572 Phil. 316
This is a petition for review on certiorari
of the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) promulgated on September 3, 2004 in CA-G.R. No SP No. 74919 and its Resolution promulgated on April 11, 2005 denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration.
The CA Decision modified the Resolutions
of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) finding respondent Jessie V. Rabang guilty of gross neglect of duty, and instead found him merely liable for simple neglect of duty.
The facts are as follows:
Respondent was a transportation regulation officer of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Bacolod City. Among his regular duties were the inspection of motor vehicles sought to be registered and the processing of applications for vehicle registration.
Sometime in December 1991, a certain Steniel Young applied for assignment of a chassis number to an Isuzu truck purportedly new and locally rebuilt and/or assembled.
After evaluating the documents submitted by Mr. Young, respondent conducted an ocular inspection of the vehicle. Finding the vehicle to be a newly rebuilt/assembled unit, respondent recommended that it be assigned Chassis Identification Number (CIN) 0604-91-544-C, which recommendation was approved by his superior Antonio Norman Saril, Chief of Transportation Regulation Office, Bacolod City.
Respondent then directed Mr. Young to have the CIN stamped on the vehicle and to secure a clearance from the Constabulary Highway Patrol Group. After Mr. Young complied with the directive, respondent conducted a second ocular inspection of the vehicle and issued Motor Vehicle Inspection Report No. 5070702.
On December 27, 1991, upon payment of the registration fee, Antonio Norman Saril approved the registration of the vehicle.
However, it turned out that the vehicle was stolen from its owner Dickson N. Yu.
The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) conducted an investigation on the participation of respondent and Antonio Norman Saril in the registration of the stolen vehicle in the name of Mr. Young.
Thereafter, respondent and Antonio Norman Saril were charged with grave misconduct, gross negligence in the performance of official duties and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, among others. The formal charge alleged:
That on 27 December 1991, as Chief and Assistant Chief of the LTO District Office, Bacolod City, you registered and caused to be registered a motor vehicle purportedly a rebuilt unit under the name of Steniel Young x x x without conducting an ocular inspection as required by law particularly Section 4, par. 6 and Section 14, Article III of RA 4136.
On March 23, 1999, DOTC Secretary Vicente C. Rivera, Jr. rendered a decision finding respondent guilty of gross negligence and penalizing him with suspension for six months. Saril was admonished to be more careful and diligent in the performance of his duties. Respondent's motion for reconsideration was denied.
Respondent appealed the DOTC decision to the CSC.
In Resolution No. 011810 dated November 20, 2001, the CSC sustained the DOTC's finding that respondent was guilty of gross neglect of duty, but it imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the service in accordance with Sec. 52 A(2) of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service. Respondent's motion for reconsideration was denied in Resolution No. 021425 dated October 23, 2002.
Respondent filed a petition for review of the CSC Resolutions before the CA.
In a Decision promulgated on September 3, 2004, the CA found respondent liable only for simple negligence and penalized him with suspension for three months without pay. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The assailed Resolutions rendered by the Civil Service Commission are hereby MODIFIED in that the herein petitioner is hereby suspended for three months without pay. The herein public respondents are hereby ordered to REINSTATE the petitioner to his former position before he was dismissed from the service and to pay the corresponding backwages and benefits due him after he has served his three months suspension.
Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied by the CA in a Resolution promulgated on April 11, 2005.
On May 3, 2005, petitioner filed this petition raising these issues:
- Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that respondent is not guilty of gross neglect of duty but only simple neglect of duty.
- Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in ordering the payment of backwages to respondent.
Petitioner contends that respondent was guilty of gross neglect of duty because he failed to fulfill his duty of conducting an ocular inspection of the subject vehicle before registration with the requisite attention, based on the finding of the DOTC, thus:
. . . If it was true that Rabang inspected the chassis, he could not have missed the welding marks and rough edges and other physical signs showing that the chassis was not new and was tampered with. Or if he did inspect, he did it so haphazardly that he missed marks that were obvious to the naked eye.
Petitioner asserts that the finding of the DOTC, charged with its specific field of expertise, is entitled to respect and finality.
The Court is not persuaded by petitioner's arguments. It agrees with the decision of the Court of Appeals, which explained thus:
In a letter dated February 24, 1998, the petitioner (Rabang) was charged by former DOTC Secretary J. Trinidad-Lichauco with Grave Misconduct, Gross Negligence in the Performance of Duty, Inefficiency and Incompetence in the Performance of Official Duties and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. The letter stated that the petitioner registered the subject vehicle without conducting an actual ocular inspection as required by law, particularly Section 4, par. 6 and Section 14, Article III of RA 4136. Thus, in this case, the initial inquiry is whether the petitioner did not conduct an ocular inspection of the subject vehicle.
In the assailed Decision, the CSC quoting the DOTC Secretary opined:
"With all of the experience he acquired during those years of his employment with the LTO, Rabang can be considered an expert when it comes to the inspection and examination of the motor and chassis numbers of each motor vehicle brought to his office for registration. Accordingly, when he inspected and examined the said Isuzu truck which was then being sought to be registered in the name of Steniel Young, he could have, had he wanted to, easily detected and noticed the deformities, the imperfections, and the alterations made on its original chassis number. Had he been conscientious and exerted even just an ordinary care in the performance of his duties and responsibilities, it would not have been difficult for him to determine that said original chassis number had been defaced and superimposed with another number. And for sure, had he only been circumspect in the performance of his official functions, the registration of a stolen vehicle could have been aborted and the perpetrators thereof brought before the law with ease at the earliest possible time.It is evident from the aforesaid findings of facts of the two administrative agencies that there was an ocular inspection of the subject vehicle conducted by the petitioner, which is contrary to the formal charge that he did not conduct such inspection. It can also be deduced from the findings of the two agencies that while they ruled that the petitioner made an ocular inspection, the same according to them, was not done by the petitioner with due care, thus finding him administratively liable for gross negligence.
Thus, the Commission quotes with approval the findings of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory Service Regional Unit 6, Camp Delgado, Iloilo City, which was adopted in the DOTC Decision and Resolution which are now the subject of the instant appeal, to wit:
`As pointed out, Movant's (Rabang's) Motor Vehicle Inspection Report dated 24 December 1991 . . . and Memorandum dated 20 December 1991 to his co-respondent Norman Saril recommending the assignment of chassis number indeed proved that an ocular inspection was conducted by Rabang on the Isuzu truck in question. Said inspection was, however, not properly done as evinced by his (Rabang) inability and/or failure to notice and detect the filing marks and grinding on the metal surface of the chassis and the signs of the welding marks surrounding it (PNP Macro Etching Report dated 14 August 1992) which are visible to the naked eye of an ordinary person who is not even a motor vehicle inspector. Such fact establishes palpable absence of due diligence of respondent Rabang in the exercise of his duties as Motor Inspector to examine every minute detail of the chassis of the subject vehicle." (DOTC Resolution dated October 7, 1999)'
Since it is evident that respondent conducted an ocular inspection of the subject vehicle contrary to the formal charge against him, what is to be determined is whether the ocular inspection conducted by respondent was characterized by gross neglect of duty as alleged by petitioner.
Gross neglect of duty or gross negligence refers to negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally,
with a conscious indifference to consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care which even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to give to their own property. In cases involving public officials, there is gross negligence when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable. 
In this case, the Court agrees with the CA's finding that while it is true that the DOTC and CSC held that the defects/alterations of the chassis of the subject vehicle could be seen by the naked eye, the DOTC and CSC failed to show sufficient basis for concluding that respondent's negligence in failing to detect such defects was willful and intentional. What appears in the records is that respondent complied with the regular procedure of the LTO before the subject vehicle was registered in the name of Mr. Young. The regularity of the procedure undertaken by respondent was established by the fact that the subject vehicle was subsequently transferred to another person named Jasmin Ebro.
Hence, the CA correctly ruled that respondent can only be held liable for simple negligence.
As regards the second issue, petitioner contends that the CA erred in ruling that respondent is entitled to backwages because he was not exonerated and the cause for his prior separation from the service was directly attributable to his own fault.
Petitioner's contention is meritorious.Bruguda v. Secretary of Education, Culture and Sports,
reiterated the rule that "the payment of backwages during the period of suspension of a civil servant who is subsequently reinstated is proper if he is found innocent of the charges and the suspension is unjustified
In this case, although the Court does not find respondent guilty of gross neglect of duty, he is, however, liable for simple neglect of duty. Hence, respondent is not exonerated from liability. Moreover, his separation from the service, which is considered as preventive suspension during the pendency of his appeal, was not unjustified as it was to protect public interest considering that he was charged with gross negligence/gross neglect of duty and found guilty thereof by the DOTC and the CSC.
Further, the decision of dismissal by the CSC is executory based on Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987, unless on appeal, the dismissal is ordered restrained by the CA.
Sec. 47, Chapter 6, Subtitle A, Title 1, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 provides:
SEC. 47. Disciplinary Jurisdiction.-- (1) The [Civil Service] Commission shall decide upon appeal all administrative disciplinary cases involving the imposition of a penalty or suspension for more than thirty days, or fine in an amount exceeding thirty days' salary, demotion in rank or salary or transfer, removal or dismissal from office. A complaint may be filed directly with the Commission by a private citizen against a government official or employee in which case it may hear and decide the case or it may deputize any department or agency or official or group of officials to conduct the investigation. The results of the investigation shall be submitted to the Commission with recommendation as to the penalty to be imposed or other action to be taken.
(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 fine in an amount not exceeding thirty days' salary. In case the decision rendered by a bureau or office head is appealable to the 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.
(4) An appeal shall not stop the decision from being executory, and in case the penalty is suspension or removal, the respondent shall be considered as having been under preventive suspension during the pendency of the appeal in the event he wins an appeal.
Sec. 22, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations classifies Simple Neglect of Duty as a less grave offense punishable by suspension for one month and one day to six months for the first offense, and dismissal for the second offense.
The Court sustains the penalty of suspension for three months without pay imposed on respondent by the CA for simple neglect of duty since this is his first offense in his fifteen years of service in the Government.WHEREFORE,
the petition is partly GRANTED
. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 74919 promulgated on September 3, 2004 and its Resolution promulgated on April 11, 2005 are AFFIRMED
insofar as respondent Jessie V. Rabang is found guilty of Simple Neglect of Duty and penalized with suspension for three months without pay, and the petitioner CSC and the DOTC are ordered to REINSTATE
the respondent to his former position before he was dismissed from the service. However, respondent is not entitled to payment of backwages during the period of time he was considered to be on preventive suspension.
No costs.SO ORDERED
.Puno, C.J., Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, Velasco, Jr., Nachura, and Reyes
, and Leonardo-De Castro, JJ.,
Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
Resolution No. 011810 dated November 20, 2001 and Resolution No. 021425 dated October 23, 2002.
Emphasis supplied. Rollo
, pp. 32-33. Rollo
, pp. 29-31; emphasis supplied. Golangco v. Fung
, G.R. No. 147640, October 16, 2006, 504 SCRA 321, 331.
G.R. Nos. 142332-43, January 31, 2005, 450 SCRA 224, 231.
Rules of Court, Rule 43, Sec. 12. Effect of appeal
. - The appeal shall not stay the award, judgment, final order or resolution sought to be reviewed unless the Court of Appeals shall direct otherwise upon such terms as it may deem just.