Case Digest: GSIS & Garcia v. Villaviza, et al.

G.R. No. 180291 : July 27, 2010




Petitioner Winston Garcia (PGM Garcia), as President and General Manager of the GSIS, filed separate formal charges against respondents Dinnah Villaviza, Elizabeth Duque, Adronico A. Echavez, Rodel Rubio, Rowena Therese B. Gracia, Pilar Layco, and Antonio Jose Legarda for Grave Misconduct and/or Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service pursuant to the Rules of Procedure in Administrative Investigation (RPAI) of GSIS Employees and Officials, III, D, (1, c, f) in relation to Section 52A (3), (20), Rule IV, of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (URACCS), in accordance with Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987, committed as follows:

That on 27 May 2005, respondent, wearing red shirt together with some employees, marched to or appeared simultaneously at or just outside the office of the Investigation Unit in a mass demonstration/rally of protest and support for Messrs. Mario Molina and Albert Velasco, the latter having surreptitiously entered the GSIS premises;

That some of these employees badmouthed the security guards and the GSIS management and defiantly raised clenched fists led by Atty. Velasco who was barred by Hearing Officer Marvin R. Gatpayat in an Order dated 24 May 2005 from appearing as counsel for Atty. Molina pursuant to Section 7 (b) (2) of R.A. 6713 otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees;

That respondent, together with other employees in utter contempt of CSC Resolution No. 021316, dated 11 October 2002, otherwise known as Omnibus Rules on Prohibited Concerted Mass Actions in the Public Sector caused alarm and heightened some employees and disrupted the work at the Investigation Unit during office hours.

This episode was earlier reported to PGM Garcia, through an office memorandum dated May 31, 2005, by the Manager of the GSIS Security Department (GSIS-SD), Dennis Nagtalon.On the same day, the Manager of the GSIS Investigation Unit (GSIS-IU), Atty. Lutgardo Barbo, issued a memorandum to each of the seven (7) respondents requiring them to explain in writing and under oath within three (3) days why they should not be administratively dealt with.

Respondents Duque, Echavez, Rubio, Gracia, Layco, and Legarda, together with two others, submitted a letter-explanation to Atty. Barbo datedJune 6, 2005. Denying that there was a planned mass action, the respondents explained that their act of going to the office of the GSIS-IU was a spontaneous reaction after learning that their former union president was there.Aside from some of them wanting to show their support, they were interested in that hearing as it might also affect them.For her part, respondent Villaviza submitted a separate letter explaining that she had a scheduled pre-hearing at the GSIS-IU that day and that she had informed her immediate supervisor about it, attaching a copy of the order of pre-hearing.These letters were not under oath.

PGM Garcia then filed the above-mentioned formal charges for Grave Misconduct and/or Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service against each of the respondents, all dated June 4, 2005.Respondents were again directed to submit their written answers under oath within three (3) days from receipt thereof. None was filed.

On June 29, 2005, PGM Garcia issued separate but similarly worded decisions finding all seven (7) respondents guilty of the charges and meting out the penalty of one (1) year suspension plus the accessory penalties appurtenant thereto.

On appeal, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) found the respondents guilty of the lesser offense of Violation of Reasonable Office Rules and Regulations and reduced the penalty to reprimand.

PGM Garcia sought reconsideration but was denied. Thus, PGM Garcia went to the Court of Appeals via a Petition for Review under Rule 43 of the Rules on Civil Procedure. The CA upheld the CSC.

Not in conformity, PGM Garcia is now before us via this Petition for Review.

ISSUES: 1) What is the probative value accorded to respondents letters of explanation in response to the memorandum of the GSIS-IU Manager? 2) Whether the respondents never filed their answers to the formal charges.

HELD: The Court does not subscribe to the argument of the petitioners. Petitioners own rules, Rule XI, Section 4 of the GSIS Amended Policy and Procedural Guidelines No. 178-04, specifically provides:

If the respondent fails to file his Answer within five (5) working days from receipt of the Formal Charge for the supporting evidence, when requested, he shall be considered to have waived his right to file an answer and the PGM or the Board of Trustees, in proper cases, shall render judgment, as may be warranted by the facts and evidence submitted by the prosecution.

A perusal of said section readily discloses that the failure of a respondent to file an answer merely translates to a waiver of his right to file an answer. There is nothing in the rule that says that the charges are deemed admitted.It has not done away with the burden of the complainant to prove the charges with clear and convincing evidence.

REMEDIAL LAW: suppletory character

It is true that Section 4 of the Rules of Court provides that the rules can be applied in a suppletory character. Suppletory is defined as supplying deficiencies. It means that the provisions in the Rules of Court will be made to apply only where there is an insufficiency in the applicable rule.There is, however, no such deficiency as the rules of the GSIS are explicit in case of failure to file the required answer.What is clearly stated there is that GSIS may render judgment as may be warranted by the facts and evidence submitted by the prosecution.

Even granting that Rule 8, Section 11 of the Rules of Court finds application in this case, petitioners must remember that there remain averments that are not deemed admitted by the failure to deny the same.Among them are immaterial allegations and incorrect conclusions drawn from facts set out in the complaint. Thus, even if respondents failed to file their answer, it does not mean that all averments found in the complaint will be considered as true and correct in their entirety, and that the forthcoming decision will be rendered in favor of the petitioners.We must not forget that even in administrative proceedings, it is still the complainant, or in this case the petitioners, who have the burden of proving, with substantial evidence, the allegations in the complaint or in the formal charges.

POLITICAL LAW: CSC resolution no. 02-1316

As defined in Section 5 of CSC ResolutionNo. 02-1316 which serves to regulate the political rights of those in the government service, the concerted activity or mass action proscribed must be coupled with the intent of effecting work stoppage or service disruption in order to realize their demands of force concession. Wearing similarly colored shirts, attending a public hearing at the GSIS-IU office, bringing with them recording gadgets, clenching their fists, some even badmouthing the guards and PGM Garcia, are acts not constitutive of an (i) intent to effect work stoppage or service disruption and (ii) for the purpose of realizing their demands of force concession.

Precisely, the limitations or qualifications found in Section 5 of CSC Resolution No. 02-1316 are there to temper and focus the application of such prohibition. Not all collective activity or mass undertaking of government employees is prohibited. Otherwise, we would be totally depriving our brothers and sisters in the government service of their constitutional right to freedom of expression.

Government workers, whatever their ranks, have as much right as any person in the land to voice out their protests against what they believe to be a violation of their rights and interests.Civil Service does not deprive them of their freedom of expression.It would be unfair to hold that by joining the government service, the members thereof have renounced or waived this basic liberty. This freedom can be reasonably regulated only but can never be taken away.

A review of PGM Garcias formal charges against the respondents reveals that he himself was not even certain whether the respondents and the rest of the twenty or so GSIS employees who were at the GSIS-IU office that fateful day marched there or just simply appeared there simultaneously. Thus, the petitioners were not even sure if the spontaneous act of each of the twenty or so GSIS employees on May 27, 2005 was a concerted one.The report of Manager Nagtalon of the GSIS-SD which was the basis for PGM Garcias formal charges reflected such uncertainty. Thus,

Of these red shirt protesters, only Mr. Molina has official business at the Investigation Unit during this time. The rest abandoned their post and duties for the duration of this incident which lasted until 10:55 A.M. It was also observed that the protesters, some of whom raised their clenched left fists, carefully planned this illegal action as evident in their behavior of arrogance, defiance and provocation, the presence of various recording gadgets such as VCRs, voice recorders and digital cameras, the bad mouthing of the security guards and the PGM, the uniformity in their attire and the collusion regarding the anomalous entry of Mr. Albert Velasco to the premises as reported earlier.

The said report of Nagtalon contained only bare facts.It did not show respondents unified intent to effect disruption or stoppage in their work.It also failed to show that their purpose was to demand a force concession.

Thus, respondents freedom of speech and of expression remains intact, and CSCs Resolution No. 02-1316 defining what a prohibited concerted activity or mass action has only tempered or regulated these rights.Measured against that definition, respondents actuations did not amount to a prohibited concerted activity or mass action. The CSC and the CA were both correct in arriving at said conclusion.
WHEREFORE, the assailed August 31, 2007 Decision of the Court of Appeals as well as its October 16, 2007 Resolution in CA G.R. SP No. 98952 are hereby AFFIRMED.

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