Adalim v. Taninas (G.R. No. 198682; April 10, 2013)

CASE DIGEST: FRANCISCO C. ADALIM, Petitioner, vs. ERNESTO TANINAS, JORGE ORITA, MA. IRMA DAIZ (deceased), YOLANDO DEGUINION, GRACE LIM, EMMA T ANINAS, ISIDRO BUSA, MA. NALYN DOTING CO, ESTER ULTRA, FRANCISCO ESPORAS, ENRICO BEDIASAY, JESUS CHERREGUINE,* AIDA EVIDENTE, RODRIGO TANI√ĎAS, VIRGILIO ADENIT, CLARITA DOCENA, ERENE DOCENA, GUIO BALICHA, LUZ BACULA, PERFECTO MAGRO, ANACLETO EBIT, DOLORES PENAFLOR, ERWENIA BALMES, CECILIO CEBUANO, MA. ELENA ABENIS, DANILO ALEGRE, and THE COURT OF APPEALS (FIFTH DIVISION), Respondents. (G.R. No. 198682; April 10, 2013)

FACTS: Petitioner Francisco lost to Diego Lim for the mayoralty race in the May 2004 elections. In his election Protest, the RTC ruled in his favor and declared him as the winning candidate. Lim appealed the RTC decision with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The RTC granted Adalims motion for execution pending appeal. Lim, however, continued to hold office in the municipal building. On 13 August 2005, Adalim issued a Memorandum directing all municipal employees "to log-in and log-out at the Office of the Mayor, 4th Floor, Cyrus Hotel."

Lim filed a Petition for Certiorari with Temporary Restraining Order or Status Quo Order before the Comelec against the motion for execution but the COMELEC denied the petition.

Adalim issued Memorandum No. 03-11-2005 directing all municipal employees to submit their Daily Time Records (DTRs); otherwise, they would not be paid their salaries. On the same day, Adalim issued memoranda dropping respondent employees from the rolls due to absence without official leave (AWOL).

Respondent employees filed an appeal and claimed that the memoranda dropping them from the rolls were issued without due process and without authority. They argued that the issue as to who won the mayoralty elections was not yet resolved at the time they were dropped from the rolls. Moreover, respondent employees denied that they were on AWOL. They alleged that they were regularly reporting for work in the municipal building until Adalim occupied it on 7 March 2006 and prevented them from entering.

Adalim sought the dismissal of the appeal for being filed out of time, for failure to pay the appeal fee, and for lack of merit. Adalim alleged that he had the authority to issue the memoranda based on the writ of execution pending appeal issued by the RTC.The CSC ruled in favor of respondent employees and directed Adalim to reinstate respondent employees to their respective positions with payment of their salaries and benefits effective August 2005 up to their actual reinstatement. Adalim moved for reconsideration, which the CSC denied. Accordingly, Adalim filed a petition for review with the CA but the CA dismissed the same. Hence, this petition before the SC.

ISSUE: Did the CA err in dismissing Adalim's petition?

HELD: There must be a liberal application of CSC rules. The Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service themselves provide that administrative investigations shall be conducted without strict recourse to the technical rules of procedure and evidence applicable to judicial proceedings. The case before the CSC involves the security of tenure of public employees protected by the Constitution. Public interest requires a resolution of the merits of the appeal instead of dismissing the same based on a rigid application of the CSC Rules of Procedure. Accordingly, both the CSC and the CA properly allowed respondent employees appeal despite procedural lapses to resolve the issue on the merits.

Both the CSC and the CA found that respondent employees did not commit AWOL. Despite the unresolved mayoralty issue in Taft, Eastern Samar, respondent employees were continuously performing their functions in the municipal building during the period that they were declared on AWOL, or during August, September and October 2005.

Time and again, this Court held that factual findings of quasi-judicial bodies like the CSC, when adopted and affirmed by the CA and if supported by substantial evidence, are accorded respect and even finality by this Court.While this Court has recognized several exceptions to this rule, we do not find any of these exceptions in the present case.

The records further reveal that respondent employees never intended to go on leave or abandon their posts. The CSC held that:

After a thorough re-examination of the records, the Commission took note of the peculiar circumstances of the instant case taking into consideration the uncertain political landscape in the Municipal Government of Taft after the May 2004 national and local elections. For reporting to the wrong political camp, the movants, obviously, have become victims and were caught in the cross-fire, so to speak, between two political rivals.

As pointed out by the CA, during the period that respondent employees were declared on AWOL, the petition for certiorari against the writ of execution and the appeal on the election protest were both pending before the Comelec. The Comelec also issued a Status Quo order. Thus, the CA aptly found that respondent employees "in this particular situation were just victims of the ill-effects of the intense tug-of-war between Lim and Adalim for the mayoralty position in Taft, Eastern Samar." DENIED.

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