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ENCINAS, Petitioner vs AGUSTIN
G.R. NO. 187317: April 11, 2013
Respondents were then both holding positions as Fire Officer I in Nueva Ecija. They claim that on 11 March 2000, at around 9:00 p.m., petitioner who was then Provincial Fire Marshall of Nueva Ecija informed them that unless they gave him five thousand pesos (P5,000), they would be relieved from their station at Cabanatuan City and transferred to far-flung areas. Respondent Alfredo P. Agustin (Agustin) would supposedly be transferred to the Cuyapo Fire Station (Cuyapo), and respondent Joel S. Caubang (Caubang) to Talugtug Fire Station (Talugtug). Fearing the reassignment, they decided to pay petitioner. On 15 March 2000, in the house of a certain "Myrna," respondents came up short and managed to give only two thousand pesos (P2,000), prompting petitioner to direct them to come up with the balance within a week. When they failed to deliver the balance, petitioner issued instructions effectively reassigning respondents Agustin and Caubang to Cuyapo and Talugtug, respectively.
As a result, the respondents decided to file a complaint for illegal transfer before the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and at the same time filed another complaint before the Civil Service Commission Regional Office (CSCRO) in Pampanga and the Civil Service Commission in Cabanatuan. The petitioner Encinas was the Provincial Fire Marshall of Nueva Ecija. He was charged administratively with grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in violation of the Administrative Code of 1987. He was dismissed from the service.
Based on the filed complaints, the petitioner alleges that the respondents are guilty of forum shopping by filing the two identical complaints. The petitioner claims that the charges of dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to public interest that were filed before the Civil Service Commission and the BFP are in violation of the rules against forum shopping.
The petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari under rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of the Civil Service Commission to dismiss the petitioner from the service.
Whether or not substantial evidence does not exist to hold petitioner administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
No. The CA was correct in ruling that there was substantial evidence to hold petitioner administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
On the substantive issue, petitioner claims that the findings are based on a misapprehension of facts.
The Court did not agree. Petitioner administratively liable for his act of demanding P5,000 from respondents in exchange for their non-reassignment.
Respondents, through their testimonies, were able to establish that petitioner told them that unless they paid him P5,000, they would be re-assigned to far-flung areas. The consistency of their testimonies was further bolstered by the fact that they had been cross-examined by petitioner's counsel. Petitioner was unable to rebut their claims other than by mere denials. Even the admission of Supt. Tutaan that he gave the instructions to reassign respondents cannot disprove the latter's claims. As regards the testimonies of the witnesses of petitioner, we hold that even these testimonies are irrelevant in disproving the alleged extortion he committed, as these were mainly related to respondents supposed illegal activities, which are not the issue in this case.
Even assuming that an Affidavit of Desistance was indeed executed by respondents, petitioner is still not exonerated from liability. The subsequent reconciliation of the parties to an administrative proceeding does not strip the court of its jurisdiction to hear the administrative case until its resolution. Atonement, in administrative cases, merely obliterates the personal injury of the parties and does not extend to erase the offense that may have been committed against the public service. The subsequent desistance by respondents does not free petitioner from liability, as the purpose of an administrative proceeding is to protect the public service based on the time-honored principle that a public office is a public trust. A complaint for malfeasance or misfeasance against a public servant of whatever rank cannot be withdrawn at any time for whatever reason by a complainant, as a withdrawal would be "anathema to the preservation of the faith and confidence of the citizenry in their government, its agencies and instrumentalities." Administrative proceedings "should not be made to depend on the whims and caprices of complainants who are, in a real sense, only witnesses therein."
In view of the foregoing, we rule that petitioner's act of demanding money from respondents in exchange for their non-reassignment constitutes grave misconduct. We have defined grave misconduct as follows:
Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer; and the misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, such as willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules, which must be established by substantial evidence. (Emphasis supplied)
Considering that petitioner was found guilty of two (2) offenses, then the penalty of dismissal from the service-the penalty corresponding to the most serious offense-was properly imposed.