ESPINOSA, Acela M.
Re: Backwages
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RESOLUTION NO. 000220

 

            Acela M. Espinosa, former Chief, Legal, Intelligence and Investigation Division, Bureau of Treasury (BOT), Department of Finance (DOF), appeals a letter dated July 16, 1998 by Eduardo S. Mendiola, formerly the Officer-in-Charge, BOT, denying her request for payment of backwages and other benefits accruing during the period of her preventive suspension.

            In her appeal, Acela represented as follows:

            "On May 5, 1994 I was administratively charged for Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct for allegedly falsifying my daily time records under Administrative Case No. 05-94 (xerox copy attached as Annex A). However, in the Order of the Treasurer of the Philippines, dated September 15, 1995, the said administrative case was dismissed (xerox copy attached as Annex B). As a result of the dismissal of my administrative case I filed a claim for payment of my back salaries and other benefits but the same was denied inspite of my request for reconsideration on July 27, 1998 (xerox copy attached as Annex C). Xerox copies of the letters of Messrs. Efren S. Simbahan, Director II, Administrative Service, dated June 25, 1996, Eduardo S. Mendiola, Officer-in-Charge, Bureau of the Treasury, dated July 16, 1998 and Jose Manuel Balaba, Deputy Treasurer of the Philippines, dated August 5, 1998, denying payment of my back salaries and other benefits, are hereto attached and marked as Annex D, E, F, respectively.

            "Regarding the other administrative case of mine for insubordination, I am not claiming for back salaries and other benefits during the period of my preventive suspension. This is a separate and distinct case from the subject case on appeal.

            "It is a well settled rule and the Civil Service Commission has long line of decisions and rulings that an officer or employee upon his exoneration is entitled to back salaries and other benefits due him."

            By way of comment to the appeal, Jose Manuel L. Balaba, Deputy Treasurer of the Philippines, Auxiliary Subsector, said Bureau, alleged as follows:

            "On March 24, 1994, Treasury Office Order No. 11-94 was issued wherein complainant Espinosa was re-assigned to the Claims and Documents Division and the Public Information and Assistance Division (copy of the order is hereto attached as Annex "A"). Espinosa however, did not report for duty in clear defiance and violation of Treasury Office Order No. 11-94. The CSC, through CSC Resolution No. 94-6519 dated November 24, 1994, held as valid and legal said Treasury Office Order. Despite the validity and legality of the TOO however, she continued to defy the order by not reporting to her new assignment until her retirement on December 30, 1995.

            "Hence, she was considered absent from the time of her re-assignment on March 24, 1994, to the time of her compulsory retirement as she had never reported even for a day to her new assignment at the Claims and Documents Division and the Public Information and Assistance Division.

            "Atty. Espinosa, after serving the preventive suspension, from May 16, 1994 to August 16, 1994, never reported for duty, even for a single day, either before or after such suspension which proved beyond doubt that even without the suspension, she would still not report back to duty at the Claims and Documents Division (CDD) and the Public Information Assistance Division (PIAD). The same was even documented by her December 21, 1995 letter wherein she indicated her intention to report back to duty but, as Chief of the Legal, Intelligence and Investigation Division (LIID).

            "Moreover, Espinosa has misconstrued the opinion of Atty. Arlene J. Guava, as then Legal Officer IV of the Bureau, when it was stated that she is entitled to her salary and RATA. Ordinarily, she is really entitled to salary BUT, considering her absence during the entire period, she is not entitled to salary and RATA for this reason. The opinion must be read in the light of the true facts of the case."

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            Evidence on record shows that on May 5, 1994, Espinosa was formally charged with Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct by Caridad Valdehuesa, former Treasurer of the Philippines. The charge was filed relative to Espinosa’s alleged falsification of entries in her Daily Time Record to make it appear that she did not incur tardiness. On May 11, 1994, Treasury Personnel Order No. 20-94 was issued placing Espinosa under preventive suspension starting from May 16, 1994 up to August 16, 1994.

            It is to be emphasized, however, that earlier or on March 24, 1994 Espinosa was reassigned from the Legal Intelligence and Investigation Division to the Claims and Documents Division and the Public Information and Assistance Division but did not report for duty, notwithstanding the fact that the Commission, through CSC Resolution No. 94-6519 dated November 24, 1994 upheld the validity of the reassignment order.

            Subsequently, a criminal case for the same act was filed and tried before the Sandiganbayan under Criminal Case Nos. 16993 and 16994 entitled People of the Philippines versus Acela M. Espinosa. In a decision dated August 10, 1995, the Sandiganbayan, through the First Division, acquitted Espinosa.

            On account of such acquittal, Espinosa requested the Bureau to dismiss the administrative case against her. In an order dated September 15, 1995, Valdehuesa dismissed said case. The pertinent portion of said order reads as follows:

            "Acting on the letter-motion of respondent dated August 31, 1995, moving for the dismissal of the entitled case on the grounds that (1) the formal charges against her for Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct were based on the Information in Criminal Case Nos. 16993 and 16994 entitled People of the Philippines versus (sic) Acela M. Espinosa, filed before the Sandiganbayan, First Division, (2) that the prosecution in the administrative case has adapted the testimonies and evidences adduced in said criminal cases by the said Sandiganbayan, First Division, in a Decision dated August 10, 1995, the undersigned finds no cogent reason to controvert or deviate from the findings and conclusions of the Sandiganbayan which, although not conclusive and controlling, have strong persuasive effect.

            By reason of said dismissal, Espinosa, in a letter dated June 25, 1996, asked payment of backwages for the ninety (90) days preventive suspension contending that she has been exonerated from said charges.

            In denying the request, Efren S. Simbahan, Director II, Administrative Service, alleged as follows:

            "You were meted preventive suspension from May 16, 1994 to August 16, 1994. Records show that you did not report for duty even for a single day either before or after your suspension. Your action proved beyond doubt that even without suspension, still you would not report back to duty at the Claims and Documents Division and PIAD as documented by your letter dated December 21, 1995 indicating your intention to report back to duty but as Chief of the Legal and Intelligence Division."

            Not satisfied with the decision, Espinosa reiterated her request. In a letter dated July 16, 1998, Eduardo S. Mendiola, Officer-in-Charge, BOT, denied the request reiterating the reasons cited by Simbahan.

            Hence, this appeal.

            It is already settled in this jurisdiction that a government employee is entitled to payment of salaries withheld during the preventive suspension if he was shown innocent of the charges proffered against him (Villamor vs. Lacson, 12 SCRA 418). Considering that the case against Espinosa was dismissed by the Bureau of the Treasury when it adopted the findings of the Sandiganbayan acquitting her in the criminal charges based on the same facts, the appellant should be entitled to backwages.

            However, the acts of Espinosa before and after the imposition of preventive suspension negate the purpose of the award of backwages. This is because evidence on record shows that she failed to report to the Claims and Documents Division and the Public Information and Assistance Division, her place of reassignment, prior to and after the expiration of the suspension. This shows that from the time of her reassignment on March 24, 1994 all the way up to the date of the lifting of the preventive suspension on August 16, 1994 up to the date of the compulsory retirement, appellant never reported for work.

            This finding is further established in Espinosa’s letter dated December 21, 1995 wherein she indicated her desire to report back to work not in the place of reassignment but in her former division. And even after expressing said intention, the records of the case do not show that she went back to work.

            In other words, even in the absence of the order of preventive suspension Espinosa would, nonetheless, not report for work. It is noted that the rationale for the award of backwages is to restitute the income lost to an employee who was willing to work but was prevented from doing so. It is not intended to compensate an employee who has no intention at all to work during such period as demonstrated in the case at hand.

            In sum, while Espinosa may have been exonerated from the administrative charges of Grave Misconduct and Dishonesty, there is no evidence to show that she is entitled to payment of back salary and other emoluments during said period.

            WHEREFORE, the appeal of Acela M. Espinosa is hereby dismissed for lack of merit.

Quezon City, JAN 25 2000





  (SGD.)
CORAZON ALMA G. DE LEON
Chairman
(SGD.)
THELMA P. GAMINDE
Commissioner
 


DID NOT PARTICIPATE
JOSE F. ERESTAIN, JR.
Commissioner
 
  Attested by:


(SGD.)
ARIEL G. RONQUILLO
Director III


OLA/A3/A10/mpm(cpu)
Ndc 98-0852/CPS/pvp/cm61