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[A.M. No. P-01-1471.October 1, 2001]

JUDGE MONSERATE vs. ADOLFO, et al.

SECOND DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated OCT 1 2001.

A. M. No. P-01-1471(Judge Eddie P. Monserate vs. Jerry V. Adolfo, Court Junior Process Server, MCTC, Magarao-Canaman, Camarines Sur).

Before us is a letter-complaint filed by Judge Eddie P. Monsetrate, Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge of Magarao-Canaman, Camarines Sur, against Jerry V. Adolfo, Court Junior Process Server of the same court, for Gross Inefficiency, Absenteeism, Failure to Serve Summons and other Court Processes.

The following memoranda, attached to the complaint, show the alleged irregularities committed by respondent:

1).Office Memorandum dated June 7, 1995 of Clerk of Court Judith Rodrigo-Ebron to respondent, noting, among others, that summons and subpoenas and other court processes which remained unserved were found in respondent's drawer. Respondent apparently acted only whenever an inquiry was made.

2).Memorandum No. 1, Series of 1998 dated August 13, 1998 of Judge Monserate, noting and requiring respondent, among others, to explain his frequent absences without filing any application for leave.

3).Memorandum dated April 13, 1999 of Judge Monserate requiring respondent to explain why the service of subpoena to a party in a case (Mrs. Irma Bustamante and Ryan Opeņa) was made only on the day of trial when the subpoena had been issued a long time before the scheduled hearing.

On August 25, 1999, respondent Adolfo submitted his Comment regarding the accusations hurled against him. As regards the Office Memorandum dated June 7, 1995, respondent explained that during that particular year, he was not his normal self due to vicissitudes in life, aggravated by his intermittent illness and that of his disabled mother. So, whenever any member of his family was sick, he was forced to be absent from work. He maintained, however, that his absences were always reflected in his Daily Time Record either as forced or sick leave. He admitted his uncertainty as to when or how and to whom he served the summons in Civil Case No. 493. What he found in the Court's Civil Docket Book was that on October 3, 1995, said case was ordered dismissed without prejudice to plaintiff's failure to appear during the trial despite due notice.

With respect to Memorandum No. 1, Series of 1998, dated August 13, 1998, respondent stated in his comment that his Daily Time Record (DTR) showed that from August 10 to 14, 1998, he filed for sick leave since he was bed­ridden. This was approved by the Leave Division of the Supreme Court.

Finally, with regard to the Memorandum of Judge Monserate dated April 13, 1999, respondent stated that the records of the case (People vs. Opeņa) revealed that after the pre-trial conference and the initial trial on the merits in November, 1998, subsequent trials were set upon agreement of counsels and parties and approved by the Court. Because of this practice, contending parties were deemed notified in open court of the date and time of hearing. So, after the hearing on March 11, 1999, the parties knew that the next scheduled hearing was on April 13, 1999 because that was what they had agreed upon. However, since one of the employees of the court type-wrote a subpoena for the April 13th hearing which was not signed by the parties after the hearing on March 11, 1999, he caused the service of the subpoena in the morning in order that the parties could not validly claim that they were not notified relative to the trial in the afternoon of the same day.

After looking into the Answer of respondent dated April 20, 1999 and his Comment dated August 25, 1999, we found inconsistencies in the statements given by the respondent regarding the complaint filed against him. In his Answer, respondent put up the defense of illness which rendered him incapacitated to effect a much earlier service of the subpoena to the party litigants. However, in his Comment, respondent advanced the theory that as a "matter of practice" party litigants and their respective counsel, with the approval of the Court, usually agreed on the next scheduled hearing, giving him the impression that such notification in open court rendered it unnecessary for him to serve any notice on the parties. The reasons respondent gave as to why he failed to send the subpoena at a much earlier time are not consistent. Also, if we adopt his Answer dated April 20, 1999 regarding his explanation that he was sick so he was not able to serve the subpoena early in the case of People vs. Opeņa, the fact that his absence is covered by an approved sick leave has to be verified with the proper department. It is also apparent from the Memorandum dated June 7, 1995 of Clerk of Court Judith Rodrigo-Ebron that respondent was directed to cease and desist from performing his duties relative to "mailing official matters", and to enter his whereabouts in the logbook. However, it does not appear in his Answer or Comment whether he followed this directive.

Based on all these reasons, it is our view that the charge against respondent has been fully substantiated and established even by his own admissions. In administrative cases like this, the quantum of evidence required to establish the guilt of the respondent is only substantial evidence. This has been squarely met in the instant case. However, since this is the first time that an administrative case has been filed against respondent and considering that he has been plagued by health and family problems, the penalty imposed should be mitigated.

In Musni v. Morales (315 SCRA 85, 90-91 [1999]), we underscored the significance of the duties of the process server as follows:

x x x It is through the process server that defendants learn of the action brought against them by the complainant. More important, it is also through the service of summons by the process server that the trial court acquires jurisdiction over the defendant. It is therefore important that summonses, other writs and court processes be served expeditiously.

Given the importance of these duties, respondent is enjoined to perform. the same efficiently and without delay. As this Court has often emphasized, the conduct and, behavior of everyone connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice, the courts below not excepted, from the presiding judge to the lowliest clerk, must be circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility. A public office is a public trust and all public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people. As such, this Court cannot countenance any act or omission which diminishes or tends to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary. (Roque v. Grima!do, 260 SCRA 1, 8-9 )

WHEREFORE, respondent Jerry V. Adolfo is hereby found guilty of Gross Inefficiency, Absenteeism, Failure to Serve Summons and other Court Processes. He is FINED the equivalent of one month's salary with a WARNING that any repetition of these and similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) TOMASITA MAGAY-DRIS

Clerk of Court


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