(Article published in
TODAY, Business Section)
with the rest of the country still recovering from the trauma of the last
electoral exercise, I wish President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo success in
her 10-point agenda for the next six years.
The agenda, however, cannot be hers alone; it must be claimed and
interiorized by the bureaucracy as its, too. An American president who
undoubtedly was then the most powerful man in the world, observed: “I
sit here at the Oval Office, pick up the phone,
and order, ‘Do this; do that.’
And nothing happens.” Nothing,
until some bureaucrat in his own good time takes what is generically known
in the ubiquitous government interoffice memo as “the appropriate
The Chief Executive, in the U.S. as well as here, is dependent on the huge
army of civil servants, pejoratively referred to as the bureaucracy, to
bring to reality the promises of the Inaugural. Unfortunately, the
bureaucrat is a most maligned person.
Hardly anybody identifies with the bureaucrat’s plight, hemmed in
as he is by red tape. As a consequence, the bureaucrat, all too often finds himself all alone when sued by the
disgruntled on the wrong side of policy or process. He thus, in self-preservation, proceeds with extreme caution,
for while doing something wrong is often penalized by law, not doing
anything is hardly a crime
for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the work environment of the civil
servant has been changing a bit lately.
It has become more conducive to patriotic action. And change has
come from an unlikely source, the courts of law. In three cases decided
recently, the judiciary opted to throw its mantle of protection around the
bureaucrat, shielding him against frivolous suits and harassment cases,
thereby giving him opportunity, if he so wishes, to selflessly rise to the
demands of his job.
this year, in Reyes, et al. vs Rural Bank of San Miguel, G.R. No. 154499,
promulgated 27 February 2004, the Supreme Court came to the rescue of
Alberto V. Reyes whom the court itself found, a year earlier, to be liable
for violation of standards of professionalism prescribed by R.A. No. 6713.
After revisiting the facts and the law, the Supreme Court corrected
itself and conceded, among other things, that merely introducing to the
owners of a failed bank people who interested in saving the bank, without
having any pecuniary interest at all in the result of the ensuing talks,
was not a breach of his professional responsibility.
The Supreme Court invoked the big picture and, recognizing that the
Bangko Sentral is an independent body with fiscal and administrative
autonomy, Supreme Court Associate Justice Dante O. Tinga ruled that “its
officials should be granted a certain degree of flexibility in the
performance of their duties and provided insulation from interference and
vexatious suits, especially when moves of the kind are resorted to as
counterfoil to the exercise of their regulatory mandate.”
Following the lead of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, in
Borlongan v. Buenaventura, CA-G.R. SP No. 72270, promulgated 04 June 2004,
also correcting its earlier position, fended off an administrative
complaint filed against Alberto V. Reyes, and his colleagues in the Bangko
Sentral, that was filed by Teodoro C. Borlongan, former president and
chief executive officer of Urban Bank, Inc., another failed bank. Confronted by an affidavit written by the bank’s own
Chairman, Arsenio M. Bartolome III, himself, which in no uncertain terms
expressly declared that “the majority shareholders…agreed not to
question the MB [Monetary Board] Resolution and the appointment of the
PDIC as receiver…”, the Court of Appeals, through ponente Justice
Lucas P. Bersamin, recognized that Bartolome’s administrative complaint
is a circumvention of the law giving the right to question the Monetary
Board’s actuations to the majority of the bank’s shareholders and not
to any Tom, Dick, and Harry.
who was not the majority stockholder of the bank, therefore had “no
direct personal interest to be affected by the determination of the issue,
his present appeal and, for that matter, the administrative investigation
a quo will not resolve any real and actual controversy for him and”
Alberto V. Reyes and the other respondents.
In short, “the essentiality of the petitioner to be first a party
in interest…is…decisive of whether the charge should prosper or
not.” This principle
effectively protects the civil servant from vexatious suits from
vindictive wrongdoers masquerading as selfless messiahs.
the trend had began even prior to the above rulings of the higher courts.
At the judicial trenches, in the level where law is daily at
eyeball to eyeball with the citizen, Judge Elvira D.C. Panganiban of
Branch 58 of the Metropolitan Trial Court in San Juan, Metro Manila,
struck down an attempt to embarrass, if not harass, Alberto V. Reyes, in
the guise of exercising the accused right to secure the attendance of
witnesses in his behalf. Senior officials of another failed bank, Prime Savings Bank,
Inc., were facing before her court charges of submitting to the Bangko
Sentral false, misleading, and unfounded figures in their consolidated
statements of condition. Alberto
V. Reyes was no more than the recipient of a report of the bank examiner
who conducted the investigation on the consolidated reports.
For that alone, the accused sought to put him on the witness stand.
Judge Panganiban, a worthy aluma of her worthy law school, in People v. Antonio et al, Criminal Cases Nos. 76194-95, 76489-90, ruled that the testimony to be elicited from Reyes would have “no relevance or materiality …to the issue” in the case. She observed, “Deputy Governor Reyes is a high ranking official of the BSP charged with the monetary and financial viability and stability of the country. He must be loaded with a lot of work. While it is the constitutional right of the accused to secure the attendance of witnesses for his defense, he or they cannot just ask, much less use, the Court to force people, especially high ranking government officials, to appear and testify when there is no…concrete materiality or relevance to what they are going to state…The Court should not allow itself to be a party to wasting the time of government officials charged with great responsibility by forcing their appearance through the issuance of a subpoena.”
the accuseds’ motion for reconsideration, the good judge firmly held her
ground and said, “The Court cannot and will not allow itself to be an
instrument in wasting the time of government officials in coming to court
to testify unless it is clearly shown that the testimony to be elicited
from him/her is material and relevant.”
the three cases involve Alberto V. Reyes, a real person, of flesh and
blood, sweating it out at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
But “Alberto V. Reyes”, for purposes of this piece, could for
all intents and purposes be an adjective, pointing to the heretofore
hapless government bureaucrat who daily goes about doing his job as best
he could with nary a word of thanks from the citizenry he serves.
It is him whom the President needs to recruit and to her rally under her vision for the next six years. The judiciary has paved the way by removing the chilling prospect of harassment cases. It is now up to the President to seek out the Alberto V. Reyeses of this world, high in morale as well as in morals, and ignite their passion. Otherwise, she would end up being like that man at the Oval Office.