Ferreras v. Eclipse (A.M. No. P-05-2085; January 20, 2010)


FACTS: Gerardo Q. Ferreras, Evidence Custodian, Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, Baler, Aurora charged respondent Rudy Eclipse, Utility Worker I, RTC, Branch 66, Baler, Aurora, for Tampering of Evidence allegedly committed within the premises of the Bulwagan ng Katarungan of the RTC on February 13, 2004 at 2:30 a.m. He alleged that Eclipse changed the rear right shock of a blue Yamaha RS 100 motorcycle which was submitted as an evidence to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (OPP) of Aurora and replaced it with a damaged one to prevent detection. Eclipse denied the charges. The Court Administrator adopted the findings of Executive Judge Soluren dismissing Eclipse from service.ISSUE: Is Eclipse administratively guilty of the offense charged?

HELD: When the issue is the credibility of witnesses, the function of evaluating it is primarily lodged in the investigating judge. The rule which concedes due respect, and even finality, to the assessment of credibility of witnesses by trial judges in civil and criminal cases where preponderance of evidence and proof beyond reasonable doubt, respectively, are required, applies a fortiori to administrative cases where the quantum of proof required is only substantial evidence.The investigating judge is in a better position to pass judgment on the credibility of witnesses, having personally heard them when they testified and observed their deportment and manner of testifying.There is no reason to depart from this rule.

Misconduct is defined as any unlawful conduct on the part of a person concerned in the administration of justice prejudicial to the rights of the parties or to the right determination of the cause.It generally means wrongful, improper or unlawful conduct motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose. The term, however, does not necessarily imply corruption or criminal intent. On the other hand, the term gross connotes something out of all measure; beyond allowance; not to be excused; flagrant; shameful.

Dishonesty has been defined as intentionally making a false statement in any material fact, or practicing or attempting to practice any deception or fraud in securing his examination, registration, appointment or promotion. It is also understood to imply a 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.

With the foregoing as yardstick, the act of respondent -- of taking off the shock absorber of the motorcycle, which forms part of the prosecutions evidence without the knowledge of the evidence custodian or the owner, for personal gain, and thereafter replacing the same with a damaged one to prevent detection of the same -- to be constitutive of dishonesty and grave misconduct.

Well-settled is the rule that a public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees are duty-bound to serve with the highest degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency and shall remain accountable to the people. Persons involved in the administration of justice ought to live up to the strictest standard of honesty and integrity in the public service.The conduct of personnel connected with the courts should, at all times, be circumspect to preserve the integrity and dignity of our courts of justice.As forerunners in the administration of justice, they ought to live up to the strictest standards of honesty and integrity, considering that their positions primarily involve service to the public. ECLIPSE IS GUILTY.