CSC clarifies Duterte’s order to fire ex-President’s men

President Rodrigo Duterte receives commemorative stamps featuring his presidential inauguration after the 5th Cabinet meeting in Malacañan’s State Dining Room on August 22. (MNS photo)

President Rodrigo Duterte receives commemorative stamps featuring his presidential inauguration after the 5th Cabinet meeting in Malacañan’s State Dining Room on August 22. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — The Civil Service Commission (CSC) on Wednesday clarified the scope of the memorandum circular issued by President Rodrigo Duterte firing the appointed officials of the previous presidents.

During the hearing over the proposed P1.335-billion CSC budget in 2017, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman asked the commission whether or not Duterte’s memorandum circular 4 violates the constitutional provision that no officer and employee of civil service should be removed or suspended except for cause provided by law.

In Duterte’s memorandum circular 4 signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Duterte fired all presidential appointees of former President Benigno Aquino III and other presidents. Duterte had said he was disappointed at the corruption that persisted during the officials’ term.

Exempted from the President’s order are:

newly-appointed Cabinet Secretaries, Undersecretaries, and Assistant Secretaries in their respective departments, including presidential advisers and assistants

other officials in the Executive Department, including state universities and colleges, and government owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs), appointed by the incumbent President

career officials as defined by the Civil Service Laws, rules, and regulations

members of the judiciary

officials whose offices are created by virtue of the Philippine Constitution such as Constitutional Commissions and Ombudsman

those whose appointments are currently being processed or who may be appointed by the President shortly after the effectivity of the memorandum circular

In a press conference last Sunday, Duterte said he received information that corruption still persists in the regulatory agencies.

“Consider your positions vacant as of this hour… Until now, in my provincial visits, I still hear that corruption is being committed,” the president said.

“My mouth is, as they say, lousy. If you are there because of a presidential appointment, I will declare all your positions, all throughout the country, vacant,” Duterte said.

During the budget hearing, CSC chairperson Alicia Dela Rosa-Bala said officials who may be removed at the pleasure of the appointing authority are those appointed without security of tenure.

Bala also clarified that appointed non-career service officials may be removed by the President.

Lagman said Duterte’s memorandum circular seems to discriminate against those who were appointed by the previous presidents.

“This is a class legislation because it only favors those appointed by the incumbent president and discriminates against those appointed by the previous presidents,” Lagman said.

CSC Office for Legal Affairs director Ariel Ronquillo said the circular seems to divide people who are subject of legislation into classes, but it does not transgress the constitutional provision on civil servants.

“It may be considered a class legislation, considering it refers only to particular group of presidential appointees and those who were appointed by the incumbent president,” Ronquillo said.

“If the intention of this memorandum circular is to remove or terminate the services of previous presidential appointees who do not enjoy security of tenure because they’re holding non-career positions, while it appears to be a class legislation, I think it will not transgress that constitutional guarantee,” he added.

Ronquillo said presidential appointees who are non-career officials and do not enjoy security of tenure “can be removed at any time at the pleasure of the appointing authority.”

“The power to appoint also includes the power to remove,” he added.

Lagman said Duterte’s memorandum circular seems to pose a “sword of Damocles” to the heads of previous presidential appointees because it discriminates against those were appointed by the previous presidents.

“This memorandum circular covers the overwhelming majority of presidential appointees. It appears that they are under the sword of Damocles. The sword of Damocles has never been unleashed, it is a threat. To the faint-hearted, it will be a painful experience,” Lagman said.

Ronquillo said the appointed officials without security of tenure already know upon their appointment that they could be removed any time at the pleasure of the appointing authority.

“My understanding of the sword of Damocles is it’s an ax ready to fall anytime on whomever it may be directed. This memorandum circular basically enumerates those who will have to go. They are being asked to tender their courtesy resignation,” Ronquillo said.

“This refer only to those who are non-career, those who are not enjoying security of tenure. So therefore, from the start of employment, they know they can go anytime the appointing authority tells them to go,” he added.

Lagman maintained that Duterte’s memorandum circular smacks of being Marcosian, because it was similar to the 1972 letter of instruction (LOI) issued by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos ordering the courtesy resignation of appointed officials just after declaring martial law.

Ronquillo said Marcos’ letter and Duterte’s memorandum circular are not “squarely similar” because Duterte’s order provides for specific exemptions and clarifies that career officials are not covered by his order to vacate their positions.

“I’m not aware about the letter of instruction by the former president. However, if based on information given to us, the LOI mandates everybody to resign. Somehow, we can say it’s not squarely similar. The memorandum circular provides for the exemptions, and it clarifies career officials are not covered,” Ronquillo said.

Marcos’ LOI read: “In order to facilitate the reorganization of the Executive Branch of the national government as directed in Presidential Decree No. 1, dated September 24, 1972, and in order that the Judicial Branch may also be reorganized so as to meet the necessities of the present national emergency, make the government machinery more responsive to the needs of the people and effect economy, I hereby direct, pursuant to General Order No. 1, dated September 22, 1972, as amended, that all officers of the national government whose appointments are vested in the President of the Philippines submit their resignations from office, thru their Department Heads, not later than October 15, 1972.”

Marcos exempted from his order the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, the auditor general and the chairman and members of the Commission on Elections. (MNS)

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