Remedial Law

Department of Education vs Godofredo Cuanan

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574 SCRA 41 – Remedial Law – Due Process – Certiorari; when available – Service of Summons

In 1996, Godofredo Cuanan, while being a school principal in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija, was charged with sexual harassment. DECS Region III created an investigating committee and the latter found Cuanan guilty as charged. Consequently, the Regional Director caused the forced resignation of Cuanan.

In 2000, then DECS Secretary Andrew Gonzales affirmed the decision of the Regional Director and denied Cuanan’s Motion for Reconsideration. Cuanan appealed to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) which reversed Gonzales’ decision in January 2003. The CSC issued a copy of the resolution to Cuanan and DepEd, however, it seems that DepEd was not able to receive the copy as it requested a copy thereof again. The next month, Cuanan requested to be reinstated; the same was indorsed by the District Superintendent.

In March 2003, the new DepEd Secretary (Edilberto de Jesus) received a copy of the CSC resolution. In April 2003, de Jesus filed a motion for reconsideration but without furnishing a copy to Cuanan. In July 2003, de Jesus filed a supplemental motion for reconsideration; no copy was furnished to Cuanan again.

In October 2004, CSC reversed its decision and found Cuanan guilty of sexual harassment. Cuanan filed a certiorari petition before the Court of Appeals. He averred that the CSC decision in January 2003 had already become final and executory when de Jesus filed the MR. The CA reversed the decision of the CSC.

DepEd assailed the reversal as it averred that the proper remedy availed of by Cuanan should have been a petition for review.

ISSUE: Whether or not Cuanan’s petition for certiorari was proper.

HELD: Yes. The SC affirmed the ruling of the CA. It is true that under the rules, the remedy of an aggrieved party from a resolution issued by the CSC is to file a petition for review thereof under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court within fifteen days from notice of the resolution. Recourse to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 renders the petition dismissible for being the wrong remedy. Nonetheless, there are exceptions to this rule, to wit:

(a) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictates;

(b) when the broader interest of justice so requires;

(c) when the writs issued are null and void; or

(d) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority.

In the case at bar, (c) above is the applicable exception. Cuanan was not furnished any copy of the MR filed by DepEd. As such, he was deprived due process for he never got the chance to comment on the MR. Hence, the decision rendered by the CSC on the said MR was void.

Here, Cuanan was deprived of due process and there is extreme urgency for relief; where the proceedings in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due process; where the proceeding was ex parte or one in which the petitioner had no opportunity to object, then a certiorari petition is in order.

At any rate, Cuanan’s petition for certiorari before the CA could be treated as a petition for review, the petition having been filed on November 22, 2004, or thirteen (13) days from receipt on November 9, 2004 of CSC Resolution No. 041147, clearly within the 15-day reglementary period for the filing of a petition for review. Such move would be in accordance with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of Court and in the interest of substantial justice.

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