In Re: Use of Bundy Clock (A.M. No. P-10-2763; February 10, 2010)


FACTS: By letterof October 23, 2008, then Deputy Court Administrator Antonio H. Dujua directed Executive Judge Ma. Angelica B. Quiambao of the Regional Trial Court, Angeles City to report on the bundy cards for the month of August 2008 of Sophia Castro and Babylin Tayag, Social Welfare Officers of the Office of the Clerk of Court due to irregularity of entries in the morning time-in on August 1, 2008 showing 19:30 and 19:31. It appeared that the bundy cards were punched in the evening.

In her November 12, 2008 letter-report, Executive Judge Quiambao narrates that she was able to secure the attendance logbook of theRTC-OCC for August 1, 2008 and the names Castro and Tayag do not appear in the logbook.In their Joint Explanation submitted to Executive Judge Quiambao, Castro and Tayag admit that they did not report to the RTC-OCC in the morning of August 1, 2008 as they had to attend to an adoption matter in Magalang, Pampanga in the afternoon of the same day.Pressed for time, Castro and Tayag reveal that they proceeded to Magalang without the corresponding travel order.Upon realizing that they have not punched in their bundy cards, Castro and Tayag did the same at 19:30 and 19:31, (7:30 p.m., 7:31 p.m. under regular time) thinking it would register as 7:30 a.m. and 7:31 a.m.

In her Comment dated March 3, 2009,Castroreiterates her earlier claim that she and Tayag had to go to Magalang, Pampanga in the afternoon of August 1, 2008 to conduct an impromptu interview with the parties in an adoption case.She explains that since moving to a new Hall of Justice in June 2008, she and Tayag maintained office at the first floor of the Maintenance Division.As she was also busy preparing to testify in the Family Court that afternoon,Tayag claims she forgot to go upstairs and punch in her bundy card.It was not until the clock reached 19:30 that she decided to punch in her card, thinking it would register as 7:30 a.m.

In her Comment dated March 4, 2009, Tayag claims she had thought of filing a leave of absence on August 1, 2008 but nixed the idea after she was able to finish the interview with her clients at 11:30 a.m.She went back to the court to punch in her card for the afternoon time slot.Tayag claims she resumed the interview with her clients and the session ended at 4:30 p.m.Tayag claims thatit was upon returning to court that she and Castro thought of doing the despicable act of punching in their bundy cards to make it appear that they were present the whole day of August 1, 2008.

The OCA thereupon came up with the following evaluationcumrecommendation in that there is sufficient reason to hold respondents administratively liable.

Castro and Tayag confessed to the irregularities they committed and feverishly sought the forgiveness of the Court.In her March 3, 2009 Comment, Castro revealed that she is suffering from Stage 2 Breast Cancer and is in dire straits financially. For her part, Tayag vowed never to repeat the same mistake.The records of the respondents show that this is theirfirst time to commitsuch an offense.

ISSUE: What is the proper penalty for Castro and Tayag?

HELD: In A.M. No. P-06-2243 (Re:Irregularities in the Use of Logbook and Daily Time Record by Clerk of Court Raquel Razon,et al.,MTC-OCC, Guagua, Pampanga),the Courtdid not impose the severe penalty of dismissal on the basis of the acknowledgement by respondents therein of their guilt, and also their remorse and long years of service.The Court imposed, instead, the penalty of fine in the amount of P2,000.00.In Re:Failure of Jose Dante E. Guerrero to Register His Time In and Out in Chronolog Time Recorder Machine [for] Several Times(A.M. No. 2005-07-SC, 19 April 2006), the Court imposed the penalty of six-month suspension on Guerrero, who was found guilty of dishonesty for falsifying his time record. The Court considers as mitigating circumstances Guerrero's good performance rating, his 13 years of satisfactory service in the judiciary, and his acknowledgment of and remorse for his infractions.

The compassion extended by the Court in these cases was not without legal basis. Section 53, Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (CSC Memorandum Circular No. 991936, August 31, 1999 grants the disciplining authority the discretion to consider mitigating circumstances in the imposition of the proper penalty.

Considering that Castro and Tayag actually committed no less than two (2) offenses, leaving the court premises without any travel order and fraudulently punching in their bundy cards, thepenalty of six-month suspension will suffice.

By Resolution of January 27, 2010, the Court re-docketed the case as a regular administrative matter.

The Court finds in order the evaluation of the case by the OCA.

Respondents are indeed guilty of dishonesty, defined as the 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. Dishonesty, which is a grave offense, is punishable by dismissal even for the first offense.

Respondents are guilty too of violation of reasonable office rules and procedures. In Estardo-Teodoro v. Segismundo Where The therein respondent court personnel failed to secure permission for his travel to Manila to obtain summons in a civil case in a court and visited the residence of the defendants in that civil case, in violation of an office memorandum issued by the clerk of court and noted by the executive judge, the Court held that the therein respondent violated reasonable office rules and procedures. Such violation is classified as alight offense.

While respondents committed two offenses ─ leaving the court premises without any travel order, which is a light offense, and dishonesty for fraudulently punching in their bundy cards, which is a grave offense the mitigating circumstances considered by the OCA justify the imposition of the recommended penalty of six-month suspension for each respondent. 6-MONTH SUSPENSION.