TO : HON. RENATO S. DE VILLA, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY AND HON. AVELINO J. CRUZ, JR., PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL ADVISER, OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, MALACANANG, MANILA
FROM : ACTING SECRETARY
This refers to your request for opinion on whether or not Cabinet Members can engage in partisan political activity.
It appears that the query is being raised in view of the provision of the Constitution and related provisions of pertinent laws prohibiting officers and employees in the civil service from engaging in electioneering or partisan political activity. These provisions, respectively, provide, as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
1987 Constitution (Article IX-B)
"(4) No officer or employee in the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political campaign."
"x x x
"(1) Intervention of public officers and employees. - Any officer or employee in the civil service, except those holding political offices; any officer, employee, or member of the Armed forces of the Philippines, or any police force, special forces, home defense forces, barangay self-defense units and all other para-military units that now exist or which may hereafter be organized who, directly or indirectly, intervenes in any election campaign or engages in any partisan political activity, except to vote to preserve public order, if he is a peace officer." (Emphasis supplied) .
The abovequoted Constitutional provision prohibits any officer employee in the civil service from engaging in electioneering or partisan political campaign.
On the other hand, the provisions of the Administrative Code of 1987 and the Omnibus Election Code, also abovequoted, expressly exclude civil service officers or employees who hold political offices from the prohibition against engaging in any election campaign or partisan political activity.
Cabinet Members are not covered by the Constitutional prohibition against electioneering or partisan political activity because they hold political offices. Cabinet Members serve at the behest and pleasure of the President. As such, their positions are essentially political. (Bernas, The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary, 1996 edition, p. 919, citing Santos v. Yatco, G.R. No. L-16133, November 6, 1959) .
In Santos vs. Yatco (supra) , the Supreme Court held:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The above quoted provisions of the Constitution and Civil Service law have also been the subject of a clarificatory memorandum of the Civil Service Commission. In its Memorandum Circular No. 02, s.1992, the Commission stated:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
"x x x
for practical reasons and in view of the nature of their positions and
responsibility, the aforementioned inhibitions shall not be made to
to government officials holding political offices, such as:
2. The Vice President of the Philippines;
3. The Executive Secretary/Department Secretaries and other Members of the Cabinet;
4. All other elective officials at all levels; and
5. Those in the personal and confidential staff of the above officials."
Based on the foregoing, it is believed that Cabinet Members are not covered by the prohibition on electioneering or partisan political activity.
However, "it shall be unlawful for them to solicit contributions from their subordinates or subject them to any of the acts involving subordinates prohibited in the Election Code." (see Sec. 55, E.O. No. 292, supra ).