Petition for review re civil service

The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, particularly Sections 2 (1) and 3 of Article XI-B, states that:
Section 2. (1) The civil service embraces all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters.

Section 3. The Civil Service Commission, as the central personnel agency of the Government, shall establish a career service and adopt measures to promote morale, efficiency, integrity, responsiveness, progressiveness, and courtesy in the civil service. It shall strengthen the merit and rewards system, integrate all human resources development programs for all levels and ranks, and institutionalize a management climate conducive to public accountability. It shall submit to the President and the Congress an annual report on its personnel programs.
Thus, "the CSC, as the central personnel agency of the Government, has jurisdiction over disputes involving the removal and separation of all employees of government branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters. Simply put, it is the sole arbiter of controversies relating to the civil service."[1]

In line with the above provisions of the Constitution and its mandate as the central personnel agency of government and sole arbiter of controversies relating to the civil service, the CSC adopted Memorandum Circular No. 19, series of 1999 (MC 19), or the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service. Section 4 thereof provides:
Section 4. Jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission. — The Civil Service Commission shall hear and decide administrative cases instituted by, or brought before it, directly or on appeal, including contested appointments, and shall review decisions and actions of its offices and of the agencies attached to it.

Except as otherwise provided by the Constitution or by law, the Civil Service Commission shall have the final authority to pass upon the removal, separation and suspension of all officers and employees in the civil service and upon all matters relating to the conduct, discipline and efficiency of such officers and employees.

Pursuant to Section 5(A)(1) of MC 19, the Civil Service Commission Proper, or Commission Proper, shall have jurisdiction over decisions of Civil Service Regional Offices brought before it on petition for review. And under Section 43, "decisions of heads of departments, agencies, provinces, cities, municipalities and other instrumentalities imposing a penalty exceeding thirty days suspension or fine in an amount exceeding thirty days salary, may be appealed to the Commission Proper within a period of fifteen days from receipt thereof."[2] "Commission Proper" refers to the Civil Service Commission-Central Office.[3]

It is only the decision of the Commission Proper that may be brought to the Court of Appeals on petition for review, under Section 50 of MC 19, which provides thus:

Section 50. Petition for Review with the Court of Appeals. - A party may elevate a decision of the Commission before the Court of Appeals by way of a petition for review under Rule 43 of the [1997 Rules of Civil Procedure].

Thus, in filing his petition for review directly the Court of Appeals from the Civil Service Regional Director, there would be failure to observe the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. Non-exhaustion of administrative remedies renders such petition premature and thus dismissible.

[1] Cabungcal v. Mayor Lorenzo, 623 Phil. 329, 338-339 (2009).

[2] It will be observed that the enumeration in Section 43 failed to include "Regional Offices". Under Section 49, "a complainant may elevate the decision of the Civil Service Regional Office dismissing a complaint for lack of a prima facie case before the Commission Proper through a Petition for Review within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of said decision." Such section mentions only "complainant". Going by these two sections, it would appear that a respondent in a decision rendered by a Regional Office would have no recourse, because MC 19 has not given him one. It is, however, absurd to assume that decisions of Regional Offices may not be appealed at all, for then they would be superior to the Commission Proper, or the courts for that matter. Thus, it must be said that Section 43 should necessarily include the decisions of Regional Offices as appealable to the Commission Proper and, in turn, ultimately subject to judicial review.

[3] Memorandum Circular No. 19, series of 1999 (MC 19), Section 2(c), on Coverage and Definition of Terms.