The Supreme Court has ordered the dismissal of a clerk who was earlier suspended after she confessed to taking more than P5.4 million from the Judicial Development Fund (JDF) of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Voting 14-0, the high tribunal last week found Develyn Gesultura guilty of grave misconduct and dishonesty and ordered all her retirement benefits forfeited in favor of the government.
On top of these, she was also ordered to return the money which disappeared from the Pasig court’s JDF account between 2001 and 2003.
The JDF, established in 1984, comes from legal fees collected by the courts. It is used to augment the allowances of of judiciary personnel and finance the acquisition, maintenance and repair of office equipment and facilities.
In 2003, an officer of the Land Bank of the Philippines informed the head of the high tribunal’s Fiscal Management and Budget Office (FMBO) that its audit group had found discrepancies between its records and that of the FMBO on the lower court’s JDF deposit account.
A check made by the FBMO showed that more than P3.7 million was indeed missing from the lower court’s JDF account for the period covering January 2001 to June 2003.
Further investigation revealed that while the records of Pasig RTC’s Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) during the period in question indicated total deposits of P8,902,187.95, the actual amount in the account was only P5,194,715.21.
Gesultura, who was found responsible for the discrepancy, later admitted she took some money from the JDF collection.
In 2004, a financial team at the Court Management Office submitted a final report which said that from December 1996 to December 2003, the total amount which the OCC failed to deposit in the Pasig court’s JDF was P5,463,931.30. The audit team recommended that Gesultura be ordered to return the missing money.
The same recommendation was made by the Office of the Court Administrator in 2007 which said that Gesultura committed acts of dishonesty and misappropriated the JDF collection. It also pushed for her dismissal from the service.
In its decision, the high court said: “Public office is a public trust. No position demands greater moral righteousness and uprightness from the occupant than does the judicial office. The safekeeping of funds and collections is essential to the goal of an orderly administration of justice. The act of misappropriating judiciary funds constitutes dishonesty and grave misconduct which are grave offenses punishable by dismissal upon the commission of even the first offense.”
In 2010, Gesultura was charged with malversation of public funds and falsification of official documents in the Office of the Ombudsman. She stopped reporting for work in September 2003 and was placed under suspension five months later.