[G.R. No. 193773, April 02, 2013]
TERESITA L. SALVA, Petitioner, v. FLAVIANA M. VALLE, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
On June 11, 2004, petitioner Teresita L. Salva (petitioner hereafter), President of Palawan State University (PSU), issued Office Order No. 061 reassigning four (4) PSU faculty members of the College of Arts and Humanities to various Extramural Studies Centers. She assigned respondent Flaviana M. Valle (respondent hereafter) at Brooke’s Point, Palawan.
In a letter dated June 17, 2004, respondent informed petitioner that her net take home pay is only P378.66 per month and that she needed financial assistance in the total amount of P5,100.00 to support her stay at Brooke’s Point. Pending the approval of her request, respondent asked that she be allowed to report to the main campus. But, it appears that as early as respondent’s receipt of the reassignment order, her teaching load or subjects in the main campus were already distributed to other faculty members.
When respondent did not report to her new assignment, petitioner issued a memorandum directing respondent to explain in writing within seventy two (72) hours why no disciplinary action should be taken against her. Respondent stated that upon approval of her request for financial assistance, she will immediately report to her new place of assignment. On June 25, 2004, respondent received an endorsement approving her travel expenses.
On June 30, 2004, William M. Herrera, Director of PSU-Brooke’s Point, informed petitioner that respondent merely reported for two to three hours on June 15, 2004 and did not return since then. Thus, petitioner issued another memorandum directing respondent to explain within 72 hours why she should not be administratively charged with insubordination for failure to comply with the order of reassignment (Office Order No. 061). Again, respondent declared that her failure to report to her new station was due to her poor financial status.
Finding respondent’s explanation unsatisfactory, petitioner issued Administrative Order No. 001 dated July 5, 2004 imposing upon respondent the penalty of one (1) month suspension from office without pay. Respondent’s motion for reconsideration was denied.
When respondent’s suspension expired, on August 5, 2004, petitioner issued another memorandum directing respondent to immediately report at Brooke’s Point. Petitioner informed respondent that she, her husband and minor children are entitled to traveling and freight expenses. Respondent filed another motion for reconsideration stressing that her relocation would result in financial distress to her family. Again, she requested that she remain at the main campus.
Petitioner issued another memorandum directing respondent to explain within 72 hours why she should not be administratively charged with insubordination. Instead of tendering an explanation, respondent sent petitioner a letter dated August 30, 2004 stating that she has appealed petitioner’s order of reassignment and suspension to the PSU Board of Regents. She requested for the deferment of any action against her. However, petitioner claimed that respondent failed to furnish her a copy of the notice of appeal. Thus, on September 13, 2004, petitioner issued Administrative Order No. 003 finding respondent guilty of insubordination for the second time and imposing upon her the supreme penalty of dismissal from service. When reconsideration was denied, respondent appealed to the PSU Board seeking nullification of petitioner’s orders. She argued that she was unceremoniously dismissed without cause and due process and that her dismissal was flawed due to procedural infirmities such as lack of formal complaint and hearing.
Finding petitioner’s actions in order, the PSU Board, in a Resolution dated November 17, 2004, confirmed petitioner’s orders, to wit: (1) Office Order No. 061 reassigning respondent to Brooke’s Point; (2) Administrative Order No. 001 suspending her for a month; and (3) Administrative Order No. 003 terminating her from service with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits and disqualification from government service.
On December 13, 2004, respondent received her copy of the PSU Board’s decision confirming the orders issued by petitioner. As the PSU Board Resolution dated November 17, 2004 was allegedly unsigned, respondent wrote a letter dated January 7, 2005 to Rev. Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P., the Chairman of the PSU Board and Commission on Higher Education (CHED). She sought to clarify whether the resolution was already approved in a referendum and whether the PSU Board intended to release the said resolution.
On February 18, 2005, respondent was furnished a copy of the PSU Board referendum [dated December 6, 2004] which approved and formalized the November 17, 2004 Resolution. Subsequently, on May 6, 2005, respondent received the CHED memoranda dated November 16, 2004 and February 11, 2005 stating that due process was not observed. The CHED, then, recommended the deferment of the dismissal order to give way to the proper observance of the rules of procedure. When the PSU Board did not act on the said recommendation, on July 14, 2005 or almost five (5) months from her receipt of the referendum, respondent filed her Memorandum of Appeal to the CSC.2
WHEREFORE, the appeal of Flaviana M. Valle, Palawan State University, is hereby GRANTED. Accordingly, the instant case is hereby REMANDED to the Palawan State University, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, for the issuance of the required formal charge, if the evidence so warrants, and thereafter to proceed with the formal investigation of the case. The formal investigation should be completed within three (3) calendar months from the date of receipt of the records from the Commission. Within fifteen (15) days from the termination of the investigation, the disciplining authority shall render its decision, otherwise, the Commission shall vacate and set aside the appealed decision and declare respondent exonerated from the charge.
The Director IV of the Civil Service Commission Regional Office No. IV, Panay Avenue, Quezon City, is hereby directed to monitor the implementation of this Resolution and submit a report to the Commission.4
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE RESPONDENT WAS DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE WITHOUT THE REQUISITE FORMAL CHARGE
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING RESPONDENT’S DISMISSAL FROM THE SERVICE WERE SHORT OF SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE WITH THE DUE PROCESS REQUIREMENTS7
SEC. 16. Formal Charge. – After a finding of a prima facie case, the disciplining authority shall formally charge the person complained of. The formal charge shall contain a specification of charge(s), a brief statement of material or relevant facts, accompanied by certified true copies of the documentary evidence, if any, sworn statements covering the testimony of witnesses, a directive to answer the charge(s) in writing under oath in not less than seventy-two (72) hours from receipt thereof, an advice for the respondent to indicate in his answer whether or not he elects a formal investigation of the charge(s), and a notice that he is entitled to be assisted by a counsel of his choice.
If the respondent has submitted his comment and counter-affidavits during the preliminary investigation, he shall be given the opportunity to submit additional evidence.
The disciplining authority shall not entertain requests for clarification, bills of particulars or motions to dismiss which are obviously designed to delay the administrative proceedings. If any of these pleadings are interposed by the respondent, the same shall be considered as an answer and shall be evaluated as such.
Citing CSC Resolution No. 99-1936 entitled “Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,” particularly Section 16 thereof on the requirement of a formal charge in investigations, the appellate court correctly ruled that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryAs contemplated under the foregoing provision, a formal charge is a written specification of the charge(s) against an employee. While its form may vary, it generally embodies a brief statement of the material and relevant facts constituting the basis of the charge(s); a directive for the employee to answer the charge(s) in writing and under oath, accompanied by his/her evidence; and advice for the employee to indicate in his/her answer whether he/she elects a formal investigation; and a notice that he/she may secure the assistance of a counsel of his/her own choice. A cursory reading of the purported formal charge issued to Manahan shows that the same is defective as it does not contain the abovementioned statements, and it was not issued by the proper disciplining authority. Hence, under the foregoing factual and legal milieu, Manahan is not deemed to have been formally charged.
Reference to CSC Resolution No. 99-1936 is proper, being the law applicable to formal charges in the civil service prior to the imposition of administrative sanctions. The requirements under Section 16 thereof are clear x x x.11
August 24, 2004
TO: Asst. Prof. Flaviana M. Valle
Subject: Administrative Case For Insubordination
You are hereby directed to explain within 72 hours from receipt hereof why no disciplinary action be taken against you for the administrative offense of Insubordination for your failure and/or refusal to comply with Memorandum Order dated August 5, 2004 requiring you to report to the PSU Extramural Studies Center at Brooke’s Point, Palawan where you were reassigned as a faculty member. As per written report dated August 19, 2004 of Director William M. Herrera, you have not yet reported for work to the said center.(SGD.)
TERESITA L. SALVA
SEC. 22. Conduct of Formal Investigation. – Although the respondent does not request a formal investigation, one shall nevertheless be conducted by the disciplining authority where from the allegations of the complaint and the answer of the respondent, including the supporting documents of both parties, the merits of the case cannot be decided judiciously without conducting such investigation.
The investigation shall be held not earlier than five (5) days nor later than ten (10) days from receipt of the respondent’s answer. Said investigation shall be finished within thirty (30) days from the issuance of the formal charge or the receipt of the answer unless the period is extended by the disciplining authority in meritorious cases.
For this purpose, the Commission may entrust the formal investigation to lawyers of other agencies pursuant to Section 79.
To begin with, petitioner’s memorandum dated August 24, 2004 contained no indication that her failure to explain or abide by her reassignment could result to her dismissal; hence, respondent was not properly apprised of the severity of the charge to intelligently prepare for her defenses. And, even if We were to construe petitioner’s memorandum as a complaint or a formal charge, still, the circumstances surrounding respondent’s dismissal were short of substantial compliance with due process requirements. A perusal of the minutes during the PSU Board meetings reveal that the issues of lack of a formal charge, notice and answer after a formal charge, and a hearing committee to allow respondent to be heard were timely raised. But, the PSU Board agreed to decide respondent’s appeal because the records were allegedly sufficient to show her liability for insubordination.
On the contrary, further examination of the minutes of the PSU Board meetings shows that respondent’s repeated failure to report to her new assignment was not the sole factor which was considered for her alleged acts of insubordination. It was more of respondent’s attacks on petitioner and the administration through the radio or media and her attempts to organize rallies that prompted the PSU Board to hasten their confirmation of the order of her dismissal without appropriate proceedings. In fact, the PSU Board issued Resolution No. 45 strictly enjoining respondent “to desist from inciting other members of the community to any protest action against the University or the University President.” Moreover, petitioner brought up in the board meeting that there have been some cases of insubordination on the part of respondent regarding the giving of departmental examinations and complaints from some students regarding collections of money.
Indeed, respondent had a right to present evidence which, to say the least, could have blunted the effects of the PSU Board’s decision. She could have shown that her failure to comply with her reassignment order was in good faith and not willful or intentional.19
As to movant’s assertion that Valle’s appeal was filed beyond the reglementary fifteen-day period to appeal, records clearly show that upon receipt of the unsigned Resolution of the PSU Board of Regents confirming the reassignment and dismissal orders, Valle immediately wrote a letter to the Chairman of the PSU Board of Regents and the Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), inquiring whether the said Resolution was already approved and intended by the PSU to be released. On February 18, 2005, Valle was furnished a copy of the Referendum dated December 6, 2004 of the PSU Board of Regents, officially confirming her dismissal from the service. Subsequently, on May 6, 2005, Valle received the Memoranda dated November 16, 2004 and February 11, 2005 of the CHED stating that the PSU should defer the implementation of the dismissal order and instead, issue a formal charge against Valle and that without the Referendum of the Board of Regents approving the unsigned Resolution, the same has no legal effect. On July 14, 2005, after waiting for the PSU Board of Regents to calendar her case following the opinion rendered by the CHED, Valle filed her appeal with the Commission. From the above factual antecedents, it cannot be said that Valle’s delay in filing her appeal with the Commission was intentional or deliberate. On the contrary, it was excusable as she was waiting for the PSU Board of Regents to act on her case pursuant to the CHED Memoranda. However, no action was forthcoming from the PSU, thus she elevated the case to the Commission. x x x x23
We agree with the CSC. We uphold its decision to relax the procedural rules because Paler’s appeal was meritorious. This is not the first time that the Court has upheld such exercise of discretion. In Rosales, Jr. v. Mijares involving Section 49(a) of the CSC Revised Rules of Procedure, the Court ruled:On the contention of the petitioner that the appeal of the respondent to the CSC was made beyond the period therefor under Section 49(a) of the CSC Revised Rules of Procedure, the CSC correctly ruled that:cralawConstantino-David v. Pangandaman-Gania likewise sustained the CSC when it modified an otherwise final and executory resolution and awarded backwages to the respondent, in the interest of justice and fair play. The Court stated –
Movant claims that Mijares’ appeal was filed way beyond the reglementary period for filing appeals. He, thus, contends that the Commission should not have given due course to said appeal.
The Commission need not delve much on the dates when Mijares was separated from the service and when he assailed his separation. Suffice it to state that the Commission found his appeal meritorious. This being the case, procedural rules need not be strictly observed. This principle was explained by in the case of Mauna vs. CSC, 232 SCRA 388, where the Supreme Court ruled, to wit:“Assuming for the sake of argument that the petitioner’s appeal was filed out of time, it is within the power of this Court to temper rigid rules in favor of substantial justice. While it is desirable that the Rules of Court be faithfully and even meticulously observed, courts should not be so strict about procedural lapses that do not really impair the proper administration of justice. If the rules are intended to ensure the orderly conduct of litigation, it is because of the higher objective they seek which is the protection of substantive rights of the parties. As held by the Court in a number of cases:cralawIt bears stressing that the case before the CSC involves the security of tenure of a public officer sacrosanctly protected by the Constitution. Public interest requires a resolution of the merits of the appeal instead of dismissing the same based on a strained and inordinate application of Section 49(a) of the CSC Revised Rules of Procedure.” (Emphasis supplied)
x x x“No doubt, the Civil Service Commission was in the legitimate exercise of its mandate under Sec. 3, Rule I, of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service that “[a]dministrative investigations shall be conducted without necessarily adhering strictly to the technical rules of procedure and evidence applicable to judicial proceedings.” This authority is consistent with its powers and functions to “[p]rescribe, amend and enforce rules and regulations for carrying into effect the provisions of the Civil Service Law and other pertinent laws” being the central personnel agency of the Government.
Furthermore, there are special circumstances in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play that warrant such liberal attitude on the part of the CSC and a compassionate like-minded discernment by this Court. x x x”25 (Citations omitted.)
1Rollo, pp. 53-66. Penned by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez with Associate Justices Magdangal M. De Leon and Manuel M. Barrios concurring.
2 Id. at 53-57.
3 Id. at 174-188.
4 Id. at 188.
5 Id. at 190-207.
6 Id. at 67-72.
7 Id. at 32.
8 Id. at 35.
9 CSC Resolution No. 991936 dated August 31, 1999.
10Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 185668, December 13, 2011, 662 SCRA 294, 306.
12Rollo, pp. 130-131.
13 Id. at 127.
14 G.R. Nos. 157383 & 174137, August 10, 2010, 627 SCRA 540.
15 SEC. 12. Preliminary Investigation. – A Preliminary Investigation involves the ex parte examination of records and documents submitted by the complainant and the person complained of, as well as documents readily available from other government offices. During said investigation, the parties are given the opportunity to submit affidavits and counter-affidavits. Failure of the person complained of to submit his counter affidavit shall be considered as a waiver thereof.
Thereafter, if necessary, the parties may be summoned to a conference where the investigator may propound clarificatory and other relevant questions.
Upon receipt of the counter-affidavit or comment under oath, the disciplining authority may now determine whether a prima facie case exist to warrant the issuance of a formal charge.
A fact-finding investigation may be conducted further or prior to the preliminary investigation for the purpose of ascertaining the truth. A preliminary investigation necessarily includes a fact-finding investigation.
x x x x
SEC. 15. Decision or Resolution After Preliminary Investigation. – If a prima facie case is established during the investigation, a formal charge shall be issued by the disciplining authority. A formal investigation shall follow.
In the absence of a prima facie case, the complaint shall be dismissed.
16Rollo, pp. 136-137.
17 See Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation v. Court of Appeals, supra note 10, at 310.
18 Id. at 311.
19Rollo, pp. 63-65.
20 SEC. 43. Filing of Appeals. – Decisions of heads of departments, agencies, provinces, cities municipalities and other instrumentalities imposing a penalty exceeding thirty (30) days suspension or fine in an amount exceeding thirty days salary, may be appealed to the Commission Proper within a period of fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof.
x x x x
21 See Ruiz v. Delos Santos, G.R. No. 166386, January 27, 2009, 577 SCRA 29, 45.
22Rollo, pp. 265-268. Memorandum dated November 16, 2004.
23 Id. at 71.
24 G.R. No. 172623, March 3, 2010, 614 SCRA 127, 134.
25 Id. at 134-136.
26 See Garcia v. Molina, supra note 14, at 554.
27 Id., citing Montoya v. Varilla, G.R. No. 180146, December 18, 2008, 574 SCRA 831, 843.
28 Id. at 555, citing Engr. Rubio, Jr. v. Hon. Paras, 495 Phil 629, 643 (2005).