Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

SECOND DIVISION

ANGELINA C. LIM and
VIVIAN
M. GADUANG,

Complainants,

- versus -

MARIBETH G. AROMIN,
Records Officer I, Office of
the Clerk of Court, Municipal
Trial Court, Meycauayan, Bulacan,

Respondent.

A.M. No. P-09-2677

(Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 07-2582-P)

Present:

CARPIO, J., Chairperson,

VELASCO, JR.,*

PERALTA,

ABAD, and

MENDOZA, JJ.

Promulgated:

March 9, 2011

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D E C I S I O N

PERALTA, J.:

Before this Court is a JOINT AFFIDAVIT COMPLAINT[1] dated January 18, 2007 of Angelina C. Lim (Lim) and Vivian M. Gaduang (Gaduang) charging Maribeth G. Aromin (Aromin), Records Officer 1, Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC), Municipal Trial Court (MTC), Meycauayan, Bulacan with violation of paragraphs a, b, and c of Section 4, Republic Act (R.A.) 6713, or the Code of  Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, in relation to NLRC Case No. RAB-III-03-7148-04 entitled “Angelina Lim v. Holland Industries and Mr. Billy Lim.”

In their complaint, complainants narrated that on November 8, 2006,  by virtue of a Decision dated June 30, 2005, an Alias Writ of Execution dated September 7, 2006, an Order dated October 16, 2006, and a Certificate of Sheriff's Sale, all issued in their favor, they went to the warehouse of Holland Industries at Sterling Compound/Meridian Compound, Iba, Meycauayan, Bulacan to acquire the subject properties transferred to complainant Lim. However, while they were loading the subject properties to the truck, Aromin arrived and ordered them to stop loading the items since somebody will bring an order from the court  stopping the implementation of the certificate of sale.

Complainants claimed that they waited for an hour for the person who was supposed to bring the order, but nobody came; hence, they proceeded with the loading of the items to the truck.  It was then that Aromin started shouting to them, “ Magnanakaw kayo. Makapal ang mukha mo.” “Abuloy na namin sayo yan. Puta ka, wala kang utang na loob.”

Complainants averred that since Aromin introduced herself to be a court employee in the OCC, MTC, Meycauayan, Bulacan during the posting of the notice of sale on October 3, 2006, she should have known that what they did was legal.

They further questioned Aromin's presence at the warehouse and her misrepresentation as the wife of Reynaldo Lim when in fact she was not. Complainants added that Aromin should be in the court performing her duties and not meddling in their case.

On January 23, 2007, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) directed Aromin to comment on the instant complaint against her.[2]

In her Comment[3] dated February 15, 2007, Aromin denied the accusations against her. She alleged that on November 8, 2006, Billy Lim, the owner of the warehouse, summoned her to get police assistance, because complainants were trying to forcibly open his warehouse. On her way to the warehouse, Aromin averred that she was also told that Billy Lim would be bringing some documents and that he asked her to tell complainants to stop the loading of the machineries and other products to their container vans. Thus, she approached complainant Gaduang, who was at that time trying to open the front gate, and advised her to stop because the owner is coming, and told her to wait until 12 o'clock in the afternoon.

Aromin added that Gaduang then arrogantly acted as if she was the owner of the place and falsely represented herself as a lawyer and threatened to file a complaint against her. Likewise, Aromin claimed that she did not know Angelina Lim personally and never encountered her then, thus, the allegations that she shouted invectives at them could not have happened.

Finally, Aromin maintained that she had nothing to do with the controversy between complainants and Lim. She claimed that the instant complaint against her was pure harassment, because she was one of the witnesses in the criminal complaint for robbery and trespassing filed by Billy Lim against the complainants.

Due to the conflicting versions of the parties, on November 19, 2007, the OCA referred the instant complaint to the Executive Judge  of the Regional Trial Court, Malolos, Bulacan, for investigation, report and recommendation.[4]

In her report,[5] Executive Judge Herminia V. Pasamba found    respondent to be guilty of improper conduct which tends to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary, and recommended that she be admonished.

During the investigation, it appeared that on November 8, 2006, Billy Lim tried to stop the loading of the subject items due to the absence of a sheriff or any personnel of the NLRC. It was then that he requested Aromin to seek police assistance and stop complainants from acquiring the machineries and other items inside the warehouse.

The Investigating Judge noted that the allegation that respondent shouted invectives against complainants was never established since the latter failed to attend the hearings. Thus, in so far as this allegation is concerned, the same is baseless.

The Investigating Judge, however, concluded that the administrative complaint against Aromin cannot be dismissed, considering her inappropriate conduct of extending a favor to a friend by using her position as a court employee in order to stop the implementation of a court's judgment. Disciplinary sanction was, therefore, recommended.

On July 6, 2009, the OCA found Aromin guilty of violation of Section 1, Canon IV of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel and Conduct Unbecoming of a Court Personnel, and recommended that the administrative complaint against respondent be redocketed as a regular administrative matter. The OCA further recommended the imposition of a fine in the amount of P5,000.00.

We adopt the findings and recommendation of the OCA.

Time and again, we have emphasized that court personnel must devote every moment of official time to public service. The conduct and behavior of court personnel should be characterized by a high degree of professionalism and responsibility, as they mirror the image of the court. Specifically, court personnel must strictly observe official time to inspire public respect for the justice system. Section 1, Canon IV of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel mandates that court personnel shall commit themselves exclusively to the business and responsibilities of their office during working hours.[6]

Indeed, we cannot ignore the fact that Aromin herself admitted that she was at Lim's warehouse on November 8, 2006 to stop the execution of the certificate of  sheriff's sale upon the request of her close friend, Billy Lim, the owner of the warehouse. As pointed out by the Investigating Judge, considering that November 8, 2006 was a regular working day, Aromin was supposed to be in her station in the court attending to her duties.  No leave of absence was presented to justify her absence.  The transaction which Aromin participated in is clearly not part of her duties as a court employee. Thus, Aromin failed to devote her time exclusively to her official duties, because she had dealt with Lim's issues during office hours on the transaction complained of.

But what is more disturbing is the fact that Aromin actually interfered with the execution of a valid certificate of sheriff's sale in behalf of a friend without regard to the impropriety of her acts considering that she is a court employee. Her actuations, thus, led complainants to believe that she was using her position to advance the interest of Billy Lim over the complainants' despite the existence of the NLRC decisions and orders in favor of the latter.  Clearly, Aromin's acts fell short of the standards expected of a court employee. As a public servant, she should have known that she is enjoined to uphold public interest over and above personal interest at all times.

Let this be again a reminder to all court employees that  employees of the judiciary should be living examples of uprightness not only in the performance of official duties but also in their personal and private dealings with other people so as to preserve at all times the good name and standing of the courts in the community. The image of the court, as being a true temple of justice, is aptly mirrored in the conduct, official or otherwise, of the men and women who work thereat, from the judge to the least and lowliest of its personnel.[7]

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, MARIBETH G. AROMIN, Records Officer I, Office of the Clerk of Court, Municipal Trial Court, Meycauayan, Bulacan is hereby found GUILTY of violation of Section 1, Canon IV of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel. She is hereby FINED in the amount of P5,000.00, with the stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will warrant a more severe penalty.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

Chairperson

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice                                      Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice



* Designated as an additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, per Special Order No. 933 dated January 24, 2011.

[1] Rollo, pp. 3-4.

[2] Id. at 35.

[3] Id. at 36.

[4] Id. at 102.

[5] Id. at 168-174.

[6] Executive Judge Aurora Maqueda Roman, RTC, Gumaca, Quezon v. Virgilio M. Fortaleza, Clerk of Court, MTC, Catanauan, Quezon, A.M. No. P-10-2865 (formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 09-3044-P), November 22, 2010; Francisco v. Galvez, A.M. No. P-09-2636, December 4, 2009, 607 SCRA 21, 28.

[7] See Gutierrez v. Quitalig, 448 Phil. 469, 480 (2003).