Case Digest: Re: Ms. Hermogena F. Bayani

A.M. No. 2007-22-SC : February 1, 2011

RE: ANONYMOUS COMPLAINT AGAINST MS. HERMOGENA F. BAYANI FOR DISHONESTY

PERALTA, J.:


FACTS:

The Anonymous complainant alleged that Bayani, during her application for promotion to her present position as SC Chief Judicial Staff Officer of the Leave Division, OAS-OCA, failed to disclose in her Personal Data Sheet (PDS) that she was previously charged in an administrative case in 1995. It appeared that in a Memorandum dated February 9, 1995 issued by the OAS and signed by then Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa, Bayani was found remiss in the performance of her duties and was recommended that she be admonished. Complainant added that Bayani's previous administrative record was discovered only during the investigation relative to A.M. No. 2007-08-SC-In Re: Fraudulent release of retirement benefits of Jose Lantin, former Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court, San Felipe, Zambales, wherein Bayani was one of the personnel under investigation. Consequently, Bayani's failure to disclose said information misled the Court's Selection and Promotion Board (SPB) in evaluating her application for promotion which is tantamount to dishonesty.

On October 8, 2007, in her Comment/Memorandum,Bayani presumed that the instant complaint stemmed from her answers to question nos. 25 and 27 in her PDS, which she filled up on July 27, 1999.To wit:

25. Do you have any pending a) administrative case [ ] Yes [/] No

27. Have you ever been convicted of any administrative offense? [ ] Yes [/] No

Bayani, however, explained that she answered No to question no. 25, since the administrative case against her was already decided in 1995, and before she accomplished her PDS in 1999. Thus, Bayani believed that she had no more pending case at the time she accomplished her PDS.

With regard to question no. 27, wherein she again answered in the negative, Bayani explained that it was due to her understanding that there was no conviction on the administrative case against her, because she was merely admonished and warned therein. Finally, Bayani averred that if her act was indeed wrong, she, however, did not intend to defraud the government, or prejudice anyone.

On October 10, 2007, the OCA referred the instant case to Atty. Eden T. Candelaria, Chief of Office, Office of Administrative Services, Supreme Court, for appropriate action. On January 7, 2008, in a Memorandum,Atty. Candelaria recommended that Bayani be dismissed from service having been found guilty of Dishonesty through falsification of official documents.

ISSUE: Whether Bayani should be dismissed for dishonesty through falsification of documents.

HELD: We disagree with the OAS's recommendation.

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW: dishonesty


Indeed, dishonesty is defined as "intentionally making a false statement in any material fact, or practicing or attempting to practice any deception or fraud in securing his examination, registration, appointment or promotion."Thus, dishonesty, like bad faith, is not simply bad judgment or negligence.Dishonesty is a question of intention. In ascertaining the intention of a person accused ofdishonesty, consideration must be taken not only of the facts and circumstances which gave rise to the act committed by the respondent, but also of his state of mind at the time the offense was committed, the time he might have had at his disposal for the purpose of meditating on the consequences of his act, and the degree of reasoning he could have had at that moment.

In the instant case, the OAS would like to impress on us that Bayani is guilty of dishonesty for her deliberate failure to disclose in her PDS the existence of previous administrative case against her as evidenced by OAS Memorandum dated February 9, 1995. The OAS stressed that, while Bayani's claim that admonition and warning are not penalties, she was still found guilty in the said OAS Memorandum.The OAS explained that Bayani was just fortunate that she was not penalized for her infraction, but her conviction then subsists.

A perusal of the OAS Memorandum would readily show that indeed Bayani was merely admonished and warned for being remiss in the performance of her duty. Clearly, these are not penalties. If at all, the admonition was meant as a reminder to then respondents to be diligent in the performance of their duties. Moreover, it appeared that while Bayani was included in the investigation and was later on admonished, she was not in fact principally at fault. Thus, considering these circumstances, we surmise that while Bayani made an erroneous judgment in choosing not to disclose her previous infraction, she cannot be blamed for believing that such was irrelevant to: (1) question no. 25 - for this incident had long been resolved and no longer pending; and (2) question no. 27 - for clearly being admonished and warned for being remiss in the performance for her duties do not necessarily equate to conviction as question no. 27 seeks to determine.

Furthermore, as a matter of procedure, the Selection and Promotion Board should have made the proper verification with regard to the entries Bayani made in her PDS, since her answers in question nos.25 and 27 are easily verifiable, considering that Bayani is an employee of the Court. Moreover, the informations Bayani allegedly deliberately concealed are matters which are supposedly recorded in her employment records. It should not therefore be difficult for the board to perform their duty to assess the qualifications of all applicants for promotions based on their own inquiries; and should not just rely on the informations the applicants reveal.

Likewise, as admitted by the OAS, the subject OAS Memorandum is not an A.M. Resolution/Decision which had undergone deliberation by the Court either asen bancor through its divisions. While it was approved by then Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa, it appeared that the said OAS Memorandum was meant to be an internal memorandum only issued as a warning/reminder to erring court employees and was not docketed as a regular administrative matter which will also explain why it was not found out earlier.

We do not tolerate the acts of Bayani in failing to disclose in her PDS such informations which could be material and relevant in assessing her eligibility for promotion.We, however, find it harsh to punish Bayani severely for her erroneous judgment.Suffice it to say that while her defense of good faith may be difficult to prove as clearly it is a question of intention, a state of mind, erroneous judgment on the part of Bayani does not, however, necessarily connote the existence of bad faith, malice, or an intention to defraud. Be that as it may, we must emphasized that while erroneous judgment do not equate to bad faith or dishonesty, Bayani, should likewise know that prudence demands that she should disclose such information no matter how irrelevant it may appear to her.

Indeed, in administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to warrant disciplinary sanctions.We define substantial evidence as relevant evidence as a reasonable mindmight accept as adequate to support a conclusion.Thus, after much consideration of the facts and circumstances, while the Court has not shied away in imposing the strictest penalty to erring employees, neither can we think and rule unreasonably in determining whether an employee deserves disciplinary sanction.

WHEREFORE, HERMOGENA F. BAYANI, SC Chief Judicial Staff Officer, Leave Division, Office of Administrative Services, Supreme Court,is hereby ADMONISHED and WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.

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