Abolition of office must be in good faith

The case of Kapisanan ng mga Kawani ng Energy Regulatory Board v. Barin is instructive, to wit:
A valid order of abolition must not only come from a legitimate body, it must also be made in good faith. An abolition is made in good faith when it is not made for political or personal reasons, or when it does not circumvent the constitutional security of tenure of civil service employees. Abolition of an office may be brought about by reasons of economy, or to remove redundancy of functions, or a clear and explicit constitutional mandate for such termination of employment. Where one office is abolished and replaced with another office vested with similar functions, the abolition is a legal nullity. When there is a void abolition, the incumbent is deemed to have never ceased holding office.
The Supreme Court has also held that, other than the aforestated reasons of economy, making the bureaucracy more efficient is also indicative of the exercise of good faith in, and a valid purpose for, the abolition of an office.

In one case, the Supreme Court ruled that the purpose for the abolition of the ATO is clearly manifested in Section 2 of R.A. No. 9497:

SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. – It is hereby declared the policy of the State to provide safe and efficient air transport and regulatory services in the Philippines by providing for the creation of a civil aviation authority with jurisdiction over the restructuring of the civil aviation system, the promotion, development and regulation of the technical, operational, safety, and aviation security functions under the civil aviation authority. (Emphasis supplied)

It cannot be disregarded that in January 2008, before the enactment of R.A. No. 9497, the Philippines was again downgraded by the FAA to a Category 2 status because of air safety regulations, practices and personnel which fell below the ICAO’s standards. Hence, it is but reasonable to state that the purpose for the abolition of the ATO, as posited by petitioner itself, was “to create a much more effective Agency in order to address the problems that go along with the fast emerging developments in the field of the globally-competitive aviation industry.”

On the other hand, circumstances evidencing bad faith are enumerated in Section 2 of R.A. No. 6656 which provides:

SEC. 2. No officer or employee in the career service shall be removed except for a valid cause and after due notice and hearing. A valid cause for removal exists when, pursuant to a bona fide reorganization, a position has been abolished or rendered redundant or there is a need to merge, divide, or consolidate positions in order to meet the exigencies of the service, or other lawful causes allowed by the Civil Service Law. The existence of any or some of the following circumstances may be considered as evidence of bad faith in the removals made as a result of reorganization, giving rise to a claim for reinstatement or reappointment by an aggrieved party:

Where there is a significant increase in the number of positions in the new staffing pattern of the department or agency concerned;
Where an office is abolished and another performing substantially the same functions is created;
Where incumbents are replaced by those less qualified in terms of status of appointment, performance and merit;
Where there is a reclassification of offices in the department or agency concerned and the reclassified offices perform substantially the same functions as the original offices;
Where the removal violates the order of separation provided in Section 3 hereof. (Emphasis supplied)

Petitioner posits that abolition of an office cannot have the effect of removing an officer holding it if the office is restored under another name. However, the Supreme Court found no bad faith in the abolition of the ATO as the latter was not simply restored in another name in the person of the CAAP.

ATO was merely a sectoral office of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and as such acted within the supervision of the latter and budgeted under it. As Section 2 of E.O. No. 125-A, series of 1987 deleted Section 12 of E.O. No. 125, series of 1987 which delineated the functions of the former BAT, we rely on R.A. No. 776 in citing the functions of the CAA which were succeeded by the ATO through the powers and duties of the CAA Administrator.