Official time in court IMPORTANT to inspire people's trust in the Judiciary

Based on the record of this administrative matter the Supreme Court notes, first, that respondent offered no explanation on the discrepancy between the entries in her DTR and the entries logged by the Head Guard. Although the DTRs were signed by Presiding Judge Agustin T. Sardido, certifying to the correctness of the entries, the Supreme Court finds, however, that the Head Guard had discreetly logged in the actual times of respondents arrival and departures, upon the instruction of Executive Judge Francisco S. Ampig, Jr. There appears no reason why the Head Guard should falsify his entries which differ from those of respondent, and thus the Supreme Court agrees to rely on his entries. Moreover, as the OCA report stated, it was the task of the Clerk of Court, and not the Judge (particularly Judge Sardido) to certify to the correctness of entries in the DTR.

As to respondents participation in the falsification of a bail bond document, the OCA report gave credence to the sworn statement of Lydia Jayme who made a detailed narration of how the falsifications were done. The OCA also considered as supporting evidence the contested documents supporting the bail bond, e.g., the falsified tax declarations, a handwritten note by the respondent addressed to one Nita Frias evidencing that respondent knew of the questioned bail bonds and she had, in fact, asked Diding to speed up the processing. Furthermore, as Clerk III, respondent de Mateo had the task to docket criminal complaints and keep a record book of warrants of arrest issued.

Significantly, the Supreme Court notes, second, that respondent de Mateo denied all the accusations levelled at her and averred that her accusers were motivated mainly by ill will. Be that as it may, the Supreme Court abides by the established doctrine, in administrative proceedings, that the complainant has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the allegations in the complaint. The Supreme Court shall proceed with the task of evaluating complainants evidence.

Substantial evidence in an administrative case consists of that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. In this case, the evidence relied upon by Judge Dinopol, who investigated the case, does not indubitably show that respondent had a direct hand in the falsification of the documents. First, the sworn statement of witness Lydia Jayme cannot be the sole basis to determine the liability of respondent without any corroboration. The Supreme Court find, based on the record, that she was not even physically available during hearings to vouch for her statements. Second, the handwritten note of respondent addressed to one Nita Frias was not authenticated or corroborated by any witness. Third, the alleged documents supporting the bail bond application, by themselves, do not show that these were indeed falsifications, without further corroboration by credible witnesses.

Coming now to the imposable penalty, the Supreme Court agrees that falsification of daily time records is patent dishonesty. Dishonesty is (d)isposition 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, being a grave offense, carries the extreme penalty of dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits except accrued leave credits, and with perpetual disqualification from re-employment in government service. Indeed, dishonesty is a malevolent act that has no place in the Judiciary. Finding that the respondent offered no satisfactory explanation concerning the charges of dishonesty against her, and absent any circumstance to mitigate the imposable penalty, the Court finds the OCA recommendation of her dismissal appropriate.
Respondent, it should be stressed, failed to live up to the standards of honesty and integrity in the public service. As the Constitution felicitously phrases it, public office is a public trust. Inherent in this mandate of trust is the observance of prescribed office hours and the efficient use thereof for public service, if only to recompense the Government, and ultimately the people, who shoulder the cost of maintaining the Judiciary. Thus, to inspire public confidence and respect for the justice system, court officials and employees are at all times behooved to strictly observe official time. They must bear in mind that punctuality is a virtue, but absenteeism and tardiness are impermissible.

The Court is duty-bound to sternly wield a corrective hand to discipline errant employees and to weed out those who are found undesirable. The Supreme Court cannot countenance any act or omission by any court employee that violates the norm of public accountability, which would diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary. (A.M. No. P-05-2100; December 27, 2007)

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