Case Digest: Nieves v. Blanco, DTI Regional Director (RO V)

G.R. No. 190422 : June 19, 2012

RUSSEL ULYSSES I. NIEVES, Petitioner, v. JOCELYN LB. BLANCO, in her capacity as the Regional Director, Regional Office No. V, Department of Trade and Industry, Respondent.



Petitioner Russel Ulysses I. Nieves (Nieves) is a regular employee of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with the position of Trade and Industry Development Specialist.

Blanco issued Regional Office Order No. 09 which directed Nieves reassignment from DTI-Sorsogon to DTIs provincial office in Albay (DTI-Albay). Nieves appealed his reassignment to the CSCs Regional Office in Legazpi City (CSC Regional Office No. V) which, however, dismissed his appeal for his failure to comply with the requirements of an appeal.

A year after his reassignment to DTI-Albay, Nieves requested Blanco for his reassignment back to DTI-Sorsogon. Blanco denied Nieves request, stating that the latters appointment as Trade and Industry Development Specialist in the DTI is not station specific and, hence, the one-year period limitation with regard to reassignment of employees does not apply to his case.

Nieves filed a complaint with the CSC Regional Office No. V against Blanco, alleging that the latter committed grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and oppression when she denied his request for reassignment back to DTI-Sorsogon. Nieves claimed that Blancos refusal to reassign him back to DTI-Sorsogon was but an offshoot of the antipathy between him and DTI-Sorsogon Provincial Director Leah Pagao (Pagao). Allegedly, Nieves had previously filed a complaint with the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission against Pagao and, in reprisal, Blanco reassigned him to DTI-Albay.

CSC issued a Resolution dismissing the complaint. The CSC pointed out that Nieves appointment as Trade and Industry Development Specialist is not station-specific. Nevertheless, the CSC averred that this does not mean that Nieves could be reassigned to DTI-Albay indefinitely. It ruled that under the Revised Rules on Reassignment, a reassignment outside the geographical location, if without the consent of the employee concerned, should not exceed the maximum period of one year.

Blanco then filed a petition for review with the CA, which granted the petition. In reversing the CSCs disposition with regard to the propriety of Nieves reassignment back to his original station in DTI-Sorsogon, the CA asserted that the phrase "reassignment outside geographical location" should be confined to reassignments from one regional office to another or from the central office to a regional office and vice-versa.

ISSUE: Whether or not Nieves could be reassigned anywhere within the geographical location of Region V without his consent even for more than one year?

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is sustained.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: civil service commission

The CSC, being the central agency mandated to "prescribe, amend, and enforce rules and regulations for carrying into effect the provisions of the Civil Service Law and other pertinent laws," has the power to interpret its own rules and any phrase contained in them, with its interpretation being accorded great weight and ordinarily controls the construction of the courts.

However, courts will not hesitate to set aside such executive interpretation when it is clearly erroneous, or when there is no ambiguity in the rule, or when the language or words used are clear and plain or readily understandable to any ordinary reader. This case falls within the exceptions.

To stress, the Revised Rules on Reassignment has defined, albeit ostensively, what constitutes a "reassignment outside geographical location". It states that "[r]eassignment outside geographical location may be from one [r]egional [o]ffice x x x to another [regional office] or from the [regional office] to the [c]entral [o]ffice x x x and vice-versa. A perusal of the foregoing would show that the Revised Rules on Reassignment has clearly confined the coverage of the phrase "reassignment outside geographical location" to the following:
(1) reassignment from one provincial office to another;
(2) reassignment from the regional office to the central office; and
(3) reassignment from the central office to the regional office.
Nieves assertion that his reassignment to DTI-Albay constitutes constructive dismissal as it caused him significant financial dislocation is also devoid of merit. This is a mere allegation that Nieves utterly failed to substantiate. It bears stressing that a reassignment is presumed to be regular and made in the interest of public service.