CASE BrieF NO. 2019-0037


“Receiving money from complainant, on the consideration that he can obtain a favorable decision from the court, falsifying a court decision, and forging the signature of the trial court judge, undeniably constitute grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.


CASE: Zenmond D. Duque vs. Cesar C. Calpo, Court Stenographer III, RTC, Br. 16, Cavite City [A.M. No. P-16-3505 [Formerly OCA IPI No. 13-4134-P], January 22, 2019]

PONENTE: Per Curiam

SUBJECT:

  1. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW:
    i. Gross Misconduct
    Simple misconduct vs. gross misconduct
    ii. Dishonesty
    iii. Dismissal from service
    Accessory penalties

FACTS:        Zenmond D. Duque (complainant), in his Complaint-Affidavit, alleged that sometime in September 2010, he met Cesar C. Calpo (respondent), Court Stenographer III, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cavite City, Cavite, Branch 16, through a common friend. After opening up about his marital problems to respondent, the latter voluntarily offered his services to help complainant secure an annulment order from the court. As payment, complainant paid respondent the total amount of P150,000.00.

A year later, sometime in November 2011, respondent gave a copy of a decision issued by the RTC of Dasmariñas City, Cavite, Branch 90, docketed as Civil Case No. DAS-815-11, penned by Executive Judge Perla V. Cabrera-Faller (Judge Cabrera-Faller), granting complainant an annulment of his marriage.

Suspicious of the veracity of the decision, complainant sought to verify its authenticity. To his dismay, complainant learned that there was no such case and that Judge Cabrera-Faller had not issued any such decision. He also learned that her signature therein was a forgery.

Complainant confronted respondent of his discovery, who begged complainant not to file any case against him and promised to return the money.

Despite several demands and time to comply, respondent failed to fulfill his promise, hence, the present administrative complaint.

During the investigation, respondent admitted to receiving the amount of P150,000.00 from complainant. He explained that he used the money for the processing fee, filing fee, psychological examination fee, and lawyer’s fee. However, respondent denied that he handed the subject decision to complainant.

After the hearings, the investigating judge determined that it was respondent who offered his services to complainant for the annulment of the latter’s marriage for a fee of P150,000.00, which respondent did not deny. The investigating judge also resolved that respondent manufactured and falsified the decision purportedly rendered by the RTC of Dasmariñas City, Cavite, Branch 90 and forged the signature of Judge Cabrera-Faller appearing thereon. Considering that the acts of respondent clearly constitute grave misconduct, the investigating judge recommended the dismissal of respondent from service and all of his benefits forfeited therefor.

The OCA concurred with the findings of the investigating judge and accordingly found respondent guilty of grave misconduct and recommended his dismissal from service, with forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in government service. The OCA subscribed to the findings of the investigating judge that respondent’s act of receiving money from a litigant to facilitate the annulment of his marriage amounted to grave misconduct.

The OCA further explained that respondent, as a court stenographer, was not authorized to collect or receive any amount of money from any litigant. The act of collecting or receiving money from a litigant constituted grave misconduct in office.

ISSUES:

A.       Whether respondent, Cesar C. Calpo, is guilty of gross misconduct.
a.       What is grave misconduct?
b.       What is dishonesty?
c.       Differentiate simple from grave misconduct.
d.       What is the penalty for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty?



RULING:
Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer. It is intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule of law or standard of behavior and to constitute an administrative offense, the misconduct should relate to or be connected with the performance of the official functions and duties of a public officer. In order to differentiate gross misconduct from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law, and not a mere error of judgment, or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be manifest in the former (Judge Tolentino-Genilo v. Pineda, A.M. No. P-17-3756, October 10, 2017).

 On the other hand, dishonesty means “a disposition to lie, cheat, deceive or defraud; untrustworthiness; lack of integrity, lack of honesty, probity or integrity in principle; lack of fairness and straightforwardness; disposition to defraud, deceive or betray.” (Geronca v. Magalona, 568 Phil. 564-570 (2008).

Respondent’s actuations clearly demonstrate an intent to violate the law or a persistent disregard of well-known rules. Respondent deceived complainant into believing he had the power to obtain an annulment order in complainant’s favor. Receiving money from complainant, on the consideration that he can obtain a favorable decision from the court, falsifying a court decision, and forging the signature of the trial court judge, undeniably constitute grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.

A public servant is expected to exhibit, at all times, the highest degree of honesty and integrity and should be made accountable to all those whom he serves. The same principle applies from the judge to the least and lowest of the judiciary’s employees and personnel. Unfortunately, respondent failed to exact the same integrity, propriety, decorum, and honesty. Without a doubt, therefore, respondent patently committed grave misconduct and dishonesty.

Sec. 46, Rule 10 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, promulgated on November 8, 2011, classifies grave misconduct and serious dishonesty as grave offenses. Accordingly, the imposable penalty for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty is the extreme penalty of dismissal from service. Sec. 52(a) of the same Rules states that the penalty of dismissal shall carry with it the cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office and bar from taking civil service examinations.

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THINGS DECIDED:

  1. Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer. It is intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule of law or standard of behavior and to constitute an administrative offense, the misconduct should relate to or be connected with the performance of the official functions and duties of a public officer.
  2. In order to differentiate gross misconduct from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law, and not a mere error of judgment, or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be manifest in the former.
  3. Dishonesty means “a disposition to lie, cheat, deceive or defraud; untrustworthiness; lack of integrity, lack of honesty, probity or integrity in principle; lack of fairness and straightforwardness; disposition to defraud, deceive or betray.”
  4. Receiving money from complainant, on the consideration that he can obtain a favorable decision from the court, falsifying a court decision, and forging the signature of the trial court judge, undeniably constitute grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.
  5. A public servant is expected to exhibit, at all times, the highest degree of honesty and integrity and should be made accountable to all those whom he serves.
  6. The imposable penalty for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty is the extreme penalty of dismissal from service.
  7. The penalty of dismissal shall carry with it the cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office and bar from taking civil service examinations.

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