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Jurisdiction of administrative cases for our public-school teachers

today
by Toni Umali, Esq. - June 21, 2015
A PUBLIC-SCHOOL teacher asked me recently where should an administrative
case against a public-school teacher be filed?
I said, Based on law and jurisprudencethe Department of Education
[DepEd], the Civil Service Commission [CSC] and the Professional Regulation
Commission [PRC] have concurrent jurisdiction over administrative cases
involving public-school teachers. I then quickly added, However, there are
other cases that affirmed that the Office of the Ombudsman also has
concurrent jurisdiction over the same.
For our readers, especially our public-school teachers facing an
administrative case, I strongly suggest that you read the following decided
cases to fully understand this question of jurisdiction of administrative cases
for our public-school teachers: Rene Puse v. Ligaya Puse, G.R. No. 183678,
March 15, 2010; Office of the Ombudsman v. Estandarte and the Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 168670, April 13, 2007; Melecio Alcala vs. Jovencio Villar,
G.R. No. 156063, November 18, 2003; Martin Emin v. CSC Chairman Corazon
Alma G. de Leon, G.R. No. 139794, February 27, 2002; and Armand Fabella
vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 110379, November 28, 1997 (a must read for
all our teachers).
The landmark case of Fabella arose sometime on September 17, 1990, when
then-Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) Secretary Isidro
Cario issued a return-to-work order to all public-school teachers who had
participated in walkouts and strikes on various dates during the period
September 26, 1990, to October 18, 1990.
The mass action had been staged to demand payment of 13th-month
differentials, clothing allowances and passage of a debt-cap bill in Congress,
among other things. On October 18, 1990, Secretary Cario filed
administrative cases against several public-school teachers of the
Mandaluyong High School. The charge sheets required our public-school
teachers to explain in writing why they should not be punished for having
taken part in the mass action in violation of the following civil-service laws
and regulations: grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, gross violation of
Civil-Service Law and rules on reasonable office regulations, refusal to
perform official duty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service
and absence without leave (AWOL). At the same time, Secretary Cario
ordered all of them to be placed under preventive suspension.

In Fabella, however, the issue is not whether the public-school teachers


engaged in any prohibited activity, which may warrant the imposition of
disciplinary sanctions against them as a result of administrative
proceedings. This case revolves around the question of due process of law,
not on the right of government workers to strike. The issue is not whether
our public-school teachers may be punished for engaging in a prohibited
action, but whether, in the course of the investigation of the alleged
proscribed activity, their right to due process has been violated. In short,
before they can be investigated and meted out any penalty, due process
must first be observed.
After enumerating the requirements provided by law (particularly Republic
Act (RA) 4670, otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Public School
Teachersthe primary law that governs the conduct of investigation in
administrative cases filed against public-school teachers) and existing rules
issued by DECS at that time (now the DepEd), the Supreme Court (SC)
resolved to affirm the findings of the Court of Appeals (CA) and ordered the
unqualified reinstatement of our public-school teachers and the payment to
them of salaries, allowances, bonuses and other benefits that accrued to
their benefit during the entire duration of their suspension or dismissal.
Thus, the SC affirmed the CAs ruling that the public-school teachers
dismissal was effected without any formal investigation, or while there was a
semblance of investigation conducted by the DECS, its intention to dismiss
the public-school teachers was already manifest when it adopted a
procedure where it shifted the burden of proof to the public-school teachers,
instead of the DECS proving its case against the public-school teachers. The
SC then emphasized that it will never countenance a denial of the
fundamental right to due process, which is a cornerstone of our legal system.
In the landmark cases of Emin v. De Leon and Alcala v. Villar, the principle of
estoppel by laches was applied to bar a petitioner/public-school teacher from
impugning CSCs (in Emin) and Ombudsmans (in Alcala) jurisdiction over an
administrative case.
The opposite happened in Ombudsman v. Estandarte, where the publicschool teacher respondent consistently protested the referral of the case
back to the Ombudsman, and demanded that the same be remanded to the
DECS. She refused to participate in the proceedings before the Ombudsman
precisely because she believed that jurisdiction was already vested on the
DECS Region VI. Here in Ombudsman v. Estandarte, the SC ruled that
jurisdiction once acquired is not lost upon the instance of the parties but
continues until the case is terminated. When the complainants filed their
formal complaint with then-DECS (Region VI), jurisdiction was vested on the
latter. It cannot now be transferred to petitioner upon the instance of the
complainants, even with the acquiescence of the DECS and petitioner.

The authors answer as to the concurrent jurisdiction over administrative


cases against public-school teachers as above stated is clearly elucidated in
the SC decided case of Rene Puse v. Ligaya Puse (which I also discussed
generally in our last column).
In Puse v. Puse, it was ruled that an administrative case against a publicschool teacher may be filed before the Board of Professional Teachers (BPT)PRC, the DepEd or the CSC, which have concurrent jurisdiction over
administrative cases, such as for immoral, unprofessional or dishonorable
conduct. The SC then explained that concurrent jurisdiction is that which is
possessed over the same parties or subject matter at the same time by two
or more separate tribunals.
When the law bestows upon a government body the jurisdiction to hear and
decide cases involving specific matters, it is to be presumed that such
jurisdiction is exclusive, unless it be proved that another body, is likewise,
vested with the same jurisdiction, in which case, both bodies have
concurrent jurisdiction over the matter.
The authority to hear and decide administrative cases by the BPT-PRC, the
DepEd and the CSC comes from (RA) 7836, Rep. Act No. 4670 and
Presidential Decree (PD) 807, respectively. The SC mentioned Section 23 of
RA 7836 as the basis for this authority. Here, the Board is given the power,
after due notice and hearing, to suspend or revoke the certificate of
registration of a professional teacher for causes enumerated therein (and
one of the causes enumerated is immoral, unprofessional or dishonorable
conduct).
Thus, the SC said that, if a complaint is filed under RA 7836, the jurisdiction
to hear the same falls with the BPT-PRC.
However, Puse also stated that if the complaint against a public-school
teacher is filed with the DepEd, then, under Section 9 of RA 4670, the
jurisdiction over administrative cases of public-school teachers is lodged with
the investigating committee created pursuant to said section, now being
implemented by Section 2, Chapter VII of DECS Order 33, Series of 1999,
also known as the DECS Rules of Procedure. A complaint filed under RA 4670
shall be heard by the investigating committee which is under the DepEd, as
emphasized by the SC. (Please see also DepEd Order no. 49, series of 2006,
or the Revised Rules of Procedure of DepEd on Administrative Cases).
The Supreme Court then explained in Puse that as to the CSC, under PO 807,
also known as the Civil Service Decree of the Philippines, particularly
Sections 9(j) and 37(a) thereof, the CSC has the power to hear and decide
administrative disciplinary cases instituted directly with it or brought to it on
appeal.

As the central personnel agency of the government, the CSC has jurisdiction
to supervise and discipline all government employees, including those
employed in government-owned or -controlled corporations with original
charters. Consequently, if civil-service rules and regulations are violated,
complaints for said violations may be filed with the CSC.
However, where concurrent jurisdiction exists in several tribunals, the body
or agency that first takes cognizance of the complaint shall exercise
jurisdiction over the case and which had the authority to proceed and decide
the case, to the exclusion of the others. Thus, if an administrative case is
filed with the DepEd against a public-school teacher first (or initially with
another agency, like Ombudsman the CSC but was immediately referred to
the Deped without the former hearing the case and the latter actively
investigating the case in accordance with the DepEd rules on administrative
proceedings), then the DepEd acquired jurisdiction over the administrative
case and it has the sole authority to proceed and decide the case to the
exclusion of the Ombudsman and the CSC.

This column should not be taken as a legal advice applicable to any case, as
each case is unique and should be construed in light of the attending
circumstances surrounding such particular case.
Lawyer Toni Umali is the current assistant secretary for Legal and
Legislative Affairs of the Department of Education (DepEd). He is licensed to
practice law not only in the Philippines, but also in the state of California and
some federal courts in the US after passing the California State Bar
Examinations in 2004. He has served as a legal consultant to several
legislators and local chief executives. As education assistant secretary, he
was instrumental in the passage of the K to 12 law and the issuance of its
implementing rules and regulations. He is also the alternate spokesman of
the DepEd.