In Re: Judge Rowena Nieves A. Tan (A.M. No. 2007-02-SC; February 10, 2010)


CASE DIGSET: RE: COMPLAINT OF JUDGE ROWENA NIEVES A. TAN FOR LATE REMITTANCE BY THE SUPREME COURT OF HER TERMINAL LEAVE TO PAY GSIS TO APPLY FOR PAYMENT OF HER SALARY LOAD TO SAID AGENCY

FACTS: 
Judge Rowena Nieves A. Tan (Judge Tan), Presiding Judge of Branch 42 of the Regional Trial Court of Balangiga, Eastern Samar, complained by Letter-Complaint of October 11, 2006 addressed to Atty. Eden Candelaria, Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief Administrative Officer of the Office of Administrative Services (OAS), about the late remittance of her terminal leave pay to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to partially settle her salary loan therewith.

It appears that in 2001, Judge Tan, then employed as a court attorney in this Court, obtained a P192,064 salary loan from the GSIS. On June 30, 2002, she resigned from the Court at which time she had paid the GSIS a total of P33,340.93. To settle her outstanding balance, she requested the Court to remit her terminal leave pay of P88,666.88 to the GSIS. And she manifested that she would surrender her GSIS policy with a cash surrender value of P79,057.73 to fully settle her loan.

While Judge Tan was pursuing her Master of Laws in London, she was informed by the GSIS, by letter ofOctober 8, 2002, that she still owed the amount of P111,385.90 inclusive of interests and surcharges as of July 31, 2006.

In the earlypart of 2004, Judge Tan repaired to the Court to inquire about the remittance of her terminal leave pay to the GSIS. It was only then that it was discovered that remittance was yet to be made. The remittance was then made on May 13, 2004.Judge Tan thus demanded the immediaterectification by the Courts Cash Division by paying the amount of P111,311.45 to the GSIS, which amount was incurred due to the negligence and dereliction of duty by said office.

The OAS, through its Complaints and Investigation Division (CID), accordingly directed Fernando Montalvo (Montalvo), Liliane Ulgado (Ulgado), Dexter Ilagan (Ilagan), Minerva Briones (Minerva), Edita Japzon (Edita) and Ursula Editha San Pedro (San Pedro) to explain the delay in the remittance of Judge Tans terminal leave pay to the GSIS.They claimed that oversight occurred as explained in a letter.

The OAS accordingly recommended as follows:

(1) Mr. Dexter Ilagan and Ms. Minerva Briones be adjudged guilty of simple neglect of duty and besuspended for one (1) month and one (1) day suspension for their failure to exercise due diligence in the performance of their duties;

(2) Mr. Dexter Ilagan and Ms. Minerva Briones be held liable to Judge Tanin the amount equivalent to the interests and surcharges of Eighty Eight Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Six Pesos and Eighty Eight Centavos (P88,666.88) imposed by the GSIS from July 2002 until May of 2004 including accrued interests arising therefrom. The Chief of the Accounting Division, FMBO-SC be directed to make the necessary computation of the extent of the liability of said personnel and submit the same to the Court; and

(3) To prevent occurrence of a similar incident in the future, the Checks Disbursement Division be directed to duplicate Disbursement Voucher for remittance as an attachment of the Disbursement Voucher with zero balance, separate from the independent Original Disbursement Voucher for remittance intended to be transmitted to CDD. In that way, the Original Disbursement Voucher for remittance will not be mistaken to be an attachment to the DV with zero balance.

The Court finds sufficient evidence only against Ilagan for simple neglect of duty.

The OASs sole basis in faulting Minerva, Ilagans superior, was the affixing of her initials on the journal entry voucher prepared by Ilagan. Without more, the negligence of Ilagan, a subordinate, does not amount to negligence of Minerva, the superior.

It is gathered that that was not the first time that Ilagans office had encountered a situation where a remittance voucher was erroneously forwarded to it.

ISSUE:

Is Judge Tan also at fault?
HELD: Still, the Court notes that Judge Tan is not without fault. For, as early as October 8, 2002, the GSIS had already informed her of her outstanding obligation. It was only in the early part of 2004 that she followed-up the remittance of her terminal leave pay with the Court. Her preoccupation with her studies abroad did not excuse her from either writing, or sending an authorized representative to the Court to follow up the remittance or to continue paying her monthly loan amortizations directly with the GSIS in order to keep her account current pending the remittance.

Suffice it to state then that Judge Tans act or omission contributed to a legal cause of what she suffered, which act or omission falls below the standard to which one is required to conform for ones own protection.

Given Judge Tans contributory negligence, the Court sees it fit to only obligate Ilagan to reimburse the amount paid by Judge Tan for the interest and surcharges on the unremitted P88,666.00 as of October 8, 2002, or the date the GSIS actually informed Judge Tan of her outstanding obligation. Bereft of any record on which a proper assessment of the reimbursable amount can be made, the OAS is directed to coordinate with the Accounting Division and the GSIS for its computation.

Ilaganis thus administratively liable for simple neglect of duty, defined as failure to give proper attention to a task expected of an employee resulting from either carelessness or indifference.

***

Under Rule IV, Section 52(B) of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service vis-vis Rule XIV, Section 23 of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations implementing Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987, the penalty for simple neglect of duty is suspension for a period of one (1) month and one (1) day to six (6) months for the first violation. Under Sec. 19, Rule XIV of the same Rules, the penalty of fine, in lieu of suspension, may also be imposed.

Considering that this appears to be Ilagans first administrative offense and following rulings in several cases involving simple neglect of duty, the penalty of fine in the amount of P5,000 would suffice.

Respecting the recommendation of the OAS for the issuance of a directive to the Checks Disbursement Division to duplicate Disbursement Voucher remittance as an attachment of the Disbursement Voucher with zero balance, separate from the independent Original Disbursement Voucher for remittance intended to be transmitted to the Check Disbursement Division, the same is well-taken.

WHEREFORE, DEXTER ILAGAN of this Court is found GUILTY of simple neglect of duty and is fined Five Thousand (P5,000) Pesos, with WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

He is also ORDERED to reimburse Judge Rowena Nieves Tan the amount paid by her representing interests and penalty surcharges on her loan from the Government Service Insurance System as of October 8, 2002, the amount to be computed by the Office of Administrative Services which is ordered to coordinate with the Accounting Office and the GSIS for the purpose.

In line with its recommendation, the Office of Administrative Services, in coordination with the Accounting Division, the Financial Services Division, and the Check Disbursement Division and Cash Division, is ORDERED to submit proposed guidelines to prevent a repetition of the same or similar faux pas in the processing of remittance vouchers intended for payment of obligations.

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