SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 134278. August 7, 2002]

PFC RODOLFO RODRIGUEZ, petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE (FORMERLY DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTEGRATED NATIONAL POLICE), NAPOLCOM, and ITS COMMISSIONERS, AND THE HON. SECRETARY OF THE DILG IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE NAPOLCOM CHAIRMAN, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

QUISUMBING, J.:

This petition for review, under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeks the reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR No. SP 40504. Promulgated on October 22, 1997, said decision dismissed herein petitioners special civil action for certiorari and mandamus for lack of merit. Petitioner also assails the appellate courts resolution of May 27, 1998, denying his motion for reconsideration.

The facts of this case, as culled from the records, are as follows:

On May 24, 1990, the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), now Philippine National Police or PNP, launched OPLAN AJAX to minimize, if not entirely eliminate, the extortion activities of traffic policemen at the vicinity of Guadalupe Bridge, Makati, Metro Manila.

On July 5, 1990, at about three oclock in the afternoon, two operatives of OPLAN AJAX, namely, 2LT Federico Bulanday, PC and Intelligence Agent Angelito C. Leoncio, both members of the Counter-Intelligence Group (CIG) stationed at Camp Crame, Quezon City, were on board a car with Plate No. NDK-238. They were traveling along J.P. Rizal Street, Makati, when they were flagged down by three policemen in uniform. These were petitioner PFC Rodolfo Rodriguez, PFC Arsenio Silungan, and PFC Rolando Pilandi. All were members of the Metropolitan Traffic Command assigned with the Makati Police Station.

Upon pulling up, Bulanday and Leoncio were informed by the three policemen that they had violated traffic regulations. The three policemen demanded money. Bulanday and Leoncio handed over cash amounting to one hundred pesos consisting of two P20 bills, one P10 bill, and one P50 bill. The bills were marked with ultraviolet fluorescent powder.

On seeing what happened, other CIG operatives who were behind the vehicle of Bulanday and Leoncio immediately swooped down on the three policemen. However, they were able to arrest only petitioner and PFC Silungan. PFC Pilandi was able to escape by commandeering a private vehicle at gunpoint.

Petitioner Rodriguez and PFC Silungan were then brought to the PC Crime Laboratory at Camp Crame. A physical examination was conducted on their persons. Both were found positive for the presence of ultraviolet fluorescent powder. The P50 bill, which formed part of the entrapment money, was recovered from PFC Silungan while the two P20 bills were retrieved from petitioner.

An administrative case for grave misconduct was subsequently filed against Rodriguez, Silungan, and Pilandi, who was at large, with the National Police Commission or NAPOLCOM. Docketed as Adm. Case No. 90-80, the case was assigned to Atty. Narzal B. Mallares as hearing officer. A second administrative case was filed with NAPOLCOM against the three erring police officers for their summary dismissal. A charge for robbery/extortion was filed with Headquarters, PC-INP. It was docketed as Adm. Case No. 01-91 and assigned to P/Major Efren Santos as Summary Hearing Officer.

On February 7, 1991, then PNP Chief Major General Cesar P. Nazareno issued Special Order No. 35 summarily dismissing Rodriguez, Silungan, and Pilandi from the police force.

On March 27, 1991, petitioner appealed the summary dismissal to the NAPOLCOM National Appellate Board. He alleged that the summary dismissal proceedings violated his right to due process. He claimed that only a preliminary inquiry had been conducted by the NAPOLCOM hearing officer and that he had not been afforded a chance to present his side.

In the meantime, the case against petitioner and his companions for robbery/extortion was filed by PC-INP with the public prosecutors office of Makati. The investigating prosecutor, however, subsequently recommended the dismissal of the complaint on the ground that [t]he scenarios of the arresting officers left so much to be desired.[1]

On November 5, 1992, the NAPOLCOM National Appellate Board dismissed the appeal of petitioner in the summary dismissal case. On March 29, 1993, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but the NAPOLCOM denied it on March 11, 1996.

Aggrieved, petitioner elevated his case to the Court of Appeals by way of certiorari and mandamus. Petitioner contended that the act of the PNP Director General in summarily dismissing him from the service, while Adm. Case No. 90-80 involving the same incident complained of was yet pending before the NAPOLCOM, was clearly with grave abuse of discretion and in excess of jurisdiction.

On October 22, 1997, the appellate court denied the petition for lack of merit. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the appellate courts decision, but it was denied on May 27, 1998.

On July 13, 1998, petitioner filed the instant petition for review under Rule 45, raising as sole issue:

WHETHER OR NOT, THE NOMINAL RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS CORRECTLY DISMISSED THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI AND MANDAMUS UNDER THE PREVAILING FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES ABOVE-CITED AND BASED UPON THE THEORY OF GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AND LACK ON (SIC) EXCESS OF JURISDICTION AT POINT WHEN THERE WAS NO APPEAL OR IF IT WAS STILL AVAILABLE, THE SAME WAS NOT ANYMORE ADEQUATE AND SPEEDY?[2]

Before us, Rodriguez contends that the Court of Appeals committed an error of law when it found that petitioners right to due process, instead of having been breached, was observed to the utmost.[3] More specifically, petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals erred when it observed that:

Since the petitioner admittedly received on April 15, 1996, a copy of the Resolution denying his motion for the reconsideration of the adverse Decision of the NAPOLCOM rendered by Secretary Alunan and Commissioners Guillermo Enriquez, Jr. and Federico S. Commandante, his remedy was to appeal to the Civil Service Commission. We cannot thus entertain his present original action for certiorari and mandamus for these remedies cannot be resorted to as a substitute for appeal, especially so in this case where the petitioner had wasted two (2) chances of appealing, first, to the CSC; and then, to this Court.

But even assuming that instant recourse is proper, still we are not prepared to hold that the petitioner was denied his right to due process by the respondents. Due process was designed to afford an opportunity to be heard, not that an actual hearing should always and indispensably be heard. As applied to administrative proceedings, the essence of due process is an opportunity to explain ones side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.

x x x

A reading, however, of the decision denying his appeal from the summary dismissal order of PNP Chief Nazareno demonstrates that the petitioner fully ventilated his defenses in his appeal(Citations omitted.)[4]

x x x

The only issue for determination is whether or not the Court of Appeals erred when it dismissed the petition for certiorari and mandamus filed by petitioner PFC Rodolfo Rodriguez.

In Republic v. Asuncion, 231 SCRA 211 (1994), we held that the civilian character of the PNP is unqualified, unconditional, and all embracing.[5] Members of the PNP are deemed civilian personnel of the government.[6] Police officers and personnel are part of the civil service. This is expressly recognized by R.A. No. 6975[7] when it provided for the applicability of civil service laws to all its personnel in Section 91 thereof, which states:

SEC. 91. Application of Civil Service Laws. The Civil Service Law and its implementing rules and regulations shall apply to all personnel of the Department.

The Civil Service Law referred to in Section 91 of R.A. No. 6975 is Subtitle A, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987.[8] The procedure for dismissal is outlined in Section 47 (2) of this subtitle. Thus:

(2) The Secretaries and heads of agencies and instrumentalities, provinces, cities and municipalities shall have jurisdiction to investigate and decide matters involving disciplinary action against officers and employees under their jurisdiction. Their decisions shall be final in case the penalty imposed is suspension for not more than thirty days or fine in an amount not exceeding thirty days salary. In case the decision rendered by a bureau or office head is appealable to the Commission, the same may be initially appealed to the department and finally to the Commission and pending appeal, the same shall be executory except when the penalty is removal, in which case the same shall be executory only after confirmation by the Secretary concerned. (Emphasis supplied.)

Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 provides:[9]

SEC. 31. Except as otherwise provided by the Constitution or by law, the Commission shall have the final authority to pass upon the removal, separation and suspension of all officers and employees in the civil service and upon all matters relating to the conduct, discipline and efficiency of such officers and employees.

SEC. 32. The Secretaries and heads of agencies and instrumentalities, provinces, cities and municipalities shall have jurisdiction to investigate and decide matters involving disciplinary action against officers and employees under their jurisdiction. Their decisions shall be final in case the penalty imposed is suspension for not more than thirty (30) days or fine in an amount not exceeding thirty (30) days salary. In case the decision rendered by a bureau or office head is appealable to the Commission, the same may be initially appealed to the department, then to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and finally, to the Commission and pending appeal, the same shall be executory except when the penalty is removal, in which case the same shall be executory only after confirmation by the Secretary concerned.

Clearly, where a police officer is dismissed by the PNP Director General and the dismissal is affirmed by the NAPOLCOM National Appellate Board, the proper remedy is to appeal the dismissal with the DILG Secretary. That the NAPOLCOM Chairman is also the DILG Secretary is of no moment, for under the aforecited laws and regulations, only the DILG Secretary can act on the appeal. Besides, what is involved here is not the sole act of the NAPOLCOM Chairman, but the decision of the Commission. Should the DILG Secretarys decision prove adverse to appellant, then he as the aggrieved party may bring an appeal to the Civil Service Commission. In instances where the CSC denies the appeal, the remedy under R.A. No. 7902[10] would be to appeal the adverse decision to the Court of Appeals. In the instant case, petitioner had three opportunities to appeal the decision of the NAPOLCOM. He chose not to avail of them, but instead opted to file an action for certiorari and mandamus with the appellate court.

Thus, we are in agreement with the Court of Appeals when it observed that there were lapses in procedure which can adversely affect the fate of the instant petition.[11]

Neither certiorari[12] nor mandamus can substitute for appeal where the latter is the proper remedy. The extraordinary remedies of certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus will lie only when there is no appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.[13] The Court of Appeals committed no reversible error of law in dismissing petitioners special civil action for certiorari and mandamus.

Petitioner cannot now claim that he was not afforded due process by the NAPOLCOM. In administrative proceedings, the filing of charges and giving reasonable opportunity for the person so charged to answer the accusations against him constitute the minimum requirements of due process.[14] The essence of administrative due process is the opportunity to be heard.[15] As long as a party was given the opportunity to defend his interests in due course, he was not denied due process.[16]

In the instant case, a scrutiny of the NAPOLCOM decision denying petitioners appeal from the PNP Chiefs order of dismissal clearly shows that petitioner was afforded an opportunity to present his side and defend his interests. Thus NAPOLCOM expressly held:

In his present appeal, appellant Rodriguez raised the following issues:

1) That he was a victim of a frame-up and;

2) That he was denied due process.

x x x

On the second issue, records show that, contrary to his allegation, respondent-appellant Rodriguez as well as respondent-appellant Silungan were afforded opportunity to be heard. In fact during the summary dismissal proceedings, they submitted their respective counter-affidavits to disprove the accusation leveled against them, thus; respondent-appellant and his co-respondent were not denied their constitutional right to due process.[17]

Furthermore, lack of due process cannot be invoked where a party was given the chance to be heard on his motion for reconsideration.[18] The resolution denying petitioners motion for reconsideration clearly shows that petitioner was given every opportunity to air his side, thus:

In his herein Motion for Reconsideration, respondent-appellant, alleged, inter-alia, the following:

1. That his innocence had been established before the City Prosecutors Office of Makati, when the said office dismissed for lack of evidence sufficient to establish a probable cause the case filed against him, which arose from the same incident subject of his summary dismissal case; and

2. That he is pleading for pity and compassion in the name of his future and his family.

As we have stated in the Decision, which is now under review, this Commission affirmed the summary dismissal from the service of herein respondent-appellant, because he was caught in the act of committing robbery extortion in an entrapment operation and, when subjected to laboratory examination, was found positive with ultraviolet fluorescent powder on both palmary portions of his hands, face and arms, including his left pants pocket, where pieces of P20.00 bills were found when searched.

As we have ruled in a long line of cases, amply supported by legal jurisprudence, the dismissal of the criminal case will not necessarily result in the exoneration of the respondent in the corresponding administrative action, since they are separate and distinct both in purpose and in the quantum of evidence required to warrant a finding of guilt.[19]

All these lead us to conclude that petitioners claim of denial of due process has no leg to stand on. His present petition is clearly without merit.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals dated October 22, 1997, and its resolution dated May 27, 1998, in CA-G.R. No. SP 40504, are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, and Corona, JJ., concur.



[1] CA Rollo, p. 69.

[2] Rollo, p. 9.

[3] Id. at 96-99.

[4] Supra, note 1 at 96.

[5] Republic vs. Asuncion, 231 SCRA 211, 224 (1994).

[6] Acop vs. Office of the Ombudsman, 248 SCRA 566, 583-584 (1995).

[7] An Act Establishing the Philippine National Police under a reorganized Department of the Interior and Local Government, and for other purposes; otherwise known as the DILG Act of 1990.

[8] Cabada vs. Alunan III, 260 SCRA 838, 846 (1996).

[9] Id. at 847.

[10] An Act expanding the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals, amending for the purpose section nine of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended, known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980.

[11] Supra, note 1 at 94.

[12] Paa vs. Court of Appeals, 282 SCRA 448, 461 (1997); Zarate, Jr. vs. Hon. Olegario, 331 Phil. 278, 287 (1996).

[13] Ongsitco vs. Court of Appeals, 255 SCRA 703, 709 (1996).

[14] Pat. Go vs. National Police Commission, 338 Phil. 162, 167 (1997).

[15] Carvajal vs. Court of Appeals, 280 SCRA 351, 363 (1997).

[16] Legarda vs. Court of Appeals, 280 SCRA 642, 657 (1997).

[17] Rollo, pp. 48-49.

[18] Paat vs. Court of Appeals, 334 Phil. 146, 155 (1997).

[19] Supra, note 17 at 75-76.