House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal vs. Daisy B. Panga-Vega
G.R. No. 228236, January 27, 2021.
Panga-Vega, then Secretary of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), requested authority to avail of the 15 days of special leave benefit under Republic Act (RA) No. 9710, otherwise known as the Magna Carta of Women to undergo hysterectomy. The HRET approved Panga-Vega’s request for special leave for a period not exceeding two months starting February 7, 2011. After a month of availing of the special leave, Panga Vega informed the HRET Chairperson that she was reassuring her duties and functions. She also presented a medical certificate that she was already “fit to work”. The HRET directed Panga-Vega to consume her 2-month special leave given her need for prolonged rest following her hysterectomy, and in view of a pending investigation on her alleged alteration or tampering one minute of the meeting that could subject her to more stress. She sought reconsideration of this HRET Resolution but was denied pointing out the confusion and doubts regarding her true medical condition as caused by her medical certificates.
The CSC ruled that she only needed to present a medical certificate attesting her physical fitness to return to work and need not exhaust the full leave she applied for under RA No. 9710. It was further held that applying the rules on maternity leave, she is entitled to both the commuted money value of the unexpired portion of the special leave and her salary for actual services rendered effective the day she reported back for work.
The HRET filed a Petition for Review, but the CA affirmed CSC’s findings. It ruled Panga-Vega may opt not to consume the full leave she applied for upon her submission of the medical certificate.
1. Whether the petition should have been filed by the OSG, not by the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of the HRET
2. Whether the rules on maternity leave under the Labor Code, which provides that when the employee returns to work before the expiration of her special leave, she may receive both the benefits granted under the maternity leave law and the salary for actual services rendered effective the day she reports for work, may have a suppletory application.
1. YES. The HRET was created by virtue of Section (Sec.) 17, Article VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which provides that the House of Representatives shall have its own Electoral Tribunal that shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of its Members. Meanwhile, the OSG was constituted as the law office of the Government and shall discharge duties requiring the services of a lawyer as such. It shall represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies, instrumentalities, and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of a lawyer. It is tasked to represent the Government and its officers in the Court, the CA, and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the Government, or any officer thereof, in his official capacity is a party, among others. The OSG, however, may be excused from representing the Government, its agencies, and instrumentalities when there is an express authorization by the OSG, naming therein the legal officers who are being deputized in cases involving their respective offices, subject to its supervision and control, or when the OSG takes a position different from that of the agency it is duty bound to represent.
There was no express authorization by the OSG naming the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the HRET as its deputized legal officers in filing this petition. There was also no proof, let alone an allegation, that the OSG took a position different from the HRET in this case.
2. In accord with the spirit and intent of RA No. 9710 to suppletorily apply the rule on maternity leave to the special leave benefit. Similar to the special leave benefit under RA No. 9710, a maternity leave under the Omnibus Rules on Leave seeks to protect the health and welfare of women, specifically of working mothers, as its primary purpose is to afford them some measures of financial aid, and to grant them a period of rest and recuperation in connection with their pregnancies. The special leave benefit should be liberally interpreted to support the female employee so as to give her further means to afford her needs, may it be gynecological, physical, or psychological, for a holistic recuperation. The recovery period may be a trying time that she needs much assistance and compassion to regain her overall wellness. Nothing in RA No. 9710 and the CSC Guidelines bar this more humane interpretation of the provision on special leave benefit. Anent Panga-Vega’s return to work, while RA No. 9710 and the CSC Guidelines do not require that the entire special leave applied for be consumed, certain conditions must be satisfied for its propriety.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), acknowledges the need to guarantee the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of women through the adoption in the political, social, economic, and cultural fields, of appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure their full development and advancement. In fulfillment of the foregoing obligation under the CEDAW, and the 1987 Philippine Constitution to advance the rights of women, RA No. 9710 was enacted. This law acknowledges the economic, political, and socio cultural realities affecting their work conditions and affirms their role in nation-building. It guarantees the availability of opportunities, services, and mechanisms that will allow them to actively perform their roles in the family, community, and society. As a social legislation, its paramount consideration is the empowerment of women. Thus, in case of doubt, its provisions must be liberally construed in favor of women as the beneficiaries.
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