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Peralta v. Civil Service Commission [G.R. No. 95832. August 10, 1992]

28 Aug

FACTS

Pursuant to Civil Service Act of 1959 (R.A. No. 2260) which conferred upon the Commissioner of Civil Service to prescribe, amend and enforce suitable rules and regulations for carrying into effect the provisions of this Civil Service Law, the Commission interpreted provisions of Republic Act No. 2625 amending the Revised Administrative Code and adopted a policy that when an employee who was on leave of absence without pay on a day before or on a day time immediately preceding a Saturday, Sunday or Holiday, he is also considered on leave of absence without pay on such Saturday, Sunday or Holiday. Petitioner Peralta, affected by the said policy, questioned the said administrative interpretation.

ISSUES

Whether or not the Civil Service Commission’s interpretative construction is:

  • (1) valid and constitutional.
  • (2) binding upon the courts.

RULING

  • (1) NO. The construction by the respondent Commission of R.A. 2625 is not in accordance with the legislative intent. R.A. 2625 specifically provides that government employees are entitled to leaves of absence with full pay exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays. The law speaks of the granting of a right and the law does not provide for a distinction between those who have accumulated leave credits and those who have exhausted their leave credits in order to enjoy such right. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemus.The fact remains that government employees, whether or not they have accumulated leave credits, are not required by law to work on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays and thus they can not be declared absent on such non-working days. They cannot be or are not considered absent on non-working days; they cannot and should not be deprived of their salary corresponding to said non-working days just because they were absent without pay on the day immediately prior to, or after said non-working days. A different rule would constitute a deprivation of property without due process.
  • (2) NO. Administrative construction, is not necessarily binding upon the courts. Action of an administrative agency may be disturbed or set aside by the judicial department if there is an error of law, or abuse of power or lack of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion clearly conflicting with either the letter or the spirit of a legislative enactment. When an administrative or executive agency renders an opinion or issues a statement of policy, it merely interprets a pre-existing law; and the administrative interpretation of the law is at best advisory, for it is the courts that finally determine what the law means.

The general rule vis-a-vis legislation is that an unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed.

But, as held in Chicot County Drainage District vs. Baxter State Bank:

. . . . It is quite clear, however, that such broad statements as to the effect of a determination of unconstitutionality must be taken with qualifications. The actual existence of a statute, prior to such determination is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot always be ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration. The effect of the subsequent ruling as to invalidity may have to be considered in various aspects — with respect to particular relations, individual and corporate; and particular conduct, private and official.

To allow all the affected government employees, similarly situated as petitioner herein, to claim their deducted salaries resulting from the past enforcement of the herein invalidated CSC policy, would cause quite a heavy financial burden on the national and local governments considering the length of time that such policy has been effective. Also, administrative and practical considerations must be taken into account if this ruling will have a strict restrospective application. The Court, in this connection, calls upon the respondent Commission and the Congress of the Philippines, if necessary, to handle this problem with justice and equity to all affected government employees.

 

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