PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte had just appointed an officer-in-charge (OIC) to head the Department of Interior and Local Government. He is Catalino Cuy, an undersecretary for peace and order at the DILG and a former police chief of Davao City.
Cuy’s appointment as a temporary caretaker of the interior department adds to the growing number of OICs in this administration.
The legal adviser of the President should inform him that appointing OICs, instead of naming permanent appointees to these positions, runs counter to his campaign promise of effecting immediate change in government. More so, these OICs largely contribute to the continued inefficiency of government operations.
It is estimated that majority of government positions, which needs presidential appointments, are occupied by holdovers from the previous regime and by OICs.
The Administrative Code of 1987 is explicit when it comes to the appointment of OICs, which is temporary in nature. Section 27 thereof says –
“In the absence of appropriate eligibles and it becomes necessary in the public interest to fill a vacancy, a temporary appointment shall be issued to a person who meets all the requirements for the position to which he is being appointed except the appropriate civil service eligibility: Provided, that such temporary appointment shall not exceed twelve months, but the appointee may be replaced sooner if a qualified civil service eligible becomes available.”
Most of these OICs and holdovers are already into their tenth month of being caretakers of their respective units. Come the end of June 2017, their occupation of their present positions shall be considered illegal. Further, any acts done in the performance of their duties shall likewise be deemed illegal.
Acts of OICs are limited
A permanent appointee possesses a blanket authority on how to manage his domain. The appointed public official can make his own subordinate appointments, transfer and reassign his employees, and even terminate them. More importantly, he can enter into a contract, execute and sign them, with the presumption that the contract is advantageous to the government.
On the other hand, the acts of OICs are limited in nature. An OIC enjoys limited powers, which are confined to functions of administration and ensuring that the office continues its usual activities. The OIC may not be deemed to possess powers involving the exercise of discretion, which is beyond his power.
The Civil Service Commission (CSC) had elucidated this in one of its decisions, Resolution No. 00-0778, which was rendered in relation to the query of then CHEd Deputy Executive Director Julito D. Vitriolo.
If the designation of an OIC is couched in general terms, it is apparent that the same is limited only to “signing authority” or to functions of administration and ensuring that the day-to-day operations of the office are not paralyzed.
One of the limitations of an OIC is the power to appoint. The CSC resolution cited resolution states that, “the power to appoint resides exclusively in the appointing authority and is not deemed delegated to one who is merely an Officer-in-Charge. The designation of an OIC is nothing more than a temporary and convenient arrangement intended to avert paralyzation of the day-to-day operations of an office in the meantime that the chief or head of office is temporarily absent. The OIC has no power to appoint unless the designation issued by the proper appointing authority includes expressly the power to issue appointments.”
In an earlier decision, Resolution No. 1692, the CSC declared that, “an officer-in-charge takes care of the day-to-day affairs of the office. He enjoys limited powers which are at best confined to the functions of administration and to see to it that the office continues its usual activities. As a rule, an officer-in-charge cannot perform acts that involve the exercise of discretion.”
Moreover, an OIC cannot enter into long-term contracts because the same is not part of the day-to-day operations of the agency. Entering into a contract is an act that involves the exercise of discretion. Thus, any long-term contract entered into by an OIC is null and void from the very beginning. The OIC can be held administratively and criminally liable for executing such contracts.
How then can an OIC implement the much-needed changes in his department, or agency, if his powers are literally and legally limited by law?
How can an OIC decide effectively if he has no power of discretion?
My insight tells me that they cannot.
The solution to this is for the President to complete appointing public officials in their permanent capacities – and not mere OICs. More importantly, the President should remove all officials in holdover positions, knowing that their loyalty rests with the appointing authorities who placed them in their present positions.