A.M. No. P-97-1236 July 11, 1997
CLERK II - MADONNA MACALUA, Complainant, v. COURT AIDE - DOMINGO TIU, JR., Respondent.
Complainant Madonna Macalua, Clerk II of Regional Trial Court, Branch 44 in Dumaguete City, filed before Judge Alvin L. Tan of the same Branch, an administrative complaint for "grave misconduct in office" against respondent Domingo Tiu, Jr., a Court Aide therein. After the parties submitted affidavits, Judge Tan transmitted the records of the case to the Executive Judge 1 with the recommendation that the case be settled amicably and to swap respondent with other court personnel. The case was referred to the Vice-Executive Judge 2 who, however, inhibited himself on the ground that his wife is related to complainant's counsel. 3 Thereafter, the case passed a series of re-raffling 4 beginning with Judge Saturnino Ll. Villegas of Branch 36, then to Judges Eleuterio E. Chiu of Branch 32, Alfonso P. Briones of Branch 38, Benigno C. Villarente, Jr. of Branch 41 and Ibarra B. Jaculbe, Jr. of Branch 42 all of whom, except Judge Villarente, inhibited from the case on several grounds. 5 Finally, it was re-raffled to Judge Temistocles Diez of Branch 37 who rendered his report on the case and recommended that respondent be found guilty of "simple misconduct and gross discourtesy" and be suspended for one (1) month and one (1) day. 6
Complainant's grievance arose from the following undisputed facts appearing in the Report of the investigating Judge (Diez):
The Report was referred for evaluation to the Court Administrator who adopted the findings of the investigating judge and recommended that:
The Court is confronted with a scenario whereby an unauthorized utility worker, moved only by sympathy and pity for a certain person who wants to secure a copy of a court document, interceded impolitely with the clerk for the release of the document. In the absence of any ill-motive, would the act of intercession by the utility worker be considered as grave misconduct in office?
Respondent's administrative liability stems from the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 9 specifically the provisions on the Civil Service Commission (CSC) which covers him as court personnel. 10 Section 46(b) of Chapter 6, Subtitle A, Title 1, Book V of said Code includes misconduct and discourtesy in the course of official duties among the grounds for disciplinary action.
As a court aide or utility worker, respondent has no authority to release court records nor can he compel complainant to release the same. This is specially true since the latter being the clerk and having access to said records, refuses to do that which she knows she is legally barred from doing for lack of authority. Respondent moved by pity and sympathy, tried to help a woman townmate secure official papers and even promised to deliver the papers to her upon knowing that she hails from a place 117 kms. away from Dumaguete City. Helping people is a good trait rarely found among public officials who are true to their duties and plainly motivated by pure public service. It is in no way an ignoble act yet the manner it was carried out by respondent cannot be countenanced. Such manner is reprehensible and shows lack of courtesy contrary to the precept of "courtesy in the civil service". 11 The Court had consistently emphasized that:
Pity for the needing public is no excuse for discourtesy to a fellow employee. Such misconduct is undeserving of the Court's sympathy nor would it serve as justification for a mitigated liability. Pity cannot be the source of authority for a prohibited act nor can it allow misconduct in office. The exigencies of government service cannot and should never be subordinated to purely human equations. 13 Moreover, quarreling with a co-employee specially when done before the public or within the premises and during office hours is prejudicial to public service. As an employee of the judiciary, respondent is "expected to accord respect for the person and rights of others at all times, and that his every act and word should be characterized by prudence, restraint, courtesy and dignity." 14 Government service is people oriented where high strung and belligerent behavior cannot be allowed. 15 So that no matter how commendable respondent's motives may be, as a public officer courtesy should be his policy. He is expected to do no more than what duty demands and no less than what privilege permits. Though he may be of great help to specific individuals, but when that help frustrates and betrays the public's trust in the system it cannot and should not remain unchecked. The interests of the individual must give way to the accommodation of the public - Privatum incommodum publico bono pensatur.
The Court is aware that this complaint would not have occurred had it not been for the absence of the official with whom Mrs. dela Peña could have addressed her needs. The unavailability in office of the officer in charge of what the public wants or with whom they previously transacted business is a sad truth so common in public agencies such that it interrupts the smooth flow of government function and renders public service inutile. That sad truth not only foments untold hardship and hazard to the public but likewise becomes the root cause that triggers conflicts, like the one at bench, not only between the public and their servants but also among the public officers themselves. Instead of promoting harmony, the atmosphere of good relationship in the office is impaired.
Such officials are not the kind of civil servants contemplated by our Constitution nor desired by the Filipino community. The difficulties and troubles not to say the delay and inconvenience they cause to the public who is left with no option but to persevere and endure a stamina to impatiently wait for that lazy, slothful, feeble, indifferent and indolent public officer to perform his function efficiently. Thus, the public is left at the mercy of public personnel with insatiable desire for compensation but unwilling to minister to the former's needs to whom they are bound to serve with utmost responsibility, unqualified respect, promptness, active dedication to duty and with moral accountability.
CSC Memorandum Circular No. 30 s. of 1989 enumerates the corresponding penalties for administrative cases pursuant to the Code of Ethical Standards (Republic Act 6713). Simple misconduct, classified as a less grave offense, carries a penalty of suspension for one (1) month and one (1) day to six (6) months for the first violation. The penalty recommended to be imposed on respondent is within that range.
ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds respondent Domingo Tiu, Jr. guilty of simple misconduct and forthwith AFFIRMS the recommendation that he be suspended from office for one (1) month and one (1) day without pay effective upon receipt hereof. He is also WARNED that a repetition of such or similar acts would be dealt with severely in the future.
Narvasa, C.J., Davide, Jr., Melo and Panganiban, JJ., concur.
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