SECOND DIVISION

A.M. No. P-04-1862             August 12, 2004

RE: HABITUAL TARDINESS OF MS. ELMIDA E. VARGAS, Court Stenographer III, Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 23.


R E S O L U T I O N


CALLEJO, SR., J.:

This administrative matter relates to the habitual tardiness of Ms. Elmida E. Vargas, Court Stenographer III, Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 23.

The Certification dated March 15, 2004 issued by Hermogena F. Bayani, SC Chief Judicial Staff Officer, Leave Division, Office of the Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), shows that Ms. Vargas incurred the following tardiness:

September 2002

13 times

October 2002

10 times

December 2002

14 times

January 2003

17 times

February 2003

12 times

March 2003

14 times

In her Letter dated April 11, 2003, Ms. Vargas explains that the reason for her tardiness is her being asthmatic. She further explains that her asthma attacks usually occur late in the afternoon and midnight to early dawn. She has to take medications that weaken her body, making it hard for her to get out of bed and prepare for work early in the morning.1 Nonetheless, she admits that her ailment does not entirely affect her work at the office.

For its part, the OCA opines that the respondentís explanation does not merit consideration to justify her habitual tardiness. It, therefore, recommends that the case be re-docketed as a regular administrative matter, and that Ms. Vargas be reprimanded and warned that a repetition of the same will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.2

We agree.

There is no doubt that respondent is guilty of habitual tardiness. Civil Service Memorandum Circular No. 23, Series of 1998, describes habitual tardiness, as follows:

Any employee shall be considered habitually tardy if he incurs tardiness, regardless of the number of minutes, ten (10) times a month for at least two (2) months in a semester or at least two (2) consecutive months during the year.

The Court has previously held that moral obligations, performance of household chores, traffic problems and health, domestic and financial concerns are not sufficient reasons to excuse habitual tardiness.3 As such, the OCA was correct in finding Ms. Vargasís explanation unworthy of credence.

By being habitually tardy, the respondent fell short of the stringent standard of conduct demanded from everyone connected with the administration of justice.4 Indeed, courts are temples of justice, and their dignity and sanctity must, at all times, be preserved and enhanced. In inspiring public respect for the justice system, court officials and employees must strictly observe official time. As punctuality is a virtue, absenteeism and tardiness are impermissible.5

The respondent shall thus be reprimanded for habitual tardiness, in accordance with Sec. 52(C)(4), Rule VI of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, Series of 1999 on the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, which provides the corresponding penalties for violation of habitual tardiness:

First Offense

-

Reprimand

Second Offense

-

Suspension for 1-30 days

Third Offense

-

Dismissal from the service

WHEREFORE, Ms. Elmida E. Vargas is hereby REPRIMANDED for her habitual tardiness, and WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Tinga, and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.


Footnotes

1 The respondent submitted a certification from Dr. Aguido A. Magdadaro of the Cebu Kidney Specialty Center who attested to her condition.

2 Report dated June 10, 2004, p. 2.

3 Re: Imposition of Corresponding Penalties for Habitual Tardiness Committed During the Second Semester of 2002, 409 SCRA 9 (2003).

4 Id. at 15.

5 Administrative Circular No. 1-99 entitled "Enhancing the Dignity of Courts as Temples of Justice and Promoting Respect for their Officials and Employees," which took effect on January 15, 1999.


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