August 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected August 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Court personnel;  dishonesty and gross neglect of duty.   It must be stressed that sheriffs are not allowed to receive any voluntary payments from parties in the course of the performance of their duties.  Corollary, a sheriff cannot just unilaterally demand sums of money from a party-litigant without observing the procedural steps under Section 9, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court: (1) prepare an estimate of expenses to be incurred in executing the writ, for which he must seek the court’s approval; (2) render an accounting; and (3) issue an official receipt for the total amount he received from the judgment debtor.  Failure to observe these steps would amount to dishonesty or extortion.  Moreover, Section 14, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court clearly provides that it is mandatory for sheriffs to execute and make a return on the writ of execution within 30 days from receipt of the writ and every 30 days thereafter until it is satisfied in full or its effectivity expires.  Even if the writs are unsatisfied or only partially satisfied, sheriffs must still file the reports so that the court, as well as the litigants, may be informed of the proceedings undertaken to implement the writ.  Here, the long delay in the execution of the judgments and the failure to accomplish the required periodic reports demonstrate respondent sheriff’s gross neglect and gross inefficiency in the performance of his official duties.  Likewise, respondent sheriff’s receipt of money in his official capacity and his failure to turn over the amount to the clerk of court is an act of misappropriation of funds amounting to dishonesty.   Proserpina V. Anico v. Emerson B. Pilipiña, Sheriff IV, Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Manila. A.M. No. P-11-2896.  August 2, 2011.

Court personnel; inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties. The Court found Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Ester Asilo administratively liable for her inaccurate preparation of monthly case reports, inept monitoring of case records, and incompetent supervision of court personnel.  A Clerk of Court is an essential officer in any judicial system, her office being the center of activities, both adjudicative and administrative.  Thus, OIC Asilo must recognize that her administrative functions are just as vital to the prompt and proper administration of justice.  She cannot proffer as an excuse that she merely inherited and continued the procedure followed prior to her designation.  Upon acceptance of her designation, her first concern was to know her assumed duties and responsibilities especially when administrative circulars, issuances and manual of clerks of court are at hand.  Nilda Verginesa-Suarez v. Judge Renato J. Dilag and Court Stenographer III Concepcion A. Pascua and Office of the Court Administrator v.  Judge Renato J. Dilag. Ester A. Asilo, Officer-in-Charge, Court Stenographer III,  Regional Trial Court, Branch 73, Olongapo City, Zambales and Atty. Ronald D. Gavino, Deputy Clerk of Court, Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional trial Court, Olongapo City. A.M. No. RTJ-06-2014 and A.M. No. RTJ-11-2293.  August 16, 2011

Court personnel; simple misconduct.   Giganto and Valenzuela, co-workers in the Personnel Division of OAS-OCA, got involved in a fistfight for which they were found guilty of simple misconduct by the Court.  In computing their penalties, the Court considered their length of service, satisfactory performance ratings, and number of previous administrative charges as mitigating, aggravating and alternative circumstances, as the case may be.  Time and again, the Court has stressed the need for the conduct and behavior of every person connected with the dispensation of justice to be characterized by propriety and decorum. This standard is applied, not only with respect to a court employee’s dealings with the public, but also with his or her co-workers in the service. Conduct violative of this standard quickly and surely erodes respect for the courts. Misbehavior within and around the court’s vicinity diminishes the court’s sanctity and dignity. Any fighting or misunderstanding becomes a disgraceful sight reflecting adversely on the good image of the Judiciary.  Re:  Letter-Complaint of Mr. Recarredo S. Valenzuela, Clerk IV, Personnel Division, OAS-OCA against Mr. Ricardo R. Giganto, Utility Worker II, Personnel Division, OAS-OCA.  A.M. No. 2011-01-SC.  August 23, 2011. 

(Mon thanks Ma. Christina C. Ortua for her help in preparing this post.)