PUBLIC Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Atty. Persida Rueda-Acosta lauded Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and all the associate justices for empowering her agency by giving its chief and lawyers the special rank of and salary enjoyed by a Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor.
This came about after the High Court came out with a 33-page decision junking a petition filed by the Career Executive Service Board (CESB) against the Civil Service Commission (CSC) covering the officials of PAO as the full court ruled to dismiss the petition for certiorari and prohibition for lack of merit.
The same affirmed the questioned issuance of the CSC under Decision 110067 and Resolution 1100719 dated February 15, 2011 and June 1, 2011, respectively.
“We congratulate all the clients and supporters of PAO for their unceasing and untiring support, and prayers that justice be served and for the rule of law to prevail against the oppression PAO has suffered,” Acosta said.
“We thank CJ Ma. Lourdes Sereno and all the associate justices en banc for their wisdom, maintaining SC as the bulwark of democracy, reign of law and truth.”
For PAO to perform its mandate enshrined under R.A. No. 9406 and the Constitution, Acosta said it must remain neutral, stable, and beyond politics, despite changes in the political landscape.
The dispute concerns the classification of certain positions of PAO, including the position of Acosta, along with its deputies and regional public attorneys.
The CESB filed its petition before the SC in order to determine whether the positions are properly included in the Career Executive Service (CES) and whether the occupants of these positions must obtain third-level eligibility to qualify for permanent appointment.
Also, the SC was asked whether the positions are considered part of the CES and may be declassified.
In its ruling dated March 7 but released only recently, the SC upheld the position of the CSC as it ruled that “it is a basic principle in statutory construction that statutes must be interpreted in harmony with the Constitution and other laws.”
The SC also opined that the CSC committed no grave abuse of discretion when it ruled in favor of PAO officers and lawyers.
It said the agency’s lawyers should be treated like members of the National Prosecution Service (NPS).
“To fulfill the legislative intent to accord equal treatment to senior officials of the PAO and the NPS, parity in their qualification for appointment must be maintained. Accordingly, the revived qualifications of those in the NPS must also be considered applicable to those in the PAO,” the decision read.
Also, the SC said the CSC may properly review decisions reached by the CESB, an agency attached to it.
“The CESB effectively amended the law when it required that the PAO officials obtain third-level eligibility before they could become permanent as this requirement is not provided in the law,” it added.
“This Court must likewise reject the CESB’s contention that the declassification of positions in the NPS (as a result of the enactment of R.A. 10071) cannot benefit the PAO because of a supposed difference in their functions. This argument goes against the express terms and the clear intent of R.A. 9406 and is therefore untenable. As stated previously, Section 5 of R.A. 9406 amended the Administrative Code of 1987. The amendment was done to provide for “the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances, and retirement privileges” of senior officials of both the PAO and the NPS. The deliberations of Congress on R.A. 9406 reveal its intention to establish parity between the two offices.”