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THIRD DIVISION

A.M. No. CA-01-10-P 1. November 14, 2001

ALDA C. FLORIA, Executive Assistant IV, Archives Section, Court of Appeals, complainant, v. CURIE F. SUNGA, Supervising Judicial Staff Officer and ISIDRO A. APEROCHO, Assistant Information Officer, Information & Statistical Data Division, Court of Appeals, Respondents.

CURIE F. SUNGA, Supervising Judicial Staff Officer and ISIDRO A. APEROCHO, Assistant Information Officer, Information & Statistical Data Division, Court of Appeals, complainants, v. ALDA C. FLORIA, Executive Assistant IV, Archives Section, Court of Appeals, respondent.

R E S O L U T I O N

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

For resolution are respondents separate motions for reconsideration of the Minute Resolution dated February 12, 2001 of this Court 2 adopting the Court Administrators Recommendation:

(a) to DISMISS the complaint for immorality, falsification and misrepresentation against respondent Alda C. Floria in OCA IPI No. 99-18-CA-P for lack of merit;

(b) to RE-DOCKET as a regular administrative matter the complaint for conduct unbecoming a court employee against respondents Curie F. Sunga and Isidro A. Aperocho in OCA IPI No. 99-21-CA-P, and

(c) to IMPOSE on respondents Curie Sunga and Isidro Aperocho FINE in the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) each with a WARNING that the commission of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

The facts are:

On August 5, 1999, one Mrs. Badilla filed with the Office of the Ombudsman a letter-complaint against Alda C. Floria 3 alleging that she has an illicit relationship with Rodrigo Badilla, a former employee of the Court of Appeals, married to Celia Badilla, also a former employee of the same court. In a Sworn Affidavit dated September 22, 1999, likewise filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, one Rogelio Goyal charged Floria with falsification by indicating in her childrens certificates of live birth that she and Rodrigo Badilla were married on May 22, 1972 in Cabanatuan City. Both complaints were forwarded by the Office of the Ombudsman to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA).

On September 8, 1999, Isidro Aperocho, Curie Sunga, Danny Constantino, Josefina Padilla, Mitos Santos, Sheila Casaclang, and Phil Calinga, all employees of the Court of Appeals Information and Statistical Data Division, filed a Manifesto with the OCA, docketed as OCA IPI No. 99-18-CA-P. They alleged therein that Floria committed immorality, falsification and misrepresentation by having an illicit relation with a married man; by causing false entries in the certificates of live birth of her children stating that she and Rodrigo Badilla were married on May 22, 1972; and by misleading the Court of Appeals Selection and Promotions Board that she is a graduate of Masteral Degree in Management from the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP). However, the TUPs Certification dated September 6, 1999 states that while Floria completed the academic requirements for Master in Management as of March 1999, her application for graduation is still to be acted upon by the Board of Regents. The Manifesto also states that Celia Badilla and Rogelio Goyal have filed with the Office of the Ombudsman similar complaints against Floria.

Meanwhile, Floria filed with the OCA a complaint dated September 17, 1999 against Curie Sunga and Isidro Aperocho for Conduct Unbecoming of a Court Employee, docketed as OCA IPI No. 99-21-CA-P. Floria alleged that she is an Assistant Chief of Division assigned at the Archives Section of the Judicial Records Division of the Court of Appeals. On August 6, 1999, the position of Chief of the Information and Statistical Data Division was declared vacant due to the compulsory retirement of Maria Coronel. She stated that Curie Sunga, Assistant Chief of that Division, was interested to sit as Acting Chief of Division until December 1999 when she shall compulsorily retire. Among the four applicants, only she (Floria) and Isidro Aperocho, Assistant Information Officer in the same Division, were nominated for promotional appointment to the vacant position by the Selection and Promotions Board. Sunga and Aperocho, motivated by jealousy and malice and believing that no employee outside of the Division should apply for the vacancy, conspired to malign and destroy her through their Manifesto, designed to discredit and eliminate her from being nominated for the vacant position.

In her comment on the Manifesto, Floria admitted she has two children with Rodrigo Badilla, her co-employee, born in 1974 and 1979. However, she did not know then he was married. It was only later that she came to know of his marriage with Celia Badilla, also an employee in the Court of Appeals. In February 1980, she severed her relationship with Badilla when I regained by senses and sensitivity and realizing the impropriety of my relationship with him. According to her, if there is anybody who should complain against her, it should be Celia Badilla who was prejudiced and knew such illicit relationship. She claimed that for 25 years, everyone in the Court of Appeals knew that her children have been using the surname Badilla. But Celia Badilla has remained silent. Her inaction for a prolonged period of time constitutes laches. Floria denied having prepared or signed the certificates of live birth of her children. On the charge of misrepresentation, she submitted her official transcript of records from the TUP dated December 10, 1999 showing she finished her Master in Management and a letter from the same university dated September 15, 1999 with an attached Certification of Graduation on June 3, 1999.

In their joint comment on Florias complaint, Sunga and Aperocho claimed that their Manifesto is intended to (a) oppose and contest her application for promotional appointment as Chief of their Division in light of the charges of Celia Badilla and Rogelio Goyal for immorality and falsification filed with the Ombudsman; and (b) to charge Floria administratively with immorality, falsification of her childrens certificates of live birth and misrepresentation that she is a graduate of a masteral course. Their Manifesto is not tainted with malice and is not intended to cause Floria irreparable harm and prejudice as found by the Court Administrator.

As earlier mentioned, we ADOPTED the OCAs Recommendation dismissing for lack of merit the complaint of Sunga and Aperocho against Floria; and imposing a fine of P5,000.00 each on Sunga and Aperocho (for causing Floria irreparable harm and prejudice).

In their motion for reconsideration, Sunga and Aperocho prayed that a second and closer look be made on the record of the case, submitting that their failure to prove that the affair between Alda Floria and Rodrigo Badilla is still ongoing is not the issue. They argued that the stigma of her adulterous affair with Badilla has not been erased. In charging her, they were not motivated by malice, hatred or jealousy. They opposed her application for promotion because they felt it was their duty to bring to the attention of this Court her moral unfitness for the position of Division Chief. They stressed that she continues to benefit from the falsified documents as she remains married to Rodrigo Badilla, and by reason thereof, her two children with him continue to enjoy the status of legitimate children. On Florias academic credential, they insist that at the time she filed her application for promotion, she was not yet a graduate of a masteral degree.

The motions for reconsideration are impressed with merit.

Floria admitted having indulged in an illicit relation, from 1974 to 1980, with a married co-employee whose wife was employed in the same court; and that she is in possession of the certificates of live birth of her children born in 1974 and 1979 stating that she and Badilla are married. Her allegation that she did not know that he is married to Celia Badilla at the start of her illicit affair with him is self-serving and contrary to common experience. For normally, a womans first impulse is to investigate the civil status of her man. That she was unaware that Badilla was married would have been credible were it not for her admission that his wife was also an employee in the Court of Appeals.

It cannot be overstressed that the image of a court of justice is mirrored by the conduct, official and otherwise, of its personnel, from the judge to the lowest of its rank and file, who are all bound to adhere to the exacting standard of morality and decency in both their professional and private actuations. These norms, it should be kept in mind, are ever so essential in preserving the good name and integrity of the judiciary 4.

But the Court Administrator recommended the dismissal of the charge of immorality on the ground that Sunga and Aperocho failed to adduce evidence that Florias immoral conduct is still ongoing. We cannot agree with the Court Administrator. Administrative offenses do not prescribe. It bears stressing that it is not in accordance with the norms of morality for a woman, even if single, to maintain an illicit relationship with a married man. Even if such relationship had ended, the stigma of immorality still attaches to the parties, especially the woman. This is specially so when the persons concerned are public employees who are supposed to maintain a high standard of morality in order to live up to their role as models in society. The fact that the illicit relationship between Floria and Rodrigo Abadilla has ceased will only mitigate her culpability.

On the charge for falsification, which constitutes the administrative offense of dishonesty, we find Floria liable. Her childrens certificates of live birth show that Floria and Badilla were married on May 22, 1972 in Cabanatuan City, which of course is not true. The certificate of live birth of Florias first child bears Alda Calzado Floria as the mother and Rodrigo Garcia Badilla as the father. The second childs certificate of live birth bears the same entries. Indeed, the charge of falsification which is tantamount to dishonesty is clearly supported by evidence. The entry in the said documents that she is married to Rodrigo Badilla is certainly spurious. Why she has not taken any legal step to have it corrected clearly indicates her predilection to dishonesty. This Court cannot countenance such conduct.

The charge that Floria committed misrepresentation, which is likewise categorized as dishonesty, by stating in her application for promotion that she is a graduate of a masteral degree, must fail. The September 6, 1999 Certification from the TUP states:

This is to certify that, as per our records, Miss ALDA C. FLORIA has satisfactorily completed all the academic requirements, leading to the degree of MASTER IN MANAGEMENT as of March, 1999. Her application for graduation will be acted upon by the Board of Regent for October 1999.

The above Certification is a sufficient proof that Floria is a master degree holder and is, therefore, educationally qualified for the position.

We hold that Curie Sunga and Isidro Aperocho were not motivated by malice or bad faith in filing their Manifesto against Floria. Significantly, the Manifesto is verified. That verification negates the finding of bad faith on their part. In Joson vs. Torres, 5 this Court held:

Assuming, nonetheless, that the letter-complaint was unverified when submitted to the Office of the President, the defect was not fatal. The requirement of verification was deemed waived by the President himself when he acted on the complaint. Verification is mainly intended to secure an assurance that the allegations therein made are done in good faith or are true and correct and not mere speculation. xxx.

We are convinced of the righteousness of movants cause. Implicit in their Manifesto is their desire that the incoming Chief of their Division is a person of good moral character, someone whom they can respect. Indeed, we believe that in filing such Manifesto, they simply wanted an assurance that the person to be appointed to the position of Division Chief is morally fit.

This Court demands that every employee of the judiciary must adhere to the exacting standards of honesty, integrity, morality, and decency in his professional and personal conduct, thus:

Every employee of the judiciary should be an example of integrity, uprightness and honesty. Like any public servant, he must exhibit the highest sense of honesty and integrity not only in the performance of his official duties but in his personal and private dealings with other people, to preserve the courts good name and standing. It cannot be overstressed that the image of a court of justice is mirrored in the conduct, official and otherwise, of the personnel who worked thereat, from the judge to the lowest of its personnel. Court personnel have been enjoined to adhere to the exacting standards of morality and decency in their professional and private conduct in order to preserve the good name and integrity of the courts of justice. xxx.6cräläwvirtualibräry

Hence, we modify our Resolution of February 12, 2001. The complaint for conduct unbecoming of a court employee against Curie Sunga and Isidro Aperocho must be dismissed for lack of merit. Meanwhile, we sustain their complaint against Floria for immorality and dishonesty (for falsifying the certificates of live birth of her children), the same being supported by substantial evidence, the quantum of proof required in administrative proceedings. Under Section 52, Rule IV of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, dishonesty and immoral conduct are grave offenses. Immoral conduct is punished by suspension of 6 months and 1 day to 1 year; while dishonesty is punished by dismissal from the service.

However, we should temper justice with mercy considering the following circumstances:

1. The administrative offense of immorality took place many years ago;

2. Floria has been employed in the Court of appeals for a period of twenty nine (29) years;

3. This is the first time that she is being found administratively liable as per available record; and

4. Her children are innocent victims. Dismissing or suspending their mother from the service is a heavy toll on them, a punishment they do not deserve.

Consequently, a fine of P10,000.00 with reprimand is deemed in order.

WHEREFORE , our Resolution of February 12, 2001 is hereby MODIFIED. Alda Florias complaint for conduct unbecoming of a court employee against Curie Sunga and Isidro Aperocho is DISMISSED. Their complaint for immorality and dishonesty (falsification of certificates of live birth) against Floria is sustained. She is thus FINED in the sum of P 10,000.00 and is REPRIMANDED and WARNED that a repetition of similar conduct will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Vitug, Panganiban, and Carpio, JJ., concur.

Melo, (Chairman), J., please see dissent.


Endnotes:

1 Administrative Matter OCA IPI No. 99-21-CA-P (Alda C. Floria vs. Curie F. Sunga and Isidro Aperocho and Admnistrative Matter OCA IPI No. 99-18-CA-P (Isidro Aperocho, et al., vs. Alda C. Floria) are consolidated per Resolution of august 14, 2000 of the First Division of this Court (now jointly docketed as A.M. No. CA-01-10-P)

2 Third Division

3 Assistant Division Clerk of Court of the Court of Appeals assigned in the Archives Section, Judicial Records Division.

4 Soledad Lauro vs. Efren Lauro, Sheriff IV, RTC, Butuan City, A.M. No. P-91-642, June 6, 2001, citing Bucatcat vs. Bucatcat, 323 SCRA 578.

5 290 SCRA 279 (1998).

6 Bucatcat vs. Bucatcat, 323 SCRA 578 (2000).




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