Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feb 8 and 9 2k10 decisions: Court shows compassion to its once lost sheep

February 8 and 9 decisions round up follows but you could jump to the featured decision if you like. It reads like soap, no kidding.

In criminal procedure, the Court rules that the offended party, without the solicitor general's assistance, has no standing to appeal the RTC's decision granting bail to an accused.

In labor law, the Court affirms the decision of the Court of Appeals in finding that a payloader operator was illegally dismissed, and illustrates the expensive consequences of appealing the labor arbiter's computation of the money judgment in a final and executory decision awarding backwages and other claims to labor.

In taxation, the Court denies a claim for VAT tax refund by a taxpayer here and grants it here.

In remedial law, the Court rules that a debtor cannot question the standing of a creditor to foreclose on its mortgage, even if the creditor has assigned its right to the loan to a special purpose vehicle (SPV), especially so when the SPO has no objection on the foreclosure. It also declares the rule that notice to the solicitor general's deputy is notice to the solicitor general

In criminal law, the Court affirms the conviction of a drug dealer.

And for our featured decision, the Court discusses the claims of the former clerk of court of the RTC of Quezon City who was previously dismissed for immorality.

Justice Peralta writes,

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, Quezon City, 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.


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."

In resolving the case, the Court traces the history of the GSIS Law and rules that a government employee who has been dismissed for cause may be allowed to recover his personal contributions and deposits plus 3 percent interest from the GSIS. The Court said,

"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."

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