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EN BANC

G.R. No. L-23797            October 30, 1967

JUAN E. SEVILLA, Petitioner, vs. LEONCIO PARINA, ADAN ROSETE, HONORABLE ABELARDO SUBIDO (Acting Commissioner of Civil Service), HONORABLE JOSE B. LINGAD (Acting Commissioner of Customs) and HONORABLE RUFINO HECHANOVA (Acting Secretary of Finance), Respondents.

Legaspi Law Office for petitioner.
Office of the Solicitor General for respondents.

CONCEPCION, C.J.:chanrobles virtual law library

The Government seeks a review of the decision of the Court of the First Instance of Manila, the dispositive part of which reads:

Wherefore, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the petitioner and against the respondents, declaring that respondent Leoncio Parina is not entitled to the position of Customs Examiner I-R-23 in the Appraiser's Division of the Bureau of Customs and that petitioner Juan E. Sevilla is the person legally entitled to hold and exercise the same, and ordering the Personnel Officer of the Bureau of Customs, Acting Commissioner of Civil Service, Acting Commissioner of Customs and Acting Secretary of Finance to restore said petitioner immediately to that position with a salary corresponding to the position next lower in rank. Without special pronouncement as to costs.

Petitioner Juan E. Sevilla was, on February 15, 1954, appointed clerk in the Bureau of Customs. On January 1, 1956, he received a permanent appointment as Customs Liquidator. Promoted, on November 1, 1956, to the position of Customs Examiner I, Item No. 123-16, page 246, of Republic Act No. 1600, he was subsequently extended promotional appointments in salary, the last of which was for P2,808.00 per annum. Sometime in 1960, an administrative charge, Case No. R-21540, was filed against him, for alleged grave misconduct, upon the ground that a carton and a pack of untaxed Chesterfield cigarettes, three (3) packs of untaxed Camel cigarettes and two (2) cakes of face soap were found in his possession, as he sought to take them with him from the Manila Air Station, after examining the baggages of passengers who had arrived from Guam on board the transport "SS DAVID SHUNK." After appropriate proceedings, the Civil Service Commission rendered a decision, dated November 9, 1960, finding him guilty as charged and suspending him for six (6) months, without pay, and reprimanding him, as well as giving him a warning. This decision was, on appeal to the Civil Service Board of Appeals, affirmed by the latter, except as to the penalty, with respect to which the Board had decreed: "his salary is hereby reduced to that corresponding to the position next lower in rank, in lieu of the six (6) months suspension imposed by the Commissioner of Civil Service," apart from the aforementioned reprimand and warning. A reconsideration sought by Sevilla was denied by said Board, on September 26, 1962.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Subsequently, or on December 2, 1963, the then Secretary of Finance, upon the recommendation of the Acting Commissioner of Customs, and with the approval of the then Acting Deputy Commissioner of Civil Service, appointed Sevilla as Clerk II, R-25, at P2,196.00 per annum - which, admittedly, is the salary corresponding to the position next lower in rank to that held by him - effective upon assumption of duty, and promoted Leoncio Parina - who had, theretofore, held said position of Clerk II at P2,196.00 per annum - to Sevilla's position as Customs Examiner I, R-32, with a salary of P2,808.00 per annum. Thereupon, Sevilla instituted, in the Court of First Instance of Manila, the present quo warranto proceedings against Parina, The Acting Secretary of Finance, the Acting Commissioner of Customs, the Personnel Officer of the Bureau of Customs and the Acting Commissioner of Civil Service, to oust Parina from said office of Sevilla and secure the latter's reinstatement thereto. In due course, said court rendered the aforementioned decision, from which the Government has appealed directly to the Supreme Court, on questions purely of law.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

The issue in this appeal, as in the lower court, boils down to whether or not the decision of the Civil Service Board of Appeals, sentencing Sevilla to a reduction of his salary "to that corresponding to the position next lower in rank," mean to divest him of his position as Customs Examiner I - with an item and an annual compensation of P2,808.00 - and to require that he be given another position, with the reduced salary aforementioned, or merely reduced his salary to that corresponding to the position next lower in rank, without a change of item and/or position.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

The Government maintains that the first alternative was intended by the Civil Service Board of Appeals, although the latter did not say so specifically, because "it would be absurd to consider that a single position can be lower in rank to itself," and because Sevilla's salary can not be reduced "without the accompanying appointment to the position to which the reduced salary corresponds."chanrobles virtual law library

We are unable to share this view. To begin with, the decision of the board did not direct that Sevilla be given a " position" other than that he was holding. It merely ordained that his "salary" - not position - be "reduced to that" - meaning salary - "corresponding to the position next lower in rank." Indeed, a person may hold an office or position at a salary lower than the amount of the budgetary item therefor, which is but the maximum he can be given, under said item. Secondly, despite Sevilla's appointment - immediately preceding the contested one - for an item and position carrying a compensation of P2,808.00 per annum, it is not contested that the Board could have rendered a valid decision either suspending his right to discharge the duties of said position and to collect the emoluments attached thereto, or divesting him completely of said position and of the aforesaid emoluments, by decreeing his removal from office or dismissal from the service, without any further action on the part of the appointing authority. Obviously, the Board has the lesser power to reduce said emoluments, without such action on the part of the appointment authority, or without requiring another appointment.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Otherwise, the effectivity of the decision of the Board, even if valid and final as well as executory, would be dependent upon the willingness of the appointing authority to implement it. Upon the other hand, the power of appointment necessarily entails the exercise of judgment and discretion. Hence, the officer clothed with such power cannot he compelled to exercise it in favor of a given person.1 As a consequence, the theory of the Government in this case tends, either to impair the efficacy of decisions of the Civil Service Board of Appeals, or to undermine the basic assumptions of the power of appointment. We do not believe that either alternative is consistent with the letter and spirit of our laws.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby affirmed, without special pronouncement as to costs. It is so ordered.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library

Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Sanchez, Castro, Angeles and Fernando, JJ., concur.


Endnotes:


1 "Congress can not, either appoint the Commissioner of the National Employment Service, or impose upon the President the duty to appoint any particular person to said office. The appointing power is the exclusive prerogative of the President, upon which no limitations may be imposed by Congress, except those resulting from the need of securing the concurrence of the Commission on Appointments and from the evidence of the limited legislative power to prescribe the qualifications to a given appointive office." (Manalang vs. Quitoriano, L-6898, April 30, 1954.)chanrobles virtual law library

"Appointment of a public officer involves the exercise of discretion which, unless abused, the courts will not attempt to control. Without that power, in no just sense can it be said that the right exists. While the appointing officer or body may listen to the recommendation or advice of others, yet the selection must finally be his or its act. And so this power of selection of an appointee is and should be vested alone in the officers or boards authorized to appoint, although it is limited to persons possessing the qualifications required by the civil service statutes and rules." (42 Am. Jur. 951)




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