SECOND DIVISION

June 10, 2019

G.R. No. 234630

OFFICE OF THE CITY MAYOR OF ANGELES CITY, PAMPANGA, MAYOR EDGARDO D. PAMINTUAN, Petitioner
vs.
DR. JOSEFINO E. VILLAROMAN, Respondent

D E C I S I O N

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari1 are the Decision2 dated February 27, 2017 and the Resolution3 dated September 18, 2017 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR. SP No. 1142879, which affirmed with modifications the Decision4 dated July 30, 2015 of the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

The Facts

Respondent Dr. Josefino E. Villaroman (repondent) held a permanent position as head of the Office of the City Veterinarian (OCV) of Angeles City, Pampanga.5 On December 2, 2014, petitioner Office of the City Mayor of Angeles City, headed by then Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan (petitioner), issued Memorandum No. 33/12,6 which reassigned respondent to his office and directed respondent to report to the Mayor's secretary for specific assignments.7 In a Letter8 dated December 15, 2014,9 respondent requested that he be restored to his original post but to no avail.10 Claiming that his reassignment amounted to constructive dismissal, respondent filed a petition11 to annul Memorandum No. 33/12 before the Civil Service Commission (CSC).12

On March 9, 2015, petitioner issued Memorandum Order No. 17/0313 dropping respondent's name from the roll of employees on two grounds: (a) his absence without official leave (AWOL) at the Mayor's office for more than 30 days, specifically from December 4, 2014 to March 9, 2015; and (b) his failure to submit his performance evaluation reports.14 Moreover, respondent was not given productivity incentive benefits and his name was deleted from the March 1-15, 2015 payroll.15

Aggrieved, respondent amended his appeal memorandum16 to include issues regarding the validity of the dropping of his name from the rolls, the non-payment of productivity bonus, and the deletion of his name from the payroll.17 He argued that the dropping from the rolls was unwarranted because he did not abandon his work, but was given an invalid reassignment. This notwithstanding, he still reported for work not, however at his original post at the OCV but at the Information and Communication Technology Department (ICTD),18 which he claimed was directly connected to the OCV.19

For its part, petitioner contended that instead of complying with Memorandum No. 33112, respondent refused to report to the Mayor's office and opted to log in and out of the ICTD,20 which was definitely not connected to the OCV.21 Petitioner further insisted that respondent was validly dropped from the rolls on the two grounds above-mentioned.

Petitioner added that respondent is not entitled to productivity bonus because the latter failed to submit the requisite evaluation reports.22

The CSC's Ruling

In a Decision23 dated July 30, 2015, the CSC ruled that respondent's reassignment was void for two reasons: (i) it amounted to constructive dismissal because he was not given any definite duties and responsibilities; and (ii) the order failed to limit the period of reassignment to one (1) year as required under the CSC Revised Rules on Reassignment.24 Nevertheless, the CSC found that respondent was validly dropped from the rolls due to AWOL for more than thirty (30) working days and his name was validly deleted from the payroll for March 1-15, 2015, because he failed to present any evidence to prove that he rendered any service for the period from December 4, 2014 to March 9, 2015.25 Finally, the CSC found no basis for the payment of the 2014 productivity incentive benefits to respondent due to his failure to submit any performance evaluation report from July 2010 to December 2014.26

Respondent moved for partial reconsideration,27 which was, however, denied in a Resolution28 dated October 9, 2015. Dissatisfied, he filed a petition for review29 with the Court of Appeals (CA).

The CA's Ruling

In a Decision30 dated February 27, 2017, the CA affirmed the CSC's decision with substantial modifications.1шphi1 It held that: (a) respondent's reassignment was void, and as a consequence thereof, he must be reinstated, without qualification, to his former position without loss of seniority rights and must be paid back salaries from the date he was dropped from the rolls on March 9, 2015 until his reinstatement; and (b) his claim for productivity incentive benefit shall be contingent upon the submission of his performance evaluation report and the ratings required under the civil service laws, rules, and regulations.31

First, the CA ruled that respondent's reassignment amounted to constructive dismissal because he was not given any specific duties and responsibilities, which was proscribed under the CSC Revised Rules on Reassignment.32 Second, it held that respondent was invalidly dropped from the rolls because, citing Yenko v. Gungon (Yenko),33 an employee could not have incurred absences in the office where he was assigned since the reassignment thereat was void.34 Besides, respondent's acts (i.e., reporting for duty at the ICTD, which it found to be connected to the OCV, as well as repeatedly protesting his reassignment and seeking reinstatement to his former workstation) were inconsistent with any intention to go on AWOL or abandon his post.35 Lastly, the CA held that since respondent continued reporting for work in the ICTD, there was no reason for him not to submit any performance evaluation form. Hence, he was allowed to submit the required form to avail of the productivity incentive benefit.36

Petitioner moved for reconsideration37 but was denied in a Resolution38 dated September 18, 2017; hence, this petition.

The Issue Before the Court

The core issue before the Court is whether or not respondent was validly dropped from the rolls.

The Court's Ruling

At the outset, it bears noting that since petitioner no longer questioned the rulings of the CSC and the CA as regards the invalidity of respondent's reassignment to the Mayor's office pursuant to Memorandum No. 33/12 and the CA's ruling on respondent's entitlement to productivity incentive benefits, the Court will no longer pass upon such issues. What remains to be resolved is whether or not respondent could properly be considered on AWOL as to warrant the dropping of his name from the rolls.

The petition is granted.

Section 93 (a) (1),39 Rule 19 of the Revised Rules on the Administrative Cases in the Civil Service40 (RRACCS) provides that a public officer or employee shall be dropped from the rolls if he was on AWOL for at least thirty (30) days. AWOL means that the employee is leaving or abandoning his post without justifiable reason and without notifying his employer.41

In the present case, a perusal of Memorandum 17/03 shows that respondent's dropping from the rolls was premised on his failure to report for duty at the Mayor's office pursuant to a reassignment order, which was subsequently declared void for amounting to constructive dismissal based on the CSC Rules on Reassignment. Jurisprudence is clear that a government employee could not have incurred absences in his reassigned station if his reassignment thereat was void,42 as in this case. Thus, the Court finds that respondent could not be validly dropped from the rolls merely for failing to report for work at the Mayor's office.

This notwithstanding, respondent should still be considered on AWOL, and therefore validly dropped from the rolls because he neither: (a) reported for work at his original post at the OCV; nor (b) filed leave applications during the period he was contesting his reassignment to the Office of the Mayor.

In several cases wherein government employees were given void reassignments to different workstations and thereafter dropped from the rolls for failing to report thereat, the Court did not consider those employees on AWOL because they either (a) reported to their original workstations while contesting their reassignment orders43 or (b) filed leave applications for the period that they failed to report for work at the reassigned station, even though those applications were later denied or no leave applications were filed for subsequent periods.44 None of these circumstances were extant in this case.

Instead, in this case, respondent, without any proper authority or justifiable reason therefor, chose to report for work at the ICTD, which, contrary to the CA's ruling, is an office separate from the OCV and discharges functions different from the latter. While the ICTD is concerned with information and communications technology, the OCV deals with animal-related activities and policies.45 To work for a specific public office, it is necessary that the same be by virtue of a valid personnel action made according to the proper procedure.46 Surely, an employee cannot just decide in what office or department he or she will work. Hence, given the lack of authority or justifiable reason, respondent's performance of work in the ICTD cannot be counted as attendance at work. Consequently, he is considered on AWOL for his failure to report for work for more than thirty (30) days, and therefore, correctly dropped from the rolls under Memorandum No. 33/12.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Accordingly, the Decision dated February 27, 2017 and the Resolution dated September 18, 2017 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 142879 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE for the reasons above-discussed. Respondent Dr. Josefino E. Villaroman was validly dropped from the rolls due to absence without official leave or AWOL.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Caguioa, and Lazaro-Javier., JJ concur.1шphi1

J. Reyes, Jr. J., on leave.


Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 3-12.

2 Id. at 15-20. Penned by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez with Associate Justices Rosmari D. Carandang (now a member of the Court) and Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez, concurring.

3 Id. at 21.

4 Id. at 25-34. Signed by Commissioners Robert S. Martinez and Nieves L. Osorio. Attested by Director IV Dolores B. Bonifacio.

5 Respondent was appointed as the City Veterinarian, which is considered to be a Department Head position. See id. at 4.

6 Dated December 2, 2014. CA rollo, p. 52.

7 See rollo, pp. 15 and 25.

8 CA rollo, pp. 53-54.

9 December 13, 2014" in the CSC Decision.

10 See rollo, pp. 15 and 28.

11 Dated January 20, 2015. CA rollo, pp. 61-69.

12 See rollo, pp. 15-16 and 27-28.

13 CA rollo, p. 76.

14 See id. See also rollo, pp. 15-16, 25, and 31.

15 See id. at 16 and 28.

16 Dated March 17, 2015. CA rollo, pp. 77-88.

17 See rollo, p. 28. See also Manifestation dated March 26, 2015; CA rollo, pp. 90-91.

18 See CA rollo, p.99.

19 See id. at 18.

20 See petitioner's Comment dated May 15, 2015; CSC Folder, unnumbered pages.

21 Petitioner alleged that ICTD is another department of the City Government located at the 2nd floor of the City Hall just beside the Mayor's office and a floor below the City Veterinary Office. See rollo, p. 4.

22 See petitioner's Comment; CSC Folder, unnumbered pages.

23 Rollo, pp. 25-34.

24 See id. at 29-31 and 34. The relevant portions of Section 6 of the CSC Revised Rules on Reassignment (CSC Memorandum Circular No.2, series of 2005 [January 4, 2005]) are as follows:

Section 6. Other Personnel Movements. x x x

x x x x

Reassignment shall be governed by the following rules:

x x x x

3. Reassignment of employees with station-specific place of work indicated in their respective appointments shall be allowed only for a maximum period of one (1) year. x x x.

x x x x

7. x x x.

Reassignment that constitutes constructive dismissal may be any of the following:

x x x x

(c) reassignment to an existing office but the employee is not given any definite duties and responsibilities;

x x x x (Underscoring supplied)

25 See id. at 31-32 and 34.

26 See id. at 32-34.

27 See Motion for Partial Reconsideration (Re: Decision dated 30 July 2015) dated September 4, 2015; CA rollo, pp. 102-107.

28 Id. at 37-40.

29 Dated November 16, 2015. Id. at 7-24.

30 Rollo, pp. 15-20.

31 Id. at 19-20.

32 See id. at 17.

33 612 Phil. 881 (2009).

34 In Yenko, the Court held that an employee could not have incurred absences in the office where he was re-assigned since his reassignment was void, and as such, his eventual dismissal for non-attendance thereat was declared as invalid. See id. at 897-901. See also rollo, pp. 17-18.

35 See rollo, p. 18.

36 See id. at 18-19.

37 See motion for reconsideration dated March 24, 2017; CA rollo, pp. 157-161.

38 Rollo, p. 21.

39 Section 93. Grounds and Procedure for Dropping from the Rolls.- x x x

a. Absence Without Approved Leave

1. An officer or employee who is continuously absent without official leave (AWOL) for at least thirty (30) working days shall be separated from the service or dropped from the rolls without prior notice. He/ She shall, however, be informed of his/her separation not later than five (5) days from its effectivity which shall be sent to the address appearing on his/her 201 files or to his/her last known address;

x x x x

40 CSC Resolution No. 1101502, promulgated on November 8, 2011.

41 Pablo Borbon Memorial Institute of Technology v. Vda. De Bool, 505 Phil. 240, 246 (2005). See also Petilla v. CA, 468 Phil. 395, 408 (2004).

42 See Yenko v. Gungon, supra note 33, at 897-901.

43 In Yenko, it was undisputed that the employee reported at the Municipal Assessor's Office, which was his original workstation, instead of the Public Safety and Order Office, where he was reassigned; see id. at 887-888.

44 In Petilla v. CA, the Court held that the employee's "absence was based on his leave applications, albeit denied, and not on his deliberate refusal to heed the assignment orders."; supra note 41, at 408.

45 See Section 489 of the 1991 Local Government Code for the functions of the city veterinarian.

46 See Bermudez v. Executive Secretary, 370 Phil. 769, 776 (1999), wherein the Court held that an appointment "to a public office is the unequivocal act of designating or selecting by one having the authority therefor of an individual to discharge and perform the duties and functions of an office or trust." In this case, respondent failed to show that he was appointed to a position in the ICTD.


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