CASE BRIEF NO. 2019-0048


“A court employee who fails to exercise diligence in performing his duties and repeatedly disregards the directives and instructions of his superiors for him to do so is a disgrace to the Judiciary, and should be dismissed from the service.


CASE: Milagros P. Malubay, Legal Researcher II, RTC, Br. 270, Valenzuela City vs. Honorio Raul C. Guevara, Clerk III, Same Court. [A.M. No. P-18-3791, January 29, 2019]

PONENTE: Per Curiam

SUBJECT:
          A.       ADMINISTRATIVE LAW:
                   i.        Gross Neglect of Duty
                   ii.       Gross Insubordination

FACTS:        Honorio  Raul Guevara is a Clerk III of Branch 270 in the RTC in Valenzuela City.  As Clerk III, he was tasked, among others, to take custody of the records of criminal cases raffled to and being heard by Branch 270; to update said records; and to prepare the accompanying documents for transmittal of the records of appealed criminal cases to the CA.

Milagros P. Malubay, the OIC Branch Clerk of Court of Br. 270 of the RTC, initiated an administrative complaint, against Guevara. She alleged that Guevara had received two consecutive “unsatisfactory” performance ratings in the periods from July to December 2014 and from January to June 2015and that he had also continuously disobeyed the instructions contained in several memoranda issued by her, by Presiding Judge Evangeline M. Francisco, and by Clerk of Court Atty. Maribel M. Fernandez.

The complainant further alleged that Judge Francisco had relieved Guevara from his duties as the clerk-in-charge for criminal cases following the discovery of the loss while under his custody of TSNs in Criminal Case No. 1350-V-13.

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) required the Guevara to file his comment.

In his Comment, he denied the allegations against him.

After its investigation, the OCA found that Guevara was liable for gross neglect of duty and for gross insubordination.

Pertinent portions of the report of the OCA read as follows:

Guevara’s assertion that he did not submit an explanation on the memorandum to him regarding the “lost” record of Criminal Case No. 590-V-10 as he was not told to do so is belied by the 07 January 2013 Memorandum of Atty. Fernandez which he received and signed on the same date it was issued. He was directed to immediately explain in writing the reason for the mishandling of the said record as the case was due for promulgation the following day and yet was nowhere to be found. He insisted that the record was submitted to Judge Francisco but after a diligent search, it was found hidden in his cabinet. This shows his prevarication and disobedience to his superior.

On the missing TSNs in Criminal Case No. 1350-V-13, the reason proffered by Guevara is unacceptable. He admitted losing two (2) TSNs but not four (4). Regardless of the number of lost TSNs, this shows his negligence and unreasonable response to an allegation. In justifying the missing TSNs, it baffles us why Guevara mentioned the lost record of Criminal Case No. 1393-V-13 (People of the Philippines vs. Ralph De Leon) which was imputed to him but for which he was not made to account by way of memorandum. Is this his way of asserting that simply because there was no memorandum issued to him, he should not feel responsible or concerned for its loss or that he should not do anything to recover the record?

When Guevara failed to prepare Criminal Cases No. CRC-5-V- 12 and CRC 753-V-11 for transmittal to the Court of Appeals despite several reminders to him by Atty. Fernandez, he apologized and explained that the delay was due to the long weekend during the holy week, heavy workload, stitching of records and the non-functioning of their photocopying machine. It was only then that he stated that he would give immediate attention and priority to appealed cases which shows that he had no sense of urgency and priority on matters that required immediate action.

On the directive for him to update the criminal records, to stitch all orders and other processes of the cases assigned to him, and to turn over the dockets and the records stitched at the end of office hours everyday, Guevara explained that he was “in contemplation that the docketed records might be mixed with the other records in my area.” Complainant’s reason is flimsy and totally unacceptable. Firstly, there is a standing Memorandum dated 26 January 2015 for his strict compliance. Secondly, there is no possibility that the records could be mixed with the other records because there is enough space. Thirdly, three (3) other court personnel religiously turned over the case records to complainant and, notably, none of them refused to turn over the records just because there was not enough space in the area or they could be mixed with other records. Fourthly, there was never an instance since 26 January 2015 when Guevara approach and asked complainant where he could put the docketed records so they could not be placed with the other records. Further, only seven (7) to eight (8) records were being docketed by him in an eight (8)-hour daily work. Thus, the number of records are not that much to occupy a huge space and be mixed with other records.

The OCA recommended that Guevara be dismissed from the service with forfeiture of all benefits, except accrued leave credits.

ISSUES:
A.       Whether Guevara is liable for gross neglect of duty and gross insubordination.
          a. Define neglect of duty.
         b. Differentiate gross neglect from simple neglect of duty.

B.       If found guilty of the offense charged, what is the proper penalty?

RULING:
The Court affirms the report and recommendation of the OCA.

A.       Neglect of duty is the failure a public official or employee to give attention to a task expected of him.

Simple neglect of duty is contrasted from gross neglect. Gross neglect of duty refers to negligence characterized by the glaring want of care; by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently, but willfully and intentionally; or by acting with a conscious indifference to consequences with respect to other persons who may be affected [Office of the Court Administrator v. Dequito, A.M. No. P-15-3386, November 15, 2016]. It is such neglect which, from the gravity of the case or the frequency of instances, becomes so serious in its character as to endanger or threaten the public welfare [Office of the Court Administrator v. Calija, A.M. No. P-16-3586, June 5, 2018]. It does not necessarily include willful neglect or intentional official wrongdoing.

Regrettably, he was frequently grossly remiss in discharging his duties. He repeatedly failed to update the criminal dockets under his custody; was careless in attaching documents to their corresponding case records; and did not prepare the case records for prompt transmission to the CA despite the specific instructions and constant reminders from his superiors. In addition, parts of the records of some criminal cases went missing while under his custody. Such loss of court records while in his custody reflected his lack of diligence in performing his duties, and indubitably revealed his uncharacteristic indifference to and wanton abandonment of his regular assigned duties and responsibilities. He thereby became guilty of gross neglect of duty.

But gross neglect of duty was not Guevara’s only sin. He was thus also guilty of gross insubordination, which is the inexplicable and unjustified refusal to obey some order that a superior is entitled to give and have obeyed, and imports ‘ a willful or intentional disregard of the lawful and reasonable instructions of the superior.

On Guevara’s performance ratings, we are convinced that he failed miserably to perform the duties and tasks assigned to him. Aside from the two (2) unsatisfactory semestral performance ratings from 01 July 2014 to 30 June 2015. He merely obtained satisfactory ratings during the previous years which demonstrate his lack of industry, efforts, enthusiasm, and determination to attain at least a very satisfactory rating. He gave unreasonable and unacceptable alibis for his poor performance but did not endeavor to really change and improve his work attitude and ethic.

As such, he was likewise guilty of inefficiency and gross incompetence in the performance of his official duties.

This Court has always emphasized that the conduct required of court officials or employees, from the presiding judges to the lowliest clerks, must always be imbued with the heavy burden of responsibility as to require them to be free from any suspicion that may taint the image and reputation of the Judiciary [Office of the Court Administrator v. Silonga, P-13-3137, August 31, 2016]. Any act or omission that contravenes this norm of conduct disgraces the Judiciary. Anyone falling short of the norm must be sanctioned without hesitation lest he infect his co-workers with the same malaise.

B.       Section 46, Rule 10 of the Revised Rules of Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS) classifies gross neglect of duty as a grave offense punishable by dismissal from the service even on the first violation. Although gross insubordination and gross inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties each merits the penalty of suspension for six months and one day to one year for the first violation, Section 50 of the RRACCS provides that in case of two or more charges or counts, the penalty to be imposed shall be that corresponding to the most serious offense, and the rest of the counts shall be treated as aggravating circumstances. Gross neglect of duty, which is the most serious offense, is considered as aggravated herein by gross insubordination and gross inefficiency and gross incompetence in the performance of his official duties. 

The fallo
WHEREFORE, the Court FINDS and PRONOUNCES Guevara HONORIO RAUL C. GUEVARA GUILTY of GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY, GROSS INSUBORDINATION and GROSS INEFFICIENCY AND INCOMPETENCE IN THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL DUTIES; and, accordingly, DISMISSES him from the service EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY with FORFEITURE of all his benefits, except accrued leave credits.
The Court further DISQUALIFIES the Guevara from re­ employment in the government service, including government-owned and controlled corporations.

Related CASE BrieFs:
a)       OCA v. Dequito, A.M. No. P-15-3386, November 15, 2016
b)       OCA v. Calija, A.M. No. P-16-3586, June 5, 2018
c)       OCA v. Silonga, P-13-3137, August 31, 2016
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THINGS DECIDED:

A.       Neglect of duty is the failure a public official or employee to give attention to a task expected of him.

B.       Simple neglect of duty is contrasted from gross neglect. Gross neglect of duty refers to negligence characterized by the glaring want of care; by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently, but willfully and intentionally; or by acting with a conscious indifference to consequences with respect to other persons who may be affected.

C.       Gross insubordination is the inexplicable and unjustified refusal to obey some order that a superior is entitled to give and have obeyed, and imports ‘ a willful or intentional disregard of the lawful and reasonable instructions of the superior.

D.      Section 46, Rule 10 of the Revised Rules of Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS) classifies gross neglect of duty as a grave offense punishable by dismissal from the service even on the first violation.

 ‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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