Thursday, October 27, 2011

Higher level in Philippine-Vietnam cooperation | Inquirer Opinion

Higher level in Philippine-Vietnam cooperation | Inquirer Opinion

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Higher level in Philippine-Vietnam cooperation

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(Message of President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam on the occasion of his state visit to the Philippines)

I am delighted to be back to the beautiful and hospitable country of the Philippines as the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to see with my own eyes the great achievements recorded by the people of the Philippines in their cause of nation building and development.

In the more than 35 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two nations, the friendship and multifaceted cooperation between Vietnam and the Philippines have been growing exceedingly well in the interest of the two peoples. The two sides have exchanged quite a few visits of their top leaders as well as their agencies at all levels. People-to-people exchanges have also been promoted to further strengthen unity, mutual trust and understanding. Bilateral cooperation in all fields from trade, investment and agriculture to security-defense, maritime and ocean issues, and education-training, is prospering. Besides, other potential areas of cooperation are also being explored such as tourism, renewable energy, oil and gas and mining. At regional and international forums such as the United Nations, Asean, EAS, Apec or Asem, our bilateral cooperation is also becoming stronger, thus making a contribution to peace, stability and cooperation in Southeast Asia and the world at large.

In Vietnam, the comprehensive reforms since 1986 have brought about great achievements of historical significance. Vietnam is today considered a dynamic economy in the region and an attractive destination for investors and tourists from around the world. Vietnam’s GDP growth rate in the past 25 years averages around 7-7.5 percent. In spite of the current global economic slowdown, Vietnam still records a fairly good growth rate of 6.7 percent in 2010 and 5.7 percent in the first 9 months of 2011. Vietnam has received international appreciation for its accomplishments in social endeavors such as poverty reduction, job creation, human resources development, education and training, science and technology, health and culture and has also been recognized for its fulfillment of most of the Millennium Development Goals. Along with its economic achievements, Vietnam continues to maintain its political and social stability. Vietnam is striving to attain its developmental goal of becoming a fundamentally industrialized and modern country by 2020 with a sustainable and fast-growing economy.

In the consistent pursuit of its foreign policy of independence, sovereignty, peace, cooperation and development, diversified and multi-directional external relations, Vietnam engages in “active and pro-active international integration” and expands cooperation to all areas so as to help Vietnam integrate itself comprehensively into the world. In the implementation of this policy, Vietnam will accord priority to deepening its cooperation and partnerships with neighboring countries and Asean members and to augmenting substance and effectiveness of these partnerships. As an Asean member, Vietnam will join hands with the Philippines and other members in accomplishing the goal of building an Asean Community by 2015. We again underline the importance of the maintenance of peace, stability, maritime security, safety and freedom in the East Sea and the peaceful settlement of disputes in the region on the basis of adherence to international law, specifically the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) as well as the DOC.

The excellent outcomes of the past 35 years of cooperation provide us with every basis to elevate the Vietnam-Philippines relationship to new heights of greater comprehensiveness and depth in the spirit of “Framework of Bilateral Cooperation in the Next Quarter Century and Beyond” signed in 2002. Vietnam-Philippines relations must be commensurate to the existing potentials and the roles and positions of the two countries in the region. I believe that this visit of mine to the Philippines will serve as a new and important mark in the elevation of the Vietnam-Philippines cooperation to a higher, more comprehensive, and more enhanced plane, in the interest of sustainable development and prosperity of our respective countries as well as for the sake of peace, stability, cooperation, and prosperity in the region.

May I take this opportunity to offer to the Filipino people the very best and warmest wishes from the Vietnamese people. May the people of the Philippines, with their assiduity and creativity and under the judicious leadership of President Benigno S. Aquino III, continue to attain greater achievements in building a more developed and prosperous Philippines that enjoys a higher position and role in the region and the world. May our bilateral relationship continue to further strengthen and flourish.

Truong Tan Sang is the president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Retired justices bring pay issue to high court | Inquirer News

Retired justices bring pay issue to high court | Inquirer News

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A group of retired Court of Appeals justices on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court to order Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to immediately release the gratuity pay and unpaid allowances of retired justices.

Saying they had suffered “undue injury and damages” because of Abad’s acts, members of the Association of Retired Court of Appeals Justices Inc. also asked the high tribunal to hold the budget secretary liable for violating the antigraft law.

Represented by its president, retired Associate Justice Teodoro Regino, the group accused Abad of arbitrarily holding the release of the special allowances for the judiciary (SAJ) since January despite the tribunal’s order issued on May 4, 2010.

The high court at the time directed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to provide Special Allotment Release Order and Notice of Cash Allocation for SAJ, from where the retirement gratuities and terminal leave benefits of former justices and judges were to come.

“(Abad), who is primarily charged by law and the Constitution … to automatically and regularly release the necessary funding for (SAJ), continues willfully to refuse… to fund and release the SAJ for retired justices,” the group said in its petition.

“By reason of (Abad’s) refusal or neglect, without just cause, to perform his official duty as budget secretary, especially during these hard times, (we) suffered undue injury and damages, including moral, nominal, temperate exemplary or corrective, to be assessed by this honorable court,” it added.

The retired justices also assailed Abad for “giving unwarranted benefit … through manifest partiality … by providing and releasing the claims on the SAJ of the younger… retired justices.”

The judiciary and Malacañang are in locked horns over the government’s plan to transfer some P2 billion of its P15.7-billion budget for 2012 to a special employment fund for unfilled government posts.

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Equity and humanitarian consideration - G.R. No. 182606

G.R. No. 182606

"x x x.

This is not the first time that a government employee had been dismissed from service for falsification of his eligibility for appointment purposes.

Maniebo v. Court of Appeals[41] is analogous to the instant case. Maniebo denied any participation in the preparation of her spurious Certificate of Eligibility. She maintained that she only received the same through the mails and was in good faith in submitting the same for her appointment. The Court held that the presumption of good faith does not apply when the employee’s Certificate of Eligibility conflicts with the CSC’s Masterlist of Eligibles. Moreover, the Court did not accept Maniebo’s long and satisfactory government service in order to mitigate the penalty of dismissal. The Court noted that Maniebo was undeserving of the mitigation given her refusal to own up to, and her lack of remorse for, her dishonesty.

In Bacsasar v. Civil Service Commission,[42] Bacsasar obtained her Certificate of Eligibility from a private individual and not from the CSC. The CSC verified the spurious nature of her eligibility because Bacsasar was not included in the CSC Masterlist of Passing/Failing Examinees. The Court rejected Bacsasar’s defense of good faith given that she did not even take the civil service exam.

In Civil Service Commission v. Cayobit,[43] Cayobit received her Certificate of Eligibility through mail and maintained that she believed the same to be genuine. The Court found her guilty of dishonesty given that she failed to explain the discrepancy in her passing grade in the certificate and the failing grade reflected in the CSC masterlist.

Like Dumduma, the dismissed employee in Re: Tessie G. Quires[44]also maintained that she was merely a victim of fixers operating within the CSC Office. The Court did not accede to her pleas and meted the prescribed penalty for dishonesty.

Disapproved Appointment of Limgas[45] also involved an employee who maintained that she acted in complete reliance that the Certificate of Eligibility she received after taking the CSC examination was authentic. Limgas claimed that “she was a victim of an injustice perpetrated by fixers, insiders and syndicates operating in the Regional Offices of the CSC.”[46] In rejecting her plea, the Court expressed its disbelief that a fixer would act for Limgas’ benefit, without the latter having any knowledge of the anomalous transaction.

Guided by the foregoing cited authorities, the Court holds that the CA did not err in affirming the penalty of dismissal and all its accessory penalties imposed by the CSC. Only those who can live up to the constitutional exhortation that public office is a public trust deserve the honor of continuing in public service.

Dumduma makes a final plea for leniency but the law and the prevailing jurisprudence binds the hands of this Court. We cannot change the imposable penalties for a clear case of dishonesty without at the same time, visiting injustice against all the other government employees that were similarly placed but received the full force of the law.

Nevertheless, the Court recognizes that petitioner was once an outstanding member of the police force. He risked life and limb serving the citizenry of Region 8 with total dedication and hard work. His service record shows that, since his original appointment in 1979, he patiently rose through the ranks until he was promoted to SPO4 in 1991. While justice exhorts that petitioner suffer the full penalties imposed by law, temperance cries out that he be recognized for whatever good he has done prior to his mistake. Thus, the Court deems proper, on a pro hac vice basis, to extend financial assistance of P50,000.00 to petitioner, which amount shall be taken from his forfeited retirement benefits. This award in no sense mitigates his offense but is made solely out of equity and humanitarian considerations.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed January 31, 2008 Decision and April 10, 2008 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 98207 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner is extended a FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE of P50,000.00, to be taken from his forfeited retirement benefits on a pro hac vice basis.


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Ministerial duty of sheriff to enforce writ of execution - A.M. No. P-09-2716

A.M. No. P-09-2716

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The Findings and Recommendations of the OCA

In its Report dated July 6, 2010, the OCA[6] found the respondent liable for simple neglect of duty:

It has been said that the sheriff’s duty to execute a judgment is ministerial. A purely ministerial act is one “which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of legal authority, without regard to the exercise of his own judgment upon the propriety of the act done.” Otherwise stated, a sheriff need not look outside the plain meaning of the writ. In this case, it was respondent Sheriff’s duty to use reasonable and necessary force to see that judgment debtors vacate the premises. Any exercise of discretion may be used only when a sheriff is faced with an ambiguous execution order, in which case prudence and reasonableness dictate that he seeks clarification from the judge.

The non-implementation of the writ for almost two years cannot be justified by the allegation that the property is not properly identified and that the persons are not parties to the civil case. To exercise compassion and discretion to the extent that the sheriff substitutes his own standard of justice which has been properly determined in contentious proceedings is to encroach upon the power of a judge, which amounts to grave abuse of authority. He should have acted promptly to clarify the court order.

The explanations offered by the respondent are hollow and undeserving of merit. Evidently, respondent was not only remiss in his implementation of the writ, but likewise derelict in his submission of the returns thereof.[7]

The OCA recommended that the respondent be suspended without pay for one (1) month, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.

The Court’s Ruling

We agree with the findings of the OCA that the respondent is administratively liable, but we differ on the characterization of the offense and the recommended penalty.

The duties of the sheriff in implementing writs of execution are explicitly laid down in the Rules of Court (Rules). Paragraphs (c) and (d) of Section 10, Rule 39 of the Rules provide for the manner a writ for the delivery or restitution of real property shall be enforced by the sheriff:

Section 10. Execution of judgments for specific act. –

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(c) Delivery or restitution of real property. – The officer shall demand of the person against whom the judgment for the delivery or restitution of real property is rendered and all persons claiming rights under him to peaceably vacate the property within three (3) working days, and restore possession thereof to the judgment obligee, otherwise, the officer shall oust and such persons therefrom with the assistance, if necessary, of appropriate peace officers, and employing such means as may be reasonably necessary to retake possession, and place the judgment obligee in possession of such property. Any costs, damages, rents or profits awarded by the judgment shall be satisfied in the same manner as a judgment for money.

(d) Removal of improvements on property subject of execution. –When the property subject of the execution contains improvements constructed or planted by the judgment obligor or his agent, the officer shall not destroy, demolish or remove said improvements except upon special order of the court, issued upon motion of the judgment obligee after due hearing and after the former has failed to remove the same within a reasonable time fixed by the court.

After the implementation of the writ, Section 14, Rule 39 of the Rules requires sheriffs to execute and make a return on the writ of execution:

SEC. 14. Return of writ of execution. - The writ of execution shall be returnable to the court issuing it immediately after the judgment has been satisfied in part or in full. If the judgment cannot be satisfied in full within thirty (30) days after his receipt of the writ, the officer shall report to the court and state the reason therefor. Such writ shall continue in effect during the period within which the judgment may be enforced by motion. The officer shall make a report to the court every thirty (30) days on the proceedings taken thereon until the judgment is satisfied in full, or its effectivity expires. The returns or periodic reports shall set forth the whole of the proceedings taken, and shall be filed with the court and copies thereof promptly furnished the parties.

The above provisions enumerate the following duties of a sheriff: first,to give notice of the writ and demand that the judgment obligor and all persons claiming under him vacate the property within three (3) days; second,to enforce the writ by removing the judgment obligor and all persons claiming under the latter; third, to remove the latter’s personal belongings in the property as well as destroy, demolish or remove the improvements constructed thereon upon special court order; and fourth, to execute and make a return on the writ within 30 days from receipt of the writ and every 30 days thereafter until it is satisfied in full or until its effectivity expires.

Clearly, these provisions leave no room for any exercise of discretion on the part of the sheriff on how to perform his or her duties in implementing the writ. A sheriff’s compliance with the Rules is not merely directory but mandatory.[8] A sheriff is expected to know the rules of procedure pertaining to his functions as an officer of the court.[9]

In this case, we find that the respondent was remiss in performing his mandated duties. In the first place, the respondent failed to implement and enforce the writ within the prescribed period provided under the Rules. As the records show, the respondent failed to serve the writ and the notices to vacate to the occupants of the property within three (3) days. Moreover, the respondent failed to evict the occupants of the subject property, and to remove their personal belongings, and the structures and improvements they introduced. Aside from these, the respondent failed to make periodic reports, thus depriving the court of the opportunity to know and ensure the speedy execution of its decision.[10]

We are not unmindful that the respondent had been given several opportunities over a long period of time - almost two (2) years - to comply with his duties in implementing the writ. The records show that the respondent imputed the delay in executing the writ to his hectic work schedule. We also note that his half-hearted attempts and refusal to execute the writ were due to his misgivings and doubts on the soundness and propriety of the writ. The records also show that the respondent only acted on the writ when the complainant sought the intervention of Judge Necesario. Even then, the respondent’s insincere efforts to comply with his duties were obvious; it particularly stood out when he carelessly designated Tipgos to do his court duties for him. The extent of his indifference and carelessness totally emerged after his inhibition when another sheriff acted in his place and immediately served the writ on, and promptly evicted, the occupants of the property.

The Code of Conduct for Court Personnel mandates that court employees act properly and with due diligence in the performance of their duties. The same Code also demands that court employees implement the orders of the court within the limits of their authority.[11] In Teresa T. Gonzales La’O & Co., Inc. v. Sheriff Hatab,[12] the Court emphasized the importance of sheriffs and the efficient performance of their functions in the administration of justice, to wit:

[Sheriffs] are tasked to execute final judgments of courts. If not enforced, such decisions are empty victories of the prevailing parties. They must therefore comply with their mandated ministerial duty to implement writs promptly and expeditiously. As agents of the law, sheriffs are called upon to discharge their duties with due care and utmost diligence because in serving the court’s writs and processes and implementing its order, they cannot afford to err without affecting the integrity of their office and the efficient administration of justice.[13]

The respondent failed to observe these standards. The lapse of time it took for the respondent to unsuccessfully execute the writ demonstrates his utter lack of diligence in performing his duties.

We have held time and again that the sheriff's duty in the execution of a writ is purely ministerial.[14] Once the writ is placed in his or her hands, a sheriff is obligated to execute the order of the court strictly to the letter and with reasonable promptness, taking heed of the prescribed period required by the Rules.[15] The respondent is presumed to know all these and he cannot be excused from compliance regardless of his personal views and busy schedule. Any kind of doubt in the proper implementation of the writ would have been addressed if the respondent seasonably asked for a clarification from the court. Regrettably, he only made such request after a considerable time and after he had given the complainant excuses that only delayed the implementation of the writ.

In the recent case of Proserpina V. Anico v. Emerson B. Pilipiña,etc.,[16] we held that the failure of the sheriff to carry out what is a purely ministerial duty, to follow well-established rules in the implementation of court orders and writs, to promptly undertake the execution of judgments, and to accomplish the required periodic reports, constitute gross neglect and gross inefficiency in the performance of official duties.

Gross neglect of duty refers to negligence that is characterized by glaring want of care; by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally; or by acting with a conscious indifference to consequences with respect to other persons who may be affected.[17] It is the omission of that care that even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to take on their own property.[18] In cases involving public officials, there is gross negligence when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable.[19] Gross inefficiency is closely related to gross neglect as both involve specific acts of omission on the part of the employee resulting in damage to the employer or to the latter’s business.[20]

We find that the circumstances in Anico have been duly established in the present case to make the respondent liable for gross neglect of duty and gross inefficiency. Under the circumstances, the records show several infractions committed by the respondent in the performance of his official duties, namely: (1) the failure to implement the writ; (2) the failure to make periodic reports; (3) the failure to execute the writ within the prescribed period; and (4) the utter disregard of the rules on execution and the well-established jurisprudence relating to the ministerial duty of sheriffs in the execution and implementation of a writ.

Under the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (Civil Service Rules), gross neglect of duty and gross inefficiency are classified as grave offenses. Gross neglect of duty is punishable with dismissal from the service for the first offense, while gross inefficiency is punishable with suspension for six (6) months and one (1) day to one (1) year for the first offense, and dismissal for the second offense.[21] The Civil Service Rules also provides that if the respondent is found guilty of two or more charges or counts, the penalty to be imposed should be the penalty corresponding to the most serious charge or count while the other proven charges shall be considered as aggravating circumstances.[22] Thus, for the infractions committed, the respondent is meted the penalty of dismissal from the service with the accessory penalties of forfeiture of all his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government- owned or controlled corporations.

As a final note, court personnel should be constantly reminded that any impression of impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of official functions must be avoided.[23] Those who work in the Judiciary must adhere to high ethical standards to preserve the courts’ good name and standing.[24] They should be examples of responsibility, competence and efficiency, and they must discharge their duties with due care and utmost diligence, since they are officers of the Court and agents of the law.[25] Indeed, any conduct, act or omission violative of the norms of public accountability and that may diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary should not be allowed.[26]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we find ANICETO BOYLES, Sheriff III, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, Cebu City, GUILTYof gross neglect of duty and gross inefficiency in the performance of his duties, and hereby DISMISS him from the service. This penalty shall carry with it the accessory penalties of forfeiture of all his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.