MANILA–The Supreme Court ordered a legal researcher in Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Silay City, Negros Occidental, dismissed from service for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.
In a 12-page resolution, the High Court ordered the forfeiture of all retirement benefits of May N. Laspiñas, legal researcher and officer-in-charge of Silay City RTC Branch 40, except her accrued leave credits, and her disqualification from re-employment in any branch or agency of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.
The order stemmed from a letter-complaint dated November 21, 2008 of Judge Felipe G. Banzon of Branch 69, RTC of Silay City against Laspiñas. Banzon alleged that Laspiñas openly defied his directive for the latter to vacate the area she was occupying in the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Silay City RTC and transfer to the premises of Branch 40, RTC.
Banzon also claimed that Laspiñas confronted him in an abusive and hostile manner, “menacingly pointing her forefinger at him, and hurling curses and invectives,” and that Laspiñas had gained notoriety in the judicial district as the person who could broker and fix problems in the court for a fee.
Acting on the investigation report submitted by Executive Judge Dyna Doll Chiongson-Trocio of the Silay City RTC, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) recommended that Laspiñas be dismissed for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The OCA reasoned that Laspiñas’ acts of soliciting or receiving money from litigants — by preparing petitions for a fee — and withdrawing without authority publication fees constitute grave misconduct that warranted her dismissal from service, for violation of Sec. 4, Canon I, and Sec. 2 (b) and (e) of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, which prohibits court personnel from securing for themselves of for others any benefit or advantage through their official position or in the performance of their functions.
The OCA also noted that Laspiñas was likewise charged with grave misconduct and serious dishonesty as well as violation of RA 6317 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials) in two separate administrative complaints: the first of which stemmed from her act of misappropriating publication fees in several cases pending before Branch 40, RTC, while the second involved Laspiñas and another court personnel’s act of preparing pleadings a complainant and demanding PHP9,000 from the same to facilitate the filing of a petition.
Agreeing with the findings and recommendations of the OCA, the Supreme Court held that the acts of Laspiñas complained of “clearly show her flagrant disregard of the laws and the rules, and serve to validate the various allegations and rumors of her proclivity to corruption.”
“As a public servant, Laspiñas is expected at all times to exhibit the highest sense of honesty, integrity, and responsibility that the Constitution, under Article XI, Section 1 mandates,” said the Court.
“Moreover, as a court employee, she ought to have been well aware of the high standards of propriety and decorum expected of employees in the judiciary as ‘any act of impropriety on their part immeasurably affects the honor and dignity of the Judiciary and the people’s confidence in it,” the Court added.
“This Court has never wavered in its vigilance in eradicating the so-called ‘bad eggs’ in the judiciary, and, whenever warranted by the gravity of the offense, the supreme penalty of dismissal in an administrative case is meted to erring personnel,” it said.