Political Law

Rizal Echeche vs Court of Appeals

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G.R. No. 89865 – 198 SCRA 577 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Executive Department – Powers of the President; Control Power – Acts of the Executive Secretary

Atty. Rizal Echeche was employed as Legal Officer II of the Bureau of Mines. In 1975, Letter of Instruction No. 309 was issued by the president to purge undesirable public officers. Echeche was among the persons listed therein and he was subsequently removed. He appealed for reinstatement for he claimed that he is in good standing; that there were no complaints against him in any court or tribunal.

After 3 years he was favorably reinstated by the Assistant Secretary of Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Natural Resources; it was also ruled that he is entitled to backwages. He later requested for back pays before the Department of Budget and Management. The secretary of DBM referred the issue to the Office of the President. Executive Secretary Catalino Macaraig, Jr. denied the request for as per another LOI (LOI 647), Echeche is only entitled for reemployment and not reinstatement. He appealed but the Court of Appeals affirmed the Executive Secretary.

Echeche assailed the decision of the CA. He argues that the Court of Appeals ruled on an order which has already become final and executory. He reasoned that the order of the Ministry of Natural Resources, reinstating him and ordering the payment of his backwages, has attained finality. The Secretary of Budget and Management failed to file any motion for reconsideration from the approval of payment.

ISSUE: Whether or not the decision of the Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources may be validly reversed by the Executive Secretary.

HELD: Yes. The acts of Ministers (now Cabinet Secretaries) are reviewable by the President in the exercise of his power of control.

The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus and offices. He shall ensure that the laws be faithfully executed. (1987 Constitution, Art. VII, Sec. 17)

Control means “the power of an officer to alter or modify or nullify, or set aside what a subordinate officer had done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for that of the latter.” The President can, by virtue of his power of control, 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 proprio without need of any appeal from any party.

However, the President is not expected to perform in person all the multifarious executive and administrative functions. The Office of the Executive Secretary is an auxiliary unit which assists the President. Under our constitutional set-up, the Executive Secretary acts for and in behalf of the President: and by authority of the President, he has undisputed jurisdiction to affirm, modify, or even reverse any order of the Secretary of Natural Resources and other Cabinet Secretaries. Where the Executive Secretary acts “by authority of the President” his decision is that of the President.

In the case at bar, Echeche was denied by the Executive Secretary for payment of back salaries, allowances and bonuses. The decision of the Office of the Executive Secretary must be given full faith and credit by the Supreme Court as an act of the Chief Executive. It does not matter, though, that considering the extensive range of authority of the Executive Secretary, the decisions of such office which are attributable to the Executive Secretary have been performed by the Assistant or Deputy Executive Secretaries. So even if it is a deputy who performed such action – it is still valid.

Anent the issue that the decision of the Ministry of National Resources became final and executory (hence already immutable), Echeche was never able to prove such claim (but regardless, pursuant to the President’s power of control, the president can still review such decision by a subordinate).

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