September 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Attorney; filing of baseless complaint.  Respondents cannot be held liable for judiciously performing their sworn duty to observe and follow court proceedings as provided by the Rules. Complainant apparently filed this complaint primarily to divert the attention of his client from his shortcomings as its counsel, if not to simply harass the respondents.  A lawyer who files an unfounded complaint must be sanctioned because, as an officer of the court, he does not discharge his duty by filing frivolous petitions that only add to the workload of the judiciary.

Such filing of baseless complaints is contemptuous of the courts.  Complainant was ordered to show cause why he should not be subjected to disciplinary action for filing a frivolous and baseless complaint.  Atty. Emmanuel R. Andamo v. Judge Edwin G. Larida, Jr., Clerk of Court Stanlee D. Calma and Legal Researcher Diana G. Ruiz, all of Regional Trial Court, Branch 18 Tagytay City.  A.M. No. RTJ-11-2265.  September 21, 2011.

Court personnel; dishonesty.  The practice of respondent in offsetting her collection is not allowed under accounting and auditing rules and regulations.  By failing to properly remit the cash collections constituting public funds, she violated the trust reposed in her as disbursement officer of the Judiciary.  Likewise, her claim that she did not know that she is the accountable officer for the court collections does not convince the Court.  Clerks of Court are presumed to know their duty to immediately deposit with the authorized government depositories the various funds they receive, for they are not supposed to keep funds in their personal possession.  Her failure to deposit the said amount upon collection was prejudicial to the court, which did not earn interest income on the said amount or was not able to otherwise use the said funds.  The Court found respondent guilty of dishonesty and dismissed her from the service.  Office of the Court Administrator v. Evelyn Elumbaring, Clerk of Court II, 1st Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Carmen-Sto. Tomas-Braulio E. Dujali, Davao del Norte.  A.M. No. P-10-2765.  September 13, 2011.

Court personnel; failure to perform duty.  Respondent admitted that he failed to serve the Notice of Pre-Trial Conference and Pre-Trial to complainant, upon instruction of the judge, since the complainant was already informed of the scheduled hearing.  Respondent, as process server, is reminded to perform his duty diligently for the orderly administration of justice.  There is a need to serve the notice on the complainant not only to make the act official but also to enable him to make the proper return to reflect what transpired.  The possibility that the complainant might deny that he had been so informed by the Judge is not remote.  Col. Mauricio A. Santiago, Jr. v. Arthur M. Camangyan, Process Server, Regional Trial Court, Branch 29, Toledo City.  A.M. No. P-11-2977.  September 14, 2011.

Court personnel; simple misconduct.  Upon receipt of the process server fee, respondent issued an acknowledgment receipt instead of an official receipt.  This is in violation of the Supreme Court Circular No. 26-97 which mandates the issuance of official receipts for payments received.  Her explanation that the acknowledgment receipt was sufficient since the process server fee she collected was not part of the Judiciary Development Fund, Special Allowance for the Judiciary or subjected to any fund allocation was not a valid justification for her non-compliance with the court circular.  She violated the trust and confidence reposed in her as cashier and disbursement officer of the court.  The Court will not tolerate any conduct, act or omission by any court employee violating the norm of public accountability and diminishing or tending to diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary.  Dolores C. Seliger v. Alma P. Licay, Clerk of Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, San Juan, La Union.  A.M. No. P-11-2970.  September 14, 2011. 

(Mon thanks Maria Christina C. Ortua for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

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