404 Phil. 22

EN BANC

[ A.M. No. P-99-1336 [Formerly IPI No. 95-11-P], February 06, 2001 ]

CLERK OF COURT ELEONOR T. F. MARBAS-VIZCARRA, COMPLAINANT, VS. MA. DINA A. BERNARDO, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

PER CURIAM:

This administrative case involves the tampering of Daily Time Records (DTRs) of several employees in the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 30 of Cabanatuan City, by respondent Ma. Dina A. Bernardo, Clerk III, and her co-employee Gregoria R. Florendo, Court Interpreter, as reported by the then Clerk of Court of said branch, complainant Atty. Eleonor T.F. Marbas-Vizcarra, in an investigation conducted by her regarding said matter.

Atty. Vizcarra conducted her investigation in response to two letters from Atty. Adelaida Cabe-Baumann, Chief Administrative Officer of this Court. In an Indorsement dated January 16, 1995 addressed to Atty. Vizcarra, Atty. Baumann referred the matter of tampered DTRs for the month of November 1994 of Gregoria R. Florendo, Juanito F. Florendo, Linafe R. Quijano and Ma. Victoria Roque, all employees of RTC Branch 30 of Cabanatuan City. Subsequently, Atty. Baumann sent a second letter to Atty. Vizcarra, informing the latter of the discovery of tampered DTRs for the month of December 1994 of Gregoria Florendo, as well as those of Juanito Florendo and Josefina Cunanan who are also employees of said branch.

In her comment, Atty. Vizcarra reported that:
The November 1994 and December 1994 DTRs with the attached applications for leave and the transmittal letter were all entrusted to Ms. Gregoria Florendo for submission to the Supreme Court. Investigation made by the undersigned showed that the tampering was done by Ms. Florendo and Clerk Ma. Dina Bernardo while said DTRs were in Ms. Florendo's possession. The tampering was done in her own house the night before the DTRs were brought to the Supreme Court. Ms. Florendo and Ms. Bernardo tampered not only their own respective DTRs but also the DTR[s] of the other employees of this Branch, without their knowledge and consent. Ms. Linafe Quijano, Ms. Victoria Roque and Ma. Josefina Cunanan submitted their statements denying prior knowledge of the tampering. A careful perusal of the tampered DTRs showed that the tampered entries were not written by the following employees: Ms. Quijano, Ms. Cunanan, Ms. Roque and even Mr. Florendo, who was a witness to the tampering of the of the November 1994 DTRs.

x x x.

In a meeting called by the undersigned regarding the tampering of DTRs, Ms. Florendo further admitted to the undersigned that they also tampered the DTRs of their co- employees and their reason for this is that and I quote: "kung yung amin lang ang tatamperin namin baka hindi ka mag-second thought na ireport kami, ngayon maraming DTR ang tampered baka sakaling hindi mo kami ireport at marami kami. What Ms. Florendo did not foresee is that it would be the people at the Supreme Court itself who would discover the falsification and not the undersigned. Also, contrary to Ms. Florendo's and Ms. Bernardo's expectations, their other office mates refused to join them in building up a lie and, instead, opted to tell the truth. Mr. Juanito Florendo, the branch Utility Worker and nephew of Ms. Florendo and who lives in the house of the latter, gave a statement under oath that when the November 1994 DTRs of Ms. Florendo, Ms. Bernardo and the rest of the staff were being tampered by Ms. Florendo and Ms. Bernardo, he was present but could not do anything about it for fear of his aunt.
x x x.[1]

Subsequently, Atty. Vizcarra discovered that there were other tampered DTRs of the staff in the RTC. She then submitted a second Comment to this Court, and summarized her findings as follows:
  1. The DTRs for the months of October 1994, November 1994 and December 1994 of certain personnel of this branch were tampered with;

  2. The tamperings were committed by Ms. GREGORIA R. FLORENDO, & Ms. MA. DINA A. BERNARDO in the presence of Mr. JUANITO F. FLORENDO, the branch Utility Worker, nephew and household member of Ms. Gregoria Florendo;

  3. The tamperings were committed in the house of Ms. Gregoria Florendo to whom the undersigned entrusted the DTRs for submission to the Supreme Court, insofar as the November and December 1994 DTRs are concerned;

  4. Insofar as the October 1994 DTRs are concerned, only the DTR of Ms. Gregoria Florendo is tampered with. Ms. Florendo was also the one who submitted the October 1994 DTRs of this branch to the Supreme Court;

  5. The DTRs were tampered with by Ms. Florendo and Ms. Bernardo without the knowledge and consent of their officemates;

  6. The tampering came to the knowledge of the undersigned only when she received the letter form Atty. Adelaida Cabe-Baumann calling her attention regarding the tampered DTRs. The original DTRs which were tampered with were attached to said letter;

  7. The DTR of Mr. Juanito Florendo for the month of November 1994 was likewise tampered with but he alleged that although he was present when said DTR was being tampered with, he was not able to do anything to stop it for fear of his aunt, Ms. Gregoria R. Florendo. Regarding his December 1994 DTR which was also tampered with, he alleged that he has nothing to do with its tampering;

  8. Ms. Ma. Dina A. Bernardo, who admitted her participation in the tampering to the undersigned and her officemates, did otherwise in her written statement. She alleged that mechanical tampering of her DTR is a remote possibility. She did not categorically deny nor make mention of her participation in the tampering of her officmates' DTRs which was the subject of a memo sent to her by the undersigned. The November and December 1994 DTRs of Ms. Bernardo were both tampered with.

  9. Ms. Gregoria Florendo did not submit any written explanation to the undersigned asking her to explain why there are tampered entries in her DTRs.

  10. The following are the employees with tampered DTRs and the particular entries tampered with:
1.GREGORIA R. FLORENDO
-
OCTOBER 5, 6, 10, 18, 19, 1994;



NOVEMBER 2, 3, 7, 15, 16, 17, 22, 29, 1994;



DECEMBER 1, 6, 9, 15, 19, 20, 21, 27, 1994.




2.MA. DINA R. BERNARDO
-
NOVEMBER 8, 16, 18, 29, 1994



DECEMBER 1, 5, 8, 15, 1994;




3.JUANITO F. FLORENDO
-
NOVEMBER 2, 15, 28, 1994;



DECEMBER 6, 12, 13, 19,1994.





4.CELIA G. LUNA

NOVEMBER 2, 18, 1994;




5.JOSEFINA A. CUNANAN
-
NOVEMBER 11, 16, 18, 28, 1994;



DECEMBER 6, 12, 13, 26, 27, 29, 1994.




6.LINAFE R. QUIJANO
-
NOVEMBER 2, 17, 18, 29, 1994;



DECEMBER 19, 20, 21, 22, 1994.




7.VICTORIA D. ROQUE
-
NOVEMBER 2,18, 1994;



DECEMBER 6, 7, 1994.




8.ALBERTO S. RAMOS
-
DECEMBER l, 6, 1994.




9.PEDRO C. BINUYA
-
NOVEMBER 28, 1994.




10.EMILIE P. LIWAG
-
DECEMBER 21, 1994.

Looking at the above data, it could be readily seen that Ms. Florendo has the most number of tampered entries. It must be noted that Ms. Florendo has just been reemployed August 1994, which means that she has no leave credits yet or is not entitled to a leave with pay. With the number of absences she incurred, definitely there would be a cut in her salary and this is what Ms. Florendo is trying to avoid. This was the reason why she tampered her DTR, first in October. When her October 1994 DTR did not return despite the erasures she made, she was emboldened to tamper again her November 1994 DTR, this time in cahoot with Ma. Dina A. Bernardo, who tampered also her own DTR. Not content with tampering their own DTRs, they tampered also with the DTRs of their officemates. They did the same on the December DTRs. When asked by the undersigned why they had to involve the other personnel of this branch who was not aware of and who did not authorize the tampering committed, Ms. Florendo replied that "Kung amin lang ang tatamperin namin baka hindi ka mag-second thought na ireport kami, kung maraming DTR ang tampered baka sakaling hindi mo kami ireport at marami kami." Ms. Florendo and Ms. Bernardo believed that they could use their officemates as a shield. Unfortunately, they read everything wrong.[2]
Respondent Bernardo's co-employees, namely, Gregoria R. Florendo, Ma. Victoria D. Roque, Josefina A. Cunanan, Linafe R Quijano and Juanito F. Florendo were thereafter administratively charged. The case, entitled Vizcarra vs. Florendo, et al., was docketed as A.M. No. OCA I.P.I. No. 95-11-P.

The Court referred the case to Executive Judge Johnson L. Ballutay of the Regional Trial Court, Cabanatuan City, for investigation, report and recommendation. In his Report dated July 5, 1996, Judge Ballutay validated the findings of Atty. Vizcarra in her comment.

During the pendency of said case, respondent Bernardo tendered her resignation effective June 6, 1995. The Court, however, did not grant clearance to accept her resignation.

In Vizcarra vs. Florendo,[3] the Court found Gregoria R. Florendo guilty of having falsified the questioned DTRs and by reason thereof ordered her dismissal from the service with forfeiture of all benefits and accrued leave credits, with prejudice to reemployment in the government including government-owned and controlled corporations. Juanita F. Florendo was suspended without pay for one month while Ma. Victoria D. Roque, Josefina A. Cunanan and Linafe R. Quijano were exonerated from the charges against them.

With respect to respondent Bernardo, the Court stated:
We must state at the outset that Ma. Dina A. Bernardo was not made a respondent in the instant case, and not made to file an answer or to comment on the charge. Her culpability was discovered upon investigation conducted by Atty. Vizcarra. The complaint, however, was not amended to include Ma. Dina A. Bernardo in the charge. Thus, while her culpability here was proven with substantial evidence, in the interest of due process, we cannot mete a penalty against her, absent a formal charge.

x x x

We find that the charge against Ma. Dina A. Bernardo and respondent Gregoria R. Florendo has been sufficiently established. Morevoer, respondent Gregoria R. Florendo's defiant non-compliance with this Court's resolution requiring her to answer the charges filed against her, her's and Ma. Dina A. Bernardo's obstinate and contumacious refusal to appear before the investigating judge, as well as their precipitate resignation from the service are indubitable and unequivocal indicia of guilt.

x x x

The Report and Recommendation of investigating judge Johnson L. Ballutay dated July 5, 1996 shall be treated as an administrative complaint for falsification of official document against MA. DINA A. BERNARDO, for which she is required to submit her comment thereon within ten (10) days from receipt of this decision. The withholding of her salaries and exclusion of her name from the payroll caused by the Supreme Court Office of Administrative Services shall stand, and furthermore, her clearance is withheld pending the resolution of the aforesaid administrative complaint.[4]
The instant case was instituted pursuant to aforementioned ruling. Despite respondent Bernardo's receipt of the Court's Decision in Vizcarra on August 5, 1999 as borne by the records,[5] she failed to file her comment to the charges against her.

The Court in its Resolution, dated January 25, 2000, referred the case to the Executive Judge of the RTC, Cabanatuan City, Judge Johnson L. Ballutay for investigation, report and recommendation.[6] The case was initially set for hearing on February 29, 2000, but respondent Bernardo failed to appear thereon nor send any representative. She also did not attend the scheduled hearings on March 9 and 29, 2000 even though she was duly notified thereof.[7]

In his Report and Recommendation dated April 4, 2000,[8] Judge Ballutay stated that respondent Bernardo's wanton refusal, despite due notice, to appear before him nor to send any appropriate pleadings during the scheduled hearings, her failure to report for work since June 6, 1995 when she tendered her resignation which has not yet been approved, are clear indications of her guilt and culpability. Judge Ballutay recommended that Bernardo be dismissed from the service.[9]

The Court agrees with the recommendation of the Investigating Judge.

The evidence presented, respondent Bernardo's repeated failure to appear before the investigating judge to adduce evidence on her behalf, as well as her act of tendering her resignation pending the resolution of the administrative case against her indubitably point to her guilt.

The tampering of the questioned DTRs by respondent Bernardo are acts of falsification of official documents, which, under Section 22(f) of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations[10] are grave offenses punishable by dismissal from the service even for the first offense.[11]

Moreover, said acts clearly demonstrate respondent Bernardo's failure to observe the standard of conduct and behavior required of an employee in the Judiciary. We have repeatedly held that the conduct and behavior of a person connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice, from the presiding judge to the lowliest clerk, should be circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility. His or her conduct should at all times be characterized by propriety and decorum and be beyond suspicion.[12] The Court cannot countenance any act or omission of any person involved in the administration of justice which violates the norm of public accountability and undermines or tends to undermine the faith of the people in the Judiciary.[13]

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent MA. DINA A. BERNARDO is DISMISSED from the service for falsification of official documents, with forfeiture of all benefits and accrued leave credits, with prejudice to reemployment in the government including government-owned and controlled corporations.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.



[1] Records, pp. 5-6.

[2] Rollo, pp. 63-65.

[3] A.M. No. OCA I.P.I. No. 95-11-P, July 20, 1999.

[4]Vizcarra vs. Florendo, et al., A.M. No. 95-11-P, July 20, 1999, Rollo, pp. 8-11.

[5] Certification by Ramon G. Anagao, Postman II, Cabanatuan City Post Office, Rollo, p. 15.

[6] Id., at 43.

[7] Id., at 52.

[8] Id., at 52-53.

[9] Id., at 53.

[10] Section 22 (f), of the Omnibus Rules and Regulations Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292 (The Administrative Code of 1987) provides:
SEC. 22. Administrative offenses with its corresponding penalties are classified into grave, less grave, and light, depending on the gravity of its nature and effects of said acts on the government service.

The following are grave offenses with corresponding penalties:

x x x

(f) Falsification of official document

1st Offense - Dismissal.

x x x.

Likewise relevant is section 6, Chapter 2, Subtitle A, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 which defines the scope of the civil service as follows:

SEC. 6. Scope of the Civil Service. -- (1) The Civil Service embraces all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters.
x x x.

[11] Amane vs. Arce, A.M. No. P-94-1080, November 19, 1999.

[12] Ibid., Bergonia vs. Gonzales-Decano, 317 SCRA 660 (1999).

[13] Re: Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL) of Darlene A. Jacoba, Stenographer III, Regional Trial Court, branch 14, Manila, A.M. No. 98-8-246-RTC, February 15, 1999.



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