Under the Constitution, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) has jurisdiction over all positions in the government service, whether career or non-career. Does such jurisdiction include the president of state universities or schools with governing boards exclusively granted by their charters the corporate powers of administration? This is the issue raised in this case of Mr. Rojo (not his true name).
On August 1, 1991, President Cory appointed Mr. Rojo as president of Polytechnic College in the Visayas (CVPC). When R.A. 8292 or the “Higher Education Modernization Act” was enacted in June 1997 mandating the creation of a board of trustees (BOT) to act as the governing body in state colleges, Mr. Rojo was appointed as president of CVPC by its BOT for a term of four years beginning September 1998 to September 2002.
Prior to the expiration of his term, or on June 26, July 10 and August 15, 2002, three administrative complaints for dishonesty, grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, falsification of public document and nepotism were filed by faculty members against Mr. Rojo. Nevertheless the BOT still appointed him as president for another term ending September 2006.
Instead of filing his counter-affidavit, Mr. Rojo moved to dismiss the complaints against him on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. He argued that it is the BOT of CPVC which has the power to remove and discipline erring employees, faculty members, and administrative officials of the school as provided by law (Section 4 R.A. 8292).
But the regional office of the CSC denied his motion. Thus he was formally charged with three administrative cases. When he appealed the ruling of the regional office to the CSC itself, the latter upheld the regional office in a resolution dated March 30, 2004 and held that the CSC has concurrent jurisdiction with the CPVC BOT over officials and employees of the school.
In the meantime, on June 24, 2004, R.A. 9299 was passed converting CPVC into Negros Oriental State University (NORSU) and creating a board of regents (BOR) to succeed BOT as the governing body. The said law now provides that the administration of the university and the exercise of the corporate powers of the board of the school shall be exclusive. Relying on the new law, Mr. Rojo asked the CSC for a reconsideration of its resolution. But on July 6, 2004, the CSC still denied his motion.
Thus Mr. Rojo went to the Court of Appeals (CA) on a petition for certiorari and prohibition questioning the CSC resolution. On June 27, 2005, the CA annulled the questioned resolutions of the CSC. The CA ruled that the power of the school board to appoint includes the power to remove or to discipline. This power is granted both by RA 8292 and RA 9299. Indeed under RA 9299, the power is even exclusive. Was the CA correct?
No. The Constitution grants to the CSC administration over the entire civil service. As defined, the civil service embraces every branch, agency, subdivision, and instrumentality of the government, including every government-owned or controlled corporation. It is further classified into career and non-career service positions.
Career service positions are those where: (1) entrance is based on merit and fitness or highly technical qualifications; (2) there is opportunity for advancement to higher career positions; and (3) there is security of tenure. On the other hand, non-career service positions are characterized by: (1) entrance not by usual tests of merit and fitness; and (2) a tenure which is limited to a period specified by law, co-terminous with the appointing power or subject to his pleasure, or the duration of a particular project.
Mr. Rojo, a state university president with a fixed term of office appointed by the governing board of trustees, is a non-career civil service officer and therefore under the jurisdiction of the CSC.
Notably, RA 9299 provides that the administration of the university and exercise of corporate powers is exclusive. But this exclusive administrative power does not extend to the power to remove erring employees and officials. When the law bestows upon a government body the jurisdiction to hear and decides cases involving specific matters, it is to be presumed that such jurisdiction is exclusive unless it is proved that another body is likewise vested with the same jurisdiction, in which case, both bodies have concurrent jurisdiction. In this case, the CSC also has jurisdiction to discipline all members of the civil service, career or non-career. Hence the CSC has concurrent jurisdiction with the BOR of the university in the discipline and removal of its officials (Civil Service Commission vs. Sojor, G.R. 168766, May 22, 2008).–Jose C. Sison, Philippine Star
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