CASE DIGEST: PEZA & De Lima v. Mercado

G.R. No. 172144 : March 9, 2010

PEZA BOARD OF DIRECTORS and LILIA B. DE LIMA, Petitioners, v. GLORIA J. MERCADO, Respondent.

CARPIO MORALES, J.:


FACTS:

Respondent was appointed as Group Manager for Policy and Planning of PEZA on September 16, 1998. Her appointment was temporary in nature.

On May 16, 1999, respondent was promoted to the position of Deputy Director General for Policy and Planning.Her appointment indicated the same as on permanent basis, but with the following annotation:NO SECURITY OF TENURE UNLESS HE/SHE OBTAINS CESO OR CSEE ELIGIBILITY.CESO is the acronym for Career Executive Service Officer, while CSEE is the acronym for Career Service Executive Eligibility.

On June 1, 2000, petitioner Lilia B. de Lima, in her capacity as PEZA Director General advised respondent of the termination of her appointment effective on the closing hours of the day.On even date, petitioner PEZA Board convened in an executive session and passed a Resolution appointing Wilhelm G. Ortaliz, a CESO eligible, as Deputy Director General for Policy and Planning effective immediately.

Respondent thereupon filed with the RTC Pasay a petition for prohibition, quo warranto and damages with preliminary prohibitory /mandatory injunction and/or temporary restraining order against herein petitioners and Ortaliz, alleging that her degree in Master in National Security Administration (MNSA) automatically conferred upon her Career Executive Service (CES) eligibility; that Republic Act No. (R.A.) 8748, which amended R.A. 7916 or the PEZA Charter, did away with the CES eligibility requirement for the position of Deputy Director General; and that the termination of her appointment was actuated with bad faith to entitle her to moral and exemplary damages.

Respecting respondents contention that R.A. 8748 removed the CES eligibility requirement, petitioners asserted that based on the records of the deliberations on Senate Bill No. 1136 which eventually became R.A. 8748, the lawmakers never really intended to do away with the CES eligibility requirement for the position of Deputy Director General;and that assuming arguendo that that was the intention, R.A. 8748 took effect only on June 20, 1999 after the appointment of respondent on May 16, 1999.

The trial court dismissed respondents petition.It held that the passage ofR.A. 8748 notwithstanding, the CES eligibility requirement for the position of Deputy Director General remains, in light of 1) the certification from the CES Board that respondent was not a CES eligible, 2) R.A. 7916 which provides that appointment to the three PEZA Deputy Director General positions requires CES eligibility, and 3) the Senate deliberations on the bill which eventually became R.A. 8748.

The trial court, concluding that since respondent did not have the required eligibility for the position, held that her appointment was merely temporary and had no security of tenure thereto, and that, therefore, it was deemed to have expired upon the appointment of Ortaliz.

On appeal, the CA reversed the decision of the trial court.It held that since respondent was promoted to the position of Deputy Director General for Policy and Planning on a permanent status, she cannot be summarily removed; and that respondents MNSA degree obtained on July 12, 1993 automatically conferred on her a CES eligibility pursuant to Executive Order No. 696, as amended by Executive Order No. 771.The appellate court likewise that even if respondent was not a CES eligible, she is still qualified for the position as the requirement under Sec. 11 of Republic Act No. 7916 that appointees to Deputy Director General positions must have career executive service eligibility is no longer found under Sec. 11 of Republic Act No. 8748.It ratiocinated that the deletion of such requirement indicated that the legislature intended to do away with the eligibility requirement.

Hence, this petition.

ISSUE:

The petition is granted.


HELD:

POLITICAL LAW: civil service eligibility


In the CES under which the position of PEZA Deputy Director General for Policy and Planning is classified, the acquisition of security of tenure which presupposes a permanent appointment is governed by the Rules and Regulations promulgated by the CES Board.

Security of tenurein the career executive service, which presupposes a permanent appointment, takes place uponpassing the CES examinationsadministered by the CES Board.It is that which entitles the examinee to conferment of CES eligibility and the inclusion of his name in the roster of CES eligibles.Under the rules and regulations promulgated by the CES Board,conferment of the CES eligibilityis done by the CES Board through a formal board resolution after an evaluation has been done of the examinees performance in thefour stagesof the CES eligibility examinations.Upon conferment of CES eligibility andcompliance with the other requirements prescribed by the Board, an incumbent of a CES position may qualify for appointment to a CES rank.Appointment to a CES rankis made by the President upon the Boards recommendation.It is this process which completes the officials membership in the CES and confers on him security of tenurein the CES.Petitioner does not seem to have gone through this definitive process. (Amores vs. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 170093, April 29, 2009)

Clearly, for an examinee or an incumbent to be a member of the CES and be entitled to security of tenure, she/he must pass the CES examinations,be conferred CES eligibility, comply with the other requirements prescribed by the CES Board, and be appointed to a CES rank by the President.

Admittedly, before and up to the time of the termination of her appointment, respondent did not go through the four stages of CES eligibility examinations.

The appellate court's ruling that respondent became CES eligible upon earning the MNSA degree, purportedly in accordance with Executive Order No. 696, as amended by Executive Order No. 771, does not lie.

By respondents attainment of an MNSA degree, she was not conferred automatic CES eligibility.It was, as above-quoted portions of CESB Resolution No. 204 state, merely accredited as equivalent to passing the Management Aptitude Test Battery.For respondent to acquire CES eligibility and CES rank, she could proceed to the second stage of the eligibility examination process . . . and the other stages of the examination . . . in accordance with existing policies and regulations; and that if respondent as MNSA degree holder passed the three other stages of the CES eligibility examinations and is conferred CES eligibility, she could qualify for appointment to CES ranks,PROVIDED that she meets and complies with other requirements of the CES Board and the Office of the President to qualify for rank appointment.

Since, it is admitted that respondent, who acquired an MNSA degree in 1993, had not undergone the second, third and fourth stages of the CES eligibility examinations prior to her appointment or during her incumbency as Deputy Director General up to the time her appointment was terminated,she was not a CES eligible, as indeed certified to by the CES Board.Not being a CES eligible, she had no security of tenure, hence, the termination by the PEZA Board on June 1, 2000 of her appointment, as well as the appointment in her stead of CES eligible by Ortaliz, were not illegal.

Respecting the contention that the promulgation of R.A. 8748 on June 1, 1999 removed the CES eligibility qualification for the position of Deputy Director General, hence, respondent, albeit not a CES-eligible, could only be terminated for cause, the same is untenable.

As correctly held by the trial court, removing the CES eligibility requirement for the Deputy Director General position could not have been the intention of the framers of the law.It bears noting that the position is a high-ranking one which requires specialized knowledge and experience in certain areas including law, economics, public administration and similar fields, hence, to remove it from the CES would be absurd.

The Civil Service Commission CESB in fact has certified that the position requires the appropriate CES eligibility.It is settled that the construction given to a statute by an administrative agency charged with theinterpretation and application of that statute is entitled to greatrespect and should beaccorded great weight by the courts.

Respondents Subsequent Passing in late 2000 of the CES examinations did not retroact to consider her a CESO at the time her appointment was terminated on June 1, 2000.

The decisions of the Court f Appeals are reversed and set aside.

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