VERY recently, a colleague from the National Union of Career Executive Service Officers (Nuceso) Inc. – an organization of all CESOs or ‘third level’ public officials or the managerial class in the group of career positions in the Philippine government appointed by the President and created by law to “form a continuing pool of well-selected and development-oriented career administrators who shall provide competent and faithful service” – asked me a legal query as to whether the “fifteen working days within which to respond to requests” requirement is mandatory even in case of requests that requires actions that are not perfunctory in nature.
I said, “to respond to requests, yes” but “not necessarily to complete the action” or “resolve completely the issues involved” particularly if the “matter is non-routinary or the issues involved are not simple or ordinary.”
I then explained the law further in the following manner:
Section 5 (a), (c) and (d) of Republic Act (RA) 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, provides:
“SECTION 5. Duties of Public Officials and Employees. – In the performance of their duties, all public officials and employees are under obligation to:
(a) Act promptly on letters and requests. – All public officials and employees shall, within fifteen (15) working days from receipt hereof, respond to letters, telegrams or other means of communications sent by the public. The reply must contain the action taken on the request.
- c) Process documents and papers expeditiously. – All official papers and documents must be processed and completed within a reasonable time from the preparation thereof and must contain, as far as practicable, not more than three (3) signatories therein. In the absence of the authorised signatories, the official next-in-rank or officer-in-charge shall sign for and in their behalf.
(d) Act immediately on the public’s personal transactions. All public officials and employees must attend to anyone who wants to avail himself of the services of their offices and must, at all times, act promptly and expeditiously.”
So let me summarize now the law and enumerate what Sections 1, 3 and 4 of Rule VI of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 6713 further provide, for us to easily understand the specific requirements that should be performed by all public officials and employees in responding to such requests.
First, as a general rule, when a request or petition, whether written or verbal, can be disposed of promptly and expeditiously, the official and employee in charge to whom the same is presented shall do so immediately, without discrimination, and in no case beyond fifteen (15) working days from receipt of the request or petition. Second, in case of written requests, petitions or motions, sent by means of letters, telegrams, or the like, and if such communication is WITHIN the jurisdiction of the office or agency and the matter is merely ROUTINARY or the action desired may be acted upon in the ordinary course of business of the department office or agency, the official or employee in charge shall act on the same within 15 working days from receipt thereof and must write a note or letter of acknowledgement specifying the date when the matter will be disposed of and the name of the official or employee in charge thereof. Third, in case of written requests, petitions or motions, sent by means of letters, telegrams, or the like, and if such communication is WITHIN the jurisdiction of the office or agency and the matter is NON-ROUTINARY or the issues involved are not simple or ordinary, the official or employee in charge shall act on the same within 15 working days from receipt thereof and must write a note or letter of acknowledgement, informing the interested party, petitioner or correspondent of the action to be taken or when such requests, petitions or motions can be acted upon.
Where there is a need to submit additional information, requirements, or documents, the note or letter of acknowledgement shall so state, specifying a reasonable period of time within which they should be submitted, and the name of the particular official or employee in charge thereof. When all the documents or requirements have been submitted to the satisfaction of the department or office or agency concerned, the particular official or employee in charge shall inform the interested party, petitioner, or correspondent of the action to be taken and when such action or disposition can be expected, barring unforeseen circumstances. Fourth, in case of written requests, petitions or motions, sent by means of letters, telegrams, or the like, and if such communication is OUTSIDE the jurisdiction of the office or agency, the official or employee must within15 working days from receipt thereof: (1) refer the letter, petition, telegram, or verbal request to the proper department, office or agency; and (2) acknowledge the communication by means of a note or letter, informing the interested party, petitioner, correspondent of the action taken and attaching a copy of the letter of referral to the proper department, office or agency.
The department, office or agency to which the letter, petition, telegram or verbal request was referred for appropriate action must take action in accordance with aforementioned depending whether the matter is routinary or not. The decided cases of Atty. Raul Muyco v. Eva Saratan (A.M. No. P-03-1761, April 2, 2004) and Antonio Arroyo v. Sancho Alcantara (A.M. No. P-01-1518, November 14, 2001) may also help our readers on how our Supreme Court actually interpreted “the duty of a public employee to act on the letters and requests of the public within 15 working days from the time she receives them and to attend promptly and expeditiously to anyone who wants to avail of the services of her office.” Under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service promulgated on November 8, 2011, violation of this “15 day to respond requirement” is a light offense punishable by reprimand for the first offense; suspension of one to 30 days for the second offense; and dismissal from service for the third offense.
This column should not be taken as a legal advice applicable to any case, as each case is unique and should be construed in light of the attending circumstances surrounding such particular case.
Lawyer Toni Umali is the current assistant secretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs of the Department of Education (DepEd). He is licensed to practice law not only in the Philippines, but also in the state of California and some federal courts in the US after passing the California State Bar Examinations in 2004. He has served as a legal consultant to several legislators and local chief executives. As education assistant secretary, he was instrumental in the passage of the K to 12 law and the issuance of its implementing rules and regulations. He is also the alternate spokesman of the DepEd.