MANILA – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday urged the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to set guidelines on what constitutes “insignificant” gifts that may be accepted by government officials.
His statement came in response to a comment by Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica who said in a recent television interview that as much as P100,000 could be “insignificant” for a government employee like him who earns the same amount as his monthly salary.
The 1989 Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) excludes “unsolicited gifts of nominal or insignificant value” from gifts that public officials may not receive, as long as these were “not given in anticipation of, or in exchange for, a favor.”
The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) similarly excludes “unsolicited gifts or presents of small or insignificant value offered or given as a mere ordinary token of gratitude or friendship according to local customs or usage.”
Asked to respond to Belgica’s statement, Guevarra said there is no definition under the law of what amount is “significant” or “insignificant,” and both terms could be “relative.”
“Mahirap magbigay ng specific guidelines kasi even according to the law, depending yan sa local customs and traditions of the place where the gift-giving happens so it’s really a relative term,” he told reporters on Monday.
(It’s hard to give specific guidelines because even under the law, it depends on the local customs and traditions of the place where the gift-giving happens, so it’s really a relative term.)
“Unless of course the Civil Service Commission (CSC) would give an exact or precise definition. Let’s say no gift exceeding P1,000 in any occasion so pwede gawin yun ng (so that can be done by the) CSC but right now wala nga ganun klase (no such) rule kaya (that’s why it’s) flexible so very relative ang concept,” he explained.
Guevarra said the CSC can issue implementing guidelines under the law.
“The CSC may create guidelines to implement the provision of the law at 'di pwede baguhin ng CSC the provision of the law itself because that is something for Congress to do,” he said.
But the justice chief said government officials are given “leeway” to accept gifts if these are not intended to influence official action.
“Kasi Filipino culture din tayo so we have to also respect our traditions, our customs. Karaniwan sa atin ‘yan na tuwing may occasion, nagbibigay tayo regalo sa ating kaibigan na nagkataon lang na maaaring isang public official. So, for many situations, wala naman ibig sabihin talaga yun kundi it’s just a sign of friendship, a sign of gratitude,” he said.
(Because we have Filipino culture so we have to also respect our traditions, our customs. It’s ordinary for us that during special occasions, we give gifts to friends who just might happen to be a public official. So for many situations, it doesn’t mean anything other than it’s just a sign of friendship, a sign of gratitude.)
“Basta, there’s only one important thing: the gift is not meant to influence official action. Yun lang ang mahalaga d’yan (That’s the important thing there),” he stressed.