• Filing case vs public official for misconduct, negligence

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I am an active member of a citizens’ organization in the province. We are planning to file a case against our vice governor for misconduct and negligence but we do not know what to do. How can we file a case against him?
    Chase

    Dear Chase,
    Our Constitution states that public office is a public trust, and mandates that public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice and lead modest lives. The failure of a public officer to abide by this exacting mandate may be used as a ground for disciplinary sanction.

    Section 60 of the Local Government Code of 1991 enumerates the grounds for which an elective local official may be disciplined, suspended or removed from office. These include dishonesty, oppression, misconduct in office, gross negligence or dereliction of duty (Section 60 (c), Republic Act 7160). Bear in mind, however, that the terms misconduct in office and gross negligence have specific legal meanings in our jurisdiction.

    Misconduct means “a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer” (Samson vs. Restrivera, 646 SCRA 481). To constitute as a ground for disciplinary action, the act(s) complained of must have a “direct relation to and be connected with the performance of his official duties amounting either to maladministration or wilful, intentional neglect or failure to discharge the duties of the office” (GSIS vs. Mayordomo, 649 SCRA 667 citing Manuel vs. Calimag, Jr., 307 SCRA 657).

    On the other hand, gross negligence refers to “negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but wilfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to consequences insofar as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care, which even inattentive and thoughtless persons never fail to take on their own property. In cases involving public officials, there is gross negligence when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable” (Golangco vs. Fung, 504 SCRA 321).

    If the complaints against your vice governor measure up to misconduct in office and gross negligence as set forth earlier, then you may file an administrative case against him or her. The administrative case may be initiated by filing a verified complaint with the Office of the President in accordance with Section 61 of the Local Government Code. Alternatively, the complaint may also be filed with the Office of the Ombudsman by virtue of its disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials of the government, and its subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies pursuant to Section 21 of Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Law of 1989. To initiate the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, the complainant(s) must file written complaint under oath accompanied by affidavits of witnesses and other pieces of evidence, and a Certificate of Non-Forum Shopping (Rule III, Section 3, Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman, Administrative Order No. 7, Series of 1990).

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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