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Friday, September 17, 2021

Public officials reminded to know, follow the law

THE most common charge filed against public officials and officials before the Sandiganbayan in 2015 was for violating Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, records from the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas showed.

And for the last five years, local government units (LGUs) were on top of the list of state agencies with the most number of cases filed before the anti-graft office, said lawyer Maria Corazon Naraja, press desk head of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

The number of cases filed against erring LGU personnel nationwide went up by 31 percent, from 2,053 cases in 2014 to 2,697 in 2015.

According to the ombudsman’s Finance and Management Office, cases against LGU personnel also posted an increase from 2,014 cases in 2013 to 2,053 cases in 2014.

The 2013 and 2014 data, however, showed a “downward trend” in the number of cases filed against LGU personnel/officials compared to the 2011 data, which posted 3,854 cases.

Not for everybody

Naraja, a graft investigation and prosecution officer, reminded public officials, particularly those who have just been elected and who assumed office last July 1, that their names will likely be dragged into investigations and cases at one point or another.

“That is just how the public and the government exact accountability from public servants. Public service is not for everybody, certainly not for the faint of heart,” said Naraja.

So what should a public official do to avoid being charged?

It is best for public officials and personnel to always align their official acts with the Constitution and the law, said Naraja.

“It is important that they study and observe rules and regulations relevant to their jobs. In all their official transactions and decisions, they must choose the option that gives the best advantage to the government and to the taxpayers,” said Naraja.

Public interest

For those involved in government purchases and projects, they must carefully study RA 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, its implementing rules and regulations, as well as guidelines set by the Government Procurement Policy Board.

Public officials should also take to heart the norms of conduct under Section 4 of RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standard for Public Officials and Employees).

“The ethical standards for public officials and employees are set so high that their conduct both within and outside the office is constantly under scrutiny,” said Naraja.

Naraja pointed out that government workers are called public servants because they are expected to put the interest of the public over and above their personal interest.
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