Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.M. No. P-1518 August 19, 1982

EROTIDO O. DOMINGO, complainant,
vs.
ROMEO R. QUIMSON, respondent.

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MAKASIAR, J.:1wph1.t

Complainant Erotido O. Domingo, officer-in-charge of the Cashier's Division of the Supreme Court, charges respondent Romeo R. Quimson, technical assistant in the Property Division, with "misconduct or conduct prejudicial to the dignity of the Court, as well as the Civil Service," specifying the acts allegedly committed by respondent.

In his comment dated February 8, 1977, respondent denies the charge and in turn accuses complainant of "arrogance, notoriety and undue deference to the Honorable Chief Justice" submitting his own version of the incident.

In his report and recommendation, Atty. Juanito C. Ranjo, Jr., Clerk of Court I of the Supreme Court, as investigator, submitted the following findings and recommendation: 1wph1.t

To substantiate his charge against the respondent "for misconduct or conduct prejudicial to the dignity of the Court," the complainant testified that:

At about 4:55 o'clock in the afternoon of January 27, 1977, the respondent, a Technical Assistant in the Property Section, went to the Cashier's Office to get his overtime pay envelope from Mr. Jaime Facundo, an employee thereat Mr. Facundo referred him to the Complainant Officer-in-Charge of the Cashier's Office and Acting Disbursing Officer, who was counting money at the time. The latter stopped counting the money and told the respondent to go back the following day because the safe was already closed, using the following language: "Sarado na ang kaha, maari bang bumalik ka na lang bukas" (pp. , TSN, June 27, 1977). As the Complainant continued counting the money, the respondent shouted: "Ano ba? Talaga bang ayaw mong buksan ang Kaha? Putang ina mo." The Complainant stopped counting the money and inquired from the respondent why he uttered those bad words. The complainant stood up and opened the door of the Cashier's Office, and as he did so, the respondent challenged him to a fight saying "Halika, lumabas ka diyan, putang ina mo" (p. 23, TSN, June 27, 1977). It was at this precise moment that Mr. Jaime Mendoza, also a Technical Assistant in the Property Section, who had just come out from the Office of Administrative Services, intervened saying to the complainant: "Tama na Ding, tama na Ding." So the Complainant went back inside his room. Ten minutes after the incident, he went to the Office of the Chief Justice and reported the matter. The Chief Justice, in the presence of Justice Ricardo Puno who happened to be there, advised the complainant to file the corresponding complaint and submit the same to Justice Puno, Accordingly, he prepared the corresponding complaint and filed it with the Office of the Acting Judicial Consultant (p. 24, TSN, June 27, 1977).

Counsel for the respondent did not cross-examine the Complainant (p. 27, TSN, June 27, 1977). His version of the incident finds full support in and corroboration by the testimony of Mr. Jaime Facundo (pp. 4-8, TSN, June 27, 1977) and Mrs. Araceli Bayuga (pp. 14-18, TSN, June 27, 1977), both employees in the Cashier's Office.

The respondent does not deny the altercation he had with the complainant. He also does not deny that the bad words "Putang ina mo" were spoken. However, he claims that it was the complainant who uttered them. He explains that when he went to the Cashier's Office at about 4:30 o'clock in the afternoon in question to get his overtime pay envelope, Mr. Facundo whom he approached referred him to the complainant. Accordingly, he asked the complainant for his overtime pay envelope in this wise: "Puede ko bang makuha ang overtime pay ko boss?" The complainant answered him. "Hindi na puede, wala na iyon-in-charge, sarado na ang kaha." He pleaded to the complainant saying: "Puede mo naman yatang buksan ang kaha boss, kung gusto mo, at saka sana dapat ipinadala ninyo iyan kanina sa opisina." As he did not receive any answer from the complainant for some three minutes, he repeated his request. Suddenly, the complainant flared up and said: "Bukas na, hindi puede, marami kaming ginagawa," in a loud voice and continued: "Not even the Chief Justice can order me to open the vault at this hour." Upon hearing the name of the Chief Justice he said: "Yabang mo naman." The complainant stood up and rushed out of the room toward him. At this point, Mr. Jaime Mendoza who happened to be around pacified the complainant (p. 6, TSN, July 18, 1977). In pacifying the complainant, Mr. Mendoza held the latter by the shoulder and said: "Tama na iyan, ano ba ang nangyayari?" The Complainant answered: "Putang ina itong si Quimson, akala niya hindi ko lalabanan eh." Upon hearing this, the respondent in an effort to clarify what he heard asked the complainant: "Ano ang sinabi mo? Sinabi mo bang "putang ina mo?" " The complainant who did not answer went back to his (complainant) room, removed his eyeglasses, put them on top of his table and rushed out of the room again toward the respondent. Mr. Mendoza, this time together with Mr. Solomon Ebido, an employee in the Cashier's Office, pacified the complainant, Mr. Mendoza holding him by the shoulders and Mr. Ebido holding him by the right arm from behind (p. 7, TSN, July 18, 1977). It was at this precise time that the respondent allegedly left to punch his card in the bundy clock (p. 8, TSN, July 18, 1977).

Mr. Jaime Mendoza, a Technical Assistant in the Property Division, corroborated the testimony of the respondent (pp. 41-45, TSN, July 18, 1977).

The version of the respondent does not have the ring of truth. He does not deny having uttered the subject bad words but claims he did so for the purpose of clarifying what the complainant said. He also contends in his written manifestation (p. 24, rollo), that the testimonies of Mr. Jaime Facundo and Mrs. Araceli Bayuga are "far too incredible to believe" because by the "construction of the Cashier's Office" it was "impossible to see or witness" how Mr. Jaime Mendoza had pacified "the parties who were all outside" the Cashier's Office while said Mr. Facundo and Mrs. Bayuga "were inside with the door closed, situated several meters (5 to 7) away from the door." The respondent also points out that Mr. Facundo "tried to lie again at the ocular inspection when he tried to insist that he was near the door at that particular moment" but "Mr. Erotido Domingo himself rushed to protest and corrected Mr. Facundo by saying that Facundo was at the desk near the glass window from where it is humanly impossible to perceive what was happening outside the door" (p. 25, rollo). Hence, the respondent concludes that the principle of "Falsus in uno falsus in omnibus" should be applied (p. 25, rollo), meaning the whole testimony of Mr. Facundo should be disregarded because deemed false in its entirety.

The undersigned Investigator finds credible the testimonies of Mr. Jaime Facundo and Mrs. Araceli Bayuga who were actually in the Cashier's Office and, therefore, were eyewitnesses to the whole incident. Mr. Facundo testified on cross-examination that when the respondent said "Putang ina mo" to the complainant, the latter stood up and proceeded to the door; that he was at the back or behind the complainant; that he saw Mr. Mendoza pacify the complainant and the respondent because he was very close to the door, about a meter away and the door was open (pp. 11-13, TSN, June 27, 1977). Mrs. Bayuga, likewise, testified that when the complainant opened the door, the respondent was in front of the door which was slightly open and that she saw Mr. Mendoza pacify the two by stepping between them (pp. 16, 19-20, TSN, June 27, 1977). It is true that these witnesses are working in the Cashier's Office under the direct supervision of the complainant but such fact alone by itself does not render them bias in the absence of satisfactory proof that they had personal motives of their own to favor the complainant (People vs. Renegado, 57 SCRA 275). It has been held that the absence of evidence as to an improper motive actuating the witnesses to testify falsely against the accused strongly tends to sustain the conclusion that no such improper motive existed and that their testimony is worthy of full faith and credit (People vs. Sawali, L-15333, June 29, 1962, 5 SCRA 385; and People vs. Valera, L-15662, Aug. 30, 1962, 5 SCRA 910).

In contrast, the witnesses presented by the respondent do not inspire belief. Mr. Jaime Mendoza who testified for the respondent was actually the one who pacified the parties. This much the undersigned investigator finds as an established fact. But the testimony of the same witness to the effect that it was the complainant, not the respondent, who spoke the oft-repeated bad words does not appear credible.t@lF There is nothing in the record to show that the complainant t had any ill-feeling against the respondent to justify an outburst. On the contrary, it was the respondent who felt offended when the complainant refused to give his pay envelope. The respondent feelsand he said so in his testimonythat he was entitled to his overtime pay envelope which in the first place should have been delivered to him in his office during office hours that same day of the incident (p. 6. TSN, July 18, 1977). And he was further offended when the complainant vehemently refused to accede to his repeated requests to give him his pay envelope. His other witnesses failed to corroborate hint Mr. Sulpicio Ramirez, an Accounting Clerk in the Accounting Division, testified that at or about 4:30 in the afternoon of January 27, 1977, as he was waiting to punch his time card at the bundy clock at the right side of the Cashier's Office, he noticed that there was a heated argument between the complainant and the respondent but could not recall what they were arguing about or what words were uttered by them (p. 4, TSN, July 26, 1977). Mr. Solomon Ebido, a Clerk in the Cashier's Office, declared that at the time the subject incident occurred he was inside his cubicle in the Cashier's Office busy Preparing their monthly report until 5:30 p.m.; that while he was there inside his cubicle he could hear voices but could not determine whose voices they were; and that he has no personal knowledge of the incident (pp. 4-5, TSN, July 26, 1977). Mr. Elpidio Rieta, Officer-in-charge of the security Unit of the Court testified that while he was in the Court premises checking the security guards, someone whose name he could not remember informed him of the subject argument between the complainant and the respondent; that he proceeded to the Cashier's Office; that when he arrived thereat, the complainant was outside his office; that he heard the complainant say: "Even the Chief Justice cannot dictate me to open the safe"; and that thereafter he left the premises (pp. 2-5, TSN, July 29, 1977).

As admitted by these three witnesses, namely Sulpicio Ramirez, Solomon Ebido and Elpidio Rieta, they have no personal knowledge of the subject incident. Hence, their declarations carry no weight. The testimony of Mr. Rieta that he heard the complainant say "Even the Chief Justice cannot dictate me to open the safe," does not ring true. He went to the Cashier's Office when the heated argument between the complainant and the respondent was already over and after the respondent had long left the place. So there was no more reason for the complainant to be repeating what he had allegedly stated to the respondent at the height of their altercation.

From the foregoing, the Investigator finds that the respondent committed the act imputed to him in the manner testified to by the complainant.

Under Section 36, par. (b) [1] of PD No. 807, otherwise known as the Civil Service Decree of the Philippines, "misconduct" is a ground for disciplinary action. And under MC No. 8, S. 1970, issued by the Civil Service Commission on July 28, 1970, which sets the "Guidelines in the Application of Penalties Administrative Cases and other Matters Relative Thereto," the administrative offense of "grave misconduct" carries with it the maximum penalty of dismissal from the service (Sec. IV-C[3], MC No. 8, S. 1970). But the term "misconduct" as an administrative offense has a well defined meaning. It was defined in Amosco vs. Judge Magno, Adm. Mat. No. 439-MJ, Res. September 30, 1976, as referring "to a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer." It is a misconduct "such as affects the performance of his duties as an officer and not such only as effects his character as a private individual." In the recent case of Oyao vs. Pabato, etc., Adm. Mat. No. 782-MJ, Res. July 29, 1977, the Court defined serious misconduct as follows: 1wph1.t

"Hence, even assuming that the dismissal of the case is erroneous, this would be merely an error of judgment and not serious misconduct. The term "serious misconduct" is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action more particularly, unlawful behavior of gross negligence by the magistrate. It implies a wrongful intention and not a mere error of judgment. For serious misconduct to exist, there must be reliable evidence showing that the judicial acts complained of were corrupt or inspired by intention to violate the law, or were a persistent disregard of well-known legal rules. We have previously ruled that negligence and ignorance on the part of a judge are inexcusable if they imply a manifest injustice which cannot be explained by a reasonable interpretation. This is not so in the case at bar"(emphasis supplied).

It is the view of the Investigator that the act committed by the respondent does not constitute "misconduct" (much less serious or grave misconduct) within the meaning of the pertinent law and jurisprudence above-cited. This does not mean, however, that the respondent is totally free from any administrative sanction. The respondent imputed unchastity to the mother of the complainant at the heat of anger uttering the bad words while several employees were around to punch their time cards at the bundy clock near the Cashier's Office. It is true that these words were held not to be libelous in Reyes vs. People, L-21528-29, March 28, 1969, where the Court said that: "This is a common expression in the dialect that is often employed, not really to slander but rather to express anger or displeasure. It is seldom, if ever, taken in its literal sense, by the hearer, that is, as a reflection on the virtues of a mother." But in said case, the Court viewed the utterance "as a part of the threats by appellant against Agustin Hallare, evidently to make the same more emphatic" and, therefore, it held the accused guilty of "grave threats" even as it acquitted the same accused of the crime of "oral defamation." And in U.S. vs. Tolosa, 37 Phil. 166, the accused, a woman of violent temper, hurled at the complainant, a respectable lady with young daughters, offensive and scurrilous epithets, including words imputing unchastity to the mother and tending to injure the characters of her daughters. This Court held the accused guilty of the crime of injurias graves (grave insults).

In the present case, the act complained of had nothing to do with the performance by the respondent of his official duties as Technical Assistant to classify it as a "conduct in office." Nevertheless, his conduct does not sit well with his position as a Technical Assistant of the Court. In Maravilla vs. Hon. Arcilla, Adm. Case No. 401- CJ, August 31, 1976, the respondent Judge who tongue-lashed and almost physically assaulted the complainant because of (1) "the unwarranted inclusion by the complainant of respondent's wife's hut in complying with the order of demolition complainant was implementing" and (2) "the belligerent and disrespectful conduct of the complainant," was exonerated of the charge filed against him for "abuse of authority or assault." Nevertheless, the Court ruled that said respondent Judge should be "reprimanded for having committed acts unbecoming of his position as a judge" in this wise: 1wph1.t

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, and it appearing that the special circumstances which induced respondent to act the way he did may not always be easy for man to undergo with real composure, the Court rules that the charge against respondent for abuse of authority or assault has not been proven, but for having allowed his personal feelings of being aggrieved to get the better of him, thereby adopting an aggressive stance against complainant in a manner unbecoming of his position as a judge, even considering that he so acted because of the belligerent and disrespectful conduct of complainant, respondent should be as he is hereby reprimanded and admonished that henceforth he should be careful not to repeat any similar attempt to secure redress by trying to physically lay hands on someone, instead of resorting to corresponding legal remedies. Respondent must understand that were it not for his long public service and that this is the first occasion he is charged administratively, the Court would have dealt with him more drastically.

In Dioquino vs. Martinez, Adm. Matter No. P-195, May 10, 1976, the respondent Deputy Clerk of Court was administratively charged of serious misconduct in office on several counts. On one count he was "charged with nearly having a fistfight with one Atty. Rallos because respondent was allegedly instrumental in an attempt to tamper with the approved Record on Appeal of a case won by Atty. Rallos' Client in the Court of First Instance." Answering this particular charge, respondent Martinez "termed the accusation as a narration of twisted facts, the truth being that "the altercation arose from the fact of setting the approval of the Record on Appeal in the Court's calendar on the date set by counsel for applicant, for failure of appellant's Counsel to furnish Atty. Rallos with copy thereof." " Resolving this particular charge, the Court censured the respondent to wit: 1wph1.t

"On (6-C), respondent's Admission that an altercation between him and an attorney indeed took place, speaks very poorly of his self-control and public relations. For this, he deserves to be censured and directed to conduct himself in a more composed manner and keep his pose as befits ranking officials who officially deal with the public" (emphasis supplied). [Respondent Judge was found guilty of "misconduct in office" on other grounds and was ordered dismissed]. 1wph1.t

R E C O M M E N D A T I O N

It is recommended that the respondent be exonerated of the charge against him for misconduct in office, but for imputing unchastity to the mother of the complainant, even considering that he so acted because of the vehement refusal of the latter to give him his overtime pay envelope, he be REPRIMANDED and ADMONISHED that henceforth he should conduct himself in a manner as befits officials and employees of the Court in dealing not only with the public but also with his co-employees, with the warning that for any subsequent misbehavior he will be found guilty of, he will be dealt with more drastically. In this recommendation, the Investigator considered the long service of the respondent who has been with the Court since 1958 and the fact that this is the first time he is administratively charged.t@lF The counter-charge of the respondent against the complainant (should) be dismissed for insufficiency of evidence to substantiate it.

The foregoing report and recommendation are supported by the records.

WHEREFORE, RESPONDENT ROMEO QUIMSON IS HEREBY EXONERATED OF THE CHARGE OF MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE; BUT HE IS HEREBY REPRIMANDED FOR IMPUTING UNCHASTITY TO THE MOTHER OF THE COMPLAINANT AND ADMONISHED TO BEHAVE PROPERLY IN DEALING WITH THE PUBLIC AS WELL AS WITH HIS CO-EMPLOYEES, WITH THE WARNING THAT ANY SIMILAR MISBEHAVIOR WILL BE DEALT WITH SEVERELY.

THE COUNTER-CHARGE OF RESPONDENT AGAINST COMPLAINANT IS HEREBY DISMISSED FOR INSUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE.

SO ORDERED.

Aquino, Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero, De Castro, Melencio-Herrera, Plana, Escolin, Vasquez, Relova and Gutierrez, Jr., JJ., concur.1wph1.t

Fernando, CJ., took no part.

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Separate Opinions

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ABAD SANTOS, J., concurring:

This case should not have occupied the time of the Court and its officers. It was a simple case of flared tempers; a usual occurrence. The objected statement is not really an imputation of unchastity. As used it is merely an expression of disgust. It is exclamatory rather than defamatory. I vote to dismiss both charges.

Teehankee, J., concurs with the separate opinion of Justice Abad Santos.

Barredo, J., I agree with Justice Abad Santos that this trivial matter should have been handled by the lower administrative authorities of the Court.

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Separate Opinions

ABAD SANTOS, J., concurring:

This case should not have occupied the time of the Court and its officers. It was a simple case of flared tempers; a usual occurrence. The objected statement is not really an imputation of unchastity. As used it is merely an expression of disgust. It is exclamatory rather than defamatory. I vote to dismiss both charges.

Teehankee, J., concurs with the separate opinion of Justice Abad Santos.

Barredo, J., I agree with Justice Abad Santos that this trivial matter should have been handled by the lower administrative authorities of the Court.


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