Can the employee be ordered by the court to return the money, thus, making the court a collecting agent?

As regards Hernando’s prayer that Bengson be ordered to return the money in the amount of P76,000.00, the Court resolves to reconsider its earlier disposition. While Courts should refrain from becoming a collection agent, it cannot simply shy away from setting right those that are evidently or obviously improper acts or conducts among its personnel, and instead,

order them to do what is but proper and just.[17] In this case, what is right and just under the circumstances is to order the respondent to pay her obligation to the private complainant. In the case of Villaseñor v. de Leon,[18] it was written:

Truly, this Court is not a collection agency for faltering debtors. Hence, in a disciplinary proceeding, we cannot adjudicate on the existence and amount of the loan if such facts are disputed by the parties.10 At the same time, it is not proper in these proceedings to issue writs of execution or order the levy of respondent’s properties, including her salaries to satisfy the indebtedness. For, the purpose of an administrative proceeding is to protect public service and maintain its dignity based on the time-honored principle that a public office is a public trust. Evidently, disciplinary cases involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance, as they are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. The complainant or the person who calls the attention of the court to the alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may have in the proper management of justice.

Consistent with the realm of an administrative case, we are dutybound to correct whatever we perceive as an improper conduct among court employees by ordering them to do what is proper in the premises. In the instant case, therefore, we direct respondent to pay her indebtedness to complainant, i.e., inclusive of principal and interest agreed upon, in accordance with their agreement, if any, or within a reasonable time from receipt of this Decision. A violation of this order could become the basis of another administrative charge for a second offense of “willful failure to pay just debts” punishable by suspension of one (1) to thirty (30) days, among other serious charges arising from a willful violation of a lawful order of this Court. With this command, we hope that respondent will stay away from such misdeed and shun a subsequent offense of the same nature, or any other offense for that matter.

The payment of respondent’s debt is in addition to the penalty of reprimand with warning that commission of the same or similar act in the future will be dealt with more severely. This ruling should suffice to accomplish the purpose of disciplining an erring court employee to whom a passage in the Book of Proverbs must have a reverberating significance, “A single reprimand does more for a man of intelligence than a hundred lashes for a fool.”

Considering that Bengson, in her comment on Hernando’s motion for reconsideration offered to restitute the said amount without admitting guilt but only to buy peace; that her complicity in the so called package contract remains; that he did admit having received the amount of P70,000.00 during her testimony before the investigating judge, the Court now resolves and orders the restitution of the said amount of P76,000.00 plus  legal interest starting from the year 2003.

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2011/march2011/P-09-2686.htm

About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
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