Political Law

Antonio Villegas vs Abelardo Subido (1981)

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G.R. No. L-27714 – 109 SCRA 1 – Political Law – Basic Principles – Equal Protection Clause – Discrimination Against Women; Appointing Women as Street Sweepers is not Discriminatory

Then Metro Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas approved the appointment of 91 women street sweepers in the City of Manila.  But the appointments would still have to be approved by the Office of Civil Service Commission under Commissioner Abelardo Subido. Subido refused to extend approval to the appointments on the ground that appointing women to manual labor is against Memorandum Circular No. 18 series of 1964. Subido pointed out that putting women workers with men workers outside under the heat of the sun and placing them under manual labor exposes them to contempt and ridicule and constitutes a violation of the traditional dignity and respect accorded to Filipino womanhood. Villegas however pointed out that the said Memo has already been set aside by the Office of the President hence the same is no longer in effect.

ISSUE: Whether or not the appointment of said women workers should be confirmed by the Civil Service Commissioner.

HELD: Yes, the appointments must be confirmed. The basis of Subido was not on any law or rule but simply on his own concept of what policy to pursue, in this instance in accordance with his own personal predilection. Here he appeared to be unalterably convinced that to allow women laborers to work outside their offices as street sweepers would run counter to Filipino tradition. A public official must be able to point to a particular provision of law or rule justifying the exercise of a challenged authority.

There is simply no basis for Subido not to confirm the appointments of the women street sweepers just because he thinks they will be ridiculed. On the contrary, his personal predilection discriminates against women. Moreover, the trend towards greater and greater recognition of equal rights for both sexes under the shelter of the equal protection clause argues most strongly against this kind of discrimination.

Nothing is better settled in the law than that a public official exercises power, not rights. The government itself is merely an agency through which the will of the state is expressed and enforced. Its officers therefore are likewise agents entrusted with the responsibility of discharging its functions. As such there is no presumption that they are empowered to act. There must be a delegation of such authority, either express or implied. In the absence of a valid grant, they are devoid of power. It must be conceded that departmental zeal may not be permitted to outrun the authority conferred by statute. Neither the high dignity of the office nor the righteousness of the motive then is an acceptable substitute. Otherwise the rule of law becomes a myth. Such an eventuality, we must take all pains to avoid.

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