3-month period to investigate further under civil service rules

Paragraph 3, Section 66, Rule 12 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS) reads:

Section 66. When to Remand an Appealed Case to Agency of Origin. - If on appeal, the Commission finds that the disciplining authority violated respondent-appellant's right to due process such as the failure to issue a formal charge, the Commission shall dismiss the appealed case and order the immediate reinstatement of the respondent with payment of back salaries and other benefits. However, the dismissal of the case shall be without prejudice on the part of the disciplining authority to re-file it in accordance with law.

If a formal charge has been issued but the disciplining authority has violated respondent-appellant's right to procedural due process, the Commission shall remand the appealed case to the agency of origin for further proceedings to be conducted within three (3) calendar month from the date of receipt of the case records, unless there is delay due to the fault, negligence or petition of the respondent, or an extension is granted the Commission on meritorious grounds. The period of delay shall be excluded in the computation of the prescribed period. Within fifteen (15 days from the termination of the proceedings, the disciplining authority shall render his/her decision.

If at the end of the three (3) month period, the disciplining authority failed to conduct further proceedings, the Commission upon motion of the respondent-appellant shall vacate and set aside the appealed decision and declare the respondent-appellant exonerated of the charge/s. If the respondent-appellant is under preventive suspension he/she shall be immediately reinstated and shall be entitled to back salaries and other benefits.A plain reading of the above provision shows that exoneration is NOT warranted simply by the disciplining authority's inaction. As can be gleaned, the respondent in a remanded administrative case is entitled to exoneration only when the disciplining authority fails to conduct further proceedings after the lapse of (3) months from receipt of the records of the case. To be sure, the provision does not set a time frame for the conduct of Formal Investigation. All that it requires is that further proceedings be held disciplining authority within the stated period.

In Prado v. Buison (G.R. No. 229167, March 03, 2019), the petitioner's case was remanded to the Department of Education (DepEd) on March 13, 2012. While petitioner never bothered to allege the date of receipt of the records by said agency, the fact that the Office of the Schools Division Superintendent of Silay City was directed to conduct a fact-finding/preliminary investigation through the DepEd's May 18, 2012 Order shows that further proceedings were indeed conducted within the period set forth in Section 66 of the RRACCS. Hence, the Supreme Court ruled that the petitioner's insistence on exoneration has no legal leg to stand on.

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