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Fe Mah-Arevalo v. Mape [A.M. P-09-2622. April 07, 2009]

03 Oct

DOROTHY FE MAH-AREVALOcomplainant,
vs.
ELMER P. MAPE, Legal Researcher III, RTC Branch 17, respondent.

[A.M. P-09-2622. April 07, 2009]

FACTS:

Complainant accused respondent (to the Office of the Court Administrator or OCA) of gross ignorance of the law and incompetence relative to a Special Proceeding. The complainant faulted the respondent for issuing an entry of judgment and a certificate of finality certifying that the decision in the Special Proceeding Case became final and executory on the very same day the decision was rendered.  For this reason, the complainant prayed that the permanent appointment of respondent as Legal Researcher III be denied. Additionally, the complainant objected to the change of status of the respondent’s appointment from probationary to permanent on the following grounds: (1) Falsification of daily time record (DTR) – the respondent made it appear in his DTR that he was present when he was actually in Cebu City on that day; (2) Grave threats –the respondent threatened to kill the complainant and her family, taking out his .45 caliber gun and pointing it upwards; (3) Grave misconduct – the respondent is always seen in court with a .45 caliber gun, creating fear among the court employees. Respondent submitted his comment, disputing the charges against him. At the same time, he accused the complainant of dishonesty and malversation of court funds.  He claimed that the complainant’s grievances against him stemmed from his discovery of the shortage she incurred in the collection of Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary.

ISSUES:

Political Law (Administrative Law)

(1)  Whether or not the respondent is liable of the charges against him.

(2)  Whether or not the complainant is liable of the counter-charges against her.

RULINGS:

Political Law (Administrative Law)

(1)  No. Complaint against respondent was dismissed. (1) On the falsification charges, the Judge concluded that there was no such falsification, the incident being a product of inadvertence as someone may have by accident punched his time card that day. The prior filing of Leave of Absence negates bad faith on the part of the respondent. The Court also concurred with the Judge’s finding that there was no evidence other than the complainant’s bare allegation, showing that the respondent committed the imputed acts of grave threats and grave misconduct. Finally, the Court found no basis exists to hold the respondent liable for gross ignorance of the law in immediately issuing an entry of judgment and certificate of finality in the Special Proceedings.

(2)  No, but complainant was admonished. There was insufficient evidence to support the charge of malversation against her, but found her liable for violation of confidentiality under Canon II, Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel. The violation occurred, according to the Judge, when the complainant, not being a party to Special Proceedings, or one authorized to do so, secured  copies of the decision, entry of judgment, and certificate of finality, and furnished these copies to the Office of the Solicitor General. The Court did not agree on these findings by the judge that there exists confidentiality. Even if the documents were to be considered as classified, the complainant still cannot be held liable for unauthorized disclosure of classified information under the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, Rule IV, Section 52, B(23) which provides:

Disclosing or misusing confidential or classified information officially known to him by reason of his office and not made available to the public, to further his private interests or give undue advantage to anyone, or to prejudice the public interests.

There is none on the records any indication that the complainant made the disclosure “to further (his) private interests or give undue advantage to anyone, or to prejudice the public interests.”  The Office of the Solicitor General, too, to which the copies were sent, represented a party to the case and, hence, has the right to access these records.

At best, the complainant was only guilty of releasing information without observance of the internal procedures of the court, and for undertaking the dissemination of the copies of the documents disclosed without being the staff member authorized to do so. These infractions may have been the reasons for the Judge’s strong reaction to the release of documents by the complainant. To be sure, the complainant’s action must be discouraged. It cannot be accepted, however, that her act was grave or contemptuous, and that it should be classified as a less grave offense under Rule IV, Section 52, B(23)  of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.  The complainant’s lapse should merit only the warning that a repetition of the same or a similar offense in the future shall not go unpunished.

 

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