SC punishes atty who stole PC from court, sheriff who asked money from party

In two separate per curiam decisions, the Supreme Court dismissed a clerk of court for sneaking away from a court a computer set containing information on drug cases and a court sheriff for soliciting money from a complainant.

In the first case, the Court found Lou D. Laranjo, Clerk of Court II, Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC), Lugait-Manticao-Naawan, Misamis Oriental guilty of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty and dismissed him from service. It also perpetually disqualified him from holding public office and forfeited his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits.

Laranjo’s dismissal was spawned by the letter-report to the Office of the Court Administrator of MCTC Presiding Judge Renato T. Arroyo who said that Laranjo “surreptitiously took away” the computer set used by MCTC Court Stenographer I Neza L. Malinao and returned it to the Municipality of Naawan, Misamis Oriental, which had earlier donated it to the court. The computer files of Malinao allegedly contained sensitive information, such as the identities and testimonies of confidential agents and informants in search warrant applications in illegal drug cases. Laranjo’s act was arbitrary and unauthorized as the computer set was taken during nighttime and on a weekend.

The Court concurred with the findings and recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) which found substantial evidence against Laranjo. It gave weight on OCA’s observation that the circumstances cast doubt on Laranjo’s real intention in taking out the computer set, considering his arrest for involvement in illegal drug activities.

The Court ruled that aside from the lack of authorization, the records are bereft of any credible justification on Laranjo’s part as to why he pursued such course of action.

The Court also dismissed Alan C. Javier, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court (RTC)-Office of the Clerk of Court, Tanauan City, Batangas who was found guilty of grave misconduct, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service. The Court also forfeited Javier’s benefits and perpetually banned him from public service.The Court affirmed the report of OCA which found substantial evidence to prove that Javier had violated Section 10 Rule 141 of the Rules of Court for soliciting and accepting money from complainant Roman P. Trinidad. It, however, increased the recommended penalty of OCA from suspension to dismissal.

The Court held that grave misconduct and dishonesty are punishable by dismissal from the service even if committed for the first time by the erring public servant. It stressed that Javier tarnished the image of the Judiciary and should be severely punished for having disregarded his sworn duty and responsibility to serve the Judiciary with honor and dignity, and to keep the people’s confidence in the Judiciary undiminished. (A.M. No. P-19-3859, OCA v. Laranjo, June 4, 2019; A.M. No. P-11-2894, Trinidad v. Javier, April 10, 2019 cited in Supreme Court Media (2019). SC Dismisses Two Court Employees. July 12, 2019.