391 Phil. 1

FIRST DIVISION

[ A.M. No. P-96-1182, July 19, 2000 ]

JOSEFINA MARQUEZ, COMPLAINANT, VS. AIDA CLORES-RAMOS, COURT STENOGRAPHER III, RESPONDENT.

R E S O L U T I O N

KAPUNAN, J.:

In a sworn letter complaint dated October 10, 1995, Mrs. Josefina A. Marquez charged respondent, Ms. Aida Clores-Ramos, Court Stenographer III, OCC-RTC, Branch 29, Libmanan, Camarines Sur with unethical, illicit and highly immoral acts.

Complainant alleged, among others, that she is the legal wife of Mr. Florencio Marquez, Sr.; that they were married on January 5, 1955 before the Roman Catholic Church of Libmanan; and that respondent is maintaining an amorous illicit relationship with her husband, out of which a baby boy was born on December 8, 1993 and baptized as Florencio Marquez, Jr. on February 11, 1994 at the St. James the Apostle Parish, Libmanan, Camarines Sur.

Attached to her complaint are handwritten letters of her husband to respondent to prove her husband's extra-marital affairs with respondent Court Stenographer.

Meanwhile, on October 30, 1995, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCAD) also received from the Department of Justice a First Indorsement, dated October 19, 1995 referring the same complaint dated September 8, 1995 for appropriate action.[1]

Likewise, the Office of the Ombudsman sent its First Indorsement to the OCAD Complaint No. 95-2434 dated October 30, 1995 entitled "Concerned Career Government Employee v. Aida Clores-Ramos" complaining about the unethical actuations and lifestyle of the subject Court Stenographer for carrying an extra-marital relationship with a married man.[2]

In answer, respondent Aida C. Ramos alleged that she is an employee of the RTC, Branch 29, Libmanan, Camarines Sur as Court Stenographer III, having been employed since June 16, 1983. She, however, vehemently denied the allegations contained in the letter-complaint of Mrs. Josefina Marquez that she carried an illicit and immoral relationship with Mr. Florencio Marquez and narrated the following:

x x x.

2.a that since respondent's employment with the Court in 1983, she had never been a subject of any Administrative Complaint as her professional conduct as a public servant and in her private life and her community had been beyond reproach;

2.b that respondent's fate was not kind to her. She was a victim of deception and betrayal twice over. In 1988, her husband, Raul D. Ramos, a womanizer, abandoned her and her son Ronan C. Ramos for other women and she was left alone to fend for her son and ailing mother;

2.c That as fate would had its way, sometime on February, 1993 respondent cross paths with an old "gentleman" by the name of Florencio Marquez. She came to know him as a Balikbayan and a long time resident of the United States of America;

2.d That Mr. Florencio Marquez like a wolf in a sheepskin's clothing, introduced himself as a "widower" since 1954. Then, he began courting her. He was a persistent suitor and promised marriage in the United States;

2.e That Mr. Florencio Marquez to "prove" his representations as to his civil status, even gave respondent copies of certifications from the Local Civil Registrar of Libmanan, Camarines Sur regarding his previous marriage with Prudencia Frondozo and the fact of her death on January 9, 1954, which are appended hereto as Annexes "A" and "B", respectively, to form part hereof;

2.f That respondent's only fault was that because of her rural upbringing and of her being naïve in the ways of the world, she came to trust him and started to believe in Mr. Marquez's "sincerity" and "good intentions". So that on March, 1993, because of his persistence, respondent was prevailed upon to accept an invitation to have dinner with him. That acceptance started her travails leading to her present desolate situation;

2.g That Mr. Florencio Marquez made respondent drink wine and not accustomed to it, she felt dizzy and fall asleep, only found out in the following morning that he had carnal knowledge of her. Outrage and self pity overcome respondent but the "gentleman" assuaged her emotional outpourings with his "assurances" and offer marriage in the United States of America;

2.h That from thereon, the liasons became frequent and the promise of being brought to the United States and marriage in that country seemed endless;

2.i That eventually, respondent got pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy on December 8, 1993 and was christened Florencio Marquez, Jr. The "widower" from looks of it was vent on migrating back to the United States with respondent and her son and was told to prepare her travelling papers with dispatch;

2.j That it was at this point that respondent discovered the deception made on her by this "widower" gentleman. He was not after all a "widower" as he is very much a married man.

2.k That respondent upon her discovery of Mr. Marquez's true Civil Status immediately severed her relationship with him and has no intention whatsoever in resuming the same now or in the near future.[3]
In the Resolution of February 14, 1996, the case was referred to Executive Judge Salvador G. Cajot, RTC of Libmanan, Camarines Sur for Investigation/Report and Recommendation.[4]

Meanwhile, the OCAD received a letter from complainant addressed to then Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa, withdrawing her complaint against respondent, stating that after conducting her own personal discreet investigation she discovered that the information given to her about the morality of Ms. Aida Clores-Ramos is not true, particularly the information that linked Florencio Marquez as her lover. She added "that all the information given to [her] by the persons who pretended to help [her] were in fact and in truth have ulterior motives in destroying the honor, dignity and even the future of innocent persons, including Mr. Marquez."[5]

Before acting on the letter, the Court required the respondent to comment thereon. In response, complainant submitted to the Court a manifestation denying that she was the author of said letter of withdrawal. On the contrary, she stated that she was, in fact, very much interested and eager to pursue her case against respondent. She asked, however, that the Executive Judge of the RTC, Libmanan, Camarines Sur to whom this case was assigned for investigation should inhibit himself from conducting the investigation because said judge is a good friend of her husband.[6]

The case was then referred to Judge Lore V. Bagalacsa, RTC, Branch 56 of Libmanan, Camarines Sur for Investigation, Report and Recommendation.

Accordingly, on June 22, 1998, Judge Lore Valencia-Bagalacsa submitted her Report and Recommendation finding respondent guilty of the charges against her and recommended her suspension for a period of one (1) year.

The evidence for complainant as described in Judge Valencia-Bagalacsa's report is as follows:
Josefina Asuncion Demagante, a young widow of twenty-three married twenty-six year old widower Florencio Marquez in religious rites on January 5, 1955 at Libmanan, Camarines Sur (Exhibit A, p. 119, Vol. 2, Record). In their later years both went to the United States, but Marquez went home to the Philippines ahead of his wife as a `balikbayan.' He met one Aida Clores-Ramos, a court stenographer assigned at Branch 29 of Regional Trial Court in this jurisdiction. (see Complaint, pp. 6-7, Vol. 1, Record) Marquez and Ramos lived together in the years 1993 and 1994 and the latter gave birth to a son, who was born on December 8, 1993 and was baptized as Florencio Marquez, Jr., on February 11, 1994 (Exhibit B, p. 20, Vol. 1 and p. 120, Vol. 2, Record). While in the United States, Josefina Marquez learned of her husband's amorous relation with another woman, so she confronted him with it. Her husband wrote on September 7, 1993 (Exhibit C, p. 11, Vol. I, Record) and admitted the relation. He even named the woman as "Aida Ramos, from Garchitorena" (Exhibit C-1). He promised his wife that if she returns to the Philippines, she is still the `number one' so she should just relax. Aida, according to Mr. Marquez in his letter to his wife, is only his `alingan' (sexual playmate) while his wife is not here in Libmanan (Exhibit C-2). However, Josefina Marquez received more information from the Philippines about her husband's illicit relation with another woman. Feeling aggrieved, complainant went home to the Philippines, in September 1994.

One day, while cleaning their closets at their Libmanan residence, she found letters from her husband to respondent, and from the latter to her husband. There were also letters with envelopes addressed to Mrs. Aida Ramos of RTC Libmanan, Camarines Sur from one Florencio Marquez. One, dated March 7, 1994 (Exhibit G, p. 10, Vol. 1 and p. 127, Vol. 2, Record) relates his flight to the U.S. which took only 12 hours. The letter likewise informed "Ma" that he already talked with his wife about their situation in Libmanan and that the matter is settled already, and that they have no more problem. He also sent his regards especially to his boy `Florence' (Exhibit D-2) In another letter (Exhibit D-2), "Papa" writes "Mama" that he received her letter and knew what she meant; he related that he was operated on last March 31, 1994, and but there is no need to worry as he is now fine. He informed `Mama' that he will be home on April 28, 1994. The letter is addressed to Mrs. Aida Ramos of RTC Branch 29, Libmanan, Camarines Sur, from Florencio S. Marquez of Northridge, California, as shown in the postmarked envelope (Exhibit D, p. 12, Vol. 1, p. 124, Vol. 2, Record). Complainant found another letter from "Mama" dated February 9, 1993 to "Papa" advising the latter to inform one Eva frankly that he met somebody already, that it was Belen Naval who introduced her to him, so that her Tiya Linda will not be implicated. She cautioned in her letter never to mention her name and that he can talk to her but it will be for the last time. She assured him of her trust. (Exhibit F, pp. 18 and 19, Vol. 1, and p. 126, Vol. 2, Record)

Josefina Marquez claimed that the "Mama" or "Ma" in the letters refer to respondent, as her husband calls her "Mie" as shown in the letter dated September 7, 1993. (p. 99, Sworn Statement of Josefina Marquez, Vol. 2, Record)

On December 8, 1996, Josefina was able to verify that on that day was the birthday of Florencio Marquez' son with the respondent. She thought it wise to visit the church in Libmanan, with the expectation to see the respondent there and to be able to talk to her personally. She asked someone in the church if she knows Aida Ramos, and the woman pointed out to her a woman carrying a child. Josefina approached the woman and inquired if she was Aida Ramos, and the latter answered in the affirmative. She asked her again if the child she was carrying was the son of Florencio Marquez, and she also replied in the affirmative. She then took photographs of mother and son (Exhibits E to E-2, inclusive, p. 14, Vol. 1, and p. 125, Vol. 2, Record). Then, she invited respondent outside the church to have a talk with her. There was an exchange of words with respondent. The latter replied: "baco man lang aco an puta, cadacol diyan" (I am not the only whore, there are a lot of them). (p. 99, Vol. 2 Record, Supra)

Arlyn Marquez, the 38 year old daughter of the complainant said that she found out about the much-talked about affair through her own investigation. She often saw her father at the Regional Trial Court picking up the respondent from work. At one time, she was looking for her father and found him at respondent's residence. The affair is known to the whole of Libmanan. When the son was baptized, there were balloons with the inscription: Florence 1st Birthday from Papa and Mama." There was a big birthday party and almost all of the court personnel were present. Complainant's daughter also recalled the sweet moments of her father and the respondent whenever the latter was in the Marquez' residence. Respondent used to go to the family house and bet on card games with other court employees.

One time, her father flagged her down and instructed her to bring Aida, who had a gasul tank, to the latter's house, but she refused. At another time, she saw her father being fed by Aida Ramos at a fiesta in Candato, in the house of one Antonia Relucio. These incidents are all etched in the memory of Arlyn as she was very hurt, knowing that her mother is still alive but her father is maintaining another family already. To her, respondent's affair with a married man surely affects the judiciary's integrity, as the former is a court stenographer. Her father, Arlyn related, is not moved by what the people are saying about them. Arlyn claims that the two are still seen together, be it in the market or in church, hearing mass together. (Exhibit I, pp. 101-102, Vol. 2, Record)

Nida Macarilay an active member of the Catholic Women's League (CWL), declared that she always sees Florencio Marquez and Aida Ramos in church whenever she is assigned to collect the offerings. The two were seen riding a motorcycle together in going to church and back to Aida's house. She was able to witness the baptism on February 11, 1994 of Florencio Marquez, Jr. as she was in church that time. She also knows that Ramos and Marquez lived together in 1993 and 1994. (Exhibit J, pp. 95-96, Vol. 2, Record)

Edissa Velasco and Jesusa Avila, granddaughter and great granddaughter of Florencio Marquez narrated that they personally know Aida C. Ramos, as she is the paramour of their grandfather Florencio Marquez. When their grandmother was still in the USA, they saw Marquez cuddling Aida in the latter's house while Aida was caressing him. They came to know that Aida gave birth to the child of Florencio Marquez in December 1993 and in February the son was baptized. It was the talk of the town as the love affair of the two is well known in Libmanan. On November 25, 1996, in the afternoon, they saw Florencio Marquez together with Aida Ramos and their son in Naga City, they even kissed the hand of their grandfather as a sign of respect. Then, they went on their way to MacDonald's where they saw the three again. Both affirmed that their grandfather and respondent are still maintaining their relationship. In January 1997, they saw both hearing mass together. (p. 132, Vol. 2, Record)

The house of Aida Ramos in Taban, Libmanan, Camarines Sur is only a few meters away from the barangay hall, according to Salvador Flores, Punong Barangay of Taban, Libmanan, Camarines Sur, in his certification. Mr. Marquez, according to the Barangay Captain is a regular in-house visitor in respondent's house particularly during Friday evenings, and his visit is 'within public view.' (p. 141, Vol. 2, Record).

Marquez established a shoe store at the Poblacion of Libmanan, Camarines Sur, and the same is jointly managed by respondent and Mr. Marquez. A photograph of the store was taken, and the respondent (X) is shown with her body half-hidden from the camera. (p. 142, Vol. 2, Record) Evidence reveals likewise that respondent and Mr. Marquez are regularly seen riding on a motorcycle together in public displaying their amorous relations. In one photograph, Mr. Marquez, respondent and the child are seen riding a motorcycle in public. (p. 143, Vol. 2, Record) Coleen Oriño Gray-Macapagal, attested to this fact. She claimed that she often sees Florencio Marquez and Aida Ramos riding a motorcycle together, go to mass together with their child, and even go to market together. Aida even admitted that her child is Florencio Marquez' son. She was even invited to the baptism and party of the child last February 11, 1994. The two had been deporting themselves as husband and wife and lived together until 1996. She knows that Josefina Marquez is the lawful wife of Florencio Marquez. She also knows Aida Ramos as she is her parents' neighbor at Taban. (Exhibit K, pp. 103-104, Vol. 2, Record)

Adelfa Marquez, a daughter-in-law of Florencio Marquez who lives in the same house with the latter together with her family when Marquez returned from the USA in 1992, likewise gave her statement. She knows respondent to be the paramour of her father-in-law. From 1993 to 1994, Marquez lived with respondent at the latter's house in Taban, Libmanan, Camarines Sur. Allegedly, her father-in-law admitted to her that Aida Ramos wanted him to live with her and in fact, Marquez did live with her. Adelfa used to see her father-in-law in respondent's house whenever she goes to Naga City. She claims that the duo have not severed their relationship, in fact every Tuesday and Friday, Marquez leaves the house at 6:00 in the evening and returns in the morning. Sometimes, Adelfa opens the door for him. She knows this because Marquez asks her to cook early as he will go to the house of Aida. Sometimes when he comes home early in the morning of Wednesdays and Saturdays, he would tell her that he came from the house of Aida. In [the] month of January 1997, respondent and Marquez were still maintaining an affair as her father-in-law still goes to the house of Aida every Tuesday and Friday. In fact, on January 28, 1997, a Tuesday, her mother-in-law instructed her to follow her father-in-law, which she did discreetly and she saw him go to the house of Aida. (pp. 130-131, Vol. 2, Record)

The love affair of Mr. Marquez and the respondent is believed to be still existing even up to the present. Last November 1996, the two went to Manila together and upon their return, Mr. Marquez declared that nobody could ever deprive the respondent of her job. He admitted that he was still having an affair with respondent (p. 100, Sworn Statement of Josefina Marquez, Vol. 2, Record).

x x x

The foregoing facts indubitably show that respondent deviated from the norm of conduct required of a government employee like her. Certainly, her actions are contrary to law, good morals and customs. Her behavior indicates a flagrant moral indifference to the opinion of the respectable members of the community. Respondent, allegedly being a rural bred and naïve woman, was deceived by the persistent suitor whom she thought was a widower in shining armor out to save her and her young son from the clutches of despair and the pit of penury. This is credible a defense, even if she gave birth to a love child. But, the years after her knowledge of her man's marital status and her continued dalliance with him after such information, can no longer be justified. The testimonial and documentary evidences in this respect are not merely manifold but are also corroborative, convincing and trustworthy. There is likewise no showing that the complainant's witnesses are merely impelled by hatred or revenge or ulterior motive in revealing what they know.

In the examples given by former Commissioner Yango, we can draw by analogy that respondent's cohabiting with a man who is not her husband, maintaining him as a paramour, and getting pregnant while she has no husband, (respondent was able to seek an annulment of her marriage) (see sworn statement of Josefina Marquez), implies the commission of a misconduct. In this instance, there is plausible evidence that respondent, despite her knowledge of Florencio Marquez' marital status, took a defiant stand, and displayed in public her illicit relation with the latter, in contravention with the norms of conduct and of the community. Her constant appearances in public with Marquez: her riding in Marquez' motorcycle, attending mass with him, eating out in a restaurant, and going to Manila together, even with their son, reveals a behavior which is not in accord with the norm required by a government employee like her. Giving fatherly comfort and material support to one's child can be done even without a mother's presence. In fact, under the circumstances, what respondent should have done, was to fade discreetly in the background, whenever her son's father was around, to preclude any suspicion.

Indeed, the private life of an employee cannot be segregated from his public life. (The Solicitor General, in his brief in Nera vs. Garcia, et al. G.R. No. L-13169, January 30, 1960). A public officer or employee's conduct, both in private and public, must be guided by the required norms of behavior. Any misconduct in one's private life will always reflect on his public existence and vice versa.[7]
We adopt the findings, conclusions and recommendation of the investigating judge.

It can not be overemphasized 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.[8] This is because the image of a court of justice is necessarily mirrored in the conduct, official or otherwise, of the men and women who work thereat, from the judge to the least and lowest of its personnel. Thus, it becomes the imperative sacred duty of each and every one in the court to maintain its good name and standing as a true temple of justice.[9]

Respondent, in the instant case, is indeed guilty of violating this norm of conduct. It is borne out by evidence, testimonial or documentary, that she has maintained an illicit relationship with a married man, the husband of herein complainant Josefina Marquez. We do agree with the investigating judge that her continued relationship with Florencio Marquez even after she learned that he was already married is condemnable. Neither can we accept the defense that her constant meeting with Florencio Marquez was a necessity since the latter was fulfilling his obligations as a father to their son. Prudence dictates that if respondent was indeed serious in severing her relationship with Florencio Marquez, she should have discreetly kept a distance from him. There is even more reason to believe that she did not intend to break away from Florencio Marquez. This open relationship with a married man is certainly in contravention with the norms of conduct of the community. This public display of illicit relationship is considered a disgraceful and immoral conduct, one which calls for disciplinary action under the Civil Service Law and which the Supreme Court will never sanction on its employees.[10] We reiterate what was enunciated in Burgos v. Aquino:[11]
The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of court personnel must be free from any whiff of impropriety, not only with respect to his duties in the judicial branch but also to his behavior outside the court as a private individual. There is no dichotomy of morality; a court employee is also judged by his private morals. These exacting standards of morality and decency have been strictly adhered to and laid down by the Court to those in the service of the judiciary. Respondent, as a court stenographer, did not live up to her commitment to lead a moral life. Her act of maintaining relation with Atty. Burgos speaks for itself.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, we find respondent Aida Clores-Ramos guilty of disgraceful, immoral conduct and is hereby SUSPENDED for a period of one (1) year without pay. Let a copy of this decision be entered in respondent's personal record.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Puno, Pardo, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.



[1] Rollo, p. 1.

[2] Id., at 41-42.

[3] Id., at 46-47.

[4] Id., at 51.

[5] Id., at 58.

[6] Id., at 64.

[7] In Re: Investigation Report of the Letter-complaint of Mrs. Josefina Marquez against Aida Clores-Ramos (Aida Clores) Court Stenographer.

[8] Estellar v. Manatad, 268 SCRA 608 (1997).

[9] Danilo M. Sy v. Isabelita M. Cruz, 250 SCRA 639 (1995).

[10] Section 46(5), Subtitle A, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 (E.O. No. 292); Masadao, Jr. v. Glorioso, 280 SCRA 612 (1997); Ecube-Badel v. Badel, 273 SCRA 320 (1997); Burgos v. Aquino, 249 SCRA 504 (1995); Nalupta, Jr. v. Tapec, 220 SCRA 505 (1993).

[11] Supra, at 509-510.



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