Case Digest: Hon. General v. Hon. Urro

G.R. No. 191560 : March 29, 2011

HON. LUIS MARIO M. GENERAL, Commissioner, National Police Commission, Petitioner, v. HON. ALEJANDRO S. URRO, in his capacity as the new appointee vice herein petitioner HON. LUIS MARIO M. GENERAL, National Police Commission, Respondent.

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HON. LUIS MARIO M. GENERAL, Commissioner, National Police Commission, Petitioner,v. President GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, thru Executive Secretary LEANDRO MENDOZA, in Her capacity as the appointing power, HON. RONALDO V. PUNO, in His capacity as Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government and as Ex-Officio Chairman of the National Police Commission and HON. EDUARDO U. ESCUETA, ALEJANDRO S. URRO, and HON. CONSTANCIA P. DE GUZMAN as the midnight appointees, Respondents.



On September 20, 2004, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (PGMA) appointed Imelda C. Roces (Roces) as acting Commissioner of the NAPOLCOM, representing the civilian sector. On 2006, PGMA reappointed her to the same position. When Roces died in 2007, PHMA appointed petitioner on July 2008 as Acting NAPOLCOM Commissioner. On the same date, PGMA appointed Escueta as acting NAPOLCOM Commissioner and designated him as Vice- Chairman.

Later, PGMA appointed Alejandro S. Urro (Urro) in place of the petitioner, Constancia P. de Guzman in place of Celia Leones, and Escueta as permanent NAPOLCOM Commissioners. Urros appointment paper is dated March 5, 2010; while the appointment papers of De Guzman and Escueta are both dated March 8, 2010. On March 9, 2010, Escueta took his oath of office before Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Alberico Umali.

After being furnished a copy of the congratulatory letters on March 22, 2010,the petitioner filed the present petition for quo warranto, questioning the validity of the respondents appointments mainly on the ground that it violates the constitutional prohibition against midnight appointments.

On July 30, 2010, the newly elected President of the Republic of the Philippines, His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, issued Executive Order No. 2 (E.O. No. 2) "Recalling, Withdrawing, and Revoking Appointments Issued by the Previous Administration in Violation of the Constitutional Ban on Midnight Appointments."

The petitioner claims that Roces was supposed to serve a full term of six years counted from the date of her appointment in October (should be September) 2004. Since she failed to finish her six-year term, then the petitioner is entitled to serve this unexpired portion or until October (should be September) 2010.

ISSUE: Whether or not the appointments were valid

HELD: Yes.

Political Law- Nature of Appointments

The petitioner asserts that contrary to what appears in his appointment paper, the appointment extended to him was really a regular appointment; thus, he cannot be removed from office except for cause.

Appointments may be classified into two: first, as to its nature; and second, as to the manner in which it is made. Under the first classification, appointments can either be permanent or temporary (acting). A basic distinction is that a permanent appointee can only be removed from office for cause; whereas a temporary appointee can be removed even without hearing or cause.

Under the second classification, an appointment can either be regular or ad interim. A regular appointment is one made while Congress is in session, while an ad interim appointment is one issued during the recess of Congress. In strict terms, presidential appointments that require no confirmation from the Commission on Appointments Cannot be properly characterized as either a regular or an ad interim appointment.

Generally, the power to appoint vested in the President includes the power to make temporary appointments, unless he is otherwise specifically prohibited by the Constitution or by the law, or where an acting appointment is repugnant to the nature of the office involved.

The purpose of an acting or temporary appointment is to prevent a hiatus in the discharge of official functions by authorizing a person to discharge those functions pending the selection of a permanent or another appointee.

Political Law- requisites for judicial review

When questions of constitutional significance are raised, the Court can exercise its power of judicial review only if the following requisites are present: (1) the existence of an actual and appropriate case; (2) the existence of personal and substantial interest on the part of the party raising the constitutional question; (3) recourse to judicial review is made at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the constitutional question is the lis mota of the case.

Lis mota literally means "the cause of the suit or action." This last requisite of judicial review is simply an offshoot of the presumption of validity accorded the executive and legislative acts of our co-equal branches of the government. In the present case, the constitutionality of the respondents appointments is not the lis mota of the case. From the submitted pleadings, what is decisive is the determination of whether the petitioner has a cause of action to institute and maintain this present petition a quo warranto against respondent Urro. If the petitioner fails to establish his cause of action for quo warranto, a discussion of the constitutionality of the appointments of the respondents is rendered completely unnecessary.

The resolution of whether a cause of action exists, in turn, hinges on the nature of the petitioner's appointment as acting NAPOLCOM Commissioner and whether petitioner has a clear right to be reinstated to his former position and to oust respondent Urro as NAPOLCOM Commissioner.

In the present case, the petitioner does not even allege that his separation from the office amounted to an abuse of his temporary appointment that would entitle him to the incidental benefit of reinstatement.60As we did in Pangilinan case,we point out that the petitioners appointment as Acting Commissioner was time-limited. His appointment ipso facto expired on July 21, 2009 when it was not renewed either in an acting or a permanent capacity. With an expired appointment, he technically now occupies no position on which to anchor his quo warranto petition.

The petitioner's appointment paper is dated July 21, 2008. From that time until he was apprised on March 22, 2010 of the appointment of respondent Urro, the petitioner faithfully discharged the functions of his office without expressing any misgivings on the character of his appointment. However, when called to relinquish his office in favor of respondent Urro, the petitioner was quick on his feet to refute what appeared in his appointment papers.

Under these facts, the additional circumstance of estoppel clearly militates against the petitioner. A person who accepts an appointment in an acting capacity, extended and received without any protest or reservation, and who acts by virtue of that appointment for a considerable time, cannot later on be heard to say that the appointment was really a permanent one so that he could not be removed except for cause.

Remedial Law- Quo warranto is a remedy to try disputes with respect to the title to a public office
Since the petitioner merely holds an acting appointment (and an expired one at that), he clearly does not have a cause of action to maintain the present petition. The essence of an acting appointment is its temporariness and its consequent revocability at any time by the appointing authority. The petitioner in a quo warranto proceeding who seeks reinstatement to an office, on the ground of usurpation or illegal deprivation, must prove his clear right to the office for his suit to succeed; otherwise, his petition must fail.

From this perspective, the petitioner must first clearly establish his own right to the disputed office as a condition precedent to the consideration of the unconstitutionality of the respondents appointments. The petitioners failure in this regard renders a ruling on the constitutional issues raised completely unnecessary. Neither do we need to pass upon the validity of the respondents appointment. These latter issues can be determined more appropriately in a proper case.

Petition Denied