Aquino Jr v. Miranda : AM P-01-1453 : May 27, 2004 : Per Curiam : En
[A.M. NO. P-01-1453 : May 27, 2004]
Executive Judge BENJAMIN M. AQUINO, JR., Complainant, v. BETHSAIDA
M. MIRANDA, Clerk III, Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 54, Navotas, Metro Manila, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This administrative case originated from a Report dated 13 April 1999 Executive Judge
Benjamin M. Aquino, Jr.1 (Executive Judge Aquino) submitted to then Court Administrator Alfredo L.
Benipayo (Court Administrator Benipayo). In his Report, Executive Judge
Aquino recommended the investigation of respondent Bethsaida
M. Miranda (respondent) for serious misconduct while Clerk III of Branch 54,
Metropolitan Trial Court of Navotas, Metro Manila (MeTC Branch 54).
On 11 March 1999,
Executive Judge Aquino conducted an inventory of the records of MeTC Branch 54
on an administrative case2 that led to the dismissal of Judge Reynold Q. Yaneza (Judge Yaneza) .The Court found that Judge Yaneza irregularly approved bail bonds and irregularly
issued release orders in violation of Section 17, Rule 114 of the Rules on
During the inventory, Executive Judge Aquino found pre-signed and
pre-notarized bail bonds in blank inside the drawer of respondents filing
cabinet.In his Report, Executive Judge
1.Blank forms of personal
bail bonds of Wellington Insurance Company already duly signed by the persons
authorized to do so who affixed their signatures over the typewritten words
authorized signature and counter signature, with the following Numbers
04196, 04197, 04198, 04199 and 04200, along with forms relative to the
application of bail bonds, the latter forms being 20 in number.
Make it also of record that the blank forms of personal bail bonds
bear the signature of notary public Atty. Jonas Giovanni Lisaca
with all entries on the notarization side of document being in blank but duly
In separate envelope was found 1st Indorsement dated July 30, 1998 of Judge Yaneza with certification by Bethsaida
Miranda re: bail bond for one Honesim[o] B. Hefi to be sent to the Municipal Trial Judge of Baao, Camarines Sur.Attached to the Indorsement are the personal
bail bond posted by Mega Pacific Insurance for accused Hefi
in the amount of
P12,000.00 duly signed and approved by Judge Yaneza and other supporting papers.
In the third envelope is another containing bail bond No. 01890 for
one Allan Castro.In Criminal Case No.
98036 of the Navotas Metropolitan Trial Court, although only a form without
signature bearing signatures thereto by the officers of the Wellington
Also found is another personal bail bond form No. 01886 of the
Wellington Insurance Company wherein the name Nenita Salvador has already been
typed and obviously for Criminal Case No. 0035 and other forms clearances,
warrant for the arrest of Gloria S. Ascano, and a
receipt dated February 12, 1999 signed by one V. Lontoc
for Bethsaida Miranda are the personal bail
bondsNos. 101886 to 01890 (Wellington)
and other application forms for bail bond some accomplished and a Certificate
of Detention issued by the Jail Warden of Navotas MunicipalJail and supporting papers for thebail bonds (sic). 3 cralawred
Executive Judge Aquino also reported that a court employee saw
respondent bring out of the office court records wrapped in newspaper.The court employee saw respondent hand this
newspaper-wrapped bundle to another court employee, Armando Aquino.The two then left in a tricycle.
Questioned during the inventory, Armando Aquino admitted
receiving the newspaper-wrapped bundle but claimed he did not know its
contents. He added, however, that he and respondent met that same day with
Judge Yaneza to whom respondent turned over the
newspaper-wrapped bundle. When Judge Yaneza opened
the newspaper-wrapped bundle in front of them, Armando Aquino was surprised to
see that it contained the records of two cases, People v. Conghe
and Pascual v. Basbas, et al.
Also during the inventory, Legal Researcher Evelyn Atienza
received a phone call from Judge Yaneza who said that
he had in his possession the records of two cases that he was working on.But because of his dismissal from the
service, Judge Yaneza said he would return the two
records to the court.The two cases
Judge Yaneza referred to were People v. Conghe and Pascual v. Basbas, et
subsequently returned to MeTC Branch 54 the records of these two cases.
In his Report, Executive Judge Aquino stated that respondents
actuations, while not absolute proof of her complicity in the activities for
which Judge Yaneza was dismissed from the service,
are strong indications that she engaged in activities relative to the posting
of bail bonds. Executive Judge Aquino pointed out that respondents
unauthorized removal of court records from court premises, and delivery of the
records to a dismissed judge, were clear violations of operating
procedures.Executive Judge Aquino
recommended that the matter be investigated further.
In his 1st Indorsement dated 21 June 1999, Court Administrator Benipayo
directed respondent to comment on the Report of Executive Judge Aquino charging
her with grave misconduct.
Respondent filed her Comment on 12 October 1999 maintaining that not a single piece of
concrete evidence was produced to link her to the anomalous conduct involving
bail bond transactions that led to the dismissal of Metropolitan Trial Court
Judge Reynold Q. Yaneza.
Respondent denied the allegations in the Report and denounced it as untrue and
without basis. Respondent claimed that the Report is very vague and failed to
state exactly what it was that she brought outside of court premises.
Respondent also alleged that Roman Gatbalite (Gatbalite),
Clerk of Court of MeTC Branch 54, instigated
the complaint because he wanted to blacken her reputation. Finally, respondent
maintains that she committed no wrongdoing since all the subject records were
On 20 November 2000,
the OCA recommended re-docketing of the matter as an administrative case and
its referral to one of OCAs consultants for investigation,
report and recommendation.
On 15 January 2001,
the Court resolved to adopt the OCAs
The OCA, through its Investigator, retired Court of Appeals
Justice Pedro A. Ramirez (Investigator Ramirez),
issued an Order dated 13
February 2001 setting the case for hearing on the 6th and 13th
of March 2001.
The hearing did not push through due to the inability to serve
notice on respondent.Investigator
Ramirez then issued an Order dated 8
March 2001 directing Gatbalite, the
Branch Clerk of MeTC Branch 54, to inform him within ten days of the status or
whereabouts of respondent.
On 20 March 2001,
Gatbalite wrote Investigator Ramirez that respondent
was detailed in the Office of the Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court of
Malabon, Metro Manila (MeTC Malabon) .Gatbalite explained that Executive Judge Aquino authorized
the detail in a Memorandum dated 23
April 1999 on verbal instruction of Court Administrator Benipayo.
Investigator Ramirez then issued an Order dated 22 March 2001 re-setting the case for
hearing on the 18th and 19th of April 2001.However, because the notice of hearing was
sent erroneously to MeTC Branch 54 in Navotas, Investigator Ramirez ordered the
resetting of the hearing to the 26th and 27th of June
2001, which was again reset to the 24th and 25th of July
Respondent failed to appear on both hearing dates.Thus, in an Order dated 25 July 2001, Investigator Ramirez reset the
hearing to the 14th and 15th of August 2001.He also directed Emelita
R. Trinidad (Trinidad),
Clerk of Court of MeTC
Malabon, to serve a copy of the Order to respondent, submit a compliance report
and inform him on whether respondent continues to report to MeTC Malabon.
On 3 August 2001,
the sheriff of MeTC Malabon, Alejandro C. Provido
submitted a return stating that he could not serve respondent a copy of the
Order dated 25 July 2001
because respondent no longer resided at her address in Navotas.
On 6 August 2001, Clerk of Court Trinidad reported to
Investigator Ramirez that respondent, after her detail to MeTC Malabon in April
or May 1999, filed an application for leave of absence for the months of April
or May until June 1999.Trinidad
added that respondent filed an application for optional retirement sometime in
May or June 1999, effective 1 July 1999.
Due to respondents repeated failure to appear at the hearings,
Investigator Ramirez issued an Order dated 15 August 2001 stating that respondent is deemed to have
waived her presence and right to present evidence in her behalf.The Order also stated that Investigator
Ramirez would submit the required report based on the records of the case.
Copies of this order were sent to all the addresses of respondent available on
record, all of them returning unserved.
In his Report dated 12
February 2003, Investigator Ramirez recommended the dismissal of
respondent for grave misconduct.He also
highlighted respondents repeated failure to attend the hearings of the
case.The Report stated in part:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Indeed, respondents unexplained possession in the drawer of the
filing cabinet she alone was using of the following:
1.blank forms of personal bail bond of the bondingcompany already signed by authorized
persons, along with twenty (2) application forms of bail bonds;
2.blank forms of personal bail bonds bearing the signature of notary
public Jonas Giovanni Lisaca, all entries on the
notarization side of the documents in blank but already sealed;
3.first indorsement dated July 30, 1998 of Judge Yaneza
with respondents certification of the bail bond for one Honesimo
B. Hefi for transmittal to the Judge of the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Baao, Camarines Sur; the personal bail bond posted by Mega Pacific
Insurance for accused Hefi in the amount of
approved by Judge Yaneza;
4.bail bond No. 01890 for one Allan Castro in Criminal Case No. 98036 of
the Metropolitan Trial Court of Navotas on a form without the signature of the
authorized officer of Wellington Insurance Company; andcralawlibrary
5.personal bail bond form bearing No. 01886 of Wellington Insurance
Company issued in the name of Nenita Salvador typewritten on it obviously to be
filed in Criminal Case No. 0035, together with forms for clearances, warrant
for the arrest of Gloria S. Ascano and receipt
dated February 12, 1999 signed by one V. Lontoc for Bethsaida Miranda, personal bail bond Nos. 101886 to 101890
(W[e]llington) and other application forms for bail
bond, some accomplished, and a certificate of detention issued by Jail Warden
of Navotas Municipal Jail and supporting papers for the bail bonds.
is proof of the misconduct she has
committed for which she should be meted out the corresponding penalty.
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully recommended that respondent Bethsaida M. Miranda, Clerk III, Metropolitan Trial Court,
Branch 54, Navotas, Metro Manila, be declared guilty of misconduct in office
for which she should be dismissed from the service.
We agree with the findings, conclusions and recommendations of
We adopt the findings of Executive Judge Aquino in his Report
dated 13 April 1999.
Respondent had several opportunities to refute the charge of serious misconduct
against her but respondent chose to disappear.Other than submitting a Comment on the Report of Executive Judge Aquino,
respondent lost any interest in substantiating her defense. Her repeated
failure to attend the hearings amounts to a waiver of her right to present
evidence in her behalf.In any event,
the records of this administrative case sufficiently provide a conclusive basis
to hold respondent liable for serious misconduct.
Respondents assertion that not a single piece of concrete
evidence was presented to prove the charge against her is false.This case is an offshoot of the
administrative case that led to Judge Yanezas
dismissal, respondents superior.That
case centered on Judge Yanezas irregular issuance of
bail bonds. After Judge Yanezas dismissal, an
inventory of his office yielded questionable documents inside the drawer of
respondents filing cabinet.These
documents consisted of blank forms of bail bonds that were already signed and
notarized.These questionable documents
belie respondents claim that no concrete evidence was presented against her.Respondents bare denial cannot overcome the
findings of Executive Judge Aquino, which are based on an inventory of the
records of MeTC Branch 54.
Respondent counters that the drawer had no key and everyone and
anyone can put any piece of papers inside. However, the drawer was for
respondents exclusive use.The
presumption is that respondent placed the documents inside the drawer that was
for her exclusive use.Respondent failed
to explain adequately why and how anyone would tamper with her filing
cabinet.The presence of the questioned
documents in her drawer cannot be explained by a mere allegation that they were
planted by a co-employee.
Respondents allegation that Executive Judge Aquinos
findings are based on self-serving insinuations, surmises, and statements by Gatbalite4 has a hollow ring. The Report of
Executive Judge Aquino was based on the inventory conducted in the presence of
his staff as well as the staff of MeTC Branch 54.The Report of Executive Judge Aquino does not
mention the name of Gatbalite.There is no evidence on record, other than
respondents self-serving claim, that Gatbalite
fabricated the complaint to blacken her reputation. Gatbalite
was not even a member of the investigating team that conducted the inventory.
Respondent claims that the charge that she brought court records
out of court premises is vague. Respondent asserts that nowhere in the same
report did it state that something that was handed by the herein Respondent was
or were really court records (sic). 5 Respondent knows or should know that court employees are not allowed to take
court records outside of court premises.6 Respondent now seeks to avoid liability by claiming that the charge failed to
say that what she took out were court records.However, paragraph four of the Report of Executive Judge Aquino
contradicts respondents claim:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
When the inventory was already on-going, Mr. Aquino was asked if it
was true that he was handed court records by Ms. Miranda as they were about to
board a tricycle and he readily admitted in the presence of some RTC, Branch 72
court personnel who assisted in the inventory [as well as] Navotas METC
employees, particularly Sheriff Almeida and Legal Researcher Evelyn Atienza,
that he was readily handed something by Ms. Miranda wrapped in an old newspaper
which the latter asked him to hold and carry.
To his surprise, Mr. Aquino added that the tricycle on which he and
Ms. Miranda rode proceeded to a place where they found Judge Yaneza.To his
further surprise, when the bundle given to him by Ms. Miranda was opened by
Judge Yaneza or Ms. Miranda herself it revealed
records pertaining to the Conghe and Emiliano Pascual cases.Mr. Aquino insisted that he was not aware that what was handed to him by
Ms. Miranda were court records and that he also was not aware that the same
will be brought to Judge Yaneza.7 cralawred
Thus, the Report clearly details the
charge of serious misconduct against respondent.
Instead of using every available opportunity to clear her name,
respondent simply chose to hide.Aside
from the Comment she filed, respondent never bothered to contest the findings
of Executive Judge Aquino as she failed to attend the OCAs
hearings.Respondent filed a leave
almost immediately after being detailed to another court. Respondent then filed
an application for optional retirement within a month after filing her
leave.Finally, the sheriff could no
longer find or contact respondent at her addresses on record.
A public servant whose career is on the line would normally want
the investigating body to know his or her whereabouts for purposes of
notice.The timing of respondents
application for leave, for optional retirement, and her sudden unexplained
disappearance, taken together, leads us to conclude that hers is not a mere
case of negligence.Respondents acts
reveal a calculated design to evade or derail the investigation against
her.Her silence at the least serves as
a tacit waiver of her opportunity to refute the charges made against her.
Neither respondents disappearance nor her retirement precludes
the Court from holding her liable.Her
disappearance constitutes a waiver of her right to present evidence in her
behalf.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 respondents case.8 cralawred
Respondents office requires competence and efficiency to insure
the publics confidence in the administration of justice.9 The men and women who work in the judiciary must always act with propriety for
the image of a court of justice is mirrored in the conduct of its personnel.10 cralawred
Respondent should know that her actuations reflect adversely on
the integrity and efficiency of the judiciary.The conduct of all those involved in the administration of justice
from the judge to the lowliest clerk is circumscribed with the heavy burden
of responsibility, accountability, integrity, uprightness and honesty.11 Because of the nature of their office, the officials and employees of the
judiciary should serve as role models in the faithful observance of the
constitutional canon that public office is a public trust.Respondent failed to live up to this
To constitute grave misconduct, the acts complained of should be
corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law, or constitute flagrant
disregard of well-known legal rules.12 We find the totality of respondents acts well within this definition.Respondent failed to live up to the high
ethical standards demanded by the office she occupies.Respondent also undermined the integrity of
the service and jeopardized the publics faith in the courts.Respondents acts betray her complicity, if
not participation, in acts that were irregular and violative of ethics and
procedure, causing the removal from the service of her superior, Judge Yaneza.
The penalty for grave misconduct is dismissal from the service,13 with forfeiture of all benefits and with prejudice to re-employment in any
branch or agency of the government, including government-owned or controlled
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent BETHSAIDA M. MIRANDA, Clerk III,
Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 54, Navotas, Metro Manila, GUILTY of grave
misconduct.The Court DISMISSES
M. MIRANDA from the service with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or
instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled
corporations.Her retirement benefits,
except accrued leave credits, are FORFEITED.
Vitug, (Acting Chief Justice),
Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona,
Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and
TINGA, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., and
Puno, J., on official leave.
1 Regional Trial Court, Branch 72, Malabon, Metro Manila.
2 Cruz v. Judge Reynold Q. Yaneza,
363 Phil. 629 (1999).
6 Fabiculana, Sr. v. Gadon,
A.M. No. P-94-1101, 29 December 1994,
239 SCRA 543.
8 Perez v. Abiera, A.C. No. 223-J, 11 June 1975, 64 SCRA 302.
9 Eamiguel v. Ho, 350 Phil. 518 (1998).
10 Chan v. Castillo, A.M. No. P-94-1055, 25 November 1994, 238 SCRA 359.
11 Basco v. Gregorio, 315 Phil. 681 (1995).
12 Amosco v. Magro,
A.M. No. 439-MTJ, 30 September 1976,
73 SCRA 107.
13 CSC Memorandum Circular No. 30 dated 20
July 1989; CSC Resolution No. 991936, Rule 52(A) (3),
dated 31 August 1999.
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