CASE DIGEST: Gallano vs. Atty. Cuanico, Jr.

A.M. No. P-11-2902, January 25, 2011

VIRGILIO O. GALLANO, complainant, vs. ATTY. GRACIANO D. CUANICO, JR., Clerk Court, and SONIA L. DY, Social Welfare Officer II, both from the Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, CATARMAN, NORTHERN SAMAR, respondents.

PER CURIAM:


FACTS:

The OCA Audit Team from the Office of the Court Administrator conducted an audit of the books of Dy, Social Worker and former Officer-in-Charge and Attorney Cuanico, incumbent Clerk of Court of the RTC of Catarman, Northern Samar. The purpose of the audit was to determine whether the amounts collected were correctly and completely recorded in the books of the said accountable officers. It was found that there were shortages in the Judiciary Development Fund and Fiduciary Fund. Dy admitted that she altered the receipts but attempted to justify it by saying that it was to accommodate the financial needs of the late Judge Ernesto Corocotoas directed.

Another employee who is allegedly involved, according to the OCA Audit Team's findings, is Divina Mendez, a cash clerk. Replying to the Audit Team's request for explanations regarding the unlawful transactions, She said that she merely filled out receipts with no carbon paper underneath to make duplicate and triplicate copies. Also, according to her, Dy would ask her to fill out blank duplicates and triplicates of receipts. She maintains that she was merely acting in fulfillment of duty and in obedience to an order issued by a superior officer.

As regards Attorney cuanico's liability, herein petitioner Gallano alleged that despite his demand to release the cash bond pertaining to his Motion to Release Bailbond, Cuanico refused to release it. Dy then allegedly misrepresented herself as the Clerk of Court's authorized officer and received the cash bonds. Gallano alleged that this could not have been done without the knowledge and consent of Cuanico and thus he prays that both officers be dismissed from service. Cuanico denied that he conspired with Dy during the alleged transaction. Dy failed to file her Comment. The OCA the recommended that Cuanico be found liable for Simple Neglect of Duty while Dy and Mendez be found guilty of dishonesty.

ISSUE: Whether Dy and Cuanico are liable for the discrepancies in the court's funds.

HELD: The petition is meritorious.

POLITICAL LAW Administrative Law; Clerks of Court

The Court adopts the OCAs recommendations. Personnel of the judiciary have always been held to high and exacting standards befitting the office of dispensing justice. It is with this precept in mind that the Court disposes of the cases at bar.

Cuanico would deflect his culpability by claiming that the reason he did not detect any wrongdoing by his co-workers was because COA auditors failed to find any discrepancies during their audit.

The Supreme Court was not convinced.

The Clerk of Court is primarily accountable for all funds that are collected for the court, whether personally received by him or by a duly appointed cashier who is under his supervision and control. Being the custodian of the courts funds, revenues, and records, the Clerk of Court is likewise liable for any loss, shortage, destruction, or impairment of said funds and property.

As Clerk of Court, Cuanico is charged with the efficient recording, filing, and management of court records, and with the administrative supervision over court personnel. Clerks of Court cannot be permitted to slacken on their jobs under one pretext or another.

His failure to properly supervise and manage the financial transactions in his court constituted simple neglect of duty. Simple neglect of duty is the failure to give attention to a task, or the disregard of a duty due to carelessness or indifference.

Under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, simple neglect of duty is a less grave offense punishable by suspension of one month and one day to six months, even for the first offense.

Dy herself admitted her liability, but justifies her action by saying that the same was to accommodate the late Judge Corocoto. This, however, does not excuse her actions. Whatever may have been her motivation, the fact remains that Dy falsified receipts and took money that properly belonged to the judiciary.

Mendez admitted that she made false entries in the receipts, albeit proffering the excuse that she did not know that what she was doing was illegal, and that she was only following the instructions of her OIC, Dy.

Her plea of ignorance does not negate her liability.

A cash clerk is an accountable officer entrusted with the great responsibility of collecting money belonging to the funds of the court. Thus, Mendez should have realized that the money she was receiving were public funds. It was incumbent upon her to be more circumspect and discerning in performing her assigned tasks, even in the seemingly inconsequential details such as making sure that there was a carbon paper to make duplicate and triplicate copies when issuing receipts.

Petition is GRANTED.

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