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450 Phil. 59

EN BANC

[ A.M. No. P-03-1696 (Formerly OCA IPI No. 01-1088-P), April 30, 2003 ]

CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, COMPLAINANT, VS. ZENAIDA T. STA. ANA, COURT STENOGRAPHER I, MCTC, QUEZON-LICAB, NUEVA ECIJA, RESPONDENT.

R E S O L U T I O N

PER CURIAM:

This is an administrative matter for the dismissal of Zenaida Sta. Ana, Court Stenographer 1 of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Quezon-Licab, Nueva Ecija. Atty Anicia Marasigan- de Lima, Director IV of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Regional Office No. 3, San Fernando, Pampanga, charged her with dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for misrepresenting that she took and passed the Career Service Professional Examination Computer Assisted Test (CAT) on September 16, 1998 when, in truth and in fact, someone else took the examination for her. The CSC found that the picture and signature in respondent’s Personal Data Sheet were different from those appearing in her CAT application and in the Picture Seat Plan both filed in the Examination and Placement Services Division (EPSD) of the CSC.

The formal charge against respondent read as follows:
  1. That Zenaida T. Sta. Ana has a proposed appointment in a government office in Manila;

  2. That under Item 19 of her Personal Data Sheet, Sta. Ana indicated that she passed the Career Service Professional Examination (CAT) held at the Civil Service Commission Regional Office No. 3, San Fernando, Pampanga on September 16, 1998 with a rating of 84.86%;

  3. That Director Arturo J. Panaligan of CSC-National Capital Judicial Region requested from this Office confirmation of the eligibility of Sta. Ana;

  4. That verification from the Picture Seat Plan of the Examination and Placement Services Division (EPSD) of this Office showed that another person took the examination in behalf of Sta. Ana;

  5. That the signature and picture pasted in the duly accomplished Personal Data Sheet of Zenaida Sta. Ana differ from that appearing in the CAT application and in the Picture Seat Plan both filed in the EPSD of this Office;

  6. That on February 29, 2000, this Office issued an Order requiring Sta. Ana to comment within five (5) days from receipt why she should not be administratively charged for Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prehjudical to the Best Interest of the Service;

  7. That the Order was sent by this Office through registered mail and the same was duly served on March 23, 2000; and

  8. That Sta. Ana filed her comment to this Office (CSC) on March 30, 2000.[1]
Respondent, in her May 28, 2000 answer, stated the following:
  1. That when she took the civil service examination for Career Service Professional which was held at San Fernando, Pampanga on September 16, 1998, she signed an application for the said examination and submitted the requirements to the Civil Service Commission;

  2. That subsequently, she received a Certificate of Eligibility from the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission for the examination which was held on September 16, 1998 purportedly due to the fact that she received a rating of 84.86%;

  3. That at the time of the receipt by her of the Certificate of Eligibility she had no knowledge nor notice of any defect or infirmity in the result of her examination;

  4. That subsequently, she received a notification that she is being charged for Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Interest of the Service allegedly because it appears in the picture seat plan of the examination that another person took the examination in behalf of Mrs. Zenaida T. Sta. Ana;

  5. That in all truth and candor, respondent hereby states that she has no knowledge as to why it now appears that another person took the examination for her;

  6. That when she took the examination, she did it in all honesty and good faith and with the primary intention of passing the same for purposes of entering the government service and she would not do anything that would in one way or another, destroy her dream of ultimately becoming a career professional in the government service;

  7. That under the circumstances, all that she could probably say is that, the changing of the picture in the picture seat plan may have been done by persons unknown to her who may have been committing such anomaly or irregularity in the examination procedure of the Civil Service Commission;

  8. That the respondent hereby advances the information that such anomaly or irregularities may have been actually existing in the examination procedure of the commission and that it only happens at this particular instance that she became a victim of such irregularity;

  9. That as proof and as part of her evidence, she is hereby submitting a Xerox copy of the Certificate of Eligibility given to her by the Chairman of the commission;

  10. That she hereby further reserves the presentation of oral and documentary evidence in support of her defense.[2]
Court Administrator Presbitero J. Velasco forwarded the matter to Executive Judge Napoleon T. Sta. Romana for formal investigation and recommendation. In his report submitted on March 25, 2002, Judge Sta. Romana found respondent guilty of the charges against her and recommended her dismissal, based on his findings:
Atty. Anicia Marasigan-de Lima was subpoenaed to shed light on the complaint against the respondent. In representation of the Civil Service Commission, Atty. Jasmin Regino testified in behalf of said Office on March 8, 2002 and submitted the documents in possession of the Legal Affairs Division in connection with a similar complaint before their Office. It appears that there is no resolution by their Office as of said date and is still waiting for a memorandum to be submitted by the respondent which was twenty (20) days from November 9, 2000 (sic) by Hearing Officer Dulce J. Cochon. No memorandum was submitted.

The exhibits submitted by the Civil Service Commission are the following:


Exhibit “A”
-
Formal Charge by the Civil Service Commission dated May 5, 2000;





Exhibit “B”
-
Order issued by the Civil Service Commission signed by Atty. Anicia Marasigan-de Lima, Director IV;





Exhibit “C”
-
Indorsement letter of Alma M. Tuazon, Chief Personnel Specialist, Examination and Placement Services Division, Civil Service Commission, Regional Office No. 3, San Fernando, Pampanga;





Exhibit “D”
-
Examination Slip dated September 16, 1998 of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana;





Exhibit “E”
-
Personal Data Sheet of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana; Exhibit “E-1”– signature of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana at the back;





Exhibit “F”

Certificate of Eligibility with date of release as September 16, 1998 in the name of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana;





Exhibit “G”
-
Letter of Director Arturo Panaligan;





Exhibit “H”
-
Picture Seat Plan with examination date of September 16, 1998 at the CSR No. 3; Exhibit “H-1” - No. 4 column with name and picture of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana; and Exhibit “H-2” – the signature of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana;





Exhibit “I”
-
Comment of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana; Exhibit “I-1” - page 2 of the Comment; and Exhibit “I-2” – the signature of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana on page 2;





Exhibit “J”
-
the Answer of Zenaida T. Ana to the Formal Charge; Exhibit “J-1” to J-4”, series - the succeeding pages;





Exhibits “K” to “K-4”, series -
the Notices of Hearings issued by the Civil Service Commission on the person of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana;





Exhibits “L” and “L=1” -
Appearances; the remarks thereon as Exhibit “L-2”; and





Exhibit “M”
-
Letter of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana dated June 29, 2000.

The respondent opted not to present testimonial evidence but only marked the following exhibits in her defense;


Exhibit “1”
-
Answer of the respondent to the Formal Charge; “1-a” and “1-b” - succeeding pages thereof;





Exhibit “2”
-
The Certificate of Eligibility issued by the Civil Service Commission to the respondent;





Exhibit “3”
-
Personal Data Sheet of respondent Zenaida T. Sta. Ana; “3-a” - the signature of Zenaida T. Sta. Ana;





Exhibit “4”
-
Personal Data Sheet of the alleged substitute examinee; and





Exhibit “5”
-
Picture Seat Plan; “5-a” – portion showing the picture of the alleged examinee; and “5-b” – the signature of the alleged examinee.

It is crystal clear that in Exhibit “D” which is a common exhibit - Exhibit “4” for the respondent, a different picture of a person who took the examination appears which is different from the appearance of respondent Zenaida T. Sta. Ana as appearing in Exhibit “E”, which is Exhibit “3” for the respondent - Personal Data Sheet. Also, in Exhibit “H” which is Exhibit “5” for the respondent, the Picture Seat Plan, Exhibit “5-a” shows also a different person who took the examination for Zenaida T. Sta. Ana.

In Exhibit “M”, a letter-communication by Zenaida T. Sta. Ana dated June 29, 2000, respondent entered a plea of “NO CONTEST” as shown in her stated (sic) in said letter-communication, which reads as follows:

xxx
That for the sake of my peace of mind I hereby enter a plea of “no contest”. It should not be construed however that I am admitting the misdemeanor being attributed to me, it is only that I am a poor person and cannot afford the services of a lawyer.

Besides, by not contesting the case I would be spared further of the anxiety and sleepless nights I am now experiencing.

In view of this, I most humbly appear (sic) that the Regional Director and/or authorities concerned shall consider me resigned from the service, to be effective, if possible, at the close of office hours on June 30, 2000.


Very respectfully,  
 
(SGD.) ZENAIDA T. STA. ANA
(Respondent)
Quezon, Nueva Ecija

The Answer adopted by the respondent - Exhibit “1”, paragraphs 7 and 8, states as follows:
  1. That under the circumstances, all that she could probably say is that, the changing of the picture in the picture sheet plan may have been done by persons unknown to her who may have been committing such anomaly or irregularity in the examination procedure of the Civil Service Commission;

  2. That the respondent hereby advances the information that such anomaly or irregularities may have been actually existing in the examination procedure of the commission and that it only happens at this particular instance that she became a victim of such irregularity;
The irregularity, if ever there is any, should be attributed to the respondent and not to the Civil Service Commission. The Commission has no motive nor inclination to cause the irregularity in the examination procedure of said Commission. It is clear based on the communications presented by Zenadia T. Sta. Ana that she is guilty of the offense of Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, by causing another person to take the examination in her behalf which resulted in her passing the Civil Service Examination with a rating of 84.86%.

It is, therefore, recommended that the respondent Zenaida T. Sta. Ana of the MCTC, Quezon-Licab, Nueva Ecija, be dismissed from the service, with prejudice to holding any other position in the government service and forfeiture of all benefits.[3]
The recommendation for dismissal was concurred in by Deputy Court Administrator (DCA) Jose P. Perez and approved by Court Administrator Velasco. According to DCA Perez, the executive judge was correct in concluding that there was no motive on the part of the CSC to cause the irregularity which was the subject matter of the case. DCA Perez further added that the records of the case and even the evidence submitted by respondent show that she was guilty of the charges against her, thus the recommendation that respondent be dismissed from the service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits reemployment in any branch and instrumentality of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.

We concur.

After a thorough review of the matter, the Court finds that respondent is indeed guilty of dishonesty. An examination of respondent’s Personal Data Sheet reveals that her signature and picture on it are different from those in her CAT Application and Picture Seat Plan. Respondent attributes such discrepancy to “unknown persons who may have been committing such anomaly and irregularity in the examination procedure of the CSC.” However, this Court agrees with the observation of the executive judge that the irregularity should not be attributed to the CSC which had no motive in tampering with such documents. Even if such irregularity was attributable to error or oversight, respondent did not present any proof that it occurred during the examination and, thus, the CSC officials who supervised the exam enjoyed the presumption of regularity in the performance of their official duty. Besides, for the CSC to commit such a mistake - mixing up the pictures and signatures of examinees - was unlikely due to the strict procedures it follows during civil service examinations. In a similar case,[4] this Court approved the findings of the CSC regarding procedures during examinations:
It should be stressed that as a matter of procedure, the room examiners assigned to supervise the conduct of a Civil Service examination closely examine the pictures submitted and affixed on the Picture Seat Plan (CSC Resolution No. 95-3694, Obedencio, Jaime A.). The examiners carefully compare the appearance of each of the examinees with the person in the picture submitted and affixed on the PSP. In cases where the examinee does not look like the person in the picture submitted and attached on the PSP, the examiner will not allow the said person to take the examination (CSC Resolution No. 95-51 95, Taguinay, Ma. Theresa)
Thus, the irregularity in respondent’s Personal Data Sheet, CAT Application and Picture Seat Plan cannot be attributed to error on the CSC’s part. It is clear that somebody else took the CSC exam for respondent Sta. Ana.

For respondent to claim that she herself took the CSC exam when in fact somebody else took it for her constitutes dishonesty. We have repeatedly ruled 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 in his personal and private dealings with other people, to preserve the court’s good name and standing. It cannot be overstressed that 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.”[5]
Respondent failed to meet the stringent standards set for a judicial employee and does not therefore deserve to be part of the judiciary. In the case of Cruz and Paitim vs. CSC,[6] we found Cruz guilty of dishonesty when she misrepresented that she took the CSC Career Service Sub-Professional Exam when in fact it was her officemate, Paitim, the Municipal Treasurer of Norzagaray, Bulacan, who took the exam for her. Because of such dishonesty, both employees were dismissed from the service. We find no reason to deviate from our previous ruling.

Under the Civil Service Rules,[7] dishonesty is a grave offense punishable by dismissal which carries the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits [except leave credits pursuant to Rule 140, Section 11 (1)][8] and disqualification from reemployment in the government service.

WHEREFORE, respondent Zenaida T. Sta. Ana is hereby found guilty of dishonesty and is hereby DISMISSED as Court Stenographer 1, MCTC of Quezon-Licab, Nueva Ecija, with forfeiture of all her retirement benefits except her accrued leave credits and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio Morales, Callejo, Sr., and Azcuna, JJ., concur.



[1] Rollo, pp. 10-11.

[2] Rollo, pp. 4-6.

[3] Rollo, pp. 64-67.

[4] Cruz and Paitim vs. CSC, G.R. No. 144464, November 27, 2001.

[5] Floria vs. Sunga, A.M. No. CA-01-10-PI, November 14, 2001.

[6] Supra note 4.

[7] Section 23, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order 292

[8] Cabanatan vs. Molina, AM. No. P-01-1520, November 21, 2001.

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