OCA v. Cruz (A.M. No. P-11-2988; December 12, 2011)

CASE DIGEST: OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR (OCA),Complainant, v. ATTY. TEOTIMO D. CRUZ, Former Officer-in-Charge, Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, San Mateo, Rizal, Respondent. (A.M. No. P-11-2988; December 12, 2011).

FACTS: Atty. Cruz succeeded Atty. Ofilas who compulsorily retired on August 17, 2007. Atty. Cruz's term ended when Atty. Bautista was designated as Officer-in-Charge by Executive Judge Josephine Zarate-Fernandez effective September 1, 2010.

The audit conducted by the CMO disclosed that there was a cash shortage in the amount of P 928,534.24. Of the said amount, P12,000.00 was incurred during the term of Atty. Cruz while P 916,534.24 was carried over from the term of Atty. Ofilas and which formed part of the financial accountability of former Clerk IV Aranzazu V. Baltazar.

The audit team found out that the cash shortage of P 12,000.00 was the result of a double withdrawal of cash bond posted in Criminal Case Nos. 6182 and 6183, which was previously withdrawn and confiscated during the term of Atty. Ofilas but was again withdrawn during Atty. Cruz term.

The records likewise revealed that Atty. Cruz incurred a delay in the remittances of his collections in violation of Administrative Circular No. 5-93. Per computation, the non-remittances of court collections deprived the Court of the interest in the amount of P34,578.17 had the collections been deposited on time.

In its report, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) adopted the recommendations of the Audit Team.

ISSUE: Whether or not respondent is administratively liable for the cash shortage?HELD: Clerks of Court are officers of the law who perform vital functions in the prompt and sound administration of justice. They are the court's treasurers, accountants, guards and physical plant managers. As custodian of court funds and revenues, it is their duty to immediately deposit the various funds received by them to the authorized government depositories for they are not supposed to keep funds in their custody.

Atty. Cruz' belated turnover of cash deposited with him is inexcusable and will not exonerate him from liability. His failure to remit his cash collections on time is violative of Administrative Circular No. 3-2000 which mandates that all fiduciary collections shall be deposited immediately by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with the Land Bank of the Philippines, the authorized government depository bank.

This Court has stressed that the behavior of all employees and officials involved in the administration of justice, from the judge to the most junior clerk, is circumscribed with a heavy responsibility. Their conduct must be guided by strict propriety and decorum at all times, in order to merit and maintain the publics respect for, and trust in the Judiciary. The Court will not tolerate any conduct, act or omission on the part of those who will violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary.

Atty. Teotimo D. Cruz is FINED in the amount of P5,000.00 and is likewise ordered to RESTITUTE the shortages in his collections.

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