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A.M. No. P-06-2190 Formerly A.M. No. 01-11-291-MTC - Office of the Court Administrator v. Arturo Batongbacal etc.

A.M. No. P-06-2190 Formerly A.M. No. 01-11-291-MTC - Office of the Court Administrator v. Arturo Batongbacal etc.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.M. NO. P-06-2190 : March 25, 2009]
(Formerly A.M. No. 01-11-291-MTC)

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, Complainant, v. ARTURO BATONGBACAL, former Clerk of Court and REMEDIOS I. ROXAS, Court Stenographer I, Metropolitan Trial Court, Pulilan, Bulacan Respondents.

R E S O L U T I O N

PER CURIAM:

On August 13-17, 2001, a team from the Court Management Office (CMO) of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) conducted an on-the-spot audit of the books of accounts of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Pulilan, Bulacan. The audit team found that former clerk of court Tomas E. Ocampo (Ocampo) and the then incumbent clerk of court, herein respondent, Arturo S. Batongbacal (Batongbacal) incurred shortages in their corresponding accounts.

On January 14, 2002, the Court issued a Resolution directing Ocampo and Batongbacal to remit or restitute their respective shortages. Ocampo complied with the Court's directive. Batongbacal did not.1

In its Resolution dated December 9, 2002, the Court, upon recommendation of the OCA, considered the administrative matter involving Ocampo closed and terminated.2

Subsequently, in a Resolution dated July 7, 2004, the Court en banc found Batongbacal guilty of gross dishonesty, gross misconduct and malversation of public funds. He was dismissed from the service and his withheld salaries were applied to his accountabilities. He was also disqualified from re-employment in any branch of the government or in any government-owned or controlled corporation.3

On July 30, 2004, Batongbacal filed a Motion for Reconsideration praying that instead of being dismissed from the service, he be admonished and made to pay a fine; that in the event that he is not reinstated to his former position, the penalty of disqualification from re-employment in any branch of government or in any government-owned or controlled corporation be lifted, and that, after applying the proceeds of his withheld salaries and allowances to his accountabilities, the balance thereof be given to him. Batongbacal came up with a computation refuting the findings of the Court that he incurred shortages in the funds in his custody. To support his contentions, he attached documents which he did not previously submit.4

In its Resolution dated August 17, 2004, the Court referred Batongbacal's Motion for Reconsideration to the OCA for evaluation, report and recommendation.5

In a subsequent letter dated August 19, 2004, Batongbacal reiterated his prayer that the portion of the July 7, 2004 Resolution of the Court which disqualifies him from re-employment in the government or in any government-owned and controlled corporation be lifted.6 The Court also referred the above-mentioned letter to the OCA for evaluation, report and recommendation.7

In its Memorandum dated October 29, 2004 addressed to then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., the OCA indicated the need to conduct a comprehensive audit of the cash and accounts of Batongbacal in order to assess the validity of the new documents which he attached to his motion for reconsideration. With this end in view, the OCA requested that it be given a chance to complete its audit before submitting its report and recommendation to the Court.8 The Court granted the request of the OCA in its Resolution issued on November 23, 2004.9

On April 24, 2006, the audit team from the OCA submitted a Memorandum to then Senior Deputy Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepaño containing the team's findings and recommendations. As part of the comprehensive audit conducted, a financial audit was also conducted on the books of accounts of herein respondent Remedios I. Roxas (Roxas), the officer-in-charge who took over when Batongbacal was relieved of his position.

The audit team found that both Batongbacal and Roxas were remiss in the performance of their duties and that there were massive shortages in the court's funds under their custody. The audit team also noted that the salary of Roxas was withheld by the Financial Management Office of the OCA because of her failure to submit her Monthly Reports of Collections and Deposits on time.10

In a Memorandum received by the En Banc through the Clerk of Court on May 3, 2006, the OCA adopted the recommendation of the audit team and recommended approval thereof.11

Accordingly, on June 13, 2006, the Court issued a Resolution, pertinent portions of which read as follows:

(a) DIRECT Mr. Arturo S. Batongbacal, former Clerk of Court, MTC, Pulilan, Bulacan, to

(i) IMMEDIATELY RESTITUTE his incurred shortages on General Fund, Judiciary Development Fund and Fiduciary Fund amounting to Twenty-Six Thousand Nine Hundred Nineteen Pesos (P26,919.00). Fifty-Seven Thousand Four Hundred Six-Seven Pesos (P57,467.00) and Two Hundred Ninety-Eight Thousand One Hundred Seventy-Nine Pesos (P298,179.00), respectively, in their respective fund bank account, through Ms. Froctosa I. Ceñidoza, the incumbent Clerk of Court, copy furnished the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office, with the machine validated deposit slip/s as proof of compliance; andcralawlibrary

(ii) TRANSMIT to this Court, through the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office, all the documents (marked x) to support the validity and authenticity of the withdrawals/refund of the following cashbonds:

COLLECTIONSWITHDRAWALS
Date of CollectionsOR No.CASE NO.NAME OF LITIGANTSAMOUNTSCOAR
7-Jul-9770505721197-M-97 (97-5913)JENNY MENDOZA20,000.001/9/98X
8-Dec-97705071397-6308RED MENDOZA20,000.001/26/98X
16-Dec-97705071597-6316-20JOSE L. TECSON/ R. DE GUZMAN6,000.00Apr-98X
22-Apr-97538394897-5742R. ESTRELLA10,000.005/20/98X
16-Feb-98705071398-6462CORNELIO BAUTISTA1,200.006/18/98X
4-May-98705074597-5764 & 68SHIRLEY PAGUIO20,000.006/24/98X


97-5770 & 72



15-Jul-98940401398-6645CESAR DIMLA2,000.006/30/98X
22-Aug-97705058997-6019T. JAYME25,000.007/9/98X
23-Mar-98705073998-6499E. PAVO15,000.007/16/98X
21-Apr-98705074298-6512GILBERT MENDOZA/ V. FAVIAN6,000.00X07/18/98
5-May-98705074698-6542ELISCO MANAHAN10,000.006/3/98X
21-May-98705075098-6516CLARITA GOJO CRUZ2,000.007/10/98X
27-Jun-97705056813117JOSELITO ROBLES6,000.00X08/06/98
6-Oct-977050596487-97EDNA BRILLANTE11,000.00X08/11/98
20-Jan-99940404798-6764SOFRONIO DE JESUS1,000.00X02/18/99
7-Oct-98940403012123-98

(12343 W)

MERLYN CAMZA2,000.00XX
19-Dec-97705072297-6323-24ALLAN LOMBOSON (L. ARCEO)1,000.007/29/99X
8-Mar-99940446098-6649RANDY REYES/ RESURRECION5,000.00Jul-99X
21-Jun-99940447399-7014-15JOSE DELA PENA7,000.007/26/99X
12-Aug-965383742
L. ALEJO5,000.008/11/99X
23-Jan-98705072898-6362ALEXANDER VILLENO7,000.00X09/16/99
9-Jul-98940400998-6598FELICIANO SAMSON2,000.008/18/99X
2-Oct-98940402998-6753-62RUEL T. CRUZ50,000.00X09/28/99
27-May-97705055797-5820TIMOTEO MANUEL PABLO10,000.009/15/99X
13-Jan-00940449300-7290ROSALINA SANTIAGO1,000.00X02/09/00
24-Jan-00940449600-1306ROSALINA SANTIAGO2,500.002/16/00X
28-Jan-00940449800-7307ELIZABETH CRUZ1,000.002/16/00X
2-Feb-00940449900-7311JULIA C. SANTOS12,000.00X02/07/00
7-Jul-98940400898-6635ERNESTO LAGSA15,000.003/22/00X
2-Feb-00940450000-7314CELSO CRUZ2,100.003/1/00X
13-Jan-00940449500-7291JOSEPHINE GINERO4,000.004/12/00X
19-Apr-001096951800-7503MARTINIANO SANTOS10,000.00XMay-00
22-Sep-99940447899-7081CYNTHIA PADO6,000.00XJun-00

1096953400-7666REMEDIOS DELA CRUZ5,000.008/23/00X

1096953500-7668SANTOS5,000.008/23/00X
28-Jan-99940405099-6891AMAD MANGULAGNAN/ S. RIVERA30,000.009/11/00X
17-Oct-001096954000-7721PRIMITIVA REYES3,000.00X10/17/00
22-Jan-98705072798-6350-54SERGIO RODRIGUEZ35,000.0012/19/00X
12-Dec-001096955500-7787ANTONIO CASAS /EMMANUEL CRUZ10,000.0012/13/00X
31-Jan-97538392717661NEIL SOYANGCO15,000.00X01/18/01
1-Sep-001096953400-7685ANTONIO CASAS20,000.001/24/01X
15-Jan-011096955800-7823ERIC CAPULONG/ EFREN FELIFE10,000.001/24/01X
19-Jan-011096955900-7825ROLANDO T. GOLGOTA/ RAFAEL G.10,000.00X02/05/01
20-Jan-011096956000-7831GERRY FELIPE5,000.003/14/01X
12-Feb-011096956200-7729LEONARDO CRUZ5,500.003/5/01X
5-Mar-01109695642189631MARINA SALONGA/ M. LOPEZ15,000.003/7/01X
8-Mar-011096956601-7903VICTORIA DALISAY/ W. BULATAO4,000.003/21/01X
19-Mar-011096956801-7863MINERVA ORALLIO5,000.004/18/01X
15-Mar-99940446199-6914TEOFILO JAYME/ A. JAYME20,000.006/18/01X
10-May-011096957401-7969MARIBEL GONZALES20,000.00X06/15/01
11-Jun-011096957701-7990ANTONIO CASAS/ W. BAYLON5,000.006/13/01X
12-Dec-001096955300-7786HERMINIO SALVADOR/ A. RAMIREZ3,000.008/22/01X
7-Aug-011096958901-8048ALBERTO CABRAL ET AL./ A. CASAS15,000.008/8/01X
5-Jan-00940449100-7282WILFREDO BELONIO6,000.009/19/01X
11-Sep-011096959201-8078GERRY SANCHEZ10,000.009/12/01X
4-Apr-011096957101-7919-21ZENAIDA SULIT-ALFONSO/ EFREN S.6,000.00X10/04/01
23-Apr-011096957301-7821DOLORES BERSANO/ F. AUSTIN1,500.00X10/10/01
18-May-98705074998-6527RUFINO DE JESUS10,000.00X11/19/01
28-Sep-011096959401-8029RICARDO V. FLORES/ TONY CASAS5,000.0011/21/01X
27-Oct-011356500301-8120 & 8121LEONARA MARAGUINOT4,000.00X11/26/01
28-Nov-011356501001-8152ANTONIO CASAS5,000.0012/5/01X
10-Dec-011356501201-8162TONY CASAS15,000.0012/12/01X
Grand Total 600,800.00

[Should Mr. Batongbacal fail to provide this Court with the documents (marked x) needed to support the withdrawals of the above-presented cashbonds, the same shall be considered outstanding and unwithdrawn, and Mr. Batongbacal should restitute the amount of Six Hundred Thousand Eight Hundred Pesos (P600,800.00).];

(b) DEFER ACTION on the Motion for Reconsideration of the resolution of July 7, 2004 and Letter dated August 19, 2004, both filed by Mr. Batongbacal, until he complies with the foregoing directives;

(c) DIRECT Ms. Remedios I. Roxas, former Officer-in-Charge, to

(i) EXPLAIN why she should not be administratively sanctioned for failure to deposit her collections on time and RESTITUTE the following shortages to their respective bank accounts, within fifteen (15) days from notice hereof, through Ms. Froctosa I. Ceñidoza, the incumbent Clerk of Court:

(1) Clerk of Court General Fund shortage amounting to Two Thousand Five Hundred Thirty-Three Pesos and 20/100 (P2,533.20);

(2) Philippine Mediation Center Trust shortage amounting to One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00); andcralawlibrary

(3) Fiduciary Fund shortage amounting to Two Hundred Seventy-Six Thousand Pesos (P276,000.00);

(ii) FURNISH the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office, with the duly validated machine copies of the General Fund, Philippine Mediation Center Trust Fund and Fiduciary Fund deposit slips or clear certified true copy of the validated deposit slips and certified true copy of the Fiduciary Fund LBP Savings Account No. 0101-2064-59 as evidence of compliance;

(iii) EXPLAIN the reasons behind the following:

(1) Setting aside of Official Receipts Nos. 16304300 and 16304412 which were allegedly reserved for transactions that did not materialize, and subsequently cancelled only on December 1 and 2, 2004;

(2) Cancellation of Official Receipts Nos. 16304404, 16304447 and 16304522 under dubious circumstances;

(3) Official Receipt No. 16304436 amounting to P6,000.00 which is blank but had corresponding court order and acknowledgment receipt; andcralawlibrary

(4) Double use of Official Receipts Nos. 16304252 and 16304432 for different dates/cases/payors/amounts, to wit:

d-1 OR No. 16304252

DATECASE NOLitigant/BondsmanAMOUNT
7May0202-8261Yolando EnriquezP 2,000.00


(source OR triplicate)
22May0202-8329Antonio CasasP 15,000.00


CO none AR6/29/02


(source AR6/29/02)

d-2 OR No. 16304432

DATECASE NOLitigant/BondsmanAMOUNT
3Jul034-9074-9075Edilberto SantosP 30,000.00


CO4/29-04 AR5/6/04


(source AR5/6/04)
3Jul033-8805Edilberto SantosP 30,000.00


CO none AR none


(source OR triplicate)

(iv) EXPLAIN and ACCOUNT for the following Official Receipts (Ors) booklets/sheets that have remained unaccounted to date:

INCLUSIVE
SERIAL NUMBERS
QUANTITY
BOOKLET/S
QUANTITY
SHEET/S
13565101-1356151501
19782401-197824501
19782651-197827001
13565201-13565203 GF
3
16304496
1

(v) TRANSMIT to the Court, through the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office, the documents needed to support the validity of the cashbonds withdrawals with lacking/incomplete documents, amounting to Four Hundred Ninety-Nine Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (P499,500.00), as presented below:

DATE OF
COLLECTION
OR NO.CASE NO.NAME OF PAYORCOLLEC-TIONSWITHDRAWALSAUDIT
OBSERVATIONS/
REMARKS
COAR
22-Sep-97705059497-6051/02-1165MERLINDA GRANDE12,000.0011/20/03NO DATENo Acknowledgment
Receipt
13-May-98705074798-6543ALICIA ORBE50,000.00NONE6/25/03No Court Order
28-Jun-991098997403-1157PRIMITIVO IGNACIO30,000.00NONE5/7/03No Court Order
5-Feb-00135648107237Can not be deciphered30,000.00NONE2/15/02No Court Order
7-Mar-001356481203-1157REYNALDO CASTILLO50,000.00NONE5/7/03No Court Order
21-Jul-001096952800-7465REGINA REYES GO4,000.00NONE9/19/02No Court Order
7-Sep-0010969945
REYNALDO CASTILLO50,000.00NONE5/7/03No Court Order
18-Jul-011096958301-7937-38FELY V. SAN ANDRES3,000.00NONE9/4/02No Court Order
19-Sep-011096959301-8085PAUL TANJUTCO15,000.00NONE1/21/02No Court Order
No date1096959601-8082EUGENIO Q. CRUZ5,000.00NONE7/12/02No Court Order
8-Oct-011096959701-8082RENATO DE LA CRUZ5,000.00NONE7/12/02No Court Order
8-Oct-011096959801-8082SUSANA B. SANTOS5,000.00NONE7/12/02No Court Order
13-Oct-011356500101-8083BERNARDO SANTOS3,000.00NONE4/4/02No Court Order
13-Oct-011356500101-8083LEOVEGILDO SABANDEJA3,000.00NONE7/12/02No Court Order
14-Nov-011356500401-8139TONY CASAS5,000.00NONE3/13/02No Court Order
27-Nov-011356500801-8082Can not be deciphered5,000.00NONE7/12/02No Court Order
12-Dec-011356501401-8171Can not be deciphered15,000.00NONE11/29/02No Court Order
30-Jan-021356502201-8221TERESITA D. REYES5,000.00NONE3/12/02No Court Order
31-Jan-021356502302-88825D.L. SANTOS5,000.00NONE2/15/02No Court Order
4-Feb-0213565024B02-8228-29VICENTE B. ESGUERRA12,000.00NONE11/20/02No Court Order
15-Feb-021356502902-8237RENATO V. PERALTA10,000.00NONE03/18/02No Court Order
1-Apr-021356503502-8282ALEJANDRO FELIPE6,000.00NONE07/12/02No Court Order
22-Apr-021356504702/8280SUSANA B. SANTOS5,000.00NONE07/31/02No Court Order
29-Apr-021356504902/8312TONY CASAS10,000.00NONE05/08/02No Court Order
10-Jun-021630425602/8349ROBERTO SEGUNDA
M. FERRIOLS
15,000.00NONE07/12/02No Court Order
19-Jun-021630425702-8322ARIS T. ABANTE15,000.0010/6/03NONENo Acknowledgment
Receipt
1-Jul-021630425902-8380JOEL ROMERO5,000.00NONE05/03/03No Court Order
2-Sep-021630426302-8440TONY CASAS8,000.00NONE09/18/02No Court Order
2-Jan-031630428603-8586JESUS BUENCAMINO28,000.00NONE06/08/03No Court Order
17-Feb-031630429603-8624PAUL MADRIGAL8,000.002/26/0302/26/06EXPLAIN CO
Crim03-8624 AR
Crim03-8634
5-Mar-031630440103-8655ANTONIO CASAS
(jueteng)
24,000.00NONE03/25/03No Court Order
25-Mar-031630440603-8692MANUEL RONO
(jueteng)
4,000.00NONE06/18/03No Court Order
7-May031630441603-8757ANTONIO CASAS12,000.00NONE05/20/03No Court Order
11-Jul-031630443402-8294YOLANDA BALONZO2,000.00NONE11/03/04No Court Order
30-Jul-031630443603-8830TEODORO SANTOS6,000.007/30/03NONENo Acknowledgment
Receipt
7-Aug-031630443802-8206THERESA CAYASAO5,000.00NONE09/30/03No Court Order
15-Aug-031630444002-8397CRISPIN DALANGIN4,000.009/10/03NONENo Acknowledgment
Receipt
15-Aug-031630444102-8396CRISPIN DALANGIN3,000.009/10/03NONENo Acknowledgment
Receipt
13-Nov-031630450403-8960ROLANDO M. SANTOS5,000.0011/20/04NONENo Acknowledgment
Receipt
13-Nov-031630450503-8960ROLANDO M. SANTOS10,000.0011/20/04NONENo Acknowledgment
Receipt
12-Feb-041630450904-9029MILYN MARCELO2,500.003/11/04NO DATENo Acknowledgment
Receipt
TOTAL Php 499,500.00

[Should Ms. Roxas fail to provide this Court with the lacking documents needed to support the withdrawals of the above-presented cashbonds, the same shall be considered outstanding and unwithdrawn, and Ms. Roxas should restitute the amount of Four Hundred Ninety-Nine Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (P499,500.00).];

(d) DOCKET the subject report as a regular administrative complaint and include Ms. Remedios I. Roxas as a respondent therein, thus: A.M. No. P-06-2190 (Office of the Court Administrator v. Arturo S. Batongbacal, former Clerk of Court, and Remedios I. Roxas, Court Stenographer I, MTC, Pulilan, Bulacan).12

Batongbacal did not comply with the directives of the above-mentioned Resolution.

On the other hand, in Compliance with the same Resolution, Roxas submitted letters dated October 5, 200613 and November 2, 2006,14 a sworn statement15 and various documents. Roxas denied liability contending that she was just a victim of circumstances and that it was then Presiding Judge Horacio T. Viola and Batongbacal who were the ones who appropriated the missing court funds. In her letter of November 2, 2006, Roxas requested that her salaries and other allowances which were withheld be released in her favor so that she could use the same to answer for her shortages. She also claimed that she could not file her monthly report of collections because the documents to prove the collections and deposits she made were missing and that she is still in the process of looking for them. Moreover, she requested that she be given clearance to enable her to obtain loans from the Supreme Court Savings and Loan Association (SCSLA), the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) and the PAG-IBIG to further enable her to answer for her accountabilities. These were all referred by the Court to the OCA in a Resolution dated November 21, 2006.16

In the meantime, the OCA submitted a Memorandum to former Chief Justice Panganiban dated August 22, 2006, indicating that it could not yet submit a report and recommendation on Batongbacal's Motion for Reconsideration in view of the fact that he had not yet complied with the directives of the Court contained in the Resolution of June 13, 2006.17

On June 5, 2007, the Court issued a Resolution denying Roxas's requests, as contained in her letter of November 2, 2006, pending full compliance with the directives of the Court in its Resolution dated June 13, 2006.18

On September 26, 2007, Roxas filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the June 5, 2007 Resolution of the Court.19 The Court referred the said Motion to the OCA for evaluation, report and recommendation.20

On November 22, 2007, Roxas filed a Motion for the Release of Salaries for

More Than Three Years reiterating that she was not responsible for the shortages of court funds in her custody but that, in any case, she be allowed to receive her withheld salaries to enable her to comply with the Court's directive for her to restitute said shortages.21 In subsequent letters dated December 14, 2007,22 and July 8, 200823 and motions dated January 13, 2008,24 February 8, 2008,25 and August 1, 2008,26 Roxas reiterated her contentions in her previous motions, specially her request that her withheld salaries be released to answer for the shortages of court funds in her custody. She also filed a Motion to Accept Documentary Evidence dated October 8, 2007.27 All these letters and motions were also referred to the OCA.

On February 9, 2009, the OCA submitted a Memorandum addressed to Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno with the finding that Roxas failed to restitute or account for the shortage of court funds in her custody amounting to a total of P768,500.00 broken down as follows: (1) Philippine Mediation Center Trust Fund shortage amounting to P1,000.00; (2) undeposited Fiduciary Fund collections and undocumented bank withdrawals amounting to P276,000.00; and, (3) Fiduciary Fund shortage amounting to P491,500.00 brought about by unauthorized withdrawals of cash bonds due to insufficient supporting documents. The OCA also found that Roxas failed to transmit to the Court the documents needed to support the validity of the cash bond withdrawals which were made during her term. Accordingly, the OCA made the following recommendations:

1. The Motion for Reconsideration [filed on September 26, 2007]of respondent Remedios I. Roxas, Court Stenographer I, MTC-Pulilan, Bulacan BE DENIED for lack of merit;

2. Respondent Roxas BE DISMISSED from the service for Malversation of Funds, with forfeiture of her entire retirement benefits including her withheld salaries and the monetary value of her earned leave credits as well as disqualification from re-employment in any branch of the government or in any government-owned or controlled corporation; and the OCA BE DIRECTED to file the corresponding criminal case against her before the appropriate prosecution office and court;

3. Respondent Roxas' withheld salaries from September 2004 to August 2008 amounting to P164,609.64 and her earned leave credits with the money value of P202,073.08 as of June 30, 2008 BE FORFEITED and REMITTED to the Fiduciary Account of the MTC-Pulilan, Bulacan;

4. Respondent Roxas BE DIRECTED to RESTITUTE the balance of P401,817.28. Of this amount, P400,817.28 shall be deposited to the Fiduciary Fund of MTC-Pulilan, Bulacan and the remaining amount to the Philippine Mediation Trust Fund of MTC-Pulilan, Bulacan and to SUBMIT PROOF of such remittance to the FMD, CMO, OCA; andcralawlibrary

5. The Financial Management Office, OCA BE DIRECTED to facilitate the remittance of the withheld salaries of respondent Roxas covering the period September 2004 to August 2008 amounting to P164,609.64 and her earned leave credits with the money value of P202,073.08 as of June 30, 2008 to the Fiduciary Account of the MTC-Pulilan, Bulacan; and the FMO, OCA be FURTHER DIRECTED to FURNISH the Fiscal Monitoring Division, CMO, OCA of the machine-validated deposit slip as proof of such remittance.28

The Court adopts with modifications the recommendations of the OCA.

While the OCA found that Roxas was able to account for the official receipts enumerated in the June 13, 2006 Resolution of this Court and to satisfactorily explain the setting aside and cancellation of some official receipts in her custody, it nonetheless established that Roxas failed to restitute her shortages in the Philippine Mediation Center Trust Fund and the Fiduciary Fund, as well as to transmit to the Court the documents needed to support the validity of the cash bond withdrawals which were made during her term.

As custodian of court funds and revenues, Roxas's duties have been defined by circulars issued by this Court.

Supreme Court (SC) Circular Nos. 13-92 and 50-95 furnish the guidelines for the proper administration of the court's fiduciary funds.

The third paragraph of SC Circular No. 13-92 commands that all fiduciary collections shall be deposited immediately by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with an authorized government depository bank. Section B(4) of SC Circular No. 50-95 is more emphatic and particular as it requires that the deposit be made, within 24 hours upon receipt thereof, with the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Section B(2) of SC Circular No. 50-95 also provides that no withdrawals from the court's fiduciary funds shall be allowed unless there is a lawful order from the Court that has jurisdiction over the subject matter involved. The fifth paragraph of SC Circular No. 13-92 contains substantially the same provisions.

In addition, SC Circular No. 32-93 provides that all clerks of court or accountable officers are required to submit to the Supreme Court not later than the 10th day of each succeeding month a monthly report of collection for all funds. With respect to Judiciary Development Funds (JDF) in particular, Section 3, in relation to Section 5, of Administrative Circular No. 5-93 requires that clerks of court, officers-in-charge or their duly authorized representatives shall receive the JDF collections, issue the proper receipt therefor, deposit such collections and render the proper Monthly Report of Collections for said Fund.

In the instant case, Roxas failed to deposit her collections on time. The audit team found that as early as October 2002 she incurred delay in depositing most of her collections, without any excuse. Moreover, from August 2004 until November of the same year, Roxas failed to deposit all of her Fiduciary Fund collections without any justifiable cause. As of July 2004, Roxas had undeposited collections of P168,5000.00 for the court's Fiduciary Fund. For the succeeding four months, she collected an additional sum of P129,000.00, but she also failed to deposit these amounts. For failure to deposit her collections on time, Roxas violated the provisions of SC Circular No. 13-92 and Section B(4) of SC Circular No. 50-95.

Roxas also withdrew cash bonds, which form part of the court's fiduciary funds, without the necessary court orders and/or acknowledgment receipts. This is again a gross violation of SC Circular No. 50-95.

Worse, Roxas failed to turn over funds in her custody upon the Court's demand as well as to justify her withdrawals of cash bonds. This constitutes malversation. Indeed, failure of a public officer to remit funds upon demand by an authorized officer constitutes prima facie evidence that the public officer has put such missing funds or property to personal use.29 All that is necessary to prove malversation are the following: (a) that the defendant received in his possession public funds or property; (b) that he could not account for them and did not have them in his possession when audited; and (c) that he could not give a satisfactory or reasonable excuse for the disappearance of said funds or property.30 All of these elements are present in the instant case.

Furthermore, Roxas herself admitted that she failed to file the required monthly report of collections and deposits she made. She justified such failure by contending that the records necessary in filing such reports went missing. In fact she presented, as evidence, a Police Report indicating therein that on January 3, 2005 she reported to the police authorities that important court documents and records could not be found on the table where they were supposed to be.31 However, the audit team indicated in its memorandum dated April 24, 2006 that the following were the latest monthly reports filed by Roxas and received by the Financial Management Office-Accounting Division of the OCA with respect to her collections and deposits:

Special Allowance for Justices and Judges Fund ' September 2004
Clerk of Court General Fund ' September 2003
Fiduciary Fund ' May 2002
Sheriffs' Trust Fund ' None
Judiciary Development Fund ' November 2004
Philippine Mediation Center Trust Fund ' None

Per report of the OCA, Roxas became the officer-in-charge on February 11, 2002. Hence, it is clear from the foregoing that Roxas's excuse is untenable because for almost three years, even before the alleged loss of records, she was already greatly remiss in the filing of the required monthly reports of her collections. This is a gross violation of SC Circular No. 32-93 and Administrative Circular No. 5-93.

Thus, the Court finds that Roxas's failure to comply with the Court's circulars, rules and directives which are designed to promote full accountability for public funds, more particularly her failure to turn over money deposited with her, to account for the shortage in the funds she was handling, to explain and present evidence to support the validity and authenticity of the withdrawals she made as well as her failure to deposit her collections on time and to file a monthly report thereon for a period spanning over two years constitute gross neglect of duty, dishonesty, grave misconduct and malversation.32 These offenses all carry the penalty of dismissal even for the first offense.33

In Re: Report on the Financial Audit Conducted in the MTCC-OCC, Angeles City,34 this Court held:

Those who work in the judiciary must adhere to high ethical standards to preserve the court's good name and standing. 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 law. 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.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

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. 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.35

While Roxas performed her functions as an officer-in-charge only in an acting capacity, still the expectation for her to perform all the duties and responsibilities of an accountable officer is not diminished. The fact that she performed her functions in a temporary capacity will not absolve her from liability.36

Thus, the Court finds Roxas guilty of gross neglect of duty, dishonesty, grave misconduct and malversation, for which she should be dismissed from the service.

With respect to Batongbacal, the OCA reported that he received a copy of the June 13, 2006 Resolution of the Court on July 21, 2006. Subsequently, the Court issued another Resolution dated September 19, 2006 which noted the Memorandum filed by the OCA informing the Court that no report and recommendation on Batongbacal's Motion for Reconsideration could as yet be submitted "in view of the fact that they are still waiting for [Batongbacal] to restitute the amounts of P26,919.00, P57,467.00 and P298,179.00 and to transmit to the Fiscal Monitoring Division (FMD), CMO, OCA, all the documents to support the validity and authenticity of the withdrawals of certain cash."37 Batongbacal received a copy of this Resolution on November 16, 2006 as evidenced by Registry Return Receipt No. 46067.38 Despite due notices, Batongbacal never complied with the above-mentioned directives of the Court. Hence, he is deemed to have waived his right to present any evidence in his defense. The OCA should, therefore, proceed to determine the merits of his Motion for Reconsideration which has been pending since August 2004.

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to:

1. DENY the early letter requests of respondent Remedios I. Roxas, Court Stenographer I and former Officer-in-Charge of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC), Pulilan, Bulacan, that her salaries and other allowances be made to answer for her shortages, and that she be given clearance to enable her to obtain loans from SCSLA, GSIS and PAG-IBIG to answer for her accountabilities;

2. FIND Respondent Roxas guilty of gross neglect of duty, dishonesty, grave misconduct and malversation of public funds. She is DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all her retirement benefits with prejudice to re-employment in any branch of the government or in any government-owned or controlled corporation.

3. DIRECT Respondent Roxas to RESTITUTE within thirty days from notice hereof the balance of her shortage amounting to P401,817.28. Of this amount, P400,817.28 shall be deposited to the Fiduciary Fund of MTC, Pulilan, Bulacan and the remaining amount of P1,000.00 to the Philippine Mediation Trust Fund of the same court; and to SUBMIT PROOF of such restitution to the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office of the Office of the Court Administration.

4. DIRECT the OCA to file the corresponding criminal case against Roxas.

5. DIRECT the Financial Management Office of the OCA to REMIT the unpaid salaries of Roxas from September 2004 to August 2008 amounting to P164,609.64 and her earned leave credits with the monetary value of P202,073.08 as of June 30, 2008 to the Fiduciary Account of the MTC, Pulilan, Bulacan as part of the restitution of her shortages and to furnish the FMD, CMO of the OCA with the machine-validated deposit slip as proof of such remittance.

6. DIRECT the OCA to SUBMIT its evaluation, report and recommendation on Arturo S. Batongbacal's Motion for Reconsideration, within ten (10) days from receipt of herein Resolution.

SO ORDERED.

Endnotes:


1 Rollo, p. 10.

2 Id. at 58.

3 Id. at 66-77.

4 Id. at 80.

5 Id. at 207.

6 Rollo, p. 211.

7 Id. at 213.

8 Id. at 214.

9 Id. at. 217.

10 Id. at 233.

11 Rollo, p. 227.

12 Rollo, pp. 232-C to 232-G.

13 Id. at 299.

14 Id. at 301.

15 Id. at 302.

16 Rollo, p. 507.

17 Id. at 296.

18 Id. at 519.

19 Id. at 523.

20 Id. at 527.

21 Rollo, p. 583.

22 Id. at 614.

23 Id. at 704.

24 Id. at 689.

25 Id. at 652.

26 Id. at 709.

27 Id. at 529.

28 Rollo, pp. 724-725.

29 Vilar v. Angeles, A.M. No. P-06-2276, February 5, 2007, 514 SCRA 147.

30 Concerned Citizen v. Gabral, Jr., A. M. No. P-05-2098, December 15, 2005, 478 SCRA 13.

31 Rollo, p. 350.

32 Office of the Court Administrator v. Fueconcillo, A.M. No. P-06-2208, August 26, 2008, 563 SCRA 276; Office of the Court Administrator v. Varela, A.M. No. P-06-2113, February 6, 2008, 544 SCRA 10, 21.

33 Id.

34 A.M. No. P-06-2140, June 26, 2006, 492 SCRA 469.

35 Id. at 482-483.

36 Office of the Court Administrator v. Varela, supra note 32.

37 Rollo, p. 298.

38 See reverse side of rollo, p. 298.

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