You are on page 1of 2

Case Digest: Judge Leah Domingo-Regala , complainant v Ma.

Donna y Sultan, respondent Facts: Complainant filed the complaint against the respondent on the following grounds: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) Inefficiency; Habitual Absenteeism; Tardiness; Falsification of Daily Time record; Dishonest and conduct prejudicial to service.

The complainant alleged that respondent Sultan was guilty of habitual absenteeism defined in Administrative Circular no.1-91: An officer or employee in the civil service shall be considered habitually absent if he incurs unauthorized absences exceeding the allowable 2.5 days monthly leave credit under the leave law for at least three (3) months in a semester or at least three (3) consecutive months during the year She added that the respondent extended her leaves without even filing a leave in advance. The respondent also alleged that the respondent incompetent, dishonest and inefficient. The respondent was said to have failed in performing her duties as legal researcher of the court, specifically (1) finding the cases in point, (2) failing to come with latest jurisprudence on the subject matter assigned to her, and rather, copies verbatim on textbooks. On imputation of dishonesty, she alleged that after verifying the whereabouts of the respondent, they discovered that what the respondent reported about her daughter being confined in Malvar General Hospital was not true. She also mentioned that the respondent often goes out of the office to spend time with lawyers who have cases heard before the RTC br. 226. She also stated that the respondent spent long telephone conversations during office hours. Acts mentioned in the preceding sentence was believed by the petitioner to constitute conduct prejudicial to the service. The respondent answered complaint by saying that: (1) While not denying the incurred absences; the absences she incurred for October, November, and December 1999 were authorized. She also properly filed the application for leave for those months and made them approved; (2) The petitioner allowed them to have a 30-minute grace period, and in cases when she was late, she had always been reporting the real time of her arrival; (3) Although she commits mistakes necessitating the guidance of the petitioner, she had basic knowledge of law and legal research as a law graduate. She even noted that one of her outputs were graded very satisfactory by the petitioner-judge; (4) contrary to what was alleged, she informed Evelyn Borela that she would only bring her daughter as outpatient for medical examinations; (5) she would not compromise her employment by going outside and spending time with the lawyers; (6) She had to attend to the needs of lawyers and litigants who come inside the office. She also asserted that she only uses the telephone to answer incoming calls short enough not to defer other official calls. She sought the forgiveness and understanding of the petitioner judge when she extended her leave even without approval. The family problem she had that time forced her to commit such act. She was also apologetic for the misunderstanding that occurred because of her failure to inform personally the petitioner on her whereabouts.

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) assigned an investigating Judge to investigate the case. The investigating judge recommended that the respondent be reprimanded for incompetence. However, he left the determination of penalty for habitual absenteeism to the OCA. In a report dated 9 October 2004, the OCA affirmed his findings on the respondents inefficiency, and habitual absenteeism but overturned his recommendation absolving the respondent from the charge of conduct prejudicial to the service. Issue: were the findings by OCA correct? Held: Yes. the court adopted the findings of the Office of the Court Administrator, but modifies the penalty. The respondent was to be suspended from service for three (3) months without pay. She was also sternly warned that a repetition of the same acts would be dealt with more severely. Ratio: The investigating judge observed that for a law graduate with no academic background on legal bibliography and no professional background on legal research, one could expect her seeking of guidance from her judge, and the branch clerk of court, in the course of her work. Respondents violation of the rule on filing application of leave was apparent in her narration of facts. The Absences she incurred in the months specifically mentioned were qualified as habitual absenteeism defined and penalized in the above-mentioned administrative circular. In addition, there was no showing that her talking with lawyers was inimical to the service, for the courts are service-oriented line or filed agencies of the Judiciary. It was unavoidable that there would be conversation between the respondent and the lawyers and litigants concerning some administrative problems or problems on the case. In sum, her conduct fell short of the exacting standards of public office.