DOF, BOC ask SC to stop Manila RTC from acting on transfer of BOC collectors

By Perfecto T. Raymundo

MANILA, (PNA) — The Department of Finance (DoF) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to stop the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 17 from exercising control over the transfer of BOC collectors to a newly-created office.

In a 40-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the DOF and the BOC, through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, said the Manila RTC has no jurisdiction over the case.

Citing previous SC rulings, Jardeleza argued the transfer of government employees falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

“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,” he said.

The 15 Customs collectors sought the Manila RTC’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 on their transfer.

Under the CPO signed by BOC Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon last Sept. 17, 27 Customs collectors will be detailed to the Customs Policy Research Office, which was created by Executive Order No. 140 with the task of reviewing tariff and customs administration policies.

The CPRO is directly under the DOF.

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 further argued it was beyond the powers of the Customs Commissioner to transfer them to a body outside of the BOC claing their transfer is a scheme to constructively dismiss and demote them.

Jardeleza said the movement of government personnel is to promote order and efficiency in public service.

He added 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,” he added.

Jardeleza further argued there is also no diminution of benefits or a demotion on their transfer because it is a temporary detail for a year unless extended with the consent of those affected by the transfer.

The transfer of Customs personnel to the CPRO came after President Benigno S. Aquino III announced during his 4th State-of-the-Nation Address that the BOC was losing P200 billion in revenues due to corruption.