Sunday, March 04, 2012

Laganapan vs. Asedillo [G.R. No. L-28353 September 30, 1987]

Facts: Petitioner Solano Laganapan was appointed chief of police of the municipality of Kalayaan, Laguna on 4 January 1960, with a compensation of P660.00 per annum, by the respondent Mayor Asedillo. On 1 July 1960, his salary was increased to P720.00 per annum, and he was extended an appointment which was approved as provisional under Sec. 24(c) of Republic Act No. 2260 by the Commissioner of Civil Service. On 1 April 1962, he was given another increase in salary and a corresponding appointment was made which the Commissioner of Civil Service "approved under Sec. 24(c) of Republic Act No. 2260, to continue until replaced by an eligible but not beyond thirty (30) days from receipt of certification of eligibles by the Provincial Treasurer of Laguna." On 1 July 1963, 1 July 1964, and 1 July 1965, he was again given salary increases, and new appointments were extended to him, which appointments were also approved under Section 24(c) of Republic Act No. 2260 by the Commissioner of Civil Service. 

On 16 February 1967, the petitioner was summarily dismissed from his position by respondent Mayor Elpidio Asedillo, on the ground that his appointment was provisional and that he has no civil service eligibility. Respondent Epifanio Ragotero was appointed acting chief of police of Kalayaan, Laguna on the same day, in place of the petitioner. On 21 February 1967, the Municipal Council of Kalayaan, Laguna abolished the appropriation for the salary of the chief of police of Kalayaan, Laguna. In view thereof, the petitioner complained to the Police Commission which advised him to file an injunction suit against Mayor Asedillo. 

Hence, on 16 March 1967, the petitioner filed a petition for mandamus, quo warranto with preliminary mandatory injunction against the respondents before the Court of First Instance of Laguna, seeking his reinstatement to the position of chief of police of Kalayaan, Laguna, with back salaries and damages. During the pendency of the case, the respondent mayor died. 

(1) Whether or not the venue has been set for the action filed by the petitioner having not resorted to the exhaustion of administrative remedies. 

(2) Whether or not the LGU is liable after the death of the mayor 

(1) YES. While there are precedents which hold that before a litigant can bring a matter to court, it is necessary that he first exhaust all the remedies in the administrative branch of the government, the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is not a hard and fast rule. It has been repeatedly held that the principle requiring previous exhaustion of administrative remedies is not applicable where the question in dispute is purely a legal one; where the controverted act is patently illegal or was performed without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction; where the respondent is a department secretary, whose acts as an alter ego of the President, bear the implied or assumed approval of the latter; where there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention; or where the respondent has acted in utter disregard of due process. The rule does not also apply where insistence on its observance would result in nullification of the claim being asserted; and when the rule does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy. 

In the instant case, there is no doubt that, in terminating the services of the appellee, the appellant Mayor Elpidio Asedillo acted summarily without any semblance of compliance or even an attempt to comply with the elementary rules of due process. No charges were filed; nor was a hearing conducted in order to give the appellee an opportunity to defend himself, despite the provisions of Sec. 14 of Republic Act No. 4864, otherwise known as the Police Act of 1966, which took effect on 8 September 1966, that "Members of the local police agency shall not be suspended or removed except upon written complaint filed under oath with the Board of Investigators herein provided for misconduct or incompetence, dishonesty, disloyalty to the Government, serious irregularities in the performance of their duties, and violation of law." 

Following the rule, there was no need for exhaustion of administrative remedies before appellee could come to court for the protection of his rights. 

Besides, it appears that the order was immediately executed and the appellee was immediately removed from office and replaced by the appellant Epifanio Ragotero on the same day, so that appeal to the Commissioner of Civil Service, even if available to the appellee, was not an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. 

Furthermore, appeal to the Commissioner of Civil Service is not a pre-requisite to, nor a bar to the institution of quo warranto proceedings, so that, as pointed out by the trial court, to require the appellee to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing this action, could easily result in a grave injustice of barring him forever from bringing the matter to the courts of justice for judicial determination. 

(2) YES. There is no merit in the contention of the respondent Municipality of Kalayaan, Laguna that Mayor Elpidio Asedillo alone should be held liable for the back salaries of the petitioner, because the records show that the action was instituted against Mayor Asedillo, not personally, but in his capacity as Municipal Mayor of Kalayaan, Laguna, and he appeared and defended the action in such capacity. 

Furthermore, it is of record that, after the summary dismissal of the petitioner by respondent Mayor Asedillo on 16 February 1967, the Municipal Council of Kalayaan instead of opposing or at least protesting the petitioner's summary dismissal from his position, even abolished the appropriation for the salary of the Chief of Police of Kalayaan, Laguna, We consider this act of the Municipal Council of Kalayaan as an approval or confirmation of the act of respondent Mayor in summarily dismissing the petitioner, as to make said municipality equally liable, as held by the trial court, as respondent Mayor for the reinstatement of petitioner and for the payment of his back salaries. 

Respondent Mayor Asedillo who was sued in his official capacity as municipal mayor, having passed away, the liability to pay petitioner his back salaries must now devolve upon the respondent municipality alone.

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