CASE DIGEST: Garcia v. Molina (G.R. No. 157383)

Winston F. Garcia v. Mario Molina and Albert Velasco | G.R. No. 157383, August 10, 2010

Facts: Respondents Molina and Velasco both held the position of Attorney V in GSIS. They received two separate memoranda from Garcia, the GSIS President, charging them with grave misconduct, particularly connected with their acts in leading concerted protest activities and/or assemblies of GSIS employees against the GSIS President. They were also preventively suspended for 90 days without pay, effective immediately.The CA nullified the formal charges against respondents for the lack of preliminary investigation.

Issue: Whether or not the formal charges against respondents are null and void.

Held: Yes. According to the GSIS Act, petitioner, as President and General Manager of GSIS, is vested the authority and responsibility to remove, suspend or otherwise discipline GSIS personnel for cause.

However, despite the authority conferred on him by law, such power is not without limitations for it must be exercised in accordance with Civil Service rules. The Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service lays down the procedure to be observed in issuing a formal charge against an erring employee.

Indeed, the CSC Rules does not specifically provide that a formal charge without the requisite preliminary investigation is null and void. However, upon receipt of a complaint which is sufficient in form and substance, the disciplining authority shall require the person complained of to submit a Counter-Affidavit/Comment under oath within three days from receipt. The use of the word "shall" quite obviously indicates that it is mandatory for the disciplining authority to conduct a preliminary investigation or at least respondent should be given the opportunity to comment and explain his side. This is done prior to the issuance of the formal charge and the comment required therein is different from the answer that may later be filed by respondents. Contrary to petitioner claim, no exception is provided for in the CSC Rules. Not even an indictment in flagranti as claimed by petitioner.

This is true even if the complainant is the disciplining authority himself, as in the present case. To comply with such requirement, he could have issued a memorandum requiring respondents to explain why no disciplinary action should be taken against them instead of immediately issuing formal charges. With respondent's comments, petitioner would have properly evaluated both sides of the controversy before making a conclusion that there was a prima facie case against respondents, leading to the issuance of the questioned formal charges. It is noteworthy that the very acts subject of the administrative cases stemmed from an event that took place the day before the formal charges were issued. It appears, therefore, that the formal charges were issued after the sole determination by the petitioner as the disciplining authority that there was a prima facie case against respondents.