Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 2003 > December 2003 Decisions > A.M. No. 01-2-18-MTC December 5, 2003 - REPORT ON THE FINANCIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED AT THE MTC OF BANI, ALAMINOS AND LINGAYEN, IN PANGASINAN:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.M. No. 01-2-18-MTC. December 5, 2003.]

REPORT ON THE FINANCIAL AUDIT CONDUCTED AT THE MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURTS OF BANI, ALAMINOS, AND LINGAYEN, IN PANGASINAN.

D E C I S I O N


PER CURIAM:


On January 26, 2001, the Judicial Audit team of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) submitted a report on the audit conducted in the Municipal Trial Courts in Bani, Alaminos and Lingayen, Pangasinan. Based on the said report, the Court issued a Resolution dated March 7, 2001, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(a) DIRECT Clerk of Court VIRGILIO TUGAS, MTC-Bani, Pangasinan, to: (1) EXPLAIN why no administrative sanction shall be imposed upon him for misappropriating government funds and for his failure to submit his monthly report of collections, deposits/withdrawals since 1995 up to the time of audit; and (2) RESTITUTE the shortages in the JDF P42,314.00; Gen. Fund P6,751.00 and Fiduciary Fund P254,225.00;chanrob1es virtual law library

(b) DIRECT clerk of Court Carmen Tantay, MTC-Lingayen, Pangasinan, to: (1) EXPLAIN why no administrative sanction shall be imposed upon her for misappropriating government funds and for her failure to submit her monthly report of collections, deposits/withdrawals since 1995 up to the time of audit; (2) RESTITUTE the shortages in the JDF P145,140.20; Gen. Fund P35,530.00 and Fiduciary Fund P931,470.00; (3) ACCOUNT for the missing receipts with serial numbers 3392001 to 3392050; 3392301 to 3392350; 8051501 to 8051550; 8051551 to 8051600; 8051601 to 8051650; 8051651 to 8051700; 8051751 to 8051800; 8051801 to 8051850 and 8051851 to 8051900; and (4) SUBMIT a certification from the Municipal Treasurer’s Office as to the unwithdrawn Fiduciary Fund as of May 31, 2000;

c) SUSPEND Mr. Tugas and Mrs. Tantay from office and RELIEVE them of their functions as the Clerk of Court of MTC, Bani, Pangasinan and Lingayen, Pangasinan, respectively; and

d) ISSUE a HOLD DEPARTURE ORDER for Mrs. Carmen Tantay and Mr. Virgilio C. Tugas to refrain them from leaving the country.

In a Letter dated October 26, 2001, respondent Tugas denied having misappropriated government funds. He averred that Executive Judge Jules A. Mejia relieved him of his duties and detailed a Deputy Sheriff as Officer-in-Charge Clerk of Court as of September 13, 2000. 1 He clarified that the financial audit report failed to consider withdrawals made which were covered by court orders and acknowledged receipts, amounting to P224,000.00. 2

The respondent, however, admitted his failure to deposit the amounts in his possession. He also admitted that he told the audit team that he used part of his collection when his son Virgilio was hospitalized on September 24–26, 1999, 3 and unfortunately died on October 4, 1999. 4 He was quick to aver that he was able to "substitute" the said amount, and further explained, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

6. As per audit, I have an accounted collection in the total amount of Three Hundred Three Thousand Two Hundred Ninety pesos (P303,290.00), but as explained and detailed above, your Honors, I have a cash on hand of Eighty Two thousand Seven Hundred Fifty Five pesos (82,755.00) and cashbond withdrawals of Two Hundred Twenty Four Thousand pesos (P224,000.00) or a total of Three hundred Six Thousand Seven Hundred Fifty Five (P306,755). Therefore I have an excess of Three Thousand Four Hundred Sixty five pesos (P3,465.00) which is my personal money included in the inventory of the Deputy Sheriff who relieved me;

x       x       x


8. I am not a criminal, your Honors, however flimsy or laughable my reason in your estimate, please consider my case with understanding and compassion and I pray that I will be given another chance and this will not be done again your Honors;chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

If I may not be allowed to continue my work as Clerk of Court, at least Your Honors, allow me for the early retirement and to leave the service with dignity and for me to received [sic] all the benefits of my long service with the Judiciary and I will be forever grateful, Your Honors. 5

For respondent Tantay’s failure to comply with the Court’s Resolution of March 7, 2001, another Resolution dated December 5, 2001 was issued, directing Presiding Judge Hermogenes C. Fernandez, MTC, Lingayen, Pangasinan, to serve the previous resolution anew. The respondent’s brother, Lazaro Ferrer, eventually received the resolution on January 14, 2002. On May 8, 2002, respondent Tantay was required to show cause why she should not be disciplinary dealt with for such failure and to comply with the Resolution of March 7, 2001, requiring said explanation. Upon her failure to comply with the Court’s directive, the Court further resolved to impose a fine of P1,000.00, or in lieu thereof, imprisonment for five days, upon the respondent’s failure to explain and restitute shortages and accounting of the missing receipts, within ten days from notice thereof. 6

The Court Administrator was, thereafter, directed to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the matter in a Resolution dated December 16, 2002. In a Report dated September 12, 2003, the OCA recommended that:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(1) The financial audit report be docketed as a regular complaint against Virgilio A. Tugas, Clerk of Court, MTC, Bani, Pangasinan and Mrs. Carmen F. Tantay, Clerk of Court, MTC, Lingayen, Pangasinan, for gross misconduct and dishonesty.

(2) Respondents be found GUILTY of dishonesty and gross misconduct and be DISMISSED from the service with prejudice to reemployment in any government agency, including government owned and controlled corporations; all withheld salaries, allowances and benefits if any be ordered FORFEITED; respondents be further DIRECTED to restitute their total accountabilities, all these without prejudice to the filing of the appropriate civil and criminal actions against them.

(3) Mr. Virgilio B. Tugas be DIRECTED to restitute the amount of Eighty Nine Thousand Three Hundred Ninety Pesos (89,390.00) representing his shortages in the following: JDF — P42,314.00; General Fund — P6,751.00; and Fiduciary Fund — P40,325.00;

(4) Ms. Carmen F. Tantay be DIRECTED to restitute the amount of One Million One Hundred Twelve Thousand One Hundred Forty Pesos (P1,212,140) representing [her] shortages in the following: JDF — P145,140.20; General Fund — P35,530.00; and Fiduciary Fund — P931,470.00;chanrob1es virtual law library

(5) The Legal Office be DIRECTED to file the criminal charges against Mr. Tugas and Mrs. Tantay;

(6) The Employees Leave Division, OAS-OCA be DIRECTED to compute the balance of earned leave credits of Mr. Tugas and Mrs. Tantay and forward the same to the Finance the Division, FMO-OCA which shall compute the money value of the leave credits and other monetary benefits that Mr. Tugas and Mrs. Tantay are still entitled to receive from the Court, the amount to be included as restitution of the computed shortages. 7

Respondent Clerk of Court Tugas is liable for misappropriating government funds which warrants the imposition of the penalty of dismissal.

Respondent Tugas is clearly administratively liable for his actions, as he himself admitted that he used the court’s funds to finance his son’s hospitalization, and replaced the money afterwards. According to the Court Administrator’s Report:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The accountability for Fiduciary Fund found in the first audit was amended and computed based on the supporting documents for withdrawal attached to the explanation of Mr. Tugas which is as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Total collections from 12/28/95–11/22/99 (excluding the

direct deposits made by the party litigants with the MTO;

P347,080.00 + 80,800.00) P427,880.00

Less: Withdrawals made for the same period (a–g) from

collections recorded in the cashbook P224,000.00

Unwithdrawn Fiduciary Funds as of Sept 19, 2000 P203,880.00

Less: Remittances made

– Balance of direct deposit to MTO P80,800.00

– Deposit made to MTO per OR#7914335 on 9/14/00

by Mr. Emmanuel Odero (Deputy Sheriff RTC,

Alaminos, Pang.) from the cash on hand of

Mr. Tugas representing various collections for

undetermined period of time 82,755.00 163,555.00

–––––––––

P40,325.00

========

As shown in the above computation, Mr. Tugas incurred a shortage of Forty Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-Five Pesos (P40,325.00). There is therefore no basis in the claim of Mr. Tugas that he has an average of Three Thousand Four Hundred Sixty-Five Pesos (P3,465.00). He must therefore restitute all the shortages amounting to Eighty Nine Thousand Three Hundred Ninety Pesos (P89,390.00) computed as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Judiciary Development Fund P42,314.00

Clerk of Court General Fund 6,751.00

Clerk of Court Fiduciary Fund P40,325.00

––––––––––

Total Shortage P89,390.00

The actuation/commission/omission of Mr. Tugas is in wanton violation of the Circulars issued by this Court. He is guilty of: (1) non-issuance of official receipts and acknowledge receipts of payment of filing fees which is a violation of Article 2, Section 69 of the Government Accounting and Auditing Manual (GAAM) and Section 68 of P.D. 1445; (2) delayed and non-remittances of collection which is against Circular No. 5-93 and Chapter 4, Article 1, Section 107–111 of GAAM, and of Circular No. 50-95; and (3) using government money for personal use. 8

The failure of a clerk of court to turn over money deposited with him and adequately explain and present evidence thereon constitutes gross dishonesty, grave misconduct, and even malversation of public funds which this Court will never countenance, as they indubitably diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary. 9 Even the fact that the respondent fully paid his shortages will not free him from the consequences of his wrongdoing. 10

Respondent Clerk of Court Tantay is, likewise, guilty of misappropriation, which constitutes gross dishonesty and is a ground for dismissal.chanrob1es virtual law library

Noting that respondent Tantay failed to comply with the Court’s Resolution of March 7, 2001, the Court Administrator opined that the respondent’s continued defiance of the directives of the Court amounts to an evasion of the investigation process, clearly indicative of her guilt. 11 As aptly stated in its report:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The comment required by this Court in an administrative matter is not to be construed as a mere request from the Court. On the contrary, respondents in the administrative cases are to take such resolutions seriously by commenting on all accusations or allegations against them as it is their duty to preserve the integrity of the judiciary (Martinez v. Zoleta, A.M. No. MTJ-94-04, 29 September 1999, 315 SCRA 438). 12

We agree. The respondent’s refusal to face head-on the charges against her is contrary to the principle in criminal law that "the first impulse of an innocent man when accused of wrongdoing is to express his innocence at the first opportune time." 13 Besides, the record speaks for itself, as it was clearly shown that the respondent failed to (1) submit monthly reports of collections, deposits and withdrawals since 1995; (2) account for the total amount of P1,112,140.00 representing funds pertaining to the Court; and, (3) account for missing official receipts. 14

No position demands greater moral righteousness and uprightness from the occupant than does the judicial office. Those connected with the dispensation of justice bear a heavy burden of responsibility. Clerks of court in particular must be individuals of competence, honesty and probity, charged as they are with safeguarding the integrity of the court and its proceedings. 15

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. 16 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. The Court is left with no choice but to declare the respondents guilty of dishonesty and gross misconduct, which are grave offenses punished by dismissal. 17

WHEREFORE, respondents Virgilio A. Tugas, Clerk of Court, MTC, Bani, Pangasinan and Mrs. Carmen F. Tantay, Clerk of Court, MTC, Lingayen, Pangasinan, having been found GUILTY of gross misconduct and dishonesty, are hereby DISMISSED from the service effective immediately, with forfeiture of all withheld salaries, allowances and benefits, as well as retirement benefits, with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality in the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.

Respondent Virgilio B. Tugas is DIRECTED to restitute the amount of Eighty-Nine Thousand Three Hundred Ninety Pesos (P89,390.00) representing his shortages in the following: JDF — P42,314.00; General Fund — P6,751.00; and Fiduciary Fund — P40,325.00;

Ms. Carmen F. Tantay is DIRECTED to restitute the amount of One Million One Hundred Twelve Thousand One Hundred Forty Pesos (P1,112,140.00) representing her shortages in the following: JDF — P145,140.20; General Fund — P35,530.00; and Fiduciary Fund — P931,470.00;

The Employees Leave Division, Office of Administrative Services-OCA, is DIRECTED to compute the balance of the respondents’ earned leave credits and forward the same to the Finance the Division, Fiscal Management Office-OCA, which shall compute the money value of the same, the amount, as well as other benefits the respondents may be entitled to, to be included as restitution of the computed shortages.

The Legal Office is DIRECTED to file criminal charges against the respondents before the appropriate court.chanrob1es virtual law library

This resolution is immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna and Tinga, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Annex "1."cralaw virtua1aw library

2. Annexes "4" to "26," Letter, p. 2.

3. Annex "27."cralaw virtua1aw library

4. Annex "28."cralaw virtua1aw library

5. Letter, pp. 2–3.

6. Resolution dated July 29, 2002.

7. Memorandum dated September 12, 2003, pp. 5–6.

8. Id. at 3.

9. Re: Memorandum dated 27 September 1999 of Ma. Corazon M . Molo, A.M. No. SCC-00-6-P, October 16, 2003.

10. Re: Report on Examination of the Cash and Accounts of the Clerks of Court of the RTC and the MTC of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, A.M. No. 01-1-13-RTC, April 2, 2003.

11. Memorandum dated September 12, 2003, p.4.

12. Id. at 5.

13. People v. Castillo, 333 SCRA 506 (2000).

14. OCA Report on Financial Audit conducted at the MTC-Bani, Pangasinan, MTC-Alaminos, Pangasinan and MTC-Lingayen, Pangasinan dated January 26, 2001, p. 7.

15. Re: Memorandum dated 27 September 1999 of Ma. Corazon M . Molo, supra.

16. Caguioa v. Flora, 360 SCRA 12 (2001).

17. Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (Resolution No. 99-1936, which took effect on September 27, 1999) provides:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

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:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. Dishonesty — 1st Offense — Dismissal

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

3. Grave Misconduct — 1st Offense — Dismissal




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