EN BANC

 

 

RUDY A. PALECPEC, JR.,

Petitioner,

 

 

 

 

 

 

- versus -

 

 

 

 

 

 

HON. CORAZON C. DAVIS in her capacity as the Regional Executive Director, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-National Capital Region, Manila,

Respondent.

 

G.R. No. 171048

 

Present:

 

PUNO, C.J.,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

AZCUNA,

TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

GARCIA,

VELASCO, JR. and

NACHURA, JJ.

 

 

Promulgated:

 

July 31, 2007

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

 

 

 

D E C I S I O N

 

 

PER CURIAM:

 

 

The petition before Us is an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court of the following: (1) the Decision[1] dated 29 September 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 90292 entitled, Corazon C. Davis v. The Honorable Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, et al., finding valid the removal from service of petitioner Rudy A. Palecpec, Jr. for being absent without official leave (AWOL) for more than 30 days; and (2) the Resolution[2] dated 10 January 2006 of the same court denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. The assailed Court of Appeals Decision reversed and set aside Resolutions No. 040968[3] (dated 1 September 2004) and 050758[4] (dated 7 June 2005) of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) affirming the Order[5] dated 29 January 2003 and Decision[6] dated 15 September 2003 of the CSC-National Capital Region (NCR) reinstating petitioner to his position as Administrative Officer III of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-NCR.

 

The following antecedent facts are undisputed:

 

Petitioner rose from the ranks in the DENR-NCR starting as Clerk II, moving onto Statistician I, then as Legal Assistant II, until he was promoted to Administrative Officer III. He served as Administrative Officer III of the Interim Internal Audit Division of the DENR-NCR from 1998 until he was dropped from the rolls of the DENR-NCR plantilla of personnel by virtue of a Memorandum[7] issued on 1 August 2000 by respondent Corazon C. Davis, then the incumbent Regional Executive Director of the DENR-NCR. Under the aforementioned Memorandum, petitioner was declared separated from work for being AWOL, to wit:

 

Please be informed that per Memorandum of the Regional Executive Director dated June 1, 2000, you were advised to report for work within (5) days upon receipt thereof and file the corresponding leave application for the days you were absent. Likewise, you were also instructed to submit your Original Daily Time Record (DTR) Card for the month of April to the Personnel Section. However, up to this writing, you have not yet complied with said instruction nor have properly informed this Office of your interest/disinterest to go back to work.

In this connection, we regret to inform you that consistent with Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 12 Section 2.1.a, s. 1994 hereunder reproduced, you are Officially dropped from the rolls of the DENR-NCR Plantilla of Personnel effective August 1, 2000.

An Officer or employee who is continuously absent without approved leave for at least 30 calendar days shall be separated from the service or dropped from the rolls without prior notice. He shall however be informed of his separation from the service not later than five (5) days from its effectivity which shall be sent to the address appearing on his 201 files.

 

 

In petitioners motion for reconsideration of the afore-quoted memorandum, he asserted that he had been reporting for work as evidenced by his Entry of Time in the Security Guards Logbook of Employees and that he had to resort to such recording of his official attendance since there was no Daily Time Record (DTR) form found in the DTR rack. To refute the allegations that he was continuously AWOL the entire months of May, June, and July 2000, petitioner presented the security logbook showing that he reported for work on 15, 21, 22, and 27 June 2000; and 12 and 24 July 2000.

 

Respondent denied petitioners motion for reconsideration in an Order[8] dated 13 October 2000 citing that in her earlier Memorandum[9] dated 1 June 2000, she already ordered petitioner to return to work but he failed to comply therewith, and neither did he properly inform respondents office of his interest to go back to work. Respondents Order dated 13 October 2000 also stated that per the offices records, petitioner had been continuously absent from May to July 2000 and only filed an approved leave application for 8, 9, and 10 May 2000. Respondent likewise denied petitioners second motion for reconsideration in an Order[10] dated 4 December 2000.

Petitioner initially appealed his dismissal from service with the CSC, but his appeal was dismissed without prejudice in an Order[11] dated 2 April 2001, and he was directed to file said appeal first with the CSC-NCR. Petitioner thereafter filed a Petition for Relief from judgment with the CSC-NCR, which, after the conduct of its own investigation, issued an Order dated 29 January 2003, granting petitioners Petition for Relief, finding as follows:

 

Foregoing premises considered, Palecpec cannot be found to have been continuously absent for thirty working days. Hence, DENRs findings of AWOL and the eventual dropping of Palecpec from the rolls is without valid cause. Thus, Palecpec should be reinstated to his former position with the payment of back salaries from the time he was dropped from the rolls. Nonetheless, the DENR should initiate the appropriate administrative investigation for failure to make complete entries in the logbook.

 

WHEREFORE, the Appeal of Rudy A. Palecpec is hereby granted.[12]

 

 

Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the foregoing CSC-NCR Order, but it was denied by the CSC-NCR in a Decision dated 15 September 2003.

 

Unsatisfied, the respondent filed an appeal of the 29 January 2003 Order and 15 September 2003 Decision of the CSC-NCR with the CSC En Banc. However, said Decision and Order were both affirmed by the CSC in its Resolution No. 040968, dated 1 September 2004, thus:

 

WHEREFORE, the appeal of Regional Executive Director Corazon C. Davis of DENR is hereby DISMISSED. Accordingly, the Orders of CSC-NCR dated January 29, 2003 and September 15, 2003 are hereby AFFIRMED. Thus, Rudy A. Palecpec is hereby reinstated to his position as Administrative Officer III, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Capital Region. However, this is without prejudice to whatever disciplinary case that may be commenced against him.[13]

 

 

Respondents motion for reconsideration of the above Resolution was subsequently denied by the CSC in its Resolution No. 050758 dated 7 June 2005, finding as follows:

 

WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration is hereby DENIED. Accordingly, CSC Resolution No. 04-0968 dated September 1, 2004 affirming the Orders dated January 29, 2003 and September 15, 2003 of the Civil Service Commission National Capital Region, which reinstated Rudy A. Palecpec to his position as Administrative Officer III, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-National Capital Region, stands.

 

The CSC-NCR is directed to monitor the implementation of this Resolution.[14]

 

 

On 14 July 2005, respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals CSC Resolutions No. 040968 (dated 1 September 2004) and 050758 (dated 7 June 2005) via a Petition for Review under Rule 43 with prayer for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and preliminary injunction.

 

On 28 July 2005, the Court of Appeals issued a Resolution enjoining the CSC from implementing the appealed CSC Resolutions. The Court of Appeals thereafter rendered a Decision on 29 September 2005 reversing the Resolutions of the CSC and ruling thus:

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for review is hereby GRANTED. The assailed Resolutions of the Civil Service Commission affirming the CSC-NCRs Orders reinstating Rudy Palecpec to his position as Administrative Officer III with payment of back salaries are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.[15]

 

 

Petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a motion for reconsideration of its 29 September 2005 Decision, but said motion was denied by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution dated 10 January 2006.

 

Hence, petitioner now comes before us via the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari seeking the reversal and setting aside of the Decision dated 29 September 2005 and Resolution dated 10 January 2006 of the Court of Appeals and, consequently, his reinstatement to his position as Administrative Officer III with the DENR-NCR, with payment of back salaries, per CSC Resolutions No. 040968 (dated 1 September 2004) and No. 050758 (dated 07 June 2005).

Petitioner posits the following arguments in support of his Petition:

 

I.                    THE ASSAILED DECISION IMPOSES A MEANING AFAR OR NOT INFERRED IN A CIVIL SERVICE RULE CONCERNING THE DROPPING FROM THE ROLLS OF AN OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE IN GOVERNMENT VIS--VIS THE PRESCRIBED RECORD OF THE DAILY ATTENDANCE WHICH HAS SUSTAINED THE ADMISSIBILITY OR RELEVANCE OF EITHER THE DAILY TIME RECORD (DTR) CARD OR OTHER EQUIVALENT FORMS.

 

II.                 THE ASSAILED DECISION RULING OUT THE AUTHENTICITY AND/OR VERACITY OF THE ENTRIES IN THE SECURITY LOGBOOK OF EMPLOYEES IN THE DENR-NCR CONCERNING THE ATTENDANCE OF PETITIONER HEREIN IS FOUNDED PURELY ON SURMISES AND CONJECTURES.

 

 

Respondent countered the present Petition by filing two Comments, one through private counsel[16] and another through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).[17]

 

Respondent asserts that the CSC-NCR committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in entertaining and assuming jurisdiction over petitioners Petition for Relief from judgment, since a petition for relief cannot be a substitute for a lost appeal. Respondent points out that petitioner received her Memorandum dated 1 August 2000 which declared the latter separated from work on 18 August 2000, as evidenced by petitioners signature on the registry receipt. Respondent thus argues that petitioners first motion for reconsideration dated 9 October 2000 and second motion for reconsideration dated 16 October 2000 of respondents Memorandum fell beyond the 15-day reglementary period set by Sections 71 and 72 of the Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.[18]

 

Respondent also refutes petitioners statement that he worked as a dedicated public servant during his stay with the DENR-NCR alleging that his stay was actually marked by recalcitrant and contemptuous attitude towards his superiors and his official responsibilities, in addition to habitual absences.

 

It is also not true, as petitioner claims, that he only learned of respondents Memorandum dated 1 August 2000 from his officemates, when the registry return receipt indicates receipt thereof by a certain Rudy A. Palecpec.[19] Moreover, according to respondent, the employee security logbook entries cited by petitioner do not comply with the provision of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 21, Series of 1991, and standing alone, can hardly be considered as sufficient proof of ones attendance in the office. As found by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution dated 10 January 2006, the signature in the employee security logbook which reads Andy P. is not acceptable as proof of petitioners attendance in the office. CSC Memorandum Circular No. 15, Series of 1999, cited by petitioner himself, provides guidelines on ensuring proper attendance recording. It states that any other means of recording attendance may be allowed provided the employees respective names and signatures, as well as their times of arrival to and departure from the office, are indicated, subject to verification. According to respondent, petitioner did not present independent evidence to prove that the name and signature opposite Andy P. in the employee security logbook are actually his. The DTR cards are more reliable than the employee security logbook since a DTR is certified correct by the employee concerned and the chief of office. Hence, when respondent marked petitioner as absent in the latters DTR cards for June to July 2000, and when petitioners immediate supervisor executed an affidavit certifying that petitioner did not report for work and perform his assigned duties during the same period, the respondent and the immediate supervisors actions are entitled to the legal presumption that they did so in the regular performance of their official duties.[20]

 

Petitioner replied to both of respondents Comments. He contends that the perfection of appeal before the CSC is not an issue in the instant petition, and that the allegation that he did not work as a dedicated public servant is negated by his Service Record.

 

Moreover, the wordings of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 21, Series of 1991, simply prescribe the forms available in recording the daily attendance of an officer or employee in the government, only for the purpose of ensuring a uniform system of monitoring the attendance of all government officials and employees for purposes of complying with the eight hours for five working days a week.[21] Petitioner asserts that the act of not accomplishing his DTR cards may simply be a non-compliance with the policy of his office or the Civil Service Rules, and cannot be proof of his being AWOL for the contested period, given that he had presented evidence of his attendance for the same period.

 

Petitioner empathically argues that the signature in the employee security logbook which reads Andy P. refers to one and the same person the petitioner as is known by respondent and other employees of DENR-NCR, since it is the customary signature he had used not only in his attendance records, but also in receiving his salary for the past ten years.

 

Finally, petitioner asserts that the Memoranda dated 1 June 2000 and 1 August 2000 are without force and effect. According to him, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals states that the absences in issue herein are not those incurred by [herein petitioner] PALECPEC for the months of April and May, as asserted in his Opposition, but his absences for the months of June and July 2000.[22] If that were the case, petitioner asserts that a perusal of respondents Memoranda dated 1 June 2000 and 1 August 2000 would reveal that they concern his absences for the months of April and May, not June and July 2000; and therefore, that he was not given due notice. Petitioner also questions the validity of respondents 1 August 2000 Memorandum informing him of his separation from service. According to petitioner, he was not served a copy thereof and only learned of it through his officemates. In his present Petition, he argues:

 

[T]he disputed Memorandum (sic) by Davis are flawed simply because it failed to serve it to [petitioner] x x x. Be it noted that no iota of proof has been adduced that [petitioner] has received either of said disputed Memorandum.[23]

 

 

Petitioner brought his case before us via an appeal by certiorari from the adverse Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals. In a long line of cases, it has been held that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts; and under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, a petition for review to be given due course should raise only questions of law.[24]

But when is the Court faced with a question of law? We have differentiated a question of law from a question of fact, thus, [t]here is a question of law when doubts or differences arise as to what law pertains to a certain state of facts, and a question of fact when the doubt pertains to the truth or falsity of alleged facts.[25] A question of fact arises when there is need for a calibration of the evidence, considering mainly the credibility of witnesses and the existence and the relevancy of specific surrounding circumstances, their relation to each other and to the whole, and the probabilities of the situation.[26]

 

Findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are generally conclusive on this Court, but this rule admits of the following exceptions[27]:

 

(1)      the factual findings of the Court of Appeals and the trial court are contradictory;

 

(2)      the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures;

 

(3)      the inference made by the Court of Appeals from its findings of fact is mainly mistaken, absurd or impossible;

 

(4)      there is grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of facts;

 

(5)      the appellate court, in making its findings, goes beyond the issues of the case and such findings are contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;

 

(6)      the judgment of the Court of Appeals is premised on a misapprehension of facts;

 

(7)      the Court of Appeals fails to notice certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, will justify a different conclusion; and

 

(8)    the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court or are mere conclusions without citation of specific evidence, or where the facts set forth by the petitioner are not disputed by respondent, or where the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the absence of evidence but are contradicted by the evidence on record.

 

 

A recognized exception to the general rule that factual issues are not within the province of this Court is the circumstance in which there are conflicting findings of fact by the Court of Appeals on one hand and the trial court or government agency concerned on the other.[28] The findings of fact of the Court of Appeals and the CSC herein are evidently in conflict with each other; hence, necessitating our review of the evidence on record and coming up with our own findings of fact.

 

The factual matters for our determination are (1) the actual attendance of petitioner during the contested period and the probative value to be given the security logbook presented as evidence by petitioner; and (2) receipt by petitioner of a copy of respondents Memorandum dated 1 June 2000 which ordered petitioner to return to work and another Memorandum dated 1 August 2000 dismissing petitioner from service.

 

Petitioners allegations that he had been reporting for work on certain days and was not continuously absent for more than 30 days are dependent chiefly on the probative value to be given the entries in the employee security logbook. Petitioner asserts that the employee security logbook must be given probative value because CSC Memorandum Circular No. 21, Series of 1991, recognizes other means of recording employees attendance. According to the said Memorandum Circular:

Use of Bundy Clock and Other Records of Attendance

 

1. All officers and employees shall record their daily attendance on the proper form or whenever possible, have them registered on the bundy clock. Any other means of recording attendance may be allowed provided their respective names and signature as well as the time of their arrival to and departure from the office are indicated subject to verification.

 

 

This Court cannot give credence to petitioners assertion. Although it is true that attendance of civil service employees may be recorded by means other than the DTR, CSC Memorandum Circular No. 21, Series of 1991, clearly requires that these records must (1) provide the respective names and signatures of the employees; (2) indicate their time of arrival and departure; and (3) be subject to verification. Petitioner failed to establish herein that the employee security logbook complied with all of these requirements, particularly, that it also indicated his time of departure and that the said logbook was subjected to the verification of his supervisors and/or superiors.

To better illustrate, the entries in the employee security logbook of one Andy P. only consist of the following:

 

DATE IN OUT IN OUT

(AM) (PM)

 

June 15 1:00

June 21 8:40 3:30

July 12 (time in is unclear)

July 24 10:15[29]

 

 

Not only are these entries unverified, but they are also palpably incomplete and insufficient to establish actual attendance. And even though the employee security logbook may be considered as evidence on behalf of petitioner, it cannot be given more probative value than the positive declarations made by petitioners immediate supervisor[30] and respondent, as head of office, that he was not present at the office from April to July 2000. There appears to be no reason why respondent and his immediate supervisor would insist that petitioner was absent when, as he claims, he was actually not. In keeping track of petitioners attendance, petitioners immediate supervisor and respondent may be legally presumed, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, to have acted in the regular performance of their official duties.[31]

 

Petitioners explanation that he failed to accomplish and submit his DTR because he was not provided with a DTR form with his name on it on the DTR rack is untenable in light of the certification by the DENR-NCR Chief of the Personnel Division that petitioner was provided his DTR forms for the months in issue on the DTR rack. Said explanation is also specious considering that petitioner could have easily asked for a DTR form from the Personnel Division, should there be none on the DTR rack.

 

If petitioner was actually reporting for work, given that he was already ordered to return to work by respondent in her Memorandum of 1 June 2000, the more rational course of action for petitioner would have been to immediately refute that he had been absent, make sure that respondent and his immediate supervisor see him within office premises performing his assigned tasks, and diligently submit his DTR thereafter. It is beyond our comprehension why petitioner, faced with a serious charge of being AWOL, continued with the practice which may have gotten him into trouble in the first place refusing to submit his monthly DTR and, as alleged by him, signing only the employee security logbook.

 

Neither is there enough proof to show that the signature Andy P. refers to petitioner. We cannot accept on face value petitioners allegation that the signature Andy P. pertains to him in the absence of other proof that indeed such is the signature and appendage petitioner has been using for the last ten years.[32] We note that petitioners name is Rudy A. Palecpec, Jr., and there is utter lack of rationalization as to why his personal signature would bear a different name such as Andy P. Assuming it were true that petitioner is known among DENR-NCR employees to be Andy P. and that he actually uses this signature in his office transactions, then he would have had numerous possible pieces of evidence to present to support such a contention. Petitioner could have easily provided additional testimonies or affidavits from his officemates at the DENR-NCR to prove his contention that Andy P. and Rudy A. Palecpec, Jr. are one and the same person. He could have also procured copies of official documents from his office, such as his personal data sheet or statement of assets and liabilities, showing that he actually signed the same as Andy P. Given the obvious adverse consequence he would have to face by his failure to establish such a fact, petitioner once again acted contrary to reason by relying on the security logbook and his self-serving allegation that the Andy P. therein was his signature, instead of presenting readily accessible, objective and independent evidence in support thereof.

While petitioner claims respondent did not put the authenticity of the employee security logbook entries in question, the records of the case reveal otherwise. As respondent argues, we beg to disagree that we did not put the authenticity of the logbook entries in question, because it was even first raised in the Motion for Reconsideration with the CSC-NCR and subsequently discussed under letter A, Arguments and Discussion of the Memorandum of Appeal.[33] Accordingly, respondent actually puts in issue the authenticity of the aforementioned logbook entries. In her Motion for Reconsideration filed before the CSC-NCR, respondent avers that the same has no basis in fact and in truth, the alleged entries in the logbook can be entered by anybody.[34]

 

Lastly, the fact that petitioner was issued his disbursement voucher for his salary for the period 1-31 May 2000 does not necessarily prove that he had reported for work during the entire period. It is important to note that petitioner had an approved leave of absence from 8-10 May 2000. We also take notice of the fact that reasonable time is needed for the Personnel Division to coordinate with the Accounting Division of the same office for the withholding of the salary of an employee for any reason. This is more so when the non-payment of salary is due to unauthorized absences because the employees salary is released by the end of the month, just about the same time when the employee is required to submit his DTR for the said month. It is not uncommon for salary that is improperly paid to be merely deducted from the employees salary for the following month. Neither can the said voucher negate petitioners continuous unauthorized absence for 30 days in the succeeding months of June and July 2000, for which reason he was dropped from the rolls.

 

The dearth of evidence presented by petitioner astounds us, considering that if petitioner were truly present at the office during the contested period, then he could have so easily proven the same by presenting testimonies of officemates who had seen or interacted with him during those days or his work output during the period such as work-related documents which bear his signature and date of signing. Apart from stating that there was no deliberate malice in his absences, as he had a family problem at the time the absences were incurred, and in giving a copy of dubious entries in the employee security logbook, petitioner presented little evidence to refute the AWOL charge against him. Unfortunately, petitioner chose to build his case around the questionable entries in the employee security logbook and mostly self-serving allegations.

 

In view of the foregoing, this Court finds that except for the period 8-10 May 2000 for which petitioner was granted an approved leave of absence, petitioner had been absent without authorization beginning 2 May 2000, the entire months of June and July 2000, and up to 1 August 2000 when respondent issued her second Memorandum. The evidence presented and legal presumptions applicable herein support the conclusion that petitioner incurred continuous absences of more than 30 days.

 

Now we proceed with a discussion of petitioners assertion that he was not properly served a copy of respondents Memoranda dated 1 June 2000 and 1 August 2000, and that he allegedly learned only of the latter Memorandum from his officemates. Petitioner contends that non-service on him of the questioned Memoranda deprived him of his right to proper notice. Petitioners arguments are unmeritorious.

 

Petitioner alleges that he was never served the first Memorandum dated 1 June 2000, arguing that the signature on the registry receipt is under the name of a certain Priscilla Sanchez whom he does not even know. However, despite his protestations, petitioner had already admitted such fact of receipt of the first Memorandum in his second motion for reconsideration of respondents second Memorandum dated 1 August 2000, wherein he stated:

 

It is not true that [petitioner herein] did not report for work in compliance with the Return to Work Order dated June 1, 2000 and received by him on June 16, 2000. x x x.[35] (Emphasis supplied.)

 

 

Based on the afore-cited, petitioner may not now deny receipt of the above 1 June 2000 Memorandum.

 

Furthermore, we have already recognized that a government employee who is on AWOL may be dismissed without prior notice.[36]

The provisions of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 15,[37] Series of 1999, are clear and leave no room for interpretation. A civil service officer or employee who is continuously AWOL for at least 30 working days shall be separated from the service or dropped from the rolls without need of any prior notice. The said Memorandum Circular only requires that the employee be informed of his separation from service not later than five (5) days from its effectivity and sent to the address appearing on his 201 file or to his last known address, which respondent complied with by her issuance of the second Memorandum dated 1 August 2000.

 

But petitioner denies being served the second Memorandum dated 1 August 2000, alleging he obtained knowledge thereof only through his officemates. Petitioners allegation is contradicted by the registry return receipt for the said Memorandum clearly bearing the handwritten name or signature of a Rudy A. Palecpec. Moreover, the said Memorandum was sent to petitioners last known address, where he regularly receives mail, and the very same address reflected in his 201 file. When a document is shown to have been properly addressed and actually mailed, then there arises a presumption that the same was duly received by the addressee,[38] and it becomes the burden of the latter to prove otherwise. Again, petitioners bare denial of receipt of a copy of the Memorandum dated 1 August 2000 does little to persuade. In view of the foregoing, this Court sees that it has been established that petitioner was duly served a copy of respondents Memorandum dated 1 August 2000 notifying him that he was being dropped from the rolls.

 

Assuming arguendo that petitioners unauthorized absences are not continuous and are less than 30 days, he may still be dropped from the rolls by reason thereof, after compliance with the requirement set forth in section 2b, Rule XII of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 15, Series of 1999, which reads:

 

If the number of unauthorized absences incurred is less than thirty (30) WORKING days, a written Return-to-Work order shall be served on the official or employee at his last known address on record. Failure on his part to report for work within the period stated in the order shall be a valid ground to drop him from the rolls.

 

 

Respondents first Memorandum dated 1 June 2000 expressly required petitioner to return to work within five days from receipt thereof; it thus constitutes a written Return-to-Work Order required by the afore-quoted provision. Petitioner admitted receipt of the said Memorandum, yet he still failed to comply with the order to return to work within five days from receipt thereof, giving respondent valid ground to already drop him from the rolls.

Now, we proceed to address petitioners argument that he was not properly informed that he was being dismissed for his continued absences in June and July 2000, for respondents 1 August 2000 Memorandum refers only to his absences during the previous months of April and May 2000. We disagree with petitioner because a cursory reading of respondents 1 August 2000 Memorandum, particularly the first paragraph thereof, would reveal that respondent noted petitioners absence and refusal to submit his DTRs for the months of April to July 2000, thus:

Please be informed that per Memorandum of the Regional Executive Director dated June 1, 2000, you were advised to report for work within five (5) days upon receipt thereof and file the corresponding leave application for the days you were absent. Likewise, you were also instructed to submit your Original Daily Time Record (DTR) Card for the month of April to the Personnel Section. However, up to this writing, you have not yet complied with said instruction nor have properly informed this Office of your interest/disinterest to go back to work. (Emphasis supplied.)

 

 

It is very clear from the foregoing that petitioner, from April 2000 up to the time of the Memorandums writing on 1 August 2000, had not yet submitted any DTR, reported back to work, or informed respondent of his interest/disinterest to return to work. Although petitioner contends that he had submitted his DTRs for April and May and that the two DTRs are in the possession of the Personnel Records Division of the DENR-NCR, it behooves this Court to wonder why there was no attempt by petitioner to provide copies thereof as evidence. Petitioner could have easily provided us a copy of the aforementioned DTRs he allegedly submitted by securing copies thereof from the Personnel Records Division. Without supporting evidence, petitioners contention that he had submitted his DTRs for April and May is, once more, declared self-serving and deserves scant consideration.

 

Anent respondents allegation that petitioners motion for reconsideration with the Civil Service Commission was filed out of time, petitioner argues that the reglementary period of 15 days within which to file does not apply inasmuch as there was no sufficient notice and valid service thereof effected upon petitioner. Petitioners assertion is delusive. Under Section 80 of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, a decision of the CSC or Regional Office shall be immediately executory after 15 days from receipt thereof unless a motion for reconsideration[39] is seasonably filed.

 

As has been extensively discussed in the preceding paragraphs, there was proper service on petitioner of the first and second memoranda. Thus, petitioners argument on this ground must fail. The registry receipt shows that a certain Rudy Palecpec received the 1 August 2000 Memorandum on 18 August 2000. Records reveal petitioner filed his motion for reconsideration on 9 October 2000 or 52 days from 18 August 2000, way beyond the 15-day reglementary period; his second motion for reconsideration, on the other hand, which the CSC treated as an appeal, was filed on 16 October 2000.

 

This Court has indeed, in several instances, pronounced that the rules on technicality can be brushed aside in order to serve the ends of substantial justice.[40] Unfortunately for petitioner, however, the findings of the Court of Appeals as to the validity of his removal from service due to AWOL are in accordance with law and the records of the case.

 

Our Constitution enshrines the policy that public office is a public trust [and all] public officers must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency.[41] Public office therefore is given utmost regard, and the highest standards of service are expected from it. We have categorically pronounced that the nature and responsibilities of public officers enshrined in the 1987 Constitution and oft-repeated in our case law are not mere rhetorical words, not to be taken as idealistic sentiments but as working standards and attainable goals that should be matched with actual deeds.[42]

Thus, the CSC, as the central personnel agency of the government, provides measures to ensure compliance with these working standards and goals. With respect to unauthorized absences, the Civil Service Law provides that frequent or habitual unauthorized absences shall be ground for disciplinary action.[43]

As this Court has held in the case of Talion v. Ayupan[44]:

 

[C]ivil service employees who are absent for at least 30 days without leave are considered absent without leave (AWOL) and shall be dropped from the service after due notice. The notice contemplated by this rule is not jurisdictional in nature and failure to give such notice by the appropriate government office does not prevent the dropping of the employee concerned from the government service. Staying away from ones regular employment in the government or remaining on leave without proper approval is something that an employee can hardly be unaware of.

 

 

Time and again, this Court has made the pronouncement that any act which falls short of the exacting standards for public office shall not be countenanced.[45] Absence without leave for a prolonged period of time constitutes conduct prejudicial to the best interest of public service and justifies the dismissal of an employee and the forfeiture of benefits with prejudice to re-employment in the government[46] since it is an established fact that frequent unauthorized absences cause inefficiency in the public service.

 

Hence, in this case, the dismissal of petitioner for being AWOL carries with it the attendant penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and disqualification from reemployment in government service.[47]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DENY the present Petition for Review on Certiorari and AFFIRM the Decision dated 29 September 2005 and Resolution dated 10 January 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 90292. We hereby ORDER that petitioner Rudy A. Palecpec, Jr. be dropped from the rolls of the Plantilla of Personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Capital Region effective 1 August 2000, with the cancellation of his civil service eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits; and with prejudice to his reemployment in any branch of the government or any of its agencies or instrumentalities, including government owned and controlled corporations. Costs against the petitioner.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

 

 

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

 

 

Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

 

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

 



[1] Penned by Associate Justice Eliezer R. de los Santos with Associate Justices Eugenio S. Labitoria and Jose C. Reyes, Jr., concurring; CA rollo, pp. 170-181.

[2] CA rollo, p. 213.

[3] Id. at 36-41.

[4] Id. at 42-46.

[5] Id. at 67-72.

[6] Id. at 88-92.

[7] Id. at 56.

[8] Id. at 57-58.

[9] This is to remind you that you have been absent since May 2, 2000 up to the present without approved leave application except for May 8, 9 and 10, 2000 and has (sic) not as yet submitted your original Daily Time Record (DTR) Card for the months of April and May 2000.

Be informed that under Section 63 of Civil Service Memorandum Circular No. 14, S. 1999, an employee who has been continuously absent for at least thirty (30) WORKING DAYS shall be considered absent without official leave (AWOL) and shall be separated from the service or dropped from the rolls without prior notice.

In view thereof, you are hereby ORDERED to Return to Work within five (5) days upon receipt hereof and file the corresponding leave application for the days you were absent. Further, you are required to submit your original Daily Time Record (DTR) card for the month of April to the Personnel Section within the same period of time aforestated.

For strict compliance under pain of penalty as maybe sanctioned by existing laws, rules and regulations on the matter. (CA rollo, p. 54.)

[10] CA rollo, pp. 59-61.

[11] Id. at 155.

[12] Id. at 72.

[13] Id. at 41.

[14] Id. at 46.

[15] Id. at 181.

[16] Public Respondents Comment (to the Petition for Review on Certiorari) dated 26 April 2006; rollo, pp. 145-157.

[17] Public Respondents Comment dated 16 June 2006 (as filed by the OSG); id. at 178-186.

[18] CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, series of 1999. Pertinent provisions read:

Section 71. Complaint or Appeal to the Commission. Other personnel actions, such as, but not limited to separation from the service due to unsatisfactory conduct or want of capacity during probationary period, dropping from the rolls due to Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL), physically and mentally unfit, unsatisfactory or poor performance, action on appointments (disapproval, invalidation, recall and revocation), reassignment, transfer, detail, secondment, demotion or termination of services, maybe brought to the Commission, by way of an appeal.

Section 72. When and Where to File. A decision or ruling of a department or agency appealed within fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof by the party adversely affected to the Civil Service Commission-Regional Office and finally, to the Commission Proper within the same period, a motion for reconsideration maybe filed with the same office which rendered the decision or ruling within fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof.

[19] Petitioners name is Rudy A. Palecpec, Jr.; petitioners father is deceased.

[20] Page 6, Comment dated 16 June 2006; rollo, p. 183.

[21] CSC Resolution No. 01-0962, dated 29 May 2001.

[22] CA rollo, p. 179.

[23] Rollo, p. 46.

[24] Quiambao v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128305, 28 March 2005, 454 SCRA 17, 29; Towne & City Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 135043, 14 July 2004, 434 SCRA 356, 360; Lanuza v. Muoz, G.R. No. 147372, 27 May 2004, 429 SCRA 562, 569.

[25] Barcenas v. Tomas, G.R. No. 150321, 31 March 2005, 454 SCRA 593, 606; Traverse Development Corporation v. Development Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 150888, 24 September 2004, 439 SCRA 83, 93.

[26] Imperial v. Jaucian, G.R. No. 149004, 14 April 2004, 427 SCRA 517, 524.

[27] Cabatania v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 124814, 21 October 2004, 441 SCRA 96, 101-102; Mercury Drug Corporation v. Libunao, G.R. No. 144458, 14 July 2004, 434 SCRA 404, 413-414; MEA Builders, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121484, 31 January 2005, 450 SCRA 155, 165-166; Sacay v. Sandiganbayan, 226 Phil 496, 511-512 (1986); Samala v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 130826, 17 February 2004, 423 SCRA 142, 146.

[28] Department of Agrarian Reform v. Estate of Pureza Herrera, G.R. No. 149836, 8 July 2005, 463 SCRA 107, 123.

[29] CA rollo, p. 37.

[30] In the last paragraph of the affidavit executed by Manuelita C. Jatulan, incumbent designate Assistant Regional Executive Director (ARED), Administrative Services of DENR- NCR and direct supervisor of petitioner, she states:

That this affidavit is issued to attest to the truth of the foregoing that Mr. Rudy Palecpec had continuously been absent for more than thirty (30) working days since June 1-30, 2000 and July 1-31, 2000 as reflected in his said Daily Time Record (DTR) cards without submitting any required leave application/s for the said months; neither did he signify his intention to report for work and perform his assigned duties/functions as Head of the Internal Audit Division (IAD) or as member or the REDs Chief of Staff, although it would appear that he allegedly enter (sic) isolated entries his attendance in the logbook on June 15, June 21, July 12, and July 24, 2000 during the time he visited the Office, but did not render actual services thereof. (Id. at 94-95.)

[31] Revised Rules of Court, Rule 131, Section 3, on disputable presumptions, reads:

The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence:

x x x x

(m) That official duty has been regularly performed.

[32] As allegedly signed by petitioner in Annexes V, W, X, Y, Z, AA to the Petition for Review; rollo, pp. 135-140.

[33] As cited in Resolution No. 059758 dated 07 June 2005 of the CSC-NCR; CA rollo, p. 44.

[34] Motion for Reconsideration dated 10 February 2003 filed by respondent with the CSC-NCR. (Id. at 82.)

[35] Taken from Annex P (petitioners second motion for reconsideration to DENR-NCR dated 16 October 2000) to the petition for certiorari; id. at 97.

[36] Petilla v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 150792, 3 March 2004, 424 SCRA 254, 266.

[37] Section 2A, Rule XII of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 15, series of 1999:

Section 2. Dropping from the Rolls. Officers and employees who are either habitually absent or have unsatisfactory or poor performance or have shown to be physically and mentally unfit to perform their duties may be dropped from the rolls subject to the following procedures.

a.        An officer or employee who is continuously absent without approved leave (AWOL) for at least thirty (30) WORKING days shall be separated from the service or dropped from the rolls without prior notice. He shall, however, be informed of his separation from the service not later than five (5) days from its effectivity which shall be sent to the address appearing on his 201 Files or to his last known address. (Italics ours.)

[38] The Revised Rules of Court, Rule 131, Section 3, provide:

Disputable presumptions The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence:

x x x x

(v) That a letter duly directed and mailed was received in the regular course of the mail.

[39] Section 80. Execution of Decision The decisions of the Commission Proper or its Regional Offices shall be immediately executory after fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof, unless a motion for reconsideration is seasonably filed, in which case the execution of the decision shall be held in abeyance. (Velasco v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 160991, 28 February 2005, 452 SCRA 593, 604-605.)

Additionally, Presidential Decree No. 807 (Providing for the Organization of the Civil Service Commission in Accordance with Provisions of the Constitution, Prescribing its Powers and Functions and for Other Purposes) states under Section 39 thereof the following:

(a) Appeals, where allowable, shall be made by the party adversely affected by the decision within fifteen days from receipt of the decision unless a petition for reconsideration is seasonably filed, which petition shall be decided within fifteen days. x x x.

(b) x x x Provided, That only one petition for reconsideration shall be entertained.

Moreover, pertinent provisions of Memorandum Circular No. 19, series of 1999 provide:

Section 71. Complaint or Appeal to the Commission. Other personnel actions, such as, but not limited to separation from the service due to unsatisfactory conduct or want of capacity during probationary period, dropping from the rolls due to Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL), physically and mentally unfit, unsatisfactory or poor performance, action on appointments (disapproval, invalidation, recall and revocation), reassignment, transfer, detail, secondment, demotion or termination of services, maybe brought to the Commission, by way of an appeal.

Section 72. When and Where to File. A decision or ruling of a department or agency may be appealed within fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof by the party adversely affected to the Civil Service-Regional Office and finally, to the Commission Proper within the same period.

A motion for reconsideration may be filed with the same office which rendered the decision or ruling within fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof.

[40] Nerves v. Civil Service Commission, 342 Phil. 578, 584-585 (1997); Siguenza v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-44050, 16 July 1985, 137 SCRA 570.

[41] Loyao v. Manatad, 387 Phil. 337, 344 (2000).

[42] Bernardo v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 124261, 27 May 2004, 429 SCRA 285, 298-299.

[43] Talion v. Ayupan, 425 Phil. 41, 52 (2002).

[44] Id. at 53, citing Quezon v. Borromeo, G.R. No. L-70953, 9 April 1987, 149 SCRA 205, 214.

[45] Loyao v. Manatad, supra note 41.

[46] Caa v. Gebusion, 385 Phil. 773, 786 (2000); Masadao, Jr. v. Glorioso, 345 Phil. 861, 864 (1997).

[47] Bernardo v. Court of Appeals, supra note 42; CSC Resolution No. 991936 as per CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, series 1999 provides for the following administrative disabilities inherent in certain penalties:

a. The penalty of dismissal shall carry with it that of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and the perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service, unless otherwise provided in the decision.