Some jurisprudence on administrative cases involving grave misconduct

toni-umaliOUR last column discussing a hypothetical case on dishonesty generated several comments and requests for us to discuss other offenses that may have been committed by the “respondent” in said hypothetical case.

So our hypothetical case is about a government official supposedly signing a document “without  authority” and/or “without any legal basis” as the attached documents are either inexistent or falsified. The facts of the case also indicate that there is no evidence to establish the government official’s intent to lie, cheat, defraud or steal (and no evidence to prove that it is the respondent, who falsified the attached documents or the respondent knows that the said documents are falsified).

In the previous column, we mentioned that there is no dishonesty. However, for this column, we wish to add that there may be some other offenses committed (though not dishonesty) depending on the facts of the case.

For example, the additional facts of the case is that the respondent government official (let’s call him “Mr. X”) under the aforementioned situation knows that the authority to sign that document lies with the head of his division and that he is just claiming that it is okay for him to sign such document because the head is “absent or is on leave.”  Mr. X’s colleagues said,  “he should wait for the head of the office to sign the document,” but he insisted since “the same document shall be reviewed by some other higher authorities in the region anyway and so it is now up to such higher authorities to disallow the act he has done.”

What happened now in our hypothetical case is that the “higher authorities in the region” approved the document signed by Mr. X, and then authorized some payments to some third persons based on that document, since the “higher authorities in the region” just approved the document signed by Mr. X without even reviewing the document that he is approving. (Please take note that Mr. X is not even designated as the “officer in charge” of his division.)

Without discussing the liability of the “higher authorities in the region,” Mr. X may be held liable here for Grave Misconduct.

Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer. The misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules which must be proved by substantial evidence. [Please see Civil Service Commission v. Ledesma, G.R. No. 154521, September 30, 2005, citing BIR  v. Organo, 424 SCRA 9 and CSC v. Lucas, 361 Phil. 486 (1999)]

In this case, Mr. X knew that he has no authority to sign. Mere absence of the head of the office does not necessarily give Mr. X the authority to sign the documents that may only be validly signed by the head of such office. Mr. X’s contention—that “the same document shall be reviewed by some other higher authorities in the region anyway and so it is now up to such higher authorities to disallow the act he has done”—is totally misplaced and has no legal leg to stand on.

Thus, the aforementioned circumstances should demonstrate Mr. X’s willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules making him liable for grave misconduct.

As previously stated, under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS) promulgated in November 8, 2011, by the CSC, administrative offenses are classified into grave, less grave or light, depending on their gravity or depravity and effects on the government service.

Thus, under Section 46, Rule 10 of RRACCS, grave misconduct is a grave offense punishable by dismissal from the service. “Simple misconduct” is a less grave offense punishable by suspension of one month and one day to six months for the first offense and dismissal for the second offense.

Misconduct may be considered simple if the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules are not present. (Please see also Samson v. Restrivera, G.R. No. 178454, March 28, 2011)

This column should not be taken as a legal advice applicable to any particular 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 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 United States 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.

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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 United States of America after passing the California State Bar Examinations in 2004.