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795 Phil. 515


[ A.M. No. P-09-2621 [Formerly OCA-I.P.I. No. 08-2939-P], September 20, 2016 ]




This is an administrative' case charging respondent Eduardo T. Umblas (Umblas), Legal Researcher, Regional Trial Court, Branch 33, Ballesteros, Cagayan (RTC) with grave misconduct and violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, for his act of certifiying as true copy a spurious court decision, which declared the marriage of Maria Noemi Bautista-Pabon (Noemi) and Ramil Pabon (Ramil) null and void, and issuing a certificate of finality relative to the said decision.

The Antecedents

On August 15, 2008, Noemi filed her Complaint[1] with the·Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) against Umblas; the RTC Clerk of Court Atty. Rizalina Aquino (Atty.· Aquino) for violation of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees or Court Personnel; and Judge Eugenio Tangonan, Jr. (Judge Tangonan, Jr.) for violation of the Code of Judicial Ethics and Conduct.

Complainant Noemi alleged, among others, that she was constrained to file criminal charges against her husband, Ramil, for violation ofR.A. No. 9262, or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act, before the Pasay City Prosecutor's Office, and for Adultery and Concubinage before the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of San Pedro, Laguna; that on July 22, 2008, Atty. Romeo Lumagui, Jr. (Atty. Lumagui, Jr.), Ramil's counsel, filed his Motion to Re-open Preliminary Investigation and Admit Attached Documentary Evidence[2] on the basis of a newly-discovered e idence in connection with the R.A. No. 9262 case before the Pasay City Prosectutor's Office; that the attached documents turned out to be copies of the June 20, 2005 RTC Decision3 penned by Judge Tangonan, Jr., in Civil Case No. 33-328C-2005, entitled "Ramil- Pabon vs. Noemi Bautista-Pabon," and the December 18, 2005 Certificate of Finality[4] both issued by Umblas relative to the said decision; and that both documents were stamped with "Certified True Copy" bearing the name and the signature of Umblas.

Noemi further claimed that she inquired from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the said office issued a certification,[5] dated July 30, 2008, stating that it had not received any pleading or kept any record pertaining to Civil Case No. 33-328C-2005; that she went to Ballesteros, Cagayan, where the dubious decision was promulgated, to verify the veracity of the subject documents; that she went to the RTC and discovered that no such case existed in the court docket as verified by the court stenographer and the sheriff; that she talked to Umblas who refused to say whether such case was recorded in the court docket and denied her request for copies of the case records; that she was able to talk on the phone with Atty. Aquino who was on leave that day and could not come to the office despite her request; and she also looked for Judge Tangonan but she was told that he had already retired.

Noemi prayed that UmblasAtty. Aquino and Judge Tangonan, Jr. be all found guilty of Grave Misconduct and be penalized accordingly because she beiieved that the subject documents were non-existent and fabricated because at the time the RTC decision was allegedly rendered on June 20, 2005, she and Ramil were still living together in Batangas and never in Ballesteros, Cagayan.

At the OCA level

In a letter,[6] dated August 28, 2008, the OCA informed Noemi that Judge Tangonan, Jr. had compulsorily retired on April 26, 2006 and that it could no longer exercise supervision over him, but assured her that Umblas and Atty. Aquino would be required to comment on the complaint.

On September 8, 2008, in its 1st Indorsement,[7] the OCA required Umblas and Atty. Aquino to suqmit their respective comrnents within ten (10) days from receipt of a copy.

On October 9, 2008, Atty. Aquino filed her Comment[8] and explained that she was on leave on the day complainant Noemi arrived at the RTC office; that she was not familiar with the case as the document was dated June 2005 and she assumed office only in July 2005; that she asked Noemi to leave copies of the document but she did not; that she made contact with Noemi and got the information regarding the case; that she verified the same and on August 21, 2008, she issued a certification[9] attesting that the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage of Ramil and Noemi was not filed with their court; and that she performed her duties as Clerk of Court diligently, promptly and religiously.

In his Comment,[10] dated December 12, 2008, Umblas claimed that he neither issued nor consented to the . issuance of the subject documents considering that there was no such case filed with the RTC; that his signatures appearing in the subject documents were imitations; that the lack of proof of payment for the certificate of finality meant that the same was fraudulent; and that it was Ramil's duty to provide an explanation as to how the subject documents came into existence consistent with the doctrine that the person in possession of a falsified document, who used it and who benefited therefrom, was presumed to be the author thereof.

In the Court's Resolution,[11] dated March 25, 2009, it was resolved that the complaint against Umblas be re-docketed as a regular administrative case and assigned to the Executive Judge of the- RTC of Ballesteros, Cagayan, for investigation, report and recommendation. The Court, in the same resolution, dismissed the complaint against Atty. Aquino as it was not substantiated.

Later on, Noemi moved for. change of venue because Umblas was one of the staff members of the Executive Judge. The Court, in its November 23, 2009 Resolution,[12] granted the motion and assigned the case to Executive Judge Vilma Pauig (Judge Pauig) of RTC, Tuguegarao City.

On August 11, 2010, a motion for inhibition was filed by Umblas on the ground that Judge Pauig admitted that she was personally familiar with Atty. Aquino, and that the latter, as Clerk of Court of the RTC, would have an inevitable role .in the said inquiry. Thus, in her November 5, 2010 Order, Judge Pauig inhibited herself from further investigating the case.

The Court, in its Resolution,[13] dated February 7, 2011, assigned the investigation of the case to Vice Executive Judge Lyliha Aquino of RTC, Branch 4, Tuguegarao City. The latter, however, voluntarily inhibited herself because the Executive Judge of RTC, Ballesteros, Cagayan, who was the immediate superior of Umblas, was her classmate in law school. In another Resolution,[14] dated January 25, 2012, the Court designated Acting Presiding Judge Pablo Agustin of RTC, Branch 1, Tuguegarao City, who also inhibited himself because ofhis close friendship with Umblas.

Finally, Judge Raymond Reynold Lauigan (Judge Lauigan) who assumed performance of judicial functions in Branch 1, was directed by the Court, in its July 15,2013 Resolution,[15] to take over the investigation.

Thereafter, Judge Lauigan took over the continuation of the investigation.

The Report and Findings of the Investigating Judge

In his Investigation Report and Findings,[16] dated February 28, 2015, Judge Lauigan determined that there was substantial evidence to hold respondent Umblas liable for grave misconduct. He found that the respondent participated in the production of the subject documents. He gave credence to the declaration of Atty. Randy Vega (Atty. Vega), Ramil's friend, whom the latter asked to go to the RTC and check on the status of his case for declaratiop of nullity of marriage. The report cited the Affidavit[17] of Atty. Vega, dated January 9, 2009, which stated that it was Umblas who handed to him the said documents. Judge Lauigan noted that the said statement of Atty. Vega was never categorically refuted by the respondent. Umblas instead claimed that Atty. Vega was. "a total stranger to him"; that the statement of Atty. Vega was part of Noemi's documentary evidence in several cases she had filed against him but which were all dismissed; and that he could not have furnished the subject documents as he was no longer the OIC since July 2005.

Judge Lauigan did not give weight and credence to Umblas' defense of denial as the same was self-serving and not corroborated by other independent evidence. With regard to the respondent's claim. of forged signatures, the report concluded that respondent failed to discharge the burden of proving that his signatures in the subject documents were indeed forged.

This investigation report and recommendation was refered to the OCA for its evaluation, report and recommendation.

The OCA Recommendation

In its Recommendation,[18] dated November 9, 2015, the OCA affirmed the findings of Judge Lauigan that Noemi was able to prove by· substantial evidence that Umblas was guilty of grave misconduct. It was established that the subject documents were spurious. The OCA considered the testimonies of Noemi, Atty. Vega and Atty. Lumagui, Jr. as sufficient evidence to hold Umblas responsible for the issuance of the subject documents. It explained that their categorical and positive declarations prevailed over the plain denial of the respondent.

Further, the OCA stated that Umblas did not offer any evidence to support his claim of forgery. It opined that his mere disavowal of the signatures affixed in the subject documents could not exonerate him from liability for grave misconduct. Thus, the OCA recommended that the respondent be dismissed from service.


The Court's Ruling

The Court agrees with the findings and recommendation of the OCA. Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, it is the unlawful behavior of, or gross negligence by the public officer. To warrant dismissal from the service, the misconduct must be grave, serious, important, weighty, momentous, and not trifling. The misconduct must imply wrongful intention and not a mere error of Judgment.[19]

The misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules, which must be established by substantial evidence. As distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be manifest in a charge of grave misconduct.[20]

Corruption, as an element of grave misconduct, consists in. the act of an official or fiduciary person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to procure some benefits for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of others.[21]

Respondent Umblas was also charged with violation of R.A. No. 6713. Section 4 of the said law establishes the standards of personal conduct that every public. official and employee must observe in the discharge and execution of their official duties.

Section 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees.-xxx.

(a) Commitment to public interest.  Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. All government resources and powers of their respective offices must be employed and used efficiently, effectively, honestly and economically, particularly to avoid wastage in public funds and revenues.

(b) Professionalism.  Public officials and employees shall perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill. They shall enter public service with utmost devotion and dedication to duty. They shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage.

(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 times 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.

x x x (Emphases supplied)

After a judicious perusal of the records, the Court finds that respondent Umblas committed grave misconduct and violated Section 4 of R.A. No. 6713 for unlawfully producing spurious court documents. The findings of the Court shall be discussed in seriatim.

The subject documents were falsified

As correctly found by the OCA, the subject documents were spurious because, first, there was no record of the case for declaration of nullity of marriage in the docket of the RTC as certified by its Clerk of Court. Even the respondent himself, in his comment, acknowledged the non-existence of the case, viz.

3. That respondent fully agrees with the complainant on her observations that there was no such case captioned "Ramil B. Pabon, Petitioner v. Ma. Noemi Bautista-Pabon, Respondent" filed with and docketed as Civil Case No. 33-328C-2005 with. RTC, Ballesteros, Cagayan- Branch 33 x x x.[22] [Emphasis on the original]

Second, the OSG was not notified of the supposed proceedings pursuant to A.M. No. 02-11-1 0-SC, or the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity· of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages.[23] Also, there was no participation by the public prosecutor therein as required by Article 48[24] of the Family Code and Section 9[25] of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.

Finally, Noemi herself was not aware that Ramil filed a petition to declare their marriage null and void. She did not receive any summons relative to the case and so she was not able to file an answer, much less participate, in the proceedings, which was also required by the Rules. [26]  Noemi even claimed that in 2005, they were still living together in Batangas.

All these circumstances and procedural infirmities lead to the conclusion that the subject documents are indeed spurious.

The evidence established that the · respondent issued· the subject documents

In his January 9, 2005 affidavit, submitted during the investigation, Atty. Vega stated that it was the respondent who personally handed the subject documents to him. Relevant portions of the affidavit are quoted hereunder:

4. Sometime around April 2008, I went to Ballesteros, Cagayan, Regional Trial Court Branch 33 to follow up the status of the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage between Ramil and Noemi. I was able to personally talk to Eduardo T. Umblas and when I asked him about the case of Ramil, he gave me the originals of the Decision dated June 20, 2005 and the Certificate of Finality dated December 18, 2005 in Civil Case No. 33 328C-2005 entitled "Ramil B. Pabon vs. Ma. Noemi Bautista-Pabon." He likewise gave me certified true copies of the Decision and the Certificate of Finality. In fact, one copy of the Decision and Certificate of Finality bears the original receipt of the Local Civil Registrar of Cagayan.

5. After I received the original and the certified true copies of the Decision and the Certificate of Finality, I called up Ramil to inform him that I have the documents with me. He then instructed me to give the documents to Atty. Romeo D. Lumagui, Jr. at 17 Matino St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon, City.[27]

In his March 26, 2009 Reply-Affidavit,[28] Atty. Lumagui, Jr. confirmed that the subject documents were given to him by Atty. Vega with the representation that a court staff handed the same to him.

As correctly noted by the OCA, the respondent never directly and categorically refuted the assertions of Atty. Vega and Atty. Lumagui, Jr. against him. The respondent merely stated that the said affidavits of those lawyers were part of Noemi's documentary evidence in several cases she had filed against him, which were all dismissed. In the said dismissals, however, the merits of the affidavits were not passed upon as the cases were dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction, premature filing and lack of probable cause.

Respondent failed to substantiate
his defense of forgery

As a rule, forgery cannot be presumed and must be proved by clear, positive and convincing evidence. The burden of proof lies on the party alleging forgery. One who alleges forgery has the burden to establish his case by a preponderance of evidence, or evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than that which is offered in opposition to it. The fact of forgery can only be established by a comparison between the alleged forged signature and the authentic and genuine signature of the person whose signature is theorized to have been forged.[29]

Here, the respondent did not submit any evidence to support his claim of forgery. He could have provided a sample of his signature or offered an expert witness to establish that his signatures appearing on the subject documents were fraudulent. Instead, he remained passive and chose to rely on his bare allegation that the signatures were imitations.

Moreover, pursuant to Section 22, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court,[30] during the investigation, the signatures appearing in the subject documents were compared with the signatures appearing in the comment, counter­ affidavit and rejoinder affidavit submitted by the respondent, and it was concluded that the documents were signed by one and the same person.

The Respondent's liability

In fine, it was proven by substantial evidence that respondent Umblas unlawfully and wrongfully used his position to .issue the subject documents, which were clearly made to benefit Ramil. Moreover, the respondent violated the law and flagrantly disregarded the stablished rules by his reprehensible act of issuing a decision that voided a marital union without any judicial proceedings. Such malfeasance not only makes a mockery of marriage and its life-changing consequences but likewise grossly violates the basic norms of truth, justice, and due process.[31]

It was also established that the respondent violated Section 4 of R.A. No. 6713. He miserably failed to live up to the exacting standards imposed upon public employees. His gross misconduct was not only contrary to law but also greatly undermines the people's faith in the Judiciary and betrays the public trust and confidence reposed in the courts.

Rule 10, Section 46 (A) (3) of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service classifies grave misconduct as a grave offense punishable by dismissal even for the first offense. Section 52 (a) states that the penalty of dismissal carries with it the cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

It must be stressed that every employee of the Judiciary should be an example of integrity, uprightness, and honesty. Like any public servant, he must exhibit the highest sense of honesty and integrity not only in the performance of his official duties but also in his personal and private dealings with other people, to preserve the court's good name and standing. The image of a court of justice is mirrored in the conduct, official and otherwise, of the personnel who work thereat, from the judge to the lowest of its personnel. Court personnel have been. enjoined to adhere to the exacting standards of morality and decency in their professional and private conduct in order to preserve the good name and integrity of the courts of justice.[32] Here, the respondent failed to meet these stringent standards set for a judicial employee and, therefore, he does not deserve to remain with the Judiciary.

WHEREFORE, finding Eduardo T. Umblas, Legal Researcher, Regional Trial Court, Branch 33, Ballesteros, Cagayan, GUILTY of Grave Misconduct and Violation of Section 4 of Republic Act No. 6713, the Court hereby orders his DISMISSAL from the service with FORFEITURE of all benefits, except accrued leave benefits, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government including government ­owned or controlled corporations.

The Office of the Court Administrator is hereby ordered to file the appropriate criminal complaint against him.


Sereno, C.J, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Mendoza, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, Jardeleza, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.
Carpio, J., on official leave.
Perez, J., no part. previous action as Crt. Administrator



Please take notice that on September 20, 2016 a Decision/Resolution, copy attached herewith, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on October 24, 2016 at 1:50 p.m.

Very truly yours,
Clerk of Court

[1] Rollo, Vol. I pp.1-5.

[2] Id. at 139-141.

[3] Id. at 143-147.

[4] Id. at 142.

[5] Id. at 149.

[6] Id. at 159.

[7] Id. at 160-161.

[8] Id. at 163-164.

[9] Id. at 185.

[10] Id. at 181-184.

[11] Id. at 194-195.

[12] Id. at 209-210.

[13] Id. at 428-429.

[14] Rollo, VoL II, pp. 564-565.

[15] Id. at 568.

[16] Rollo, Vol. III 801-811.

[17] Rollo, Vol. II pp. 474-476.

[18] Rollo, Vol. Ill, 812-818.

[19] Office of the Court Administrator v. Musngi, 691 Phil. 117 (20 12).

[20] Office of the Court Administrator v. Indar, 6R5 Phil. 272 (20 12).

[21] Office of the Court Administrator v. Lopez, 654 Phil. 602 (2011).

[22] Rollo, p. 181.

[23] Sec. 5 (4) x x x, The petitioner shall serve a copy of the petition on the Office of the Solicitor General and the Office of the City or Provincial Prosecutor, within five days from the date of its filing and submit to the court proof of such service within the same period.

Sec. 19 (2). The parties, including the Solicitor General and the public prosecutor, shall be served with copies of the decision personally or by registered mail.

[24] Art. 48. In all cases of annulment or declaration of absolute nullity of marriage, the Court shall order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal assigned to it to appear on behalf of the State to take steps to prevent collusion between the parties and to take care that evidence is not fabricated or suppressed.

[25] Sec. 9. Investigation report of public prosecutor.- x x x the public prosecutor shall submit a report to the court stating whether the parties are in collusion and serve copies thereof on the parties and their respective counsels, if any.

[26] Sec. 8. Answer.-(1) The respondent shall file his answer within fifteen days from service of summons, or within thirty days from the last issue of publication in case of service of summons by publication. The answer must be verified by the respondent himself and not by counsel or attorney-in-fact.

[27] Rollo, Vol. II, pp; 474-475.

[28] Id. at 467-472.

[29] Garbo v. Spouses Garabato, G.R. No. 200013, January J 4, 2015, 746 SCRA 189, 199.

[30] Sec. 22. How genuineness of handwriting proved. The handwriting of a person may be proved by any witness who believes it to be the handwriting of such person because he has seen the person write, or has seen writing purporting to be his upon which the witness has acted or been charged, and has thus acquired knowledge of the handwriting of such person. Evidence respecting the handwriting may also be given by a comparison, made by the witness or the court, with writings admitted or treated as genuine by the part against whom the evidence is offered, or proved to be genuine to the satisfaction of the judge.

[31] Supra note 20.

[32] OCA v. Ampong, A.M. No. P-13-3132, June 4, 2014, 724 SCRA 488, 498.

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