THE Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of administrative charges against seven Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) employees on a case filed by the agency's president and general manager Winston Garcia.

In a 15-page decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Catral-Mendoza, the Court en banc found no grave abuse of discretion the Court of Appeals in upholding the findings that no violations were committed by the employees.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

The Civil Service Commission said the actuations of Dinnah Villaviza, Elizabeth Duque, Adronico Echavez, Rodel Rubio, Pilar Layco, Rowena Therese Gracia, and Antonio Jose Legarda is a mere exercise of their constitutional right to freedom of expression.

"Government workers have as much right as any person in the land to voice out their protests against what they believe to be a violation of their rights and interests," the SC ruled.

"It would be unfair to hold that by joining the government service, the members thereof have renounced or waived this basic liberty. This freedom can be reasonably regulated only but can never be taken away," it added.

According to Garcia, he sought the dismissal of the workers for grave misconduct pursuant to the Rules of Procedure in Administrative Investigation (RPAI) of GSIS Employees and Officials, in relation to the Administrative Code of 1987.

Donning red shirts, together with some employees, respondents marched outside the office of the Investigation Unit in a mass demonstration and rally of protest and allegedly badmouthed the GSIS management.

On the same day, the manager of GSIS Investigation Unit (GSIS-IU), lawyer Lutgardo Barbo, issued a memorandum to each of the respondents requiring them to explain why they should not be administratively dealt with.

The group, however, denied that there was a planned mass action, and that their act of going to the office of the GSIS-IU was a spontaneous reaction after learning that their former union president was there.

But Garcia dismissed their explanations and initiated the filing of formal charges against them on June 24, 2005.

Five days later, Garcia issued separate but similarly worded decisions finding all seven respondents guilty of the charges and meting out the penalty of one-year year suspension plus the accessory penalties.

The CSC, however, reversed Garcia's decisions, prompting him to elevate the case before the appellate courts. (JCV/Sunnex)