Case Digest: Duque III v. Veloso

G.R. No. 196201 : June 19, 2012

FRANCISCO T. DUQUE III, in his capacity as Chairman of the CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, Petitioner, v. FLORENTINO VELOSO, Respondent.

BRION, J.:


FACTS:

Respondent, then District Supervisor of Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corporation (Quedancor), Cagayan de Oro City, was administratively charged with three (3) counts of dishonesty in connection with his unauthorized withdrawals of money deposited by Juanito Quino (complainant), a client of Quedancor. The complainant applied for a restructuring of his loan with Quedancor and deposited the amount of P50,000.00 to Quedancors cashier for his Manila account. In three (3) separate occasions, the respondent, without notice and authority from the complainant and with the assistance of Quedancor's cashier, managed to withdraw the P50,000.00 deposit. Upon the discovery of the withdrawals, the complainant demanded the return of the money and called the attention of the manager of Quedancor in Cagayan de Oro City, who issued to the respondent a memorandum requiring him to explain the withdrawals and to return the money.

From the established facts, the respondent was charged by Quedancor with dishonesty, and was subsequently found guilty of the charges and dismissed from the service. The CSC affirmed the findings and conclusions of Quedancor on appeal.

Dissatisfied with the adverse rulings of Quedancor and the CSC, the respondent elevated his case to the CA which adjudged him guilty of dishonesty, but modified the penalty of dismissal to one (1) year suspension from office without pay.

The CSC argues that the CA disregarded the applicable law and jurisprudence which penalize the offense of dishonesty with dismissal from the service. The CSC also argues that there are no mitigating circumstances to warrant a reduction of the penalty.

ISSUE: Whether or not dishonesty is the proper administrative penalty to be imposed on the respondent?

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is reversed and set aside.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: civil service; termination of employment


Dismissal from the service is the prescribed penalty imposed by Section 52(A)(1), Rule IV of the Uniform Rules for the commission of dishonesty even as a first offense. The aforesaid rule underscores the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust and only those who can live up to such exacting standard deserve the honor of continuing in public service. It is true that Section 53, Rule IV of the Uniform Rules provides the application of mitigating, aggravating or alternative circumstances in the imposition of administrative penalties. Section 53, Rule IV applies only when clear proof is shown, using the specific standards set by law and jurisprudence, that the facts in a given case justify the mitigation of the prescribed penalty.

While in most cases, length of service is considered in favor of the respondent, it is not considered where the offense committed is found to be serious or grave; or when the length of service helped the offender commit the infraction. The factors against mitigation are present in this case.

The circumstance that this is the respondent's first administrative offense should not benefit him. By the express terms of Section 52, Rule IV of the Uniform Rules, the commission of an administrative offense classified as a serious offense (like dishonesty) is punishable by dismissal from the service even for the first time. In other words, the clear language of Section 52, Rule IV does not consider a first-time offender as a mitigating circumstance. Likewise, under statutory construction principles, a special provision prevails over a general provision. Section 53, Rule IV of the Uniform Rules, a general provision relating to the appreciation of mitigating, aggravating or alternative circumstances, must thus yield to the provision of Section 52, Rule IV of the Uniform Rules which expressly provides for the penalty of dismissal even for the first commission of the offense.

We reject as mitigating circumstances the respondent's admission of his culpability and the restitution of the amount. As pointed out by the CSC, the respondent made use of the complainants money in 2001 while the restitution was made only in 2003, during the pendency of the administrative case against him. Under the circumstances, the restitution was half-hearted and was certainly neither purely voluntary nor made because of the exercise of good conscience; it was triggered, more than anything else, by his fear of possible administrative penalties. The admission of guilt and the restitution effected were clearly mere afterthoughts made two (2) years after the commission of the offense and after the administrative complaint against him was filed. With these circumstances in mind, we do not find it justified to relieve the respondent of the full consequences of his dishonest actions.

Thus, the Constitution stresses that a public office is a public trust and public officers must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. These constitutionally-enshrined principles, oft-repeated in our case law, are not mere rhetorical flourishes or idealistic sentiments. They should be taken as working standards by all in the public service.

GRANTED.

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