Supreme Court absolves government employee from administrative liability for participating as a resource speaker and disseminating government information materials in a training seminar without leave from her superiors [Domingo v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 236050 (17 July 2020)]
In Domingo v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 236050 (17 July 2020), the Supreme Court dismissed the administrative complaint against a government employee for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, which was initially filed after she participated as a resource speaker and disseminated government information materials without prior leave from her superiors.
The case traces its origins to a request by the Mayor of Bacoor, Cavite, inviting the National Archives of the Philippines (“NAP”) to provide resource speakers for a seminar workshop. When this did not push through, the said mayor instead personally invited Estrella M. Domingo, the Chief Archivist of the NAP Archives Preservation Division and a resident of Bacoor, Cavite, to conduct the seminar in lieu of the earlier request to the NAP. The archivist conducted the seminar during her leave of absence.
The NAP issued a show cause memorandum against the archivist for conducting an unapproved seminar and her unauthorized use and dissemination of NAP handouts. Contending that the alleged acts were clear derogation of office rules, the NAP later found Domingo guilty of grave misconduct and dismissed her from service. This decision was affirmed by both the Civil Service Commission and the Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court, however, found the archivist not liable as her actions did not violate or transgress any rule of conduct. The Court ruled that Executive Order No. 77 (Series of 2019), Prescribing the Rules and Regulations and Rates of Expenses and Allowances for Official local and Foreign Travels of Government Personnel, and its implementing NAP office procedures require office approval only for local travels that are official in nature, which refer to travels outside of official station on official time. The archivist, in this case, was on official leave of absence when she participated in the seminar. Therefore, her participation did not coincide with official work time with the NAP.
Neither did the Supreme Court find insubordination by the archivist as she had no knowledge of the status of the first request to serve as resource speaker. Her taking advantage of the opportunity to give the seminar did not prove that she was acting defiantly against her superior. Further, there was no law obligating the archivist to inform the NAP about her activities or whereabouts during her leave of absence. Her attendance as a resource speaker during her leave of absence also did not create a rule of conduct requiring her to obtain office approval.
As to the dissemination of NAP materials, the Court found that the person who directed the dissemination of the NAP materials at the seminar was not confirmed. It also affirmed that, under Section 176.1 of the Intellectual Property Code, the government holds no copyright to its materials and the NAP materials were thus free to be disseminated to the City of Bacoor’s stakeholders. Presenting the NAP materials to the City of Bacoor was not an exploitation of the NAP materials for profit, but for the noble and laudable cause of improving the basic records management of this local government unit.
Finally, the Supreme Court noted that there was no finding of fact that the archivist personally materially benefitted from her attendance at the seminar, except possibly for goodwill which nevertheless inured to the benefit of the NAP.