CASE BRIEF 2009-1106

CASE: Gloria G. Hallasgo, Municipal Treasurer of Damulog, Bukidnon  vs. COA et. al. (G.R. No. 171340* September 11, 2009)

PONENTE: Del Castillo, J.:

SUBJECT: Misconduct; Administrative Case; Private complainant

FACTS 1: Hallasgo was a Municipal Treasurer. She was accused before the Ombudsman for “unauthorized withdrawal of monies of the public treasury amounting to malversation of public funds” by Eliezer N. Asombrado et. al.

After investigation, the Ombudsman issued a Decision finding Hallasgo guilty of GRAVE MISCONDUCT.

After her Motion for Reconsideration was denied, Hallasgo appealed the Decision to the CA.

When the CA dismissed Hallasgo’s appeal for lack of merit, she then filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari to the Supreme Court.

When required to Comment, the Office of the Solicitor General, claimed that the complainants (Eliezer N. Asombrado et. al.) should have been impleaded as indispensable parties when Hallasgo filed her Petition to the CA.

ISSUE: Whether private complainants, Eliezer N. Asombrado et. al., are indispensable parties.

RULING:

The private complainants cannot be considered indispensable parties, such that the case cannot be resolved without their participation. In administrative cases, the complainant is a mere witness; no private interests are involved as any offense is committed against the government.

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FACTS 2: Hallasgo was a Municipal Treasurer. She was accused before the Ombudsman for “unauthorized withdrawal of monies of the public treasury amounting to malversation of public funds”.

It was alleged in the complaint that Hallasgo was liable for the following acts: (1) making unrecorded withdrawals from the municipality’s bank account without the required supporting documents; and (2) failing to liquidate cash advances.

After a preliminary review of the documents, the Office of the Ombudsman requested the Commission on Audit (COA), Region X, Cagayan de Oro City, to audit the records of the alleged anomalous transactions made by Hallasgo. Thus, the COA created a Special Audit Team to verify the transactions referred to in the Affidavit-Complaint. The audit team submitted its report which was then referred to the Office of the Ombudsman.

The findings of the audit team, among others, are as follows:

a) LBP Check No. 15627928 amounting to ₱250,000.00 was withdrawn and encashed by the Hallasgo without the required disbursement voucher.

b) LBP Check No. 26719253 for ₱10,000.00 dated 27 February 1998 issued to Emiterio D. Luis. There was no disbursement voucher found on file, nor was there any record of this transaction taken up either in the Treasurer’s Journal of Checks, the General Ledger Book, or the Treasurer’s Cashbook.

c) Cash advances were granted to Hallasgo remained unliquidated for over one year.

d) Hallasgo failed to remit intact and promptly the amounts she received in cash totaling ₱980,000.00.

The Office of the Ombudsman issued a Decision finding Hallasgo guilty of GRAVE MISCONDUCT.

When the case reached the Supreme Court, in her attempt to exonerate herself, Hallasgo presented these arguments: first, any anomalous transactions are merely the product of human error, and do not constitute misconduct so grave as to warrant dismissal from the service; second, as regards the failure to liquidate cash advances, it is the accountant that failed to obligate all cash advances; thus, Hallasgo should not be held liable; third, unless a thorough audit is done, she should not have been adjudged to have committed gross misconduct.

ISSUE: Whether Hallasgo is liable for Grave Misconduct.

HELD:

Misconduct generally means wrongful, improper or unlawful conduct motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose. It is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty. Qualified by the term “gross,” it means conduct that is “out of all measure beyond allowance; flagrant; shameful; such conduct as is not to be excused.”

Hallasgo’s failure to keep current and accurate records, repeated withdrawal of funds without the appropriate disbursement vouchers, failure to ensure the timely liquidation of her cash advances even after the lapse of over a year, and failure to account for funds in her custody not only constitute violations of applicable laws, but also reflect poorly on the government and provide ripe opportunity for fraud and corruption.

As treasurer of the municipality, it is Hallasgo’s duty to perform her responsibilities diligently, faithfully, and efficiently. It behooves her to exercise the highest degree of care over the custody, management, and disbursement of municipal funds.

It is unbelievable that the anomalies are the result of mere inadvertence, or that responsibility can so easily be shifted by Hallasgo to her subordinates. On the contrary, her actions demonstrate her wanton and deliberate disregard for the demands of public service. Hallasgo’s failure to ensure that disbursements are properly documented or that cash advances granted to her are properly and timely liquidated certainly deserves administrative sanction.


THINGS DECIDED:

A) The private complainants cannot be considered indispensable parties, such that the case cannot be resolved without their participation. In administrative cases, the complainant is a mere witness; no private interests are involved as any offense is committed against the government.

B) Misconduct generally means wrongful, improper or unlawful conduct motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose.

C)Failure to keep current and accurate records, repeated withdrawal of funds without the appropriate disbursement vouchers, failure to ensure the timely liquidation of cash advances even after the lapse of over a year, and failure to account for funds in custody not only constitute violations of applicable laws, but also reflect poorly on the government and provide ripe opportunity for fraud and corruption.

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Read Full Text:
Gloria G. Hallasgo, Municipal Treasurer of Damulog, Bukidnon  vs. COA et. al. (G.R. No. 171340* September 11, 2009)

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