CASE BRIEF 2019 – 0014

CASE: Dr. Consolacion S. Callang vs. COA (G.r. No. 210683, January 8, 2019)

PONENTE: Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr.

SUBJECT: Accountable Officers

FACTS: Callang  was then a District Supervisor of Bambang District I, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, Department of Education (DepEd). She encashed various checks for the payment of the Year-End Bonus and Cash Gift of the teaching and non-teaching personnel.

She returned to her office to personally distribute the bonuses to the concerned personnel. There was a total of P537,454.50 left because not all personnel were present. Callang wanted to entrust the remaining cash to Rizalino Lubong (Lubong), the District Statistician, for safekeeping, but the latter refused, prompting her to bring the money home .

The next day, instead of going straight to her office, Callang first went to the Saint Mary’s University to bring snacks to her granddaughter. While she was on board a jeepney, one of her co-passengers declared a robbery while the vehicle was traversing the National Highway in Macate, Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya. The robber took the bag of money Callang was carrying as well as her personal belongings. Callang informed the Audit Team Leader (ATL), Bambang District I, DepEd, Nueva Vizcaya regarding the robbery and asked for assistance to support her request for relief from money accountability.

After its investigation, ATL opined that Callang was not negligent in the loss of funds and her request for Relief of Cash Accountability should be granted. The Supervising Auditor (SA) agreed with the ATL’s findings that there was no negligence on the part of Callang.

However, the Officer-in-Charge-Regional Director (OIC-RD) of COA Regional Office opined that Callang was negligent in handling the funds as an accountable officer. On appeal, the same was affirmed by the Commission on Audit (COA) Proper.

ISSUE: Whether or not COA committed grave error in issuing the decision finding Callang negligent in the loss of the amount of P537, 454.50.

RULING:

The Court agrees that Callang was not negligent.

Section 105 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1445 provides that officers accountable for government property or funds shall be liable in case of its loss, damage or deterioration occasioned by negligence in the keeping or use thereof. Absent any showing that the accountable officer acted negligently in the handling of government funds, he or she is not liable for its value and should be relieved from any accountability. Stated otherwise, accountable officers are still liable for the funds under their custody even if the loss was caused by force majeure should their own negligence contribute to it.

Callang was not negligent when she passed by her granddaughter’s school to bring her snacks. Her house and her granddaughter’s school were in the same neighborhood and were close to each other. Meanwhile, the robbery incident occurred while Callang was commuting from her granddaughter’s school to her office. Considering the proximity of the school and her house, her route could not have been materially different had she decided to go straight to her office. Thus, Callang would have taken the same jeepney trip even if she did not pass by her granddaughter’s school.

On the otherhand, a thorough review of the records yields no other conclusion but that Callang exercised sufficient diligence in deciding to bring the money home instead of leaving it in the office. As found by the ATL, Callang’s office had been the subject of numerous burglaries in the past.

Callang’s choice of bringing the money home was not fraught with negligence. In fact, it is not hard to fathom that a reasonable and diligent person would have acted the same way as Callang did under the present circumstances. Her office had been subjected to numerous burglaries in the past and it was not equipped with an adequate compartment where the money can be safely stored until the following day.

The Decision of the COA is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Request for Relief from Money Accountability of Callang is GRANTED.

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THINGS DECIDED:

Accountable officers are still liable for the funds under their custody even if the loss was caused by force majeure should their own negligence contribute to it.

‘Stand by things decided’- Stare Decisis

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