December 2004 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
[G.R. NO. 148208 : December 15, 2004]
CENTRAL BANK (now Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, INC., Petitioner, v. BANGKO SENTRAL NG PILIPINAS and the EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, Respondents.
Does Sec. 15(c), Article II, Republic Act No. 6753,1 which allows the exemption of BSP employees occupying salary grade (SG) 20 and above from the coverage of Rep. Act No. 67582 result in a denial of petitioners constitutional right to equal protection of the law?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
I submit that it does and said provision should therefore be declared unconstitutional on the ground that the division between BSP employees covered from SG 19 down and from SG 20 up is purely arbitrary. Even given the wide discretion vested in Congress to make classifications, it is nonetheless clear that the lawmaking body abused its discretion in making such classification.
It is not disputed that all that is required for a valid classification is that it must be reasonable, i.e., that it must be based on substantial distinctions which make for real differences; it must be germane to the purpose of the law; it must not be limited to existing conditions and it must apply equally to each member of the class.3 cralawred
In the instant case, the classification was justified on the need of the BSP to compete in the labor market for economists, accountants, lawyers, experts in security, printing, commercial and rural banking, financial intermediation fund management, and other highly technical and professional personnel,4 which it could not do unless personnel occupying top positions are exempted from the coverage of Rep. Act No. 6758, the Salary Standardization Law.
Under Rep. Act No. 6758, however, professional supervisory positions are covered by SG 9 to SG 33 which includes:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
(R) esponsible positions of a managerial character involving the exercise of management functions such as planning, organizing, directing, coordinating, controlling and overseeing within delegated authority the activities of an organization, a unit thereof or of a group, requiring some degree of professional, technical or scientific knowledge and experience, application of managerial or supervisory skills required to carry out their basic duties and responsibilities involving functional guidance and control, leadership, as well as line supervision. These positions require intense and thorough knowledge of a specialized field usually acquired from completion of a bachelors degree or higher degree courses.
The positions in this category are assigned Salary Grade 9 to Salary Grade 33.5 (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
SG 33 is assigned to the President of the Philippines; SG 32 is for the Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House and Chief Justice of this Court. SG 31 is for senators, associate justices of this Court, chairpersons of the constitutional commissions, department secretaries and other positions of equivalent rank while SG 30 is assigned to the constitutional commissioners and other positions of equivalent rank.6 cralawred
Economists, accountants, lawyers and other highly technical and professional personnel are covered under SG 9 to 29 as already adverted to.
Classification in law is the grouping of persons/objects because they agree with one another in certain particulars and differ from others in those same particulars. In the instant case, however, SG 20 and up do not differ from SG 19 and down in terms of technical and professional expertise needed as the entire range of positions all require intense and thorough knowledge of a specialized field usually acquired from completion of a bachelors degree or higher courses.
Consequently, if BSP needs an exemption from Rep. Act No. 6758 for key positions in order that it may hire the best and brightest economists, accountants, lawyers and other technical and professional people, the exemption must not begin only in SG 20.
Under the circumstances, the cut-off point, the great divide, between SG 19 and 20 is entirely arbitrary as it does not have a reasonable or rational foundation. This conclusion finds support in no less than the records of the congressional deliberations, the bicameral conference committee having pegged the cut-off period at SG 20 despite previous discussions in the Senate that the executive group is probably SG 23 and above.7 cralawred
Moreover, even assuming that the classification is reasonable, nonetheless, its continued operation will result in hostile discrimination against those occupying grades 19 and below.
As pointed out by Mr. Justice Puno, some other government corporations, by law, now exempt all their employees from the coverage of Rep. Act No. 6758. BSP employees occupying SG 19 and below, however, shall remain under Rep. Act No. 6758 considering the rule that the subject classification, to be valid, must not be limited only to conditions existing as of the time the law was passed. Thus, while BSP employees from SG 19 down will continue to be covered under Rep. Act No. 6758, other government employees of the same class and occupying the same positions in government corporations will be exempt.
I therefore concur with Justice Puno in that respect and, considering his thorough discussion, I have nothing more to add thereto.
1 New Central Bank Act.
2 Salary Standardization Law.
3 People v. Vera, 65 Phil. 56.
4 V Records of the House of Representatives, 9th Congress, 1st Session 783 (31 March 1993) at 166.
5 Section 5(a), Rep. Act No. 6758.
6 Sections 7 and 8, ibid.
7 IV Records of the Senate, 9th Congress, 1st Session 1086-87 (05 June 1993).