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Understanding Service Related Misconduct

The Christmas season is here. Malls now play Christmas songs, the air is much colder and the man who’s been selling Christmas lanterns near our place for the past years is back. It is here and by mid-December, I’m sure our schedules will be packed for office and institution parties.

This brings me to the case Rolando Ganzon vs. Fernando Arlos (G.R. No. 174321, October 22, 2013; En Banc) where the Supreme Court was asked to determine, among others, if an office Christmas party can be considered an official function where service related misconduct can be committed. That was the question of Rolando Ganzon who was sued for Grave Misconduct by Fernando Arlos.

Arlos was Ganzon’s superior at DILG RO6. He gave Ganzon a poor performance rating. Feeling vengeful, Ganzon pointed a loaded firearm to Arlos four times during their Christmas party held in DILG RO6’s parking lot. The incident prompted Arlos to file an administrative case against Ganzon for Grave Misconduct. Of course Ganzon did not want that, so he made some good arguments –

First, that his acts could not be considered misconduct because they were not committed in relation to his performance of duty; and

Second, that the Christmas party was not an official function that will render as misconduct any untoward incident committed during the occasion.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court was not convinced with his arguments. Citing the case Largo vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 177244, November 20, 2007), the Court reminded Ganzon of the criteria for an act to constitute a misconduct – (1) the act must not be committed in a private capacity; and (2) the act should bear a direct relation and be connected with the performance of official duties. According to the Court, Ganzon met the criteria because – (1) his motivation (resentment of the poor performance rating) concerned his performance of duty; and (2) his acts were intimately connected to his office since he would not have done them if he did not occupy the position. Again citing a prior case, Alarilla vs. Sandiganbayan (G.R. No. 136806, August 22, 2000), the Supreme Court held that “an act that is the consequence of the discharge of the employee’s official functions or the performance of his duties, or that is relevant to his office or to the discharge of his official functions is justly considered as service-related.” It also did not bother the Court that the incident happened during a Christmas party or outside regular office hours because for public employees, the Court reminded, the law of good manners and proper decorum is the same law during and outside office hours.

So next time you think of doing something crazy to your boss who gave you a poor rating, think of Rolando Ganzon and how he lost his job and retirement benefits.

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