Re employees' habitual tardiness (A.M. No. 2010-11-SC. March 15, 2011)


FACTS: This administrative matter emanated from the reports dated June 16, 2010 and June 17, 2010 made by the Leave Division under the Office of Administrative Services (OAS) to the Complaints and Investigation Division, also under the OAS, to the effect that the following employees had been habitually tardy in the second semester of 2009.On July 5, 2010, the OAS directed the concerned employees to explain in writing why no administrative disciplinary action should be taken against them for their habitual tardiness during the covered period, which habitual tardiness was in violation of Civil Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular No. 04, Series of 1991. Their explanations involved disease, distance of home from work, preparation for an exam, lack of house help, among others. The OAS concluded that the concerned employees had incurred habitual tardiness and that their justifications were unacceptable, and penalized one employee, who has been habitually tardy for the fourth time, with suspension from work for three months without pay; an employee habitually tardy for the second time, suspension for five days with warning; and for first-time offenders, a reprimand.

ISSUE: Should the evaluation of the OAS be adopted?

HELD: The Court adopts the findings of the OAS. It is a canon under the Constitution that a public office is a public trust. This canon includes the mandate for the observance of prescribed office hours and the efficient use of every moment of such hours for the public service. Accordingly, court officials and employees must at all times strictly observe official hours to inspire the public's respect for the justice system. Here, there is no question that all the concerned employees incurred habitual tardiness within the context of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 04, Series of 1991, supra. Thereby, they fell short of the standard of conduct demanded from everyone connected with the administration of justice.

The respective justifications of the concerned employees (consisting of illness or poor health, travel difficulties, household responsibilities, and similar causes) are not unacceptable. Already in Re: Supreme Court Employees Incurring Habitual Tardiness in the 2nd Semester of 2005, it was declared that justifications for absences and tardiness falling under the categories of illness, moral obligation to family and relatives, performance of household chores, traffic and health or physical condition are neither novel nor persuasive, and hardly evoke sympathy. If at all, such justifications may only mitigate liability.

The penalties recommended by the OAS are well taken. However, in the case of the fourth-time offender, the Court moderates the recommended penalty of suspension for three months without pay to one month suspension without pay but with issued a final warning that a repetition will be dealt with more severely upon humanitarian considerations.Section 53 of Rule IV of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service grants the disciplining authority the discretion to consider mitigating circumstances in the imposition of the proper penalty.

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