Disgraceful conduct
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Atty. Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 3, 2020 - 12:00am

Court employees should maintain moral uprightness and righteousness in their professional and private conduct to preserve the integrity and dignity of the courts of justice. They should avoid any act of impropriety which tarnishes the honor and dignity of the judiciary. Their disgraceful and immoral conduct may be punished either with suspension or dismissal. When is it punishable with suspension and when is it punishable with dismissal? This case illustrates and answers these questions.

This is the case of Gio, a Filipino seafarer who is married to Carmina with two children, Macky and Jecel. Carmina also works as a court stenographer in a Municipal Trial Court. While still abroad, Gio already noticed some behavioral changes on Carmina who cannot be contacted every time he calls home in the evening. Only his children would answer the phone. Reports reaching him say that Carmina was seen elsewhere late at night. When Gio came back home unannounced, Carmina was not home. Their children were found surviving on “food borrowed from the store” and unattended to. He also discovered that his jewelries were missing so he searched his wife’s bag and found a digital camera with images of a half-naked man. He learned from his children that the man was Luther, a court sheriff, and that he was kissing Carmina inside the room.

So after four days, Carmina already responded to Gio’s text. Both met in a fast food chain where Carmina already admitted her affair with Luther. This was further confirmed by a police report about an accident involving Carmina and Luther on board a vehicle at an untimely hour as shown by a picture taken of the duo, drunk and sleeping in the car.

Consequently Gio and their children already separated from Carmina and Gio filed an administrative complaint against Carmina and Luther for immorality before the Office of the Court Administrator. (OCA). At that time Carmina was already reinstated as Clerk III in a Regional Trial Court after being dismissed as court stenographer while Luther was already dropped from the roll as sheriff for being AWOL.

After hearing the complaint of Gio which the OCA referred to an Investigating Judge, and based on the testimonial and documentary evidence submitted by Gio including the pictures in the digital camera which captured the intimacy between Carmina and Luther, the OCA found both Carmina and Luther guilty of immorality and recommended their dismissal.

The Supreme Court (SC) confirmed the findings of the investigating Judge and the OCA. The SC said that Gio was able to substantiate the charge of immorality against Carmina and Luther by his testimony and by the incriminating pictures submitted by him showing the intimate relationship between Carmina and Luther which belied Carmina’s claim that they are just friends. The image in Carmina’s digital camera of the half-naked Luther together with Carmina support Gio’s allegation of the illicit relationship between Carmina and Luther. Both are indeed guilty of immorality.

Employees of the judiciary should be an example of integrity, uprightness and honesty. Like any public servant, they must exhibit the highest sense of morality, integrity and honesty not only in the performance of their official duties but also in their personal and private dealings with other people to preserve the courts’ good name and standing. The image of a court of justice is mirrored in the official or personal conduct of the personnel who work thereat.

Disgraceful and immoral conduct is classified as a grave offense punishable by dismissal from the service (Civil Service Rule IV). But since this is a first offense on the part of Carmina, the recommended dismissal is not appropriate because pursuant to said rule, the prescribed penalty is only suspension of six months and one day. So Carmina should only be suspended for six months and one day. With respect to Luther, the complaint should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because he was already dropped from the rolls as a court sheriff when the complaint was filed (Gibas, Jr. vs. Gibas and Lintao, A.M. P-09 2651, March 23, 2011)

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E-mail: js0711192@gmail.com

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