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G.R. No. L-34433 – 58 SCRA 272 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Executive Department – Powers of the President; Appointment Power; Power of Control – Appellate Jurisdiction of the President – Rule on “Next-in-Rank” – President may review/reverse CSC decisions on appointments
Vicenta Oliveros-Torre and Virginia Barros were both fighting over the position as the Chief Drug Inspector (CDI) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both are more than qualified.
Rosario Capistrano was the incumbent CDI. Barros was the next in rank as she was the Supervising Drug Inspector and even at that point she is also contesting the position with Capistrano. Capistrano went on leave and Torre was appointed as the acting CDI.
When Capistrano’s leave expired the Secretary of Health extended Torre’s appointment until Capistrano’s return. The said office was given due course by the Office of the President. Barros then filed a protest before the Civil Service Commission (CSC) claiming that she has the right to the office because she was next in rank. CSC initially declared Barros to be the rightful person to the contested position. Torre then relinquished her office to Barros but Torre appealed to the CSC and the CSC reversed its earlier decision. Barros appealed to the CSC and was denied hence she went to the Executive Secretary (Office of the President). Through Assistant Executive Secretary Flores Bayot, the Executive Secretary granted the appeal by Barros and the CSC decision was reversed. Torre appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that the Office of the President cannot review and reverse the decision of the CSC regarding appointments; she argued that under the Civil Service Act the decision of the CSC Commissioner shall be final and executory.
ISSUE: Whether or not the Office of the President has appellate jurisdiction to review and reverse decisions promulgated by the CSC when it comes to appointments.
HELD: Yes, the President can. Under Sec 79(c) of the Revised Administrative Code and Sec. 37 of Act No. 4007, the President as department head can review, modify or revoke decisions or actions of the chiefs of bureaus, offices, divisions or service under his department as well as exercise the power expressly vested by law in such chief or head of the bureau, office, division or service. The appellate jurisdiction of the President on disputed appointments is also expressly affirmed by Sec. 693 of the Revised Administrative Code which provides that
A disbursing officer, the head of any department, bureau, or office, or the Auditor General, may apply for, and the Commissioner of CSC shall render, a decision upon any question as to whether a position is in the unclassified or in the unclassified civil service, or whether the appointment of any person to a classified position has been made in accordance with law, which decision, when rendered, shall be final unless reversed by the President of the Philippines on appeal.
But even without such express statutory conferment of appellate jurisdiction on the President, he can at any time by virtue of his power of control over executive departments, bureaus and offices, expressly vested in him by the 1935 Constitution, review, modify, alter or nullify any action, or decision of his subordinate in the executive departments, bureaus, or offices under him. He can exercise this power motu propio without need of any appeal from any party.
Torre argued that the power of control granted by the Constitution to the President over executive departments, bureaus, offices and services, should be limited to a review of administrative acts, not to decisions of the Commissioner of Civil Service on contested appointments; this untenable for the law makes no distinction as to what administrative acts and the acts of the CSC – where there is no distinction made by law, the Court must not distinguish.