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Digest: Aparri v. Court of Appeals (127 SCRA 231, 1984)

Meaning of Public Office
Digest: Aparri v. Court of Appeals (127 SCRA 231, 1984)
G.R. No. L-30057 January 31, 1984

Facts: On January 15, 1960, the Board of Directors of the defunct National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) approved resolution no. 13 (series of 1960), which appointed Appari as a general manager of the said company which will take effect on January 16, 1960. However on March 15, 1962, the same Board of Directors approved resolution no. 24 (series of 1962) which states that the Chairman of the Board has transmitted to the Board of Directors the desire of the office of the Philippines to fix the term of Aparri, the general manager up to the closing time of the office on March 31, 1962 in accordance with paragraph 2, section 8 of R.A. 1160:

Sec. 8. Powers and Duties of the Board of Directors. — The Board of Directors shall have the following powers and duties:

2) To appoint and fix the term of office of General Manager …, subject to the recommendation of the Office of Economic Coordination and the approval of the President of the Philippines, …. The Board, by a majority vote of all members, may, for cause, upon recommendation of the Office of Economic Coordination and with the approval of the President of the Philippines, suspend and/or remove the General Manager and/or the Assistant General Manager (p. 46, rec., emphasis supplied).

Issue: whether or not Board Resolution No. 24 (series of 1962) was a removal or dismissal of petitioner without cause.

Ruling: WE affirm. WE hold that the term of office of the petitioner expired on March 31, 1962.

A public office is the right, authority, and duty created and conferred by law, by which for a given period, either fixed by law or enduring at the pleasure of the creating power, an individual is invested with some portion of the sovereign functions of the government, to be exercise by him for the benefit of the public ([Mechem Public Offices and Officers,] Sec. 1). The right to hold a public office under our political system is therefore not a natural right. It exists, when it exists at all only because and by virtue of some law expressly or impliedly creating and conferring it (Mechem Ibid., Sec. 64). There is no such thing as a vested interest or an estate in an office, or even an absolute right to hold office. Excepting constitutional offices which provide for special immunity as regards salary and tenure, no one can be said to have any vested right in an office or its salary (42 Am. Jur. 881).

By "appointment" is meant the act of designation by the executive officer, board or body, to whom that power has been delegated, of the individual who is to exercise the functions of a given office (Mechem op. cit., Sec. 102). When the power of appointment is absolute, and the appointee has been determined upon, no further consent or approval is necessary, and the formal evidence of the appointment, the commission, may issue at once. Where, however, the assent or confirmation of some other officer or body is required, the Commission can issue or the appointment is complete only when such assent or condition is obtained (People vs. Bissell, 49 Cal. 407). To constitute an "appointment" to office, there must be some open, unequivocal act of appointment on the part of the appointing authority empowered to make it, and it may be said that an appointment to office is made and is complete when the last act required of the appointing authority has been performed (Molnar vs. City of Aurora, 348 N.E. 2d 262, 38 III App. 3d 580). In either case, the appointment becomes complete when the last act required of the appointing power is performed (State vs. Barbour, 53 Conn. 76, 55 Am. Rep. 65).

The petitioner was appointed as general manager pursuant to Resolution No. 13 (series of 1960 — approved on January 15, 1960) of the Board of Directors. A careful perusal of the resolution points out the fact that the appointment is by itself incomplete because of the lack of approval of the President of the Philippines to such appointment.

Presumably, the Board of Directors of the NARRA expected that such appointment be given approval by the then President. Lacking such approval by the President as required by the law (par. 2, Sec. 8 of R.A. 1160), the appointment of petitioner was not complete.  The petitioner can, at best, be classified as a de facto officer because he assumed office "under color of a known appointment or election, void because the officer was not eligible or because there was a want of power in the electing body, or by reasons of some defect or irregularity in its exercise, such ineligibility, want of power, or defect being unknown to the public" (State vs. Carroll, 38 Conn. 449, 9Am. Rep. 409).

However, such appointment was made complete upon approval of Resolution No. 24 (series of 1962-approved March 15, 1962) wherein the President submitted to the Board his "desire" to fix the term of office of the petitioner up to the close of office hours on March 31, 1962.

The word "term" in a legal sense means a fixed and definite period of time which the law describes that an officer may hold an office (Sueppel vs. City Council of Iowa City, 136 N.W. 2D 523, quoting 67 CJS OFFICERS, secs. 42, 54[1]). According to Mochem, the term of office is the period during which an office may be held. Upon the expiration of the officer's term, unless he is authorized by law to hold over, his rights, duties and authority as a pubic officer must ipso facto cease (Mechem, op. cit., Secs. 396-397). In the law on Public Officers, the most natural and frequent method by which a public officer ceases to be such is by the expiration of the term for which he was elected or appointed. The question of when this event has occurred depends upon a number of considerations, the most prominent of which, perhaps, are whether he was originally elected or appointed for a definite term or for a term dependent upon some act or event ... (Mechem op. cit., Sec. 384).

It is necessary in each case to interpret the word "term" with the purview of statutes so as to effectuate the statutory scheme pertaining to the office under examination (Barber vs. Blue, 417 P.2D 401, 51 Cal. Rptr. 865, 65 C.2d N5). In the case at bar, the term of office is not fixed by law. However, the power to fix the term is vested in the Board of Directors subject to the recommendation of the Office of Economic Coordination and the approval of the President of the Philippines. Resolution No. 24 (series of 1962) speaks of no removal but an expiration of the term of office of the petitioner. 

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