BANGALISAN vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS

Posted: May 1, 2015 in case digests, labor relations
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DELIA BANGALISAN, LUCILIN CABALFIN, EMILIA DE GUZMAN, CORAZON GOMEZ, CORAZON GREGORIO, LOURDES LAREDO, RODOLFO MARIANO, WILFREDO MERCADO, LIGAYA MONTANCES and CORAZON PAGPAGUITAN,  vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION and THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORTS,

G.R. No. 124678.  July 31, 1997

FACTS: Petitioners were among the 800 public school teachers who staged “mass actions” on September 17 to 19, 1990 to dramatize their grievances concerning the alleged failure of the public authorities to implement in a just and correct manner certain laws and measures intended for their material benefit.

On September 17, 1990, the Secretary of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) issued a Return-to-Work Order.  Petitioners failed to comply with said order, hence they were charged by the Secretary with “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 in violation of PD 807, otherwise known as the Civil Service Decree of the Philippines.” They were simultaneously placed under preventive suspension.

Thereafter, the DECS Secretary rendered a decision finding petitioners guilty as charged and dismissing them from the service effective immediately.

Acting on the motions for reconsideration filed by some of the petitioners the Secretary subsequently modified the penalty of dismissal to suspension for nine months without pay. The other petitioners also filed individual appeals to the MSPB, but all of their appeals were dismissed for lack of merit. Petitioners then appealed to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) where it ruled that respondents were guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.  It, however, modified the penalty of nine months suspension previously meted to them to six months suspension with automatic reinstatement in the service but without payment of back wages.

All the petitioners moved for reconsideration of the CSC resolutions but these were all denied, except that of petitioner Rodolfo Mariano who was found guilty only of a violation of reasonable office rules and regulations because of his failure to inform the school of his intended absence and to file an application for leave therefor.  This petitioner was accordingly given only a reprimand.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for lack of merit

ISSUE:

Whether or not the Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion when it upheld the resolutions of the CSC that penalized petitioners whose only offense was to exercise their constitutional right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances

HELD:

No, the CA did not commit grave abuse of discretion.

It is the settled rule in this jurisdiction that employees in the public service may not engage in strikes.  While the Constitution recognizes the right of government employees to organize, they are prohibited from staging strikes, demonstrations, mass leaves, walk-outs and other forms of mass action which will result in temporary stoppage or disruption of public services.  The right of government employees to organize is limited only to the formation of unions or associations, without including the right to strike.

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.

The ability to strike is not essential to the right of association.  To grant employees of the public sector the right to strike, there must be a clear and direct legislative authority therefor. In the absence of any express legislation allowing government employees to strike, recognizing their right to do so, or regulating the exercise of the right, employees in the public service may not engage in strikes, walkouts and temporary work stoppages like workers in the private sector

“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 but 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. The right of the sovereign to prohibit strikes or work stoppages by public employees was clearly recognized at common law.

DISPOSITIVE:

The decision of the Court of Appeals was AFFIRMED.

LABREL CASE DIGEST POOL / ATTORNEY JHONELLE ESTRADA / MONDAYS / 5:30 PM TO 8:30 PM / NEW ERA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW

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