Bulacan clerk of court and interpreter dismissed; gross dishonesty.

A.M. No. P-09-2638



This administrative case arose from the audit examination submitted by an Audit Team of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), containing the results of its financial audit of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Plaridel, Bulacan, conducted on August 27, 2008 and sometime in July 2010. The financial audit covered the accountability period from May 2008 to August 2008 and from August 1, 2008 to August 31, 2009 of Evelyn R. Galvez (Galvez), Court Interpreter and former Officer-in-Charge (OIC)-Clerk of Court, and Juliet C. Banag (Banag), Clerk of Court, both of the MTC of Plaridel, Bulacan.

x x x.

On November 15, 2010, the Court issued a Hold Departure Order against Galvez and Banag pending resolution of this administrative case.

Galvez and Banag are being held liable herein for their acts and omissions as OIC-Clerk of Court (from February 2002 to January 2008) and Clerk of Court (from August 2008 to June 2009), respectively.

The Clerk of Court is an important officer in our judicial system. His office is the nucleus of all court activities, adjudicative and administrative. His administrative functions are as vital to the prompt and proper administration of justice as his judicial duties.[6]

The Clerk of Court performs a very delicate function. He or she is the custodian of the court’s funds and revenues, records, property and premises. Being the custodian thereof, the Clerk of Court is liable for any loss, shortage, destruction or impairment of said funds and property.[7] Hence, Clerks of Court have always been reminded of their duty to immediately deposit the various funds received by them to the authorized government depositories, for they are not supposed to keep the funds in their custody.[8] The same should be deposited immediately upon receipt thereof with the City, Municipal or Provincial Treasurer where the court is located.

Section B(4) of Supreme Court Circular No. 50-95, on the collection and deposit of court fiduciary funds, mandates that:

(4) All collections from bail bonds, rental deposits, and other fiduciary collections shall be deposited within twenty-four (24) hours by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Supreme Court Circular Nos. 13-92 and 5-93 provide the guidelines for the proper administration of court funds.

Supreme Court Circular No. 13-92 commands that all fiduciary collections “shall be deposited immediately by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with an authorized government depository bank.” Section 4 of Supreme Court Circular No. 5-93 designates the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) as the depository bank for the Judiciary Development Fund.

Other provisions of Supreme Court Circular No. 5-93 give more explicit instructions on how Clerks of Court and OICs should handle court funds:

3. Duty of the Clerks of Court, Officers-in-Charge or accountable officers. – The Clerks of Court, Officers-in-Charge of the Office of the Clerk of Court, or their accountable duly authorized representatives designated by them in writing, who must be accountable officers, shall receive the Judiciary Development Fund collections, issue the proper receipt therefor, maintain a separate cash book properly marked x x x, deposit such collections in the manner herein prescribed, and render the proper Monthly Report of Collections for said Fund.

x x x x

5. Systems and Procedures:

x x x x

c. In the RTC, SDC, MeTC, MTCC, MTC, MCTC and SCC. – The daily collections for the Fund in these courts shall be deposited every day with the local or nearest LBP branch “For the account of the Judiciary Development Fund, Supreme Court, Manila – Savings Account No. 159-01163-1; or if depositing daily is not possible, deposits for the Fund shall be every second and third Fridays and at the end of every month, provided, however, that whenever collections for the Fund reach P500.00, the same shall be deposited immediately even before the days before indicated.

Where there is no LBP branch at the station of the judge concerned, the collections shall be sent by postal money order payable to the Chief Accountant of the Supreme Court, at the latest before 3:00 P.M. of that particular week.

x x x x

d. Rendition of Monthly Report. – Separate “Monthly Report of Collections” shall be regularly prepared for the Judiciary Development Fund, which shall be submitted to the Chief Accountant of the Supreme Court within ten (10) days after the end of every month, together with the duplicate of the official receipts issued during such month covered and validated copy of the Deposit Slips.

The aggregate total of the Deposit Slips for any particular month should always equal to, and tally with, the total collections for that month as reflected in the Monthly Report of Collections.

If no collection is made during any month, notice to that effect should be submitted to the Chief Accountant of the Supreme Court by way of a formal letter within ten (10) days after the end of every month.

Delayed remittance of cash collections by Clerks of Court and cash clerks constitutes gross neglect of duty.[9] The failure of a public officer to remit funds upon demand by an authorized officer shall be prima facie evidence that the public officer has put such missing funds or property to personal use.[10]

In Office of the Court Administrator v. Fortaleza,[11] the Court stressed the responsibility and accountability of Clerks of Court for the collected legal fees in their custody, thus:

Clerks of court are the chief administrative officers of their respective courts; with regard to the collection of legal fees, they perform a delicate function as judicial officers entrusted with the correct and effective implementation of regulations thereon. Even the undue delay in the remittances of amounts collected by them at the very least constitutes misfeasance. On the other hand, a vital administrative function of a judge is the effective management of his court and this includes control of the conduct of the court’s ministerial officers. It should be brought home to both that the safekeeping of funds and collections is essential to the goal of an orderly administration of justice and no protestation of good faith can override the mandatory nature of the Circulars designed to promote full accountability for government funds.”

In Navallo v. Sandiganbayan,[12] the Court held that an accountable officer may be convicted of malversation even in the absence of direct proof of misappropriation as long as there is evidence of shortage in his accounts which he is unable to explain.[13]

Those who work in the judiciary, such as Galvez and Banag, must adhere to high ethical standards to preserve the court’s good name and standing. They should be examples of responsibility, competence and efficiency, and they must discharge their duties with due care and utmost diligence since they are officers of the court and agents of the law. Indeed, any conduct, act or omission on the part of those who would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary shall not be countenanced.[14]

The conduct required of court personnel, from the presiding judge to the lowliest clerk, must always be beyond reproach and circumscribed with a heavy burden of responsibility. As forerunners in the administration of justice, they ought to live up to the strictest standards of honesty and integrity, considering that their positions primarily involve service to the public.[15]

The Court has already given Galvez more than enough opportunity to be heard. On two occasions, on July 27, 2009 and October 28, 2009, the Court granted Galvez’s motions for extension of time to comply with the Resolution dated June 1, 2009 of this Court ordering her to submit her explanation, accounting, and receipts. Still, Galvez failed to submit said explanation during the extended period. Galvez’s refusal to face head-on the charges against her is contrary to the principle that the first impulse of an innocent person, when accused of wrongdoing, is to express his/her innocence at the first opportune time.[16] Galvez’s silence and non-participation in the present administrative proceedings, despite due notice and directives of this Court for her to submit documents in her defense strongly indicate her guilt. It was only after the second extended period expired that Galvez partially complied with the directives of this Court in its June 1, 2009 Resolution by depositing the amount of P70,000.00 on March 18, 2010 to the Fiduciary Fund Account of the MTC, coursed through OIC-Clerk of Court Salazar.

On the other hand, the Court finds Banag’s explanation unsatisfactory. Heavy caseload and time constraints are not sufficient excuses. These are problems most Clerks of Court all over the country must contend with. It is up to Banag to devise an effective and efficient system for her office so that it can attend to all the administrative matters of the MTC, including the deposit in due time of court collections.

Given the results of the OCA audit and investigation, Galvez and Banag have evidently failed to live up to the high ethical standards expected of court employees. They violated the trust reposed in them as Clerks of Court and disbursement officers of the judiciary as shown by Galvez’s failure to remit the amount of P660,072.35, representing shortages in the JDF, SAJF, STF, FF, Mediation Fund, and COCGF; and for Banag’s non-remittance of P240,913.05, representing shortages in the JDF, SAJF, FF, and Mediation Fund.

In Re: Report on the Judicial and Financial Audit of RTC-Br. 4, Panabo, Davao Del Norte,[17] we held that the failure of the Clerk of Court to remit the court funds collected by the Municipal Treasurer constitutes gross neglect of duty, dishonesty and grave misconduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Under Rule IV, Section 52-A of the Civil Service Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, these are grave offenses punishable by dismissal even when committed for the first time.

The Court, therefore, is left with no other recourse but to declare Galvez and Banag guilty of dishonesty and gross misconduct, which are grave offenses punishable by dismissal.[18]

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Evelyn R. Galvez and Juliet C. Banag, former OIC-Clerk of Court and Clerk of Court, respectively, of the Municipal Trial Court of Plaridel, Bulacan, GUILTY of gross dishonesty, grave misconduct, and continuous absence without leave; and imposes on them the penalty of DISMISSAL from the service with forfeiture of all their leave credits and retirement benefits, with prejudice to re-employment in any government agency, including government-owned and -controlled corporations. The Civil Service Commission is ordered to cancel their civil service eligibility, if any, in accordance with Section 9, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292.

The Court further orders:


1. PROCESS the money value of computed Terminal Leave Benefits of Ms. Juliet C. Banag and Ms. Evelyn R. Galvez and to COMPUTE the withheld salaries and/or allowances of Ms. Evelyn R. Galvez and Ms. Juliet C. Banag and thereafter APPLY the value to the shortages found on their books of accounts in the order of priority as follows: x x x.

2. to RELEASE the amounts pertaining to Fiduciary Fund and Sheriff’s Trust Fund to Ms. Belinda E. Salazar, Officer-in-Charge, MTC, Plaridel, Bulacan for deposit to the Fiduciary Fund Account and inform her to submit to the Fiscal Monitoring Division, CMO, OCA the copy of the machine validated deposit slips as proof of deposit; and

3. to INFORM the Fiscal Monitoring Division, Court Management Office, Office of the Court Administrator on the action taken thereon;

B. MS. EVELYN R. GALVEZ and MS. JULIET C. BANAG, former Officer-in-Charge-Clerk of Court and Clerk of Court, respectively, within fifteen (15) days from receipt of notice to:

1. SETTLE the remaining shortages incurred on their books of accounts, if any, after deducting the money value of Terminal Leave Benefits and withheld salaries as provided in A.1 above; and

2. SUBMIT to the Fiscal Monitoring Division, CMO-OCA the copies of the machine validated deposit slips.

C. The NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION TO CAUSE the arrest of Ms. Evelyn R. Galvez and Ms. Juliet C. Banag and to detain them until they have complied with the directives in letter B hereof;

D. CLEARED MS. BELINDA E. SALAZAR, OIC-Clerk of Court, MTC, Plaridel, Bulacan, from her financial accountability for the period June 17, 2009 to August 31, 2009 is concerned;

E. Presiding Judge SHEILA MARIE S. GERONIMO-ORQUILLAS to STRICTLY MONITOR the financial transactions of the Municipal Trial Court, Plaridel, Bulacan in strict adherence to the issuances of the Court otherwise she will be held equally liable for the infractions committed by the employees under her command/supervision and to avoid the occurrence of malversation of public funds committed by Ms. Banag and Ms. Galvez; and

F. The LEGAL OFFICE, OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR to file appropriate criminal charges against Ms. Juliet C. Banag and Ms. Evelyn R. Galvez.

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