Add TAGS to your cases to easily locate them or to build your SYLLABUS.
Please SIGN IN to use this feature.
http://lawyerly.ph/juris/view/caabe?user=fbGU2WFpmaitMVEVGZ2lBVW5xZ2RVdz09
[IN MATTER CONCERNING LOSS OF DOCUMENTS](http://lawyerly.ph/juris/view/caabe?user=fbGU2WFpmaitMVEVGZ2lBVW5xZ2RVdz09)
{case:caabe}
Highlight text as FACTS, ISSUES, RULING, PRINCIPLES to generate case DIGESTS and REVIEWERS.
Please LOGIN use this feature.
Show opinions
Show printable version with highlights

DIVISION

[ AM NO. RTJ-02-1732, Dec 11, 2006 ]

IN MATTER CONCERNING LOSS OF DOCUMENTS +

A.M. No. RTJ-02-1732

THIRD DIVISION

[ A.M. NO. RTJ-02-1732, December 11, 2006 ]

IN THE MATTER CONCERNING THE LOSS OF DOCUMENTS AND RECORDS OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MANILA, BRANCH 31

SIRS/MESDAMES:

Quoted hereunder, for your information is a resolution of the Third Division of this Court dated 11 DECEMBER 2006

A.M. No. RTJ-02-1732 (IN THE MATTER CONCERNING THE LOSS OF DOCUMENTS AND RECORDS OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MANILA, BRANCH 31)

This case originated from three anonymous letter-complaints[1] against Judge Leonardo P. Reyes ("Judge Reyes") of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 31 ("RTC-Branch 31"), for alleged inconsistencies in the release of accused in criminal cases.

In a Resolution[2] dated 20 November 2002, the Court resolved to dismiss the complaint against Judge Reyes for lack of merit. However, the Court also resolved to refer the alleged loss of documents and records of RTC-Branch 31 to Executive Judge Enrico A. Lanzanas ("Judge Lanzanas"), RTC of Manila, Branch 7, for investigation, report and recommendation.

Judge Lanzanas requested Judge Reyes and other court employees to submit their written explanation regarding the loss of documents and records in the cases of People v. Ariel Duran[3] ("Duran case") and People v. Fernando Erguiza[4] ("Erguiza case").

In his Explanation dated 4 February 2003, Judge Reyes alleged that certain case documents and records were "stolen" to build up an administrative case against him. Judge Reyes stated that the photocopy and duplicate copies of the Release Order in the Duran case were missing. Judge Reyes also stated that the Erguiza case records were "concealed and returned after sometime," causing the delay in the release of the accused.

Judge Reyes concluded that the one who wrote the anonymous letters against him was also the one who "stole" the case documents and records. Judge Reyes pointed to Dakila Manalabe ("Manalabe"), court legal researcher, as the letter-writer and, consequently, the one who concealed and stole the case documents and records. Judge Reyes alleged that Manalabe had previously written a coded anonymous letter-complaint[5] against certain employees of the RTC of Manila, Branch 22 ("RTC-Branch 22"). Judge Reyes also presented the affidavits of other court employees who pointed to Manalabe as the culprit.[6]

In his Comment dated 28 January 2003, Manalabe denied any knowledge of the missing documents and records. Manalabe stated that it was not his duty to be the custodian of case records in their sala. Manalabe also denied that he wrote the anonymous letters against Judge Reyes.

During the investigation, the following court employees of RTC-Branch 31 testified on the matter:   
  1. Evelyn D. Cabie ("Cabie"), court stenographer, stated that she believed that Manalabe wrote the anonymous letters because when Judge Reyes received the letter from the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), Cabie heard Manalabe say "sisilipin na siya [Judge Reyes] ng Supreme Court."[7] Cabie added that Manalabe hated Judge Reyes because he was not appointed as branch clerk officer-in-charge[8] ("OIC") of RTC-Branch 31. However, Cabie did not believe that Manalabe was responsible for the loss of records.
       
  2. Amada Balbas, court stenographer, testified that she did not believe Manalabe wrote the anonymous letters or was responsible for the loss of records.
       
  3. Christopher Norman Publico, sheriff, testified that "it looks like" Manalabe wrote the anonymous letters but he does not have concrete evidence to prove the same.
       
  4. Tyke Sarceno ("Sarceno"), clerk-in-charge of criminal cases, testified that Manalabe took some case records to have them photocopied and returned them after a few minutes. But Sarceno cannot say what case records they were nor did he examine the records when they were returned.
       
  5. Danilo Garcia ("Garcia"), process server, concluded that Manalabe wrote the anonymous letters against Judge Reyes because of the anonymous coded letter-complaint against employees of RTC-Branch 22 found in Manalabe's computer. Garcia added that Manalabe, as legal researcher, had access to the records and assisted in the two cases. But Garcia cannot tell if Manalabe was responsible for the loss of the records.
       
  6. Marita Montemayor, stenographer, also concluded that Manalabe wrote the anonymous letters because of the anonymous coded letter-complaint found in his computer and because he had a grudge against Judge Reyes for not appointing him branch clerk OIC.
       
  7. Abelardo Enriquez, court aide, testified that he believed Manalabe wrote the anonymous letters because he once overheard Manalabe say "pwedeng masilip si sir [Judge Reyes] sa ganyang sistema sa pag-release ng bilanggo."[9]
In a Report dated 26 May 2003, Judge Lanzanas concluded that Manalabe wrote the anonymous letters and was responsible for the loss of case documents and records. Judge Lanzanas found Manalabe guilty of grave misconduct and recommended his suspension from office for one year. The Report reads:
A careful scrutiny of the facts and the evidence gathered and submitted convinces the Investigating Executive Judge it was Dakila C. Manalabe who wrote the poisonous letters and that he is also the person responsible for the loss of the subject documents/records.

It should be noted that Manalabe can give no other reason why the employees of Branch 31 where he is a the [sic] member of the staff, would point to him, as the letter-writer of the poisonous letter, except beyond saying that "probably they misinterpreted some of the things I said, sir."

x x x x

It should also be noted that Manalabe admitted that he had a misunderstanding with the Presiding Judge of Branch 31. He did not define the rift, but it is clear it's about the refusal of the Judge to appoint him Officer-in-charge of Branch 31.[10]
The OCA adopted the findings of Judge Lanzanas and found Manalabe guilty of grave misconduct. The OCA recommended Manalabe's dismissal from the service.

The OCA found that the charges against Manalabe had been proven beyond moral certainty. The OCA found Manalabe's defense, which was plain denial, to be very weak. The OCA also agreed with Judge Lanzanas that Manalabe wrote the anonymous letter to harass Judge Reyes because Manalabe was not appointed branch clerk OIC. The Report reads:
By reason of his office, Mr. Manalabe has access to the records of cases in the Branch. He abused his office by taking out records of some cases and by removing certain documents from the records. Instead of helping out in safeguarding the records, he even placed the court in a bad light by making it appear that no such documents are attached to the records. His act in [sic] going to the extent of removing documents from the records of cases, and in taking out some of the records, if only to use them as evidence in support of his baseless and malicious complaint is not only grossly prejudicial to the best interest of the service, but a grave misconduct, which warrants his dismissal from the service.[11]
The Court does not agree with the OCA's findings. The Court finds insufficient evidence to hold Manalabe responsible for the loss of documents and records of RTC-Branch 31.

In administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the allegations in the complaint.[12] Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.[13]

Aside from their bare allegations and hasty conclusions, Judge Reyes and the other court employees did not present any concrete evidence to prove that Manalabe stole and concealed the missing case documents and records. Judge Lanzanas and the OCA, without further proof, concluded that Manalabe was responsible for the loss of documents and records because Manalabe allegedly wrote the anonymous letters against Judge Reyes. But, except for the alleged rift between Manalabe and Judge Reyes and the anonymous coded letter-complaint found in Manalabe's computer, no other evidence was presented to prove that Manalabe wrote the anonymous letters. The anonymous coded letter-complaint found in Manalabe's computer was not the anonymous letters against Judge Reyes, but it was about court employees in RTC-Branch 22. It was also not shown that only Manalabe had access to the computer.

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the complaint against Dakila Manalabe for lack of sufficient evidence.

SO ORDERED. (Velasco, Jr., J.- no part)

Very truly yours,

(SGD.) LUCITA ABJELINA-SORIANO
Clerk of Court


[1] Rollo, pp. 31, 36 and 38.

[2] Id. at 45-46.

[3] Docketed as Criminal Case No. 00-187412.

[4] Docketed as Criminal Case No. 01-195908. Sometimes appears in the records as "Erquiza" or "Erguisa."

[5] Rollo, pp. 17-19.

[6] Judge Reyes attached the affidavits of the following court employees:   
  1. Christopher Norman Publico - deputy sheriff, former clerk-in-charge, civil and criminal cases;   
  2. Danilo Garcia - process server;   
  3. Abelardo C. Enriquez - court aide;   
  4. Evelyn D. Cabie stenographer.
[7] TSN, 12 February 2003, p. 10 (Evelyn Cabie).

[8] RTC-Branch 31 did not have a Branch Clerk of Court and Manalabe was the employee next-in-line.

[9] TSN, 14 February 2003, p. 20 (Abelardo Enriquez).

[10] Report of Judge Lanzanas, pp. 18-19.

[11] OCA Report, p. 9.

[12] Lorena v. Encomienda, 362 Phil. 248 (1999).

[13] Ebero v. Camposano, A.M. No. P-04-1792, 12 March 2004, 425 SCRA 420.
tags