CA: Disciplining gov’t personnel not punitive

The CA said Fulgar put an undue burden on loan applicants by asking them to first secure clearances from the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission

The primary goal of disciplining government officials and workers is not to punish them but to improve the provision of public service and keep intact the people’s faith and confidence in the government, the Court of Appeals has said in a recent ruling.

In an 11-page decision penned by Associate Justice Pablito Perez, the CA affirmed the six-month suspension meted out by the Office of the Ombudsman against an Aurora provincial human resource officer whose actions led to the delay in the processing of an employee’s loan application.

Said decision stemmed from a petition of Jude Carmel Fulgar against a 21 February 2021 Ombudsman ruling that punished him for “conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the public.”

The CA said the Constitution stresses that public office is a public trust and so officers must at all times serve with “utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

It added that the constitutionally-enshrined principles, oft-repeated in case laws, are not merely rhetorical flourishes or idealistic sentiments, and should be taken as working standards by all in the public service.

Fulgar was found guilty by the Ombudsman of imposing additional requirements, like clearances from the Ombudsman and Civil Service Commission, before processing loan applications of employees with the Government Service Insurance System, Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Fulgar was also administratively charged with grave abuse of authority or oppression, gross neglect of duty, inefficiency, and incompetence in the performance of public functions. The additional charges were dismissed by the CA.

The CA said the action of Fulgar put an undue physical and financial burden on loan applicants who, out of need, “had no choice but to travel from Aurora to Manila and vice versa to secure unnecessary clearances from the Ombudsman and the CSC.”

The court said greater damage comes with the public’s perception of corruption or incompetence in the government.

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