389 Phil. 829
DE LEON, JR., J.:
WHEREFORE, the Commission hereby finds Everdina Acosta guilty of Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. She is hereby meted out the penalty of six (6) months suspension without pay. Considering the period of time she was out of service, she is automatically reinstated to her former positions (sic).Following the denial of their motion for reconsideration, petitioners questioned the matter before the Court of Appeals. The appellate court denied their petition for certiorari and subsequent motion for reconsideration. Hence, this petition.
RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE ASSAILED RESOLUTIONS OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION THAT WRONGLY PENALIZED PETITIONERS WHOSE ONLY "OFFENSE" WAS TO EXERCISE THEIR CONSITUTIONAL RIGHT TO PEACEABLY ASSEMBLE AND PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.This petition is not impressed with merit.
RESPONDENT COYRT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE ASSAILED RESOLUTIONS OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION THAT WRONGLY DENIED PETITIONERS THEIR RIGHT TO BACKWAGES.
It is an undisputed fact that there was a work stoppage and that petitioners' purpose was to realize their demands by withholding their services. The fact that the conventional term "strike" was not used by the striking employees to describe their common course of action is inconsequential, since the substance of the situation, and not its appearance, will be deemed to be controlling.In Jacinto v. Court of Appeals, De la Cruz v. Court of Appeals, and Alipat v. Court of Appeals, we upheld our rulings in MPSTA and Bangalisan. Considering the factual circumstances of this case and the doctrine of stare decisis to which we consistently adhere, we find no compelling reason to deviate from our earlier rulings in these related cases.
The ability to strike is not essential to the right of association. In the absence of statute, public employees do not have the right to engage in concerted work stoppages for any purpose.
Further, herein petitioners, except Mariano, are being penalized not because they exercised their right of peaceable assembly and petition for redress of grievances but because of their successive unauthorized and unilateral absences which produced adverse effects upon their students for whose education they are responsible. The actuations of petitioners definitely constituted conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, punishable under the Civil Service law, rules and regulations.
As aptly stated by the Solicitor General, "It is not the exercise by the petitioners of their constitutional right to peaceably assemble that was punished, but the manner in which they exercised such right which resulted in the temporary stoppage or disruption of public service and classes in various public schools in Metro Manila. For, indeed, there are efficient and non-disruptive avenues, other than the mass actions in question, whereby petitioners could petition the government for redress of grievances."
It bears stressing that suspension of public services, however temporary, will inevitably derail services to the public, which is one of the reasons why the right to strike is denied government employees. It may be conceded that the petitioners had valid grievances and noble intentions in staging the "mass actions," but that will not justify their absences to the prejudice of innocent school children. Their righteous indignation does not legalize an illegal work stoppage.
Preventive suspension pending investigation, as already discussed, is not a penalty but only a means of enabling the disciplining authority to conduct an unhampered investigation. On the other hand, preventive suspension pending appeal is actually punitive although it is in effect subsequently considered illegal if respondent is exonerated and the administrative decision finding him guilty is reversed. Hence, he should be reinstated with full pay for the period of the suspension. Thus, §47(4) states that respondent "shall be considered as under preventive suspension during the pendency of the appeal in the event he wins." On the other hand, if his conviction is affirmed, i.e. if he is not exonerated, the period of his suspension becomes part of the final penalty of suspension or dismissal.Petitioners' reliance on Fabella v. Court of Appeals is likewise unavailing. In that case, the petitioners therein immediately went to court to seek injunctive relief against the DECS administrative proceedings on the ground that they were deprived of due process. The trial court declared the administrative proceedings void and ordered the payment of backwages to the petitioners therein. The Court of Appeals then upheld the order of the trial court. In affirming both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, we stated therein that:
x x x Because the administrative proceedings involved in this case are void, no delinquency or misconduct may be imputed to private respondents. Moreover, the suspension or dismissal meted on them is baseless. Private respondents should, as a consequence, be reinstated and awarded all monetary benefits that may have accrued to them during the period of their unjustified suspension or dismissal. x x xOn the other hand, in the case at bar, petitioners initially assailed the alleged non-observance of due process by the DECS Investigating Committees only upon appeal to the MSPB. Significantly, however, it has been our consistent ruling that an appeal is curative of any supposed denial of due process. Thus, after full ventilation of their case before the MSPB and CSC, and later on before the Court of Appeals, petitioners cannot now allege denial of due process to justify their claim for backwages.
 Annex "C," Rollo, pp. 73; Except for the names of the parties, dates and case numbers, the dispositive portion of the orders of the CSC were similarly worded.October 15, 1990
Case No. DECS x x x
The Regional Director
DECS, National Capital Region
PPSTA Building, Banawe St.,
This is a motu-propio administrative complaint separately filed by the Secretary of Education, Culture and Sports against the following public school teachers, namely:
NAME SCHOOL ABSENCES
x x x x x x x x x
based on the report submitted by their respective school principals wherein it was alleged that the above-named teachers participated in the mass action/illegal strike on Sept. 17-21, 1990 and subsequently defied the return-to-work order dated September 17, 1990 issued by this Office, which acts constitute grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, gross violation of Civil Service Law, Rules and Regulations and reasonable office regulations, refusal to perform official duty, gross insubordination, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and absence without official leave (AWOL), in violation of Presidential Decree 807, otherwise known as the Civil Service Decree of the Philippines.
Required to explain within a period of not less than 72 hours but not more than 5 days from receipt of the complaint, respondents failed to submit the required answer within the given time and up to the present, and despite the denial of their request for extension of 30 days within which to submit their answers dated September 25, 1990 filed by their counsel, Atty. Gregorio Fabros, in a letter of this office to him dated September 28, 1990, respondents failed to submit the same, which failure, is considered a waiver on their part of their right to answer the charges and to controvert the same.
Wherefore, after careful evaluation of the records, this Office finds the respondents guilty as charged.
In accordance with Memorandum Circular 30 s. 1989 of the civil Service Commission on guidelines in the Application of Penalty in Administrative Cases, the herein respondents are dismissed from office effective immediately.
Advice of the date the respondents received this decision is desired.Copy furnished:
Very truly yours,
ISIDRO D. CARIÑO
1. All respondents
2. The IBM, Dakota, Manila
3. City Superintendent of Schools
 Jacinto v. Court of Appeals, supra at 680.
(2) The Secretaries and heads of agencies and instrumentalities, provinces, cities and municipalities shall have jurisdiction to investigate and decide matters involving disciplinary action against officers and employees under their jurisdiction. Their decisions shall be final in case the penalty imposed is suspension for not more than thirty days or a fine in an amount not exceeding thirty days' salary. In case the decision rendered by a bureau or office head is appealable to the (Civil Service) Commission, the same may be initially appealed to the department and finally to the Commission and pending appeal, the same shall be executory except when the penalty is removal, in which case the same shall be executory only after confirmation by the Secretary concerned.