EN BANC

February 6, 2018

A.M. No. P-11-2959

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, Complainant
vs.
ALMA P. LICAY, Clerk of Court II, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan-San Gabriel, La Union, Respondent

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

A.M. No. P-14-3230

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, Complainant,
vs.
ALMA P. LICAY, Clerk of Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan, La Union, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

PER CURIAM, J.:

A.M. No. P-14-3230 stemmed from the continuous failure of respondent Alma P. Licay (Licay), Clerk of Court, to comply with the regular submission of the Monthly Financial Reports of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of San Juan, La Union, while A.M. No. P-11-2959 arose from the shortages in the judiciary collections and undocumented withdrawal of cash bonds.

In its Resolution dated 10 July 2017,1 the Court consolidated A.M. No. P-14-3230 with A.M. No. P-11-2959 from the First Division, upon the recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) in its 1 March 2017 Memorandum which stated that the audit team who conducted the examination of the books of accounts of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan-San Gabriel, La Union had already submitted to the Court their financial audit in A.M. No. P-11-2959 on 21 June 2011.

A.M No. P-14-3230

In its Memorandum dated 10 May 2011,2 the OCA reported that the Financial Management Office (FMO) of the OCA found that Licay failed to regularly submit her Monthly Financial Reports.

The OCA stated that on 27 February 2007, the FMO, OCA sent a letter3 to Licay requiring her to submit the Monthly Financial Reports for (1) the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) from July 2006, (2) the Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ) from July 2006, (3) the Fiduciary Fund (FF) from May 2006, and (4) the Sheriff's Trust Fund (STF).

The OCA sent another letter4 to Licay on 6 July 2007. The letter required her to show cause within a non-extendible period of five (5) days from notice why her salaries should not be withheld for failure to comply with the rules on the submission of the Monthly Financial Reports.

In August 2007, the FMO received from Licay a partial compliance for the mentioned periods up to February 2007.

Another letter was sent again to Licay reminding her to submit the other unsubmitted reports but Licay failed to do so.

The FMO sent a final letter5 to Licay on 17 October 2007 reminding her to submit the other reports she did not submit: (1) the JDF from March 2007, (2) the SAJ for the months of December 2006 and March 2007, (3) the FF from March 2007 and (4) the STF. However, she failed to submit the reports as ordered.

In a Memorandum dated 17 January 2008,6 then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno approved the request of the FMO that the salaries of Licay be withheld due to her continuous non-submission of the required Monthly Financial Reports.

The FMO was likewise prompted to conduct a financial audit of the books of account of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of San Juan-San Gabriel, La Union. The financial audit is the subject of A.M. No. P-11-2959.

In its Resolution dated 15 June 2011,7 the Court directed Licay to explain in writing why she should not be administratively dealt with for the non-submission of her Monthly Financial Reports and to submit said reports both within ten (10) days from notice.

In its Resolution dated 14 December 2011,8 the Court required Licay to show cause why she should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for her failure to give an explanation on her non-submission of the Monthly Financial Reports and on her failure to submit the reports required in the 15 June 2011 Resolution.

In its 13 February 2013 Resolution,9 the Court resolved to impose a fine on Licay due to her failure to comply with the show cause Resolution dated 14 December 2011. The Resolution fined Licay Five Hundred Pesos (₱500.00) and ordered her to comply with the Resolutions dated 15 June 2011 and 14 December 2011, within ten (10) days from notice.

In its 23 October 2013 Resolution,10 the Court imposed on Licay an additional fine of Five Hundred Pesos (₱500.00) for failure to comply with the 13 February 2013 Resolution. Again, Licay was required to comply with the Resolution dated 15 June 2011 by submitting the required Monthly Financial Reports, also within ten (10) days from notice.

Licay paid the fine of One Thousand Pesos (₱l,000.00), under Official Receipt No. 1513547B dated 9 December 2013. However, the 23 January 2014 Certification from the Accounting Division of the FMO showed that Licay had not submitted the following Monthly Financial Reports: (1) JDF for the months of July 2007 to December 2010, (2) SAJ for the months of July 2007 to December 2010, (3) FF for the months of July 2007 to December 2010, (4) STF from her date of assumption to December 2010 and (5) General Fund for the first quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2010.11

In its 7 April 2014 Memorandum, the OCA recommended the following:

a) the administrative complaint be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative case against respondent Clerk of Court Alma P. Licay, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan, La Union;

b) respondent Clerk of Court Licay be found LIABLE for Gross Insubordination and Refusal to Perform Official Duty and be SUSPENDED from office for one (1) year effective immediately, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely;

c) to IMPOSE on respondent Clerk of Court Licay a FINE of Five Thousand Pesos (Php 5,000.00) payable to the Court within ten (10) days from notice or a penalty of imprisonment of ten (10) days if such fine is not paid within the prescribed period, for her deliberate and continuous failure and refusal to comply with the Resolutions dated 15 June 2011, 14 December 2011, 13 February 2013 and 23 October 2013 of the Court; and

d) Clerk of Court Licay be REQUIRED anew to COMPLY with the Resolutions dated 15 June 2011 and 14 December 2011 by submitting to the Court the required Monthly Financial Reports and explanation for such failure, both within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days from notice.12

The OCA stated in the Memorandum that:

x x x [T]he Court has already given Clerk of Court Licay more than enough opportunity to explain her side. With her obstinate defiance and incessant refusal to submit her compliance to the Court despite the latter's repeated directives and stern admonitions, she displayed her insolence and disrespect for the lawful orders of the Court. A resolution of the Supreme Court should not be construed as a mere request, and should be complied with promptly and completely. Such failure to comply betrays not only a recalcitrant streak in character, but also a disrespect for the Court's lawful order and directive. Furthermore, this contumacious conduct of refusing to abide by the lawful directives issued by the Court has likewise been considered an utter lack of interest to remain with, if not contempt of, the system. Her transgression is highlighted even more by the fact that she is an employee of the Judiciary. More than an ordinary citizen, she should be aware of her duty to obey the orders and processes of the Supreme Court without delay. Her willful disobedience to and disregard for the directive of this Court constitute grave and serious misconduct which cannot be tolerated.

Insubordination or unwillingness to submit to authority and refusal to perform official duty are glaring in the actuations of Clerk of Court Licay.1шphi1 They are grave offenses with the corresponding penalty of suspension of six (6) months and one (1) day to one (1) year. The Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service is instructive. If the respondent is found guilty of two (2) or more charges or counts, the penalty to be imposed should be that corresponding to the most serious charge and the rest shall be considered aggravating circumstances. Moreover, the maximum of the penalty shall be imposed where only aggravating and no mitigating circumstances are present. Thus, as insubordination and refusal to perform official duty are both grave offenses, the latter shall be considered as aggravating to impose the maximum penalty of suspension of one year.13

In its 7 July 2014 Resolution,14 the Court redocketed the case as a regular administrative complaint against Licay.

A.M No. P-11-2959

In its Memorandum dated 28 April 2011,15 the audit team, after conducting an examination of the books of account of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan-San Gabriel, La Union, found that Licay incurred shortages in the judiciary collections.

In its Resolution dated 25 July 2011,16 the Court, upon the recommendation of the OCA, resolved as follows:

(l) xxx.

(2) to DOCKET the report as a regular administrative complaint against Mrs. Alma P. Licay, Clerk of Court II, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan-San Gabriel, La Union for appropriating for personal use her judiciary collections for the period March 2007 to July 2009 and for violation of OCA Circular No. 13-92, Circular No. 50-95, and other existing rules and regulations relevant to the handling of judiciary funds;

(3) to SUSPEND Mrs. Alma P. Li cay from office for six (6) months without pay effective upon notice hereof, and to impose on her a FINE in the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (₱5,000.00) for the delayed remittances of her judiciary collections for the period March 2007 to July 2009, payable to this Court within ten (10) days from notice;

(4) to DIRECT Mrs. Alma P. Licay:

(4.a) to RESTITUTE within fifteen (15) days from notice the following shortages by depositing the computed amounts to their respective savings accounts, to wit:

FUND SAVINGS ACCOUNT NO. AMOUNT
General Fund   637.00
Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) 0591-0116-34   194.20
Mediation Fund (MF) 3472-1000-08   1,000.00
Fiduciary Fund (FF) 1391-0015-41   2,376.18
TOTAL   4,207.38

(4. b) to SUBMIT within fifteen (15) days from notice copies of machine validated deposit slips or Land Bank of the Philippines certification showing that the computed shortages above had been deposited to their respective accounts;

(4.c) to REQUEST from the Land Bank of the Philippines a snap shot or bank statement of the court's Fiduciary Savings Account No. 1391-0015- 41 covering the period 01 January 2005 to 30 September 2005 and to SUBMIT the said snap shot or bank statement to the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office, Office of the Court Administrator, for examination, both within fifteen (15) days from notice hereof; and

(4.d) to SUBMIT within fifteen (15) days from notice valid documents, e.g., court orders, acknowledgment receipts, etc., and to SURRENDER the original copy/ies of official receipt/s to support the withdrawals of the attached List of Undocumented Withdrawn Cash Bonds (Schedule 1) amounting to ₱872, 175.00; otherwise, to RESTITUTE the same;

xx x x17

In a Certification dated 13 October 2011,18 the Cash Division, SCOCA certified that Licay has paid ₱5,000.00 as fine.

In a Letter dated 19 October 2011,19 Li cay appealed for an extension for the submission of the required documents in the Resolution of 25 July 2011. In another Letter bearing the same date, Li cay stated that she was submitting the documents required in paragraphs 4.b and 4.c of the Resolution. She attached orders and acknowledgment receipts to the Letter.

In its 21 November 2011 Resolution,20 the Court noted Licay's payment of the fine and her Letter submitting documents relative to paragraph 4.d of the 25 July 2011 Resolution. The Court granted her another 15 days to comply with the 25 July 2011 Resolution.

In a Letter dated 17 November 2011,21 Licay stated that she was submitting official receipts, orders, and acknowledgment receipts as partial compliance with the 25 July 2011 Resolution. In its 15 February 2012 Resolution, the Court noted the Letter.

In its 14 November 2012 Resolution,22 the Court noted the certification dated 16 April 2012 of Presiding Judge Alan M. Ordono, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan-San Gabriel, La Union, stating that Licay has reassumed her duties and responsibilities as Clerk of Court II effective 16 April 2012 after having served her six months suspension which took effect on 5 October 2011 pursuant to the Resolution of 25 July 2011.

In its 18 February 2013 Resolution,23 the Court resolved to await Licay's full compliance with the Resolution of25 July 2011.

In its 28 July 2014 Resolution,24 the Court resolved to require Licay to submit her full compliance with the Resolution of 25 July 2011 within ten days from notice of the Resolution.

A.M. Nos. P-11-2959 and P-14-3230

In its 10 July 2017 Resolution,25 the Court consolidated A.M. No. P- 14-3230 with A.M. No. P-11-2959. As stated, this Resolution was based on the 1 March 2017 Memorandum of the OCA recommending the consolidation of the cases since the audit team who conducted the examination of the books of accounts of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan-San Gabriel, La Union had already submitted their financial audit on 21June 2011 in A.M. No. P-11-2959.

In its Resolution dated 2 August 2017,26 the Court found that Licay has partially complied with the Resolution dated 25 July 2011 in A.M. No. P-11-2959, thus:

First, respondent has served her [six months] suspension from office which took effect on 5 October 2011. She has reassumed her duties and responsibilities as Clerk of Court II on 16 April 2012. Likewise, respondent has already paid the fine imposed on her. x x x.

Second, in compliance with paragraphs (4.a) and (4.b) of the Resolution, respondent restituted the amount of her shortages and submitted copies of the deposit slips for the payment of her shortages totalling ₱4,207.38.

Third, in compliance with paragraph (4.c) of the Resolution, respondent has submitted a snapshot of Land Bank of the Philippines' statement in lieu of the lost passbook for the year 2005.

As regards paragraph (4.d) of the Resolution, respondent has submitted partial or incomplete official receipts, orders and acknowledgment receipts to support the withdrawals of the cash bonds amounting to ₱872,l 75.00.27

The Court reiterated in the same Resolution its previous order for Licay to submit her full compliance with the Resolution dated 25 July 2011 within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days from notice. The Court required Licay to submit valid documents, e.g., court orders, acknowledgment receipts, etc. and to surrender the original copy/ies of official receipt/s to support the withdrawals of the cash bonds amounting to P872, 175.00; otherwise, to restitute the same.28

In a Letter dated 17 October 2017,29 Licay stated that she "is having a hard time [complying] with the resolution of the Court due to her health conditions for she had suffered stroke, diabet[es] and [asthma] ."30 Licay further stated that she "had submitted all the xx x documents in her monthly reports from the year 1996 to 1999 but unfortunately she could not locate anymore her files because the Court had transferred twice."31 She added that she is "very much willing that the amount of ₱413,500.00 computed in the List of Fiduciary Fund with lacking documents be deducted from her salary which was withheld from February 2008 up to the present since it is hard for her to produce the said amount x x x."32

In A.M. No. P-11-2959, as stated, Licay has already partially complied with the Resolution of the Court dated 25 July 2011; thus, the remaining unsettled matter is her full compliance with regard to the submission of the supporting documents for the withdrawn cash bonds amounting to ₱872, 175.00.

In A.M. No. P-14-3230, the issue is whether Licay is guilty of the administrative offenses of gross insubordination and refusal to perform official duty for her continuous refusal to comply with the Court's directives to submit her Monthly Financial Reports.

A.M. No. P-11-2959

In A.M. No. P-11-2959, the Court imposed on Licay the penalty of suspension of six months without pay and a ₱5,000.00 fine for the delayed remittances of her judiciary collections for the period of March 2007 to July 2009; directed the restitution of her shortages; and ordered the submission of the supporting documents for the withdrawn cash bonds amounting to ₱872, 175.00. The remaining unsettled matter is the submission of the supporting documents for the withdrawn cash bonds amounting to ₱872,175.00

Licay failed to comply fully with the Court's order to submit the required supporting documents. She partially complied by submitting some, but not all, of the supporting documents. Licay claims that she is suffering from stroke, diabetes, and asthma which prevent her from complying with the Court's directive to submit the required supporting documents. She further alleges that she could no longer locate her files because the court had transferred twice. She suggests that the amount of ₱413,500.00 computed in the List of Fiduciary Fund with lacking documents be deducted from her salary which was withheld since February 2008.

This Court commiserates with Licay for the ailments that she is presently suffering. However, these do not exonerate her from the consequences of her omissions that took place before she became ill. In the absence of any showing that her medical problems prevented her from working,33 Licay had no valid excuse for not faithfully performing her duties and responsibilities as Clerk of Court. Accordingly, she must restitute the amount of the remaining undocumented withdrawn cash bonds, after a determination of the exact amount thereof taking into account that she submitted official receipts, orders, and acknowledgment receipts in partial compliance with the Court's 25 July 2011 Resolution in A.M. No. P-11- 2959.

A.M. No. P-14-3230

In A.M. No. P-14-3230, the Court disagrees with the recommendation of the OCA. Li cay is guilty of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty.1шphi1

Under Administrative Circular No. 3-2000,34 the duty of the clerk of court is to receive JDF collections in their respective courts, issue the proper receipts and maintain a separate cash book properly marked as "CASH BOOK FOR JUDICIARY DEVELOPMENT FUND." The clerk of court shall then deposit such collections every day and render the proper Monthly Report of Collections and Deposits for said Fund within ten (10) days after the end of every month. Section 3-C of the JDF and SAJ procedural guidelines in Administrative Circular No. 35-2004, as amended,35 provides that the daily remittance of JDF and SAJ collections is required.

OCA Circular No. 50-9536 provides that all collections from bailbonds, rental deposits and other fiduciary collections shall be deposited with the Land Bank of the Philippines by the clerk of court concerned. The deposit must be made within 24 hours from receipt. In localities where there are no Land Bank of the Philippines branches, fiduciary collections shall be deposited by the clerk of court with the provincial, city or municipal treasurer.

To implement these circulars, OCA Circular No. 113-200437 requires clerks of court to submit monthly reports for three funds: JDF, SAJ, and FF.

In the present case, Licay not only failed to fully comply with her duty as Clerk of Court based on the provisions of law, but likewise continuously ignored the reminders and stern warnings of the OCA and the Court to submit the missing Monthly Financial Reports. Even if she partially complied on some months, the 15 June 2011, 14 December 2011, 13 February 2013 and 23 October 2013 Court Resolutions still went unheeded and she deliberately failed to submit the Monthly Financial Reports. Evidently, Licay committed the grave offense of grave misconduct for her obstinate refusal to comply with the repeated directives of the Court requiring her to submit the Monthly Financial Reports.

In Office of the Court Administrator v. Ganzan,38 the Court stated that a resolution of the Court should not be construed as a mere request and should be complied with promptly and completely.

In Alday v. Cruz, Jr.,39 the Court reiterated that directives issued by this Court are not to be treated lightly, certainly not on the pretext that one has misapprehended the meaning of said directives. Effective and efficient administration of justice demands nothing less than a faithful adherence to the rules and orders laid down by this Court.

In Office of the Court Administrator v. Reyes,40 a clerk of court was dismissed for his propensity to defy the directives of the Court. The Court stated that such attitude betrays not only a recalcitrant streak of character, but also disrespect for the lawful orders and directives of the Court.

In Grefaldeo v. Lacson,41 the Court held that respondent's obstinate refusal to abide by the lawful directives of the Court must similarly be taken to mean as her own utter lack of interest to remain with, if not her contempt of, the system to which she unfittingly belongs.

For her inexcusable non-submission of the Monthly Financial Reports, Licay is also guilty of gross neglect of duty.

As distinguished from simple neglect of duty, which is defined as the failure of an employee to give proper attention to a required task or to discharge a duty due to carelessness or indifference, gross neglect of duty is characterized by want of even the slightest care, or by conscious indifference to the consequences, or by flagrant and palpable breach of duty.42

In this case, Licay, despite repeated directives from the Court to submit the Monthly Financial Reports, deliberately ignored the Resolutions showing her manifest indifference to the serious repercussions of her omissions. Licay's repeated failure to submit the Monthly Financial Reports, without any explanation or justification, clearly constitutes gross neglect of duty.

In Office of the Court Administrator v. Reyes,43 the Court found a clerk of court guilty of gross neglect of duty for, among others, non-submission of financial reports, undeposited collections, and delayed remittances. The Court held that:

The undeposited collections and delayed remittances resulted to loss of interests that should have accrued had the collections been deposited promptly to their respective fund accounts. x x x. Indubitably, Reyes violated the trust reposed in her as collecting officer of the judiciary. The Court cannot tolerate non-submission of financial reports, non-reporting and non-deposit of collections, undue delay in the deposit of collections, unauthorized withdrawal, and non-explanation of incurred shortages and undeposited collections. xx x.44

The Court consistently reminds that those in the Judiciary serve as sentinels of justice, and any act of impropriety on their part immeasurably affects the honor and dignity of the Judiciary and the people's confidence in it. The Judiciary demands the best possible individuals in the service and it had never and will never tolerate nor condone any conduct which violates the norms of public accountability, and diminishes, or even tends to diminish, the faith of the people in the justice system. Thus, the Court will not hesitate to rid its ranks of undesirables who undermine its efforts towards an effective and efficient administration of justice, thus tainting its image in the eyes of the public.45

Accordingly, in A.M. No. P-14-3230, the Court finds Licay guilty of grave misconduct for her defiance and stubbornness to obey legitimate directives of this Court and gross neglect of duty for non-submission of the Monthly Financial Reports, both of which are classified as grave offenses under Section 46(A), Rule 10 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service with the corresponding punishment of dismissal from the service.46

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Alma P. Licay, Clerk of Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan, La Union, GUILTY of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty in A.M. No. P-14-3230. She is hereby DISMISSED from the service effective immediately, and all her employment benefits, except accrued leave benefits, are FORFEITED with prejudice to re-employment in any branch of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.

In A.M. No. P-11-2959, Licay is DIRECTED to RESTITUTE the amount of the remaining undocumented withdrawn cash bonds within a non-extendible period of one (1) month from receipt of the final computation of the exact amount thereof taking into account Licay's partial submission of the original supporting documents.

The Legal Office, Office of the Court Administrator is DIRECTED to IMMEDIATELY FILE the appropriate civil and criminal cases against Licay upon receipt of a Report from the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office that she failed to restitute the final amount of the remaining undocumented withdrawn cash bonds.

Let a copy of this Decision be attached to the records of Licay in the Office of the Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator.

SO ORDERED.

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO
Chief Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice
(On leave)
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN*
Associate Justice
MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice
MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN
Associate Justice
FRANCIS H. JARDELEZA
Associate Justice
ALFREDO BENJAMIN S. CAGUIOA
Associate Justice
(On official business)
SAMUEL R. MARTIRES**
Associate Justice
NOEL GIMENEZ TIJAM
Associate Justice
ANDRES B. REYES, JR.
Associate Justice
ALEXANDER G. GESMUNDO
Associate Justice

Footnotes

* On leave.

** On official business.

1 Rollo (A.M. No. P-14-3230), pp. 34-35.

2 Id. at 1-2.

3 Id. at 12.

4 Id. at 11.

5 Id. at 10.

6 Id. at 9.

7 Id. at 13-14.

8 Id.at15.

9 Id. at 16-17.

10 Id. at 18-19.

11 Id. at 23.

12 Id. at 24-25.

13 Id. at 24.

14 Id. at 27.

15 Id. (A.M. No. P-11-2959), pp. 3-10.

16 Id. at 24-26.

17 Id. at 24-25.

18 Id. at 33.

19 Id. at 29.

20 Id. at 145-146.

21 Id. at 147.

22 Id. at 202.

23 Id. at 203.

24 Id. at 204.

25 Id. at 205-206.

26 Id. at 208-210.

27 Id. at 209-210.

28 Id. at 210.

29 Id. at 213.

30 Id.

31 Id.

32 Id.

33 Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Lopez, 723 Phil. 256, 268 (2013).

34 Dated 15 June 2000.

35 Dated 20 August 2004.

36 Took effect on 1 November 1995.

37 Took effect on 1 October 2004.

38 616 Phil. 15, 23 (2009).

39 426 Phil. 385, 390 (2002).

40 635 Phil. 490, 496, 502 (20 I 0). See Office of the Court Administrator v. Ganzan, supra.

41 355 Phil. 266, 272-273 (1998).

42 Office of the Court Administrator v. Viesca, 758 Phil. 16, 26 (2015).

43 754 Phil. 572 (2015).

44 Id. at 576.

45 Office of the Court Administrator v. Viesca, supra note 42.

46 See Bascas v. Ramirez, 700 Phil. 120, 128 (2012).


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