SC asked to stop lower court from ruling on Customs’ revamp bid
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance and Bureau of Customs asked the Supreme Court to stop a lower court from acting on the bid of collectors from BoC to stop their transfer to a newly created office.
In a 40-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the DoF and BoC through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said Branch 17 of the Manila regional trial court has no jurisdiction over the case.
Jardeleza, citing previous Supreme Court decisions, said that transfer of government employees falls witihin the exclusive jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission.
“Personnel actions affecting employees in the civil service including appointment through certification, promotion, transfer, reinstatement are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the CSC which is the sole arbiter of controversies relating to Civil Service,” the government lawyer said.
The 15 customs employees sought the Manila court’s intervention, citing lack of due process and violation of their security of tenure. They also filed a case of declaratory relief questioning the validity of a customs personnel order (CPO) on their transfer.
Under the CPO signed by BoC Chief Ruffy Biazon on September 17, 27 customs collectors would be detailed to the Customs Policy Research Office (CPRO), which was created by Executive Order No. 140. It is tasked to review tariff and customs administration policies. The new research body is under the Department of Finance.
The CPO detailed “all 15 petitioners, together with 12 other collectors of customs, to an advisory capacity of a policy-coordinating body under the guise of reorganization, thus effectively rendering vacant the 27 positions of collectors of customs throughout the country.”
The 15 customs collectors said that it was beyond the powers of the customs commissioner to transfer them to a body outside of the BOC.
They claimed that their transfer was a scheme to constructively dismiss and demote them.
Jardeleza said the movement of government personnel was to promote order and efficiency in public service.
Also, he said if the BoC personnel wanted to question the government’s move, they should have exhausted all administrative remedies first before taking the case to court.
“Courts must allow administrative agencies to carry out their functions and discharge their responsibilities within the specialized areas of their respective competence. To this end, administrative agencies are afforded a chance to correct any previous error committed in its forum,” Jardeleza said.
“Failure to exhaust all available administrative remedies makes private respondents’ action premature and results in lack of a cause of action, which, to reiterate, is one of the grounds allowed in the Rules of Court for the dismissal of the complaint.”
The government lawyer also said that there was also no diminution of benefits or a demotion on their transfer because it would be a temporary detail for a year unless extended with the consent of those affected by the transfer.
The transfer of Customs personnel to CPRO came after President Benigno Aquino III announced during his State of the Nation Address that the BoC was losing billions in revenue due to corruption.