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504 Phil. 665


[ A.M. NO. P-05-2061 (FORMERLY OCA I.P.I. NO. 03-1590-P), August 19, 2005 ]




By verified complaint[1] dated March 11, 2003, Marcial Galahad T. Makasiar (complainant), Clerk of Court V of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 89, charged of gross neglect of duty Clerk III Fe L. Gomintong (respondent) of the same court.

The antecedents of the case are as follows:

On January 7, 2003, Branch 89 of the Quezon City RTC rendered a decision[2] in Civil Case No. Q-01-43766, "Jun-Jun Conol v. Lelita Conol" (Conol case), declaring the nullity of the marriage of the parties.

The Office of the Solicitor General timely filed a Notice of Appeal[3] of the decision on account of which the trial court issued on January 28, 2003 an Order[4] for the elevation of the entire records of the case to the Court of Appeals.

On February 5, 2003, the petitioner in the Conol case filed a "MOTION FOR REMARKING"[5] of exhibits. The motion was granted by Order[6] dated February 6, 2003 and the Clerk of Court V was "ordered to effect the remarking."

On March 3, 2003, complainant inquired from respondent about the transmittal of the records of the Conol case upon which respondent informed him that all the transcript of stenographic notes (TSNs) of the case were missing.

By complainant's account, during the initial investigation of the missing TSNs on March 5, 2003 by the Presiding Judge, it surfaced that as early as the first week of February 2003, respondent, who is charged with filing and taking custody of all TSNs of all cases, knew that the TSNs were already missing but that she did not report the same; during the investigation held on March 7, 2003, respondent admitted that the missing TSNs were not placed in a separate folder, despite the availability of supplies thereof and his continuing instruction that all TSNs should be placed in a folder maintained separately from the main record of each pending case; as of the time of the filing (on March 11, 2003) of the instant complaint, he could not transmit the entire records of the Conol case because all the TSNs remained missing despite diligent efforts to locate them; and he has instructed the stenographers of the court to re-transcribe their stenographic notes in the Conol case.

By Indorsement[7] dated March 19, 2003, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) directed respondent to file her comment on the complaint.

Complainant later filed a request for withdrawal of his complaint,[8] received by the OCA on March 20, 2003, "out of compassion," the TSNs in the Conol case having already been re-transcribed.

In her Comment[9] filed on May 19, 2003, respondent gave the following submissions:

While she was preparing the records of the Conol case for transmittal to the Court of Appeals, she noticed that the original TSNs were not with the records, prompting her to ask two of her co-employees to look for them inside the chambers of the judge as the same could not be found in the staff room. On February 19, 2003, she informed complainant about the missing TSNs, suggesting to him that that she herself transcribe the notes but he turned the suggestion down. She thus just waited for the stenographers to finish the transcription. Upon completion of the TSNs on March 18, 2003, she immediately mailed the records of the Conol case to the Court of Appeals.

Respondent invited attention to the fact that in her 20 years of service at Branch 89 of the RTC, this is the first time that loss of TSNs occurred.

On the directive of complainant that TSNs must be placed in separate folders, respondent claimed that it is impossible of compliance due to shortage of folders, and even mailing envelopes, paste, carbon paper, as well as filing cabinets for proper storage. She thus instead fastened TSNs to the corresponding records of cases.

Finally, respondent suggested that the loss of the TSNs could have occurred in the process of the remarking of the petitioner's exhibits in the Conol case which entailed "untying and revising" of the records.

In fine, respondent conceded that "there was error" but that it was unintentional and "not solely due to negligence" on her part.

By Report[10] dated September 24, 2003, the OCA found that the loss of the TSNs was, contrary to complainant's claim, unintentional, there being no proof that respondent "deliberately [caused their loss] to favor or prejudice any of the parties [to the Conol] case."

The OCA, however, found that respondent was remiss in the discharge of her duties. And it too found that complainant, a Branch Clerk of Court who has control and supervision over all court records including exhibits, properties and supplies, was remiss in the performance of his duties; and that the loss of the TSNs reflects an inefficient and disorderly system of keeping case records and the lack of close supervision by complainant over his subordinate personnel in the performance of their duties.

The OCA thus recommended:
  1. That the instant administrative complaint be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative case;

  2. That respondent Fe L. Gomintong be REPRIMANDED with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely; and

  3. That [complainant] Atty. Marcial Galahad T. Makasiar, Branch Clerk of Court, RTC, Branch 89, Quezon City be ADVISED to exercise closer supervision over the manner the personnel of the court discharge their function in order to achieve a more orderly system of keeping case records in the Court to avoid the repetition of similar incidents in the future.
By Resolution[11] dated November 10, 2003, this Court required the parties to manifest whether they are submitting the case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings/records already filed and submitted. Complying with the Resolution, complainant, by Manifestation[12] filed on December 9, 2003, answered in the affirmative.

The OCA received two letters from respondent, one dated June 30, 2004[13] and another dated September 7, 2004,[14] both asking for a 30-day extension of time to file her "comment" on this Court's November 10, 2003 Resolution. No manifestation or comment had been received from respondent, however, which was duly noted by this Court by Resolution of February 2, 2005.[15]

This Court finds the findings of the OCA well-taken.

Chapter VI of the 2002 Revised Manual for Clerks of Court provides that one of the functions of a Clerk III is to "maintain [a] systematic filing of criminal cases, civil cases, special civil actions, land registration cases and administrative cases." The loss of the TSNs, the responsibility of insuring their proper filing and keeping of which lies on respondent, reflects her failure to faithfully discharge her functions. Her explanation for not complying with complainant's instruction to file the TSNs in separate folders - shortage of folders, fasteners and the like - even if true, does not mitigate her responsibility for the loss. Neither does the re-transcription of the TSNs, for the loss of the TSNs did not only cost manpower time but caused a delay in the disposition of the Conol case and compromised the people's faith in the judiciary.

As for her suggestion that the TSNs could have been lost during the remarking of exhibits of the plaintiff in the Conol case, how that could have happened, respondent has not proffered any details to merit consideration-determination of the degree of her liability.

Respondent is thus liable for simple neglect of duty, a less grave offense under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases,[16] punishable by suspension of One (1) Month and One (1) Day to Six (6) Months when committed for the first time.[17]

Complainant is not, of course, without his share of the blame for the loss of the TSNs. For as Clerk of Court-custodian of judicial records, it is his duty to safely keep all records, papers, files, exhibits and public property committed to his charge and ensure an orderly and efficient record management system in the court.[18] And as administrative officer of the court, it is his duty to supervise all subordinate personnel to ensure that they perform their duties well.[19]

This Court thus takes this occasion to remind Clerks of Court, like complainant, to exercise closer supervision over the manner court personnel discharge their functions in order to achieve a more orderly system of filing and storing case records to avoid the occurrence of incidents such as that involved in the present case and be spared of possible liability therefor.

WHEREFORE, respondent Fe L. Gomintong, Clerk III of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City Branch 89, is found GUILTY of simple neglect of duty and is hereby SUSPENDED from the service for One (1) Month and One (1) Day, effective immediately, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely.


Panganiban, (Chairman), Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and Garcia, JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo at 2-6.

[2] Id. at 17-26.

[3] Id. at 29-30.

[4] Id. at 32.

[5] Id. at 33-34.

[6] Id. at 35.

[7] Id. at 9.

[8] Id. at 8.

[9] Id. at 12-15.

[10] Id. at 43-48.

[11] Id. at 49.

[12] Id. at 50.

[13] Id. at 54.

[14] Id. at 57.

[15] Id. at 62.

[16] Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 991936, August 31, 1999.

[17] Section 52.B.1.

[18] Re: Withholding of All the Salaries and Allowances of Mr. Datu Ashary M. Alauya, Clerk of Court, 4th Shari'a District Court, Marawi City, 429 SCRA 202, 210 (2004).

[19] Office of the Court Administrator v. Perlez, 349 SCRA 417, 424 (2001).

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