10 basic principles on public officers

Below are 10 basic principles in the law on public officers that all lawyers and law students should keep in mind.

It is the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics in public service. Public officials and employees shall at all times be accountable to the people and shall discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence, and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives, and uphold public interest over personal interest. (Section 2 of Republic Act No. 6713)

[1] Nature of Public Office. - Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with the utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.

[2] Policy on Change of Citizenship. - Public officers and employees owe the Senate and the Constitution allegiance at all times, and any public officer or employee who seeks to change his citizenship or acquire the status of an immigrant of another country during his tenure shall be dealt with by law.

[3] Declaration of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. - A public officer or employee shall upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth.

[4] Ethics in Government. - All public officers and employees shall be bound by a Code of Ethics to be promulgated by the Civil Service Commission.

[5] Inhibition Against Purchase of Property at Tax Sale. - No officer or employee of the government shall purchase directly or indirectly any property sold by the government for the non-payment of any tax, fee or other public charge. Any such purchase by an officer or employee shall be void.

[6] Powers Incidental to Taking of Testimony. - When authority to take testimony or receive evidence is conferred upon any administrative officer or any non-judicial person, committee, or other body, such authority shall include the power to administer oaths, summon witnesses, and require the production of documents by a subpoena duces tecum.[7] Liability of Superior Officers. - A public officer shall not be civilly liable for acts done in the performance of his official duties, unless there is a clear showing of bad faith, malice or gross negligence.

[8] Neglect of Duty. - Any public officer who, without just cause, neglects to perform a duty within a period fixed by law or regulation, or within a reasonable period if none is fixed, shall be liable for damages to the private party concerned without prejudice to such other liability as may be prescribed by law.

[9] Wrongful Acts of Subordinates. - A head of a department or a superior officer shall not be civilly liable for the wrongful acts, omissions of duty, negligence, or misfeasance of his subordinates, unless he has actually authorized by written order the specific act or misconduct complained of.

[10] Liability of Subordinate Officers. - No subordinate officer or employee shall be civilly liable for acts done by him in good faith in the performance of his duties. However, he shall be liable for willful or negligent acts done by him which are contrary to law, morals, public policy and good customs even if he acted under orders or instructions of his superiors.