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Guevarra to CSC: Consider setting guidelines on gifts for public officers

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday suggested that the Civil Service Commission (CSC) set guidelines on the amounts of gifts government workers may be allowed to accept.

Despite existing laws, undefined values and differing circumstances and local customs create a gray area on what kinds of tokens public officers may accept, Guevarra told reporters in a chance interview.

"If I may suggest, the CSC commissioners... you may have to set specific guidelines to remove doubt on whether a government or public officer is exceeding the bounds of ethics," he said.

Amid reports that Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner Greco Belgica had said a token worth P100,000 could be considered "insignificant," Guevarra said the term is "relative" as the law does not define "significant" or "insignificant" values.

Republic Act No. 3019, the anti-graft law, prohibits public officers from requesting or receiving any gift in connection with any contract involving the government, unless the unsolicited presents are of "small or insignificant value offered or given as a mere ordinary token of gratitude or friendship according to local customs or usage."

"It's really hard to define, wala namang definition kung ano 'yung ibig sabihin na insignificant na amount, it really depends on the context. Although for some people, sasabihin nila may kalakihan ang P100,000," Guevarra said. "I cannot really make a judgment on that until the factual situation presents itself."

The Justice chief said he believes public officers ought to be given some leeway if the gifts are not intended to influence their official action.

"Kasi Filipino culture din tayo, so we have to also respect our traditions, our customs. Karaniwan sa atin 'yan na kung tuwing may occasion, nagbibigay tayo ng regalo sa ating kaibigan na nagkataon lang na maaaring public official," he said.

"So for many situations, wala namang ibig sabihin 'yun. It is just a sign of friendship, a sign of gratitude, except kung talagang ang purpose is to influence the official action," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently stated he did not consider gift-giving by generous benefactors to police officers as bribery.

“Kung bigyan kayo tanggapin n’yo. It is not bribery... What I mean is if there is generosity in them. Sabi ng anti-graft you cannot accept gifts. Kalokohan,” he told police officials last week.

In response, CSC Commissioner Aileen Lizada said Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, as well as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act have to be followed. — BM, GMA News