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Office of the Court Administrator vs. Sumiling, 271 SCRA 361 (1997)
On September 1, 1993, Rebecca Avanzado assumed the position of officer in charge. It was during her tenure on August 8, 1994, that an on-the-spot audit examination was conducted by the Fiscal Audit Division of the Office of Court Administrator. In the course of the examination, several anomalous transactions were discovered. One involved a managers check deposited in the name of Teodorico Dizon in connection with Civil Case No. 858, wherein Entero Villarica, on August 7, 1992 during the tenure of Malla entrusted the amount of P240,000.00 to said respondent instead of handling it over to the Clerk of Court pursuant to Supreme Court Circular No. 13-92.
When asked to explain where the P240,000.00 was, Malla, explained that she deposited it at the Sta Cruz, Laguna branch of the Philippine National Bank but she and Judge Sumilang later withdrew it allegedly under the belief that the defendant, Dizon, would demand the delivery of the money upon the termination of the case. Upon further questioning by the examining team, however, Malla admitted that she lent the amount of P87,000.00 to steno-reporter Lagmay, P40,000.00 to steno-reporter Mercado, and P81,000.00 to Mrs. Sumilang, wife of Judge Sumilang. She spent P32,000.00 for the hospitalization of her husband and the remaining balance for personal purposes.
Later on, she executed an affidavit stating that only Lagmay and Mercado borrowed P55,000.00 and P40,000.00, respectively. On the other hand, she used P100,000.00 for her personal needs.7chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Upon learning that they were being implicated in the anomalous transaction, Lagmay executed an affidavit stating that the amount of P55,000.00 was from the personal account of Malla and not from the P240,000.00 amount deposited before the court and such loan has already been paid.8 Mercado, on the other hand, claims that the amount of P40,000.00 was borrowed only two weeks before the audit took place, when Malla was no longer employed with the court. Mrs. Sumilang, for her part, denied any involvement in any of the transactions.
Respondents Judge Augusto Sumilang, Felicidad Malla, Edelita Lagmay and Nieva Mercado, court employees of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pila, Laguna (hereinafter referred to as the lower court), were charged in a memorandum report by the Office of Court Administrator dated August 16, 1994, for misappropriating funds deposited by the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 858, entitled Spouses Entero Villarica and Felicidad Domingo v. Teodorico Dizon. On October 5, 1994, this Court issued a resolution treating the aforesaid memorandum report as an administrative complaint which was docketed as Administrative Matter No. MTJ-94-989.
In addition, a second complaint was lodged against Malla for removing judicial records outside the court premises. This Court decided to include this matter in the original complaint earlier docketed as A.M. No. MTJ-94-989 in a resolution dated March 6, 1995.
Whether or not the constitutional rights of Felicidad Malla were violated when she signed the affidavit dated September 14, 1994 before the Office of the Court Administrator, where she admitted her misdeed.
The Court ruled that the constitutional provision (Section 12, Article III of the Constitution) may be invoked only during custodial investigation or as in custody investigation which has been defined as questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. The investigation is defined as an investigation conducted by police authorities which will include investigation conducted by the Municipal Police, P.C. (now PNP) and the NBI and such other police agencies in our government.24 Thus, the Office of the Court Administrator can hardly be deemed to be the law enforcement authority contemplated in the constitutional provision. At any rate, Malla admitted during her testimony that she received the said check from Villarica covering the amount of P240,000.00 payable to Dizon. However, when she tried to deposit it with the Municipal Treasurer, the latter refused because there was no order from Judge Sumilang. Consequently, Villarica entrusted said check to her. It was at this juncture that she used the money for personal purposes. During the investigation, Malla repeated what she basically stated in her affidavit i.e., that she used a substantial amount of the P240,00.00 for her personal needs. This effectively refutes whatever pressure and coercion she claims was employed against her. By repeating her confession in open court, Malla thereby converted it into a judicial confession.
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