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Political Law Part XI: Article XI – Accountability of Public Officers



 1.  Sections 1. Public Office is a public trust.

  CAMILO L. SABIO vs. GORDON, G.R. No. 174340,  October 17, 2006, 504 SCRA 704

Sandoval-Gutierrez, J.

The Facts:

On February 20, 2006, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago introduced Philippine Senate Resolution No. 455 (Senate Res. No. 455),[1][4] “directing an inquiry in aid of legislation on the anomalous losses incurred by the Philippines Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (POTC),  Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (PHILCOMSAT), and PHILCOMSAT Holdings Corporation (PHC) due to the alleged improprieties in their operations by their respective Board of Directors.”

On May 8, 2006, Chief of Staff  Rio C. Inocencio, under the authority of Senator Richard J. Gordon, wrote Chairman Camilo L. Sabio of the PCGG, one of the herein petitioners, inviting him to be one of the resource persons in the public meeting jointly conducted by the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises and Committee on Public Services.  The purpose of the public meeting was to deliberate on Senate Res. No. 455.[2][6]

On May 9, 2006, Chairman Sabio declined the invitation because of prior commitment.[3][7] At the same time, he invoked Section 4(b) of           E.O. No. 1.

I S S U E:

Crucial to the resolution of the present petitions is the fundamental issue of whether Section 4(b) of E.O. No. 1 is repealed by the 1987 Constitution.  Assuming that it has not been repealed, is it not inconsistent with Section 1, Art. XI which states that public office is a public trust?

The petition has no merit.

Section 4(b) of E.O. No.1 limits the  power of legislative inquiry by exempting all PCGG members or staff from testifying in any judicial, legislative or administrative proceeding, thus:

No member or staff of the Commission shall be required to testify or produce evidence in any judicial, legislative or administrative proceeding concerning matters within its official cognizance.

Section 4(b) is also inconsistent with Article XI,     Section 1 of the Constitution stating that: “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.

The provision presupposes that since an incumbent of a public office is invested with certain powers and charged with certain duties pertinent to sovereignty, the powers so delegated to the officer are held in trust for the people and are to be exercised in behalf of the government or of all citizens who may need the intervention of the officers. Such trust extends to all matters within the range of duties pertaining to the office. In other words, public officers are but the servants of the people, and not their rulers.[4][24] 

Section 4(b), being in the nature of an immunity, is inconsistent with the principle of public accountability.   It places the PCGG members and staff beyond the reach of courts, Congress and other administrative bodies.  Instead of encouraging public accountability, the same provision only institutionalizes irresponsibility and non-accountability.  In Presidential Commission on Good Government v. Peña,[5][25] Justice Florentino P. Feliciano characterized as “obiter” the portion of the majority opinion barring, on the basis of Sections 4(a) and (b) of E.O. No. 1, a civil case for damages filed against the PCGG and its Commissioners. He eloquently opined:

The above underscored portions are, it is respectfully submitted, clearly obiter. It is important to make clear that the Court is not here interpreting, much less upholding as valid and constitutional, the literal terms of Section 4 (a), (b) of Executive Order No.1. If Section 4 (a) were given its literal import as immunizing the PCGG or any member thereof from civil liability “for anything done or omitted in the discharge of the task contemplated by this Order,” the constitutionality of Section 4 (a) would, in my submission, be open to most serious doubt. For so viewed, Section 4 (a) would institutionalize the irresponsibility and non-accountability of members and staff of the PCGG, a notion that is clearly repugnant to both the 1973 and 1987 Constitution and a privileged status not claimed by any other official of the Republic under the 1987 Constitution. x  x  x.

It would seem constitutionally offensive to suppose that a member or staff member of the PCGG could not be required to testify before the Sandiganbayan or that such members were exempted from complying with orders of this Court.    

Chavez v. Sandiganbayan[6][26] reiterates the same view.  Indeed, Section 4(b) has been frowned upon by this Court even before the filing of the present petitions.

2. Sections 12–18

a.   Impeachment, officers of the government who are impeachable, grounds, limitations for its exercise, procedure, etc. . .

          Read:     ROMULO, et al vs. YNIGUEZ, et al, 141 SCRA 263

“Culpable violation of the constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust”

Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any other office under the Republic of the Philippines but shall nevertheless be liable to prosecution, trial and punishment according to law.



When is an impeachment complaint deemed to be a bar to the filing of another complaint within a 1-year period?

A verified impeachment complaint bars the filing of another complaint against   an impeachable official  within a period of 1 year after the same was received by the House of Representatives and referred by the Speaker to the appropriate committee for its study and recommendation. It is deemed initiated under Art. XI, Section 3 [5] after the referral to the Committee by the Speaker. To “initiate” refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint COUPLED WITH CONGRESS TAKING INITIAL ACTION OF SAID COMPLAINT.”

a-1. Degree of loyalty, etc. of government employee.


Lim-Arce vs. Arce, 205 SCRA 21



1)   PD’s 1486, 1847, 1606, 1607 and 1630

2)   Exec. Order 244


          4)   MANGUBAT VS. SANDIGANBAYAN, 147 SCRA 478

          5)   GABISON VS. DE LOS ANGELES, 151 SCRA 61

          6)  ZALDEVAR  VS. RAUL GONZALES, April 27,                1988 and the Resolution of the Motion for Reconsideration dated 19 May 1988

          6)   BAGASO VS. SANDIGANBAYAN, 155 SCRA 154

          7)   DE JESUS VS. PEOPLE, 120 SCRA 760

          8)   QUIMPO VS. TANODBAYAN, December 2, 1986, 146 SCRA

          9)   INTING VS. TANODBAYAN, 97 SCRA 494

b-1 Who prosecutes public officials? Exception


1. Corpuz vs.  Tanodbayan, 149 SCRA 281

c.   Disqualification of public officer


1)   MINOR VS. AGBU, April 10, 1987


D. Power of the Ombudsman to suspend public officials.


Buenaseda vs. Flavier, September 21, 1993


Political Law Reviewer by Atty. Larry D. Gacayan

College of Law, University of the Cordilleras

Baguio City

[1][4]      Annex “E” of the Petition in G.R. No. 174318.

[2][6]      Annex “F” of the Petition in G.R. No. 174318.

[3][7]      Annex “G” of the Petition in G.R. No. 174318.

[4][24]     De Leon, De Leon, Jr. The Law on Public Officers and  Election Law, p. 2.

[5][25]     No. L-77663, April 12, 1988, 159 SCRA 558.

[6][26]     193 SCRA 282 (1991).