Case Digest: OCA v. Zerrudo

A.M. No. P-11-3006 : OCTOBER 23, 2013

THE OFFICE OF THE COURT OF ADMINISTER, Complainant, v. MA. THERESA G. ZERRUDO, Clerk of Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Iloilo City, Respondent.

SERENO, C.J.:


FACTS:

May 2009, the OCA initiated a financial audit in view of an anonymous letter it received from concerned Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) employees of MTCC-Iloilo City, alleging that respondent Zerrudo misappropriated court funds. The scope of the audit covered financial transactions from 12 September 2007 to 30 April 2009.

Then Court Administrator Jose P. Perez directed respondent to settle the shortage amounting to ₱54,531.20. The latter complied with the directive on 27 November 2009. Respondent also admitted her shortcomings to the OCA.

On account of another letter from a concerned employee dated 1 April 2010, the OCA ordered the conduct of another financial audit on allegations that respondent had misappropriated judiciary fund collection for her personal benefit. The scope of the second audit covered the period May 2009 to April 2010. OCA issued a Memorandum directing respondent to restitute the shortages found by the audit team and to furnish the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office, OCA, copies of proofs of the settlements.

Respondent, in her Answer dated 31 May 2011, admitted her infractions and explained that the delay in her compliance was due to the death ofher mother-in-law and the serious illness suffered by her son. She alleged that the shortages incurred as of 30 April 2010 were already settled. In response, the audit team noted that there were still discrepancies in the computations of respondent and emphasized that even after the audit, she continued to fail to deposit her collections promptly.

Another audit was conducted by the OCA covering the financial transactions from May 2010 to August 2012. The team noted again that respondent had still incurred delay in the remittance of collections to the Fiduciary Fund, Special Allowance for the Judiciary Funds and Judiciary DevelopmentFund (JDF) accounts.

HELD:

ADMINISTRATION LAW: duty of Clerks


Administrative Circular No. 3-2000 dated 15 June 2000 requires that the daily collections for the Judicial Development Fund (JDF) must be deposited every day with the nearest Land Bank branch through a designated account number to which the deposit shall be made. If a daily deposit is not possible, the administrative circular instructs that the deposits be made at the end of every month, provided that if the JDF collection reaches ₱500, the money shall be deposited immediately before the period indicated.

The strict guidelines provided by the above-cited circulars emphasize the importance and the seriousness of the duty imposed upon Clerks of Courts, who manage and secure the funds of the Court. We have considered mere delay by the Clerks of Court or cash clerks in remitting the funds collected as gross neglect of duty or as grave misconduct. Thus, serious penalties were meted out to erring employees as illustrated in the cases cited by the OCA in its subject Memorandum.

We understand the misfortunes experienced by respondent, such as the affliction suffered by her son and the demise of her mother-in-law. However, these do not constitute extenuating circumstances in those instances when respondent was remiss in her duties. She should be reminded that her duties and responsibilities as Clerk of Court are imbued with public trust; thus, she is expected to discharge them with utmost competence.

Respondent herself admitted that she has been remiss in her duties and we note her candid admissions of her infractions. However, the subject OCA report also noted that even after the financial audits were conducted, she continued to commit the same infractions. To our mind, this indicates her failure to perform her duties faithfully and with competence, as expected of a Clerk of Court. We cannot emphasize enough the seriousness of her responsibilities in administering and securing the funds collected. The malfeasance of respondent Zerrudo in this case is tantamount to defrauding her fellow employees as some of those funds, by law, help augment the salaries of judicial employees.

The Court adopt the findings and recommendations of the OCA to suspend indefinitely Mrs. Ma. Theresa G. Zerrudo.

The Court ADOPTS the findings and recommendations of the OCA.

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