[G.R. NO. 161733 October 11, 2005]
CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, Petitioner, v. ARNULFO A. SEBASTIAN, Respondent.
[G.R. NO. 162463]
MUNICIPALITY OF KABASALAN, ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY and Mayor FREDDIE I. CHU, Petitioners, v. COURT OF APPEALS and ARNULFO A. SEBASTIAN, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before us are two (2) consolidated petitions filed under Rule 45 and Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure for the reversal of the No. 61776. Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) and its Resolution in CA-G.R. SP No. 61776.
On August 1, 1988, Arnulfo A. Sebastian was given a permanent appointment as Municipal Secretary of Kabasalan, Zamboanga del Sur (Sibugay), effective August 1, 1988.2
Sometime in April 1992, Sebastian complained of acute gastric ulcer. His doctor, Dr. Corregidor Catane, advised him to take several months' rest from work. Dr. Catane wrote the Vice-Mayor advising the latter about Sebastian's condition.3 On May 4, 1992, Sebastian filed his application for vacation leave for 44 working days covering the period of July 1, 1992 to August 31, 1992.4 He also filed his sick leave application for 88 working days, from September 1, 1992 to December 31, 1992.5 Both applications for leave were approved by then Acting Vice-Mayor Jose Cayon, with the condition that his sick leave was without pay. The applications were not submitted to the Mayor for approval; neither did Sebastian receive any clearance from the Mayor.
After the elections in May 1992, Freddie Chu and Catalino Genito, Jr. were the elected Mayor and Vice-Mayor, respectively, of Kabasalan, Zamboanga del Sur, and assumed office.
In a Letter dated August 25, 1992, Mayor Chu directed Sebastian to report for duty not later than five days from receipt thereof.6 Sebastian did not comply with the said directive. On October 13, 1992, Mayor Chu issued a final notice to Sebastian, directing him to report for duty with a warning that should he fail to do so, he would be dropped from the rolls.7 Sebastian failed to comply anew.
Sebastian received a Memorandum8 dated November 3, 1992 from Mayor Chu informing him that he was dropped from the municipal government's plantilla of personnel effective October 30, 1992, as he had been absent without leave since September 1, 1992 upon the expiration of his vacation leave, and that he failed to report for duty within 30 days from approval of his leave of absence.9
Concerned with the plight of Sebastian, six members of the Sangguniang Bayan wrote Vice-Mayor Genito and requested that he (Sebastian) be retained as Secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan. The matter was elevated to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Regional Office.10
On March 9, 1994, the CSC Regional Director,11 transmitted his 2nd Indorsement12 to Vice-Mayor Genito declaring that since he had the authority to appoint all officials and employees of the Sangguniang Bayan under Section 445 of the Local Government Code, it was within his power to reinstate Sebastian as Sangguniang Bayan Secretary. Hence, should the Vice-Mayor decide to do so, the CSC Regional Office would not interpose any objection thereto. However, Vice-Mayor Genito ignored the indorsement of the CSC Regional Director.13
Almost four years or so after he was dropped from the municipal government's plantilla, or on August 2, 1996, Sebastian filed a Complaint14 for illegal dismissal before the CSC against Mayor Chu and Vice-Mayor Genito as respondents. Sebastian alleged that he was the Sangguniang Bayan and Municipal Secretary, and after the end of his leave, Mayor Chu barred him from reporting to work and from gaining entry into his office at the Sangguniang Bayan. Sebastian contended that, despite the proddings of some Sangguniang Bayan members, the Vice-Mayor refused to reinstate him. The complaint contained the following prayer:
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Commission that, judgment be rendered:
1.) Declaring the dismissal of the complainant to be illegal and contrary to law;
2.) Ordering the respondents the reinstatement of the complainant to his position as Secretary to the Sangguniang Bayan;
3.) Ordering the respondents to pay the complainant of his backwages and other benefits he is entitled to.15
Vice-Mayor Genito alleged in his answer16 that Sebastian was appointed as Municipal Secretary and not as Sangguniang Bayan Secretary; hence, it was the Mayor who had the authority to dismiss or reinstate him to
the said position. He averred that he did not concur with the Mayor's overt act of terminating Sebastian's services.17
In his comment,18 Mayor Chu, maintained that Sebastian was never formally appointed as Sangguniang Bayan Secretary. He averred that the complainant abandoned his office; hence, he acted in accord with law in terminating Sebastian's employment as municipal secretary.19
On July 23, 1998, the CSC issued Resolution No. 98198920 dismissing Sebastian's complaint. It ruled that the complainant failed to submit a medical certificate to justify his claim that he was, indeed, sick during the period of his absence; the medical report of Dr. Corregidor Catane was not enough. The CSC also declared that the complainant failed to report for duty for 43 days despite the Mayor's directive, and even failed to inform the Mayor of his whereabouts. The CSC further stated that Sebastian's claim for reinstatement was already barred by laches, considering that he filed his complaint with the CSC only on August 2, 1996, three years from October 30, 1992, the date of his separation from the service. The fallo of the CSC Resolution reads:
WHEREFORE, the complaint of Arnulfo A. Sebastian is hereby dismissed. Accordingly, his request for reinstatement to his former position as SB Secretary is hereby denied.21
Sebastian's motion for reconsideration was denied by the CSC through Resolution No. 002012 dated September 4, 2000.22
Sebastian filed his petition with the Court of Appeals (CA) under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, naming the CSC as the sole respondent and ascribing the following errors:
THAT THE RESPONDENT CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE PETITIONER WAS DENIED DUE PROCESS;
THAT THE RESPONDENT CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE TERMINATION OF THE PETITIONER FROM SERVICE WAS ILLEGAL AND POLITICALLY MOTIVATED;
THAT THE RESPONDENT CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE MUNICIPAL VICE-MAYOR HAD IMPLIEDLY CONCURRED IN THE ORDER OF THE MUNICIPAL MAYOR DROPPING THE PETITIONER FROM SERVICE DESPITE ITS EARLIER CONCLUSION THAT THE VICE-MAYOR AND NOT THE MAYOR WHO IS VESTED WITH AUTHORITY TO TERMINATE A MUNICIPAL SECRETARY;
THAT THE RESPONDENT CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT PETITIONER IS ALREADY BARRED BY LACHES.23
In its comment24 to the petition, the CSC, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), averred that the petition was fatally defective because the petitioner impleaded it as respondent instead of Mayor Chu and Vice-Mayor Genito. It posited that Sebastian was lawfully separated from the service since he failed to report back for work for a considerable length of time25 despite due notice. More than three years had elapsed from his dismissal from the government service before he filed his complaint with the CSC; hence, the complainant was barred by laches from questioning his separation from the service.26
The CA rendered judgment granting the petition. It found that the petitioner was deprived of his right to due process when he was dismissed without previous notice and hearing and without any valid cause. Sebastian was justified in not reporting back for work because he was on sick leave duly approved by the Vice-Mayor; thus, he should be reinstated as Municipal Secretary. However, the CA ruled that the petitioner could not be reinstated as Sangguniang Bayan Secretary since there was no showing that he had been duly appointed to such position in the first place. The CA declared that Sebastian was not barred by laches from seeking his reinstatement because he waited for the outcome of the well-meaning representations of some members of the Sangguniang Bayan who took up the cudgels for him when they referred the matter to the CSC Regional Office. The fallo of the CA decision reads:
WHEREFORE, finding merit in the petition, We GRANT the same. The appealed CSC Resolution No. 98-1989 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner is reinstated to his office as Municipal Secretary of Kabasalan, Zamboanga del Sur, with full back salaries and other benefits accorded by law.27
However, the CA failed to resolve the issue of whether or not the petition should be dismissed for the petitioner's failure to implead the Mayor and the Vice-Mayor as parties-respondents.
The OSG filed a motion for the reconsideration of the said decision of the court on the ground that:
With due respect, the August 26, 2002 Decision of this Honorable Court is contrary to our procedural law, resulting in a denial of due process on the part of the real parties-in-interest.28
The Municipality of Kabasalan sought to intervene and filed a Motion to Admit a Motion for the Reconsideration of the CA decision. Appended thereto was a Motion verified by Mayor Chu, also for the reconsideration of the decision. The Municipality averred that it was a real party-in-interest as respondent because the petition was for the alleged payment of backwages. The CA denied the motion of the OSG and merely noted the motion of the Municipality.29 The CA ruled that the intervention of the Municipality was inappropriate because judgment had already been rendered. Citing its ruling in Morales v. Civil Service Commission,30 it held that the respondent CSC was the proper party-in-interest because there was no private respondent. The appellate court, likewise, declared that the CSC was estopped from claiming that the petition was defective for Sebastian's failure to implead the Mayor and the Vice-Mayor as parties-respondents. The CA held that the CSC should have raised the issue in its comment on the petition.
Forthwith, the CSC, as the petitioner, filed its Petition for Review on Certiorariunder Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, docketed as G.R. No. 161733. The Municipality of Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay and Mayor Freddie Chu filed a separate Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 with a prayer for the issuance of a restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, alleging that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in reversing the assailed Resolution of the CSC. The petition was docketed as G.R. No. 162463.31 On April 13, 2004, the Court resolved to consolidate G.R. No. 162463 with G.R. No. 161733.32
Petitioner CSC asserts that it is not the real party-in-interest in the present case. It posits that the Mayor and the Vice-Mayor of Kabasalan, Zamboanga del Sur (Sibugay), who stood to be benefited or injured by the judgment, are the real parties-in-interest. Petitioner CSC contends that failure to implead the real parties-in-interest constitutes a denial of due process, as they were not afforded the opportunity to air their side on the matter when the case was brought before the CA. Petitioner CSC relies on Section 6, Rule 43 of the Revised Rules of Court, which provides, among others, that the petition filed under it shall be made without impleading the court or agencies which rendered the assailed decision or resolution, either as petitioners or respondents; and that under Section 7 of the same Rule, failure to comply with the requirements shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition.
Petitioners Municipality of Kabasalan and Mayor Chu, for their part, posit that the CA gravely abused its discretion when it failed to dismiss the petition for respondent Sebastian's failure to implead them as parties-respondents, and merely noted their motion to intervene in CA-G.R. SP No. 61776. They aver that they were indispensable parties as respondents in the CA, and should have been allowed to intervene and be heard on the issues. Unless impleaded, they would not be bound by the CA decision.
The Court is posed to resolve the following issues: (1) whether petitioner Mayor is the real party-in-interest as respondent in the CA; and (2) whether or not respondent Sebastian had been illegally dismissed by petitioner Mayor Freddie Chu as Municipal Secretary.
Section 6, Rule 43, of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a Petition for Review shall state in full the names of the parties to the case. The court or agency which rendered the decision or resolution is not to be impleaded either as petitioner or respondent, viz.:
SEC. 6. Contents of the petition. 'The Petition for Review shall (a) state the full names of the parties to the case, without impleading the court or agencies either as petitioners or respondents; (b) contain a concise statement of the facts and issues involved and the grounds relied upon for the review; (c) be accompanied by a clearly legible duplicate original or a certified true copy of the award, judgment, final order or resolution appealed from, together with certified true copies of such material portions of the record referred to therein and other supporting papers; and (d) contain a sworn certification against forum shopping as provided in the last paragraph of Section 2, Rule 42. The petition shall state the specific material dates showing that it was filed within the period fixed herein.
The parties in the proceedings before an agency or in the lower court are the parties in a Petition for Review in the CA. We agree with the contention of the petitioners that the real party-in-interest as party-respondent in the CA was Municipal Mayor Freddie Chu who was the respondent in the CSC. Respondent Sebastian, who was the complainant in the CSC, sought to nullify the November 3, 1992 Memorandum of the Mayor terminating his services effective October 30, 1992. Moreover, the respondent, as complainant in the CSC, prayed that he be granted backwages from September 1, 1992 until his reinstatement.
The CA ruled that when there is no private individual as respondent in a Petition for Review , the public agency a quo is impleaded as a respondent. This is erroneous. While it is true that petitioner Mayor acted in his official capacity when he dismissed the respondent from the service, nevertheless, he was entitled to be heard on the petition. He is entitled to due process.
The CA relied in its own decision entitled Edmundo Morales v. Civil Service Commission, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 54706 where, citing Section 633 of Rule 135, it opined that without a public respondent, the OSG cannot be directed to comment.34 Such ruling, however, is not applicable in this case. There is a specific provision suitable to resolve the issue in the case at bar, that is, Section 6 of Rule 43, which clearly provides, inter alia, that petitioner "should state the full names of the parties to the case, without impleading the court or agencies either as petitioners or respondents."
If petitioner Mayor is not impleaded as a party-respondent in the CA, he cannot be compelled to abide by and comply with its decision, as the same would not be binding on him. No man shall be affected by any proceeding to which he is a stranger, and strangers to a case are not bound by any judgment rendered by the court.35 Ergo, res inter alios judicatae nullum aliis praejudicrium facint.36 A person who was not impleaded in the complaint cannot be bound by the decision rendered therein, for no man shall be affected by any proceeding in which he is a stranger.37
Ordinarily, the Court will order the respondent to amend his petition to implead petitioner Mayor as party-respondent and remand the petition to the CA for further proceedings. However, in view of the peculiar factual backdrop in the instant case, and considering that petitioner Mayor assailed in his petition the decision of the CA on its merits and articulated his arguments in support thereof, the Court shall resolve the petitions on their merits to avert needless delay.
The CSC affirmed the dismissal of the respondent on its finding that the respondent failed to report back to work despite due notice. The CSC declared that the respondent had been continuously absent without approved leave for more than 30 days. Other than the letter of Dr. Corregidor Catane, he failed to present any medical certificate to support his claim that he was indeed sick during the period of his absences, or to prove the seriousness of his illness, requiring a long period of treatment and recovery. The CSC held that the letter of Dr. Catane was not enough. Moreover, the respondent failed to inform petitioner Mayor of his physical condition and whereabouts. According to the CSC, the respondent used the medical advice given by Dr. Catane merely as an afterthought, designed to cover up for his unauthorized absences.
On the other hand, the CA declared that the petitioner Mayor dismissed the respondent without any valid cause. The appellate court ruled that the respondent had filed an application for sick leave and that such application was approved by the duly-constituted authority at the time, the then Acting Vice-Mayor. The CA, likewise, declared that the respondent could not be faulted for not reporting back to work as he relied on his approved application for sick leave.
The petitions are meritorious.
The ruling of the CA is erroneous. Under Section 444(b)(1)(xiv) of the 1991 Local Government Code,38 applications for leave of municipal officials and employees appointed by the Mayor shall be acted upon by him. In this case, the respondent's applications for leave were passed upon and approved by the Acting Vice-Mayor and not by the then Municipal Mayor.
Section 16, Rule XVI39 of the Omnibus Rules, Implementing Book V of the 1987 Administrative Code, then required applications for sick leave in excess of five days to be accompanied by a proper medical certificate. However, the respondent failed to submit any medical certificate in support of his application for sick leave from September 1, 1992 to December 31, 1992 or for a period of four months. The letter of Dr. Catane was not sufficient.
Section 32 of the same Omnibus Rules40 required leaves without pay in excess of one month to be cleared by the proper head of the department, in this case, the Municipal Mayor. In this case, the respondent failed to secure clearance from the Municipal Mayor, and was granted four months' sick leave without pay by the Acting Vice-Mayor without the appropriate clearance from the Mayor.
The CA ruled that the respondent was not barred by laches from filing his complaint against the petitioner Mayor for reinstatement on account of the representations made in his behalf by six members of the Sangguniang Bayan in the CSC, and that the respondent waited for the outcome of such representations.
The ruling of the appellate court is barren of factual basis. The respondent was required by the petitioner Mayor to report back to work not later than five days from notice, but he failed to comply. On October 12, 1992, petitioner Mayor again wrote the respondent directing him to report for duty, with a warning that should he fail to do so, he would be dropped from the rolls. Again, the respondent ignored the petitioner Mayor's letter. Having been absent for more than 30 days without an approved leave, the respondent was considered dropped from the service after one month.41 He, indeed, received notice that he had been dropped from the service effective October 30, 1992. The respondent never moved for a reconsideration thereof. It was only on August 2, 1996, or after the lapse of almost four (4) years, that he filed his complaint against the petitioner Mayor before the CSC.
It is undisputed that shortly after the petitioner Mayor dismissed the respondent from the service, six Sangguniang Bayan members interceded for the respondent in the CSC. However, such representation was related solely to the respondent's reinstatement as Sangguniang Bayan Secretary. The members of the Sangguniang Bayan never sought the reinstatement of the respondent to the position of Municipal Secretary. It was only on August 2, 1996, after the lapse of well-neigh four years from October 30, 1992, that the respondent sought, for the first time, his reinstatement as Municipal Secretary by filing his complaint against the petitioner Mayor in the CSC. In the interim, the respondent failed to take any action against the petitioner Mayor on account of his dismissal from the government service.
If an employee was illegally dismissed, he may, by his inaction or by sleeping on his right, in law, be considered as having abandoned the office to which he was entitled to be reinstated. A person illegally dismissed from the office is not thereby exonerated from the obligation to take steps for his own protection and may not, for an unreasonable length of time, acquiesce to the order of removal and then seek for his reinstatement. In case of unreasonable delay, he may be held to have abandoned title to the office and any right to recover its emoluments.42 There must be stability in the service so that public positions may not be unduly retarded; delays in the enforcement of a right to positions in the service must be discouraged.
It behooved the respondent to take the appropriate remedy for the nullification of the petitioner Mayor's November 3, 1992 Memorandum without unreasonable delay. The respondent failed to do so for a period of almost four years, and in the meantime, public service has been prejudiced by his absence. Case law has it that one is barred from asserting a right if he fails to do so for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time which by the exercise of diligence, he could have or should have done earlier. By sleeping on his right for almost four years, the respondent is now barred from claiming his right to be reinstated to his position as Municipal Secretary. Relief has been denied to those who, by sleeping on their rights for an unreasonable length of time, either by negligence, sheer folly or inattention, have allowed their claims to slumber. The laws aid the vigilant and not those who slumber on their rights.43
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Petitions are GRANTED. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 61776 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Resolutions of the CSC are REINSTATED.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Portia AliÃ±o-Hormachuelos, with Associate Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion and Edgardo F. Sundiam, concurring.
2 Rollo, p. 12. (G.R. No. 161733)
3 Id. at 45.
4 CA Rollo, p. 50.
5 Id. at 51.
6 Rollo, p. 60. (G.R. No. 161733)
8 CA Rollo, p. 52.
10 Id. at 55.
11 Director IV Rogelio Limare.
12 CA Rollo, p. 55.
13 Rollo, p. 24. (G.R. No. 162463)
14 Rollo, p. 44. (G.R. No. 161733)
15 Id. at 47.
16 Id. at 55.
17 Rollo, pp. 52-55. (G.R. No. 161733)
18 Id. at 48-51.
20 Id. at 57.
21 Id. at 63.
22 Rollo, p. 65. (G.R. No. 161733)
23 CA Rollo, pp. 7-8.
24 Id. at 118.
25 CA Rollo, p. 125.
26 Id. at 128.
27 Rollo, p. 39. (G.R. No. 161733)
28 CA Rollo, p. 163.
29 Id. at 197.
30 CA-G.R. SP No. 54706.
31 Rollo, p. 3. (G.R. No. 162463)
32 Id. at 50.
33 Section 6. Means to carry jurisdiction into effect. - When by law jurisdiction is conferred on a court or judicial officer, all auxiliary writs, processes and other means necessary to carry it into effect may be employed by such court or officer; and if the procedure to be followed in the exercise of such jurisdiction is not specifically pointed out by law or by these rules, any suitable process or mode of proceeding may be adopted which appears conformable to the spirit of said law or rules.
34 Rollo, p. 42. (G.R. No. 161733).
35 Orquiola v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 141463, 6 August 2002, 386 SCRA 301.
36 Matters adjudged in a cause do not prejudice those who were not parties to it. (Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed., p. 1178).
37 Arcelona v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 102900, 2 October 1997, 280 SCRA 20.
38 SEC. 444. The Chief Executive: Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. '(a)'
(b) For efficient, effective and economical governance the purpose of which is the general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code, the municipal mayor shall:
(1) Exercise general supervision and control over all programs, projects, services, and activities of the municipal government, and in this connection, shall:
(xiv) Act on leave applications of officials and employees appointed by him and the commutation of the monetary value of leave credits according to law.
39 Amended by CSC Memo Circular No. 41, s. 1998 and MC No. 14, s. 1999.
40 SEC. 32. Leave without pay not exceeding one (1) year may be granted in addition to the vacation and/or sick leave earned. Leave without pay in excess of one month shall require the clearance of the proper head of Department.
41 SEC. 35. Officers and employees who are absent for at least thirty (30) days without approved leave are considered on Absence Without Leave (AWOL) and shall be dropped from the service after due notice. However, when the exigencies of the service require his immediate presence and he fails/refuses to return to the service, the head of office may drop him from the service even prior to the expiration of the thirty (30) day period above-stated.
42 Unabia v. City Mayor, 99 Phil. 253 (1956) citing Mesias v. Jover, 97 Phil 899 (1955).
43 Solivo v. Intestate-Estate, 417 SCRA 277, 203; Ignacio v. Basilio, 366 SCRA 15 (2001).