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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 147182. November 21, 2002.]

EVELYN M. RELUCIO, Petitioner, v. CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION and COURT OF APPEALS, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N


YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:


Before us is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to set aside the September 20, 2000 decision 1 and the February 6, 2001 resolution 2 of the Court of Appeals 3 in CA-G.R. SP No. 58966, which upheld Resolution Nos. 991431 4 and 992599 5 of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) finding petitioner Evelyn M. Relucio guilty of Dishonesty and Falsification of Official Documents and imposing upon her the penalty of dismissal from service.cralawlibrary : red

Petitioner Evelyn M. Relucio is a Community Affairs Officer IV of Iligan City. She claimed that her father, the late Alberto Mansueto, Jr., was a World War II veteran who served with the rank of Sergeant at the 85th Infantry Regiment, Cebu Area Command, 82nd Division, Philippine Army, from June 1942 to April 1945. During the lifetime of Alberto Mansueto, Jr., he, and after his demise, his wife, Elena Crespo-Mansueto, tried to seek official confirmation of his military service with the Philippine Veterans Board (now Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, PVAO). They presented the pertinent documents therefor, including the affidavits dated June 21, 1972, April 8, 1981, and July 8, 1981, executed by Lt. Col. Rogaciano C. Espiritu, Col. Manuel F. Segura and Capt. Lorenzo M. Buenaflor, respectively. 6 Unfortunately, the Mansuetos failed to obtain said confirmation and recognition of Alberto Mansueto, Jr.’s, military services.

Meanwhile, on April 3, 1982, Executive Order No. 790 was issued granting and extending the veteran preference rating in civil service examination to any one child of a veteran.

Thus, petitioner filed a petition to avail of said preference rating in civil service examination. Aware that the military service of her father was not yet officially recognized by the PVAO, she presented the affidavits executed by Lt. Col. Rogaciano C. Espiritu, Col. Manuel F. Segura and Capt. Lorenzo M. Buenaflor, in support of her application.

Acting on petitioner’s application, the PVAO issued Master List No. 274, dated March 30, 1987 and Certification No. 22413A, dated March 24, 1987, stating that Alberto Mansueto, Jr., was a World War II Veteran with the rank of private. On the basis of said Master List and Certification, the CSC granted her the benefit of 10% additional veterans preference rating and a Career Service Professional Eligibility.

Sometime in 1993, the CSC and the PVAO undertook a revalidation of their records to ascertain the truthfulness of the claims of supposed children of veterans who were given the 10% veterans preferential rating. Thus, in the Memorandum of Agreement entered into by the CSC and the PVAO on January 7, 1994, it was agreed that" [f]or purposes of the grant of veterans preference rating, the name of the veteran should appear in any of the official documents of PVAO. These documents are the Reconstructed Recognized Guerilla Roster (RRGR), Philippine Veterans Bank Listing (PVBL), Updated List of AFP Retirees and List of Veterans with approved Deserving Guerilla Status." 7

One of those investigated was the claim of petitioner that her father Alberto Mansueto, Jr., who died on December 9, 1964, was a Second World War veteran. On the basis of the "Report" submitted by the PVAO that the name of Alberto Mansueto, Jr., does not appear in any of its records, and after the requisite preliminary and fact-finding investigation, the CSC approved Resolution No. 95-4573 giving due course to the Formal Charge against petitioner for dishonesty and falsification of official documents. Pertinent portion of the Formal Charge reads:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

When Evelyn M. Relucio applied for the grant of veteran preference rating at the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), she claimed that her father, Alberto Mansueto, was a veteran. However, after verification done by the Commission, it was determined that the name of Alberto Mansueto, is not found in any of PVAO’s official records of veterans. That by reason of her misrepresentation, she was issued Certification No. 22413A and Master List No. 274 by Philippine Veterans Affairs Office dated March 24, 1987 and March 30, 1987, respectively certifying that her father Alberto [M]ansueto is a World War II Veteran with the rank of Private. As a result of the certification issued by the PVAO, Evelyn Relucio was able to use the same to avail of the benefits of a 10% veterans preference granted to children of veterans. As a consequence thereof, she was issued a Career Service Professional eligibility and subsequently appointed under permanent appointment at the Palao City Government, Iligan City. 8

In her letter-Answer to the Formal Charge, petitioner claimed good faith and admitted, inter alia, that her father, before his demise was unable to complete all the papers and documentation in support of his claim that he was a World War II veteran, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


To support my denial and/or disavowal and disagreement with the finding of a prima facie case against me, in turn, I hereby respectfully submit, in good faith, the hereunder listed certified xerox copies of Affidavits being executed by [the] following-named World War II veterans then the guerilla officers and associates of my late guerilla veteran father, who had served as World War II guerilla Radio Operator with [the] rank of Sergeant at Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 85th INFANTRY Regiment, Cebu Area Command, 82nd DIVISION, Philippine Army, with station at Babag, Cebu City, namely:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


Foregoing documents, duly sworn under oath, attest to the veracity that my late World War II guerilla veteran father Alberto M. Mansueto, Jr. served with a rank of Sergeant, then assigned as Radio Operator of Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 85th INFANTRY Regiment, Cebu Area Command, 82nd DIVISION, Philippine Army, from June 1942 through April, 1945, at Babag, Cebu City Philippines.

The papers/documents of my late guerilla veteran father, as related to his adjudication as such veteran, were all in the process of documentation when the poblacion-wide fire/conflagration last May 21, 1957 in Iligan City caught our family members by surprise, thereby gutted our residential house, including all our papers and documents that covered the adjudication of my late veteran father, and thus, left all the numbers of our family with bare food, clothing, and petty items of our family business. Despondent moves of (sic) our late father transferred our family business, residence and business activities somewhere outside the poblacion proper of Iligan City, particularly in Barangay Tibanga. Unluckily, the preparatory moves of my late father to complete his papers/documents were overtaken by his untimely death/demise last December 9, 1964. Hence, my mother, Elena Crespo Mansueto, as surviving wife of my late father, met difficulty in completing the requirements for the adjudication and monetary claims for the World War II veteran adjudication of my late father.

Attached also hereto, is a copy of the Affidavit of my mother, Elena Crespo Mansueto, as executed on August 18, 1995 attesting to the foregoing narration of the circumstances and the fact that my late father was a genuine World War II guerilla veteran.

I hope that the foregoing explanations will clarify my stand that my late father was indeed and in fact a genuine World War II veteran. No misrepresentation done, I highly deserve availments of the benefits of a 10% veterans granted to children of World War II veteran.

All the foregoing statements of facts and circumstances considered as to the truth of the genuine status of my late father as a World War II guerilla veteran, I HEREBY WAIVE A FORMAL INVESTIGATION in connection with this case.

x       x       x. 9

On July 5, 1999, the Commission issued Resolution No. 991431, finding the petitioner guilty as charged and imposing upon her the penalty of dismissal from service. The dispositive portion thereof reads:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE, Evelyn M. Relucio is hereby found guilty of Dishonesty and Falsification of Official Documents. Accordingly, she is meted the penalty of dismissal from service with all the accessory penalties.

Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Ombudsman for whatever criminal action it may take under the premises. 10

On November 24, 1999, the CSC denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration in its Resolution No. 992599. 11

On May 29, 2000, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, contending that the CSC gravely abused its discretion in issuing the assailed resolutions. On September 20, 2000, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision dismissing the petition on both procedural and substantive grounds. It ruled that the proper remedy is a petition for review under Rule 43, and not a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. It further held that the CSC committed no abuse of discretion in finding petitioner guilty of dishonesty and falsification considering that the CSC based its decision on the Report of the PVAO that Alberto Mansueto, Jr., whom petitioner represented to be a veteran, was not in the list of the confirmed and recognized World War II veterans.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied on February 6, 2001. 12

Hence, the instant petition for review.

Meanwhile, on January 10, 2001, the Military Service Board, Department of National Defense, confirmed the military services of Alberto Mansueto, Jr., and conferred upon him full military veteran status. 13

The petition is impressed with merit.

Under Section 23, Rule XIV, of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the provisions of Book V, of E.O. No. 292, dishonesty and falsification of official document are grave offenses punishable with dismissal from service. Dishonesty connotes a disposition to lie, cheat or defraud. 14 On the other hand, the elements of falsification are as follows: (a) the offender makes in a document statements in a narration of facts; (b) the offender has a legal obligation to disclose the truth of the facts narrated; (c) the facts narrated by the offender are absolutely false; and, (d) the perversion of truth in the narration of facts was made with the wrongful intent of injuring a third person. 15

The rule is that "there can be no conviction for falsification of a public document if the acts of the accused are consistent with good faith . . ." Thus, the maxim, actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea — a crime is not committed if the mind of the person performing the act complained of be innocent. 16

In the case at bar, petitioner was undoubtedly in good faith when she claimed that she was a daughter of a World War II veteran. Aware that her father’s veteran status was not yet confirmed, she submitted affidavits of the superiors and contemporaries in the military of her father to prove that he indeed served during World War II. In fact, on the basis of said affidavits, the PVAO recognized her father’s services and consequently issued Master List No. 274 dated March 30, 1987 and Certification No. 22413A dated March 24, 1987, stating that Alberto Mansueto, Jr., was a World War II Veteran with the rank of private.

Moreover, one of the elements of the offense of falsification, i.e., that the facts narrated by the offender be absolutely false, is lacking in the instant case. The subsequent confirmation and recognition of the veteran status of petitioner’s father on January 10, 2001 proves that when she declared that he was a veteran, she was stating the truth.

Petitioner should, therefore, be exonerated from the charges filed against her. Consequently, payment of her back salaries is in order. Pursuant to current jurisprudence, a civil service employee terminated from the service and later found innocent of the charges is entitled to back salaries 17 limited to a period not exceeding five years. 18

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED. The September 20, 2000 decision and the February 6, 2001 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 58966, and Resolution Nos. 991431 and 992599, of the Civil Service Commission are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Evelyn M. Relucio is reinstated to her former position as Community Affairs Officer IV of Iligan City with back salaries and benefits due her from the time of her termination up to the date of reinstatement.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Carpio-Morales, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Corona, J., on official leave.

Callejo, Sr., J., took no part.

Endnotes:



1. Rollo, p. 28.

2. Rollo, p. 47.

3. Special Seventeenth Division, composed of Associate Justices Romeo J. Callejo (Chairman and ponente); Martin S. Villarama, Jr. (member); and Perlita J. Tria Tirona (member).

4. Rollo, p. 94.

5. Rollo, p. 99.

6. Rollo, pp. 110-112.

7. Rollo, p. 100.

8. Rollo, p. 94.

9. Rollo, p. 107.

10. Rollo, p. 98.

11. Rollo, p. 99.

12. Rollo, p. 47.

13. Rollo, p. 188.

14. H. C. Campbell, Black, Blacks Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, p. 421.

15. Lecaroz v. Sandiganbayan, Et Al., 305 SCRA 396, 413 [1999], citing Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code.

16. Amora, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 115 SCRA 388, 393 [1982], citing U.S. v. Catolico, 18 Phil. 504, 507 [1911].

17. Castro v. Secretary Ricardo Gloria, G.R. No. 132174, August 20, 2001, citing Bangalisan v. Court of Appeals, 276 SCRA 619 [1997]; Alipat v. Court of Appeals, 308 SCRA 781 [1999].

18. Adiong v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 136480, December 4, 2001, citing Marohombsar v. Court of Appeals, 326 SCRA 62, 73-74 [2000]; San Luis v. Court of Appeals, 174 SCRA 258 [1989]; Tan, Jr. v. Office of the President, 229 SCRA 677 [1994].

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