[ A.M. No. 15-02-02-SCC, October 06, 2020 ]
ALLEGED EXAMINATION IRREGULARITY COMMITTED BY COURT STENOGRAPHER I NORHATA A. ABUBACAR, SHARI'A CIRCUIT COURT, LUMBATAN, LANAO DEL SUR.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is an administrative case for Dishonesty against Norhata A. Abubacar (Abubacar), Court Stenographer I of the Shari'a Circuit Court of Lumbatan, Lanao del Sur.
In a letter1 dated 03 November 2014, the Civil Service Commission (CSC)-Regional Office No. 10, referred to this Court a Preliminary Investigation Report (Report)2 with respect to the civil service eligibility of Abubacar. The Report revealed the following:
1. That a person purporting to be Abubacar applied for and took the 07 November 1999 Career Service (CS) Sub Professional Examination in Cagayan de Oro City and obtained a rating of 85.07%;
2. That Abubacar indicated in her 17 January 2000 Personal Data Sheet that she passed the aforementioned examination, with a rating of 85.07%;
3. That on 15 February 2000, a permanent appointment as Court Stenographer I (SG-8) was issued to Abubacar by the Supreme Court, Manila;
4. That [a] comparison of Abubacar's picture attached to her 17 January 2000 Personal Data Sheet and the picture attached to the 07 November 1999 Career Service (CS) Sub Professional examination picture seat plan reveals that another person took the examination on her behalf, considering the disparity of the facial features of the person depicted in the pictures. Further, the signature appearing on the Personal Data Sheet and that appearing in the Picture Seat Plan shows dissimilarity.3
The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) then required Abubacar to submit her comment on the Report, not only once but twice. Despite receipt of the OCA's directives, however, Abubacar failed to comply.
Thus, on 22 February 2017, the Court directed Abubacar to show cause why she should not be held administratively liable for disobeying the Court's orders.4 She was further required to submit her comment within five (5) days from notice, otherwise, the Court would decide the case on the basis of the records at hand. Despite the Court's categorical directive, Abubacar still failed to file her comment.5
Consequently, in a resolution dated 18 October 2017, the Court deemed Abubacar to have waived the filing of her comment. The case was referred to the OCA for investigation, report, and recommendation.
In its Memorandum6 dated 19 January 2018, the OCA found Abubacar guilty of dishonesty and insubordination, and recommended that she be dismissed from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.7
Abubacar wrote to the Court, in a letter dated 28 January 2018, seeking reconsideration of its 18 October 2017 Resolution.Ꮮαwρhi৷ She explained that her non-compliance with the earlier show cause order was due to the crisis in Marawi. She asked the Court for five (5) days within which to submit the required comment. The Court, in the interest of justice, granted Abubacar a non-extendible period often (10) days from notice within which to submit her comment.8
Findings and Recommendations of the OCA
The OCA submitted its Memorandum9 dated 25 October 2018, reiterating its earlier recommendation10 that Abubacar be dismissed from the service for dishonesty based on the following findings:
A review of respondent's records with the Office of Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator shows that her 201 File contains three (3) accomplished Personal Data Sheet (PDS) forms dated 05 June 1998, 11 May 1999 and 10 June 2005. x x x
A comparison of the three PDS forms shows that, except for the varying [hair lengths], the I.D. pictures are similar to the I.D. picture on respondent's PDS form dated 17 January 2000, which was attached to the CSC Investigation Report dated 07 November 2014. Readily, it can be seen that respondent has a mole under her right eyebrow, a prominent mark that is visible in all the I.D. pictures attached to her PDS forms. In contrast, the picture on the Picture Seat Plan of the CSC shows that the person has no mole on her face.
Respondent maintains that the picture attached to the PSP was her high school picture. Notably, by the time of examination in 1999, she was already thirty-one (31) years old. Upon inquiry with CSC Regional Office No. 10, this Office was informed that in the 1990s, the CSC had already adopted a guideline requiring examination applications to submit I.D. pictures taken within six (6) months prior to the filing of their respective applications. This guideline came in the form of announcements posted by the CSC regarding the conduct of career service or sub-professional examinations. Thus, even granting for the sake of argument that respondent truly took the examination, the high school picture she submitted at the time of examination could not have been acceptable to the CSC, as the disparity in years between the age in photo and respondent's age at the time of examination (31 years) clearly exceeded the six (6)- month guideline.
x x x
The procedure practiced by the CSC in ensuring the identity of examinees and the striking disparity of facial features as proven through respondent's own records in her 201 File, lead to no other conclusion other than the fact that another person took the examination on respondent's behalf.
x x x. In this case, respondent claims that her co-employees can attest to her varying penmanship, but she failed to attach any sworn statement from any co-employee corroborating her claim. She also failed to present evidence to refute the picture attached to the [Picture Seat Plan].11
Ruling of the Court
The Court adopts the recommendation of the OCA.
This is not a case of first impression. The Court has had several occasions in the past to resolve cases of impersonation in taking the civil service eligibility exam. In Clavite-Vidal v. Aguam,12 a court stenographer was accused of impersonation when a discrepancy was found between the image in the Picture Seat Plan and the picture in her Personal Data Sheet (PDS). The Court brushed aside her defense that she submitted her high school picture. It held:
The fact of impersonation was proven with certainty. Judge Balindong observed upon approaching Aguam during a hearing that she is not the person whose picture was attached to the Picture Seat Plan. This finding debunks Aguam's claim that she attached her high school picture on the Picture Seat Plan. The records also validate Judge Balindong's finding that Aguam's specimen signatures written on a piece of paper are starkly different from Aguam's supposed signature on the Picture Seat Plan. Then there is the discernible difference in Aguam's handwriting and signature on the Personal Data Sheet and the impersonator's handwriting and signature on the Picture Seat Plan. Taken together, the evidence leads to no other conclusion than that somebody else took the examination using Aguam's identity.13
Dishonesty is defined as the concealment or distortion of truth, which shows lack of integrity or a disposition to defraud, cheat, deceive, or betray, or intent to violate the truth.14 Allowing another person to take civil service examination on one's behalf has been ruled to be an act of dishonesty.15 First-time offenders found guilty of grave dishonesty involving falsification of their civil service examination results merit the penalty of dismissal from service.16 On the other hand, making an untruthful statement in the PDS likewise amounts to dishonesty, as well as falsification of official document, which warrant dismissal from service upon commission of the first offense.17
Abubacar committed dishonesty when she declared in her PDS that she took the Civil Service Sub Professional Examination on 07 November 1999 in Cagayan de Oro City, for which she received a rating of 85.07%.18 This necessitates the imposition of the ultimate penalty of dismissal on Abubakar.
We are aware that under Section 53 of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,19 the disciplining authority may, in the interest of justice, consider extenuating, mitigating, aggravating and alternative circumstances,20 in imposing the penalty on the erring employee. In this case, however, respondent did not invoke any mitigating or extenuating circumstance. At any rate, the Court finds the OCA's recommendation in order and finds no reason to impose a lesser penalty than dismissal from the service.
It must be emphasized that respondent's misrepresentation of her civil service eligibility is a material fact that enabled her to secure a permanent appointment as Court Stenographer I. In addition, she committed a deliberate fabrication of the truth. She has not even shown the Court that she feels any remorse or contrition for her actions.
No other office in the government service exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an employee than in the Judiciary. Everyone involved in the administration of justice, from the lowliest employee to the highest official, is expected to live up to the strictest standard of honesty, integrity, and uprightness.21
By her act of dishonesty, Abubacar failed to meet the stringent standards set for a judicial employee. She does not deserve her position in the judiciary, and, as such, must be dismissed from office.22
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby finds Norhata A. Abubacar, Court Stenographer I, Shari'a Circuit Court, Lumbatan, Lanao del Sur, GUILTY of DISHONESTY. Accordingly, she is DISMISSED from the service, with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of all benefits, except accrued leave credits, and disqualification for reemployment in the government service, including in government-owned or controlled corporations, without prejudice to any criminal and/or civil liability in a proper action.
Peralta, C.J., Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, Caguioa, Gesmundo, Hernando, Carandang, Lazaro-Javier, Inting, Zalameda, Lopez, Delos Santos, and Gaerlan, JJ., concur.
Baltazar-Padilla, J., on leave.
NOTICE OF JUDGMENT
Please take notice that on October 6, 2020 a Decision, copy attached herewith, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled administrative matter, the original of which was received by this Office on February 11, 2021 at 10:22 a.m.
Very truly yours,
(SGD.) EDGAR O. ARICHETA
Clerk of Court
1 Rollo, pp. 2-5
2 Id. at 6-8.
3 Id. at 6.
4 Id. at 21.
5 Id. at 34.
6 Id. at 25-29.
7 Id. at 29.
8 Id. at 31.
9 Id. at 59-63.
10 Id. at 25-29.
11 Id. at 61-62.
12 A.M. No. SCC-10-13-P, 26 June 2012.
14 Fajardo v. Corral, G.R. No. 212641, 05 July 2017.
15 Civil Service Commission v. Dawang, A.M. No. P-15-3289, 17 February 2015.
16 Civil Service Commission v. Andal, A.M. No. SB-12-19-P, 18 November 2014.
17 Civil Service Commission v. Vergel de Dios, G.R. No. 203536, 04 February 2015.
18 PDS dated 17 January 2000, rollo, pp. 11-12. See also PDS dated 10 June 2005, rollo, pp. 55-58.
19 CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, s. 1999, dated 31 August 1999. Respondent's PDS was accomplished on 17 January 2000.
20 Section 53. Extenuating, Mitigating, Aggravating, or Alternative Circumstances. In the determination of the penalties imposed, mitigating, aggravating and alternative circumstances attendant to the commission of the offense shall be considered.
The following circumstances shall be appreciated:
a. Physical illness
b. Good faith
c. Taking undue advantage of official position
d. Taking undue advantage of subordinate
e. Undue disclosure of confidential information
f. Use of government property in the commission of the offense
h. Offense is committed during office hours and within the premises of the office or building
i. Employment of fraudulent means to commit or conceal the offense
j. Length of service in the government
k. Education, or
l. Other analogous circumstance
Nevertheless, in the appreciation thereof, the same must be invoked or pleaded by the proper party, otherwise, said circumstances shall not be considered in the imposition of the proper penalty. The Commission, however, in the interest of substantial justice may take and consider these circumstances.
21 Baguio v. Arnejo, A.M. No. P-13-3155, 21 October 2013.
22 Anonymous Complaint dated May 3, 2013, Re: Fake Certificates of Civil Service Eligibility of Marivic B. Ragel, Evelyn C. Ragel, Emelyn B. Campos, and Jovilyn B. Dawang, A.M. No. 14-10-314-RTC, 28 November 2017.
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