Case Digest: Samson v. Restrivera

G.R. No. 178454 : March 28, 2011




Petitioner is a government employee, being a department head of the Population Commission with office at the Provincial Capitol, Trece Martirez City, Cavite. Sometime in March 2001, petitioner agreed to help her friend, respondent Julia A. Restrivera, to have the latter's land located in Carmona, Cavite, registered under the Torrens System. Petitioner said that the expenses would reachP150,000 and accepted P50,000 from respondent to cover the initial expenses for the titling of respondents land.

However, petitioner failed to accomplish the task as it was found out that the land is government property. When petitioner failed to return the P50,000, respondent sued her forestafa. Respondent also filed an administrative complaint for grave misconduct or conduct unbecoming a public officer against petitioner before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman found petitioner guilty of violating Section 4(b) of R.A. No. 6713 and suspended her from office for three months without pay. The CA on appeal affirmed the Ombudsmans Order. Hence, this petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not petitioner should be held administratively liable for grave misconduct

HELD: No. Decision Set Aside and a New judgment is Entered.

Political Law- Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer.

The misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules, which must be proved by substantial evidence. Otherwise, the misconduct is only simple. Conversely, one cannot be found guilty of misconduct in the absence of substantial evidence. In one case, we affirmed a finding of grave misconduct because there was substantial evidence of voluntary disregard of established rules in the procurement of supplies as well as of manifest intent to disregard said rules.

In this case, respondent failed to prove (1) petitioner's violation of an established and definite rule of action or unlawful behavior or gross negligence, and (2) any of the aggravating elements of corruption, willful intent to violate a law or to disregard established rules on the part of petitioner. In fact, respondent could merely point to petitioner's alleged failure to observe the mandate that public office is a public trust when petitioner allegedly meddled in an affair that belongs to another agency and received an amount for undelivered work.

True, public officers and employees must be guided by the principle enshrined in the Constitution that public office is a public trust. However, respondents allegation that petitioner meddled in an affair that belongs to another agency is a serious but unproven accusation. It does not show that petitioner made an illegal deal or any deal with any government agency. Even the Ombudsman has recognized this fact. The survey shows only that petitioner contracted a surveyor.

However, the foregoing does not mean that petitioner is absolved of any administrative liability. For reneging on her promise to return aforesaid amount, petitioner is guilty of conduct unbecoming a public officer.

Recently, in Assistant Special Prosecutor III Rohermia J. Jamsani-Rodriguez v. Justices Gregory S. Ong, et al., we said that unbecoming conduct means improper performance and applies to a broader range of transgressions of rules not only of social behavior but of ethical practice or logical procedure or prescribed method.

Petitioner should have complied with her promise to return the amount to respondent after failing to accomplish the task she had willingly accepted. However, she waited until respondent sued her for estafa, thus reinforcing the latter's suspicion that petitioner misappropriated her money. Although the element of deceit was not proven in the criminal case respondent filed against the petitioner, it is clear that by her actuations, petitioner violated basic social and ethical norms in her private dealings. Even if unrelated to her duties as a public officer, petitioners transgression could erode the public's trust in government employees, more so because she holds a high position in the service.

Petitioner, Guilty

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