On the charge of immorality, the findings and recommendations of both the Investigating Judge and the OCA are well-taken, except for the recommended penalty of dismissal from service which is not in accordance with the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.14
As found by the Investigating Judge and the OCA, complainant was able to substantiate the charge of immorality against the respondents. In his testimony, complainant affirmed the material allegations in his sworn statements. The incriminating pictures submitted by complainant clearly showed the intimate relationship between respondents and belied respondent Gibas’ claim that they are just friends. The images of the half-naked respondent Lintao with only a towel wrapped around his waist, found in respondent Gibas’ digital camera, further support complainant’s allegation of respondents’ illicit relationship.
Court employees should maintain moral righteousness and uprightness in their professional and private conduct to preserve the integrity and dignity of the courts of justice.15 Court personnel should avoid any act of impropriety which tarnishes the honor and dignity of the Judiciary, thus:
Every employee of the judiciary should be an example of integrity, uprightness and honesty. Like any public servant, he must exhibit the highest sense of honesty and integrity not only in the performance of his official duties but in his personal and private dealings with other people, to preserve the court’s good name and standing. It cannot be overstressed that the image of a court of justice is mirrored in the conduct, official and otherwise, of the personnel who work thereat, from the judge to the lowest of its personnel. Court employees have been enjoined to adhere to the exacting standards of morality and decency in their professional and private conduct in order to preserve the good name and integrity of courts of justice.16
Respondent Gibas failed to refute the charge filed against her and respondent Lintao. In fact, respondent Gibas chose not to testify during the hearing of the administrative matter scheduled on 25 February 2010 and held in the office of the Investigating Judge, which respondent Gibas attended. Even the counsel of respondent Gibas did not cross examine complainant on the main points of his testimony but merely questioned complainant whether he received the motion to dismiss filed by respondent Gibas.
Under Section 52(A)(15), Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,17 disgraceful and immoral conduct is classified as a grave offense for which the imposable penalty for the first offense is six months and one day to one year while the penalty for the second offense is dismissal.
Thus, in several cases,18 the Court suspended for six months and one day the respondents found guilty of immorality, taking into consideration that it was their first offense.
Similarly, this is the first offense for respondent Gibas. Hence, the Court deems the recommended penalty of dismissal inappropriate. In accordance with the prescribed penalty in the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, the penalty of six months and one day is sufficient considering that this is respondent Gibas’ first offense for immorality.