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457 Phil. 363


[ A.M. No. P-01-1466 (formerly OCA IPI No.99-699-P), September 03, 2003 ]




This refers to the complaint of Eduardo F. Bago filed with the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on July 22, 1999 against Joel E. Feraren, Sheriff III of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati City (Branch 67) for non-payment of a just debt.

Complainant Bago alleges that on October 3, 1997, respondent Feraren borrowed from him the amount of P4,500.00, evidenced by a promissory note executed by the latter.[1] Under the said promissory note, Feraren promised to pay complainant within ten days from date of the note, which was October 3, 1997.  However, complainant claims that as of July 22, 1999, Feraren remains unable to pay his indebtedness. He contends that Feraren is guilty of violating the provisions of Section 4 (A), (c) of R.A. No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

In his Comment dated February 9, 2000, respondent Feraren did not dispute that he owes Bago the amount of P4,500.00.  However, he claims that he cannot be held liable under the provisions of Sec. 4 (A), (c) of R.A. No. 6713.  He contends that said provision of law "speaks of justness and sincerity in the discharge of the official function of the employees of the government." Respondent argues that he cannot be held administratively liable under the above-quoted section since his act of borrowing money is not in any way connected with the discharge of his official function as sheriff.[2]

In its Report dated January 26, 2001, the OCA found that, in light of respondent's admission of his indebtedness, the justness thereof and his refusal to pay the same, his administrative liability is beyond dispute.  Accordingly, the OCA recommended that respondent be reprimanded in accordance with the pertinent provisions of E.O. No. 292, otherwise known as the Revised Administrative Code of 1987.[3]

In a Resolution dated March 12, 2001, this Court docketed the instant case as a regular administrative matter and required the parties to manifest their willingness to submit the case for resolution based on the pleadings filed.[4] Both complainant and respondent failed to comply with the directive of the above-mentioned Resolution.

Hence, in a Resolution dated June 9, 2003, this Court declared the parties to have waived their right to ask for a formal hearing of the instant case and considered the same to be submitted for resolution based on the pleadings filed.[5]

We agree with the findings of the OCA and approve the recommended penalty.

Respondent Feraren admits that he owes complainant the amount of P4,500.00.  Having incurred a just debt, it is his moral and legal responsibility to settle it when it becomes due.  As a court employee, he must comply with just contractual obligations, act fairly and adhere to high ethical standards to preserve the court's integrity.[6]

As of the date of filing of his Comment on February 16, 2000, or more than two years from the time he borrowed money from complainant, respondent has not yet paid his indebtedness. He offered no excuse for his failure to pay complainant.  We take this as an indication of respondent's willful refusal to pay a just debt.

We agree with respondent's contention that complainant's reliance on Section 4 (A), subheading (c) of R.A. No. 6713 is misplaced as this refers to the standards of personal conduct of public officials and employees in the discharge and execution of their official duties.  The full text of the above-cited provision reads as follows:
SEC. 4.  Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. – (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties:

(a) Commitment to public interest. – Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest.  . . .

. . .                 . . .                   . . .

(c) Justness and Sincerity. –  Public officials and employees shall remain true to the people at all times. They must act with justness and sincerity and shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the underprivileged. They shall at all time respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest. They shall not dispense or extend undue favors on account of their office to their relatives whether by consanguinity or affinity except with respect to appointments of such relatives to positions considered strictly confidential or as members of their personal staff whose terms are coterminous with theirs.

. . .                 . . .                   . . .
Since respondent's act of borrowing money from complainant is not in any way connected with the discharge of his official duties as sheriff, he may not be held accountable under the above-quoted provision.

This notwithstanding, respondent may still be held administratively liable for his willful failure to pay his debt to complainant, an act which is unbecoming of a public employee and a ground for disciplinary action.

The applicable provision of law is Book V, Title I, Subtitle A, Chapter 6, Section 46 (b) (22) of E.O. No. 292. Under this provision, a public employee's willful failure to pay just debts is a ground for disciplinary action. Rule XIV, Section 22 of the Rules Implementing Book V of E.O. No. 292, as modified by Rule IV, Section 52, (C) (10) of Resolution No. 991936 of the Civil Service Commission, otherwise known as the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, provides that "just debts" refer to: 1) claims adjudicated by a court of law; or, 2) claims the existence and justness of which are admitted by the debtor. Having admitted the existence of his indebtedness and the justness thereof, respondent's obligation falls under the second category.  Moreover, under the same Rules, willful failure to pay just debts is classified as a light offense, punishable by reprimand for the first infraction, suspension for 1 to 30 days for the second transgression, and dismissal for the third offense.  It appearing that this is the first time that respondent has committed an offense of this nature, the penalty imposable upon him is reprimand.

We cannot grant civil indemnity to complainant as this is an administrative case and the Court is not a collection agency.[7]

WHEREFORE, respondent Joel E. Feraren, Sheriff III of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati City (Branch 67) is REPRIMANDED for his willful failure to pay his just debts, which amounts to conduct unbecoming an employee of the court.  He is sternly WARNED that a commission of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of herein Resolution be attached to his 201 files.


Bellosillo, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, p. 4.

[2] Id., p. 12.

[3] Id., pp. 14-15.

[4] Id., p. 16.

[5] Id., p. 31.

[6] Frias vs. Aguilar, A.M. No. P-02-1597, February 17, 2003.

[7] Re: Administrative Complaint for Non-Payment of Debt Against Nahren Hernaez, A.M. No. 2002-12-SC, January 22, 2003; Martinez vs. Muñoz, 249 SCRA 14, 23 (1995).

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