Dear PAO,

Our barangay captain is a lawyer. Last week, I saw him attend a hearing for his client in Quezon City. Upon inquiry, I was told he is practicing his profession as a lawyer. As an elected Punong Barangay, is he not prohibited to practice his profession in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Public Officials considering he is already a public official?

KS

Dear KS,

Your barangay captain can still practice his profession as a lawyer, despite the fact he is an elected official.

It may be emphasized that the Supreme Court has resolved the propriety of the practice of profession by a Punong Barangay in the case of Wilfredo M. Catu vs. Atty. Vicente G. Rellosa (A.C. 5738, February 19, 2008), penned by former chief justice Renato Corona. It ruled Section 90 of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code, and not Section 7(B)(2) of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, governs the practice of profession of elective local government officials considering RA No. 7160 is a special law with a definite scope. A part of the decision is written in this wise:

"Of these elective local officials, governors, city mayors and municipal mayors are prohibited from practicing their profession or engaging in any occupation other than the exercise of their functions as local chief executives. This is because they are required to render full time service. They should therefore devote all their time and attention to the performance of their official duties.

xxx.

While, as already discussed, certain local elective officials (like governors, mayors, provincial board members and councilors) are expressly subjected to a total or partial proscription to practice their profession or engage in any occupation, no such interdiction is made on the punong barangay and the members of the sangguniang barangay. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius. Since they are excluded from any prohibition, the presumption is they are allowed to practice their profession. And this stands to reason because they are not mandated to serve full time. In fact, the sangguniang barangay is supposed to hold regular sessions only twice a month.

Accordingly, as punong barangay, the respondent was not forbidden to practice his profession. However, he should have procured prior permission or authorization from the head of his department, as required by civil service regulations.

Applying the foregoing in your query, a Punong Barangay may practice his profession, may it be the practice of law or the practice of another profession, provided he secures prior written permission from the head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

We hope we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]