Sonido v. Ilocso (A.M. No. P-10-2794; June 1, 2011)


FACTS: Sonido is the mother of Nathalie Mae G. Sonidowho filed with the Rizal Prosecution Office a complaint against one Kristel Ann S. Asebo for violation of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.The Rizal Prosecution Office recommended the filing of an information against Kristel for violation of Section 5, par. 1, R.A. No. 9262.

That on or about the 27th day of February, 2006, in the Municipality of Teresa, Province of Rizal, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the former sweetheart of the complainant Nathalie Mae G. Sonido, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously show the videos of the complainant to other persons showing the sensitive parts of her body, thereby causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to one Nathalie Mae G. Sonido.

Sonido received a copy of the resolution on January 28, 2008. The following day, she went to the Metropolitan Trial Court in Morong, Rizal, to inquire about the status of the case. She was told that the case had been raffled to Branch 80. Exasperated about the delay in the issuance of the warrant of arrest, Sonido confronted Ilocso about it. Ilocso allegedly assured Sonido that copies of the warrant had already been mailed to the proper authorities for implementation.Sonido claimed, however, that it was only on June 26, 2008 that Ilocso gave her a copy of the warrant.

Sonido alleged that she learned from PO1 Sonido inquired from the police of Morong and Teresa, Rizal if they had received copies of the warrant of arrest; they both answered in the negative. She even called up the NBI to inquire on the matter, and she got the same answer.

Ilocso denied Sonido accusations, dismissing them as mere suspicions.She alleged that her failure to release the warrant of arrest resulted from mere memory lapse and was an honest mistake on her part. Ilocso also attributed the delay or omission in the preparation and release of the warrant of arrest to her heavy workload as clerk in charge of criminal cases in a court where almost 700 cases were pending.

According to the court, respondent Ilocso has been gravely remiss in the performance of her duties, resulting not only in the delay in the service of a copy of the warrant to Sonido but in the failure to arrest the accused because copies of the warrant of arrest were not sent to the police authorities. Because of the failure to timely serve the warrant, the accused escaped arrest and was able to leave the country and place herself beyond the reach of the warrant.
The OCA found Ilocso guilty of simple neglect of duty and recommended that she be suspended for one month without pay.

ISSUE: Is Ilocso merely guilty of simple neglect or serious neglect?

HELD: Ilocso's infraction is more serious than simple neglect of duty. The delay in the release of the warrant of arrest in Criminal Case No. 08-7977 did not happen because Ilocso simply forgot about it or her workload was so heavy that it took her several months to prepare and release it.

The delay, to our mind, was by design and was not an innocent lapse or mistake. Ilocso waited for the proper time to give Sonido a copy of the warrant and to send copies to the implementing police authorities. The proper time obviously was when the accused could no longer be arrested because she had already left the country. Ilocso promises, her excuses, the delay from the filing of the information to the release of the warrant of arrest, the time of the release to Sonido of a copy of the warrant, and the timing of the departure of the accused for Taiwan all lead us to conclude that the release of the warrant was delayed to favor the accused.

Ilocso could not have missed the urgency of Sonido's request for a copy of the warrant of arrest. She kept on coming back for it until she could not stand the long wait anymore.She confronted Ilocso about it. How could Ilocso have forgotten, as she claimed, Sonido's request when she herself admitted that Sonido saw her no less than five times to ask for a copy of the warrant?

Ilocso only gave Sonido a copy of the warrant when it was already too late as it could no longer be served on the accused. These circumstances, to our mind, only show that there was a design to allow the accused to evade the service of a warrant of arrest. It took Ilocso almost five (5) months, from the time of Sonido initial inquiry, to prepare and release the warrant to the proper authorities.

For knowingly delaying the release of the warrant of arrest in Criminal Case No. 08-7977, Ilocso had placed the court in a very negative light. It prejudiced the Court standing in the community as it projected an image of a Court that is unable to enforce its processes on time. For this reason, we find her liable not only for simple neglect of duty, but for the more serious offense of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. GRANTED.

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