Here are selected March 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Court personnel; administrative proceedings; desistance. Complainant Plaza manifested before the Court his intention to desist from pursuing the case. However, we remind complainant that the discretion whether to continue with the proceedings rests exclusively with the Court, notwithstanding the complainant’s intention to desist. This Court looks with disfavor at affidavits of desistance filed by complainants, especially if done as an afterthought. Contrary to what the parties might have believed, withdrawal of the complaint does not have the legal effect of exonerating respondent from any administrative disciplinary sanction. It does not operate to divest this Court of jurisdiction to determine the truth behind the matter stated in the complaint. The Court’s disciplinary authority cannot be dependent on or frustrated by private arrangements between parties. An administrative complaint against an official or employee of the judiciary cannot simply be withdrawn by a complainant who suddenly claims a change of mind. Otherwise, the prompt and fair administration of justice, as well as the discipline of court personnel, would be undermined. Ryan S. Plaza, Clerk of Court, Municipal Trial Court, Argao, Cebu vs. Atty. Marcelina R. Amamio, Clerk of Court, Genoveva R. Vasquez, Legal Researcher and Floramay Patalinhug, Court Stenographer, all of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 26, Argao, Cebu, A.M. No. P-08-2559, March 19, 2010.
Court personnel; dishonesty. Complainant stated that respondent Atty. Cariño may not have disclosed to the Supreme Court, in the course of her application as Clerk of Court, her pending administrative and criminal cases before the Ombudsman. Respondent Atty. Cariño vehemently denied the allegations against her. She claimed that she was just being truthful when she answered “No” to item number 37(a) of her Personal Data Sheet (PDS) which states: “Have you ever been formally charged?” She admitted that she was aware of the two (2) complaints filed against her and her former Regional Election Director before the Ombudsman. She, however, pointed out that these cases are still in the preliminary investigation and pre-charge stages, since probable cause has yet to be determined by the investigating officers and as such, should not be considered as formal charges yet.
If we but look at the attachments to the complaint itself, it is evident that at the time respondent Atty. Cariño was applying for the position of Clerk of Court, she had not yet been “formally charged” administratively or criminally. Clearly, there were no final dispositions of the cases yet. In fact, the complainant even stated in his Complaint that those cases were not yet resolved by the Ombudsman. Thus, it is only after the issuance of the resolution finding probable cause and filing of the information in court that she can be considered formally charged. In fact, the reckoning point is the filing of the information with the written authority or approval of the Ombudsman. To rule otherwise would subject herein respondent, or any civil servant for that matter, to extreme hardships considering that a government official or employee formally charged is deprived of some rights/privileges, i.e., obtaining loans from the Government Service Insurance System or other government-lending institutions, delay in the release of retirement benefits, disqualification from being nominated or appointed to any judicial post and, in some instances, prohibition to travel. Crisostomo M. Plopinio vs. Atty. Liza Zabala-Cariño, etc., A.M. No. P-08-2458, March 22, 2010.