CASE DIGEST: Gontang vs. Alayan

G.R. No. 191691 : January 16, 2013




Respondent Engr. Cecilia Alayan (Alayan) was appointed as Municipal Assessor in Gainza, Camarines Sur. She applied for a change in status from temporary to permanent, which the Civil Service Commission-Camarines Sur Field Office (CSC-CSFO) denied for lack of relevant experience. On appeal, the CSC-Regional Office approved her application. Thus, she reported for work and sought recognition of her appointment and the grant of the emoluments of the position from petitioner, then incumbent Mayor Romeo A. Gontang (Mayor Gontang) of Gainza. The mayor denied her requests which prompted her to file a petition for mandamus before the RTC, docketed as Special Civil Action No. 2002-0019. The RTC denied her petition on the ground of prematurity since the CSC decision has not yet attained finality.

Alayan appealed to the Court of Appeals which ruled in her favour holding that the pendency of an appeal is not a justification to prevent her from assuming office. Said decision attained finality.

Meanwhile, Alayan moved for the issuance of an alias writ of execution by the RTC for her alleged unsatisfied judgment award representing her unpaid salaries and allowances during the pendency of her appeal in the CSC Resolutions. The RTC issued the alias writ of execution.

Dissatisfied, Mayor Gontang, represented by Atty. Fandino and Atty. Saulon, a private attorney, filed a petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals. However, the CA denied the petition on the ground that Atty. Saulon, a private attorney, lacks legal authority to represent the Municipality of Gainza, Camarines Sur.

Hence, this instant petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the petition for certiorari on the ground of unauthorized representation of Mayor Gontang by private lawyer?

HELD: The petition is meritorious.

POLITICAL LAW: municipal corporations

The present case stemmed from Special Civil Action No. 2002-0019 for mandamus and damages. The damages sought therein could have resulted in personal liability, hence, Mayor Gontang be deemed to have been improperly represented by private counsel. InAlinsug v. RTC Br. 58, the Court ruled that in instances like the present case where personal liability on the part of local government officials is sought, they may properly secure the services of private counsel.

It can happen that a government official, ostensibly acting in his official capacity and sued in that capacity, is later held to have exceeded his authority. Personal liability can attach to him without, however, his having had the benefit of assistance of a counsel of his own choice. In Correa v. CFI, the Court held that in the discharge of governmental functions, municipal corporations are responsible for the acts of its officers, except if and when, and only to the extent that, they have acted by authority of the law, and in conformity with the requirements thereof. In one case, the Court held that where rigid adherence to the law on representation of local officials in court actions could deprive a party of his right to redress for a valid grievance, the hiring of a private counsel would be proper.

Petition is GRANTED. The case is remanded to the CA for further proceedings.