Case Digest: Executive Judge Rojas v. Ana Mina

A.M. No. P-10-2867 : June 19, 2012

(Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 09-3255-P)

EXECUTIVE JUDGE MELANIO C. ROJAS, JR., Regional Trial Court, Branch 25, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Complainant, v. ANA MARIVIC L. MINA, Clerk III, Regional Trial Court, Branch 25, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Respondent.

PER CURIAM:


FACTS:

Judge Rojas brought respondents unlawful acts to the attention of the OCA. He requested the withholding of benefits due respondent, because she had reportedly been stealing SAJJ checks belonging to him and other trial court judges and encashing them without their knowledge and authority.

Upon further investigation, it was discovered that respondent had been getting mail matters at the Post Office of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, more particularly SAJJ checks payable to Judge Rojas. As testified to by Marivic Dauz (Dauz) and Cornelia Corpuz (Corpuz), two employees of the Tagudin Women's Cooperative, respondent had encashed a P 30,000 check payable to Judge Rojas without the latter's consent and authority. Thereafter, respondent tendered her resignation, which, according to Judge Rojas, was made with the intent to preempt the filing of an appropriate action against her.

OCA found respondent liable for gross misconduct and dishonesty. It ruled that she virtually admitted liability when she claimed that she was in the process of settling her obligations to Judge Rojas. It further ruled that her resignation, as well as the efforts of the parties to settle the matter amicably, did not absolve her of any administrative liability.

ISSUE: Whether or not respondent is liable for gross misconduct and dishonesty?

HELD: OCA's findings are sustained.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: court personnel; gross misconduct; dishonesty

The Court agrees with the OCA's findings, which were entirely substantiated by the record. We find respondent guilty of gross misconduct and dishonesty for stealing and encashing SAJJ checks payable to trial court judges without their knowledge and authority.

It is clear that whether or not respondent has fully settled her obligation to Judge Rojas, and to the other trial court judges for that matter, will not exonerate her from any administrative wrongdoing. This Court in Villaser v. De Leon has emphasized that full payment of an obligation does not discharge the administrative liability, because disciplinary actions involve not purely private matters, but acts unbecoming of a public employee.

We rule that respondents admitted acts of pocketing checks and later encashing them for her benefit constitute grave misconduct. We have defined grave misconduct as follows:

Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer; and the misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, such as willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules, which must be established by substantial evidence.

Furthermore, stealing the checks and encashing them are considered acts of gross dishonesty. Dishonesty is defined as a 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.

Both gross misconduct and dishonesty are grave offenses that are punishable by dismissal even for the first offense.Penalties include forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in government service. However, as will be further discussed below, the penalty of dismissal may no longer be imposed.

Records show that respondent has already effectively resigned from her position, and allegations that she did so to avoid administrative liability have been uncontroverted. The mere expedient of resigning from the service, however, will not extricate a court employee from the consequences of his or her acts. We have often ruled that resignation should not be used either as an escape or as an easy way out to evade an administrative liability or an administrative sanction. Thus, we hold respondent administratively liable for gross misconduct and dishonesty.

Respondent, GUILTY of GRAVE MISCONDUCT AND DISHONESTY.

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