Delsa and the guilty verdict
She figured prominently in the two last yet most significant days of the impeachment trial. Her name resonated throughout the land. She was the living example set by the prosecution team in its oral arguments, the same person whose dismissal from service was utilized as comparison in the prayer for guilty verdict against Chief Justice Renato Corona. Delsa Flores, a former court interpreter, was placed once more in the bad light but, for the public to clearly understand the uniform application of penal sanctions among all those in public service, had to withstand the pain of remembering that regretful past.
The prosecution team pounded on the woman’s dismissal from public office as consequence of her failure to declare in her Sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) her business interest, that is her stall at the extension of the public market in Panabo, Davao. This same landmark case was mentioned over and over by some of the senator-judges who decided guilty in the impeachment case. They harped on the equality of the law that punished Flores, a lowly Regional Trial Court employee, as should be similarly applied in the impeachment of the highest official of the Supreme Court of the Philippines in the person of CJ Corona. This law, The Administrative Code of 1987, dishonesty is punishable by dismissal.
Perusal of the SC en banc decision in Administrative Matter No. P-97-1247 dated May 14, 1997 which can be accessed thru the webpage of the Supreme Court, would nevertheless, reveal more gripping facts beyond her failure to declare business interest in her SALN. She committed other offenses that warranted her outright dismissal from public service. Ms. Flores, now a single parent but at the time of the pendency of the administrative case against her was the “sole breadwinner of her family, with her husband and parents to feed and children to send to school,” was forced to moved out from her office with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and accrued leave credits and with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations,” the SC decision stated.
Other than the abovementioned offense, she was also found guilty of “receiv(ing) from the municipality a salary for the period May 16 to May 31, 1991, notwithstanding her transfer to the judiciary on May 16, 1991.”
Synopsis of the decision states the following: “Respondent Flores, in a letter dated February 13, 1996, ex er job in the Regional Trial Court, Branch IV, Panabo, Davao on May 16, 1991, in compliance with the directive from this Court for her to start working on the said date. Respondent further states that “even prior to said date (May 16, 1991)” she already reported to the court in order to familiarize herself with the scope of her duties.”
In her answer she stated, “I admit that I received my last salary in the amount of One Thousand and 80/100 (P1,000.80) Pesos from the Local Government Unit from May 16-31, 1991 but farthest from my mind is the intent to defraud the government. It was my desire all the time to refund the amount the moment my salary is received from the Supreme Court, unfortunately more often than not (the salary) is received three or four months after assumption of office.”
“As we all know the month of May and June is the time we enroll our children in school thus the money I got that month from the Local Government Unit came handy in defraying registration expenses of my four children. The passage of time coupled with some intervening events, made me oblivious of my obligation to refund the money. However, when my attention was called on the day I received the copy of the resolution, I took no time in refunding the same.”
In the mind of the Court, all she stated in her answer were of no moment in the case filed against her as her case was one of malum prohibitum and good faith or lack of malice or bad intent is not a defense. It is the same legal premise that Senator-judge Franklin Drilon stressed in his guilty judgment against Corona. He said, “defense of good faith cannot be invoked; good faith is immaterial.” It could be remembered that CJ Corona invoked good faith in his failure to include in his SALN is million dollars and pesos accounts claiming confidentiality as he believed one of the intents of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act.
The Supreme Court dismissed Delsa Flores from service on the basis of the allegations in complaint filed by private person Narita Rabe, a tenant of Flores’ stall. The High Tribunal used a certain level of standard moored on the Administrative Code of 1987 and other Civil Service laws. It could be the same standard used by the Senate impeachment court in deciding on the fate of the topmost official of the Supreme Court, the same court that decided on the destiny of Flores’ career in the government service.
Will it not be the same standard that will be applied against the senator-jurors in evaluating their conduct in public office? Senator-judge Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who is a member of the Judicial and Bar Council and a critic of the PNoy administration, said when he delivered his judgment on the verdict day, “do not judge lest you be judged, for the measure you use will be used to judge you. I hope this case will be signal for us to level up the standard not only for CJ Corona but for all of us in public service.”
By: Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros
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