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A.M. No. P-05-1932 - JUDGE ROLANDO G. HOW v. TEODORA A. RUIZ

A.M. No. P-05-1932 - JUDGE ROLANDO G. HOW v. TEODORA A. RUIZ

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[A.M. NO. P-05-1932 : February 15, 2005]

JUDGE ROLANDO G. HOW, Regional Trial Court, Branch 257, Parañaque City, Complainant, v. TEODORA A. RUIZ, Court Stenographer III, Regional Trial Court, Branch 257, Parañaque City, Respondent.

R E S O L U T I O N

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

The present administrative case stemmed from an Affidavit-Complaint dated August 20, 2001, executed by Rolando G. How, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Parañaque, Branch 257, pertinent portions of which read as follows:

x x x

3. On August 16, 2001 at about 3:00 p.m., Teodora A. Ruiz submitted to me through the Branch Clerk her Daily Time Record for the month of July 2001 (Annex A);

x x x

4. I discovered that the entries she wrote in her Daily Time Record (Annex A) for the month of July 2001 are false and untrue;

5. Teodora A. Ruiz made it appear in her Daily Time Record (Annex A) that she reported for work at 8:00 a.m. on July 18, 2001 and at 8:00 a.m. on July 19, 2001 when in truth and in fact she reported for work on July 18, 2001 at 9:00 a.m. and on July 19, 2001 at 9:20 a.m.;

6. When her attention was called on the falsified entries, she changed the dates in her Daily Time Record (Annex A) to 9:00 a.m. on July 18, 2001 and 9:20 a.m. on July 19, 2001. The alterations she made are very visible in her Daily Time Record;

7 Teodora A. Ruiz made the falsifications contrary to her Oath written in her Daily Time Record x x x;

8. On August 14, 2001 at about 1:00 p.m. two days before she submitted the falsified Daily Time Record (Annex A) Teodora A. Ruiz falsified the entries in the attendance logbook (Annex B) by writing therein and making it appear that she reported for work at 8:00 a.m. on July 2, 2001, at 8:15 a.m. on July 6, 2001, at 8:10 a.m. on July 11, 2001, at 8:10 a.m. on July 12, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. on July 13, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. on July 16, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. on July 18, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. on July 19, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. on July 20, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. on July 24, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. on July 25, 2001, and at 8:00 a.m. on July 26, 2001, when in truth and in fact she did not report for work at 8:00 a.m. or at 8:10 a.m. or 8:15 a.m. on those dates.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

Because she was always very late (she arrived at 11:00 a.m. sometimes at 10:00 a.m. and sometimes at 9:30 a.m.) she did not anymore log her time of arrival in the attendance logbook. But on August 14, 2001 at about 1:00 p.m. as aforestated she got the logbook and wrote therein the falsified time of her arrival in the office;

9. Teodora A. Ruiz with criminal intent made the false entries in the attendance logbook (Annex B) so that it would jibe and support the falsified entries she made in her Daily Time Record (Annex A). Thus, after falsifying the entries in the attendance logbook (Annex B) on August 14, 2001 at 1:00 p.m., two days later on August 16, 2001 she prepared her Daily Time Record (Annex A) containing the same falsified entries;

10. Also, about one month before August 14, 2001, the date when she falsified that attendance logbook (Annex B), on July 10, 2001 Teodora A. Ruiz falsified the time of her arrival for work by writing and making it appear in the attendance logbook (Annex B) that she reported for work at 8:00 a.m. That when the falsification was discovered and when she was confronted by her co-employees she changed the entry by writing therein "11:00 a.m. 'half day." The alteration she made is very visible in the attendance logbook;

11. In summation, Teodora A. Ruiz committed three (3) counts of falsification of her Daily Time Record (Annex A) and the attendance logbook (Annex B) punishable under Art. 171 of the Revised Penal Code. x x x.1

The complaint was originally filed with the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, in turn, indorsed the case to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of this Court.

In her Comment,2 respondent denies complainant's allegations. She contends that the complaint filed by Judge How against her is a manifestation of the complainant's habit and propensity to harass and oppress members of his staff. Respondent claims that she did not falsify entries in their office's attendance logbook as well as entries in her Daily Time Record (DTR) for the month of July. She maintains her innocence of complainant's charges and concludes that the complaint filed by Judge How is tainted with bad faith and ill motive and that it was filed by complainant with no other purpose but to harass and pressure respondent and to demoralize her in pursuing her earlier complaint filed against Judge How.3 ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

On June 30, 2003, this Court issued a Resolution dropping respondent from the rolls for having been absent without official leave since September 2, 2002 up to the time of the issuance of the said resolution. The Court declared her position vacant.

Per Resolution of the Court dated July 23, 2003 the Court Administrator designated consultant, retired Justice Romulo S. Quimbo as the Hearing Officer-Designate. Subsequently, Justice Quimbo issued subpoenas directing both complainant and respondent to appear and testify before him.

On September 10, 2003, respondent submitted to the OCA a Manifestation/Motion contending that since this Court, by virtue of its Resolution dated June 30, 2003, had earlier resolved to drop her from the rolls, it thereby loses jurisdiction over the person of the respondent considering that she is no longer an employee of the court. Respondent then prayed that the instant administrative case be dismissed.

On June 10, 2004, respondent submitted another Manifestation reiterating her view that the OCA no longer has jurisdiction over her person and praying that she be excused from appearing during the hearing set on June 18, 2004.

Justice Quimbo proceeded with the hearing on June 18, 2004 and received evidence submitted by the complainant. Respondent failed to appear.

On June 21, 2004, Justice Quimbo submitted his report finding respondent guilty of dishonesty for having falsified the entries in their attendance logbook to conform to the equally false entries in her DTR. Justice Quimbo then recommended that the resolution dropping respondent from the roll of employees be amended and instead be considered a dismissal for cause, with forfeiture of any amount which may still be due respondent, and disqualifying her from reappointment in any instrumentality of the government and any government-owned or controlled corporation.

In a Memorandum dated October 6, 2004, addressed to Justice Reynato S. Puno, Chairman of the Second Division of this Court, the Court Administrator agreed with the findings and recommendation of Justice Quimbo.

We shall first discuss respondent's concern regarding the Court's jurisdiction over her person.

It is settled that the Court is not ousted of its jurisdiction over an administrative case by the mere fact that the respondent public official ceases to hold office during the pendency of respondent's case.4 In Perez v. Abiera, this Court held that:

In other words, the jurisdiction that was Ours at the time of the filing of the administrative complaint was not lost by the mere fact that the respondent public official had ceased to be in office during the pendency of his case. The Court retains its jurisdiction either to pronounce the respondent official innocent of the charges or declare him guilty thereof. A contrary rule would be fraught with injustices and pregnant with dreadful and dangerous implications. x x x If only for reasons of public policy, this Court must assert and maintain its jurisdiction over members of the judiciary and other officials under its supervision and control for acts performed in office which are inimical to the service and prejudicial to the interests of litigants and the general public. If innocent, respondent official merits vindication of his name and integrity as he leaves the government which he served well and faithfully; if guilty, he deserves to receive the corresponding censure and a penalty proper and imposable under the situation.5

In the present case, even if respondent has already been dropped from the rolls, her case still falls within the jurisdiction of the Court considering that the alleged infractions were committed and the instant administrative case was filed at the time that she was still a court employee.

Coming to the main issue in the present case: Is respondent guilty of falsifying the entries in their attendance logbook and in her DTR?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Complainant contends that respondent committed three counts of falsification, to wit:

a) On July 10, 2001, when she falsified the time of her arrival at work in the attendance logbook;

b) On August 14, 2001, when she falsified the time of her arrival for work on July 2, 6, 11, 12, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25 and 26, 2001 in the attendance logbook; and

c) On August 16, 2001, when she falsified the entries in her Daily Time Record.

After a review of the evidence presented, we find no basis for the allegations of complainant except for the July 10, 2001 incident.

At the outset, we take judicial notice of the fact that in government offices where there are no bundy clocks, it is a matter of practice for employees of these offices that upon arrival at work and before proceeding to their respective workstations, they first sign their names at the attendance logbook which is usually placed at an area in their office which is easily accessible to all the employees when they enter that office. It is only at the end of each month that employees fill up their DTR reflecting therein the entries earlier made in the logbook. In other words, the entries in the DTR are based on the entries made daily in the logbook.

In the present case, the first question, therefore, is whether the entries in the attendance logbook were falsified.

The evidence presented by complainant to prove his allegation that the entries in the logbook were indeed falsified was the affidavit of Fernando Garcia, which he affirmed on the witness stand. Garcia claims that respondent did not faithfully sign in the logbook for the month of July 2001, and that it was only on August 14, 2001 that respondent filled in all the entries for July 2001.

We are not persuaded by Garcia's claim because a review of the entries in the subject logbook shows that on July 3, 5 and 9 respondent's name was signed ahead of other names. If respondent signed the logbook only on August 14, 2001 her name should have turned up last in all of the pages for the month of July. Hence, the fact that respondent's name appears ahead of other names on various dates of July only shows that she signed her name on the logbook on those particular dates and not on August 14, as claimed by Garcia. Surely, a space could not have been left out specifically for respondent to sign her name ahead of the others. Garcia's claim could not, therefore, be relied upon. Moreover, the fact alone that respondent's name appears last in most pages of said logbook does not justify the conclusion that the entries therein do not accurately reflect the truth. On this basis, we find no sufficient evidence to prove that the entries in the attendance logbook were falsified.

The second question is whether respondent falsified her DTR for July 2001.

As to the alleged falsified entries on July 18 and 19, 2001, the attendance logbook reflects that respondent arrived at 8:00 a.m. of those dates. Relying on the accuracy of the entries in the logbook, we find it hard to believe that respondent could have placed an entry in her DTR to make it appear that she arrived late when the relevant entries in the logbook indicate that she arrived at work on time. With respect to the evidence presented by complainant, we find it incredible why it was only on July 18 and 19, 2001 that complainant and his witnesses knew the exact time of respondent's time of arrival without knowing the other times when respondent supposedly arrived late. As to Ernesto Lasatin's claim that he recorded in the calendar in front of his table the time that respondent arrived at their office on July 18 and 19, 2001, we find it strange why it was only during these dates that he noted down respondent's time of arrival. We find nothing in his affidavit or testimony showing any particular or special circumstance that prompted him to keep a note of the time when respondent arrived.

It is clear that there were alterations in the July 18 and 19 entries in respondent's DTR. However, based on the evidence on record, we find no substantial basis to hold respondent liable for such alterations.

Nonetheless, we are not persuaded by respondent's argument that she never intended to falsify her time of arrival on July 10, 2001. It is true that on that date respondent informed their Branch Clerk of Court, Atty. Obediencia that she (respondent) will be applying for a half-day leave. However, if respondent really intended to show that she arrived at work late during that day, then she should have written her actual time of arrival on the logbook. The fact that respondent initially wrote "8:00" on the logbook as her time of arrival but later corrected such entry by writing "11:00" only when her attention was called by her officemates is proof of her dishonesty.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

We find no basis in complainant's charge that respondent is habitually tardy. Civil Service Memorandum Circular No. 23, Series of 1998, describes habitual tardiness as follows:

Any employee shall be considered habitually tardy if he incurs tardiness, regardless of the number of minutes, ten (10) times a month for at least two (2) months in a semester or at least two (2) consecutive months during the year.

Aside from the allegations of complainant and the three witnesses he presented, no other competent proof was shown to support complainant's claim that respondent incurred tardiness beyond what is allowed by Civil Service rules and regulations. In the present case, complainant could have easily submitted copies of the various DTRs and entries in their attendance logbook to prove that respondent is indeed guilty of habitual tardiness. However, complainant's evidence only shows that respondent reported late for work six times during the month of July 2001. This cannot be considered habitual tardiness.

As to respondent's offense of dishonesty, the schedule of penalties in the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service provides that dishonesty is considered a grave offense which is punishable by dismissal from the service even only for the first infraction.6 However, considering that respondent has already been dropped from the rolls, we are left with no recourse but to impose a penalty of fine. It appearing that this is respondent's first offense, it is considered a mitigating circumstance in her favor.7 On this basis, we find it proper to impose a fine of P5,000.00 upon respondent.8

WHEREFORE, respondent Teodora A. Ruiz is found guilty of DISHONESTY and is hereby ordered to pay a FINE in the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00).

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairman), Callejo, Sr., Tinga and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


1 Exhibit "A," Rollo, pp. 6-8.

2 Rollo, pp. 29-36.

3 In Ruiz v. How, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1805, October 14, 2003, involving the same parties, herein complainant was found guilty of grave abuse of authority for injudiciously ordering the detention of herein respondent without sufficient legal ground. He was ordered to pay a fine of P5,000.00, admonished for his inaction on complainant's application for emergency leave, and sternly warned that repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

4 Aquino, Jr. v. Miranda, A.M. No. P-01-1453, May 27, 2004.

5 June 11, 1975, 64 SCRA 302, 306-307.

6 Section 5 2(A)(1), Rule VI, Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.

7 Re: Alleged Tampering of the DTR of Sherry B. Cervantes, A.M. No. 03-8-463-RTC, May 20, 2004.

8 Reyes-Domingo v. Morales, October 4, 2000, 342 SCRA 6, 19.

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