687 Phil. 47
In a Complaint-Affidavit, sworn on 10 March 2010, complainant Diomampo accused respondent Laribo [Jr.] of spreading malicious and degrading words against her, in violation of the norms of ethics and conduct expected of public officials and employees. The uttered words were:“Kabayan, wala ng kasarap sarap si Shirley. Napag iiyot ko na yan. Wala na pagmamalaki sakin yan.”
Complainant Diomampo disclosed that the uncalled for utterance came to her knowledge thru Sandiganbayan Security Guard Rosita P. Domingo, which information was relayed to the latter by co-security guard Herminigildo Andal. Both executed their respective affidavits which now form part of the records of the case. Complainant Diomampo further averred that she never had an affair with respondent Laribo [Jr.] nor had any sexual contact with him.
Respondent Laribo [Jr.] admitted his guilt, saying the remarks were uttered in jest and in good faith that will be treated as a chat between two mature and responsible male adults. He affirms the statement of complainant Diomampo that they never had an affair or any sexual contact. He begged complainant Diomampo to find a space in her heart for forgiveness and promised that the same will not be repeated. Respondent Laribo [Jr.] also asserted that this is his first infraction and requested that his admission of guilt be considered to mitigate the penalty and/or the dismissal of the charge.
In her 9 July 2010 Reply-Affidavit, complainant Diomampo also alleged receiving a text message, which respondent Laribo [Jr.] claims to have been sent by his eleven (11) year old child, using his cellphone with the following words:“yak nakakadiri ka! Tglan mo na pmilya namin. Ang lkas ng loob mo magalit sa papa ko eh isa ka lng namang kabet!”
The Respondent’s admission of having made the subject questioned utterances made the case for the complainant as it constituted sufficient basis for a finding of an administrative liability for unethical conduct and disrespect for the rights of others, contrary to the standards of personal conduct not only expected but more importantly, demanded of every public official and employee in their relations with their co-employees and the public in general.
Be it noted that this is a proceeding administrative in nature, the quantum of proof being merely substantial evidence.
Whether or not respondent made the subject utterances or had the malicious intent to malign or destroy the reputation of the complainant is immaterial as this is not, nor is it in the nature of a criminal case. The words uttered are essentially malicious, and the utterance was uncalled for. Respondent simply volunteered an information to a co-employee which, whether true or not, could not but have cast doubt on the moral character and personality of the complainant.
It is difficult to believe that the words were spoken in jest or as a joke and in good faith, as respondent now claims. For one, he (respondent) did not explain the circumstances that led to or could have impelled him to utter those words. For another, Diomampo was not present when the words were uttered. The question arises: How could an utterance which is undeniably prejudicial, if not destructive, of a person’s, more so, a woman’s reputation, and made in the absence of the subject thereof (the person concerned) be believed to have been in jest and in good faith?
Respondent’s defense may assume significance had the words been uttered in the presence of Diomampo, who could have reacted differently, and in the course of their small talk in light moments.
All told, respondent’s conduct is unjustifiable, as it is unreasonable. It is offensive to the norms of ethics and conduct expected of public officials and employees. He, therefore, needs to be sanctioned.
It appearing, however, that this is respondent’s first infraction on record, it is respectfully recommended that respondent be meted the penalty of Reprimand with stern warning that a repetition of the same misconduct will be dealt with severely.
EVALUATION: We find the findings of fact of Justice Cornejo to be in order. However, we are not in accord with the recommended penalty of mere reprimand.
The utterance of foul words that degrade morality should not be countenanced. It amounts to disgraceful and immoral conduct defined by the Civil Service Commission as “an act which violates the basic norm of decency, morality and decorum abhorred and condemned by the society. It refers to conduct which is willful, flagrant or shameless, and which shows a moral indifference to the opinions of the good and respectable members of the community.” In Court Employees of the MCTC, Ramon Magsaysay, Zamboanga del Sur v. Sy, the Court stated that “immorality is not based alone on illicit sexual intercourse. It is not confined to sexual matters, but includes conduct inconsistent with rectitude, or indicative of corruption, indecency, depravity and dissoluteness; or is willful, flagrant or shameless conduct showing moral indifference to opinions of respectable members of the community, and as an inconsiderate attitude toward good order and public welfare.”
Although every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an individual than in the judiciary. That is why this Court has firmly laid down exacting standards of morality and decency expected of those in the service of the judiciary.
The Court has consistently been reminding officials and employees of the Judiciary that their conduct or behavior is circumscribed with a heavy burden of responsibility which, at all times, should be characterized by, among other things, strict propriety and decorum. “Part of this stringent requirement is that agents of the law should refrain from the use of language that is abusive, offensive, scandalous, menacing or otherwise improper. Judicial employees are expected to accord every due respect, not only to their superiors, but also to others and their rights at all times. Their every act and word should be characterized by prudence, restraint, courtesy and dignity.”
Moreover, respondent Laribo, Jr., being a casual employee whose performance is subject to the usual monitoring every six (6) months, should have been at his best behavior. It is necessary that court employees observe decorum within or out of the workplace, for it is in their conduct that the image of the Judiciary is reflected as an institution that gives justice to the aggrieved.
Disgraceful and immoral conduct is classified as a grave offense punishable by Suspension of 6 months and 1 day to 1 year for the first offense and Dismissal from the service for the second offense. Considering that this is respondent Laribo, Jr.’s first infraction, and his actuation was not accompanied by physical display of affection or harassment, we deemed it necessary to recommend a lesser penalty of three (3) months suspension.
RECOMMENDATION: It is respectfully recommended for the consideration of the Honorable Court that:
1) the instant complaint be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative matter; and
2) respondent Felipe C. Laribo, Jr., Shuttle Bus Driver of the Sandiganbayan, be SUSPENDED for three (3) months without pay for Disgraceful and Immoral Conduct, with a STERN WARNING that a commission of the same or similar act shall be dealt with severely. (Emphasis in the original)
11. As casual employees of the Court, the shuttle bus drivers do not enjoy security of tenure. Their continuity in the service depends upon their conduct and performance in office. Hence, they shall strive to attain [a] high degree of excellence in their personal conduct and in the discharge and execution of their official duties.