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539 Phil. 106


[ A.M. NO. RTJ-05-1907 (FORMERLY A.M. NO. OCA IPI NO. 04-9-510-RTC*), December 06, 2006 ]




This administrative case against respondents stemmed from the Letter-Report[1] dated August 2, 2004 of Atty. Grace S. Belvis (Atty. Belvis), Clerk of Court of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court, to the Executive Judge, Edwin A. Villasor, who in turn submitted a Report[2] dated August 18, 2004 to this Court.

From the records of this case, the following facts are culled:

On July 22, 2004, at about 4:25 in the afternoon, Atty. Belvis was approached by City Prosecutor Dennis Pastrana regarding the posting of a cash bond by a certain Rodolfo "Rudy" Lantano. No Information having been filed against Lantano, Atty. Belvis gave the prosecution time to file it. She waited until 4:40 p.m. of that day but as no information was filed, she instructed Cash Clerk III Edna Samar (Edna) to close the Cashier's Office and left.

The next day, July 23, 2004, before 8:00 a.m., she was informed by Administrative Officer II Teresita Wanason (Teresita) and Edna that 3 sets of official receipts corresponding to Fiduciary, Judiciary Development Fund, and SAJJ-Court were missing. After a fruitless search in the Cashier's Office, a call was made to respondent Clerk IV Rosalie San Juan (Rosalie) to ask her if somebody had posted a cash bond the day before. Rosalie answered in the affirmative. At around 8:25 a.m. of the same day Rosalie brought to the cashier 3 sets of receipts and the P81,200 bond she had received.

In her undated letter to Atty. Belvis, respondent Rosalie gave an account of the circumstances behind her receipt of the cash bond:
On or about 6:00 p.m., Thursday, July 22, 2004, while I was resting in Branch 68 after playing badminton, Mr. Arnel Leynes, Clerk III, office of the Clerk of Court together with a certain Atty. Art Naciongaling, lawyer of the detained accused Mr. Rodolfo Lantano approached me to issue a receipt on a cash bond for the release of the abovementioned accused but I refused to do so since it was past working hours. After about 30 minutes, the daughter of the accused came and pleaded that her father is very old and very sick and needs to be brought to the hospital as soon as possible. I was so touched and with compassion I reluctantly made a receipt on the cash bond.

I admit that we (with the help of my friends) entered the Cashier's Office to be able to get the [o]fficial receipts and issue the corresponding receipt but not after Mr. Arnel Leynes gave me the corresponding criminal case number since I could not issue a receipt without the said docket number.

I also admit that we went to the Prosecutor's Office where I received the payment personally from the daughter of the accused, who could not come to the RTC Office because she fell from the stairs of the Office of the Prosecutor and she sprained her right leg.

As a sign of good faith, I brought the payment and receipts to the Cashier's Office early in the morning the following day, Friday, July 23, 2004.

x x x x[3] (Underscoring supplied)
For his part, respondent Clerk III Arnel Leynes (Leynes) submitted his Incident Report dated July 23, 2004 to Atty. Belvis.
. . . Habang ako ay naglalaro ng badminton . . .sa quadrangle ng RTC, Pasig City ay may lumapit sa akin na isang taong nagpakilalang Atty. Art. Humihingi siya ng tulong sa akin para sa kaso ng kliyente nyang si RODOLFO "Rudy" LANTANO na mag-ca-cash bond daw. Ang sagot ko po sa kanya ay wala ng magreresibo at wala ng pipirma ng release order kaya sabi niya ay may kakausapin daw silang judge. Kaya ang sabi ko sige po kausapin na muna ninyo yung sinasabi nyong judge. After 30 minutes bumalik si Atty. Art kasama yung anak ng akusado sinasabing meron daw taga Cashier's Office. Pero ang sabi ko ang alam ko ay naka lock na ang Cashier's office. Tapos pinakilala ko sila kay Rosalie San Juan. Tapos iniwan ko na sila sa kanilang pag-uusap. Pagkatapos mayamaya ay nakita kong umalis na si Atty. Art. Makalipas ang ilang minuto ay umalis din si Rosalie. After 30 minutes, bumalik si Rosalie at tinawag ako at nagpasama sa Rizal Prosecutor's Office. Pagdating naming doon nakita ko si Judge Bonifacio at Fiscal Yson na magkausap kasama ang ibang staff ng piskalya. Tapos isang staff ang lumapit sa akin at iniabot ang information ng kaso. Tapos sinabi ko kay Judge Bonifacio na wala pa sa jurisdiction po natin ang kasong iyan. Ang sagot nya kaya nga iyan inabot na sa iyo ang information bukas na lang papapirmahan sa logbook kase wala na daw yung in-charge kaya gawin mo na kung ano ang trabaho mo. Kaya bumalik po ako sa RTC-Office at tiningnan ko sa docket book kung ano ang ilalagay kong case number. Tapos bumalik po ako sa prosecutor's office para sabihin kung anong case number ang ilalagay at pagkatapos ay gumawa na nang resibo si Rosalie. Pagkagawa ng resibo pinirmahan na ni Judge Bonifacio yung release order at naghiwahiwalay na kami.

Kinabukasan ng July 23, 2004 pumunta sa Criminal Docket ang isa sa staff ng piskalya dala ang logbook at ibang attachments para sa kaso ni Rodolfo "Rudy" Lantano para papirmahan sa akin ung na-receive kong kopya ng information nung July 22, 2004.[4] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
By Agenda Report[5] dated January 17, 2005, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) made the following Evaluation of and Recommendations on the case as follows:
EVALUATION: This Office finds as patently highly irregular and anomalous the processing of the application for bail – the receipt of the cash bond and the issuance of the release order – on 22 July 2004 at the Pasig City RTC. Applying for bail requires compliance with a procedure intended to prevent abuses or irregularities from being committed. A case must be duly filed before the court, properly docketed thereat and the legal fees paid. If the bail is granted, certain documents and other attachments need to be appended to the records of the case before an accused may be released from custody.

After a careful study of the reports submitted by the personnel of the Pasig City RTC-OCC involved in the incident, we deem Ms Rosalie G. San Juan and Mr. Arnel D. Leynes, in view of their admissions, liable for violation of procedural rules as well as office rules and regulations relating to the acceptance of a cash bond and the issuance of official receipts therefor.

Ms. San Juan contends that she acted in good faith and in the honest belief that she was merely doing her job as a public servant. We believe that in the instant case, however, she has outdone herself by going beyond the scope of her duties and responsibilities. The fact that she had to climb over the room divider separating the cash section from the other sections of the OCC, and not enter[ed] the said premises through its locked door, shows that she had no business being within the confines of the cash section. She was not the person assigned by the office to issue the official receipts for legal fees or any kind of payment. Since she was not the designated personnel with authority to receive payment, she was not a bonded official. She should answer for the improper and irregular acceptance of a cash bond and the issuance of the official receipts therefor. Her desire to help the accused does not justify non-compliance with legal procedures.

Mr. Leynes should be held liable for giving the case number for an information yet to be filed and docketed in order to facilitate and render regular the issuance of the official receipts by Ms. San Juan. In the matter at hand, the release of accused Rodolfo Lantano was effected without the proper filing of the information and other documentary attachments required in posting bail under the Rules of Court. The submission of the requirements the following day did not remedy the flaw in the processing of the bail application owing to Mr. Leynes' non-compliance with procedural rules.

The participation of Judge Rodolfo R. Bonifacio, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court (Branch 159) at Pasig City, in the episode involved as alleged by Mr. Leynes in his Incident Report dated 23 July 2004 should also be looked into. Judge Bonifacio, as an officer of the court, had moral ascendancy over Mr. Leynes and Ms. San Juan and his presence and utterances had greatly influenced their actuations.

x x x x

RECOMMENDATION[S]: The foregoing considered, we respectfully submit the following recommendations for the consideration of the Honorable Court:
  1. That the Report dated 18 August 2004 of Executive Judge Edwin A. Villasor of the Regional Trial Court at Pasig City regarding the [i]ncident at the Pasig City RTC-OCC on 22 July 2004 be REDOCKETED as a regular administrative matter;

  2. That Ms. ROSALIE G. SAN JUAN and Mr. ARNEL D. LEYNES, Clerk IV and Clerk III, respectively, at the Pasig City RTC-OCC be found liable for IMPROPER CONDUCT for acting beyond the scope of their judicial duties and responsibilities and circumventing provisions of the Rules of Court on Bail;

  3. That Ms. San Juan and Mr. Leynes each be FINED the amount of Five Thousand (P5,000.00) Pesos and be STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely;

  4. That Judge Rodolfo R. Bonifacio, Presiding Judge of Pasig City RTC (Branch 159) be required to show-cause why no administrative disciplinary action should be taken against him for his participation in the incident at the Pasig City RTC-OCC on 22 July 2004; and

  5. That Atty. Grace S. Belvis, Clerk of Court of the Pasig City RTC-OCC be ADVISED to conduct closer supervision over the personnel of the Office of the Clerk of Court and to be more vigilant in the keeping of official papers, including blank and used official receipts. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Acting on the Recommendations of the OCA, this Court, by Resolution of February 14, 2005,[6] directed, among other things, respondent Judge Rodolfo R. Bonifacio to show cause why no administrative disciplinary action should be taken against him.

By Compliance[7] received on September 12, 2005, respondent Judge Bonifacio gave his side of the case.

On the Recommendation of the OCA in its December 12, 2005 Report,[8] this Court, by Resolution dated February 8, 2006,[9] dismissed the case against respondent Judge Bonifacio but warned him "to be more careful in his actions to avoid similar incidents in the future."

Respondents (Rosalie) and Leynes who were, by Resolution dated February 14, 2005, required to manifest within 20 days from notice whether they are willing to submit the case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings/records, failed to respond to the Resolution.

The OCA thus reiterated its recommendations numbers 2, 3 and 5[10] in its January 17, 2005 Report by Memorandum dated July 27, 2006.[11]

No doubt, respondents Rosalie and Leynes are liable for simple misconduct. Misconduct has been defined as an unacceptable behavior that transgresses the established rules of conduct for public officers.[12]

The established norm of conduct for court employees has always been to maintain a hands-off attitude where unofficial and/or irregular dealings with party-litigants are concerned. Such an attitude is indispensable for two reasons: (1) to maintain the integrity of the courts, and (2) to free the court personnel from suspicion of any misconduct.[13] For the conduct of each employee of a court of justice must, at all times, not only be characterized with propriety and decorum, but above all, beyond suspicion.[14]

In one case where a utility worker, without authority of the trial court or branch clerk of court, and in his belief that he was doing public service, detached the bailbond and the accompanying documents from the record of the case and gave them to the representative of the therein accused, this Court found him guilty of simple misconduct.[15]

Accommodating a person at the expense of the legal processes tends to frustrate and betray the public trust in the judicial system.

Under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,[16]simple misconduct is a less grave offense penalized with suspension from One (1) Month and One (1) Day to Six (6) Months for the first offense[17] and dismissal for the second offense.[18] While in some cases of misconduct, this Court imposed a fine in lieu of suspension, it did so upon a showing that public service would be adversely be affected if suspension is effected or that its imposition had been rendered inappropriate.[19] No such or analogous circumstance is present in this case. The penalty recommended by the OCA does not thus sit well with this Court.

One word on the Clerk of Court. This Court takes the opportunity to remind Atty. Belvis to take a closer, sustained supervision of her staff in the Office of the Clerk of Court to avoid the occurrence of similar incidents.

WHEREFORE, this Court finds respondent Rosalie G. San Juan and Mr. Arnel D. Leynes, Clerk IV and Clerk III, respectively, at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court-Office of the Clerk of Court, guilty of SIMPLE MISCONDUCT for which they are SUSPENDED from office for One (1) Month and One (1) Day without pay, effective upon receipt of this Decision, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.


Quisumbing, (Chairperson), Carpio, Tinga, and Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.

* Entitled "Report of Executive Judge Edwin A. Villasor, Regional Trial Court, Pasig City, on the incident which transpired on July 22, 2004 at the Regional Trial Court, Office of the Clerk of Court, Pasig City."

Rollo, p. 9.

[2] Id. at 2-8.

[3] Id. at 14.

[4] Id. at 13.

[5] Id. at 15-19.

[6] Id. at 20.

[7] Id. at 27-30.

[8] Id. at 33-35.

[9] Id. at 36-37.

[10] Id. at 18-19.

[11] Id. at 38-40.

[12] Castelo v. Florendo, A.M. No. P-96-1179, October 10, 2003, 413 SCRA 219, 231; Office of the Court Administrator v. Nitafan, 452 Phil. 1, 6 (2003).

[13] Office of the Court Administrator v. Bucoy, A.M. No. P-93-953, August 25, 1994, 235 SCRA 588, 593.

[14] Reyes v. Baliwag, A.M. No. P-01-1514, February 18, 2005, 452 SCRA 17, 25 (2003); Leonor v. Delfin, 372 Phil. 681, 687 (1999).

[15] Alleged Removal of the Bailbond Posted in Criminal Case No. C-67629 Committed by William S. Flores, Utility Aide II, Regional Trial Court, Branch 123, Caloocan City, A.M. No. P-05-1994, October 12, 2005, 472 SCRA 431.

[16] Resolution No. 991936, August 31, 1999.

[17] Vide: Miñoso v. Pamulag, A.M. No. P-05-2067, August 31, 2005, 468 SCRA 407; Judge Albano-Madrid v. Apolonio, 445 Phil. 88 (2003); Velasquez v. Inacay, 432 Phil. 140 (2002), where the penalty imposed was One (1) Month and One (1) Day suspension without pay.

[18] Section 52 (B) (2), Rule IV.

[19] Supra note 15 at 437-438.

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