February 2009 Decisions on Constitutional Law and Administrative Law

Here are some of the decisions promulgated by the Supreme Court in February 2009 on constitutional law and administrative law.

Administrative Law

1.  Administrative liability.  It is a fundamental principle in the law on public officers that administrative liability is separate from and independent of criminal liability. A simple act or omission can give rise to criminal, civil or administrative liability, each independently of the others. This is known as the “threefold liability rule.” Thus, absolution from a criminal charge is not a bar to an administrative prosecution, and vice-versa. The dismissal of the administrative cases against the petitioners will not necessarily result in the dismissal of the criminal complaints filed against them.  Eleno T. Regidor, Jr. et al. Vs. People of the Philippines, et al. G.R. No. 166086-92, February 13, 2009.

2. Reorganization.  A reorganization “involves the reduction of personnel, consolidation of offices, or abolition thereof by reason of economy or redundancy of functions.” It alters the existing structure of government offices or units therein, including the lines of control, authority and responsibility between them to make the bureaucracy more responsive to the needs of the public clientele as authorized by law. It could result in the loss of one’s position through removal or abolition of an office. For a reorganization for the purpose of economy or to make the bureaucracy more efficient to be valid, however, it must pass the test of good faith, otherwise it is void ab initio. In the case at bar, petitioner claims that there has been a drastic reduction of plantilla positions in the new staffing pattern in order to address the local government unit’s gaping budgetary deficit. Thus, he states that in the municipal treasurer’s office and waterworks operations unit where respondents were previously assigned, only 11 new positions were created out of the previous 35 which had been abolished; and that the new staffing pattern had 98 positions only, as compared with the old which had 129. The CSC, however, highlighted the recreation of six (6) casual positions for clerk II and utility worker I, which positions were previously held by respondents Marivic, Cantor, Asor and Enciso.  Petitioner inexplicably never disputed this finding nor proferred any proof that the new positions do not perform the same or substantially the same functions as those of the abolished. Nowhere in the records does it appear that these recreated positions were first offered to respondents. The appointment of casuals to these recreated positions violates R.A. 6656.   Pan vs. Pena, G.R. No. 174244, February 13, 2009.

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