Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 191224 October 4, 2011
MONICO K. IMPERIAL, JR.
Source is missing
GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM.
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation
Petitioner Monico K. Imperial, Jr. was charged with dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. The case against him was based on his approval as branch manager of the Naga Field Office of respondent Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) of the requests for salary loan of eight GSIS Naga Field Office employees who lacked the contribution requirements under GSIS Policy and Procedural Guidelines (PPG) No. 153-99. In so doing, he allegedly gave unwarranted benefits through evident bad faith, manifest partiality or gross negligence, and caused injury to the pension fund. He was subsequently found guilty of grave misconduct. He was ordered dismissed from the service with the accessory penalties of forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of eligibility, perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government service and prohibition from taking any civil service examination.
Petitioner cries injustice and denial of due process as the venue was transferred to Legazpi City when GSIS rules clearly provided that the hearings should have been in the GSIS main office. He also denies administrative liability. He claims that he acted in good faith because his action on the subject loans was made relying on the common practice of branch managers and with clearance from a ranking officer of the GSIS. He further points out that there was no damage whatsoever to the GSIS as the subject loans were not only cleared by the Commission on Audit (COA) but were also repaid in full together with interest.
The ponencia partially grants the present petition, modifies the decision of the Court of Appeals, finds petitioner guilty of simple misconduct and orders his suspension.
I agree with the ponencia that there is no merit to petitionerís claim of denial of due process. He was duly notified of the charges against him and he was heard as to his defenses. I also join the ponencia in finding that, based on the evidence presented in this case, petitioner should be held liable for simple misconduct only.
The ponencia ably discussed the factual and legal basis of the Courtís action in this case. Nonetheless, I submit this concurrence to express my views on the matter.
The GSIS and CSC anchored their finding of petitionerís alleged grave misconduct on petitionerís act of approving the applications for salary loans of eight GSIS Naga Field Office employees who lacked the contribution requirements under GSIS PPG No. 153-99. This, to my view, is insufficient to hold petitioner liable for the serious administrative offense of grave misconduct.
There is no question that GSIS PPG No. 153-99 lays down the guidelines governing the grant of salary loans, including contribution requirements. Thus, there is also no argument that non-compliance with GSIS PPG No. 153-99 constitutes misconduct, a "transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment."1
While misconduct generally means wrongful, improper or unlawful conduct motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose, it does not necessarily imply corruption,2 the element which qualifies misconduct as grave misconduct. Thus, unless there is substantial evidence of corruption, the transgression of an established rule is properly characterized as simple misconduct only.
Indeed, simple misconduct is distinct and separate from grave misconduct.3 In grave misconduct, as distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be manifest.4 A public officer shall be liable for grave misconduct only when the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule are manifest.5 These qualifying elements must also be established by substantial evidence,6 separate from the showing of the misconduct itself. Here, as already explained earlier, the administrative agencies considered the act constituting the misconduct, that is, the non-observance of GSIS PPG No. 153-99, as the very same proof of the qualifying element of flagrant disregard of an established rule.
Petitioner may not successfully evade liability by invoking an alleged practice, based on previous policy and procedural guidelines, among branch managers to approve applications for salary loan (though lacking in contribution requirement). That practice, assuming it existed, cannot override the clear provisions of GSIS PPG No. 153-99. Neither may petitioner successfully rely on the clearance given by then GSIS Vice President Romeo Quilatan for him to approve the subject salary loans. Quilatan had no authority to overrule the requirements of GSIS PPG No. 153-99.
Nevertheless, while these two circumstances did not exculpate him from any administrative liability, they tended to show that petitioner did not willfully violate GSIS PPG No. 153-99 and that he did not flagrantly disregard existing rules. On the contrary, they evinced good faith on the part of petitioner and negated the elements that would have qualified his misconduct as a grave misconduct. In fact, they support the view that there exists no such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion that petitioner had the clear intent to violate GSIS PPG No. 153-99 or to flagrantly disregard it.
In fact, the GSIS decision itself indicates that the GSIS doubted whether it properly characterized petitionerís offense as grave misconduct. In imposing the penalty of dismissal for grave misconduct on petitioner, the GSIS raised the matter of petitionerís previous administrative liability for gross neglect of duty and used this circumstance to justify the imposition of the penalty of dismissal "as maximum penalty" for grave misconduct.7 However, the GSIS did not need to invoke this circumstance if it was indeed sure of its finding that petitioner committed grave misconduct. Under the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,8 grave misconduct is a grave offense which merits the supreme penalty of dismissal even if committed for the first time.
The way I see it, the GSIS was in doubt of its own finding of grave misconduct on the part of petitioner. This doubt should be resolved in favor of petitioner.
In Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) v. Organo,9 respondent Lilia B. Organo, a revenue collection officer of the BIR Revenue Region 7, Quezon City, was charged with grave misconduct for receiving without proper authority withholding tax returns with corresponding check payments from several taxpayers. She subsequently delivered them to a BIR revenue clerk who was also not authorized to receive the same. The check payments were subsequently deposited in an authorized BIR account with the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Thereafter, checks were issued to different payees in various amounts drawn against the funds of the said unauthorized
BIR account and were subsequently encashed to the damage and prejudice of the government.10 While the Office of the Ombudsman found Organo liable for grave misconduct as her acts violated Revenue Regulations No. 4-93, the Court held that she only committed simple misconduct as the qualifying element of flagrancy was not established.11
Following BIR v. Organo therefore, absent any substantial evidence of corruption or flagrancy independent of the
substantial evidence of petitionerís misconduct of non-compliance with GSIS PPG No. 153-99, petitioner should be held liable for simple misconduct only.
While the penalty provided by the Civil Service Rules for the first offense of simple misconduct is suspension for one month and one day to six months,12 the records of the case show that this is not his first administrative offense. He was suspended for one year in Administrative Case No. 04-06 for gross neglect of duty. And while dismissal is the penalty for the commission of simple misconduct for the second time,13
still petitioner cannot be meted that extreme penalty because his first offense was not for simple misconduct. Dismissal is imposed where both the second and first offenses are for simple misconduct.
Moreover, it is significant to note here that the loans subject of this case, including the interest thereon, were all fully settled. The said loans were also cleared by the COA. Thus, any damage to the GSIS would have been completely negligible at best. Coupled with petitionerís reliance in good
faith on the then existing common practice of GSIS branch managers and the prior clearance given by his superior, the totality of the circumstances merit a more lenient treatment of petitionerís misconduct. In addition, his 40 years in government service should not be simply ignored but should be taken in his favor as a mitigating factor, given that there was never any hint or accusation of corruption or flagrancy against him.
Finally, petitioner was one of the prominent leaders of the almost daily protest rallies and demonstrations against the GSIS management at that time. There was clearly a deep-seated resentment against him because of that. That triggered the filing of administrative charges against petitioner, including those which led to this case. The Court must not allow itself to be used as an instrument of personal vendetta.
In view of the above considerations, as well as for considerations of justice and equity, petitioner should just be deemed suspended for the entire duration of the pendency of this case, reckoned from his receipt of the GSIS resolution dated June 6, 2007 which denied his motion for reconsideration. In other words, his suspension for more than four years ought to be more than sufficient penalty for his administrative transgression.
Accordingly, I vote that the petition be GRANTED in PART. The decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the respective resolution and decision of the Civil Service Commission and the Government Service Insurance System finding petitioner Monico K, Imperial, Jr. guilty of grave misconduct and dismissing him from the service with all the accessory penalties, should be MODIFIED insofar as petitioner should be found guilty of simple misconduct only and considered as SUSPENDED for the entire duration of the pendency of this case, reckoned from his receipt of the GSIS resolution dated June 6, 2007.
RENATO C. CORONA
1 Office of the Ombudsman v. Magno, G.R. 178923, 27 November 2008.
4 Landrito v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. Nos. 104304-05, 22 June 1993, 223 SCRA 564.
6 Roque v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 179245, 23 July 2008.
7 GSIS decision dated February 21, 2007 in ADM Case No. 05-075 (GSIS v. Monico K. Imperial, Jr.), rollo, p. 164, 173-174.
8 Section 52(A)(3), Rule IV, Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.
9 G.R. No. 149549, 26 February 2004.
12 Section 52(B)(2), Rule IV, Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.
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