Case Digest: In Re Ignacio S. del Rosario

A.M. No. 2011-05-SC :September 6, 2011

Re: Deceitful Conduct of Ignacio S. del Rosario, Cash Clerk III, Records and Miscellaneous Matter Section, Checks Disbursement Division, FMO-OCA.



On April 19, 2011, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) was furnished a copy of the letter-complaint dated April 6, 2011 written by Noel G. Primo, a retired sheriff of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 65, Bulan, Sorsogon. Primos letter was addressed to Ignacio S. del Rosario, Cash Clerk III of the Records and Miscellaneous Matter Section, Checks Disbursement Division, Fiscal Management Office-OCA of the Supreme Court, demanding the return of a sum of money that was entrusted to him by Primo. In the letter, Primo accused Del Rosario of dishonesty, grave abuse of trust and confidence, and conduct extremely prejudicial to a civil servant, "specifically a SUPREME COURT EMPLOYEE."

According to Primo, Del Rosario is a friend who offered to help him settle his financial liability with the Court so he could process his retirement papers. On November 3, 2010, Primo entrusted to Del Rosario the amount of P34,000.00. It was agreed that a portion of this amount (P32,421.43) would be paid by Del Rosario to the Courts cashier while the remaining amount would belong to Del Rosario as a token for the services rendered to Primo. From December 2010 to January 2011, Del Rosario represented to Primo that he could process his retirement papers with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Del Rosario also blamed the GSIS for the slow processing of Primos retirement papers. Primo subsequently discovered that his retirement papers were still with the Supreme Court. He also discovered that Del Rosario did not pay the formers financial liability with the Court. Primo demanded from Del Rosario the return of the P32,421.43. Despite Del Rosarios assurances and Primos repeated demands, the money was not returned.

Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez indorsed the matter for appropriate action to the Office of Administrative Services (OAS) which directed Del Rosario to comment on the letter-complaint.

After evaluation of the letter-complaint and Del Rosarios comment, the OAS found that Del Rosario violated the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; Canon I (Fidelity to Duty) of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, for not returning the amount in excess of P32,421.43; and Canon IV, Section 7 (Performance of Duties) of the same Code, for doing work outside the scope of his duties as Cash Clerk III. For his actions, the OAS found him administratively liable for dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. The OAS reasoned:

Del Rosarios actuation amounts to dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Inasmuch as Del Rosario was fully aware that the money was only entrusted to him for payment since Primo could not personally tender payment due to the long distance in going to Manila and of his present health condition, the former, however, appropriated it instead for his personal use to remedy the financial needs of his family. This is a form of deceit and betrayal of trust. The Court defines dishonesty 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.

The OAS recommended:

a. That Mr. Ignacio S. Del Rosario, Cash Clerk III, Records and Miscellaneous Matter Section, Checks Disbursement Division, FMO-OCA be held liable for serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service; and

b. That he be suspended from office for six (6) months without pay, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

ISSUE: Whether or not Mr. Del Rosario is guilty of dishonesty?

HELD: OAS findings affirmed.

POLITICAL LAW: Dishonesty under the Civil Service

We agree with the findings of the OAS that Del Rosarios actions constituted dishonesty and demonstrated conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. We cannot, however, accept the recommended penalty imposed by the OAS.

Dishonesty has been defined as a disposition to lie, cheat, deceive or defraud. It implies untrustworthiness, lack of integrity, lack of honesty, probity or integrity in principle on the part of the individual who failed to exercise fairness and straightforwardness in his or her dealings. On the other hand, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service refers to acts or omissions that violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or tend to diminish the people's faith in the Judiciary. The circumstances of the present case show that Del Rosario committed these violations in his dealings with Primo.

The records show that Del Rosario admitted to the dishonest act of misappropriating the money that was entrusted to him by Primo. He also did not deny the misrepresentations he made to Primo to cover up his misappropriation of the entrusted sum. Del Rosario also admitted to his improper conduct in accepting money to undertake work outside the scope of his assigned tasks. Lastly, he admitted that he failed to immediately return the money he misappropriated despite Primos repeated demands.

Under the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (Civil Service Rules), dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service are classified as grave offenses. Under Section 52(A)(1), Rule IV of the Civil Service Rules, dishonesty is punishable by dismissal for the first offense. In turn, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service under Section 52(A)(20), Rule IV of the Civil Service Rules is punishable by suspension for six (6) months and one (1) day to one year for the first offense, and by dismissal for the second offense.

In this case, considering Del Rosarios two civil service offenses, Section 55 of the Civil Service Rules provides that the penalty to be imposed should be that corresponding to the most serious charge, with the rest considered as aggravating circumstances. Thus, Del Rosarios infractions merit the imposition of the penalty of dismissal from the service with the accessory penalties of forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government service.

We cannot consider as mitigating circumstances Del Rosarios ready admissions of his infractions, the proffered reason for the misappropriation, the restitution made, and Primos expressed intent to desist from pursuing the present administrative case. We note the OAS observation that Del Rosarios restitution was not of his own volition but stemmed only from his fear of possible administrative sanctions. Any consideration of restitution must also take into account the nature of the offense committed in terms of the stakes involved. In this case, public interest in the conduct of an employee of the Judiciary and the name of the Judiciary itself are involved. Del Rosarios infractions cannot but be severe as he took advantage of the trust and confidence of a lower court employee that his office (Fiscal Management Office-OCA) ministers to. The complainants desistance, on the other hand, is not a critical factor as what is involved is not a private offense but one where public interest is involved.

As an OCA employee, Del Rosario is expected to set a good example for other court employees in the standards of propriety, honesty and fairness. He is expected to possess a high degree of work ethic, and abide by the strictest principles of ethical conduct and decorum both in his professional and private dealings. Del Rosario failed to meet these standards for he placed his personal interest over the interest of an employee who trusted him as a friend and as an employee administering to the needs of other employees; he catered to his own interest without regard to the Courts interest in promoting and uplifting the publics confidence in the integrity of the Judiciary, and in the trustworthiness, reliability and honesty of its employees.

We have many times declared that the image of a court of justice is mirrored by the conduct, official or otherwise, of its personnel from the judge to the lowest of its rank and file who are all bound to adhere to the exacting standard of morality and decency in both their professional and private actions. In this case, Del Rosarios actions tarnished the public perception of the image of the Court, and placed into serious question the Courts capability to ably handle the supervision and administration of its own personnel.

Under the circumstances, our compassion has to give way to the higher demand of the interest of the institution. Thus, we impose the supreme penalty of dismissal from the service in this case. We hope that this case shall remind court employees that as public servants, the highest sense of honesty, integrity, morality and decency is demanded in their performance of official duties and in the handling of their personal affairs; at all times, they carry, and must preserve, the Court's good name and standing. The Court cannot sit idly as its own employee violates the norm of public accountability in a manner that diminishes the peoples faith in the Judiciary.

Ignacio S. del Rosario, Cash Clerk III of the Records and Miscellaneous Matter Section, Checks Disbursement Division, Fiscal Management Office-Office of the Court Administrator, is dissmissed from the service for Dishonesty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.