Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Rimando A. Gannapao v. Civil Service Commission, et al., G.R. No. 180141. May 31, 2011.

Administrative proceedings; due process. The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or, as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one’s side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. In the application of the principle of due process, what is sought to be safeguarded is not lack of previous notice but the denial of the opportunity to be heard. As long as a party was given the opportunity to defend his interests in due course, he was not denied due process. Petitioner here was adequately apprised of the charges filed against him and he submitted his answer to the complaint while the case was still under a pre-charge investigation. When the Office of the Legal Service conducted a summary hearing on the complaint, petitioner was again duly notified of the proceedings and was given an opportunity to explain his side. He was not denied due process. 

Administrative proceedings; length of service as an alternative circumstance. Length of service as a factor in determining the imposable penalty in administrative cases is not always a mitigating circumstance. It is an alternative circumstance, which can mitigate or possibly even aggravate the penalty, depending on the circumstances of the case. Where the government employee concerned took advantage of his long years of service and position in public office, length of service may not be considered in lowering the penalty. The Court will take this circumstance against the public officer or employee in administrative cases involving serious offenses, even if it was the first time said public officer or employee was administratively charged. 

Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service; requirements; examples. The acts of respondent constitute the administrative offense of Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, which need not be related to, or connected with, the public officer’s official functions. As long as the questioned conduct tarnishes the image and integrity of his public office, the corresponding penalty may be meted on the erring public officer or employee. Under the Civil Service law and rules, there is no concrete description of what specific acts constitute the grave offense of Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. However, the Court has considered the following acts or omissions, inter alia, as Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service: misappropriation of public funds; abandonment of office; failure to report back to work without prior notice; failure to safe keep public records and property; making false entries in public documents; falsification of court orders; a judge’s act of brandishing a gun and threatening the complainants during a traffic altercation; and a court interpreter’s participation in the execution of a document conveying complainant’s property which resulted in a quarrel in the latter’s family. 

Procedural due process; right to cross-examine. While the right to cross-examine is a vital element of procedural due process, the right does not require an actual cross examination but merely an opportunity to exercise this right if desired by the party entitled to it. In this case, while National Police Commission Memorandum Circular No. 96-010 provides that the sworn statements of witnesses shall take the place of oral testimony but shall be subject to cross-examination, petitioner missed this opportunity precisely because he did not appear at the deadline for the filing of his supplemental answer or counter-affidavit, and accordingly the hearing officer considered the case submitted for decision. And even with the grant of his subsequent motion to be furnished with a copy of the complaint and its annexes, he still failed to file a supplemental answer or counter-affidavit and instead filed a motion to dismiss. Rimando A. Gannapao v. Civil Service Commission, et al., G.R. No. 180141. May 31, 2011.

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