Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
May a government employee, dismissed from the service for cause, be allowed to recover the personal contributions he paid to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS)?
This is the question that confronts this Court in the instant case, the factual antecedents of which are as follows:
On December 21, 1998, this Court promulgated a Decision dismissing from the service Atty. Cesar V. Lledo, former branch clerk of court of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 94. Cesar’s wife, Carmelita, had filed an administrative case against him, charging the latter with immorality, abandonment, and conduct unbecoming a public official.
During the investigation, it was established that Cesar had left his family to live with another woman with whom he also begot children. He failed to provide support for his family. The investigating judge recommended Cesar’s dismissal from the service. The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) adopted the recommendation.
The Court, in its December 21, 1998 Decision, disposed of the case in this wise:
WHEREFORE, Cesar V. Lledo, branch clerk of court of RTC, Branch 94,
, is hereby DISMISSED from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and leave credits and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including any government-owned or controlled corporation. This case is REFERRED to the IBP Board of Governors pursuant to Section 1 of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court. Quezon City
In a letter dated January 15, 1999, Carmelita and her children wrote to then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., begging for humane consideration and asking that part of the money due Cesar be applied to the payment of the arrearages of their amortized house and lot then facing foreclosure by the GSIS. They averred that Cesar’s abandonment had been painful enough; and to lose their home of 26 years would be even more painful and traumatic for the children.
The Court directed the OCA to comment. The OCA recommended that the Court’s December 21, 1998 Decision be reconsidered insofar as the forfeiture of Cesar’s leave credits was concerned, underscoring, however, that said benefits would only be released to Carmelita and her children.
In a Resolution dated August 3, 1999, the Court resolved to deny the motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.
On April 3, 2006, Cesar L. Lledo, Jr., Cesar’s son, wrote a letter to then Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban. He related that his father had been bedridden after suffering a severe stroke and acute renal failure. He had been abandoned by his mistress and had been under Cesar Jr.’s care since 2001. The latter appealed to the Court to reconsider its December 21, 1998 Decision, specifically the forfeiture of leave credits, which money would be used to pay for his father’s medical expenses. Cesar Jr. asked the Court for retroactive application of the Court’s ruling subsequent to his father’s dismissal, wherein the Court ruled that despite being dismissed from the service, government employees are entitled to the monetary equivalent of their leave credits since these were earned prior to dismissal.
Treating the letter as a motion for reconsideration, the Court, on May 3, 2006, granted the same, specifically on the forfeiture of accrued leave credits.
Cesar Jr. wrote the Court again on November 27, 2006, expressing his gratitude for the Court’s consideration of his request for his father’s leave credits. He again asked for judicial clemency in connection with his father’s claim for refund of the latter’s personal contributions to GSIS.
The Court directed the GSIS to comment, within 10 days from notice, on Cesar Jr.’s letter....
In a letter dated April 16, 2009, Jason C. Teng, Regional Manager of the GSIS Quezon City Regional Office, explained that a request for a refund of retirement premiums is disallowed. He explained:
The rate of contribution for both government and personal shares of retirement premiums was actuarially computed to allow the GSIS to generate enough investment returns to be able to pay off future claims. During actuarial computation, the expected demographics considered the percentages of different types of future claims (and non-claims). As such, if those that were expected to have no future claim (e.g. those with forfeited retirement benefits) were suddenly allowed to receive claims for payment of benefits, this would have a negative impact on the financial viability of the GSIS.
Even as the Court noted the letter in its June 30, 2009 Resolution, it further required the Board of Directors of the GSIS (GSIS Board) to file a separate Comment within 10 days from notice.
In its Comment, the GSIS Board said that Cesar is not entitled to the refund of his personal contributions of the retirement premiums because “it is the policy of the GSIS that an employee/member who had been dismissed from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits cannot recover the retirement premiums he has paid unless the dismissal provides otherwise.” The GSIS Board pointed out that the Court’s Decision did not provide that Cesar is entitled to a refund of his retirement premiums.
There is no gainsaying that dismissal from the service carries with it the forfeiture of retirement benefits. Under the Uniform Rules in Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, it is provided that:
Section 58. Administrative Disabilities Inherent in Certain Penalties.
a. The penalty of dismissal shall carry with it that of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and the perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service, unless otherwise provided in the decision.
However, in the instant case, Cesar Jr. seeks only the return of his father’s personal contributions to the GSIS. He is not claiming any of the benefits that Cesar would have been entitled to had he not been dismissed from the service, such as retirement benefits."
"It should be remembered that the GSIS laws are in the nature of social legislation, to be liberally construed in favor of the government employees.The money subject of the instant request consists of personal contributions made by the employee, premiums paid in anticipation of benefits expected upon retirement. The occurrence of a contingency, i.e., his dismissal from the service prior to reaching retirement age, should not deprive him of the money that belongs to him from the outset. To allow forfeiture of these personal contributions in favor of the GSIS would condone undue enrichment."
Saturday, February 20, 2010
In this jurisdiction, parties to a contract are free to stipulate the terms of agreement subject to the minimum ban on stipulations contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. Otherwise, the contract is denied legal existence, deemed “inexistent and void from the beginning.”For lack of relevant stipulation in the Agreement, these and other ancillary Philippine substantive law serve as default parameters to test the validity of the Agreement’s joint child custody stipulations.
At the time the parties executed the Agreement on 28 January 2002, two facts are undisputed: (1) Stephanie was under seven years old (having been born on 21 September 1995); and (2) petitioner and respondent were no longer married under the laws of the United States because of the divorce decree. The relevant Philippine law on child custody for spouses separated in fact or in law(under the second paragraph of Article 213 of the Family Code) is also undisputed: “no child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother x x x.”(This statutory awarding of sole parental custody to the mother is mandatory, grounded on sound policy consideration,subject only to a narrow exception not alleged to obtain here.) Clearly then, the Agreement’s object to establish a post-divorce joint custody regime between respondent and petitioner over their child under seven years old contravenes Philippine law.
The Agreement is not only void ab initio for being contrary to law, it has also been repudiated by the mother when she refused to allow joint custody by the father. The Agreement would be valid if the spouses have not divorced or separated because the law provides for joint parental authority when spouses live together. However, upon separation of the spouses, the mother takes sole custody under the law if the child is below seven years old and any agreement to the contrary is void. Thus, the law suspends the joint custody regime for (1) children under seven of (2) separated or divorced spouses. Simply put, for a child within this age bracket (and for commonsensical reasons), the law decides for the separated or divorced parents how best to take care of the child and that is to give custody to the separated mother. Indeed, the separated parents cannot contract away the provision in the Family Code on the maternal custody of children below seven years anymore than they can privately agree that a mother who isunemployed, immoral, habitually drunk, drug addict, insane or afflicted with a communicable disease will have sole custody of a child under seven as these are reasons deemed compelling to preclude the application of the exclusive maternal custody regime under the second paragraph of Article 213.
It will not do to argue that the second paragraph of Article 213 of the Family Code applies only to judicial custodial agreements based on its text that “No child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise.” To limit this provision’s enforceability to court sanctioned agreements while placing private agreements beyond its reach is to sanction a double standard in custody regulation of children under seven years old of separated parents. This effectively empowers separated parents, by the simple expedient of avoiding the courts, to subvert a legislative policy vesting to the separated mother sole custody of her children under seven years of age “to avoid a tragedy where a mother has seen her baby torn away from her.”This ignores the legislative basis that “[n]o man can sound the deep sorrows of a mother who is deprived of her child of tender age.”
It could very well be that Article 213’s bias favoring one separated parent (mother) over the other (father) encourages paternal neglect, presumes incapacity for joint parental custody, robs the parents of custodial options, or hijacks decision-making between the separated parents. However, these are objections which question the law’s wisdom not its validity or uniform enforceability. The forum to air and remedy these grievances is the legislature, not this Court. At any rate, the rule’s seeming harshness or undesirability is tempered by ancillary agreements the separated parents may wish to enter such as granting the father visitation and other privileges. These arrangements are not inconsistent with the regime of sole maternal custody under the second paragraph of Article 213 which merely grants to the mother final authority on the care and custody of the minor under seven years of age, in case of disagreements.
Further, the imposed custodial regime under the second paragraph of Article 213 is limited in duration, lasting only until the child’s seventh year. From the eighth year until the child’s emancipation, the law gives the separated parents freedom, subject to the usual contractual limitations, to agree on custody regimes they see fit to adopt. Lastly, even supposing that petitioner and respondent are not barred from entering into the Agreement for the joint custody of Stephanie, respondent repudiated the Agreement by asserting sole custody over Stephanie. Respondent’s act effectively brought the parties back to ambit of the default custodial regime in the second paragraph of Article 213 of the Family Code vesting on respondent sole custody of Stephanie.
Nor can petitioner rely on the divorce decree’s alleged invalidity - not because the Illinois court lacked jurisdiction or that the divorce decree violated Illinois law, but because the divorce was obtained by his Filipino spouse - to support the Agreement’s enforceability. The argument that foreigners in this jurisdiction are not bound by foreign divorce decrees is hardly novel. Van Dorn v. Romillo settled the matter by holding that an alien spouse of a Filipino is bound by a divorce decree obtained abroad. There, we dismissed the alien divorcee’s Philippine suit for accounting of alleged post-divorce conjugal property and rejected his submission that the foreign divorce (obtained by the Filipino spouse) is not valid in this jurisdiction in this wise:
There can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of the United States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen. For instance, private respondent cannot sue petitioner, as her husband, in any State of the Union. What he is contending in this case is that the divorce is not valid and binding in this jurisdiction, the same being contrary to local law and public policy.
It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage.
x x x x
Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner’s husband entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country’s Court, which validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property. (Emphasis supplied)
We reiterated Van Dorn in Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera to dismiss criminal complaints for adultery filed by the alien divorcee (who obtained the foreign divorce decree) against his former Filipino spouse because he no longer qualified as “offended spouse” entitled to file the complaints under Philippine procedural rules. Thus, it should be clear by now that a foreign divorce decree carries as much validity against the alien divorcee in this jurisdiction as it does in the jurisdiction of the alien’s nationality, irrespective of who obtained the divorce."
Nonetheless, as Stephanie is by now about 15 years old, the Court remands the case for further proceedings to the RTC in order to determine the best interest of the child insofar as parental custody is concerned."in the matter of child custody, the mutual will of the child’s parents takes precedence in the absence of circumstances that justify recourse to the law."
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
In legal ethics, the Court disbars two lawyers for immorality.
In remedial law, the Court skews technicality but rules that the issue of the right of possession in an ejectment case is moot and academic as the party being sued for recovery of possession has lost possession of the property. It also rules that certiorari is not the proper remedy in case a case is dismissed for failure to prosecute. The remedy is appeal.
In transportation law, the Court rules that limitation on liability of the bill of lading does not apply if the value of the cargo shipment is communicated to the arrastre operator before the discharge of the cargoes.
In civil law, the Court denies another petition for annulment of marriage based on the ground of psychological incapacity. The Court says,
"It was folly for the trial court to accept the findings and conclusions of Dr. Villegas with nary a link drawn between the “psychodynamics of the case” and the factors characterizing the psychological incapacity."Really, an appeal by the Republic of the Philippines in a case granting annulment will almost always result in a reversal by the Supreme Court.
In property law, the Court distinguishes between legal possession and actual possession, and declares,
Petitioners’ argument is misplaced, considering that this is a forcible entry case. They are apparently referring to “possession” flowing from ownership of the property, as opposed to actual possession. In ejectment cases, possession means nothing more than actual physical possession, not legal possession in the sense contemplated in civil law.
In taxation, the Court grants PAL a tax refund in the amount of of PHp 134,431.95 representing the 10% [Overseas Communications Tax] OCT PAL paid on its overseas telephone calls.
Prior physical possession is the primary consideration in a forcible entry case. A party who can prove prior possession can recover such possession even against the owner himself. Whatever may be the character of his possession, if he has in his favor prior possession in time, he has the security that entitles him to remain on the property until a person with a better right lawfully ejects him. The party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be thrown out by a strong hand, violence or terror.
And in criminal law, the Court affirms the convictions of two persons accused of murder, convicts several men for the special complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with rape, and convicts a drug dealer.
Monday, February 15, 2010
The figure 8 appears almost like an epiphany in last night's opening of the 1st Philippine International Pyro Musical Competition at the SM Mall of Asia grounds, which was made to coincide with the revelries of Chinese New Year.
But during the mass in the morning, I noticed that the gospel was about St. Luke's Beatitudes, which subverts the entire set of values of prosperity and good luck that hovers over Chinese New Year celebrations. This makes me really curious on why on such occasion the gospel proclaims the complete opposite of what is proclaimed in eastern astrology and popular eastern culture. Consider, Lk 6:17, 20-26
“Blessed are you who are poor,So, when Catholics greet you "Kung Hei Fat Choi!" on Chinese New Year, they're unwittingly being pagans.
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”
But I guess, that doesn't prevent me from partaking on the mooncakes. Blessed are the hungry,..
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Monday, February 08, 2010
We are not blind to petitioner’s clever and foxy interplay of threats alternating with false concern for the reputation of this Court.
It is well to remind petitioner that the Court has consistently rendered justice with neither fear nor favor. The disposition in this case was arrived at after a careful and thorough deliberation of the facts of this case and all the matters pertaining thereto. The records of the case, in fact, show that all the pertinent issues raised by petitioner were passed upon and sufficiently addressed by the appellate court and this Court in their respective resolutions.
As to petitioner’s complaint regarding this Court’s denial of her petition through a mere minute resolution (which allegedly deprived her of due process as the Court did not issue a full-blown decision stating the facts and applicable jurisprudence), suffice it to say that the Court is not duty-bound to issue decisions or resolutions signed by the justices all the time. It has ample discretion to formulate ponencias, extended resolutions or even minute resolutions issued by or upon its authority, depending on its evaluation of a case, as long as a legal basis exists. When a minute resolution (signed by the Clerk of Court upon orders of the Court) denies or dismisses a petition or motion for reconsideration for lack of merit, it is understood that the assailed decision or order, together with all its findings of fact and legal conclusions, are deemed sustained.
Furthermore, petitioner has doggedly pursued her case in this Court by filing three successive motions for reconsideration, including the letter-motion subject of this resolution. This, despite our repeated warnings that “no further pleadings shall be entertained in this case.” Her unreasonable persistence constitutes utter defiance of this Court’s orders and an abuse of the rules of procedure. This, alongside her thinly veiled threats to leak her case to the media to gain public sympathy – although the tone of petitioner’s compliance with our show-cause resolution was decidedly subdued compared to her earlier letters – constitutes contempt of court.
In Republic v. Unimex, we held:
A statement of this Court that no further pleadings would be entertained is a declaration that the Court has already considered all issues presented by the parties and that it has adjudicated the case with finality. It is a directive to the parties to desist from filing any further pleadings or motions. Like all orders of this Court, it must be strictly observed by the parties. It should not be circumvented by filing motions ill-disguised as requests for clarification.
A FEW OBSERVATIONS
If petitioner was, as she adamantly insists, only guarding her constitutional right to due process, then why did she question the validity of the Mendoza decision late in the proceedings, that is, only after her motion for reconsideration in the CA (for its subsequent annulment of the compromise agreement) was denied? It is obvious that it was only when her case became hopeless that her present counsel frantically searched for some ground, any ground to resuscitate his client’s lost cause, subsequently raising the issue. This is evident from a statement in her petition to this Court that:
It is this fresh discovery by the undersigned counsel of the nullity of the proceedings of the Court of Appeals that places in doubt the entire proceedings it previously conducted, which led to the rendition of the February 26, 1992 Decision, a fact that escaped the scrutiny of applicant for registration Flora L. Garcia, as well as her lawyer, Atty. Cayetano Dante Diaz, who died in 1993, and the late Justice Fernando A. Santiago, who stood as counsel for Flora L. Garcia’s successor-in-interest, herein petitioner, Florencia G. Garcia. (Emphasis supplied).
The above cited statement does not help petitioner’s cause at all. If anything, it only proves how desperate the case has become for petitioner and her counsel.