CSC sides with Chief Acosta

Published by rudy Date posted on January 8, 2011

Sec. de Lima should reverse dismissal call, says PAO head

DESPITE supposed lack of civil-service eligibility, according to the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta and her deputies can stay at their posts and they need not even take the Career Executive Service Officer (CESO) examinations.

During an interview, the PAO chief said that CSC Commissioner Cesar Buenaflor invited her to his office on Friday and told her that she and her deputies can stay and can only be removed or suspended for cause provided by law.

Meanwhile, Acosta also on Friday asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to correct what she described as an erroneous legal opinion that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had issued and calling for her dismissal and that of her deputies from government service for lacking civil-service eligibility.

In a nine-page Letter of Revocation, the PAO chief demanded that de Lima reverse the January 3, 2011 Legal Opinion of Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras of the Justice department because the opinion was clearly contrary to law, particularly Republic Act (RA) 9406, or the PAO Law.

“From the foregoing, with due respect, it is clear that the erroneous opinion and conclusions arrived at by the Honorable Chief State Counsel Ricardo V. Paras [3rd] should be SET ASIDE [underscoring hers] for being inordinate, contrary to law and absence of legal and factual basis,” she said.

“Accordingly, we hereby respectfully pray in the highest interest of rule of law, justice and order, that the said opinion dated January 3, 2011 be REVOKED [underscoring also hers] in toto by the Honorable Secretary of Justice Leila M. de Lima,” she added.

According to Acosta, the posts of Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys are considered permanent in nature. Hence, the attorneys enjoy security of tenure, contrary to the position advanced by Paras.

She pointed out that RA 9406, which amended the 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines, specifically states in Section 16-A that the Chief Public Attorney and the Deputy Chief Public Attorneys shall be appointed by the President.

Also according to Section 16-A, “the Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys shall be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Chief Public Attorney. The Chief Public Attorney, Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys shall not be removed or suspended, except for cause provided by law.”

Acosta said that the legislative intent in specifically providing that the above-mentioned officials “shall not be removed or suspended, except for cause provided by law” is to consider these positions as permanent, and thus they enjoy the mandatory security of tenure.

It is RA 9406 with repealing clause, she added, that gave security of tenure to the said officials of the PAO, hence, they are exempt from the required civil-service eligibility.

“The equivalent ranks of the Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys, which are the Assistant Chief State Prosecutor and the Regional State Prosecutor respectively, likewise also provide for a minimum eligibility requirement of RA 1080 only, NOT [underscoring also hers], CESO eligibility,” Acosta said.

She added that her performance and outstanding credentials should speak for themselves.

“The incumbent Chief Public Attorney [Acosta], having been admitted to the Bar in April 1990 has been a lawyer for more than twenty years, hence she has the qualification of a Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals which is now the qualification for the Prosecutor General,” Acosta said.

She refuted the Justice department’s contention that PAO officials and lawyers handling quasi-judicial cases, which include regular conduct of mediation, conciliation and arbitration of cases and disputes, are performing, in effect, quasi-judicial functions.

Acosta said, “Public Attorneys have been rendering mediation and conciliation cases way back in 1972, when the PAO was still named Citizen’s Legal Assistance Office [CLAO]. This undeniably resulted in the reduction and declogging of cases filed in court. In fact, in year 2007 alone, the PAO nationwide was able to handle 448,672 mediation and conciliation cases. For the year 2008, the PAO was able to render mediation disputes numbering 416,056 and in the year 2009, a total of 323,149 mediation cases were handled by the PAO.”

During her visit to CSC Commissioner Buenaflor’s office, the PAO chief quoted him as saying that she and her deputies do not have to take the CESO examination because the chief public attorney has the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances and retirement privileges as those of the chief state prosecutor of the National Prosecution Service.

This means, Acosta said, that she has the same rank as the state prosecutor and based on the Section 14 of RA 10071, or an Act strengthening and rationalizing the National Prosecution Service, a state prosecutor shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals and shall be appointed by the President.

She was appointed as head of the PAO in 2001 by then President Gloria Arroyo.

The PAO deputies also have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances and retirement privileges as those of the Assistant Chief State Prosecutor of the NPS.

The Civil Service Commission made the clarification days after the Justice department issued the legal opinion dated January 3, 2011.

The opinion stated that PAO officials should be CES eligible to become permanent appointees to the positions that they are holding, which means that Acosta and her deputies must take the CESO examinations to enjoy security of tenure.

But Buenaflor’s clarification has strengthened the position of Acosta since the CSC has the authority to “render opinion and rulings on all personnel and other civil-service matters, which shall be binding on all heads of departments, offices and agencies . . . ”

When asked if she has an idea on the reason behind the sudden effort to remove her from her post, Acosta said that she does not want to speculate but she is sure that President Benigno Aquino 3rd has nothing to do with it.

“As far as I am concerned, President Aquino has nothing to do with this because he is very good and kind to the PAO,” she added.
The President also on Friday said that he is leaving it to de Lima to settle the issue concerning Acosta and her deputies.

“I leave it up to the Secretary of Justice, this agency [PAO] attached to the Department of Justice, to resolve the matter,” he also told a briefing after the New Year‘s vin d’honneur in Malacañang. –Jomar Canlas and Jefferson Antiporda Reporters with report from Cris G. Odronia, Manila Times

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