A.M. No. P-07-2298 and A.M. No. P-07-2299 - Peteb B. Mallonga v. Marites R. Manio / Hon. Lyliha Abella-Aquino v. Marites R. Manio
[A.M. NO. P-07-2298 : April 24, 2009]
PETER B. MALLONGA, Complainant, v. MARITES R. MANIO, Court Interpreter III, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 4, Tuguegarao City, Respondent.
[A.M. NO. P-07-2299 : April 24, 2009]
HON. LYLIHA ABELLA-AQUINO, Judge, RTC, Branch 4, Tuguegarao City, Complainant, v. MARITES R. MANIO, Court Interpreter III, RTC, Branch 4, Tuguegarao City, Respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
Before us are the consolidated administrative charges against Court Interpreter III Marites R. Manio (Manio) of Branch 4, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Tuguegarao City for dishonesty and grave misconduct.
Administrative Matter (A.M.) No. P-07-2298 stemmed from an Affidavit dated June 4, 2004 executed by Peter B. Mallonga (Mallonga).
In said Affidavit, Mallonga related that respondent Manio was his former classmate and friend in college. Sometime in September 2003, Mallonga went to the RTC of Tuguegarao City and inquired from respondent Manio if she knew a lawyer who could help him file a petition for the correction of entry in his marriage certificate. Respondent Manio allegedly volunteered the name of a certain lawyer and told Mallonga to secure copies of his marriage and birth certificates so that these could be given to the lawyer. A week later, Mallonga gave respondent Manio copies of the said certificates. Respondent Manio then asked Mallonga to sign a prepared petition and to pay the total amount of
P13,000.00 for attorney's fees and other expenses.
Respondent Manio eventually persuaded Mallonga and the latter paid the agreed amount in installments. As the weeks passed, Mallonga attempted to see or contact respondent Manio to inquire about the status of his petition but Manio was always out of the office or absent. They finally met once more sometime in December 2003 at Baby's Restaurant where respondent Manio handed to Mallonga a copy of an alleged resolution dated November 25, 2003 of Branch 4, RTC, Tuguegarao City and purportedly signed by Judge Lyliha L. Abella-Aquino (Judge Abella-Aquino).1 Respondent Manio told Mallonga his petition was already granted and that she "pulled some strings in the court" so that his appearance was dispensed with at the hearing of the case.
Mallonga then filed the above-mentioned resolution with the Local Civil Registrar of Solana, Cagayan, but the said office informed him that a certificate of finality was required before the correction of his marriage certificate could be effected. Mallonga asked respondent Manio to produce a certificate of finality, but the latter failed to deliver the same on the date agreed upon by them.
On June 3, 2004, Mallonga went again to the office of respondent Manio and asked for the assistance of one of the court personnel who led him to Jacinto Danao (Danao), the clerk in charge of civil cases. When Danao checked his records, he found that the docket number which appeared in the resolution Manio had given Mallonga belonged to another case, and that the said resolution was a spurious document.
On June 7, 2004, Judge Abella-Aquino forwarded the complaint of Mallonga to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) and reported that her signature in the purported resolution was a forgery.
On the other hand, A.M. No. P-07-2299 arose from an Affidavit dated April 19, 2004 executed by Bernadette Canlas-Bartolome (Bartolome).
In her Affidavit, Bartolome narrated that her sister, Bety Canlas-Marcelo, filed a petition for the correction of entries in her marriage certificate on August 8, 2003; the petition was raffled to Branch 1 of the RTC of Tuguegarao City. Bartolome said that her sister left for Italy after the petition had been filed, so her sister asked her to personally check the status of the case. Bartolome was further informed by her sister that she (Bety) had been in touch with respondent Manio, a former officemate in a bank, who had promised to keep her informed of the status of the case. Bety told her sister that the latter would hear from Manio.
On October 8, 2003, Bartolome was informed by respondent Manio that the case of her sister was dismissed because of the negligence of the lawyer who handled the same. However, respondent Manio quickly advised Bartolome that she (Manio) could re-file the case with a guaranteed favorable decision. Manio advised Bartolome that the amount of
P15,000.00 would be needed. Respondent Manio explained that this amount was for the expenses for the filing of the case, for the attorney's and publication fees, and as bribe for the judge who would hear the case. Bartolome agreed and initially paid respondent Manio the amount of P10,000.00. Respondent Manio accepted the money and signed a receipt therefor.2 Both agreed that the remaining balance of P5,000.00 would be paid after the case had been concluded.
On December 15, 2003, respondent Manio handed Bartolome an alleged resolution approving the change of entries in Bety's marriage certificate issued by Branch 4, RTC, Tuguegarao City and purportedly signed by Judge Abella-Aquino.3 Respondent Manio also informed Bartolome that the certificate of finality of the said resolution would be released after the lapse of a certain number of days. Bartolome then paid respondent Manio the balance of
On December 20, 2003, respondent Manio asked for and received an additional amount of
P500.00 from Bartolome to allegedly expedite the release of the certificate of finality but, despite such additional payment, respondent Manio failed to deliver the said document.
On April 14, 2004, Bartolome went again to the office of respondent Manio at Branch 4, RTC, Tuguegarao City, where she showed Danao, the clerk in charge of civil cases, the resolution given to her by Manio and asked Danao about the certificate of finality that she needed. Bartolome then discovered that the docket number as indicated in the adverted resolution belonged to a different case, and that Branch 4 of the RTC of Tuguegarao City had no record of the case of her sister Bety.4
In a Letter dated April 23, 2004, Judge Abella-Aquino indorsed the complaint of Bartolome against respondent Manio to the OCA and further reported that she confronted respondent Manio about the complaint, and that the latter admitted forging the judge's signature in the purported resolution.
In each of these administrative charges, the OCA twice required respondent Manio to comment, but the latter failed to comply. This Court then directed respondent Manio to comply with the directives of the OCA and to show cause why no administrative sanction should be meted to her for ignoring the same. Respondent Manio was further reminded that her non-compliance would be considered as a waiver of her right to be heard or to present any defense, and that the cases would be decided on the basis of the records. Respondent Manio still refused to answer the charges against her. Consequently, this Court resolved to consider as waived the right of respondent Manio to be heard and to present evidence and referred these cases back to the OCA for report and recommendation.
In its Memorandum5 dated January 9, 2007, the OCA evaluated the evidence on record and recommended that respondent Manio be held liable for dishonesty and grave misconduct. These cases were then submitted for resolution in a Minute Resolution6 dated July 16, 2007 of this Court.
Meanwhile, on December 4, 2007, this Court promulgated Canlas-Bartolome v. Manio7 docketed as A.M. No. P-07-2397, which essentially involved the same parties and charges against respondent Manio in A.M. No. P-07-2299, one of the consolidated cases herein. Respondent Manio was administratively held liable and sanctioned in A.M. No. P-07-2397 as follows:
The Court finds respondent guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct and hereby dismisses her from the service.
As a public servant, respondent is expected to exhibit at all times the highest sense of honesty and integrity and faithfully adhere to, hold inviolate, and invigorate the principle that public office is a public trust. By soliciting money from complainant, she committed an act of impropriety which immeasurably affects the honor and dignity of the judiciary and the people's confidence in it. She committed the ultimate betrayal of the duty to uphold the dignity and authority of the judiciary by arrogating to herself judicial power which she does not possess, in order to extort money from a party-litigant. Her act of forging the presiding judge's signature also constitutes a blatant disregard for the values of integrity, uprightness and honesty which are expected of all court personnel.
The Court has never wavered in exhorting all those in the judiciary to behave at all times to promote public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary. At every opportunity, the Court has emphasized that the conduct and behavior of all officials and employees of the judiciary must at all times be characterized by strict propriety and decorum in order to earn and maintain the respect of the people.
As the Court deplored in many cases, what brings the judiciary into disrepute are often the actuations of a few erring court personnel peddling influence to party-litigants, creating the impression that decisions can be bought and sold, ultimately resulting in the disillusionment of the public. Thus, whenever warranted by the gravity of the offense, the supreme penalty of dismissal in an administrative case is meted to erring personnel. Indeed, the Court will never countenance such conduct, act or omission on the part of all those in the judiciary as would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary. The Court has been resolute in its drive to discipline and, if warranted, to remove from the service errant magistrates, employees and even Justices of higher collegiate appellate courts for any infraction that tends to give the Judiciary a bad name. The Court has been unflinching in imposing discipline on errant personnel or in purging the ranks of those undeserving to remain in the service, such as in this case.chanrobles virtual law library
WHEREFORE, respondent Marites R. Manio is hereby found guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct and is hereby DISMISSED from the service, with prejudice to re-employment in any government agency including government-owned or controlled corporations. Her retirement benefits, except accrued leaves credits, are FORFEITED.
The Office of the Court Administrator is directed to initiate the criminal prosecution of respondent.
SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary
Respondent Manio having been punished for the same acts which constitute the charges involved in the present A.M. No. P-07-2299, the aforesaid case should, therefore, be dismissed.
However, respondent Manio's dismissal from the service in A.M. No. P-07-2397 does not render moot8 the subject complaints of Mallonga and Judge Aquino in A.M. P-07-2298, which were founded on a different set of facts.
In A.M. No. P-07-2298, we sustain the findings of the OCA and hold respondent Manio guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct for the second time. The detailed narration of the facts in the unrebutted affidavit of Mallonga and the letter of Judge Aquino, taken together with the copy of the fake resolution, substantially supported the administrative charges of dishonesty and grave misconduct against respondent Manio. She took advantage of her official position and defrauded a potential litigant. Her acts clearly constitute dishonesty which is the "disposition to lie, cheat, deceive or defraud; untrustworthiness; lack of integrity; lack of honesty, probity, or integrity in principle; lack of fairness and straightforwardness; disposition to defraud, deceive or betray."9 On the other hand, the forgery that she committed in furtherance of the deceit constitutes grave misconduct or a "flagrantly or shamefully wrong or improper conduct."10
Moreover, we view with disfavor respondent Manio's repeated refusal to answer the charges against her. By analogy, we advert 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."11 Thus, the Court considers her silence and inaction as indicative not only of defiance, but also of guilt.
Dishonesty or grave misconduct carries the extreme penalty of dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government service.12 In OCA v. Cunting,13 we imposed upon the respondent therein the penalty of fine to be deducted from his accrued leave credits in view of the respondent's previous dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government service. In the present case, taking into account the Court's earlier decision in Canlas-Bartolome v. Manio, we deem it proper to impose upon respondent Manio the penalty of fine in the amount of
P40,000.00 to be deducted from her accrued leave credits in lieu of the extreme penalty of dismissal for a grave offense.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Marites R. Manio is hereby held administratively GUILTY of dishonesty and grave misconduct in A.M. No. P-07-2298. In view of her previous dismissal from the service, a FINE in the amount of
P40,000.00 is imposed upon respondent Manio to be deducted from her accrued leave benefits. The Office of the Court Administrator is directed to file appropriate criminal charges against the said respondent.
A.M. No. P-07-2299 is hereby DISMISSED, as the charges involved therein against respondent Manio had already been resolved by this Court in a prior judgment.
* On official leave.
1 Rollo, pp. 5-6.
2 Id. at 9.
3 Id. at 10-11.
4 Id. at 12.
5 Rollo, A.M. No. P-07-2298, pp. 13-19.
6 Rollo, A.M. Nos. P-07-2298 and P-07-2299, p. 18 and p. 21, respectively.
7 539 SCRA 333.
8 OCA v. Cunting, A.M. No. P-04-1917, December 10, 2007, 539 SCRA 494, 511-512.
9 Cañada v. Suerte, A.M. No. RTJ-04-1884, February 22, 2008, 546 SCRA 414, 424.
10 Faeldonea v. CSC, G.R. No. 143474, August 6, 2002, 386 SCRA 384, 388.
11 Ortiz v. De Guzman, A.M. No. P-03-1708, February 16, 2005, 451 SCRA 392, 399.
12 Sections 52 and 58 of Rule IV of the Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 19-99.
13 Supra note 8.
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