576 Phil. 40
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
x x x there is a more sinister motive behind Judge Asdala’s actions and inaction in relation to the Estate of Li Guat and Chua Kay. xxx Sometime in February 2003 Judge Asdala misused her office and meddled in a case represented by Atty. Marcelino Bautista, former RTC Judge of Quezon City. This became the subject of an administrative case filed by the latter against Judge Asdala [AM No. RTJ-05-1916] and as an offshoot Atty. Bautista together with his client went to the media to expose Judge Asdala’s alleged misuse of her office xxx. [T]he Supreme Court decided the case against Judge Asdala on May 1, 2005 and fined her P40,000.00. The TV Program Direct Connect was hosted by Atty. Batas Mauricio. Judge Asdala retaliated and filed a libel case against Atty. Bautista and his client which is now pending before RTC Branch 100, Quezon City under Crim. Case No. 03-119215 entitled [“]People of the Philippines vs. Melencio P. Manansala III and Marcelino Bautista Jr.[”] Judge Adsala did not include the TV host Atty. Batas Mauricio xxx in her complaint for libel [as] she had other plans of getting even. It so happens that counsel on record in SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS NO. Q-01-43860 entitled [“]Estate of Li Guat and Chua Kay[”] is the law firm of Atty. Mauricio. xxx Judge Asdala after several hearings finally dismissed the case. Thereafter, when the notice of appeal was filed she did not act on it. Now she wants to make me a convenient escape [sic] goat to cover for her sins. (Underscoring supplied.)Yaneza later claimed, during the hearing of OCA I.P.I. No. 05-2175-P conducted by the OCA, that on Judge Asdala’s instruction, he inserted the Notice of Appeal in a folder of pending incidents which was placed on a table near the entrance to Judge Asdala’s chamber.
The trouble with the Office is that there is much confusion, there are two (2) OIC[s], one Ms. Amy Soneja who was properly designated by the Supreme Court and the other Ms. Myrla Nicandro who was not appointed by the Supreme Court but presents herself [as] and [is] treated by the Presiding Judge as the OIC, thus appearing to be a usurper;Annexed to Yaneza’s May 10, 2005 letter of the Executive Judge was, among others, a copy of his application for leave covering the period April 4, 5 and 6, 2005, which was received by Branch 87 of the Quezon City RTC at 10:00 A.M. on April 1, 2005.
x x x x
In Branch 87, Ms. Soneja is the properly appointed OIC by the Supreme Court[,] meaning[,] she is the only one who can exercise the powers of the Office of the Clerk of Court and no other. Myrla Nicandro not being properly appointed by the Supreme Court has no authority to present herself as OIC. It is a public misrepresentation. Any exercise of the powers of the Clerk of Court by Ms. Nicandro is [a] usurpation before our eyes. xxx Myrla Nicandro is only a stenographer by rank and has no item in the plantilla of Branch 87. She is only detailed, has been transferred from several offices[;] maybe her best qualification is that she is a kumare of the Presiding Judge and a constant companion in various activities. x x x
x x x x
It is very difficult to ask any of the clerical staff to go and file the reports [with] the Supreme Court, since they have to secure permission from a usurper OIC Myrla Nicandro[. I]n fact I requested Rowena Agulo[,] clerk in charge of civil cases[,] to file the reports but the usurper turned down her request for permission;
By way of comment [on] my application for leave, it is the practice of the Presiding Judge to allot the time in which the staff will take leave. x x x But for several years now, the Presiding Judge has not allocated any period for us to go on leave. Thus, I did not have any vacation for years. x x x
After conferring with the properly appointed OIC Ms. Amy Soneja, I submitted an application for leave dated April 1, 2005, and she in turn submitted it to the usurper OIC Myrla Nicandro, and it is only lately thru this complaint that [I] became aware that my application for leave was not approved. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
In OCA-IPI No. 05-2175-P, x x x [t]he evidence does not show that the failure of Yaneza to bring the [Notice of Appeal] to the attention of Judge Asdala was motivated by any corrupt motives. As a matter of fact, while he admitted his failure to call the attention of Judge Asdala regarding said notice of appeal, he reasoned that there was no necessity to bring it to her because it was not the proper pleading. x x xIn OCA IPI No. 05-2175-P, this Court finds the immediately quoted findings, as well as the recommendation, of Hearing Officer Designate Romulo S. Quimbo well-taken.
However, although the notice of appeal filed in the case may have been insufficient to satisfy the rules, still it was not for him to decide. He should have brought the matter to the complainant’s attention. When he ruled that the said notice of appeal was not the correct pleading, he was performing a judicial power reserved for the presiding judge.
Yaneza, however, averred that in obedience to the instructions of Judge Asdala, he had placed the notice of appeal on a table near complainant’s door together with other pending incidents. This is denied by Judge Asdala. Be that as it may, we cannot hold respondent Yaneza liable for willful concealment of the notice of appeal. No motive has been ascribed or proven against Yaneza. On the other hand, it is not denied that the counsel for the petitioners in the Li Guat case was Atty. Mauricio, the television host where the acts of Judge Asdala amounting to obstruction of justice and for which she was fined P40,000.00 in A.M. No. RTJ-05-1916 had been aired. It is not farfetched to think that the dismissal of Special Proceedings No. A-01-43860 and her failure to act on the notice of appeal was the result of some animosity which she felt against Atty. Mauricio.
In OCA-IPI No. 05-2228-P, x x x respondent Yaneza was in duty bound to prepare and submit the reports within the first week of the following month. Hence, his failure to submit the November 2004 report during December and his failure to submit the December 2004 report in early January amounts to inefficiency. His excuse that there was confusion in the office because of the two OICs is rather lame.
This inefficiency, although not particularly listed in Section 23, Rule XIV of Book V of Executive Order No. 292 (Administrative Code) as among the offenses that may be committed by government employees, deserves a reprimand and a stern warning that any repetition of the same would be dealt with more drastically.
Judge Asdala further charges Yaneza for abandonment of his position. She averred that she had directed her OIC to inform Yaneza that his application for leave had been disapproved. She also issued a memorandum directing Yaneza to report to the office and this memorandum was served on Yaneza by the process server who was, however, unable to serve the same personally on Yaneza.
Yaneza was unable to substantiate his charges against Judge Asdala [in OCA-IPI No. 06-2449-RTJ]. xxx
There appears to be some merit in the statement of Yaneza as regards the confusion of the personnel because of the presence of two (2) OIC’s – Ms. Amy So[n]eja, who was regularly appointed by the Supreme Court and Ms. Myrla Nicandro, who was appointed by Judge Asdala. This act of Judge Asdala is covered by x x x Memorand[a] No. 0009, s. of 2005 (pp. 81-82, Rollo, 05-2228-P) and No. 0019, s. of 2005 (Ibid., pp. 83-85). This is the reason advanced by Yaneza as regards the inefficiency of Branch 87. x x x
The undersigned recommends that OCA-IPI No. 2175-P [sic] be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter and that respondent Victor Pedro A. Yaneza be reprimanded and sternly warned that a repetition of the same offense or the commission of a similar one in the future would be more drastically dealt with; that OCA-IPI No. 05-2228-P [sic] be dismissed for lack of merit and that OCA-IPI No. 06-2449-RTJ be also dismissed but Judge Asdala be required to explain why she appointed another OIC Branch Clerk considering that one had already been designated by the Court. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
The reason for the requirement that employees applying for vacation leave, whenever possible, must submit in advance their applications [for] vacation leave, is to enable heads of offices to make the necessary adjustments in the work assignments among the staff so that the work may not be hampered or paralyzed. However, it is clear from [Sections 49-54 of Rule XVI of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations] that mere failure to file a leave of absence in advance does not ipso facto render an employee administratively liable. In case the application for vacation leave of absence is filed after the employee reports back to work but disapproved by the head of the agency, then, under Section 50 xxx, the employee shall not be entitled to receive his salary corresponding to the period of his unauthorized leave of absence. The unauthorized leave of absence becomes punishable only if the absence is frequent or habitual under Section 23 (q), Rule XIV of the omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations or detrimental to the service under Section 23 (r) [sic] or the official or employee falsified his daily time record under Section 23 (a) or (f) of the same Omnibus Civil Service Rules. (Italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)In the absence then of evidence that Yaneza’s unauthorized absences were frequent or habitual, or that he falsified his daily time record, or that his absence was inimical to the interest of public service, the Court may not administratively discipline him. He is, however, not entitled to receive his salary corresponding to the period of his unauthorized absences. Following the provision of Article 2154 of the Civil Code that “[i]f something is received where there is no right to demand it, and it was unduly delivered through mistake, the obligation to return it arises,” he must return the same if he had already received it.
Sec. 50. Effect of unauthorized leave. – An official/employee who is absent without approved leave shall not be entitled to receive his salary corresponding to the period of his unauthorized absence. It is understood, however, that his absence shall no longer be deducted from his accumulated leave credits, if there is any. Section 23 (r) refers to “refusal to perform official duty.” “Conduct grossly prejudicial to the best interest of the service” is in Section 23 (t).