What constitutes due process in administrative cases?

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I am a government employe, and I did not heed an order from my superior. It was about a transfer of office that I vehemently opposed, which I did in writing. The office quickly sent me a Notice to Explain, which I answered. It created an investigating body regarding my issue as they charged me with gross insubordination and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. I am seeking the help of a higher tribunal for I believe that I was not accorded due process because no face-to-face hearing happened. Am I right?
Sincerely yours,
Tommy

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Dear Tommy,
It would be best for you to visit the case of Disciplinary Board, Land Transportation Office, et al. vs. Mercedita E. Gutierrez (G.R. No. 224395, July 3, 2017), penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, that clearly stated:

“‘The essence of procedural due process is embodied in the basic requirement of notice and a real opportunity to be heard. In administrative proceedings, as in the case at bar, procedural due process simply means the opportunity to explain one’s side or the opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. ‘To be heard’ does not mean only verbal arguments in court; one may also be heard thru pleadings. Where opportunity to be heard, either through oral arguments or pleadings, is accorded, there is no denial of procedural due process.’ This was extensively discussed in Vivo v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation as follows:

The observance of fairness in the conduct of any investigation is at the very heart of procedural due process. The essence of due process is to be heard, and, as applied to administrative proceedings, this means a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain one’s side, or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. Administrative due process cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense, for in the former a formal or trial-type hearing is not always necessary, and technical rules of procedure are not strictly applied. Ledesma v. Court Appeals [(565 Phil. 731, 740 [2007])] elaborates on the well-established meaning of due process in administrative proceedings in this wise:

xxx Due process, as a constitutional precept, does not always and in all situations require a trial-type proceeding. Due process is satisfied when a person is notified of the charge against him and given an opportunity to explain or defend himself. In administrative proceedings, the filing of charges and giving reasonable opportunity for the person so charged to answer the accusations against him constitute the minimum requirements of due process. The essence of due process is simply to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one’s side, or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.” (Emphasis supplied)

In the above-cited jurisprudence, with facts that are similar to your situation, a Show Cause Memorandum was issued to the respondent. The same was construed sufficient to cover the due process requirements under the law, as discussed above. Ultimately, the respondent’s cause was remanded to the agency concerned for proper administrative proceedings.

Succinctly, the same circumstance may attend your situation. We deem it best that you personally consult a lawyer for the propriety of your responses for further administrative proceedings you shall face.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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