429 Phil. 498
“We find for the respondent.Justice Salonga then made the following recommendation:
"The complainant failed to show by convincing evidence that the acts of Judge Acosta in greeting her with a kiss on the cheek, in a 'beso-beso' fashion, were carried out with lustful and lascivious desires or were motivated by malice or ill-motive. It is clear under the circumstances that most of the kissing incidents were done on festive and special occasions. In fact, complainant's testimony that she was sexually harassed on November 21, 2000, is hardly believable. Notably, complainant declared in her affidavit-complaint that she brought some 'pasalubongs' for the respondent judge from her trip abroad. Therefore, Atty. Aquino could not have been 'taken aback' by the respondent's act of greeting her in a friendly manner and thanking her by way of a kiss on the cheek. Moreover, it was established that Judge Acosta was on official leave of absence from December 26-29, 2000. This was corroborated by Ricardo Hebia, the driver of respondent judge, in his Panunumpa (Affidavit) dated March 26, 2001, where he stated among others, to wit:x x x
"Corollarily, the joint affidavit of Ms. Santos and Ms. Samonte attesting to the fact that respondent dropped by at the third floor of the CTA and greeted them Happy New Year, even if it true, can not be given any evidentiary weight. Clearly, they did not make any categorical statement that they had witnessed or seen Judge Acosta making sexual advances on the complainant. Nor did they even attribute any malicious acts on respondent constituting sexual harassment.
"In addition, the respondent admitted that when he handed a calendar and greeted complainant with a buss, complainant reciprocated by greeting him a Happy New Year. The allegation of Atty. Aquino that the respondent merely used the calendars as 'props' to kiss her on the cheek and that she was singled out by respondent is not supported by any convincing evidence. The affidavit of Ms. Aurora U. Aso and Renelyn L. Larga that Ms. Carmen Acosta gave them calendars for the office of Attys. Margarette Guzman and Felizardo O. Consing, is immaterial and irrelevant, as Judge Acosta had stated that he handed to complainant Aquino, a 2001 calendar in the course of greeting her with a buss on the cheek. Said affidavit could not account for the calendars distributed to the other offices in the CTA, more specifically, the Legal and Technical Staff headed by Atty. Aquino.
"Moreover, the claim of the complainant that she was sexually harassed immediately after the final reading of the bill anent the expansion of the CTA at the Senate, can not be accorded great evidentiary value. The alleged kissing incident took place in the presence of other people and the same was by reason of the exaltation or happiness of the moment, due to the approval of the subject bill. Quite interesting to note, is that Atty. Aquino reciprocated by congratulating respondent and remarking "justice ka na judge" after the latter had bussed her on the cheek. Complainant even failed to dispute the fact that after the kissing incident, she joined Judge Acosta and his driver for lunch at a seafood restaurant in Luneta. There was even a time that she allowed the respondent judge to accompany her to the office alone and at nighttime at that, to retrieve her car keys and bag when they returned to the CTA after the hearing at the Senate on the CTA expansion bill. These acts are not at square with the behavior of one who has been sexually harassed, for the normal reaction of a victim of sexual harassment would be to avoid the harasser or decline his invitations after being offended. In fact, this occasion could have provided the respondent judge with the right opportunity to commit malicious acts or to sexually harass complainant, but then Judge Acosta never even attempted to do so. Undoubtedly, it could be said that no strained relations existed between Atty. Aquino and Judge Acosta at that moment.
"Neither can the alleged continuous call of Judge Acosta on complainant in the morning of February 14, 2001 to see him in his office, be considered as acts constituting sexual harassment. Atty. Aquino failed to state categorically in her affidavit-complaint that respondent demanded sexual advances or favors from her, or that the former had committed physical conduct of sexual nature against her. The telephone calls were attributed malicious implications by the complainant. To all intents and purposes, the allegation was merely a product of her imagination, hence, the same deserves no weight in law. Indeed, Atty. Aquino's own version, indicates that she well knew that the purpose of the respondent in calling her in the morning of February 14, 2001 was to discuss the CTA Health Plan which was disapproved by the Supreme Court and not for the respondent to demand sexual favors from her. This was corroborated by Atty. Margarette Guzman in her affidavit dated February 28, 2001, attached to the complainant's affidavit, where she stated:x x x
"Finally, while Judge Acosta admitted having pecked Atty. Aquino on her cheek, which was avoided by the latter, the same was not meant to sexually harass her. Judge Acosta's act of extending his post Valentine greeting to complainant was done in good faith and sans any malice. This is so because immediately after the complainant had displayed annoyance to the kissing episode, Judge Acosta immediately extended an apology by way of a handwritten note saying that the incident won't happen again.
"Parenthetically, the undersigned is convinced that Ms. Lanuza's affidavit that she supposedly accompanied complainant to respondent's office as she allegedly had a previous 'bad experience' with the latter when he was still an Associate Judge, was merely concocted to add flavor to the baseless imputations hurled against Judge Acosta. The accusation is implausible as Ms. Lanuza did not seem to complain about the alleged bad experience she had with Judge Acosta or relate it to anyone until ten (10) years later. It must be stressed that Ms. Lanuza is a biased-witness who harbored ill feelings against the respondent, as she was reprimanded by Judge Acosta for habitual absenteeism and tardiness in 1996. More importantly, Ms. Lanuza did not even attest that she was a witness to the alleged sexual advances of Judge Acosta.
"In all the incidents complained of, the respondent's pecks on the cheeks of the complainant should be understood in the context of having been done on the occasion of some festivities, and not the assertion of the latter hat she was singled out by Judge Acosta in his kissing escapades. The busses on her cheeks were simply friendly and innocent, bereft of malice and lewd design. The fact that respondent judge kisses other people on the cheeks in the 'beso-beso' fashion, without malice, was corroborated by Atty. Florecita P. Flores, Ms. Josephine Adalem and Ms. Ma. Fides Balili, who stated that they usually practice 'beso-beso' or kissing on the cheeks, as a form of greeting on occasions when they meet each other, like birthdays, Christmas, New Year's Day and even Valentine's Day, and it does not matter whether it is Judge Acosta's birthday or their birthdays. Theresa Cinco Bactat, a lawyer who belongs to complainant's department, further attested that on occasions like birthdays, respondent judge would likewise greet her with a peck on the cheek in a 'beso-beso' manner. Interestingly, in one of several festive occasions, female employees of the CTA pecked respondent judge on the cheek where Atty. Aquino was one of Judge Acosta's well wishers. (Annex "8" to Comment, p. 65, Rollo)
"In sum, no sexual harassment had indeed transpired on those six occasions. Judge Acosta's acts of bussing Atty. Aquino on her cheek were merely forms of greetings, casual and customary in nature. No evidence of intent to sexually harass complainant was apparent, only that the innocent acts of 'beso-beso' were given malicious connotations by the complainant. In fact, she did not even relate to anyone what happened to her. Undeniably, there is no manifest sexual undertone in all those incidents.”
“Considering the above, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the administrative complaint for sexual harassment and violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the Code of Professional Responsibility be DISMISSED and accordingly, respondent Presiding Judge Ernesto D. Acosta be exonerated therefrom; that in view of these charges which might have tainted the image of the Court, though unsubstantiated they may be, Judge Acosta is WARNED to refrain from doing similar acts, or any act for that matter on the complainant and other female employees of the Court of Tax Appeals, which in any manner may be interpreted as lustful advances.”We agree with the findings of Justice Salonga.
"A mere casual buss on the cheek is not a sexual conduct or favor and does not fall within the purview of sexual harassment under R.A. No. 7877. Section 3 (a) thereof provides, to wit:Indeed, from the records on hand, there is no showing that respondent judge demanded, requested or required any sexual favor from complainant in exchange for “favorable compensation, terms, conditions, promotion or privileges” specified under Section 3 of R.A. 7877. Nor did he, by his actuations, violate the Canons of Judicial Ethics or the Code of Professional Responsibility.'Sec. 3. Work, Education or Training - related Sexual Harassment Defined. - Work, education or training-related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act."Clearly, under the foregoing provisions, the elements of sexual harassment are as follows:
a) In a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed when:
1) The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms, conditions, promotions or privileges; or the refusal to grant sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in anyway would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employees;
2) The above acts would impair the employee's right or privileges under existing labor laws; or
3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.'"In her Complaint-affidavit, Reply and Sur-rejoinder, complainant did not even allege that Judge Acosta demanded, requested or required her to give him a buss on the cheek which, she resented. Neither did Atty. Aquino establish by convincing evidence that the busses on her cheek, which she considers as sexual favors, discriminated against her continued employment, or resulted in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. In fact, complainant continued to perform her work in the office with the usual normalcy. Obviously, the alleged sexual favor, if there ever was, did not interfere with her working condition (Annexes "9" - "9-FFF"). Moreover, Atty. Aquino also continued to avail of benefits and leaves appurtenant to her office and was able to maintain a consistent outstanding performance. On top of this, her working area which, is at the third floor of the CTA, is far removed from the office of Judge Acosta located at the fourth floor of the same building. Resultantly, no hostile or intimidating working environment is apparent.
1) The employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person has authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another; 2) The authority, influence or moral ascendancy exists in a working environment; 3) The employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, or any other person having authority, influence or moral ascendancy makes a demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor.
"Based on the foregoing findings, there is no sufficient evidence to create a moral certainty that Judge Acosta committed the acts complained of; that Atty. Aquino's determination to seek justice for herself was not substantiated by convincing evidence; that the testimony of respondent judge and his witnesses are credible and therefore, should be given weight and probative value; that the respondent's acts undoubtedly do not bear the marks of misconduct, impropriety or immorality, either under R.A. No. 7877 or the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the Code of Professional Responsibility.”