Eduardo Bago vs Joel Feraren
410 SCRA 282 – Political Law – Administrative Law – Civil Service Commission – “Just Debts” Defined
Legal Profession – Court Employees – High Ethical Standards
Law on Public Officers – Civil Service – Duties of Public Officers
In 1997, Joel Feraren, Sheriff III of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 67, borrowed Php4,500.00 from Eduardo Bago. Feraren executed a promissory note therefor whereby he promised to pay the loan within ten (10) days. But after ten days, he never paid.
In 1999, or after two years, since Feraren still failed to pay, Bago decided to file an administrative case against Feraren with the Office of the Court Administrator. The admin case is grounded on Feraren’s alleged violation of R.A. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. Section 4 thereof partly provides:
SEC. 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. – (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties:
(a) Commitment to public interest. – Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. . .
. . . . . . . . .
(c) Justness and Sincerity. – Public officials and employees shall remain true to the people at all times. They must act with justness and sincerity and shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the underprivileged. They shall at all time respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest. They shall not dispense or extend undue favors on account of their office to their relatives whether by consanguinity or affinity except with respect to appointments of such relatives to positions considered strictly confidential or as members of their personal staff whose terms are coterminous with theirs.
In his defense, Feraren argued that he cannot be liable under the said provision because the act of borrowing money and not paying the same is not connected with his functions as a public official.
ISSUE: Whether or not Feraren is liable under R.A. No. 9713.
HELD: No. Feraren is correct, his act of borrowing and not paying his debts is not connected with his official functions.
However, Feraren is liable under another law – Executive Order No. 292 or “The Administrative Code of 1987” and its IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations).
Under this law, a public employee’s willful failure to pay just debts is a ground for disciplinary action. Just Debts is defined as referring to any of the following:
a. claims adjudicated by a court of law;
b. claims the existence and justness of which are admitted by the debtor.
In this case, Feraren did not deny the debt. He only argued that he cannot be liable under the law raised by Bago.
What is the penalty for non-payment of just debts by public officials?
a. First offense – reprimand
b. Second offense – suspension (1 to 30 days)
c. Third offense – dismissal