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Digest: University of the Philippines v. Civil Service Commission (356 SCRA 57, 2000)

Digest: University of the Philippines v. Civil Service Commission (356 SCRA 57, 2000)

Facts:

·         "Dr. Alfredo B. De Torres is an Associate Professor of the University of the Philippines in Los BaƱos (UPLB) who went on a vacation leave of absence without pay from September 1, 1986 to August 30, 1989. During this period, he served as the Philippine Government'' official representative to the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and [the] Pacific (CIRDAP).

·         "When the term of his leave of absence was about to expire, CIRDAP requested the UPLB for an extension of said leave of absence for another year, but was denied by Dr. Eulogio Castillo, the then Director of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, Inc. (ACCI) of UPLB. In the same letter, Dr. Castillo advised Dr. De Torres to report for duty at UPLB not later than September 15, 1989; while the then UPLB Chancellor Raul P. de Guzman apprised him on the rules of the Civil Service on leaves and warned of the possibility of being considered on Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL) if he failed to return and report for duty as directed.

·         "Dr. De Torres wrote UPLB that he had 'no alternative but x x x to pursue the matter in continuing his commitment to CIRDAP.' In response thereto, Chancellor de Guzman warned De Torres, in a Letter dated November 20, 1989, that in case of the latter's failure to report 'within 30 days from today,' UPLB would be forced to drop him from the rolls of personnel. Despite the warning, Dr. De Torres did not report to work.

·         "On January 3, 1994 or after almost five years of absence without leave, Dr. De Torres wrote the incumbent Chancellor Ruben L. Villareal that he was reporting back to duty at ACCI-UPLB effective January 3, 1994 x x x. However, Chancellor Villareal notified Dr. De Torres that 'when an employee reports back for duty, he should have been from an approved leave …' Likewise, Director Leodegacio M. Ilag, of ACCI-UPLB, in a Letter dated February 10, 1994, informed De Torres that in the absence of any approved application for leave of absence, he [was] considered to be on AWOL. Thus, he was advised to re-apply with UPLB.

·         " Dr. De Torres wrote Chancellor Villareal seeking reconsideration [of] the two aforementioned decisions x x x. On July 4, 1994, Chancellor Villareal reversed his earlier stand and notified De Torres that since records at UPLB [did] not show that he ha[d] been officially dropped from the rolls he may report for duty x x x.

·         "Mesdames Juanita Baskinas and Winifreda Medina, members of Academic Personnel Committee, ACCI-UPLB, requested the Civil Service Commission regarding the employment status of Dr. De Torres x x x.

·         Commission issued CSC Resolution No. 95-3045 that ruled that Dr. De Torres is considered to have been dropped from the service as of September 1, 1989. Hence, his re-employment requires the issuance of appointment subject to the requirements of Civil Service Law and Rules

·         petitioners argue that (1) the issuance of a new appointment in favor of Petitioner De Torres is not needed, because he was not formally dropped from the rolls of the University of the Philippines

Issue: Whether or not CSC has the power to dictate the dismissal of Dr. Torres despite AWOL

Ruling: No.

UP's actuations, in spite of Section 33, Rule XVI of the Revised Civil Service Rules, are consistent with the exercise of its academic freedom. We have held time and again that "the University has the academic freedom to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study." Clearly, this freedom encompasses the autonomy to choose who should teach and, concomitant therewith, who should be retained in its rolls of professors and other academic personnel. This Court declared in Ateneo de Manila University v. Capulong: "As corporate entities, educational institutions of higher learning are inherently endowed with the right to establish their policies, academic and otherwise, unhampered by external controls or pressure." Similarly, Vicente G. Sinco, a former UP president and delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention, stressed that the Constitution "definitely grants the right of academic freedom to the University as an institution as distinguished from the academic freedom of a university professor."

We are not unaware that academic freedom has been traditionally associated with freedom of thought, speech, expression and the press. But, as explained by Constitutional Commissioner Adolfo S. Azcuna during the deliberations on Section 5 (2), Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution, "[s]ince academic freedom is a dynamic concept, we want to expand the frontiers of freedom, especially in education, therefore, we shall leave it to the courts to develop further the parameters of academic freedom."

Thus, we hold that by opting to retain private petitioner and even promoting him despite his absence without leave, the University was exercising its freedom to choose who may teach or, more precisely, who may continue to teach in its faculty. Even in the light of the provision of the Revised Civil Service Law, the Respondent CSC had no authority to dictate to UP the outright dismissal of its personnel. The former could not have done so without trampling upon the latter's constitutionally enshrined academic freedom. Moreover, in Chang v. Civil Service Commission,  the Court stressed that "[t]he CSC is not a co-manager, or surrogate administrator of government offices and agencies. Its functions and authority are limited to approving or reviewing appointments to determine their concordance with the requirements of the Civil Service Law." In short, on its own, the CSC does not have the power to terminate employment or to drop workers from the rolls.

 


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