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A.M. No. P-08-2439 (Formerly OCA IPI No. 08-2733-P), June 25, 2013 - JUDGE MA. MONINA S. MISAJON, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT (MTC), SAN JOSE, ANTIQUE, Complainant, v. JERENCE P. HIPONIA, CLERK II, ELIZABETH B. ESCANILLAS, STENOGRAPHER I, WILLIAM M. YGLESIAS, PROCESS SERVER, AND CONRADO A. RAFOLS, JR., UTILITY AIDE, ALL OF THE SAME COURT, Respondents.

A.M. No. P-08-2439 (Formerly OCA IPI No. 08-2733-P), June 25, 2013 - JUDGE MA. MONINA S. MISAJON, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT (MTC), SAN JOSE, ANTIQUE, Complainant, v. JERENCE P. HIPONIA, CLERK II, ELIZABETH B. ESCANILLAS, STENOGRAPHER I, WILLIAM M. YGLESIAS, PROCESS SERVER, AND CONRADO A. RAFOLS, JR., UTILITY AIDE, ALL OF THE SAME COURT, Respondents.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

A.M. No. P-08-2439 (Formerly OCA IPI No. 08-2733-P), June 25, 2013

JUDGE MA. MONINA S. MISAJON, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT (MTC), SAN JOSE, ANTIQUE, Complainant, v. JERENCE P. HIPONIA, CLERK II, ELIZABETH B. ESCANILLAS, STENOGRAPHER I, WILLIAM M. YGLESIAS, PROCESS SERVER, AND CONRADO A. RAFOLS, JR., UTILITY AIDE, ALL OF THE SAME COURT, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

 

We resolve the complaint1 for dishonesty and habitual absenteeism filed by Judge Ma. Monina S. Misajon, now retired, against respondent Process Server William M. Yglesias.

Records show that  Yglesias was absent for 6.5 days in January 2007,2 10.5 days in February 2007,3 3.5 days in March 2007,4 10 days in April 2007,5 and 13 days in May 2007.6  Judge Misajon recommended that Yglesias’s sick leave application for his successive 6-day absence in January 2007 be disapproved on the ground that he consulted a doctor only after his illness.  As regards his absences in February and March 2007, Judge Misajon pointed out that Yglesias failed to file an application for sick or vacation leave.  Judge Misajon also recommended that Yglesias’s applications for sick leave in April and May 2007 be respectively disapproved for late filing and lack of a supporting medical certificate.

In his comment,7 Yglesias claims that he is not a tardy or lazy person.  He points out that his attendance in June 2007 was already perfect after Judge Misajon retired on June 12, 2007.  He claims that for years, he suffered Judge Misajon’s wrath due to his blood relation to retired Clerk of Court Lagrimas Feranil who was also charged by Judge Misajon.  He suffered depression and erratic blood pressure due to the constant pressure, stress and tension at the office.  This is the main reason why he was sometimes late and absent in the office.  Judge Misajon also refused to approve his leave application forms.  While he wanted to perform his duties, he preferred to suffer in silence to avoid conflict with Judge Misajon who called him incompetent, untrustworthy and lazy and who gave him unsatisfactory performance rating for more than 10 years.  He adds that Judge Misajon did not allow him to serve court processes alleging that he cannot be trusted.  Indeed, Judge Misajon even allowed the police to serve court processes, leaving him with nothing to do.  Judge Misajon’s persecution made him lose self-esteem and lowered his morale that he no longer wanted to go to the office because Judge Misajon made him feel so inept.  But now, with Judge Emilio Rodolfo Y. Legaspi as their Acting Judge, he was given a chance to prove his worth.  Judge Legaspi allowed him to serve court processes.  After long years of oppression, he now feels confident and "in positive spirits."  He thus prays that his comment be given consideration and the complaint against him be dismissed for lack of merit.

The Investigating Judge designated by the Court found that Yglesias is guilty of habitual absenteeism and that he deserves the penalty of dismissal for having committed the offense for the second time.  In its evaluation report, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) agreed with the Investigating Judge.  The OCA found as follows:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

Respondent Yglesias’s applications for sick leave for the months of January and April 2007 exceeded [5] days and said leave applications were not accompanied by any medical certificate to prove that he was indeed sick during those days.  Also, the leave application for the month of April 2007 was filed only on May 21, 2007, or [21] days after the last day of the sick leave already taken in violation of the x x x rule that the leave application should be filed "immediately upon employee’s return from sick leave".  It is noted that a Medical Certificate issued by Dr. Lino S. Hernaez was attached to the May 2007 sick leave application xxx.  However, despite being absent for 13 days, respondent Yglesias failed to notify [Judge Misajon] or his immediate supervisor of such illness xxx.

In addition, the absences of respondent Yglesias for [10.5] days in February 2007 x x x and x x x [3.5] days in March 2007 xxx may be considered "unauthorized absences" as the record does not disclose that respondent Yglesias applied for sick leave or for vacation leave.

x x x [I]t is clear that Yglesias incurred unauthorized absences for more than the allowable [2.5] days monthly leave credit for [5] months which is characterized under the Leave Law as habitual absenteeism.

Respondent Yglesias did not refute these findings in his Comment and during the investigation.  His only explanation was that he was sometimes late and absent because he was suffering from depression and erratic blood pressure brought on by constant pressure, stress and tension at the office for more than [10] years and that [Judge Misajon’s] persecutions, calling him as incompetent, untrustworthy or lazy has made him lose his self-esteem.  These reasons hardly justify said absences because he cannot put the blame on [Judge Misajon].8nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary

After our own review of the records, we find Yglesias guilty of habitual absenteeism.  He incurred the following unauthorized absences: 6 days in January, 10 days in February, 10 days in April, and 13 days in May, all in the first semester of the year 2007.

Yglesias’s sick leave application for 6 successive days of absence on January 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9, 2007 must be denied, not on the ground that he consulted a doctor only after his illness, but for lack of the required proof – a medical certificate – attesting that he was suffering from an illness.  Sick leave is granted only on account of sickness or disability on the part of the employee concerned or any member of his immediately family.  And an application for sick leave in excess of 5 successive days must be accompanied by a proper medical certificate.  These rules are clearly provided for under Sections 53 and 54 of the Omnibus Rules on Leave, issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), as follows:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

SEC. 53. Application for sick leave. – All applications for sick leave of absence for one full day or more shall be made on the prescribed form and shall be filed immediately upon employee’s return from such leave.  Notice of absence, however, should be sent to the immediate supervisor and/or to the agency head.  Application for sick leave in excess of five (5) successive days shall be accompanied by a proper medical certificate.

Sick leave may be applied for in advance in cases where the official or employee will undergo medical examination or operation or advised to rest in view of ill health duly supported by a medical certificate. In ordinary application for sick leave already taken not exceeding five days, the head of department or agency concerned may duly determine whether or not granting of sick leave is proper under the circumstances.  In case of doubt, a medical certificate may be required.

SEC. 54. Approval of sick leave. – Sick leave shall be granted only on account of sickness or disability on the part of the employee concerned or of any member of his immediately family.

Approval of sick leave, whether with pay or without pay, is mandatory provided proof of sickness or disability is attached to the application in accordance with the requirements prescribed under the preceding section.  Unreasonable delay in the approval thereof or non-approval without justifiable reason shall be a ground for appropriate sanction against the official concerned. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

Thus, Yglesias’s absences for 6 successive days in January 2007 are unauthorized.  Regarding his half-day "absence" one morning, he was not required to file a sick or vacation leave application form therefor since it was less than 1 full day.   Indeed, all applications for sick leave of absence for 1 full day or more shall be made on the prescribed form and shall be filed immediately upon the employee’s return from such leave.  Section 51 of the Omnibus Rules on Leave also requires that all applications for vacation leave of absence for 1 full day or more shall be submitted on the prescribed form for action by the proper head of agency 5 days in advance, whenever possible, of the effective date of such leave.  Now, under Memorandum Circular No. 17, series of 2010, issued by the CSC, an employee is considered tardy for his absence in the morning.

Yglesias’s absences for 10 full days in February 2007 are likewise unauthorized since he did not file an application for sick or vacation leave.  Regarding his half-day "absence" one afternoon, he was not required to file a sick or vacation leave application form therefor.  Now, under Memorandum Circular No. 17, series of 2010, issued by the CSC, such half-day absence is considered undertime.

In March 2007, Yglesias had 2 full-day absences and 3 half-day "absences."  Since he failed to file an application for sick or vacation leave for his 2 full-day absences, these are deemed unauthorized.  Regarding his 3 half-day "absences" in the afternoon, he was not required to file a sick or vacation leave application form therefor.  These are now considered undertime.

Yglesias was absent also for 10 days on April 4, 10, 13, 17, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, and 30, 2007.  He filed his sick leave application for said absences on May 21, 2007.  Clearly, he failed to file immediately his sick leave application for his absence on April 4 and 10 when he reported on April 11, failed to file immediately his application for his absence on April 13 when he reported on April 16, failed also to file immediately his application for his absence on April 17 when he reported on April 18, and likewise failed to file immediately for his absence on April 19 to 25 when he reported on April 26.  As already mentioned, all applications for sick leave of absence for 1 full day or more shall be made on the prescribed form and shall be filed immediately upon the employee’s return from such leave.  Thus, Yglesias’s application for sick leave was filed late insofar as his absences on April 4, 10, 13, 17, 19 to 25, 2007 (9 days) are concerned.  But said application was timely filed with respect to his absence on April 30, 2007 since he was absent for 13 consecutive working days from May 2 to 21, 2007.

In addition, the OCA noted that there was no medical certificate to support his application for sick leave.  As stated, Yglesias should have filed such application on April 11, 16, 18 and 26, 2007.  If he did, no period covered by those applications exceeded 5 successive days and supporting medical certificates would not have been a mandatory requirement.  But since he filed a single application for his 10-day absence in April 2007, a period exceeding his successive 5-day absence on April 19 to 25, 2007, he needed to attach a medical certificate to his application.  It cannot be overemphasized that the proper procedure is to file a sick leave application immediately upon the employee’s return from such leave.

Accordingly, Yglesias incurred 10 days of unauthorized absences in April 2007 as his sick leave application must be denied for lack of a supporting medical certificate.  The application was also filed late with respect to his absence for 9 days on April 4, 10, 13, 17, 19 to 25, 2007.

Regarding his absences in May 2007, Yglesias attached a proper medical certificate9 to his sick leave application.  Judge Misajon erred that the application was filed late since it was filed immediately upon Yglesias’s return on May 22, 2007.  What Yglesias failed to do, the OCA noted, is to inform Judge Misajon or his immediate supervisor of his illness.  Indeed, the notice requirement is a very simple rule which Yglesias failed to follow.  Given his 13-day absence in May 2007, Yglesias’s failure to inform Judge Misajon or his supervisor of his illness is a valid ground to deny his sick leave application.

With the foregoing clarification, we agree with the Investigating Judge and the OCA that Yglesias was habitually absent.  He incurred unauthorized absences exceeding the allowable 2.5 days monthly leave credit for 4 months in the first semester of 2007: 6 days in January, 10 days in February, 10 days in April, and 13 days in May.  Under Administrative Circular No. 14-2002,10 an officer or employee shall be considered habitually absent if he incurs unauthorized absences exceeding the allowable 2.5 days monthly leave credit under the law for at least 3 months in a semester, to wit:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

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 [3] months in a semester or at least [3] consecutive months during the year;chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
x x x x

B. SANCTIONS

x x x x

1st offense – Suspension for [6] months and [1] day to [1] year
2nd offense – Dismissal from the service

This is the second time that Yglesias committed habitual absenteeism.  In Judge Misajon v. Clerk of Court Feranil,11 Yglesias was fined P15,000 for absenteeism, inefficiency and insubordination.  Thus, under the aforesaid administrative circular and Section 52 (A) (17), Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, the imposable penalty for Yglesias’s second offense of habitual absenteeism is dismissal from service.

Nonetheless, in several administrative cases, we refrained from imposing the actual penalties in the presence of mitigating facts.  We have considered the employee’s length of service, acknowledgment of his or her infractions and feelings of remorse, advanced age, family circumstances and other humanitarian and equitable considerations in determining the appropriate penalty.  We also ruled that where a penalty less punitive would suffice, whatever missteps may be committed by the employee ought not to be visited with a consequence so severe.  It is not only for the law’s concern for the workingman; there is, in addition, his family to consider.  Unemployment brings untold hardships and sorrows to those dependent on the wage earners.  The compassion we extended in these cases was not without legal basis.  Section 53, Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service grants the disciplinary authority the discretion to consider mitigating circumstances in the imposition of the proper penalty.12

In Office of the Court Administrator v. Araya, Jr.,13 we considered the respondent’s humility, remorse and willingness to admit his culpability.  He incurred absences during the time when he had to take care of his ailing father, who was then sick of prostate cancer.  He has been also in government service for about 20 years.  In that case, we said that the respondent deserves some degree of leniency.  We suspended him for 6 months without pay for dishonesty which is punishable by dismissal even for the first offense and although he was reprimanded earlier in another case.  In Dayaon v. De Leon,14 we considered De Leon’s length of service, acknowledgment of her infraction and apology and suspended her for 1 month without pay for habitual absenteeism.  In Cabato v. Centino,15 we said that the OCA aptly considered Centino’s act to reform as a mitigating circumstance. We also considered Centino’s length of service, acknowledgment of his infraction, and apology in suspending him for 3 months without pay for his habitual absenteeism.

In this case, Yglesias admitted his absences in his comment.  He pleads for some consideration, however, in view of what he says was the close-to-unbearable working conditions under Judge Misajon.  Yglesias’s comment, which had been considered as his testimony on direct examination, is uncontested.  This is not the first time that aforesaid working conditions had been brought to our attention.  In Judge Misajon v. Clerk of Court Feranil, we already noted that - -

Undeniably, the bitterness of the dispute between the feuding parties left bruised egos and wounded feelings in its wake.  Still, the escalation of such a conflict could have been avoided had Judge Misajon acted with that degree of equanimity demanded of her stature. As a member of the Bench, she should have adhered to the standard of behavior expected of being a "cerebral" individual who deliberately holds in check the tug and pull of purely personal preferences and prejudices which she shares with the rest of her fellow mortals.

Judge Misajon humiliated complainant [Feranil] in the presence of other court personnel, the parties or the public.  All judges should always observe courtesy and civility.  They should be temperate, patient and courteous, both in conduct and in language.  Indeed, Judge Misajon can hold her colleagues in the Bench and her staff to the efficient performance of their duties without being offensive in her speech, remembering always that courtesy begets courtesy.16nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary

We also take note that in June 2007, Yglesias indeed had perfect attendance.17  He also submitted proof18 that he was already allowed to do his job, to serve court processes, after Judge Misajon retired.  These constitute substantial evidence that he has reformed. He also says that he has 7 children to feed and send to school and his wife is jobless – family considerations which provide strong motivation for him to improve his work performance.  Under the circumstances, we find it proper not to dismiss him from service for his second offense of habitual absenteeism, and instead the lower penalty of suspension of 1 year and 1 month to give him one last chance.

As to the charge of dishonesty, nothing supports the same in Judge Misajon’s complaint, which had been considered as her testimony on direct examination, in her testimony on cross-examination,19 in her answers to the questions of the Investigating Judge,20 and in her affidavit.21  Thus, we dismiss the charge of dishonesty for lack of factual basis.

WHEREFORE, we FIND respondent William M. Yglesias, Process Server, Municipal Trial Court, San Jose, Antique, GUILTY of habitual absenteeism and SUSPEND him for 1 year and 1 month, with STERN WARNING that commission of the same or similar offense in the future will be dealt with more severely.  The charge of dishonesty is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Abad, Perez, Mendoza, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, and Leonen, JJ., concur.
Peralta, J., on official leave.


Endnotes:


1Rollo, pp. 5-7.  Per Resolution dated October 22, 2012, the Court adopted the recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator in its evaluation report dated August 24, 2012 that the complaint be dismissed insofar as the three other respondents are concerned.  Id. at 294.cralawlibrary

2 Id. at 132-133.cralawlibrary

3 Id. at 134.cralawlibrary

4 Id. at 135.cralawlibrary

5 Id. at 137, 139.cralawlibrary

6 Id. at 138, 140.cralawlibrary

7 Id. at 35-36.cralawlibrary

8 Id. at 291-292.cralawlibrary

9 Id. at 141.cralawlibrary

10 Reiterating the Civil Service Commission’s Policy on Habitual Absenteeism, issued on March 18, 2002 and took effect on April 1, 2002.cralawlibrary

11 483 Phil. 340, 357 (2004).cralawlibrary

12Office of the Court Administrator v. Araya, Jr., A.M. No. P-12-3053, April 11, 2012, 669 SCRA 124, 133.cralawlibrary

13 Id. at 132-134.cralawlibrary

14 A.M. No. P-11-2926, February 1, 2012, 664 SCRA 513, 518.cralawlibrary

15 A.M. No. P-08-2572, November 19, 2008, 571 SCRA 390, 396-397.cralawlibrary

16 Supra note 11, at 348.cralawlibrary

17Rollo, p. 38.cralawlibrary

18 Id. at 39-42.cralawlibrary

19 Id. at 247-255.cralawlibrary

20 Id. at 223-227.cralawlibrary

21 Id. at 114-116.
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