A.M. No. 03-10-05-SC
RE: (a) REQUEST OF ASSISTANT COURT ADMINISTRATORS FOR UPGRADING OF THEIR RANK, SALARY AND PRIVILEGES UPON THE EFFECTIVITY OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9282 ELEVATING THE COURT OF TAX APPEALS TO THE LEVEL OF THE COURT OF APPEALS AND (b) GRANT OF SPECIAL DISTORTION ALLOWANCE TO POSITIONS IN THE JUDICIARY WITH RANK OF JUDGES OF METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURTS, ASSISTANT CLERK OF COURT OF THE COURT OF APPEALS AND DIVISION CLERKS OF COURT OF THE COURT OF APPEALS,
A.M. No. 03-11-25-SC             October 1, 2004
RE: REQUEST FOR THE GRANT OF SPECIAL DISTORTION ALLOWANCE TO POSITIONS IN JUDICIARY WITH THE RANK OF METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT JUDGES PARTICULARLY THE FIVE (5) EXECUTIVE CLERKS OF COURT III OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN,
R E S O L U T I O N
This disposes of the subject consolidated administrative matters.
The recent passage of legislation affecting the Judiciary has spawned requests from certain court officials for their inclusion in the operation of these new laws.
The first set of requests deals with the effect of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9282 on the rank, salary and privileges of the Assistant Court Administrators (ACAs). The second involves the application of Republic Act No. 9227 to these same officials, as well as the ACC and the DCCs of the Court of Appeals (CA), the DCCs of the Sandiganbayan (SB). Having no legal or logical basis, the former is denied; the latter, being meritorious, is granted.
By Resolution dated June 20, 1995, this Court granted to the Supreme Court (SC), Associate Clerk of Court (ACC) and the SC Division Clerks of Court (DCCs) "the rank, salary and privileges of a Presiding Judge of the Specialized Court (CTA)." This Court’s subsequent Resolutions of October 24, 19961 and June 22, 19992 also granted ACAs the rank, salary and privileges of a Presiding Judge (PJ) of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA). At that time, the qualifications and salary of the CTA PJ was governed by Section 1 of R.A. No. 1125.3
On March 30, 2004, the President approved R.A. No. 9282, An Act Expanding the Jurisdiction of the Court of Tax Appeals, Elevating its Rank to the Level of a Collegiate Court with Special Jurisdiction and Enlarging its Membership, Amending for the Purpose Sections of Republic Act No. 1125, otherwise known as the Law Creating the Court of Tax Appeals. Section 1 of R.A. No. 9282 amended Section 1 of R.A. No. 1125 to read:
SECTION 1. Court; Justices; Qualification; Salary; Tenure. – There is hereby created a Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) which shall be the same level as the Court of Appeals, possessing all the inherent powers of a Court of Justice, and shall consist of a Presiding Justice and five (5) Associate Justices. The incumbent Presiding Judge and Associate Judges shall continue in office and bear the new titles of Presiding Justice and Associate Justices. The Presiding Justice and the most Senior Associate Justice shall serve as chairmen of the two (2) Divisions. The additional three (3) Justices and succeeding members of the Court shall be appointed by the President upon nomination by the Judicial and Bar Council. The Presiding Justice shall be so designated in his appointment and the Associate Justices shall have precedence according to the date of their respective appointments, or when the appointments of two (2) or more of them shall bear the same date, according to the order in which their appointments were issued by the President. They shall have the same qualifications, rank, category, salary, emoluments and other privileges, subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, and enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those provided for under existing laws for the Presiding Justice and Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals.
Whenever the salaries of the Presiding Justice and the Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals are increased, such increases in salaries shall be deemed correspondingly extended to and enjoyed by the Presiding Justice and Associate Justices of the CTA.
The Presiding Justice and Associate Justices shall hold office during their good behavior, until they reach the age of seventy (70), or become incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office, unless sooner removed for the same causes and in the same manner provided by law for members of the judiciary of equivalent rank. [Emphasis supplied.]
After fifteen days following its publication on April 7, 2004, in Today, Times and Daily Tribune, R.A. No. 9282 became effective on April 23, 2004.4
In light of the amendment of Section 1, R.A. No. 1125, ACAs Antonio H. Dujua, Ismael G. Khan and Carlos L. de Leon seek the upgrading of their salaries and privileges to those of the CTA Presiding Justice. Atty. Eden T. Candelaria, Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief Administrative Officer, also requests a clarification of the judicial rank, salary and privileges not only of the said ACAs but those of the SC ACC and the SC DCCs as well. In her Memorandum to this Court, dated May 6, 2004, Atty. Candelaria asserted that:
Under RA 6758 (1989 Salary Standardization Law), the positions of CTA Presiding Judge and CA Associate Justice have the same salary level of Salary Grade 30, while the position of CA Presiding Justice has Salary Grade 31, the same as that of an Associate Justice of this Court.
As a consequence of RA 9282, the salary level of the CTA Presiding Judge has been upgraded to Salary Grade 31, the same as those of the CA Presiding Justice and the Supreme Court Associate Justice.
However, this upgrading cannot be implemented in the case of our aforementioned officials holding the rank of CTA Presiding Judge, otherwise the hierarchy of our officialdom would be distorted. Giving Salary Grade 31 to the Assistant Clerk of Court and the Division Clerks of Court would not only put them on a higher salary level than their immediate superior, the SC Clerk of Court whose salary level is only at Salary Grade 30, but would also place their salary level equal to that of an Assistant Court Administrators vis-à-vis the Deputy Court Administrators whose salary level is also at Salary Grade 30.5
In its Memorandum dated May 17, 2004, the Office of the Chief Attorney (OCAT), to which these requests were referred, agrees that the ACAs cannot be given the judicial rank of the CTA Presiding Justice for this would "disturb the hierarchy of positions in the OCA [Office of the Court Administrator]."6 Indeed, to do so would place the ACAs at par with their superior, the Court Administrator. By virtue of Section 2, Presidential Decree No. 828,7 the Court Administrator, like the CTA Presiding Judge, has the same rank, privileges and compensation as those of the CA Presiding Justice.
The OCAT, however, maintains that "the favorable effect upon the Assistant Court Administrators of the enactment of Rep. Act No. 9282 may not be brushed aside and denied them. Rep. Act No. 9282 may be considered a social legislation as far as the holders of the position of Assistant Court Administrator are concerned."8 Thus, it proposes that the ACAs "be placed on the same judicial rank as the Deputy Court Administrators [DCAs] who enjoy the rank of Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals." The reason given is that "there appears to be no issuance of the Court or of the Court Administrator that defines, delineates, and distinguishes the functions of the two OCA positions," which "may [both] be said to perform staff functions."9
The only question posed by the first set of requests is the effect of the elevation of the position of the CTA "Presiding Judge" to that of a CA Presiding Justice on other positions vested with the judicial rank of a CTA "Presiding Judge." To this, the simple answer is none.
As a rule, the intent of the legislature is to be ascertained and thereafter given effect as expressed in the language of the statute.10 No intent on the part of Congress to increase the benefits of the subject positions may be discerned either from the statute’s title or its sections. No intent to amend this Court’s Resolutions conferring judicial rank or those positions may be gleaned from its letter. Clearly, the grant of the rank of the CA Presiding Justice to the CTA Presiding Justice by R.A. No. 9282 has no effect on positions with the equivalent rank of a CTA PJ.
This Court cannot heed the suggestion that R.A. No. 9282 is a piece of social or general welfare legislation. It can hardly be argued that R.A. No. 9282 is in the nature of a tenancy or a labor enactment, or one intended for the betterment of the underprivileged. Moreover, there is no intent to benefit the CTA Presiding Justice and the CTA Associate Justices as a class – much less those granted the equivalent rank of the former CTA PJ. The increase in rank, salary and privileges of the CTA Presiding Justice and Associate Justices is merely incidental to the elevation of the CTA in the judicial hierarchy.
There is, therefore, no reason at this point to accord ACAs the same judicial rank as DCAs, a recommendation premised on the purported favorable effects of R.A. No. 9282 on these positions.
The OCAT inaccurately states that there is nothing that delineates the functions of the three DCAs and the two ACAs.11 On March 26, 2004, Court Administrator Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. issued Office Order No. 10-2004, stating:
SUBJECT: ALLOCATION OF AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY IN THE OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR
In the interest of the public service and for a more efficient supervision and management of lower courts, the assignment of regions shall be as follows:
|National Capital Judicial Region – ||CA Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.|
|Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 –||DCA Jose P. Perez|
|Regions 6, 7 and 8 -||DCA Zenaida N. Elepaño|
|Regions 9, 10, 11, 12 and Shari’a Courts –||DCA Christopher O. Lock|
Complaints against justices of the Court of Appeals and Sandiganbayan and judges of the Court of Tax Appeals and all matters relative to these courts shall be referred to the Court Administrator, for disposition.
All matters and concerns being attended to by the different offices in the Office of the Court Administrator shall be reviewed by the DCA concerned who shall submit his/her recommendation and/or draft actions papers to the Court Administrator for the latter’s appropriate action and/or signature.
With regard to the National Capital Judicial Region, the Court Administrator shall be assisted by the Assistant Court Administrators and the consultants. All matters pertaining to NCJR north shall be reviewed by ACA Antonio H. Dujua while those pertaining to NCJR south shall be reviewed by ACA Carlos L. De Leon. Their recommendations and/or proposed action papers shall be submitted to the Court Administrator for appropriate action.
This order takes effect on 1 April 2004 and shall remain in force until further orders. All previous orders on work assignments inconsistent herewith are hereby amended.
Complementary thereto, in a Memorandum of even date addressed to ACAs Dujua and De Leon, Court Administrator Velasco, Jr. distributed the supervision and management of court stations in the National Capital Judicial Region to these two ACAs as follows:
Assistant Court Administrator Antonio H. Dujua
1. Quezon City
2. Pasig City
3. Mandaluyong City
4. San Juan
7. Marikina City
8. Kalookan City
9. Malabon City
11. Valenzuela City
Assistant Court Administrator Carlos L. De Leon
2. Pasay City
3. Makati City
4. Parañaque City
5. Muntinlupa City
6. Las Piñas City
Thus, while the three DCAs’ functions cover entire regions, those of the two ACAs are limited to cities and municipalities in the National Capital Region, and only then, in an assisting capacity to the Court Administrator.
Clearly, these two issuances of the Court Administrator conform to the theory behind P.D. No. 828, and this Court’s Resolution dated October 24, 1996 and June 22, 1999. Section 2 of the Decree gave the three DCAs the same rank, privileges and compensation as those of an Associate Justice of the CA while this Court’s Resolutions, as stated earlier, prescribed for ACAs the same qualifications, rank, salary and privileges as the CTA "Presiding Judge." As the benefits granted to DCAs are greater than those of ACAs, the presumption, again, is that the former should exercise greater responsibilities than the latter. This presumption is accurately reflected in the Court Administrator’s issuances of March 26, 2004.
Not being entitled to the rank, salary and privileges of the CTA Presiding Justice would the ACAs nevertheless be entitled to the Special Allowance granted by another recent enactment, R.A. No. 9227?
On October 23, 2003, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved R.A. No. 9227. Entitled An Act Granting Additional Compensation in the Form of Special Allowances for Justices, Judges and All Other Positions in the Judiciary with the Equivalent Rank of Justices of the Court of Appeals and Judges of the Regional Trial Court and for other Purposes, the law took effect on November 11, 2003, fifteen (15) days after its publication on October 25 and 27, 2003, in Today and Times, respectively.12
The core of R.A. No. 9227 is Section 2, which provides:
SEC. 2. Grant of Special Allowances. – All justices, judges and all other positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of justices of the Court of Appeals and judges of the Regional Trial Court as authorized under existing laws shall be granted special allowances equivalent to one hundred percent (100%) of the basic monthly salary specified for their respective salary grades under Republic Act No. 6758, as amended, otherwise known as the Salary Standardization Law, to be implemented for a period of four (4) years.
The grant of special allowances shall be implemented uniformly in such sums or amounts equivalent to twenty-five percent (25%) of the basic salaries of the positions covered hereof. Subsequent implementation shall be in such sums and amounts and up to the extent only that can be supported by the funding source specified in Section 3 hereof.
The CA ACC and its seventeen DCCs, as well as the five SB DCCs, seek their inclusion in the coverage of R.A. No. 9227. This second set of requests was indorsed respectively by Senator Francis N. Pangilinan and then SB Presiding Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario, now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. This Court referred the matter to the OCA for evaluation, report and recommendation.13 The plain language of R.A. No. 9227 would seem to forestall any debate over the subject officials’ inclusion therein. This is also true for the ACAs. The statute’s title and its provisions14 consistently speak only of (a) justices, (b) judges, (c) positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of justices of the CA, and (d) positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of judges of the Regional Trial Court (RTC). The SC ACC and DCCs, and ACAs, as discussed earlier, have the equivalent rank of the Presiding Judge of the CTA. CA DCCs (Executive Clerks of Court II with Salary Grade 27 and Executive Clerks of Court III with Salary Grade 28) have the rank, salary and privileges of a Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) judge only.15 As the OCA correctly stated in its Memorandum to the Chief Justice dated March 2, 2004:
If the language of the statute is plain and free from ambiguity, and expresses a single, definite, and sensible meaning, that meaning is conclusively presumed to be the meaning which the legislature intended to convey. In other words, the statute must be interpreted literally. Even though the court should be convinced that some other meaning was really intended by the law-making power, and even though the literal interpretation should defeat the very purposes of the enactment, still the explicit declaration of the legislature is the law, and the courts must not depart from it.
While the exclusion of the petitioners may have been the result of an oversight, it does not operate to supplant the intent of the legislature. Legislative intent is determined principally from the language of the statute. Where the language of a statue is clear and unambiguous, the law is applied according to its express terms. The legislature is presumed to know the meaning of the words, to have used words advisedly, and to have expressed its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute. Verba legis non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure. [Citations omitted.]
The OCA nevertheless submits that the phrase "all other positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of justices of the Court of Appeals and judges of the Regional Trial Court" in Section 2 of R.A. No. 9227 is superfluous. Even if such phrase were absent in the provision, officials in the Judiciary with the rank, salary and privileges of justices and judges may be extended a "distortion allowance." This recommendation echoes the suggestion of Sen. Pangilinan.
Unfortunately, this tack is a mere circumvention of R.A. No. 9227. The nature of the proposed distortion allowance is to compensate for the resulting disparity in benefits between those covered by the law and those who are not. Granting a distortion allowance to those outside the coverage of the law would amount to giving them the same special allowance that the law has denied them by exclusion. Congress is presumed to be aware of this Court’s Resolutions conferring the subject officials judicial rank; yet, Congress chose not to include them in R.A. No. 9227.
The CA ACC and the CA and SB DCCs proffer a more profound argument, however. Does not Section 2 of R.A. No. 9227, they ask, violate the equal protection clause?16
This Court has explained the scope of the equal protection clause as follows:
…. What does it signify? To quote from J.M. Tuason & Co. v. Land Tenure Administration: "The ideal situation is for the law's benefits to be available to all, that none be placed outside the sphere of its coverage. Only thus could chance and favor be excluded and the affairs of men governed by that serene and impartial uniformity, which is of the very essence of the idea of law." There is recognition, however, in the opinion that what in fact exists "cannot approximate the ideal. Nor is the law susceptible to the reproach that it does not take into account the realities of the situation. The constitutional guarantee then is not to be given a meaning that disregards what is, what does in fact exist. To assure that the general welfare be promoted, which is the end of law, a regulatory measure may cut into the rights to liberty and property. Those adversely affected may under such circumstances invoke the equal protection clause only if they can show that the governmental act assailed, far from being inspired by the attainment of the common weal was prompted by the spirit of hostility, or at the very least, discrimination that finds no support in reason." Classification is thus not ruled out, it being sufficient to quote from the Tuason decision anew "that the laws operate equally and uniformly on all persons under similar circumstances or that all persons must be treated in the same manner, the conditions not being different, both in the privileges conferred and the liabilities imposed. Favoritism and undue preference cannot be allowed. For the principle is that equal protection and security shall be given to every person under circumstances which, if not identical, are analogous. If law be looked upon in terms of burden or charges, those that fall within a class should be treated in the same fashion, whatever restrictions cast on some in the group equally binding on the rest."17
The equal protection clause does not take from the State the power to classify in the adoption of police laws, but admits of the exercise of the wide scope of discretion in that regard, and avoids what is done only when it is without any reasonable basis, and therefore is purely arbitrary.18 This Court fails to see any reasonable basis for the exclusion of the subject positions from the coverage of R.A. No. 9227.
Congress has declared it the State’s policy to "adopt measures to guarantee the independence of the Judiciary as mandated by the Constitution and public policy, and to ensure impartial administration of justice, as well as an effective and efficient judicial system worthy or public trust and confidence."19 R.A. No. 9227 is one such measure, proposing to increase the compensation for certain judicial positions through a "special allowance." The obvious intent is to attract qualified citizens to serve in the highest echelons of the Judiciary.
The law no doubt covers the then CTA "Presiding Judge," as well as MeTC judges – "judges" in Section 2, R.A. No. 9227 having been used in its generic sense. Notably, however, the classification drawn by R.A. No. 9227 is not limited to "justices" and "judges." Rather, the classification includes, as a rule, those with equivalent rank in the Judiciary except those with the equivalent rank of the CTA "Presiding Judge" or MeTC judges.
Although holders of positions with equivalent judicial rank do not perform the same functions as justices and judges, the conferment of such rank is recognition of the substantial equality in the roles they play in the Judiciary vis-à-vis justices and judges. That R.A. No. 9227 extends its benefits to holders of positions with the equivalent rank of CA justices and RTC judges is an affirmation of that fact. If holders of those positions are granted a special allowance, why not those which are equivalent in rank to MeTC judges? The inconsistency is starker in the case of those equivalent in rank to the CTA PJ, who is accorded a Salary Grade 30 in the Index of Occupational Services, Position Titles and Salary Grades of 1997. This is the same Salary Grade as a CA Associate Justice and even higher than that of an RTC judge, who is a Salary Grade 29.20
Certainly, the legislature is not required by the Constitution to adhere to a policy of "all or none."21 Underinclusiveness is not per se an argument against a valid classification.22 If the law presumably hits the evil where it is most felt, it is not to be overthrown because there are other instances to which it might have been applied.23 Nevertheless, equal protection should extend to every person under circumstances, which, if not identical, are analogous.24 By excluding positions equivalent in rank to the CTA "Presiding Judge" and a MeTC judge, the classification drawn by R.A. No. 9227 does not include all those identically or analogously situated.
Should the statute then be struck down for violating the equal protection clause? Courts, in sustaining the claim against a constitutionally underinclusive scheme, are faced with two remedial alternatives. It may either declare the statute a nullity and order that its benefits not extend to the class that the legislature intended to benefit or it may extend the coverage of the statute to include those who are aggrieved by the exclusion.25 The latter is not unprecedented in this jurisdiction. In Rubio v. People’s Homesite and Housing Corporation,26 this Court extended the provisions of Section 76 of the then Local Government Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 337) by granting separation pay to illegally dismissed government personnel (not officers and employees of local political subdivisions) who could no longer be reinstated. The same alternative may be employed in this case.
Clearly, there is no problem in granting the ACC and DCCs of the CA and the Executive COCs of the SB special/distortion allowances equivalent to that of MeTC judges. Of course, as a matter of fairness, policy and practicality the allowances should be extended only to officers who have the qualifications of an MeTC judge. How about in the case of the ACAs? Obviously, they cannot be accorded an allowance equivalent to that granted the CA Presiding Justice, for that is also the allowance to be received by the OCA and that is higher than what the DCAs will receive which is equivalent to the allowance of an Associate Justice of the CA. For the same reason, they cannot be extended the allowance of an Associate Justice of the CA. Under the circumstances, granting the ACAs the allowance of an RTC judge with the highest earned increment would be fair and reasonable.
ACCORDINGLY, the request of the Assistant Court Administrators to upgrade their salaries and privileges to that of a Presiding Justice of the Court of Tax Appeals is DENIED.
The following are hereby GRANTED the Special Allowance under Section 2 of Republic Act No. 9227 from November 11, 2003, the date of effectivity of said law, but subject to the availability of funds:
(1) The Assistant Court Administrators, the allowance of a Regional Trial Court judge with the highest earned increment;
(2) The Assistant Clerk of Court and the Division Clerks of Court of the Court of Appeals, and the Executive Clerks of Court of the Sandiganbayan, the allowance of a Metropolitan Trial Court judge. SO ORDERED.
DANTE O. TINGA
Davide, Jr., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Chico-Nazario*, JJ., concur.
* On Leave.
1 Reorganizing and Strengthening the Office of the Court Administrator.
2 Resolution Creating an Additional Position of Assistant Court Administrator as Chief of the Public Information Office.
3 An Act Creating the Court of Tax Appeals.
4 Per Section 19 thereof.
5 Memorandum dated May 6, 2004, pp. 1-2.
6 Memorandum dated May 17, 2004, p. 5.
7 Creating the Office of the Court Administrator in the Supreme Court and Providing Funds therefor and for other purposes.
8 Memorandum dated May 17, 2004, p. 6.
10 Regalado v. Yulo, 61 Phil. 173 (1935).
11 The third ACA is Chief of the Public Information Office (PIO), which is placed directly under the Office of the Chief Justice (Resolution in A.M. No. 98-12-08, effective January 1, 1999). The activities of the PIO are set out in Re: Recommendations of the Public Information Committee regarding (1) its specific functions and responsibilities and (2) program of activities of the Public Information Office, A.M. No. 99-4-08-SC, August 3, 1999.
12 Per Section 10 thereof.
13 Resolutions dated October 14, 2003 and November 25, 2003.
14 See Sections 2, 3, 5 and 6 thereof.
15 Re: Petition for Upgrading of Court of Appeals Position, A.M. No. 99-5-18-SC, August 25, 1999, 313 SCRA 38, December 9, 1999, 320 SCRA 271.
16 Const., art. III, sec. 1.
17 Nuñez v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. L-50581-50617, January 30, 1982, 111 SCRA 433.
18 Lao H. Ichong v. Hernandez, 101 Phil. 1155 (1957).
19 Rep. Act No. 9477, sec. 1.
20 Prepared by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) pursuant to R.A. No. 6758, The Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989.
21 De Guzman v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 129118, July 19, 2000, 336 SCRA 188.
23 Basco v. Phil. Amusements and Gaming Corp., G.R. No. 91649, May 14, 1991, 197 SCRA 52.
24 Nuñez v. Sandiganbayan, supra.
25 Heckler v. Matthews, 465 US 728, 79 L Ed. 2e 646, 104 S Ct. 1387 (1984).
26 G.R. No. 31469, May 22, 1990, 185 SCRA 656.
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