawals made on this account were not duly supported by court orders.

After examining and verifying evidential documents/records gathered by the team, initial audit findings revealed a shortage amounting to FOUR HUNDRED FOURTEEN THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED SIXTY FOUR PESOS & 82/100 (P414,164.82), computed as follows:

Total Collections (inclusive of the cash
Withdrawn from MTO and deposited
at the LBP, Cabarroguis Branch
amounting to P44,700.00) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P 880,000.00
Less: Lawful withdrawals - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 465,600.00
Balance of Unwithdrawn Fiduciary Fund - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 414,400.00

Balance of Unwithdrawn Fiduciary Fund - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 414,400.00
Balance per bank as of 4/30/06 under
LBP SA #0731-0345-16 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
235.18
Shortage - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P 414,164.82

Of the said shortage, the following amounts can be deducted upon presentation/submission of the supporting documents, i.e., lawful court orders and acknowledgement receipts to support the withdrawals of the cash bonds reported as withdrawn. In case the said documents will be submitted, the balance of Unwithdrawn Fiduciary Fund would amount to ONE HUNDRED FORTY NINE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED PESOS (P149,900.00), broken down as follows:

Balance of Unwithdrawn Fiduciary Fund - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 414,400.00

Less: Withdrawals with NO supporting documents
(subject for compliance)

Withdrawn cash bonds with no court orders - - - - - - - - - - - -
P 7,000.00*
Withdrawn cash bonds with no
acknowledgment receipts - - - - - -
247,500.00**
Withdrawn cash bonds
with no court order &
acknowledgment receipts - - - - - - -
10,000.00*** P264,500.00
Unwithdrawn Fiduciary Fund 4/18/06 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 149,900.00
As a result, the shortage would now amount to:
Balance of Unwithdrawn Fiduciary Fund - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 149,900.00
Balance per bank as of 4/30/06 under

LBP SA # 0731-0345-16 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 235.18
Shortage - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P 149,664.82

Note:

* see Schedule 1

** see Schedule 2

*** see Schedule 3

Hereunder are the respective schedules:

Schedule 1

Withdrawn cash bonds with NO attached court order

Date of CollectionOR No.Date DepositedCase No.Name of LitigantDate WithdrawnAmount
02/19/011288320102/20/011579Rogelio Laggui06/05/022,000.00
03/08/021288321003/13/021672Leonito Apostol06/20/025,000.00
TOTAL




7,000.00

Schedule 2

Withdrawn cash bonds with NO attached acknowledgement receipts

Date of CollectionOR No.Date DepositedCase No.Name of LitigantDate WithdrawnAmount

24495402/02/961357-AEnrique Martinez date of co - 8/31/2005 3,500.00
03/03/97510067003/13/973114Rolieta Udani08/19/971,000.00
04/22/99510068206/25/9956848-56852Marilyn Ramirez01/16/045,000.00
05/31/99510068307/07/991608Eddie Dacanay04/05/043,000.00
10/01/99510068610/26/991631Wilmar Tamayo10/20/0510,000.00
06/30/00510069307/05/001633Jaime Nicolas11/17/032,000.00
02/13/01510070002/16/0121-NNestor Matias09/27/0510,000.00
09/20/011288320809/26/011729Enrique Adviento07/08/042,000.00
10/25/021288321510/30/021722Alberto Quejada07/08/041,000.00
06/23/0312883219 - 1777Mario Pili08/04/036,000.00
06/24/0312883220 - 1786Mark Gregory Ladiadate of co - 6/26/20035,000.00
06/24/0312883221 - 1786Mark Gregory Ladiadate of co - 6/26/20035,000.00
05/20/041288322305/27/041818Jose Tugatog07/08/045,000.00
09/10/041288322809/15/041861Sohang Guhadna01/21/0512,000.00
09/10/041288322909/15/041821Mario Barcelo11/26/04500.00
09/10/041288323009/15/041822Mario Barcelo11/26/041,500.00
10/01/041288323110/06/041865Daniel Obtialdate of co - 6/26/200612,000.00
01/07/051288323301/14/051885Junie Baculanta01/21/053,000.00
01/21/051288323401/24/051882Lorena dela Cruz09/28/055,000.00
01/21/051288323501/24/051882Rodolfo dela Cruz09/28/055,000.00
02/08/051288323602/14/051893Jesus Respiciodate of co - 3/16/200612,000.00
03/02/051288323703/03/051881Richard Roquedate of co - 11/22/200520,000.00
03/03/051288323803/04/051891Zeny Fernandez09/28/056,000.00
03/09/051288323903/09/051897Conrado Reyesdate of co - 3/22/20067,000.00
04/20/051288324104/20/051880Lyn Lyn Duran09/30/053,000.00
08/12/051288324208/17/051930Joseph Dulnuandate of co - 3/6/200660,000.00
09/21/051288324309/22/051780Rodrigo Camcam10/19/054,000.00
09/27/0512883244Not deposited1921Samuel Ramiscal10/05/058,000.00
10/20/051288324510/24/051749Jayflor Blancodate of co - 10/26/200510,000.00
11/21/0512883247Not deposited1801Zaldy Cristobal11/22/0510,000.00
11/21/0512883249Not deposited1915Arman Gaspar01/10/0610,000.00
TOTAL




247,500.00

Date of co-date of court order

Schedule 3

Withdrawn cash bond with NO attached court order &
acknowledgement receipt

Date of CollectionOR No. Date DepositedCase No.Name of LitigantDate WithdrawnAmount
05/27/021288321306/05/021272Johnson Galduen08/05/0410,000.00
TOTAL




10,000.00

Aside from the shortage incurred and withdrawn cash bonds with no attached supporting documents, the team also had the following observations:

i. Balance per bank as of May 31, 2006 amounted to P135.18

When the team requested for the passbooks used by Mrs. Dueñas during her incumbency, Mrs. Cadavis surrendered two (2) LBP passbooks under Savings Account No. 0731-0345-16 covering the periods: 02 February 1996 to 21 February 2001 and 19 March 2001 to 20 October 2005. The team was informed that the current passbook used by the court was not turned-over by Mrs. Dueñas and is still in her possession. Hon. Andrew P. Dulnuan, incumbent Presiding Judge, had retrieved copies of the bank statements/account history from the LBP, Cabarroguis Branch and upon scrutiny of the documents, it was discovered that Mrs. Dueñas made numerous withdrawals from October 20, 2005 to March 16, 2006, or a period of less than five (5) months, amounting to TWO HUNDRED FIFTY TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PESOS P252,500.00), hence depleting the balance.

ii. Undeposited collections

It was established that there were instances that Mrs. Dueñas did not deposit her collections for this fund. Although some cash bonds listed hereunder were withdrawn with notations of "not deposited in bank due to early settlement" or "refunded to parties due to amicable settlement," there was no proof that the cash bond was acknowledged by the parties of the case.

Date of CollectionOR No. Date DepositedCase No.Name of LitigantAmount
06/20/0312883218Not deposited1775-1776Julia Gaspar3,200.00
06/23/0312883219Not deposited1777Mario Pili6,000.00
06/24/0312883220Not deposited1786Mark Gregory Ladia5,000.00
06/24/0312883221Not deposited1786Mark Gregory Ladia5,000.00
09/08/0312883222Not deposited1752Junie Casar3,000.00
09/27/0512883244Not deposited1921Samuel Ramiscal8,000.00
11/21/0512883247Not deposited1801Zaldy Cristobal10,000.00
10/20/0512883248Not deposited368Eliseo Sagabaen30,000.00
11/21/0512883249Not deposited1915Arman Gaspar10,000.00
02/21/0612883250Not deposited1943Roland Colobong20,000.00
TOTAL



100,200.00

iii. Delayed reporting of collected cash bonds

Aside from the undeposited collections, Mrs. Dueñas also delayed the reporting of the cash bonds collected. This clearly points out that Mrs. Dueñas used her collections for her benefit before reporting and depositing the same.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

Date of
Collection
Date Reported No. of days
Delayed
OR No.Case No. Name of LitigantAmount
05/03/0205/07/024 days128832121745Edwin Zabala2,000.00
03/13/0306/23/03102 days128832191777Mario Pili6,000.00
05/08/0306/24/0347 days128832201786Mark Gregory Ladia5,000.00
05/08/0306/24/0347 days128832211786Mark Gregory Ladia5,000.00
08/08/0309/08/0331 days128832221752Junie Casar3,000.00
01/05/0405/20/04135 days128832231818Jose Tugatog5,000.00
01/08/0405/21/04133 days128832241790Mario Rapisura2,000.00
01/08/0405/21/04133 days128832251790Flordeliza Rapisura2,000.00
01/08/0405/21/04133 days128832261791Sharone Vicitacion Rapisura2,000.00
08/27/0409/10/0414 days128832281861Sohang Guhadna12,000.00
08/27/0409/10/0414 days128832291821Mario Barcelo500.00
08/27/0409/10/0414 days128832301822Mario Barcelo1,500.00

iv. Request to release cash bond issued under OR# 12883248 dated 10/20/05 amounting to P30,000.00

In a letter addressed to Judge Dulnuan dated February 2, 2007, Mr. Eliseo M. Sagabaen notified the court of the supersedeas bond filed on October 20, 2005 amounting to P30,000.00 deposited with the court. Now that an order has been handed down by the court, Mr. Sagabaen requested for the release of the cash bond. Judge Dulnuan informed the team that since the bank account has been depleted, he has no recourse as to what action to take regarding the said request.

v. Unwithdrawn interest earned and bank charges

As of March 31, 2006, unwithdrawn interest amounting to THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY TWO PESOS & 36/100 (P3,532.36) was not withdrawn and deposited to the JDF account. Also, since the outstanding balance was below the maintaining balance set by the bank, service charges were also deducted to the said account starting April 2006.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

Mrs. Cadavis (4/19/06 to 1/31/07)

During this period, cash bonds were duly receipted and directly deposited to the Municipal Treasurer's Office, Maddela, Quirino. A certification to that effect was issued on March 2, 2007 by Gloria J. Fontanilla, Municipal Treasurer and Froilan R. Barroga, OIC-Municipal Accountant. The outstanding balance amounted to THIRTY SEVEN THOUSAND PESOS (P37,000.00) broken down as follows:

NameOR No.DateAmount
Ronald P. Corpuz - - - - - - - - - - - - 9835801 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5/9/06 - - - - - - P25,000.00
Ariel Patricio and/or
Leopoldo Patricio - - - - - - - - - - - -
3607721 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10/19/06 - - - - 12,000.00

G. RECAPITULATION

FundMrs. DueñasMrs. CADAVIS
JDF4,208.50(198.20)
General Fund(112.00)n/a
SAJ Fund14,202.80(39.00)
Fiduciary Fund414,164.82 - 0 -

The equivalent money value of the total earned leave credits of Mrs. Dueñas as certified by Ms. Florence J. Bautista, SC Chief Judicial Staff Officer, Finance Division, Financial Management Office, OCA dated December 11, 2007 is TWO HUNDRED TWENTY EIGHT THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED SEVENTY EIGHT PESOS and 95/100 (P228,778.95), computed as follows:

TLB (Terminal Leave Benefits) = No. of accumulated leave x highest monthly salary received x .0478087 (constant factor)

267.007 days x P17,922.00 x .0478087 = P228,778.95

In view of its foregoing findings, the financial audit team recommended that:

  1. Mrs. FRANCISCA B. DUEÑAS, Clerk of Court II, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino be DISMISSED from the service for gross dishonesty, grave misconduct and continuous absence without leave with forfeiture of all her benefits, including her accrued leave credits, and be DISQUALIFIED for reemployment in any government agency, including government owned and controlled corporation;

  2. The money value of the leave credits of Mrs. Dueñas amounting to TWO HUNDRED TWENTY EIGHT THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED SEVENTY EIGHT PESOS and 95/100 (P228,778.95) be applied as partial restitution of the computed shortages during her period of accountability as Clerk of Court of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino;

  3. The Financial Management Office, OCA be DIRECTED to: a) apply the money value of the terminal leave pay to the shortage in the Fiduciary Fund of Mrs. Dueñas dispensing with the usual documentary requirements; b) release the said amount to the Officer-in-Charge, MCTC, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino for deposit to the Fiduciary Fund;

  4. Mrs. FRANCISCA B. DUEÑAS, Clerk of Court II, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino be DIRECTED to RESTITUTE within thirty (30) days from notice, the amount of TWO HUNDRED THREE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY SEVEN PESOS and 17/100 (P203,797.17) representing the balance of her shortages after deducting the money value of her leave credits and SUBMIT to the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office (CMO), OCA the machine validated deposit slips and certified photocopy of the passbook reflecting the deposit;

Hereunder are the shortages for the following funds:

a)Fiduciary Fund P414,164.82
Less: Amount of TLP applied to her
accountabilities
P228,778.95P185,385.87
b)Judiciary Development Fund P4,208.50
c)Special Allowance for the
Judiciary Fund
P14,202.80
TOTAL
P203,797.17
  1. Hon. ANDREW P. DULNUAN, Presiding Judge, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino be DIRECTED to:

(a) LOCATE the whereabouts of Mrs. Dueñas and personally serve a copy of the resolution directing Mrs. Dueñas to restitute her shortages; andcralawlibrary

(b) MONITOR the Officer-in-Charge in the strict adherence to the issuances of the Court, particularly the handling of judiciary funds;

The National Bureau of Investigation be DIRECTED to cause the arrest of Mrs. Francisca B. Dueñas and to detain her until she complies with the directive in #4 hereof.

On 20 February 2008, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) adopted and endorsed the recommendation of the financial audit team for the approval of this Court.

We agree in the recommendation of the financial audit team, as adopted by the OCA.

Before being on AWOL, Mrs. Dueñas served as the Clerk of Court II of the MCTC.

The Clerk of Court is an important officer in our judicial system. His office is the nucleus of all court activities, adjudicative and administrative. His administrative functions are as vital to the prompt and proper administration of justice as his judicial duties.1

Supreme Court Circulars No. 13-92 and No. 5-93 provide the guidelines for the proper administration of court funds. SC Circular No. 13-92 mandates that all fiduciary collections "shall be deposited immediately by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with an authorized depository bank." In SC Circular No. 5-93, the Land Bank was designated as the authorized government depository.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

The Clerk of Court performs a very delicate function. He or she is the custodian of the court's funds and revenues, records, property and premises. Being the custodian thereof, the Clerk of Court is liable for any loss, shortage, destruction or impairment of said funds and property.2 Hence, Clerks of Court have always been reminded of their duty to immediately deposit the various funds received by them to the authorized government depositories, for they are not supposed to keep funds in their custody.3 The same should be deposited immediately upon receipt thereof with the City, Municipal or Provincial Treasurer where the court is located.

Delayed remittance of cash collections by Clerks of Court and cash clerks constitutes gross neglect of duty.4 The failure of a public officer to remit funds upon demand by an authorized officer shall be prima facie evidence that the public officer has put such missing funds or property to personal use.5

In Office of the Court Administrator v. Fortaleza,6 we stressed the responsibility and accountability of Clerks of Court for the collected legal fees in their custody, thus:

Clerks of Courts are the chief administrative officers of their respective courts; with regard to the collection of legal fees, they perform a delicate function as judicial officers entrusted with the correct and effective implementation of regulations thereon. Even the undue delay in the remittances of amounts collected by them at the very least constitutes misfeasance. On the other hand, a vital administrative function of a judge is the effective management of his court and this includes control of the conduct of the court's ministerial officers. It should be brought home to both that the safekeeping of funds and collections is essential to the goal of an orderly administration of justice and no protestation of good faith can override the mandatory nature of the Circulars designed to promote full accountability for government funds."

In Navallo v. Sandiganbayan,7 we held that an accountable officer may be convicted of malversation even in the absence of direct proof of misappropriation as long as there is evidence of shortage in his accounts which he is unable to explain.8

Those who work in the judiciary, such as Mrs. Dueñas, must adhere to high ethical standards to preserve the court's good name and standing.9 They should be examples of responsibility, competence and efficiency, and they must discharge their duties with due care and utmost diligence since they are officers of the court and agents of the law.10 Indeed, any conduct, act or omission on the part of those who would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary shall not be countenanced.11

The conduct required of court personnel, from the presiding judge to the lowliest clerk, must always be beyond reproach and circumscribed with a heavy burden of responsibility.12 As forerunners in the administration of justice, they ought to live up to the strictest standards of honesty and integrity, considering that their positions primarily involve service to the public.13

Given the results of the audit and investigation, Mrs. Dueñas has evidently failed to live up to the high ethical standards expected of court employees. She violated the trust reposed in her as Clerk of Court and disbursement officer of the judiciary as shown by the following incidents: (1) shortages in the Fiduciary Fund, Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowances for the Judiciary Fund; (2) missing booklets of official receipts; (3) belated deposit of the JDF collection; (4) delayed remittances of collections; (5) failure to submit reports of collections and deposits of funds; and (6) delayed reporting of collected cash bonds

The Court, therefore, is left with no other recourse but to declare Mrs. Dueñas guilty of dishonesty and gross misconduct, which are grave offenses punishable by dismissal.14

In Re: Report on the Judicial and Financial Audit of RTC-Br. 4, Panabo, Davao Del Norte,15 we held that failure of the Clerk of Court to remit the court funds collected by the Municipal Treasurer constitutes gross neglect of duty, dishonesty and grave misconduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Under Rule IV, Section 52-A of the Civil Service Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, these are grave offenses punishable by dismissal even when committed for the first time.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Francisca B. Dueñas, Clerk of Court II, MCTC, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino, GUILTY of gross dishonesty, grave misconduct, and continuous absence without leave; and imposes on her the penalty of DISMISSAL from the service with forfeiture of all her leave credits and retirement benefits, with prejudice to re-employment in any government agency, including government-owned and controlled corporations. The Civil Service Commission is ordered to cancel her civil service eligibility, if any, in accordance with Section 9, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292.

The Court further orders:

1. That the money value of the leave credits of Mrs. Dueñas amounting to TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED SEVENTY-EIGHT PESOS and 95/100 (P228,778.95) be applied to the partial restitution of the computed shortages during her period of accountability as Clerk of Court II of the MCTC, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino;

2. The Financial Management Office, OCA to: (a) apply the money value of the terminal leave pay to the shortage in the Fiduciary Fund of Mrs. Dueñas, dispensing with the usual documentary requirements; and (b) release the said amount to the Officer-in-Charge, MCTC, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino for deposit to the Fiduciary Fund;

3. Mrs. Dueñas to restitute within thirty (30) days from notice, the amount of TWO HUNDRED THREE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY-SEVEN PESOS and 17/100 (P203,797.17) representing the balance of her shortages after deducting the money value of her leave credits and submit to the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office, OCA, the machine validated deposit slips and certified photocopy of the passbook reflecting the deposit;

4. Hon. ANDREW P. DULNUAN, Presiding Judge, MCTC, Maddela-Nagtipunan, Quirino, to:

A. Locate the whereabouts of Mrs. Dueñas and personally serve a copy of this Decision directing Mrs. Dueñas to restitute her shortages; andcralawlibrary

b. Monitor the Officer-in-Charge in the strict adherence to the issuances of the Court, particularly the handling of judiciary funds;

5. The National Bureau of Investigation to cause the arrest of Mrs. Dueñas and to detain her until she complies with the directive in No. 3 hereof; andcralawlibrary

6. The OCA to coordinate with the prosecution arm of the government to ensure the expeditious prosecution of the criminal liability of Mrs. Dueñas.

SO ORDERED.


Endnotes:


1 Re: Report on the Financial Audit Conducted in the RTC, Br. 34, Balaoan, La Union, A.M. No. 02-1-66-RTC, August 19, 2004, 437 SCRA 72, 78, citing Dizon v. Bawalan, 453 Phil. 125, 133 (2003).

2 Office of the Court Administrator v. Fortaleza, 434 Phil. 511, 522 (2002), citing Office of the Court Administrator v. Bawalan, A.M. No. P-93-945, 24 March 1994, 231 SCRA 408, 411.

3 Office of the Court Administrator v. Fortaleza, id., citing Office of the Court Administrator v. Galo, 373 Phil. 483, 491 (1999).

4 Soria v. Oliveros, A.M. No. P-00-1372, 16 May 2005, 458 SCRA 410, 423.

5 Office of the Court Administrator v. Besa, 437 Phil. 372, 380 (2002).

6 Supra note 2 at 522.

7 G.R. No. 97214, July 18, 1994, 234 SCRA 175; People v. Hipol, 454 Phil. 679, 690 (2003).

8 Sollesta v. Mission, A.M. No. P-03-1755, 29 April 2005, 457 SCRA 519, 536.

9 Gutierrez v. Quitalig, 448 Phil. 469, 478 (2003).

10 Id. at 478-479.

11 Id.

12 Tudtud v. Caayon, A.M. No. P-02-1567, 28 March 2005, 454 SCRA 10, 14.

13 Id.

14 Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (Resolution No. 9-1936, which took effect on September 27, 1999) provides:

Section 52. Classification of Offenses. - Administrative offenses with corresponding penalties are classified into grave, less grave or light, depending on their gravity or depravity and effects on the government service.

A. The following are grave offenses with their corresponding penalties:

1. Dishonesty - 1st Offense - Dismissal

2. Gross Neglect of Duty - 1st Offense - Dismissal

3. Grave Misconduct - 1st Offense - Dismissal

15 351 Phil. 1 (1998).

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