SC-2020-0036: OLIVER B. FELIX, VS. JULITO D. VITRIOLO, (G.R. No. 237129, DECEMBER 9, 2020, CARANDANG, J.) (SUBJECT/S: GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY) (BRIEF TITLE: FELIX VS VITRIOLO)

DISPOSITIVE:

“WHEREFORE, the Decision dated August 1 7, 2017 and the Resolution dated January 29, 2018 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 149063 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Court finds respondent Julito D. Vitriolo GUILTY of gross neglect of duty and imposes upon him the penalty of DISMISSAL from service, with the corresponding accessory penalties.

So Ordered.”

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS CASE?

RESPONDENT WAS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CHED. PETITIONER, A FACULTY MEMBER OF PLM, WROTE LETTERS TO RESPONDENT REQUESTING RESPONDENT TO INVESTIGATE  ALLEGED DIPLOMA MILL OPERATIONS OF PLM. RESPONDENT FAILED TO ANSWER SAID LETTERS AND CONDUCT INVESTIGATION. OMBUDSMAN RULED HIS OMISSION  CONSTITUTES GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY. HE WAS DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE. ON APPEAL CA RULED RESPONDENT COMMITTED ONLY SIMPLE NEGLECT OF DUTY AND IMPOSED 30 DAYS SUSPENSION. EVIDENCE SHOWS HE REFERRED MATTER TO VARIOUS UNITS OF CHED. BUT SUPREME COURT REVERSED CA AND AFFIRMED OMBUDSMAN RULING. THE FACT IS RESPONDENT FAILED TO PROMPTLY ANSWERED PETITIONER’S LETTERS AND THE FACT THAT AFTER SO MANY YEARS THERE WAS NO RESULT OF INVESTIGATION SHOWS RESPONDENT DID NOT PERFORM HIS DUTY.  SOME SIGNIFICANT FACTS ARE STATED BELOW:

“Worse, in Vitriolo’s reply dated July 11, 4014 to Felix’s June 30, 2014 letter, he only gave the lame excuse that the one assigned for investigation has retired without turning over his findings. Vi riol◊ even admitted that as late as August 3, 2015, he was still making referrals for the investigation of the matter to different CHED offices. If Vitriolo truly ordered an investigation of the alleged diploma-mill operations of PLM and considering that five long years has passed since Felix first wrote the letters to Vitriolo regarding the matter, a definite finding should have already been arrived at.

What is apparent in Vitriolo’s actions is that he did not take the allegations of Felix seriously. His flagrant and culpable refusal or unwillingness to perform his official duties could have allowed the continuation of PLM’s illegal academic programs.

All told, Vitriolo’s failure to reply to the two letters sent by Felix is not a simple violation of Section 5 (a) ofR.A. No. 6713 but an omission that gave rise to a more serious problem of the possible continuation of the illegal programs and diploma-mill operations of PLM. Because of Vitriolo’s gross neglect of duty, the investigation was not undertaken and the possible administrative liabilities of those involved were not determined.”

WHAT IS GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY?

Gross neglect of duty or gross negligence refers to negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care that even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to give to their own property. It denotes a flagrant and culpable refusal or unwillingness of a person to perform a duty. In cases involving public officials, gross negligence occurs when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable. 43

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