SC fines Iriga court sheriff over ‘5-6’ money-lending business
The Supreme Court (SC) has imposed on an Iriga City court sheriff a fine equivalent to one month’s salary in connection with her “5-6” money-lending business.
In a recent 8-page decision, the SC 2nd Division found Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 36 sheriff Jessica Maxilinda Ibarreta guilty of simple misconduct.
The SC noted that Administrative Circular Number 5, dated October 4, 1988, prohibited all employees of the judiciary from engaging directly in any private business or profession, even outside office hours.
“The nature of the work of court employees and officials demanded their highest degree of efficiency and responsibility, and they would not ably meet the demand except by devoting their undivided time to the government service,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
Besides the moonlighting issue, the SC noted that the nature of Ibarreta’s business “surely put the integrity of her office under so much undeserved suspicion.”
“She should have been more circumspect in her acts, knowing that sooner or later, it would be unavoidable that the impression that she had taken advantage of her position and abused the confidence reposed in her office and functions would arise,” read the decision.
But, the SC decided not to suspend her because this was her first offense in her 30 years of service and she was performing a frontline function.
The case arose from an anonymous caller’s complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman that Ibarreta was displaying wealth that seemed disproportionate to her monthly wage.
Although the charge of ill-gotten wealth was found to be without merit, Ibarreta did not deny conducting money-lending activities. She merely explained that she was continuing the business of her mother after she passed away.
“5-6” pertains to the practice of lending money at exorbitant interest rates of as much as 20%.