Court employee asking money from litigants

As a public servant, a court employee is likewise liable under Rule X, Section 46(A)(11) of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, which prohibits "soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value which in the course of an employee's official duties may affect the functions of his office."

In Villahermosa, Sr. v. Sarcia, the Supreme Court held that "the sole act of receiving money from litigants, whatever the reason may be, is antithesis to being a court employee."[1] It does not matter, therefore, that herein respondent did not actually grant the favor he promised, and that he paid back the money he had received from Ms. Delson. He should be held accountable for soliciting and receiving money from litigants for personal gain - an act that constitutes grave misconduct.

In Ramos v. Limeta,[2] grave misconduct is defined as a serious transgression of some established and definite rule of action (such as unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer or employee) that tends to threaten the very existence of the system of administration of justice an official or employee serves.[3] It may manifest itself in corruption, or in other similar acts, done with the clear intent to violate the law or in flagrant disregard of established rules.[4]

The Civil Service Rules provide a penalty of dismissal for improper solicitation at the first offense,[5] together with the cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service, unless otherwise provided.[6]

This Court has not hesitated to impose such extreme punishment on employees found guilty of grave offenses. In Concerned Employee v. Generoso, it said:[7]

In recent cases, this Court has held that the use of a false certificate in order to facilitate promotion constitutes an act of dishonesty under Civil Service Rules, and dismissed the erring employee on that ground; a clerk who was found to have falsified her daily time records was dismissed from the service, albeit it was her first offense; and a utility worker who stated in his personal data sheet that he did not have any pending administrative/criminal case was likewise dismissed, with forfeiture of all benefits, excluding unused leave credits.

In some cases, the Supreme Court exercised its discretion to assess mitigating circumstances such as length of service or the fact that a transgression might be the first offense of respondents.[8] This exception cannot be applied, however, if the findings serve to validate the previous rumors that respondent had been asking money from bondsmen and clients on the promise of immediate action on their cases, proving his proclivity for corruption.

Time and again, the Court has stressed that the behavior of all employees and officials involved in the administration of justice - from judges to the most junior clerks - is circumscribed with a heavy responsibility. Their conduct must be guided by strict propriety and decorum at all times in order to merit and maintain the public's respect for and trust in the judiciary.[9] As emphasized in Villahermosa, Sr. v. Sarcia,[10] "the acts of court personnel reflect on the Judiciary."

[1] Villahermosa, Sr. v. Sarcia, A.M. No. CA-14-28-P, 11 February 2014.

[2] A.M. No. P-06-2225, 23 November 2010, 635 SCRA 701.

[3] Id., citing Fernandez v. Gatan, A.M. No. P-03-1720, 28 May 2004, 430 SCRA 19.

[4] Id., citing Bureau of Internal Revenue v. Organo, 468 Phil. 111 (2004).

[5] Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, Rule IV, Section 52 (A) (11).

[6] Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, Rule IV, Section 58 (A).

[7] A.M. No. 2004-33-SC, 24 August 2005, 505 Phil. 114-126.

[8] Villahermosa, Sr. v. Sarcia, A.M. No. CA-14-28-P, 11 February 2014.

[9] Santos, Jr. v. Mangahas, A.M. No. P-09-2720, 17 April 2012, 669 SCRA 599.

[10] Villahermosa, Sr. v. Sarcia, A.M. No. CA-14-28-P, 11 February 2014.