Proximity rule; confidential employee in civil service

Based on the 1950 case of De los Santos v. Mallare,[1] a position that is primarily confidential in nature is defined as follows:
x x x. These positions [policy-determining, primarily confidential and highly technical positions], involve the highest degree of confidence, or are closely bound up with and dependent on other positions to which they are subordinate, or are temporary in nature. It may truly be said that the good of the service itself demands that appointments coming under this category be terminable at the will of the officer that makes them.

x x x x

Every appointment implies confidence, but much more than ordinary confidence is reposed in the occupant of a position that is primarily confidential. The latter phrase denotes not only confidence in the aptitude of the appointee for the duties of the office but primarily close intimacy which insures freedom of [discussion, delegation and reporting] without embarrassment or freedom from misgivings of betrayals of personal trust or confidential matters of state. x x x.[2] (Emphasis supplied)
From the above case, the “proximity rule” was derived. A position is considered to be primarily confidential when there is a primarily close intimacy between the appointing authority and the appointee, which ensures the highest degree of trust and unfettered communication and discussion on the most confidential of matters.[3] Moreover, in classifying a position as primarily confidential, its functions must not be routinary, ordinary and day to day in character. A position is not necessarily confidential though the one in office may sometimes hold confidential matters or documents.[4]

The case of Piñero v. Hechanova[5] laid down the doctrine that it is the nature of the position that finally determines whether a position is primarily confidential, policy determining or highly technical and that executive pronouncements can be no more than initial determinations that are not conclusive in case of conflict. As reiterated in subsequent cases, such initial determination through executive declaration or legislative fiat does not foreclose judicial review.[6]

[1] 87 Phil. 289 (1950).

[2] Id. at 297-298.

[3] Civil Service Commission v. Javier, G.R. No. 173264, February 22, 2008, 546 SCRA 485, 507.

[4] Id. at 506, citing Tria v. Sto. Tomas, 276 Phil. 923 (1991) and Ingles v. Mutuc, 135 Phil. 177 (1968).

[5] 124 Phil. 1022, 1028 (1966).

[6] Civil Service Commission v. Javier, G.R. No. 173264, February 22, 2008, at 501-502; Laurel v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 71562, October 28, 1991, 203 SCRA 195, 206.

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