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G.R. No. 177531 - Civil Service Commission v. Fatima A. Macud

G.R. No. 177531 - Civil Service Commission v. Fatima A. Macud

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. NO. 177531 : September 10, 2009]

CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, Petitioner, v. FATIMA A. MACUD, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioner seeks to set aside and annul the Decision1 dated May 25, 2006 and the Resolution2 dated April 12, 2007 rendered by the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. SP No. 00480.

The CA decision set aside an earlier resolution3 of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Central Office as well as the decision4 of Civil Service Commission Regional Office (CSCRO) XII which found respondent guilty of Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service on the ground of lack of jurisdiction.

The undisputed facts, as found by the CA, are quoted hereunder:

As a requirement for her appointment as Teacher I of the Department of Education, Marawi City, petitioner FATIMA A. MACUD submitted her Personal Data Sheet (PDS) to the CSC Regional Office XII. Her declaration in the said PDS that she successfully passed the 23 October 1994 Professional Board Examination for Teachers (PBET) in Iligan City was the moving force which led to the instant controversy.

Investigations were thereupon conducted by CSC Regional Office XII (CSCRO XII) anent petitioner's PBET pursuant to its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to verify the eligibility of newly appointed teachers. Thereafter, on 27 November 2002, petitioner was formally charged with Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service before the same regional office, to wit:

1. On April 10, 2002, Fatima A. Macud was appointed as Teacher I of the Department of Education - Marawi City Division by City Schools Division Superintendent Olindang G. Dimaampao;

2. In support of her appointment, Macud submitted a copy of her Personal Data Sheet (PDS) dated January 25, 2002. In the said PDS, particularly in item no. 19 thereof, Macud claims to have taken and passed the October 23, 1994 Professional Board Examination for Teachers (PBET) in Iligan City with a rating of 76.26%;

3. As a standard operating procedure, this Office verified the claimed eligibility of Macud with her examination records, namely: the Application Form (AF) to the said examination and the Picture-Seat Plan (PSP) of Room No. 16 at St. Michael's College, Iligan City;

4. In the examination of Macud's PDS, the AF and the PSP, the following were revealed:

4.1 There is a disparity in Macud's date of birth as appearing in the AF and PSP as against her PDS accomplished on January 25, 2002. December 15, 1958 appeared as her date of birth in the AF and PSP while it is December 15, 1965 that appeared in her PDS;

4.2 A comparison of the facial features of Macud in the picture attached to her PDS vis - à-vis her features as shown in the picture attached to the AF and PSP shows an obvious dissemblance;

4.3 The signature of Macud as appearing in her PDS is likewise different from that affixed in her AF and PSP.

The foregoing facts clearly show that Macud deliberately allowed another person to take for and in her behalf the October 23, 1994 PBET in Iligan City.

WHEREFORE, Fatima A. Macud is hereby formally charged with Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. Accordingly, she is given five (5) days from receipt hereof to submit to this Office a written answer under oath, together with the affidavit of her witnesses and documentary evidence, if any. She shall state whether she elects a formal investigation or waives the same. Respondent is also informed of her right to engage the service of a counsel of her choice.

In her Answer, petitioner asserted that she personally took the PBET on 23 October 1994 in Iligan City. While she admitted item nos. 1, 2, 4.1, 4.3 of the formal charge filed against her, supra, petitioner vehemently denied item no. 4.2 by alleging that the dissemblance of her picture attached to her AF and PSP from her picture pasted on her PDS was because the two pictures were taken on two different occasions, i.e., her picture in the AF and PSP was taken in 1993 while that of the PDS was taken in 2002, roughly nine (9) years apart from each other. Anent the disparity in her signatures, petitioner reasoned out that it was the result of the change of her status, i.e., she eventually got married and had to use the surname of her husband. With respect to her date of birth, she alleged that her known and recognized date of birth prior and up to 1994 was 15 December 1958. Thereafter, she was informed that her correct date of birth is 15 December 1965, as indicated in her PDS dated 25 January 2002.

On 19 August 2003, CSCRO XII conducted a formal investigation. However, petitioner failed to attend. Nevertheless, the investigation proceeded with the presentation of documentary evidence against her, viz: Application Form filled out by Fatima Ali on 23 October 1994 for the PBET; Picture-Seat Plan (PSP) of Room #16, St. Michael's College, Iligan City; Personal Data Sheet (PDS) of Fatima Ali-Macud dated 25 January 2002; Appointment of Fatima Ali-Macud as Teacher I (Regular Permanent) in the Department of Education-Division of Marawi City issued by Supt. Olindang G. Dimaampao dated 10 April 2002; Personal Data Sheet (PDS) of Fatima C. Ali dated 1 November 1987.

On 27 January 2004, the CSCRO XII rendered a Decision, the dispositive portion thereof reads:

WHEREFORE, Fatima A. Macud is hereby found guilty of Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. Accordingly, she should be meted the penalty of dismissal from the service with all the accessory penalties, including perpetual disqualification from holding public office in the future. Furthermore, the Civil Service eligibility of Macud is hereby revoked and cancelled.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the respondent in her address on record; the Division Superintendent, Department of Education (DepEd) - Iligan City Branch; the Office for Legal Affairs (OLA), Civil Service Commission (CSC); the Civil Service Commission Field Office (CSCFO) for Lanao del Sur and Marawi City; the Personnel Inspection and Audit Division (PIAD) and the Examination and Placement Services Division (EPSD), both of this Office, for their information.

The petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the Decision, supra, was denied by the CSCRO XII on 23 March 2004.

On her Appeal to the CSC Central Office, petitioner raised the following issues:

1. Whether or not the Civil Service Commission-Regional Office No. XII, Cotabato City, has jurisdiction over the person of the respondent-appellant and, therefore has jurisdiction to try and decide the case;

2. Whether or nor respondent-appellant committed, in fact and in law, the charges of Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct, and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of Service;

3. Whether or not the PBET Civil Service Eligibility can be revoked and cancelled motu proprio without the benefit of basic due process requirements of notice and hearing.

On 15 June 2005, the CSC rendered Resolution No. 050780, denying petitioner's appeal, the fallo thereof states:

WHEREFORE, the appeal of Fatima A. Macud is hereby DISMISSED. Accordingly, the Civil Service Commission Regional Office No. XII Decisions dated January 27, 2004, finding her guilty of Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct, and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of Service, and dated March 23, 2004 denying Macud's motion for reconsideration are hereby AFFIRMED.5

Aggrieved with the ruling of the CSC, respondent Macud elevated the matter to the CA by way of a petition for certiorari, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 00480. In support of her CA petition, respondent raised the following arguments:

(a) It was not the CSCRO XII that had jurisdiction over the case and person of respondent but the CSCRO XVI (ARMM) since respondent was assigned to a public school located in Marawi City within the territorial jurisdiction of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

(b) There was no substantial evidence to prove the charges against respondent, since (i) no witnesses were presented to authenticate the photographs in the various forms used by the CSC in determining respondent's guilt; (ii) no expert evidence was presented to determine the genuineness of the handwriting/signatures in the questioned forms; and (iii) the true birth date of respondent was never established by convincing proof such as her birth certificate.

On December 13, 2001, the CA promulgated its assailed decision granting respondent's petition and setting aside the decisions of the CSC Central Office and CSCRO XII on the sole ground of lack of jurisdiction. In so ruling, the CA declared:

[T]he CSC has no jurisdiction to hear and decide the instant case. xxx Republic Act No. 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers of 1966 is the law in point.

x x x

In Armand Fabella, et al v. Court of Appeals, et al, the Supreme Court emphatically ruled that RA 4670, otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, specifically covers and governs administrative proceedings involving public school teachers. x x x

Although under Presidential Decree No. 807 (PD 807) or the Civil Service Law, the Civil Service embraces every branch, agency, subdivision, and instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations whether performing governmental or proprietary function, the CSC does not have original jurisdiction over an administrative case against public school teacher. Jurisdiction over administrative cases of public school teachers is lodged with the Investigating Committee created pursuant to Section 9 of RA 4670, supra, now being implemented by Section 2, Chapter VII of DECS Order No. 33, S. 1999, otherwise known as the DECS Rules of Procedure.

x x x

Certainly as petitioner is covered by RA 4670, it is the Investigating Committee that should have investigated her case conformably with Section 9 of RA 4670, supra, and not the CSC. Thus, all proceedings undertaken by the latter with respect to the instant case are necessarily void.6

Petitioner's subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied by the CA in its Resolution dated April 12, 2007.

Hence, the instant petition anchored on the following grounds:

I

The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the Investigating Committee formed under R.A. 4670 has exclusive jurisdiction to try the administrative case against respondent.

II

The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in holding that respondent is not estopped from impugning the jurisdiction of the CSC on the ground that lack of jurisdiction could be assailed at anytime of the proceedings.

Petitioner asserts that it has jurisdiction to take cognizance of the case against respondent pursuant to Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 807 (Civil Service Law), which provides that the civil service embraces every branch, agency, subdivision and instrumentality of the government;7 and Executive Order (E.O.) No. 292 (Administrative Code of 1987), which grants the CSC the power to hear and decide administrative cases instituted by it directly.8 Petitioner also avers that respondent is estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the CSC after having participated in the proceedings therein.

On the other hand, respondent maintains that as a teacher, jurisdiction over the administrative case against her is lodged with a committee constituted under Section 9 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 4670 (Magna Carta for Public School Teachers) and not with the CSC, because R.A. No. 4670 specifically governs administrative proceedings involving public school teachers.

We grant the petition.

As the Solicitor General correctly argues, petitioner CSC is the constitutional body charged with the establishment and administration of a career civil service which embraces all branches and agencies of the government.

Article IX-B, Section 2(1) of the 1987 Constitution provides:

Section 2. (1) The civil service embraces all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters. x x x (emphasis ours)

Section 3 of the same Article further states:

Section 3. The Civil Service Commission, as the central personnel agency of the Government, shall establish a career service and adopt measures to promote morale, efficiency, integrity, responsiveness, progressiveness, and courtesy in the civil service. It shall strengthen the merit and rewards system, integrate all human resources development programs for all levels and ranks, and institutionalize a management climate conducive to public accountability. It shall submit to the President and the Congress an annual report on its personnel programs. (emphasis ours)

Section 12, Chapter 3, Title I (A), Book V of E.O. No. 292 (the Administrative Code of 1987) likewise pertinently provides:

Section 12. Powers and Functions. - The Commission shall have the following powers and functions:

(1) Administer and enforce the constitutional and statutory provisions on the merit system for all levels and ranks in the Civil Service;

(2) Prescribe, amend and enforce rules and regulations for carrying into effect the provisions of the Civil Service Law and other pertinent laws;

x x x           x x x           x x x

(11) Hear and decide administrative cases instituted by or brought before it directly or on appeal, including contested appointments, and review decisions and actions of agencies attached to it'

x x x           x x x           x x x

(14) Take appropriate action on all appointments and other personnel matters in the Civil Service including extension of service beyond retirement age;

x x x           x x x           x x x

In the recent case of Civil Service Commission v. Alfonso,9 the Court held that special laws such as R.A. 4670 did not divest the CSC of its inherent power to supervise and discipline all members of the civil service, including public school teachers. To quote from that decision:

As the central personnel agency of the government, the CSC has jurisdiction to supervise the performance of and discipline, if need be, all government employees, including those employed in government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters such as PUP. Accordingly, all PUP officers and employees, whether they be classified as teachers or professors pursuant to certain provisions of law, are deemed, first and foremost, civil servants accountable to the people and answerable to the CSC in cases of complaints lodged by a citizen against them as public servants. xxx

x x x           x x x           x x x

We are not unmindful of certain special laws that allow the creation of disciplinary committees and governing bodies in different branches, subdivisions, agencies and instrumentalities of the government to hear and decide administrative complaints against their respective officers and employees. Be that as it may, we cannot interpret the creation of such bodies nor the passage of laws such as - R.A. Nos. 8292 and 4670 allowing for the creation of such disciplinary bodies - as having divested the CSC of its inherent power to supervise and discipline government employees, including those in the academe. To hold otherwise would not only negate the very purpose for which the CSC was established, i.e. to instill professionalism, integrity, and accountability in our civil service, but would also impliedly amend the Constitution itself. (emphasis supplied)

This Court has also previously held in Civil Service Commission v. Albao10 that the CSC has the authority to directly institute proceedings to discipline a government employee in order to protect the integrity of the civil service. The relevant portion of our ruling in Albao follows:

The present case, however, partakes of an act by petitioner to protect the integrity of the civil service system' It falls under the provisions of Sec. 12, par. 11, on administrative cases instituted by it directly. This is an integral part of its duty, authority and power to administer the civil service system and protect its integrity, as provided in Article IX-B, Sec. 3 of the Constitution, by removing from its list of eligibles those who falsified their qualifications. This is to be distinguished from ordinary proceedings intended to discipline a bona fide member of the system, for acts or omissions that constitute violations of the law or the rules of the service.11 (emphasis supplied)

Indeed, where an administrative case involves the alleged fraudulent procurement of an eligibility or qualification for employment in the civil service, it is but proper that the CSC would have jurisdiction over the case for it is in the best position to determine if there has been a violation of civil service rules and regulations.

The CA's reliance on Fabella v. Court of Appeals12 is misplaced. That case did not involve a conflict between the jurisdiction of the CSC over administrative cases of public school teachers and the jurisdiction of the investigating committee under Section 9 of R.A. 4670. The doctrine in Fabella is simply that in a proceeding pending before the investigating committee the procedure set down in R.A. 4670 must be adhered to as a requirement of due process.

Indeed, in Office of the Ombudsman v. Masing,13 we held:

It is erroneous, therefore, for respondents to contend that R.A. No. 4670 confers an exclusive disciplinary authority on the DECS over public school teachers and prescribes an exclusive procedure in administrative investigations involving them. R.A. No. 4670 was approved on June 18, 1966. On the other hand, the 1987 Constitution was ratified by the people in a plebiscite in 1987... It is basic that the 1987 Constitution should not be restricted in its meaning by a law of earlier enactment' However, repeals by implication are not favored, and courts have the duty to harmonize, so far as it is practicable, apparently conflicting or inconsistent provisions. Therefore, the statement in Fabella that Section 9 of R.A. No. 4670 reflects the legislative intent to impose a standard and a separate set of procedural requirements in connection with administrative proceedings involving public school teachers should be construed as referring only to the specific procedure to be followed in administrative investigations conducted by the DECS. (emphasis supplied)

Moreover, it is now too late for respondent to challenge the jurisdiction of the CSC. After participating in the proceedings before the CSC, respondent is effectively barred by estoppel from challenging the CSC's jurisdiction. While it is a rule that a jurisdictional question may be raised anytime, this, however, admits of an exception where, as in this case, estoppel has supervened.14

Here, respondent participated actively in the proceedings before CSCRO XII and voluntarily submitted to its jurisdiction with the filing of her Answer, Motion to Reset the Hearing, Urgent Motion for Reconsideration, as well as in seeking affirmative relief from it and in subsequently filing an appeal to the CSC Central Office. In all these instances and even in her petition with the CA, respondent never raised the issue of lack of jurisdiction of the CSC. Her only jurisdictional objection was that her case should have been investigated by CSCRO XVI (ARMM), as she was a teacher in a public school located within the geographical area of the ARMM. However, by invoking the jurisdiction of CSCRO XVI-ARMM, respondent, in effect, fully recognized the jurisdiction of the CSC to hear and decide the case against her.

It was the CA in its May 25, 2006 Decision that first espoused the theory the CSC had no jurisdiction, not for the reasons cited by respondent, but in view of Section 9 of R.A. 4670.

In any event, it cannot be denied that respondent was formally charged after a finding that a prima faciecase for dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service lay against her. She was properly informed of the charges. She submitted an Answer and was given the opportunity to defend herself. Petitioner cannot, therefore, claim that there was a denial of due process, much less, lack of jurisdiction on the part of the CSC to take cognizance of the case.ςηαñrοblεš  Î½Î¹r†υαl  lαω  lιbrαrÿ

One cannot belatedly reject or repudiate a tribunal's decision after voluntarily submitting to its jurisdiction, just to secure affirmative relief against one's opponent or after failing to obtain such relief. The Court has time and again frowned upon the undesirable practice of a party submitting his case for decision and then accepting the judgment, only if favorable, and attacking it for lack of jurisdiction when adverse.15 The defense of lack of jurisdiction fails in light of respondent's active participation in the administrative proceedings before the CSC.

Further, respondent's culpability for dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service are supported by substantial evidence. An examination of her 2002 and 1987 Personal Data Sheets (PDS)16 reveals that her signatures and pictures thereon are markedly different from those in her Application Form (AF)17 and the Picture Seat Plan (PSP) for the October 1994 Professional Board Examination for Teachers (PBET).18 There was likewise a discrepancy between respondent's date of birth, which appeared on her 2002 PDS (December 15, 1965), and the birth date indicated in her AF and PSP (December 15, 1958). Respondent failed to offer a reasonable explanation for this. We find incredible respondent's unsubstantiated claim that she used to believe her birth year to be 1958 but was later informed by persons who knew the circumstances of her birth that she was purportedly born in 1965. If respondent's defenses were true, then she should have produced her birth records and the testimonial or expert evidence that allegedly could exculpate her. Unfortunately, she did not present such evidence.

As held in Civil Service Commission v. Colanggo,19 a finding of guilt in administrative cases before the CSC, if supported by substantial evidence (or "that amount of evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion"), will be sustained by this Court.

It must be stressed that dishonesty and grave misconduct have always been and should remain anathema in the civil service. They inevitably reflect on the fitness of a civil servant to continue in office. When an officer or employee is disciplined, the object sought is not the punishment of such officer or employee but the improvement of the public service and the preservation of the public's faith and confidence in the government.20

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The appealed decision of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 00480 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and CSC Resolution No. 050780 dated June 15, 2005 and CSC-RO XII Decisions dated January 27, 2004 and March 23, 2004 are REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

Endnotes:


1 Penned by Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal, with Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja and Ramon R. Garcia, concurring; rollo, pp. 66-77.

2 Id. at 78-81.

3 Id. at 129-140.

4 Id. at 101-105.

5 Id. at 67-71.

6 Id. at 73-75.

7 Article IV, Section 4.

8 Book V, Title I, Subtitle A, Chapter 3, Section 12 (11).

9 G.R. No. 179452, June 11, 2009.

10 G.R. No. 155784, October 13, 2005, 472 SCRA 548.

11 Id. at 558.

12 G.R. No. 110379, November 28, 1997, 282 SCRA 256.

13 G.R. NOS. 165416, 165584 and 165731, January 22, 2008, 542 SCRA 253, 275, 276.

14 Bayoca v. Nogales, G.R. No. 138201, September 12, 2000, 340 SCRA 154, 169. See also Civil Service Commission v. Alfonso, supra note 9.

15 David v. Cordova, G.R. No. 152992, July 28, 2005, 464 SCRA 384, 401.

16 Rollo, pp. 95, 98-99.

17 Id. at 94.

18 Id. at 93.

19 G.R. No. 174935, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 640, 646.

20 Civil Service Commission v. Cortez, G.R. No. 155732, June 3, 2004, 430 SCRA 593, 607-608.

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