The Commission en banc of the Commission of Human Rights approved the appointment of Maricelle M. Cortes as Information Officer V. Eligio P. Mallari – Maricelle’s father, was a CHR Commissioner but he abstained from voting and instead requested CHR to render an opinion on the legality of Maricelle’s appointment.
CHR’s Legal Division opined that Maricelle’s appointment was not nepotic, hence valid, because the Commission En Banc had a separate and distinct personality from its members. Subsequently though, CSC-NCR invalidated Maricelle’s appointment on the ground of nepotism. According to CSC-NCR, Commissioner Mallari is still considered an appointing authority despite being a mere member of the Commission En Banc.
Maricelle argued that her appointment was not nepotic because the appointing authority referred to in Sec. 59 of the Administrative Code is the Commission En Banc and not the individual Commissioners who compose it.
Is Maricelle’s appointment covered by the prohibition against nepotism?
Yes. In dismissing Maricelle’s arguments, the Supreme Court held that the prohibition is intended to apply to natural persons and not juridical persons because the latter can never have relatives. Neither did the Court appreciate Commissioner Mallari’s abstention from voting since his mere presence during the deliberation already casted doubt on the impartiality and neutrality of the Commission En Banc. To quote the Supreme Court:
Indeed, it is absurd to declare that the prohibitive veil on nepotism does not include appointments made by a group of individuals acting as a body. What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. This principle is elementary and does not need explanation. Certainly, if acts that cannot be legally done directly can be done indirectly, then all laws would be illusory.
In the present case, respondent Cortes’ appointment as IO V in the CHR by the Commission En Banc, where his father is a member, is covered by the prohibition. Commissioner Mallari’s abstention from voting did not cure the nepotistic character of the appointment because the evil sought to be avoided by the prohibition still exists. His mere presence during the deliberation for the appointment of IO V created an impression of influence and cast doubt on the impartiality and neutrality of the Commission En Banc.
In this case, Marilyn G. Arandia was the Administrative Officer of DOST-5. She was reassigned as Planning Officer by their Regional Director Eriberta Nepomuceno and another person was designated to function in her stead. Director Nepomuceno immediately required Marilyn to turn-over documents to and exchange room assignment with the new Administrative Officer-Designate, but Marilyn refused to do so despite the Director’s repeated orders. She waited until her motion for reconsideration of her reassignment was resolved before she actually complied.
Marilyn was found guilty of Simple Insubordination for belatedly complying with the directive of Director Nepomuceno. Quoting another case, the Court defined insubordination as the willfull and deliberate refusal to obey a lawful and reasonable order which a superior officer is entitled to give and have obeyed. The Supreme Court ruled that her belated compliance showed her deliberate choice not to act on the order. These actions, according to the Court, should not be allowed; otherwise, the service would function very inefficiently.
Marilyn was meted the penalty of suspension for one month and one day, but since she was already working abroad at the time of the judgment, Marilyn was fined in an amount equivalent to one-month salary, deductible from her retirement and other benefits, if any. If none, Marilyn was ordered to personally pay the fine within a period determined by the CSC.
In October 2002, the CSC received an anonymous letter informing them that Nenita C. Longos asked someone to take the November 1992 CS Professional Exam for her, resulting in her fraudulently attaining a passing mark. Upon investigation, the CSC found patent dissimilarity in Nenita’s pictures appearing on her existing Personal Data Sheet from her supposed pictures in the Picture Seat Plan during the November 1992 examination. CSC formally charged Nenita of Dishonesty and referred the case to the Office of the Court Administrator.
Nenita failed to appear before the OCA proceedings, so the latter considered the evidence against her as unrefuted. OCA recommended Nenita’s dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement and other benefits, and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government.
The Supreme Court adopted the recommendation of the OCA and considered the uncontested documents as substantial evidence to show that Nenita asked another person to take the 1992 CS Professional Examination in her place. According to the Court, the act of fraudulently securing one’s appointment constitutes dishonesty, which cannot be tolerated especially from someone employed in the judiciary where ‘credibility undergirds the substance and process of rendering justice’.
> In resolving the issue of whether Salvador was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, the existence of only two elements is necessary: (1) the conviction of a crime, which conviction has attained finality; and (2) the crime for which the accused was convicted involves moral turpitude.
> In the falsification of public or official documents, whether by public officers or private persons, it is not necessary that there be present the idea of gain or the intent to injure a third person because, in contradistinction to private documents, the principal thing punished is the violation of the public faith and the destruction of truth as therein solemnly proclaimed. In falsification of public documents, therefore, the controlling consideration is the public character of a document; and the existence of any prejudice caused to third persons or, at least, the intent to cause such damage becomes immaterial.
> Considering that the principal act punished in the crime of falsification of public document is the violation of the public faith and the destruction of truth as therein solemnly proclaimed, the elements of the administrative offense of conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude clearly exist in this case.
> The accomplishment of the Personal Data Sheet being a requirement under the Civil Service Rules and Regulations in connection with employment in the government, the making of an untruthful statement therein is intimately connected with such employment. The filing of a PDS is required in connection with the promotion to a higher position and contenders for promotion have the legal obligation to disclose the truth. Otherwise, enhancing their qualifications by means of false statements will prejudice other qualified aspirants to the same position.
> An application for probation is an admission of guilt. Logically then, when Salvador applied for probation, she admitted the making of an untruthful statement in her PDS. Probation only affects the criminal liability of the accused, and not his administrative liabilities, if any. The Court once ruled in the case of Samalio vs. Court of Appeals that:
Finally, even if dismissal had been one of the accessory penalties of the principal penalty imposed upon petitioner in the criminal case, and even if the administrative case had been decided earlier than the criminal case, still the imposition of the penalty of dismissal could not have been suspended by the grant of probation. As petitioner himself contends, the criminal action is separate and distinct from the administrative case. And, if only for that reason, so is administrative liability separate and distinct from penal liability. Hence, probation affects only the criminal aspect of the case, not its administrative dimension.
> A PDS is a public document required of a government employee and official by the CSC. It is the repository of all information about any government employee or official regarding his personal background, qualification, and eligibility. Government employees are tasked under the Civil Service rules to properly and completely accomplish their PDS, in accordance with the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust, thereby enjoining all public officers and employees to serve with the highest degree or responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency. Only those who can live up to such exacting standard deserve the honor of continuing in public service.
> Dishonesty cannot be tolerated from government officials or employees, even when official duties are performed well. First-time offenders found guilty of grave dishonesty involving falsification of their civil service examination results already merit the penalty of dismissal from service.
> As in the case of the respondent in Civil Service Commission v. Ramoneda-Pita, the mitigating circumstance of length of service was not considered, since the act of falsifying eligibility does not satisfy the high standards demanded of a court employee. It is likewise erroneous to appreciate that “respondent never took advantage of the ‘acquired eligibility’ as a tool for promotion and never benefited from it,” given that respondent enjoyed his permanent position without the requisite eligibility.