Home of ChanRobles Virtual Law Library



[A.M. No. P-01-1460. February 28, 2002.]

ESPERANZA L. DE GUZMAN, Complainant, v. NORMA M. BURCE, Clerk of Court III, Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 61, Makati City, Respondent.



This concerns a letter, dated May 10, 1999, of Mrs. Esperanza L. de Guzman, charging respondent Mrs. Norma M. Burce, Clerk of Court III of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 61, Makati City with dishonesty for failure to pay just debt, conduct unbecoming a government employee and prejudicial to the best interests of the judiciary, and falsification of a provisional receipt for partial payment of her indebtedness.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Complainant is the wife of retired Judge Salvador P. de Guzman, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 142, Makati City. It appears that after his retirement on December 6, 1997, Judge de Guzman, Jr. put up a business, servicing judicial employees of Makati who borrow against their salary checks. Judge de Guzman, Jr. later turned over the management of the business to his wife, herein complainant Esperanza de Guzman, who named the business "Sal-Ad (for salary advance) Credit Enterprises." 1

In her letter, dated May 10, 1999, complainant alleges that respondent received the following amounts either in check or in cash, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

P5,000.00 April 2, 1998 Check No. 441364

5,000.00 April 6, 1998 In cash

5,000.00 April 8, 1998 Check No. 441399

10,000.00 May 20, 1998 Not stated whether received

in check or in cash

5,000.00 May 25, 1998 Not stated whether received

in check or in cash

1,000.00 August 4, 1998 Not stated whether received

in check or in cash

1,500.00 August 6, 1998 Not stated whether received

————— in check or in cash

Total P32,500.00, excluding interest.

Complainant alleges that respondent refused to pay her obligation, insisting that, as shown in Provisional Receipt No. 0179, dated July 17, 1998, her balance was only P13,000.00, which she had already settled and for which she was given change for her P16,667.00 amelioration check. Complainant denies respondent’s claim and says the copy of Provisional Receipt No. 0179 in her possession does not have any entry showing "Bal.-13,000.00." Complainant says that she sent respondent a second demand letter, dated April 14, 1999, giving her a final grace period of five days to settle her account, but respondent insisted that she had already submitted receipts showing full payment of her indebtedness. Complainant therefore seeks the dismissal of respondent from the service with prejudice to re-employment.

Commenting on the complaint against her, respondent alleges that she borrowed from Sal-Ad Credit Enterprises four times, and in each instance, she was issued a check at a discounted rate, to wit: P5,000.00 on April 2 and 8, 1998, for which she was issued a Solid Bank check for P4,500.00; P10,000.00 on May 20, 1998, for which she was issued a Solid Bank check for P9,000.00; and P5,000.00 on May 28, 1998, for which she was issued a Solid Bank check for P4,500.00. According to respondent, the difference between the amounts of the loans and those of the checks represented advance interest. Respondent further alleges that she already paid her April 2 and 8, 1998 loans with her amelioration check in the amount of P16,667.09, for which she was issued a provisional receipt, dated May 18, 1998, for full payment of her loans in the total amount of P10,500.00, and another receipt for her change in the amount of P6,167.00. 2

With respect to her loans on May 20 and 28, 1998 in the total amount of P15,000.00, respondent admits that she was not able to immediately pay the same because certain benefits, which she and other employees of the MeTC expected, did not arrive on time. Nonetheless, when her Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) check in the amount of P5,500.00 arrived, respondent claims she immediately tendered the same on July 17, 1998, with the request that she be allowed to make only partial payment of her loans. Mrs. Flora (Flordeliza) Ochoco, complainant’s former employee, allegedly granted respondent’s request and issued to her Provisional Receipt No. 0179 for P2,000.00, representing partial payment, and P1,500.00, representing advance interest. 3 After receiving her change in cash in the amount of P2,000.00, respondent claims she asked Mrs. Ochoco "to indicate in my receipt my true and correct balance as of July 17, 1998 in the amount of P13,000.00."cralaw virtua1aw library

According to respondent, she was called by complainant in 1998 to the latter’s office and was confronted with several papers containing erasures and superimpositions. She was asked whether she had received cash advances from Mrs. Ochoco. She allegedly replied that the loans she received were in Solid Bank and UCPB checks. In another instance, at complainant’s office, respondent says she was presented with a statement of account indicating that she had not paid her first two loans and that she had received all her loans in cash. She objected to this as well as the imposition of daily interest. She was asked for copies of the receipts issued to her, which she gave. Respondent says that in turn she asked for copies of the papers shown to her regarding her account, but she was never given the copies. Nonetheless, respondent claims that, to show her good faith, on February 16, 1999, she again paid with a check the amount of P1,000.00, P400.00 of which was applied to the principal and P600.00 to the interest as shown in Provisional Receipt No. 0951 of even date. 4 However, respondent alleges, complainant refused her tender of payment.

Respondent says that she pleaded with complainant not to charge "very high interest, but complainant said she uses the same for the salaries of her employees and to pay rent." Respondent states that complainant filed a criminal case for falsification of a private document against her in connection with the addition of "Bal.-13,000.00" in the original case of Provisional Receipt No. 0179, but said complaint was dismissed.

Thereafter, the parties were required to file manifestations whether they were willing to submit this case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings.

In her answer/manifestation, respondent signified her willingness to submit the case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings. She informed the Court that the dismissal of the criminal case for falsification filed against her by complainant had been affirmed by the Department of Justice. She accused complainant of falsifying Provisional Receipt No. 0179 by postdating it July 23, 1998, when it was actually issued on July 17, 1998 as indicated in the original thereof.

Complainant filed a rejoinder, to which respondent filed a reply, manifesting her willingness to consider the case submitted for decision. Hence this decision.

The charges against respondent involve the following offenses: (1) willful failure to pay just debts and (2) falsification by intercalating in Provisional Receipt No. 0179 the entry of "Bal.-13,000.00."cralaw virtua1aw library

With regard to the charge that respondent willfully failed to pay just debts, Book V, Title I, Chapter 7, Subtitle A (Civil Service Commission), §46 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 (E.O. No. 292) provides:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(b) The following shall be grounds for disciplinary action.

(22) Willful failure to pay just debts or willful failure to pay taxes to the government; . . .

Rule XIV, §23 of the Implementing Rules of the Civil Service defines "just debts" as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The term "just debts" shall apply only to:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. claims adjudicated by a court of law;

2. claims the existence and justness of which are admitted by the debtor.

On the basis of the record, there is insufficient evidence to find respondent guilty of willful refusal to pay a just and valid debt. Respondent’s indebtedness, we understand, is at present subject of a collection case filed by complainant, docketed as Civil Case No. 22374, in the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 33, Quezon City, because while respondent admits her indebtedness to complainant, there is serious dispute as to the total amount of money she actually borrowed from the latter. In her complaint, dated May 10, 1999, complainant alleges that respondent’s loans amounted to P32,500.00. But, in her demand letter, 5 dated April 14, 1999, to respondent, complainant states that" [o]ur records show that you [respondent] were able to receive from us a total of P22,500.00." Respondent herself admits borrowing the total amount of P25,000.00, but alleges receipt of only P22,500.00, the amount of P2,500.00 having been deducted in advance as interest.

The parties also differ with respect to the total amount, after interest, which respondent still owes complainant. Per complainant’s demand letter, dated April 14, 1999, respondent had paid only P2,000.00 on April 17, 1998 and P400.00 on February 16, 1999, thus reducing the principal to P20,100.00. To this amount complainant added interest in the amount of P19,295.00 as of April 15, 1999, thus bringing the total amount of indebtedness to P39,395.00. On the other hand, respondent claims that the balance of her debt is P13,000.00, taking into account her payment of P10,500.00 on May 18, 1998 and P3,5000.00 on July 17, 1998. She also claims that she made a later payment of P1,000.00 on February 16, 1999. She denies liability for interest on the ground that this was unilaterally imposed by complainant.

Given this disagreement as to the actual amount of the debt and the fact that complainant’s claim is the subject of litigation in court, it cannot be said that respondent is guilty of willful refusal to pay a just and valid debt. As we held in Martinez v. Muñoz, 6 the Court is not a collection agency.

With regard to the charge that respondent falsified a private document (Provisional Receipt No. 0179) by intercalating the word and figure "Bal.- P13,000.00," the Court does not find the same to have been sufficiently established. Respondent claims that the entries in the receipt were made by complainant’s former manager, Mrs. Flordeliza "Flora" Ochoco. Indeed, complainant does not deny that it was Mrs. Ochoco, then employed by her, who issued the receipt to Respondent. Moreover, the record shows that the City Prosecution Office in Makati dismissed the criminal complaint for falsification filed against respondent, and the basis of the dismissal was precisely that it was Sal-Ad Credit Enterprises’ former manager, Flordeliza Ochoco, who made all the entries in the receipt in question. Mrs. Ochoco herself confirmed this fact. 7 This finding of the City Prosecutor was affirmed by the Department of Justice in its resolution, dated August 15, 2000. 8

WHEREFORE, the complaint against respondent Norma M. Burce, Clerk of Court III, Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 61, Makati City is DISMISSED for lack of merit.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary


Bellosillo, Quisumbing, Buena and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.


1. Affidavit, dated May 4, 2001, of Judge Salvador P. De Guzman, Jr. attached as annex to complainant’s rejoinder to respondent’s answer/manifestation.

2. Annex 1 of respondent’s answer.

3. Id., Annex 2.

4. Id., Annex 4.

5. Annex to the complaint.

6. 249 SCRA 14 (1995).

7. Resolution, dated June 25, 1999, of the City Prosecution Office in I.S. No. 99-F-155550; Annex 14 of respondent’s answer.

8. Annex 3 of respondent’s answer/manifestation.

Top of Page