CSC sets aside ARMM Health Secretary’s order vs Maguindanao health officer

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 March) – The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has reversed and set aside an order of ARMM Health Secretary Kadil Jojo Sinolinding directing Dr. Tahir Sulaik, Provincial Health Officer of Maguindanao to relinquish certain functions, noting that it constituted constructive dismissal and “was effected as a political accommodation to Governor (Esmael) Mangudadatu.”

Sinolinding in his October 26, 2010 order directed Sulaik to relinquish to a subordinate the functions related to public health services, thereby limiting his functions as Provincial Health Officer II, to a mere manager of the provincial hospital.

The decision was contained in a CSC decision promulgated on March 1, and signed by CSC chair Francisco Duque and Commissioner Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza.

The ARMM Health Secretary in his Department Personnel Order 2010-001047 dated October 26, 2010, ordered Sulaik to “relinquish the function related to public health services to Dr. Elizabeth A. Samama, Provincial Health Officer I, to give credence to the request of Hon. Governor (Esmael) Mangudadatu.”

Sinolinding said that for purposes of “improving our health services in the curative aspect,” the Department of Health-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DOH-ARMM)  in  consultation with the office of the Maguindanao governor and the ARMM Governor, “adopts measure (sic) to enhance our capability by maximizing our performance using the existing expertise of available health human resources for the benefit of our constituents.”

In his order, Sinolinding told Sulaik, “you may discharge your function limited only in the management of hospital operations of the Maguindanao Provincial Hospital in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.”

Sulaik was appointed Provincial Health Officer II, under permanent status, on April 12, 1996 by then ARMM Governor Liningding Pangandaman.

While performing his functions as Maguindanao health officer, Sulaik was designated OIC of the DOH-ARMM by  ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan on September 4, 2006 until December 2009 when an OIC Regional Governor was installed following the November 23, 2009 massacre that implicated the Ampatuans, including the ARMM Governor. All Cabinet members were required to tender courtesy resignations and Sulaik tendered his as OIC Health Secretary.

Citing constructive dismissal and violation of the election ban on reassignments, Sulaik appealed Sinolinding’s order before the CSC and “after a careful review of the records, the Commission finds the appeal impressed with merit.”

The decision noted that reassignment is presumed to be regular and made in the interest of the public service “unless proven otherwise or if it constitutes constructive dismissal.”

“Constructive dismissal exists when an official or employee quits his or her work because of the agency head’s unreasonable, humiliating or demeaning actuations, which render continued work impossible because of geographic location, financial dislocation and performance or other duties and responsibilities inconsistent with those attached to the position. This may occur although there is no diminution or reduction in rank, status or salary of the employee,” the CSC said.

It noted that reassignment that constitutes constructive dismissal includes, among others,  reassignment “to perform duties and responsibilities inconsistent with the duties and responsibilities of his/her position or dignity to a more servile or menial job;” or one “done indiscriminately or whimsically; because the law is not intended as a convenient shield for the appointing/disciplinary authority to harass or oppress a subordinate on the pretext of advancing or promoting public interest.”

The CSC decision said that “apparently, the new designation of Sulaik was a reassignment in the interest of the service” but “reading through the entire context of the assailed (order), his reassignment was effected as a political accommodation to Governor Mangudadatu.”

Citing the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, the CSC said that in Sinolinding’s order, Sulaik’s reassignment “is not in tune with the intended result of the new designation which is to ‘enhance our capability by maximizing our performance using the existing expertise of available health human resources for the benefit of our constituents.’”

The CSC said it is “also obvious that under the reassignment order, the best interest of the service will not be served since Sulaik’s capabilities and expertise as a medical officer will not be fully utilized.”

The CSC also noted that Sinolinding’s order violated Resolution 9040 of the Commission on Elections which prohibits the transfer or detail of any officer of employee in the civil service during the barangay election period from September 25, 2010 to November 10, 2010.

Sinolinding’s order of October 26, came just a day after the barangay and youth leaders’ election.

MindaNews sought Sinolinding and Mangudadatu for comment but Mangudadatu has yet to reply.

Sinolinding told MindaNews in a text message Monday morning that he has yet to receive a copy of the CSC decision.

He said “it wasn’t just the request of Gov. Toto (Mangudadatu) that was considered but for the interest of all constituents.” He added that they received “many complaints from humanitarian partners and donors as well. Besides, there was no demotion. Just reassignment of function.”

MindaNews phoned Sinolinding for details pertaining to his text messag. He said the ARMM’s Office of the Solicitor General found nothing wrong with his order. But he added “wala naming problema” (there is no problem) if the CSC had set aside his order.

He said he would follow the CSC order.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)