Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 154674             May 27, 2004
THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, petitioner,
FELICISIMO O. JOSON, JR., in his capacity as former Administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), respondent.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated August 12, 2002 reversing Resolution No. 002778 of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) which denied the respondent’s request for payment of the salary of Priscilla Ong, as Executive Assistant IV in the Office of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administrator (POEA) for the period of July 1, 1995 to October 31, 1995.
The antecedents are as follows.
On July 1, 1995, Respondent Felicisimo O. Joson, Jr., then Administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) appointed Priscilla Ong as Executive Assistant IV in his office under a contractual status. The appointment was made after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) thru Director Miguel B. Doctor2 approved his request for the creation of a contractual position of Executive Assistant IV at the Office of the POEA Administrator, effective not earlier than July 1, 1995.
Subsequently, respondent Joson wrote the CSC requesting exemption from the rule requiring appointees to confidential staff positions to meet the prescribed educational qualification.3 The educational requirement for the position of Executive Assistant is a "Bachelor’s degree relevant to the job"4 and Priscilla Ong was not a college degree holder.
Acting upon this request, the petitioner CSC issued Resolution No. 956978 on November 2, 1995, approving the appointment of Ong under a Coterminous Temporary status:
In this case, it is clear that Ong does not meet the educational qualification for the position of Executive Assistant IV. However, considering that Ong has to her credit 65 units leading to a Bachelor’s degree and that the said position is coterminous with the appointing authority and belongs to his confidential/personal staff, the proposed appointment of Ong may be allowed under Coterminous Temporary status.
WHEREFORE, the instant request of Administrator Felicisimo O. Joson, Jr. is hereby granted. Accordingly, the appointment of Priscilla E. Ong to the position of Executive Assistant IV, POEA, may be approved under Coterminous Temporary status.5
However, on February 6, 1996, Director Nelson Acebedo of the CSC National Capital Region (NCR) issued a post audit report on the issuance of Ong’s appointment made on July 1, 1995, and invalidated the same. A motion for reconsideration was filed, stressing, among others, that the Department of Budget Management (DBM) allowed the POEA to create such a position not earlier than July 1, 1995 and that no less than the petitioner itself approved the appointment under a coterminous temporary status. Upon the instructions of Director Acebedo, the effectivity of Ong’s appointment was changed from July 1, 1995 to November 2, 1995.6
Considering the said adjustment in the effectivity date of Ong’s appointment, the respondent then requested approval for the payment of her salary for services rendered for the period of July 1, 1995 to October 31, 1995.
The petitioner denied the request for the payment of Ong’s salary in Resolution No. 974094 dated October 16, 1997.7 Citing Rep. Act No. 7430 also known as the Attrition Law which, in part, states that no appointment shall be made to fill up a vacancy unless an authority has been granted by it,8 the petitioner posited that the authority to fill the position was granted only on November 2, 1995 when it issued CSC Resolution No. 956978. The request for the payment of salary referred to the period prior to the date of authority to fill the position; such claim cannot, therefore, be allowed. The petitioner concluded that, as the appointing authority, it is the respondent who shall be personally liable for the payment of salaries as provided in Item 5(a), Part I, CSC MC No. 38, s. 1993, which states:
5. Liability of Appointing Authority and Other Officers
a. The appointing authority shall be personally liable for the salary of appointees whose appointments have been disapproved for violation of pertinent laws such as RA 7041 and RA 7430.9
The respondent filed a motion for reconsideration, averring that Ong was appointed to a newly-created position which does not require any such authority from the petitioner. The respondent emphasized in his motion that the DBM approved the creation of the position for Ong. He asserted that, if at all, it is the POEA who should be liable under the principle of quantum meruit since the latter was the one benefited. Thus:
Admittedly, the herein movant requested an Authority to fill the said position which was not necessary under the premise since the position involved was a newly created position. In the first place, the Department of Budget and Management through the Director of CPCB granted the request for the creation of said position due to the dire need and necessity of said provision. POEA could not have transgressed any provision of RA 7430 and its implementing rules when POEA appointed Ms. Ong to the said newly created position on July 1, 1995….
… POEA should pay Ms. Ong for her services since POEA was the one benefited not the herein movant in his personal capacity. The principle of quantum meruit dictates that not only is the one who rendered services who should paid (sic) but equally important, is that the one benefited from such services must be the one who should pay the services. If the herein movant would be made personally liable to pay for her services, just the same, it is tantamount to unjust enrichment on the part of the government at the movant’s expense…10
On June 8, 1998, the petitioner issued Resolution No. 981399 denying the respondent’s motion for reconsideration.11 It affirmed its ruling that the effectivity date of Ong’s appointment should be reckoned from November 2, 1995 when it granted the authority to the respondent to fill the position, and not July 1, 1995 as asserted by the respondent. It also declared that Ong’s appointment was not included in the POEA’s Report on Personnel Action (ROPA) submitted to the petitioner for the month of July 1995:
POEA, as an accredited agency is mandated by CSC rules to submit within fifteen (15) days of each ensuing month to the Civil Service Regional office of Field Office concerned two copies of Monthly Report on Personnel Action, together with certified true copy of appointments acted upon (Item, 2.2.7, Rule V, CSC Memorandum Circular No. 27, s. 1994). In the instant case, POEA failed to comply with this rule when it did not include the appointment of Ong in its July ROPA.12
The petitioner also held that the POEA only submitted Ong’s appointment in its ROPA for the month of November 1995. Such belated report rendered the appointment in July ineffective.13 The petitioner concluded that there was clearly no legal basis for the payment of Ong’s salary prior to November 2, 1995, and that the principle of quantum meruit invoked by the respondent was not applicable.
The respondent moved for a clarification of CSC Resolution No. 981399, pointing out that the petitioner did not rule on the matter of POEA’s alleged violation of the Attrition Law, particularly on the failure to secure "prior authority to fill." The respondent asserted that the POEA’s alleged failure to include the proposed appointment of Ong in its July 1995 ROPA was justified because Ong’s appointment was still the subject of a request for exemption from the requirement of Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 38, s. 1993. The respondent received CSC Resolution No. 956978 approving Ong’s appointment under a coterminous temporary status only on November 5, 1995; hence, the appointment was included only in the November ROPA. The respondent pointed out that the task and duty of preparing and submitting the monthly ROPA lies with the officials of the Personnel Department of the POEA. Finally, the respondent averred, if there was, indeed, a failure to comply with the CSC Circular No. 27, Series of 1994, it would be quite unfair and unjust for the petitioner to order the respondent to pay the salary of Ong out of his (the respondent’s) personal funds.
The petitioner denied the motion of the respondent in Resolution No. 991839 dated August 17, 1999. It held that the respondent as the appointing authority, was accountable for all the appointments he issued; he cannot, thus, hide behind the mistakes of his subordinates. The petitioner also reiterated its ruling that the appointment of Ong was made in violation of the CSC Law and its rules. As such, the respondent must assume responsibility for the payment of Ong’s salary. Thus:
WHEREFORE, the CSC Resolution No. 981399 dated June 8, 1998 is hereby clarified. Accordingly, the payment of salaries, benefits and other emoluments from July 1, 1995 to October 30, 1995 of Priscilla Ong, whose appointment was in violation of R.A. 7430 (Attrition Law), shall be the personal liability of then Administrator Felicisimo O. Joson.14
The respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the resolution.
The petitioner treated the pleading as a second motion for reconsideration, and denied the same in Resolution No. 001956 dated August 30, 2000, in this wise:
WHEREFORE, the second Motion for Reconsideration of Felicisimo O. Joson, Jr. is hereby DENIED. Accordingly, the CSC Resolution No. 974094 dated October 16, 1997 stands.15
The petitioner filed another motion seeking for the reconsideration of the CSC Resolution No. 991839 pointing out that Ong may be considered a de facto public officer who is entitled to the payment of salaries for actual services rendered. The CSC outrightly denied the motion in CSC Resolution No. 002778 dated December 13, 2000:
WHEREFORE, the instant motion for reconsideration is hereby DENIED for lack of merit. Consequently, CSC Resolution No. 991839 dated August 17, 1999 stands. This case is considered closed and terminated.16
Unfazed, the respondent appealed the CSC resolutions to the Court of Appeals. On August 12, 2002, the CA rendered the assailed judgment in favor of herein respondent, ruling that Ong was considered a de facto officer and is entitled to the payment of her salary. The dispositive portion of the decision reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition for review is hereby GRANTED. Resolution No. 002778 dated 13 December 2000 rendered by public respondent Civil Service Commission, denying payment of Miss Priscilla Ong’s compensation from 1 July 1995 to 31 October 1995, is hereby SET ASIDE.17
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari raising the lone issue that:
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT PRISCILLA ONG IS ENTITLED TO PAYMENT OF HER SALARIES FROM THE GOVERNMENT FOR BEING A DE FACTO OFFICER.
The petitioner maintains that Ong cannot be entitled to the payment of salary prior to November 2, 1995 because of the following: (a) Ong did not possess the necessary qualification for the position; (b) her appointment was made in violation of the Civil Service Law and its rules; (c) there was no prior authority to appoint, in violation of Rep. Act No. 7430; and, (d) the appointment was not reported in the July ROPA, making such appointment ineffective.
We rule for the respondent.
The records show that the position of Executive Assistant IV in the POEA Administrator’s office was created with the approval of the DBM on July 1, 1995. This was pursuant to a request made by the respondent for a position in his office under a contractual status. It is quite apparent that the respondent intended the position for his confidential assistant, Priscilla Ong, whom he considered efficient and competent on the job, albeit without a college degree. The respondent was aware of the appointee’s lack of qualification which is precisely the reason why he requested for an exemption from the requirements of the MC No. 38 s. 1993, particularly on the educational requirement of appointees to confidential staff positions.
On November 2, 1995, the petitioner granted the respondent’s request and stated that the appointment of Ong may be approved under a coterminous temporary status.18
The task of the petitioner is to insure that the appointee has all the qualifications for the position; otherwise it disapproves the appointment.19 In this case, the petitioner approved the appointment of Ong under a coterminous temporary status; coterminous, because the appointment shall only be during the tenure of the appointing power; and temporary, because the appointee did not meet all the requirements for the position. As such, the appointment could be recalled anytime. The petitioner took into account the fact that Ong was then enrolled in CAP College, Makati City and had 65 units credited to her leading to a four-year course in Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and that she just needed 61 units more to complete the same.
Under Section 4, Rule V of the Omnibus Rules, Ong’s appointment is in order, viz:
Except as otherwise provided herein, a person who meets all the requirements of the position including the appropriate civil service eligibility shall be appointed to a position in the first and second levels. However, when the immediate filling of a vacancy becomes necessary, taking into account the public interest, and a person with an appropriate civil service eligibility is not actually and immediately available, a person without the appropriate civil service eligibility but who meets the other requirements of the position may be appointed. His appointment shall be temporary for a period of not more than twelve (12) months and he may be replaced at any time with one who has an appropriate civil service eligibility.
In approving the appointment of Ong, the petitioner took into account the exigency and urgency of filling up the position of Executive Assistant, as embodied in the letter of the respondent for exemption from MC No. 38:
Our request for exemption from MC # 38 series of 1993 is anchored on the fact that I have no regular holder of an Executive Assistant, although it is included in the POEA budget. As earlier mentioned in our letter-request, as the administrationship of POEA keeps on changing, the Executive Assistant post remains attached to another employee who can not be asked to vacate the post because of the security of tenure of the incumbent at the time the Executive Assistant post was declared confidential in nature. We recognize and support the reason behind the promulgation of CSC MC # 38 series 1993. However, please consider the circumstances behind this request for exemption. Ms. Ong has been the holder of the position since my appointment last July 1992 under the Ramos government.
May I reiterate that the position of Ms. Ong is temporary in nature and co-terminous with my term. Moreover, she is now enrolled at the CAP College taking up BS in Business Administration.20
The respondent reiterated the urgency of Ong’s appointment in his letter-request for the payment of Ong’s salary:
… Please note that the Office of the Administrator is the center of all communications coming in and out of POEA as well as the focal point of all major activities whether internal or external concerns. As such, the smooth operations of this office would not have been possible without the able and dedication of Ms. Ong who faithfully discharged her gargantuan duties as Executive Assistant to the highest official of POEA. It would be an injustice to Ms. Ong if she is not properly compensated for a job very well done especially in such a sensitive position.21
With the foregoing, it can not be said that for want of a college degree as required under MC No. 38, s. 1993 for confidential/personal positions, Ong’s appointment was in contravention of the CSC Law and its rules. While it is conceded that the respondent intended the appointment of Ong to be contractual only, the petitioner approved the same in Resolution No. 956978, under a Coterminous-Temporary status. The appointment of Ong on July 1, 1995, is, therefore, valid.
We reject the petitioner’s contention that Ong’s appointment was invalid since the respondent appointed her to the position without first securing an "authority to fill" as mandated by the second to the last paragraph of Section 3 of Rep. Act No. 7430. The said provision reads:
SECTION 3. Attrition. – Within five (5) years from the approval of the Act, no appointment shall be made to fill vacated positions in any government office as a result of resignation, retirement, dismissal, death or transfer to another office of an officer or employee: Provided, however, That this prohibition shall not apply in the following instances:
(a) Where the position is head of a primary organic unit such as chief of division;
(b) Where the position is the lone position in the organizational unit and it corresponds to a particular expertise that is intrinsic to the desired basic capability of the unit concerned;
(c) Where the positions are basic positions for the initial operations of newly created or activated agencies or, in the case of other agencies, where the positions are vital and necessary for the continued and efficient operation of said agencies;
(d) Where the positions are difficult to fill considering the qualifications required therefore, as in the case of doctors, lawyers and other professionals;
(e) Where the positions are found in agencies declared to be understaffed;
(f) Positions in Congress or in the Judiciary;
(g) Appointments or designations extended by the President;
(h) Where the positions are found in local government units;
(i) Teaching personnel; and
(j) Where the replacement come from existing employees.
Provided, further, That the exemptions from this prohibition shall require authorization by the Civil Service Commission; Provided, finally, That no appointment shall be issued by the appointing authority nor approved by the Civil Service Commission without said authorization.22
Appointments made in violation of this Act shall be null and void.
In CSC Resolution No. 974094, the petitioner denied the respondent’s motion for the POEA to pay Ong’s salary based on the second to the last paragraph of Section 3, viz:
The Commission further finds no merit in the request because of the mandatory provision of Republic Act 7430 (Attrition Law) which states as follows:
No appointment shall be made to fill up a vacancy unless an authority has been granted by the Commission.23
But even a cursory reading of Section 3 of Rep. Act No. 7430 will readily show that it applies only to appointments to fill vacant position in a government office as a result of resignation, retirement, dismissal, death, or transfer to another office of an officer or employee within five years from the approval of the law. Under the law, attrition is defined as the reduction of personnel as a result of resignation, retirement, dismissal in accordance with existing laws, death or transfer to another office.24
The appointment of Ong to the position of the Executive Assistant IV in the Office of the respondent is not covered by Rep. Act No. 7430 because Ong was appointed to a newly-created position as part of the confidential/personal staff of the respondent. The position was approved by the DBM. The petitioner attested the appointment as coterminous temporary. The position to which Ong was appointed was not rendered vacant as a result of the resignation, retirement, dismissal, death or transfer of an employee to another office, as provided by the law. Thus, the petitioner cannot argue that the respondent violated the Attrition Law in appointing Ong.
The law must not be read in truncated parts; its provisions must be read in relation to the whole law. It is the cardinal rule in statutory construction that a statute’s clauses and phrases must not be taken as detached and isolated expressions, but the whole and every part thereof must be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts in order to produce a harmonious whole.25 Every part of the statute must be interpreted with reference to the context, i.e., that every part of the statute must be considered together with other parts of the statute and kept subservient to the general intent of the whole enactment.26
We find the respondent’s justification for the failure of the POEA to include Ong’s appointment in its ROPA for July 1995 as required by CSC Memorandum Circular No. 27, Series of 1994 to be in order. The records show that the POEA did not include the contractual appointment of Ong in its July ROPA because its request for exemption from the educational requisite for confidential staff members provided in MC No. 38 had yet been resolved by the CSC. The resolution of the petitioner granting such request was received only in November, 1995. The POEA, thereafter, reported the appointment in its November, 1995 ROPA.
Having been validly appointed to the position of Executive Assistant IV in the Office of the respondent, Ong is a de jure officer and not a de facto officer as held by the Court of Appeals. The broad definition of what constitutes an officer de facto was formulated by Lord Holt in Parker v. Kent,27 and reiterated by Lord Ellenborough and full King’s Bench in 1865 in Rex v. Bedford Level,28 "One who has the reputation of being the officer he assumes and yet is not a good officer in point of law." A de facto officer is one who is in possession of the office and discharging its duties under color of authority.29 By color of authority is meant that derived from an election or appointment, however irregular or informal, so that the incumbent is not a mere volunteer. The difference between the basis of the authority of a de jure officer and that of a de facto officer is that one rests on right, the other on reputation. It may be likened to the difference between character and reputation. One is the truth of a man, the other is what is thought of him."30 It is the color of authority, not the color of title that distinguishes an officer de facto from a usurper.31 Being a de jure officer, Ong is entitled to receive all the salaries and emoluments appertaining to the position.32
Irrefragably, Ong assumed the position and discharged her functions as Executive Assistant IV on July 1, 1995. Thenceforth, she was entitled to the payment of her salary, as provided for in Section 10 of Rule V of the Omnibus Rules of the Civil Service Commission on the matter of Appointments, viz:
An appointment issued in accordance with pertinent laws and rules shall take effect immediately upon its issuance by the appointing authority, and if the appointee has assumed the duties of the position, he shall be entitled to receive his salary at once, without awaiting the approval of his appointment by the Commission. The appointment shall remain effective until disapproved by the Commission. In no case shall an appointment take effect earlier than the date of its issuance.33
MC No. 38, s. 1993, likewise reads:
7. Effectivity of Appointment
a. The effectivity of an appointment shall be the date of actual assumption by the appointee but not earlier than the date of issuance of the appointment, which is the date of signing by the appointing authority.
b. No appointment shall be made earlier than the date of issuance, except in the case of change of status in view of qualifying in written examination, the effectivity of which is the date of release of the result of the examination. However, the issuance of such appointments shall be within the period of the temporary appointment or provided the temporary appointment has not yet expired…
Moreover, the Court of Appeals took note of CSC Resolution No. 953263 dated May 23, 1995 which states, thus:
… If the appointment was disapproved on grounds which do not constitute a violation of the civil service law, such as the failure of the appointee to meet the Qualification Standards (QS) prescribed for the position, the same is considered effective until disapproved by the Commission or any of its regional or field offices. The appointee is meanwhile entitled to payment of salaries from the government. Furthermore, if a motion for reconsideration or an appeal from the disapproval is seasonably filed with the proper office the appointment is still considered to be effective. The disapproval becomes final only after the same is affirmed by the Commission.34
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals, insofar as it is consistent with this Decision, is AFFIRMED.
Davide, Jr.*, Puno*, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
* On official leave.
1 Penned by Justice Perlita J. Tria Tirona with Associate Justices Buenaventura J. Guerrero and Rodrigo V. Cosico concurring.
2 Rollo, p. 48.
3 Item 9(c), Part II, Memorandum Circular No. 38, Series of 1993 which reads:
"Appointees to confidential/personal staff must meet only the educational requirements prescribed under CSC MC #14, s. 1993. The civil service eligibility, experience, training and other requirements are dispensed with."
4 Rollo, p. 33.
5 Id. at 34.
6 Id. at 35.
7 Id. at 35-37.
8 Id. at 36.
9 Id. at 37
10 Id. at 39.
11 Id. at 38-41.
12 Id. at 40.
13 Rule V, Item 2.2.9 of the Implementing Guidelines in the CSC Accreditation Program reads as follows:
"That appointment issued within the month but not listed in the ROPA for the said month shall become ineffective thirty days from issuance." (Rollo, p. 40.)
14 Rollo, p. 45.
15 Id. at 47.
16 Id. at 50.
17 Id. at 32.
18 Chapter II, Section 6 (2) of the Civil Service Law provides that service in the government is classified under career or non-career.
Section 9. Non-Career Service. - The Non-Career Service shall be characterized by (1) entrance on bases other than those of the usual tests of merit and fitness utilized for the career service; and (2) tenure which is limited to a period specified by law, or which is coterminous with that of the appointing authority or subject to his pleasure, or which is limited to the duration of a particular project for which purpose employment was made.
The Non-Career Service shall include:
(1) Elective officials and their personnel or confidential staff;
(2) Secretaries and other officials of Cabinet rank who hold their positions at the pleasure of the President and their personal or confidential staff(s);
(3) Chairmen and members of commissions and boards with fixed terms of office and their personal or confidential staff;
(4) Contractual personnel or those whose employment in the government is in accordance with a special contract to undertake a specific work or job, requiring special or technical skills not available in the employing agency, to be accomplished within a specific period, which in no case shall exceed one year, and performs or accomplishes the specific work or job, under his own responsibility with a minimum of direction and supervision from the hiring agency;
(5) Emergency and seasonal personnel.
Sec. 27. Employment Status. - Appointment in the career service shall be permanent or temporary.
1) Permanent appointment. – A permanent appointment shall be issued to a person who meets all the requirements for the position to which he is being appointed, including the appropriate eligibility prescribed, in accordance with the provisions of law, rules and standards promulgated in pursuance thereof.
2) Temporary appointment. – In the absence of appropriate eligibles and it becomes necessary ion the public interest to fill a vacancy, a temporary appointment shall be issued to a person who meets all the requirements for the position to which he is being appointed except the appropriate civil service eligibility: Provided, That such temporary appointment shall not exceed twelve months, but the appointee may be replaced sooner if a qualified civil service eligible becomes available.
Section 14. An appointment may also be coterminous which shall be issued to a person whose entrance and continuity in the service is based on the trust and confidence of the appointing authority or that which is subject to his pleasure, or co-existent with his tenure, or limited by the duration of project or subject to the availability of funds. (Rule V, of the Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292 and other pertinent Civil Service Laws).
19 See Mathay v Court of Appeals, 320 SCRA 703 (1999).
20 Rollo, p .33.
21 Id. at 35.
22 Emphasis supplied.
23 Id. at 36.
24 Section 2, R.A. 7430.
25 Yamaoka v. Pescarich Manufacturing Corp., 361 SCRA 672 (2001).
26 Paras v. COMELEC, 264 SCRA 49 (1996).
27 Ld. Raymond 652, 12 Mod. 467.
28 6 East, 376.
29 State v. Oates, 57 N.W. 296 (1983).
30 Ridout v. State, 30 S.W. 2d. 255 (1930).
31 Ekern v. McGovern, 142 N.W. 595 (1913).
32 Lecaros v. Sandiganbayan, 305 SCRA 407 (1999).
33 Italics supplied.
34 Id. at 31 (emphasis supplied).
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation