THE Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) finding a public attorney guilty of grave misconduct and of being notoriously undesirable for uttering threatening remarks against her colleagues in the presence of Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta.
In a ruling penned by Associate Justice Samuel Martires dated September 6, 2017 but was released only recently, the SC’s Third Division denied Melita Recto-Sambajon’s petition as it affirmed the May 25, 2011 decision and the July 13, 2011 resolution of the appellate court.
On June 17, 2009, Acosta summoned Sambajon over the latter’s reaction to her reassignment from the PAO Legal Research Service-Central Office to the PAO Valenzuela City office.
Initially, Sambajon denied reports that she had cried over her supposed reassignment. She, however, was overcome by emotion and uttered in anger, “Yung mga naghahatid [ng]maling impormasyon kay Chief ay paduduguin ko ang mata [Those who give wrong information to Chief (Acosta), I will make their eyes bleed].”
Her outburst was witnessed by Marilyn Boongaling, Ma. Ruby Florendo, Alma Dumago-Latos and Tricia Larrissa Leofando, PAO personnel present at the time.
On June 18, 2009, Sambajon, together with lawyer Froilan Cabarios, officer-in-charge of the Field Operation and Statistics Office, went to the office of lawyer Amelia Garchitorena, head of the Special and Appealed Cases, and asked her whether Herminia Polo, a SACS staff, told Acosta that she had cried after learning of her reassignment.
Garchitorena responded that she told the PAO chief that Sambajon cried when the latter learned that she would be reassigned, and that during their conversation, Sambajon threatened “[w]hoever will feed any wrong information to the Chief [Acosta], I will shoot them conjoined through the eyes.”
After a flag ceremony during the same year, Sambajon asked Nelson Acevedo, an administrative staff, where Boongaling was.
When Acevedo told her that Boongaling was at the conference room, she responded, “Sabihin mo sa kanya, pag may nangyari sa anak ko babarilin ko siya [Tell her, if something happens to my child, I will shoot her].”
While Acevedo was trying to pacify Sambajon, Boongaling emerged from the conference room and called Acevedo.
After seeing Boongaling, Sambajon reiterated her threat and told the former that she would shoot her should anything happen to her child as she was pregnant at the time.
For fear that she would carry out her threat, Boongaling reported the incident to Acosta on the same day.
On August 17, 2009, Sambajon was formally charged for grave misconduct and for being notoriously undesirable.
In a ruling on December 2009, Silvestre Mosing, PAO deputy chief, found Sambajon guilty of the offenses charged and accordingly dismissed her from the service.
The dismissal was approved by Acosta.
Mosing said there was substantial evidence to find Sambajon guilty of the offenses.
The Civil Service Commission (CSC), however, disagreed, saying Sambajon’s hostile remarks did not amount to grave misconduct because it was not shown that she was tainted with a depraved and corrupt mind and that she intended to violate the law or to exhibit a flagrant disregard of established rule.
But in its decision, the CA reversed and set aside the CSC resolution ruling that the PAO had the authority to appeal the resolution.
Further, it disagreed with the CSC that Sambajon was guilty only of simple misconduct because the grave threats she uttered displayed a violent, dangerous, if not murderous, tendency toward her colleagues.
The CA explained that the nature of Sambajon’s threat shows that it was not merely an error in judgment but motivated by a wrongful intent.
It said her remarks amounted to grave threats, adding that her repeated threats evince a vicious cycle of violence and uncontrolled temper that could result in dire consequences if not promptly curtailed.
This prompted Sambajon to elevate her case to the High Court.
Under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases, the SC held that both grave misconduct and being notoriously undesirable are categorized as grave offenses, punishable by dismissal.
Concurring with the verdict were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin and Marvic Leonen.