Good faith NOT a defense in violation of rules re court funds


The Court has always reminded court personnel tasked with collections of court funds to immediately deposit with the authorized government depositories the various funds they have collected as they are not authorized to keep funds in their custody. The unwarranted failure to fulfill these responsibilities deserves administrative sanctions and not even the full payment of the collection shortages will exempt the accountable officer from liability.

Without a quibble, the failure of Dionisio to remit her collections promptly was unjustifiable. It deprived the court of interest that could have been earned if only these amounts were deposited punctually as instructed. Dionisio incurred cash shortages amounting to P47,473.07 from September 2006 to November 2006 and failed to comply with the lawful orders of the OCA requiring her to give a satisfactory explanation for the shortages and failed to produce the documents required to complete the audit. In fact, she did not give attention and respect to these directives even after her compulsory retirement on August 26, 2012. It was only on February 27, 2014 that she paid her shortages after she could not get a clearance from the court.

It must be emphasized that the safekeeping of funds and collections is essential to an orderly administration of justice, and no protestation of good faith can override the mandatory nature of the circulars designed to promote full accountability for government funds. Clerks of Courts and those acting in this capacity perform a delicate function as designated custodian of the court's funds, revenues, records, properties and premises. Hence, any loss, shortage, destruction or impairment of those funds and property makes them accountable.

In Office of the Court Administrator v. Atty. Galo, the Court held that the failure of the respondent clerk of court to remit funds deposited with him, as well as to give a satisfactory explanation, constituted gross dishonesty, grave misconduct and even malversation of public funds to which the supreme penalty of dismissal would have been imposed if not for the fact that he had already retired from the service.

In In Re: Report on Judicial and Financial Audit Conducted in the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Koronadal City, the Court imposed upon the respondent retired clerk of court a fine equivalent to six months salary, for incurring shortages in his remittances to the JDF and the General Fund.Also, in In Re: Delayed Remittance of Collections of Odtuhan, the Court held that an unjustified delay in remitting collections constituted grave misconduct. Odtuhan acted as the branch clerk of court for one day and she failed to remit her collections within 24 hours from receipt thereof. The Court, however, lowered the penalty to fine in the amount of PI 0,000.00 for humanitarian reason considering that she had already paid the full amount and was afflicted with ovarian cancer.

Surely, Dionisio would have warranted the maximum penalty of dismissal were it not for the fact that she had already retired from the service. Nonetheless, while dismissal from the service is no longer feasible, a fine of P10,000.00 is in order considering that this is her first infraction and she has fully restituted her shortages.

THE CASE: [ A.M. No. P-16-3485 (Formerly A.M. No. 14-4-47-MTC), August 01, 2016 ] OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, COMPLAINANT, VS. ELENA S. DIONISIO, FORMER OFFLCER-IN-CHARGE, INTERPRETER I, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT, CARDONA, RIZAL, RESPONDENT.

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