Friday, July 20, 2012

The disciplining authority should not appeal the reversal of its decision - G.R. No. 174297

G.R. No. 174297

"x x x.

         The threshold issue for resolution is whether or not petitioner has legal standing to file the instant petition for review on certiorari assailing the CA ruling which reversed petitioner's decision.

        We find that petitioner has no legal standing to file this petition.

         In National Appellate Board of the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) v. Mamauag[28] (Mamauag), citing Mathay, Jr, v. Court of Appeals,[29] we ruled that the disciplining authority should not appeal the reversal of its decision and made the following ratiocination:

            RA 6975 itself does not authorize a private complainant to appeal a decision of the disciplining authority. Sections 43 and 45 of RA 6975 authorize “either party” to appeal in the instances that the law allows appeal. One party is the PNP member-respondent when the disciplining authority imposes the penalty of demotion or dismissal from the service. The other party is the government when the disciplining authority imposes the penalty of demotion but the government believes that dismissal from the service is the proper penalty.

            However, the government party that can appeal is not the disciplining authority or tribunal which previously heard the case and imposed the penalty of demotion or dismissal from the service. The government party appealing must be the one that is prosecuting the administrative case against the respondent. Otherwise, an anomalous situation will result where the disciplining authority or tribunal hearing the case, instead of being impartial and detached, becomes an active participant in prosecuting the respondent. Thus, in Mathay, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, decided after Dacoycoy, the Court declared:

            To be sure when the resolutions of the Civil Service Commission were brought to the Court of Appeals, the Civil Service Commission was included only as a nominal party. As a quasi-judicial body, the Civil Service Commission can be likened to a judge who should "detach himself from cases where his decision is appealed to a higher court for review."
            In instituting G.R. No. 126354, the Civil Service Commission dangerously departed from its role as adjudicator and became an advocate. Its mandated function is to "hear and decide administrative cases instituted by or brought before it directly or on appeal, including contested appointments and to review decisions and actions of its offices and agencies," not to litigate.[30] (Emphasis supplied.)

         In Office of the Ombudsman v. Sison,[31]  where the issue of whether the Ombudsman, which had rendered the decision pursuant to its administrative authority over public officers and employees, has the legal interest to intervene in the case where its decision was reversed on appeal, we ruled that it is not the proper party to intervene applying the above-quoted disquisition we made in Mamauag. We further stated that:

            Clearly, the Office of the Ombudsman is not an appropriate party to intervene in the instant case. It must remain partial and detached. More importantly, it must be mindful of its role as an adjudicator, not an advocate.

            It is an established doctrine that judges should detach themselves from cases where their decisions are appealed to a higher court for review. The raison d'etre for such a doctrine is the fact that judges are not active combatants in such proceeding and must leave the opposing parties to contend their individual positions and the appellate court to decide the issues without the judges' active participation.  When judges actively participate in the appeal of their judgment, they, in a way, cease to be judicial and have become adversarial instead.

            In Pleyto v. Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), the Court applied this doctrine when it held that the CA erred in granting the Motion to Intervene filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, to wit:

           The court or the quasi-judicial agency must be detached and impartial, not only when hearing and resolving the case before it, but even when its judgment is brought on appeal before a higher court. The judge of a court or the officer of a quasi-judicial agency must keep in mind that he is an adjudicator who must settle the controversies between parties in accordance with the evidence and applicable laws, regulations and/or jurisprudence. His judgment should already clearly and completely state his findings of fact and law. There must be no more need for him to justify further his judgment when it is appealed before appellate courts. When the court judge or the quasi-judicial officer intervenes as a party in the appealed case, he inevitably forsakes his detachment and impartiality, and his interest in the case becomes personal since his objective now is no longer only to settle the controversy between the original parties (which he had already accomplished by rendering his judgment), but more significantly, to refute the appellant's assignment of errors, defend his judgment, and prevent it from being overturned on appeal.[32] (Emphasis supplied.)

In Office of the Ombudsman v. Magno,[33] we ruled that:

x x x    Every decision rendered by the Ombudsman in an administrative case may be affirmed, but may also be modified or reversed on appeal - this is the very essence of appeal. In case of modification or reversal of the decision of the Ombudsman on appeal, it is the parties who bear the consequences thereof, and the Ombudsman itself would only have to face the error/s in fact or law that it may have committed which resulted in the modification or reversal of its decision.[34]

         Clearly, the government party that can appeal is not the disciplining authority or tribunal which previously heard the case and imposed the penalty of dismissal from the service. The government party appealing must be one that is prosecuting the administrative case against the respondent. In this case, it is the PCSO, through its then General Manager Golpeo, which filed the administrative case against respondent for the latter's alleged act of dishonesty in falsifying the OR and sales invoice he submitted in the liquidation of his cash advance.  Thus, it is the PCSO which is deemed the prosecuting government party which can appeal the CA decision exonerating respondent of the administrative charge. It is the PCSO which would stand to suffer, since the CA decision also ordered respondent's reinstatement, thus, the former would be compelled to take back to its fold a perceived dishonest employee.  Notwithstanding, the PCSO did not file any petition assailing the CA decision.  In fact, the PCSO, through its Board of Directors, adopted and approved Board Resolution No. 415 on  August 30, 2006, to wit:

RESOLVED, that the Board of Directors of PCSO accept, as it hereby accepts, and to no longer appeal the Decisions of the Court of Appeals dated  17 May 2005 and 03 August 2006 reversing and setting aside the orders of the Ombudsman dismissing former PCSO Legal Department Manager Atty. Romeo A. Liggayu for Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct and Conduct  Prejudicial to the Interest of the Service, and ordering the payment of all the salaries and benefits due Atty. Liggayu from his suspension to the time of his attainment of his retirement age  and to restore him all retirement  benefits and privileges to which he is entitled, subject to the Civil Service Rules and Regulations, and the availability of funds and applicable accounting and auditing laws, rules and regulations.[35]

         Petitioner cites Philippine National Bank v. Garcia, Jr. (Garcia)[36] to show that it has legal interest to file this petition.  In that case, the PNB charged its employee, Ricardo V. Garcia, with gross neglect of duty in connection with the funds he had lost in the amount of P7 million. The PNB’s Administration Adjudication Office found him guilty as charged and imposed upon him the penalty of forced resignation.  On appeal, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) exonerated Garcia from the administrative charge against him.  The PNB filed a petition with the CA which dismissed the same, ruling that the only party adversely affected by the decision, namely the government employee, may appeal an administrative case. It held that a decision exonerating a respondent in an administrative case is final and unappealable. Consequently, the PNB filed a petition with us. In accordance with our ruling inCivil Service Commission v. Dacoycoy,[37]  we ruled that the PNB had the legal standing to appeal to the CA the CSC resolution exonerating Garcia.  We said that after all, PNB was the aggrieved party which complained of Garcia's acts of dishonesty. Should Garcia be finally exonerated, it might then be incumbent upon the PNB to take him back into its fold.  The PNB should, therefore, be allowed to appeal a decision that, in its view, hampered its right to select honest and trustworthy employees, so that it can protect and preserve its name as a premier banking institution in the country.

         PNB v. Garcia, Jr.[38]  is not on all fours with the present case. First, herein respondent was not exonerated of the administrative charge of dishonesty, gross misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the  service, but was found guilty thereof by petitioner and was meted the penalty of dismissal. Thus, it was the respondent who filed the petition with the CA as the party aggrieved by petitioner's decision.  Second, the PCSO, which is supposedly the party aggrieved in the CA decision, did not file any petition, but it was the petitioner - the administrative agency - which rendered the decision reversed by the CA.  ThirdPNB v. Garcia[39] must be read together with Mathay, Jr. v. CA[40] andNational Appellate Board of the National Police Commission v. Mamauag[41]  wherein we qualified our declaration in CSC v. Dacoycoy[42] which was  cited in PNB v. Garcia[43] that the government party that can appeal the decision in administrative cases must be the party prosecuting the case and not the disciplining authority or tribunal which heard the administrative case.

         Considering that petitioner has no legal interest or standing to appeal and seek the nullification of the CA decision exonerating respondent from the administrative charge of dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, we, therefore find no need to delve on the merits of this case.

x x x."