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Digest: Baculi v. Office of the President (820 SCRA 1, 2017)

Digest: Baculi v. Office of the President (820 SCRA 1, 2017) 

Facts: Under consideration are the consolidated appeals docketed as G.R. No. 188681 and G.R. No. 201130. The appeals relate to the right of a public officer who had been invalidly dismissed from the service to recover his salaries, benefits and other emoluments corresponding to the period beyond the period of his preventive suspension pending investigation until the time of his valid dismissal from the service.

Issue: Whether or not CA erred in granting backwages


We affirm the CA.

By law, Baculi should have been automatically reinstated at the end of the 90-day period of his preventive suspension because his case was not finally decided within the said period.

We have to point out that preventive suspension is of two kinds. The first is the preventive suspension pending investigation, and the second is the preventive suspension pending appeal where the penalty imposed by the disciplining authority is either suspension or dismissal but after review the respondent official or employee is exonerated.22 The nature of preventive suspension pending investigation has been explained in the following manner:

x x x Preventive suspension pending investigation is not a penalty. It is a measure intended to enable the disciplining authority to investigate charges against respondent by preventing the latter from intimidating or in any way influencing witnesses against him. If the investigation is not finished and a decision is not rendered within that period, the suspension will be lifted and the respondent will automatically be reinstated. If after investigation, respondent is found innocent of the charges and is exonerated, he should be reinstated.

Preventive suspension pending investigation is not violative of the Constitution because it is not a penalty. It is authorized by law whenever the charge involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct, or neglect in the performance of duty, or whenever there are reasons to believe that the respondent is guilty of charges that would warrant removal from the service. If the proper disciplinary authority does not finally decide the administrative case within a period of 90 days from the start of preventive suspension pending investigation, and the respondent is not a presidential appointee, the preventive. suspension is lifted and the respondent is "automatically reinstated in the service." In the case of presidential appointees, the preventive suspension pending investigation shall be "for a reasonable time as the circumstances of the case may warrant."

Nonetheless, there shall be no indefinite suspension pending investigation, whether the respondent officials are presidential or nonpresidential appointees. The law abhors indefinite preventive suspension because the indefiniteness violates the constitutional guarantees under the due process and equal protection clauses,28 as well as the right of public officers and employees to security of tenure. The abhorrence of indefinite suspensions impelled the Court in Gonzaga v. Sandiganbayan to delineate rules on preventive suspensions pending investigation, viz.:

To the extent that there may be cases of indefinite suspension imposed either under Section 13 of Rep. Act 3019, or Section 42 of Pres. Decree 807, it is best for the guidance of all concerned that this Court set forth the rules on the period of preventive suspension under the aforementioned laws, as follows:

1. Preventive suspension under Section 13, Rep. Act 3019 as amended shall be limited to a maximum period of ninety (90) days, from issuance thereof, and this applies to all public officers, (as defined in Section 2(b) of Rep. Act 3019) who are validly charged under said Act.

2. Preventive suspension under Section 42 of Pres. Decree 807 shall apply to all officers or employees whose positions are embraced in the Civil Service, as provided under Sections 3 and 4 of said Pres. Decree 807; and shall be limited to a maximum period of ninety (90) days from issuance, except where there is delay in the disposition of the case, which is due to the fault, negligence or petition of the respondent, in which case the period of delay shall not be counted in computing the period of suspension herein stated; provided that if the person suspended is a presidential appointee, the continuance of his suspension shall be for a reasonable time as the circumstances of the case may warrant.

It cannot be validly argued that in the case of presidential appointees the preventive suspension pending investigation can be indefinite. The Court discredited such argument in Garcia v. The Executive Secretary, and directed the immediate reinstatement of a presidential appointee whose preventive suspension had lasted for nearly seven months


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