Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 155336             November 25, 2004

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS EMPLOYEES' ASSOCIATION (CHREA) Represented by its President, MARCIAL A. SANCHEZ, JR., petitioner,
vs.
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, respondent.


D E C I S I O N


CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Can the Commission on Human Rights lawfully implement an upgrading and reclassification of personnel positions without the prior approval of the Department of Budget and Management?

Before this Court is a petition for review filed by petitioner Commission on Human Rights Employees' Association (CHREA) challenging the Decision1 dated 29 November 2001 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 59678 affirming the Resolutions2 dated 16 December 1999 and 09 June 2000 of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), which sustained the validity of the upgrading and reclassification of certain personnel positions in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) despite the disapproval thereof by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Also assailed is the resolution dated 11 September 2002 of the Court of Appeals denying the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner.

The antecedent facts which spawned the present controversy are as follows:

On 14 February 1998, Congress passed Republic Act No. 8522, otherwise known as the General Appropriations Act of 1998. It provided for Special Provisions Applicable to All Constitutional Offices Enjoying Fiscal Autonomy. The last portion of Article XXXIII covers the appropriations of the CHR. These special provisions state:

1. Organizational Structure. Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding and within the limits of their respective appropriations as authorized in this Act, the Constitutional Commissions and Offices enjoying fiscal autonomy are authorized to formulate and implement the organizational structures of their respective offices, to fix and determine the salaries, allowances, and other benefits of their personnel, and whenever public interest so requires, make adjustments in their personal services itemization including, but not limited to, the transfer of item or creation of new positions in their respective offices: PROVIDED, That officers and employees whose positions are affected by such reorganization or adjustments shall be granted retirement gratuities and separation pay in accordance with existing laws, which shall be payable from any unexpended balance of, or savings in the appropriations of their respective offices: PROVIDED, FURTHER, That the implementation hereof shall be in accordance with salary rates, allowances and other benefits authorized under compensation standardization laws.

2. Use of Savings. The Constitutional Commissions and Offices enjoying fiscal autonomy are hereby authorized to use savings in their respective appropriations for: (a) printing and/or publication of decisions, resolutions, and training information materials; (b) repair, maintenance and improvement of central and regional offices, facilities and equipment; (c) purchase of books, journals, periodicals and equipment; (d) necessary expenses for the employment of temporary, contractual and casual employees; (e) payment of extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses, commutable representation and transportation allowances, and fringe benefits for their officials and employees as may be authorized by law; and (f) other official purposes, subject to accounting and auditing rules and regulations. (Emphases supplied)

on the strength of these special provisions, the CHR, through its then Chairperson Aurora P. Navarette-Reciña and Commissioners Nasser A. Marohomsalic, Mercedes V. Contreras, Vicente P. Sibulo, and Jorge R. Coquia, promulgated Resolution No. A98-047 on 04 September 1998, adopting an upgrading and reclassification scheme among selected positions in the Commission, to wit:

WHEREAS, the General Appropriations Act, FY 1998, R.A. No. 8522 has provided special provisions applicable to all Constitutional Offices enjoying Fiscal Autonomy, particularly on organizational structures and authorizes the same to formulate and implement the organizational structures of their respective offices to fix and determine the salaries, allowances and other benefits of their personnel and whenever public interest so requires, make adjustments in the personnel services itemization including, but not limited to, the transfer of item or creation of new positions in their respective offices: PROVIDED, That officers and employees whose positions are affected by such reorganization or adjustments shall be granted retirement gratuities and separation pay in accordance with existing laws, which shall be payable from any unexpanded balance of, or savings in the appropriations of their respective offices;

Whereas, the Commission on Human Rights is a member of the Constitutional Fiscal Autonomy Group (CFAG) and on July 24, 1998, CFAG passed an approved Joint Resolution No. 49 adopting internal rules implementing the special provisions heretoforth mentioned;

NOW THEREFORE, the Commission by virtue of its fiscal autonomy hereby approves and authorizes the upgrading and augmentation of the commensurate amount generated from savings under Personal Services to support the implementation of this resolution effective Calendar Year 1998;

Let the Human Resources Development Division (HRDD) prepare the necessary Notice of Salary Adjustment and other appropriate documents to implement this resolution; . . . .3 (Emphasis supplied)

Annexed to said resolution is the proposed creation of ten additional plantilla positions, namely: one Director IV position, with Salary Grade 28 for the Caraga Regional Office, four Security Officer II with Salary Grade 15, and five Process Servers, with Salary Grade 5 under the Office of the Commissioners. 4

On 19 October 1998, CHR issued Resolution No. A98-0555 providing for the upgrading or raising of salary grades of the following positions in the Commission:

Number of Positions

Position

Title

Salary Grade

Total Salary Requirements

 

From

To

From

To

 

12

Attorney VI (In the Regional Field Offices)

Director IV

26

28

P229,104.00

4

Director III

Director IV

27

28

38,928.00

1

Financial & Management Officer II

Director IV

24

28

36,744.00

1

Budget Officer III

Budget Officer IV

18

24

51,756.00

1

Accountant III

Chief Accountant

18

24

51,756.00

1

Cashier III

Cashier V

18

24

51,756.00

1

Information Officer V

Director IV

24

28

36,744.006

It, likewise, provided for the creation and upgrading of the following positions:

A. Creation

Number of Positions

Position Title

Salary Grade

Total Salary Requirements

4

Security Officer II (Coterminous)

15

684,780.00

B. Upgrading

Number of Positions

Position Title

Salary Grade

Total Salary Requirements

 

From

To

From

To

 

1

Attorney V

Director IV

25

28

P28,092.00

2

Security Officer I

Security Officer II

11

15

57,456.00

         

----------------

Total 3

       

P 85,548.007

To support the implementation of such scheme, the CHR, in the same resolution, authorized the augmentation of a commensurate amount generated from savings under Personnel Services.

By virtue of Resolution No. A98-062 dated 17 November 1998, the CHR "collapsed" the vacant positions in the body to provide additional source of funding for said staffing modification. Among the positions collapsed were: one Attorney III, four Attorney IV, one Chemist III, three Special Investigator I, one Clerk III, and one Accounting Clerk II.8

The CHR forwarded said staffing modification and upgrading scheme to the DBM with a request for its approval, but the then DBM secretary Benjamin Diokno denied the request on the following justification:

… Based on the evaluations made the request was not favorably considered as it effectively involved the elevation of the field units from divisions to services.

The present proposal seeks further to upgrade the twelve (12) positions of Attorney VI, SG-26 to Director IV, SG-28. This would elevate the field units to a bureau or regional office, a level even higher than the one previously denied.

The request to upgrade the three (3) positions of Director III, SG-27 to Director IV, SG-28, in the Central Office in effect would elevate the services to Office and change the context from support to substantive without actual change in functions.

In the absence of a specific provision of law which may be used as a legal basis to elevate the level of divisions to a bureau or regional office, and the services to offices, we reiterate our previous stand denying the upgrading of the twelve (12) positions of Attorney VI, SG-26 to Director III, SG-27 or Director IV, SG-28, in the Field Operations Office (FOO) and three (3) Director III, SG-27 to Director IV, SG-28 in the Central Office.

As represented, President Ramos then issued a Memorandum to the DBM Secretary dated 10 December 1997, directing the latter to increase the number of Plantilla positions in the CHR both Central and Regional Offices to implement the Philippine Decade Plan on Human Rights Education, the Philippine Human Rights Plan and Barangay Rights Actions Center in accordance with existing laws. (Emphasis in the original)

Pursuant to Section 78 of the General Provisions of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) FY 1998, no organizational unit or changes in key positions shall be authorized unless provided by law or directed by the President, thus, the creation of a Finance Management Office and a Public Affairs Office cannot be given favorable recommendation.

Moreover, as provided under Section 2 of RA No. 6758, otherwise known as the Compensation Standardization Law, the Department of Budget and Management is directed to establish and administer a unified compensation and position classification system in the government. The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Victorina Cruz vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 119155, dated January 30, 1996, that this Department has the sole power and discretion to administer the compensation and position classification system of the National Government.

Being a member of the fiscal autonomy group does not vest the agency with the authority to reclassify, upgrade, and create positions without approval of the DBM. While the members of the Group are authorized to formulate and implement the organizational structures of their respective offices and determine the compensation of their personnel, such authority is not absolute and must be exercised within the parameters of the Unified Position Classification and Compensation System established under RA 6758 more popularly known as the Compensation Standardization Law. We therefore reiterate our previous stand on the matter.9 (Emphases supplied)

In light of the DBM's disapproval of the proposed personnel modification scheme, the CSC-National Capital Region Office, through a memorandum dated 29 March 1999, recommended to the CSC-Central Office that the subject appointments be rejected owing to the DBM's disapproval of the plantilla reclassification.

Meanwhile, the officers of petitioner CHREA, in representation of the rank and file employees of the CHR, requested the CSC-Central Office to affirm the recommendation of the CSC-Regional Office. CHREA stood its ground in saying that the DBM is the only agency with appropriate authority mandated by law to evaluate and approve matters of reclassification and upgrading, as well as creation of positions.

The CSC-Central Office denied CHREA's request in a Resolution dated 16 December 1999, and reversed the recommendation of the CSC-Regional Office that the upgrading scheme be censured. The decretal portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the request of Ronnie N. Rosero, Hubert V. Ruiz, Flordeliza A. Briones, George Q. Dumlao [and], Corazon A. Santos-Tiu, is hereby denied.10

CHREA filed a motion for reconsideration, but the CSC-Central Office denied the same on 09 June 2000.

Given the cacophony of judgments between the DBM and the CSC, petitioner CHREA elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the pronouncement of the CSC-Central Office and upheld the validity of the upgrading, retitling, and reclassification scheme in the CHR on the justification that such action is within the ambit of CHR's fiscal autonomy. The fallo of the Court of Appeals decision provides:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the instant petition is ordered DISMISSED and the questioned Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 99-2800 dated December 16, 1999 as well as No. 001354 dated June 9, 2000, are hereby AFFIRMED. No cost.11

Unperturbed, petitioner filed this petition in this Court contending that:

A.

…THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT HELD THAT UNDER THE 1987 CONSTITUTION, THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ENJOYS FISCAL AUTONOMY.

B.

…THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 8522 (THE GENERAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 1998) DESPITE ITS BEING IN SHARP CONFLICT WITH THE 1987 CONSTITUTION AND THE STATUTE ITSELF.

C.

…THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY AND GRAVELY ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE VALIDITY OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION RESOLUTION NOS. 992800 AND 001354 AS WELL AS THAT OF THE OPINION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IN STATING THAT THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ENJOYS FISCAL AUTONOMY UNDER THE 1987 CONSTITUTION AND THAT THIS FISCAL AUTONOMY INCLUDES THE ACTION TAKEN BY IT IN COLLAPSING, UPGRADING AND RECLASSIFICATION OF POSITIONS THEREIN.12

The central question we must answer in order to resolve this case is: Can the Commission on Human Rights validly implement an upgrading, reclassification, creation, and collapsing of plantilla positions in the Commission without the prior approval of the Department of Budget and Management?

Petitioner CHREA grouses that the Court of Appeals and the CSC-Central Office both erred in sanctioning the CHR's alleged blanket authority to upgrade, reclassify, and create positions inasmuch as the approval of the DBM relative to such scheme is still indispensable. Petitioner bewails that the CSC and the Court of Appeals erroneously assumed that CHR enjoys fiscal autonomy insofar as financial matters are concerned, particularly with regard to the upgrading and reclassification of positions therein.

Respondent CHR sharply retorts that petitioner has no locus standi considering that there exists no official written record in the Commission recognizing petitioner as a bona fide organization of its employees nor is there anything in the records to show that its president, Marcial A. Sanchez, Jr., has the authority to sue the CHR. The CHR contends that it has the authority to cause the upgrading, reclassification, plantilla creation, and collapsing scheme sans the approval of the DBM because it enjoys fiscal autonomy.

After a thorough consideration of the arguments of both parties and an assiduous scrutiny of the records in the case at bar, it is the Court's opinion that the present petition is imbued with merit.

On petitioner's personality to bring this suit, we held in a multitude of cases that a proper party is one who has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining an injury as a result of the act complained of.13 Here, petitioner, which consists of rank and file employees of respondent CHR, protests that the upgrading and collapsing of positions benefited only a select few in the upper level positions in the Commission resulting to the demoralization of the rank and file employees. This sufficiently meets the injury test. Indeed, the CHR's upgrading scheme, if found to be valid, potentially entails eating up the Commission's savings or that portion of its budgetary pie otherwise allocated for Personnel Services, from which the benefits of the employees, including those in the rank and file, are derived.

Further, the personality of petitioner to file this case was recognized by the CSC when it took cognizance of the CHREA's request to affirm the recommendation of the CSC-National Capital Region Office. CHREA's personality to bring the suit was a non-issue in the Court of Appeals when it passed upon the merits of this case. Thus, neither should our hands be tied by this technical concern. Indeed, it is settled jurisprudence that an issue that was neither raised in the complaint nor in the court below cannot be raised for the first time on appeal, as to do so would be offensive to the basic rules of fair play, justice, and due process.14

We now delve into the main issue of whether or not the approval by the DBM is a condition precedent to the enactment of an upgrading, reclassification, creation and collapsing of plantilla positions in the CHR.

Germane to our discussion is Rep. Act No. 6758, An Act Prescribing a Revised Compensation and Position Classification System in the Government and For Other Purposes, or the Salary Standardization Law, dated 01 July 1989, which provides in Sections 2 and 4 thereof that it is the DBM that shall establish and administer a unified Compensation and Position Classification System. Thus:

SEC. 2. Statement of Policy. -- It is hereby declared the policy of the State to provide equal pay for substantially equal work and to base differences in pay upon substantive differences in duties and responsibilities, and qualification requirements of the positions. In determining rates of pay, due regard shall be given to, among others, prevailing rates in the private sector for comparable work. For this purpose, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is hereby directed to establish and administer a unified Compensation and Position Classification System, hereinafter referred to as the System as provided for in Presidential Decree No. 985, as amended, that shall be applied for all government entities, as mandated by the Constitution. (Emphasis supplied.)

SEC. 4. Coverage. – The Compensation and Position Classification System herein provided shall apply to all positions, appointive or elective, on full or part-time basis, now existing or hereafter created in the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations and government financial institutions.

The term "government" refers to the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial Branches and the Constitutional Commissions and shall include all, but shall not be limited to, departments, bureaus, offices, boards, commissions, courts, tribunals, councils, authorities, administrations, centers, institutes, state colleges and universities, local government units, and the armed forces. The term "government-owned or controlled corporations and financial institutions" shall include all corporations and financial institutions owned or controlled by the National Government, whether such corporations and financial institutions perform governmental or proprietary functions. (Emphasis supplied.)

The disputation of the Court of Appeals that the CHR is exempt from the long arm of the Salary Standardization Law is flawed considering that the coverage thereof, as defined above, encompasses the entire gamut of government offices, sans qualification.

This power to "administer" is not purely ministerial in character as erroneously held by the Court of Appeals. The word to administer means to control or regulate in behalf of others; to direct or superintend the execution, application or conduct of; and to manage or conduct public affairs, as to administer the government of the state.15

The regulatory power of the DBM on matters of compensation is encrypted not only in law, but in jurisprudence as well. In the recent case of Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) v. Jesusito L. Buñag,16 this Court, speaking through Mr. Justice Reynato Puno, ruled that compensation, allowances, and other benefits received by PRA officials and employees without the requisite approval or authority of the DBM are unauthorized and irregular. In the words of the Court –

Despite the power granted to the Board of Directors of PRA to establish and fix a compensation and benefits scheme for its employees, the same is subject to the review of the Department of Budget and Management. However, in view of the express powers granted to PRA under its charter, the extent of the review authority of the Department of Budget and Management is limited. As stated in Intia, the task of the Department of Budget and Management is simply to review the compensation and benefits plan of the government agency or entity concerned and determine if the same complies with the prescribed policies and guidelines issued in this regard. The role of the Department of Budget and Management is supervisorial in nature, its main duty being to ascertain that the proposed compensation, benefits and other incentives to be given to PRA officials and employees adhere to the policies and guidelines issued in accordance with applicable laws.

In Victorina Cruz v. Court of Appeals,17 we held that the DBM has the sole power and discretion to administer the compensation and position classification system of the national government.

In Intia, Jr. v. Commission on Audit,18 the Court held that although the charter19 of the Philippine Postal Corporation (PPC) grants it the power to fix the compensation and benefits of its employees and exempts PPC from the coverage of the rules and regulations of the Compensation and Position Classification Office, by virtue of Section 6 of P.D. No. 1597, the compensation system established by the PPC is, nonetheless, subject to the review of the DBM. This Court intoned:

It should be emphasized that the review by the DBM of any PPC resolution affecting the compensation structure of its personnel should not be interpreted to mean that the DBM can dictate upon the PPC Board of Directors and deprive the latter of its discretion on the matter. Rather, the DBM's function is merely to ensure that the action taken by the Board of Directors complies with the requirements of the law, specifically, that PPC's compensation system "conforms as closely as possible with that provided for under R.A. No. 6758." (Emphasis supplied.)

As measured by the foregoing legal and jurisprudential yardsticks, the imprimatur of the DBM must first be sought prior to implementation of any reclassification or upgrading of positions in government. This is consonant to the mandate of the DBM under the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, Section 3, Chapter 1, Title XVII, to wit:

SEC. 3. Powers and Functions. – The Department of Budget and Management shall assist the President in the preparation of a national resources and expenditures budget, preparation, execution and control of the National Budget, preparation and maintenance of accounting systems essential to the budgetary process, achievement of more economy and efficiency in the management of government operations, administration of compensation and position classification systems, assessment of organizational effectiveness and review and evaluation of legislative proposals having budgetary or organizational implications. (Emphasis supplied.)

Irrefragably, it is within the turf of the DBM Secretary to disallow the upgrading, reclassification, and creation of additional plantilla positions in the CHR based on its finding that such scheme lacks legal justification.

Notably, the CHR itself recognizes the authority of the DBM to deny or approve the proposed reclassification of positions as evidenced by its three letters to the DBM requesting approval thereof. As such, it is now estopped from now claiming that the nod of approval it has previously sought from the DBM is a superfluity.

The Court of Appeals incorrectly relied on the pronouncement of the CSC-Central Office that the CHR is a constitutional commission, and as such enjoys fiscal autonomy.20

Palpably, the Court of Appeals' Decision was based on the mistaken premise that the CHR belongs to the species of constitutional commissions. But, Article IX of the Constitution states in no uncertain terms that only the CSC, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit shall be tagged as Constitutional Commissions with the appurtenant right to fiscal autonomy. Thus:

Sec. 1. The Constitutional Commissions, which shall be independent, are the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit.

Sec. 5. The Commission shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. Their approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released.

Along the same vein, the Administrative Code, in Chapter 5, Sections 24 and 26 of Book II on Distribution of Powers of Government, the constitutional commissions shall include only the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit, which are granted independence and fiscal autonomy. In contrast, Chapter 5, Section 29 thereof, is silent on the grant of similar powers to the other bodies including the CHR. Thus:

SEC. 24. Constitutional Commissions. – The Constitutional Commissions, which shall be independent, are the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit.

SEC. 26. Fiscal Autonomy. – The Constitutional Commissions shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. The approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released.

SEC. 29. Other Bodies. – There shall be in accordance with the Constitution, an Office of the Ombudsman, a Commission on Human Rights, and independent central monetary authority, and a national police commission. Likewise, as provided in the Constitution, Congress may establish an independent economic and planning agency. (Emphasis ours.)

From the 1987 Constitution and the Administrative Code, it is abundantly clear that the CHR is not among the class of Constitutional Commissions. As expressed in the oft-repeated maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius, the express mention of one person, thing, act or consequence excludes all others. Stated otherwise, expressium facit cessare tacitum – what is expressed puts an end to what is implied.21

Nor is there any legal basis to support the contention that the CHR enjoys fiscal autonomy. In essence, fiscal autonomy entails freedom from outside control and limitations, other than those provided by law. It is the freedom to allocate and utilize funds granted by law, in accordance with law, and pursuant to the wisdom and dispatch its needs may require from time to time.22 In Blaquera v. Alcala and Bengzon v. Drilon,23 it is understood that it is only the Judiciary, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Elections, and the Office of the Ombudsman, which enjoy fiscal autonomy. Thus, in Bengzon,24 we explained:

As envisioned in the Constitution, the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by the Judiciary, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Elections, and the Office of the Ombudsman contemplates a guarantee of full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require. It recognizes the power and authority to levy, assess and collect fees, fix rates of compensation not exceeding the highest rates authorized by law for compensation and pay plans of the government and allocate and disburse such sums as may be provided by law or prescribed by them in the course of the discharge of their functions.

. . .

The Judiciary, the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman must have the independence and flexibility needed in the discharge of their constitutional duties. The imposition of restrictions and constraints on the manner the independent constitutional offices allocate and utilize the funds appropriated for their operations is anathema to fiscal autonomy and violative not only of the express mandate of the Constitution but especially as regards the Supreme Court, of the independence and separation of powers upon which the entire fabric of our constitutional system is based. In the interest of comity and cooperation, the Supreme Court, [the] Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman have so far limited their objections to constant reminders. We now agree with the petitioners that this grant of autonomy should cease to be a meaningless provision. (Emphasis supplied.)

Neither does the fact that the CHR was admitted as a member by the Constitutional Fiscal Autonomy Group (CFAG) ipso facto clothed it with fiscal autonomy. Fiscal autonomy is a constitutional grant, not a tag obtainable by membership.

We note with interest that the special provision under Rep. Act No. 8522, while cited under the heading of the CHR, did not specifically mention CHR as among those offices to which the special provision to formulate and implement organizational structures apply, but merely states its coverage to include Constitutional Commissions and Offices enjoying fiscal autonomy. In contrast, the Special Provision Applicable to the Judiciary under Article XXVIII of the General Appropriations Act of 1998 specifically mentions that such special provision applies to the judiciary and had categorically authorized the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to formulate and implement the organizational structure of the Judiciary, to wit:

1. Organizational Structure. Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding and within the limits of their respective appropriations authorized in this Act, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is authorized to formulate and implement organizational structure of the Judiciary, to fix and determine the salaries, allowances, and other benefits of their personnel, and whenever public interest so requires, make adjustments in the personal services itemization including, but not limited to, the transfer of item or creation of new positions in the Judiciary; PROVIDED, That officers and employees whose positions are affected by such reorganization or adjustments shall be granted retirement gratuities and separation pay in accordance with existing law, which shall be payable from any unexpended balance of, or savings in the appropriations of their respective offices: PROVIDED, FURTHER, That the implementation hereof shall be in accordance with salary rates, allowances and other benefits authorized under compensation standardization laws. (Emphasis supplied.)

All told, the CHR, although admittedly a constitutional creation is, nonetheless, not included in the genus of offices accorded fiscal autonomy by constitutional or legislative fiat.

Even assuming en arguendo that the CHR enjoys fiscal autonomy, we share the stance of the DBM that the grant of fiscal autonomy notwithstanding, all government offices must, all the same, kowtow to the Salary Standardization Law. We are of the same mind with the DBM on its standpoint, thus-

Being a member of the fiscal autonomy group does not vest the agency with the authority to reclassify, upgrade, and create positions without approval of the DBM. While the members of the Group are authorized to formulate and implement the organizational structures of their respective offices and determine the compensation of their personnel, such authority is not absolute and must be exercised within the parameters of the Unified Position Classification and Compensation System established under RA 6758 more popularly known as the Compensation Standardization Law.25 (Emphasis supplied.)

The most lucid argument against the stand of respondent, however, is the provision of Rep. Act No. 8522 "that the implementation hereof shall be in accordance with salary rates, allowances and other benefits authorized under compensation standardization laws."26

Indeed, the law upon which respondent heavily anchors its case upon has expressly provided that any form of adjustment in the organizational structure must be within the parameters of the Salary Standardization Law.

The Salary Standardization Law has gained impetus in addressing one of the basic causes of discontent of many civil servants.27 For this purpose, Congress has delegated to the DBM the power to administer the Salary Standardization Law and to ensure that the spirit behind it is observed. This power is part of the system of checks and balances or system of restraints in our government. The DBM's exercise of such authority is not in itself an arrogation inasmuch as it is pursuant to the paramount law of the land, the Salary Standardization Law and the Administrative Code.

In line with its role to breathe life into the policy behind the Salary Standardization Law of "providing equal pay for substantially equal work and to base differences in pay upon substantive differences in duties and responsibilities, and qualification requirements of the positions," the DBM, in the case under review, made a determination, after a thorough evaluation, that the reclassification and upgrading scheme proposed by the CHR lacks legal rationalization.

The DBM expounded that Section 78 of the general provisions of the General Appropriations Act FY 1998, which the CHR heavily relies upon to justify its reclassification scheme, explicitly provides that "no organizational unit or changes in key positions shall be authorized unless provided by law or directed by the President." Here, the DBM discerned that there is no law authorizing the creation of a Finance Management Office and a Public Affairs Office in the CHR. Anent CHR's proposal to upgrade twelve positions of Attorney VI, SG-26 to Director IV, SG-28, and four positions of Director III, SG-27 to Director IV, SG-28, in the Central Office, the DBM denied the same as this would change the context from support to substantive without actual change in functions.

This view of the DBM, as the law's designated body to implement and administer a unified compensation system, is beyond cavil. The interpretation of an administrative government agency, which is tasked to implement a statute is accorded great respect and ordinarily controls the construction of the courts. In Energy Regulatory Board v. Court of Appeals,28 we echoed the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special technical knowledge and training of such agencies.

To be sure, considering his expertise on matters affecting the nation's coffers, the Secretary of the DBM, as the President's alter ego, knows from where he speaks inasmuch as he has the front seat view of the adverse effects of an unwarranted upgrading or creation of positions in the CHR in particular and in the entire government in general.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED, the Decision dated 29 November 2001 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 59678 and its Resolution dated 11 September 2002 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The ruling dated 29 March 1999 of the Civil Service Commision-National Capital Region is REINSTATED. The Commission on Human Rights Resolution No. A98-047 dated 04 September 1998, Resolution No. A98-055 dated 19 October 1998 and Resolution No. A98-062 dated 17 November 1998 without the approval of the Department of Budget and Management are disallowed. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Acting C.J., Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.


Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 36-50; Penned by Associate Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr., with Associate Justices Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Amelita G. Tolentino, concurring.

2 Id. at 37.

3 Id. at 51-52.

4 Id. at 53-56.

5 Id. at 54.

6 Id.

7 Id. at 55.

8 Id. at 57.

9 Id. at 62-63.

10 Id. at 37.

11 Id. at 47.

12 Id. at 19-20.

13 Cruz, Philippine Political Law 243 (1996 ed.), citing Ex Parte Lewitt, 303 U.S. 633.

14 EASCO v. LTFRB, G.R. No. 149717, 07 October 2003, 413 SCRA 75.

15 Philippine Law Dictionary 21 (2nd ed.), citing Caw v. Benedicto, 63 OG 3393; 8 C.A.R. (2s) 814.

16 G.R. No. 143784, 05 February 2003, 397 SCRA 27, 35.

17 G.R. No. 119155, 30 January 1996, 252 SCRA599.

18 G.R. No. 131529, 30 April 1999, 306 SCRA 593, 609.

19 Rep. Act No. 7354 (1992).

20 Rollo, p. 46.

21 Canet v. Decena, G.R. No. 155344, 20 January 2004, 420 SCRA 388.

22 Blaquera v. Alcala, G.R. Nos. 109406, 110642, 111494, 112056 and 119597, 11 September 1998, 295 SCRA 366.

23 Id.; Bengzon v. Drilon, G.R. No. 103524, 15 April 1992, 208 SCRA 133.

24 Id.

25 Rollo, p. 63.

26 Article XXXIII, Rep. Act No. 8522, Special Provisions Applicable to all Constitutional Offices Enjoying Fiscal Autonomy.

27 Cruz, Philippine Political Law, p. 243 (1996 Ed).

28 G.R. No. 113079, 20 April 2001, 357 SCRA 30, citing Nestle v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 86738, 13 November 1991, 203 SCRA 504.


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation