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Dario vs. Mison
G.R No. 81954
In 1986, Cory Aquino promulgated Proclamation No. 3, which is the mandate of the people to Completely reorganize the government. Two years later, President Aquino promulgated EO 127, which provides for the reorganization of the Ministry of Finance and along with it the reorganization of the Bureau of Customs and prescribes a new staffing pattern for the abovementioned office. Following the adoption of the new Constitution, On January 1988 the incumbent Commissioner of Customs Salvador Mison issued a memorandum “Guidelines on the Implementation of Reorganization Executive Orders which prescribes the procedure in personnel placement. Such memorandum provides that by February of 1988, all of the employees covered by EO 127 shall be informed of their re-appointment and also offered another position in the same department or agency and to be informed of their termination.
Mison addressed several notices to various Customs officials stating that they shall continue to perform their respective duties and responsibilities in a hold-over capacity, and that those incumbents whose positions are not carried in the new reorganization pattern, or who are not re-appointed, shall be deemed separated from the service.
A total of 394 officials and employees of the Bureau of Customs were given individual notices of separation. They filed appeals with the CSC. On June 1988, the CSC promulgated its ruling ordering the reinstatement of the 279 employees, the 279 private respondents in G.R. No. 85310. Commissioner Mison, represented by the Solicitor General, filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied. Commissioner Mison instituted certiorari proceedings. On June 10, 1988, Republic Act No. 6656, was signed into law and according to the provisions of the aforementioned Act, the process in which terminated employees in violation of RA 6656 shall be reinstated or reappointed. On June 23, 1988, Benedicto Amasa and William Dionisio, customs examiners appointed by Commissioner Mison pursuant to the ostensible reorganization subject of this controversy, petitioned the Court to contest the validity of the statute.
On October 21, 1988, thirty-five more Customs officials whom the Civil Service Commission had ordered reinstated by its June 30, 1988 Resolution filed their own petition to compel the Commissioner of Customs to comply with the said Resolution. Cesar Dario was one of the Deputy Commissioners of the Bureau of Customs until his relief on orders of Commissioner Mison on January 26, 1988. In essence, he questions the legality of his dismissal, which he alleges was upon the authority of Section 59 of E.O. No. 127 He contends that neither the E.O. nor the staffing pattern proposed by the Secretary of Finance abolished the office of Deputy Commissioner of Customs, but, rather, increased it to three. Nor can it be said, so he further maintains, that he had not been "reappointed" because "reappointment therein presupposes that the position to which it refers is a new one in lieu of that which has been abolished or although an existing one, has absorbed that which has been abolished." Lastly, he claims, that under the Provisional Constitution, the power to dismiss public officials without cause ended on February 25, 1987, and that thereafter, public officials enjoyed security of tenure under the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Vicente Feria asserts his security of tenure and that he cannot be said to be covered by Section 59 of E.O. No. 127, having been appointed on April 22, 1986 - during the effectivity of the Provisional Constitution. He adds that under E.O. No. 39, the Commissioner of Customs has the power "to appoint all Bureau personnel, except those appointed by the President," and that his position, which is that of a Presidential appointee, is beyond the control of Commissioner Mison for purposes of reorganization. Provisions of Section 16, Article XVIII explicitly authorize the removal of career civil service employees "not for cause but as a result of the reorganization pursuant to Proclamation No. 3 dated March 25, 1986 and the reorganization following the ratification of this Constitution. For this reason, Mison posits, claims of violation of security of tenure are allegedly no defense. That contrary to the employees' argument, Section 59 of E.O.no. 127 is applicable, in the sense that retention in the Bureau, under the E.O., depends on either retention of the position in the new staffing pattern or reappointment of the incumbent, and since the dismissed employees had not been reappointed, they had been considered legally separated. Moreover, Mison proffers that under Section 59 incumbents are considered on holdover status, "which means that all those positions were considered vacant."
Whether or not Section 16 of Article XVIII of the 1987 Constitution is a grant of a license upon the Government to remove career public officials it could have validly done under an "automatic"- vacancy-authority and to remove them without rhyme or reason.
No. The Court held that the State can still carry out reorganizations provided that it is done in good faith. Removal of career officials without cause cannot be done after the passing of the 1987 Constitution. The above is a mere recognition of the right of the Government to reorganize its offices, bureaus, and instrumentalities. Under Section 4, Article XVI, of the 1935 Constitution. Transition periods are characterized by provisions for "automatic" vacancies. They are dictated by the need to hasten the passage from the old to the new Constitution free from the "fetters" of due process and security of tenure. Since 1935, transition periods have been characterized by provisions for "automatic" vacancies. We take the silence of the 1987 Constitution on this matter as a restraint upon the Government to dismiss public servants at a moment's notice. If the present Charter envisioned an "automatic" vacancy, it should have said so in clearer terms. Plainly the concern of Section 16 is to ensure compensation for "victims" of constitutional revamps - whether under the Freedom or existing Constitution - and only secondarily and impliedly, to allow reorganization. In order to be entitled to the benefits granted under Section 16 of Article XVIII of the Constitution of 1987, two requisites, one negative and the other positive, must concur, to wit: 1. The separation must not be for cause, and 2. The separation must be due to any of the three situations mentioned. By its terms, the authority to remove public officials under the Provisional Constitution ended on February 25, 1987, advanced by jurisprudence to February 2, 1987. It can only mean, then, that whatever reorganization is taking place is upon the authority of the present Charter, and necessarily, upon the mantle of its provisions and safeguards. Hence, it cannot be legitimately stated that we are merely continuing what the revolutionary Constitution of the Revolutionary Government had started. We are through with reorganization under the Freedom Constitution - the first stage. We are on the second stage - that inferred from the provisions of Section 16 of Article XVIII of the permanent basic document.
After February 2, 1987, incumbent officials and employees have acquired security of tenure. The present organic act requires that removals "not for cause" must be as a result of reorganization. As we observed, the Constitution does not provide for "automatic" vacancies. It must also pass the test of good faith. As a general rule, a reorganization is carried out in "good faith" if it is for the purpose of economy or to make bureaucracy more efficient. In that event, no dismissal (in case of a dismissal) or separation actually occurs because the position itself ceases to exist. And in that case, security of tenure would not be a Chinese wall. Be that as it may, if the "abolition," which is nothing else but a separation or removal, is done for political reasons or purposely to defeat security of tenure, or otherwise not in good faith, no valid "abolition" takes place and whatever "abolition" is done, is void ab initio. There is an invalid "abolition" as where there is merely change of nomenclature of positions, or where claims of economy are belied by the existence of ample funds. The Court finds that Commissioner Mison did not act in good faith since after February 2, 1987 no perceptible restructuring of the Customs hierarchy - except for the change of personnel - has occurred, which would have justified (all things being equal) the contested dismissals. There is also no showing that legitimate structural changes have been made - or a reorganization actually undertaken, for that matter - at the Bureau since Commissioner Mison assumed office, which would have validly prompted him to hire and fire employees. With respect to E.O. No. 127, Commissioner Mison submits that under Section 59 thereof, "Those incumbents whose positions are not included therein or who are not reappointed shall be deemed separated from the service." He submits that because the 394 removed personnel have not been "reappointed," they are considered terminated. To begin with, the Commissioner's appointing power is subject to the provisions of Executive Order No. 39. Under E.O. No. 39, the Commissioner of Customs may "appoint all Bureau personnels except those appointed by the President." Thus, with respect to Deputy Commissioners Cesar Dario and Vicente Feria, Jr., Commissioner Mison could not have validly terminated them, they being Presidential appointees. That Customs employees, under Section 59 of E.O. No. 127 had been on a mere holdover status cannot mean that the positions held by them had become vacant. The occupancy of a position in a holdover capacity was conceived to facilitate reorganization and would have lapsed on 25 February 1987 (under the Provisional Constitution), but advanced to February 2, 1987 when the 1987 Constitution became effective. After the said date the provisions of the latter on security of tenure govern. Hence the petition of the employees was granted while the petition of Mison was dismissed.
The court ordered the reinstatement of the Employees of the Bureau of Customs.