LEONIDAS, Zenaida S.
Re: Grave Misconduct
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RESOLUTION NO. 000398

Zenaida S. Leonidas, Public School Teacher, President Roxas-East Elementary School, President Roxas, Capiz, was formally charged by the Civil Service Commission Regional Office (CSCRO) No. 6, Iloilo City, with Grave Misconduct specifically committed as follows:

x x x

"That on September 4, 1996, at around 4:30 pm at Reyes Public Market, Pres. Roxas, Capiz, you confronted one Dewey Bereber, a minor of thirteen (13) years and hyour former student, about a teasing and altercation that he had with your son during the previous days and there and then slapped him the mouth and boxed him in the shoulders causing his mouth to bleed instantly. Thereafter, you hurled invectives at him saying: "Patyon ta ka kay bayaran ko lang ka, hijo de puta ka.

"The foregoing acts where you confronted a minor in a public place, slapped him and boxed him and hurled invectives at him are unbecoming of a public servant, more so of a public school teacher and constitute the offense of Grave Misconduct."

x x x

Leonidas, in her answer, denied the accusations imputed in the Formal Charge and stated as defense the following allegations:

x x x

"On September 4, 1996 at about 6:30 o'clock in the morning, Dewey Bereber entered the classroom of Mrs. Zenaida S. Leonidas and teased her son James S. Leonidas, calling him a pig, later, while inside the classroom he wrote on the blackboard ugly writings and defamatory statements, took several items inside the teacher's table and disarrayed them together with the books on the table in the presence of her several pupils, and then, left the classroom shouting at James S. Leonidas again that he is a pig, calling Mrs. Leonidas a dumb teacher, a cross-eyed old useless woman who has a thick and long hairy vagina, and that her son James sexually intercourse with her through her anus resulting her delivery of a pig which is James. This incident inside her classroom was supported by affidavit executed by her two (2) pupils with the consent of their respective parents.

"That on the afternoon of the same day, x x x , after class dismissal, Mrs. Leonidas together with her co-teacher, Mrs. Cecile D. Sarria, passed by the market x x x and that x x x she was surprised that Dewey Bereber was in front of her and she noticed his hostile dirty looks toward her, there and then, Mrs. Leonidas immediately recalled what had Dewey Bereber did in the morning inside her classroom. So, Mrs. Leonidas confronted him and told him not to do it again, but, Dewey Bereber retaliated challenging a fight with Mrs. Leonidas, however, at this juncture, Mrs. Laura Bereber, Dewey's mother approached him and held his right arm while Mrs. Sarria pulled Mrs. Leonidas away from the place and they both went home.

"That while Mrs. Leonidas admonishing Dewey Bereber at that time, she never touched nor she slapped or boxed said Dewey Bereber, or had inflicted any bodily injuries on his person, because, if ever she really slapped or boxed Dewey Bereber, his mother who was actually present during that time when she was confronting Dewey on that afternoon of September 4, 1996, will naturally react and be provoked. During this incident, the complainant Josue Bereber, Jr. was not present, hence, the allegations in the complaint are all merely hearsay.

"That the filing of this case before this good office against Mrs. Leonidas is merely an afterthought utilized by the complainant as a pressure tactic to scare her in order to withdraw and/or dismiss the criminal case she filed against Dewey Bereber before the Honorable Municipal Circuit Trial Court of President Roxas-Pilar, President Roxas, Capiz, x x x for Oral Defamation x x x.

"That the other reason why Josue Bereber, Jr. pursue this case because Mrs. Leonidas refused to acede to his demand to pay him the sum of P20,000.00 for the extra-judicial settlement of the case he filed first in the Division Office, DECS, Roxas City which he later withdraw and file the same before this good office. x x x"

Attached to her answer are affidavits of her witnesses, Mrs. Ruby Sanchez and Mrs. Cecile B. Sarria, corroborating her allegations and forming part of her defense.

A formal investigation ensued during which witnesses for the prosecution were presented. The first witness was Ronnie Catalan, a resident of Old Poblacion Market, Poblacion, President Roxas, Capiz. He testified that on September 4, 1996, at around 4:30 in the afternoon, he was the "talipapa" of Poblacion Reyes selling fish. He saw Leonidas, who was then in uniform, slap a boy whom he later came to know as Dewey Bereber, hitting the mouth of the latter and causing it to bleed. He also testified that he heard Leonidas uttering "Hijo de puta, patyon ta ka, kay bayaran ta lang ikaw." On the cross-examination, Catalan averred that when the incident happened, the mother of Dewey was in the "talipapa" selling chicken. She went to the place where the incident happened as soon as she heard the utterances made by Leonidas. However, Catalan had no idea what the mother did because a lot of people were already scrabbling around and Leonidas had already left the place.

Dewey Bereber, the son of the complainant, testified that on September 4, 1996 at the "talipapa", he was slapped on the face and boxed on the shoulder by Leonidas while uttering "I will kill you, I will just pay you." On cross-examination, he revealed that it was his father, Josue Bereber, Jr. who made his affidavit. He further admitted that on September 4, 1996, he accompanied his younger sister to school where they passed the classroom of Leonidas and saw two boys teasing each other. He admitted entering the classroom of Leonidas, writing and uttering defamatory remarks against her in the presence of some of her pupils.

The prosecution also presented Josue Bereber, Jr. , the complainant, who testified that he is the father of Dewey Bereber and caused the filing of the complaint because of the injuries and humiliation suffered by his son as a result of the incident. On cross-examination, however, he admitted that he and his wife were not personally present during the incident on September 4, 1996, though his wife was at the "talipapa" at that time. He further stated that it was his son who informed him that he was allegedly injured by Leonidas during the said incident. He, likewise, made a statement that he filed a similar complaint with the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) but decided to withdraw the same to avoid forum shopping.

The documentary evidence adduced by the prosecution are as follows:

Exhibit "A" - Affidavit of Ronnie Catalan;

Exhibit "B" - Affidavit of Dewey Bereber;

Exhibit "C" - Police Blotter dated September 6, 1996;

Exhibit "D" - Medical Certificate issued by Dr. Leonilo Viterbo; and

Exhibit "E" - Affidavit of Josue Bereber, Jr.

On the other hand, Leonidas, in her defense, presented her witnesses.

Cecile Sarria, a co-teacher of the Respondent, testified that in the afternoon of September 4, 1996, she was with the respondent at the "talipapa" and bought dressed chicken. After which, when the respondent turned her back, she saw Dewey Bereber looking at the respondent with dagger looks. Respondent confronted Dewey about the incident that happened in her classroom earlier in the morning of the same day and Sarria saw Dewey, who had a swollen face like he had a toothache, reacting as if he wanted to fight back. Sarria testified that the respondent never slapped Dewey and narrated that during the confrontation, Dewey's mother approached her son, held his mouth and told him not to fight back. She also claimed that immediately, thereafter, Dewey's mother brought him out of the situation while she held respondent's arm and brought her out of the "talipapa". On cross-examination, Sarria admitted that she came to know of the morning incident from the respondent herself and from other pupils of the school who witnessed Dewey's utterances of defamatory remarks and writings at the respondent's classroom.

Also, the respondent presented Ruby B. Sanchez, classroom teacher in the same school and a relative of the complainant by consanguinity. She testified that she was at the "talipapa" on September 4, 1996 at about 5:00 in the afternoon where she witnessed the confrontation between Dewey and the respondent. She narrated that when the incident happened, she was about a meter away from Dewey and the respondent wherein the latter confronted the former about why he scattered the things of the respondent inside the classroom. She also observed that when Dewey was in the verge of fighting back, which was made evident by his ascending voice, his mother came to approach Dewey and pulled him away from the scene. She further testified that she never saw the respondent slap Dewey and if this was the cse, she should have reacted which she never did.

Lastly, the respondent was presented and ffirmed the allegations stated in her answe to the formal charge. On cross-examination, she admitted that she never witnessed Dewey enter her classroom and that she came to know such incident from her son James and from other pupils. She narrated that after the incident, she reported the same to her principal who then accompanied her in reporting the same to the police.

The pieces of documentary evidence adduced by the respondent are as follows:

Exhibit "1" - Affidavit of Cecile Sarria;

Exhibit "2" - Affidavit of Ruby Sanchez;

Exhibit "3" - Counter-affidavit of Zenaida Leonidas;

Exhibit "4" - Joint counter-affidavit of James and Zenaida Leonidas;

Exhibit "5" - Affidavit of Junrel Verbo; and

Exhibit "6" - Supporting Affidavit of Rosana Benayon.

After a careful evaluation of the evidence as well as the unbiased assessment of the testimonies of the witnesses, the Commission finds no substantial evidence to hold respondent guilty of Grave Misconduct.

The testimonies of the witnesses for the respondent were given in a straightforward and candid delivery that there could no room for doubt as to the credibility of their statements. Moreover, the prosecution miserably failed to prove the veracity of the complained acts of the respondent. On the other hand, the latter successfully refuted complainant's allegations during the formal investigation. The substantial evidence necessary to find the respondent liable is wanting in the instant case.

While complainant testified in the affirmative, his testimony, which consisted mainly of information relayed to him by his son, Dewey, is patently hearsay and has no evidentiary value. His son's positive assertion that respondent slapped him and boxed or punched him on the shoulder cannot be afforded full faith and credit. It is of common knowledge that children of complainant's son's age usually resort to squid tactics to avoid taking responsibility for their irresponsible behaviours. His son's admission that he did the acts recounted by respondent which caused her to confront him leading to this disputed incident may have impelled him and even complainant himself to stretch the confrontation incident to include a slapping and boxing skirmish in anticipation of and in order to have leverage against respondent's possible legal action. Notably suprising is the non-presentation of complainant's wife whose testimony, had she been presented, could have enormously helped in ferrting out the truth. Relatedly, complainant's submission of a medical certificate attesting to the injuries of his son, without him presenting the doctor who issued the said medical certificate, renders the contents of said medical certificate hearsay. (People vs. del Rosario, 234 SCRA 246 and People vs. Salanga, 234 SCRA 407)

Complainant's presentation of Catalan to corroborate his son's testimony is also opento question. It msut be noted that Catalan's affidavit was not one of theose which complainant submitted is support of his complaint. The submission of his affidavit and presentation of his testimony only during the formal investigation ma have come only as an afterthought to bolster complainant's action.

On the other hand, while respondent and her witnesses testified on the negative, their testimonies appear believalbe, reasonalbe and credible as they were moer in accord with human nature and experience. For instance, we can easily believe respondent's contention that she confronted complainant's son Dewey because whe was reminded of the morning incident when she saw Dewey at the public market looking at her with dagger-look eyes. That seems more likely as against complainant's assertion that respondent, without any provocation, slapped his son across the face and puched him or boxed him on the shoulder. It is highly unnatural for a person, especilly for a woman and a public school teacher at ahat and with such demeanor that respondent presented herself during the investigation, to attack a person in public, particularly a minor child, with the child's mother just around the place.

Moreover, the testimonies of Cecile Sarria and Ruby Sanchez are not open to doubt. Both are classroom teacher and are presumed to understand the solemnity of their oaths. Sanchez' testimony, futhermore, carries great weight, her relationship to complainant's family not having been refuted. In one case, the Supreme Court held, 'All things being equal, the natural learning of witness who is related to a party in a suit, is to testify in a manner favorable to the latter'. (People vs.Yadaon, GR No. L-1262, Nov. 16, 1948) Sanchez' testifying voluntarily in favor of respondent is, therefore afforded, great respect.

It is a well-settled rule in administrative investigationns that when no substantial evidence is sufficiently adduced to prove the guilt of the respondent, exonoration, as a matter of course, necessarily folows. This rule should, therefore, be applied in the instant case when the complainant miserably proved the allegations in his complaint.

The Commission is not, therefore, persuaded from the circumstances to find the respondent guilty of grave misconduct. The records of the case clearly establish the innocence of the respondent that she never committed grave misconduct by slapping Dewey Bereber in the afternoon of September 4, 1996. In grave misconduct, as distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule must be manifest (Landrito vs. CSC [223 SCRA 551]). Futhermore, in CSC Resolution No. 96-0449 dated January 23, 1996, the Commission ruled as follows:

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"Misconduct by a public officer/employee has been defined by the Supreme Court, in the case of Lacson vs. Roque, et al. (92 Phil 456) as 'such as affects his performance of his duties as an officer and not such only affects his character as private individual. In such cases, it has been said at all times, it is necessary to separate the character of the man from the character of the officer'.

"The CSC has further ruled in the case of Sarigumba vs. Pasok (115 SCRA 646) as follows: 'it is settled that misconductů warranting removal from office of an officer must have a direct relation to and be connected with the performance of official duties, willful, intentional neglect and failure to discharge the duties of office'."

Based from the foregoing, the Commission finds the complaint to be without bases, hence, it must fail. However, Zenaida S. Leonidas is hereby warned, that as a public school teacher, she should act with prudence in her dealings with the public in order that misunderstandings will be avoided in the future.

WHEREFORE, the complaint of Josue Bereber, Jr. against Zenaida S. Leonidas for Grave Misconduct is hereby dismissed for lack of merit.

Quezon City, February 4, 2000

(Sgd.) CORAZON ALMA G. DE LEON

Chairman

(Sgd.) JOSE F. ERESTAIN, JR.

             Commissioner

 

               (Vacant)

          Commissioner

 

 

Attested by:                       

(Sgd.) ARIEL G. RONQUILLO

Director III