Section 1. This Act may be cited as the "Citizen's Counselor Act of 1969".
Sec. 2. The purposes of this Act are:
(b) to promote higher standards of efficiency in the conduct of government business and in the administration of justice for better service to the citizens.
Sec. 3. To carry out the purposes of this Act, there is hereby created an office to be known as the Office of the citizen's Counselor to which the President, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, shall appoint an officer to be known as the Citizen's counselor, hereinafter referred to as the Counselor. The Citizen's Counselor shall be assisted by two (2) Associate Counselors, who shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines with the consent of the Commission on Appointments.
Sec. 4. No person may be appointed Counselor unless he has been a member of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeals.
No person may be appointed Associate Counselor unless he is a citizen of the Philippines, at least forty years of age and has for ten (10) years or more been a judge of a court of record or engaged actively in the practice of law.
No person may serve as Counselor or Associate Counselor (a) within two (2) years of the last day on which he served as a member of Congress; (b) while he is a candidate for or holds any other public office; or (c) while he is actively engaged in any other calling for profit or reward.
No Counselor or Associate Counselor shall be a candidate for any public office within two (2) years from the last day on which he served as Counselor or Associate Counselor.
Sec. 5. Before entering upon the exercise of the duties of their office, the Counselor and Associate Counselors shall take an oath that they will not, except for the purpose of giving effect to this Act, divulge any information received by them under this Act.
Sec. 6. The term of the Counselor and Associate Counselors shall be six (6) years. They may be reappointed but may not serve more than two (2) terms.
Sec. 7. The Counselor shall have an annual compensation of thirty-six thousand pesos (P36,000.00) and the Associate Counselors shall receive an annual compensation of thirty thousand pesos (P30,000.00) each in addition to any pension or retirement benefits to which they may be entitled to.
Sec. 8. No Counselor or Associate Counselor shall be removed from office except upon a verified complaint filed by an aggrieved party with the Office of the President on grounds of serious misconduct or inefficiency. Upon filing of the complaint, the President shall constitute a board to be composed of three (3) former justices of the Supreme Court and/or Court of Appeals which shall conduct an investigation of the charges stated in the complaint and upon a finding a guilt after due notice and hearing, the board shall recommend to the President the removal of the Counselor or Associate Counselor concerned. The President may, upon such recommendation, remove from office the Counselor or Associate Counselor concerned.
Sec. 9. In case the Counselor dies, resigns, is removed from office, or in the event of his inability to perform the duties and powers of his office, they shall devolve upon the Associate Counselor designated by the President until another Counselor is Appointed and has qualified or until such disability is removed.
Sec. 10. The Associate Counselors shall not be removed from office except in the manner prescribed for the removal of the Counselor in Section 8 hereof.
The Counselor shall appoint, subject to the Civil Service law, such other subordinate officers and employees as may be necessary for the efficient performance of the duties and functions of his office. The compensation of such other subordinate officers and employees shall be exempt from the position classification as determined by the Wage and Position classification Office (WAPCO).
Sec. 11. For the purpose of this Act:
(2) "government agency" shall include any government entity, department, organization, or institution, and any officer, employee, or member thereof acting or purporting to act in the exercise of his official duties, except (a) the President; (b) Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives; and, (c) judges of any court of the Philippines, regardless of whether such court is constitutional or statutory.
Sec. 12. The office of the Citizen's Counselor shall have jurisdiction to investigate, on a complaint by any person or on his own motion, any administrative act of a government agency when he has reasons to believe that such act may be:
(2) under a mistake of law or fact, partly or wholly;
(3) without adequate statement of reasons;
(4) based on grounds that are improper or irrelevant;
(5) done inefficiently;
(6) in conflict with law; or
(7) otherwise erroneous.
Sec. 13. The Office of the Citizen's Counselor, in its discretion, may refuse to investigate or may cause to investigate any complaint if:
(2) it is trivial, frivolous, vexatious, or is not made in good faith.
In every case where the Counselor decides not to investigate or that he will cease to investigate any complaint, he shall inform the complainant of such decision.
Sec.14. Where, after investigation, the Counselor is of the opinion that:
(2) an administrative act should be modified or cancelled;
(3) a law or regulation on which an administrative act is based should be altered
(4) reasons should be given for an administrative act; or
(5) any other action should be taken by the government agency; the Counselor shall report his opinion with his reason/s therefor to the government agency concerned with such recommendations as he may think fit and, where he so recommends, he may request the government agency concerned to notify him, within a reasonable time, what the said agency proposes to do thereon.
Where the government agency concerned, after the lapse of such reasonable time, does not act upon the recommendations of the Counselor, or refuses to act thereon, or acts in a manner unsatisfactory to the Counselor, he may send a copy of his opinion and recommendations, with any comment he may wish to add thereto, to Congress, to the President, to the public, or to any of these, including with such copy any reply made by the government agency to such opinion and recommendations.
Sec. 15. The Counselor shall in every case inform the complainant, in such manner and at such time as he thinks proper, of the result of the investigation, including therewith such other comment or information as he may deem fit.
Sec. 16. The Counselor, within a year after the effectivity of this Act and thereafter in each succeeding calendar year, shall make a report on the proceedings of his office with his recommendations, if any, as to any measures that should be taken to better implement and achieve the purposes of this Act and shall thereupon submit such report to the President and to Congress.
Sec. 17. In any report made by the Counselor under this Act, he shall not make any finding or comment that is adverse to any agency or person unless he gives such agency or person an opportunity to be heard.
Sec. 18. If, during or after an investigation, the Counselor is of the opinion that there is evidence of a breach of duty or misconduct by any officer or employee of a government agency, he shall refer the matter to the proper authorities for appropriate action or he may file the necessary complaint with the corresponding authorities and prosecute the same until the termination of the preliminary investigation.
Sec. 19. In order that the Counselor may properly and effectively exercise his jurisdiction under Section Twelve hereof, and subject in all respects to the same restrictions and qualifications as apply in judicial proceedings of a similar character, he may:
(2) issue a subpoena duces tecum to compel any person to bring and produce documents, papers, or objects, which the Counselor believes may relate to a matter under investigation.
Sec. 20. The Counselor shall have the power to prescribe and issue rules and regulations for the conduct of the business of the office, and the reception and evaluation of evidence shall be guided by administrative rules rather than judicial rules.
Sec. 21. Where the President in writing certifies that the giving of any information or the answering of any question or the production of any document, paper, or object, might prejudice the national security, the Counselor shall not require the information or answer to be given or the document or paper or object to be produced, as the case may be, in any investigation conducted by him.
Sec. 22. Every person holding any office or appointment under the Counselor shall, before he begins to perform any official duty under this Act, take an oath, to be administered by the Counselor, that he will not divulge any information received by him under this Act, except for the purpose of giving effect to this Act. Any person holding any office or appointment under the Counselor who divulges any information received by him under this Act, except for the purposes of giving effect to this Act, shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding two (2) years, without prejudice to his liability, criminal or otherwise, under other laws, rules and regulations.
Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Section, the Counselor may disclose in any report made by him under this Act such matters as in his opinion ought to be disclosed in order to establish grounds for his conclusions and recommendations.
Sec. 23. The records of investigation in the Office of the Counselor shall be confidential until a prima facie case shall have been established. Said Office shall have access to all government records necessary for the performance of its functions.
Sec. 24. No proceeding of the Counselor shall be held for want of form, and, except on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, no proceeding or decision of the Counselor shall be liable to be challenged, reviewed, quashed, or called in question in any court.
Sec. 25. No proceeding. Civil or criminal, shall lie against the Counselor or against any person holding any office or appointment under the Counselor for anything he may do or report or say in the course of the exercise or intended exercise of his functions under this Act, unless it is shown that he acted with gross negligence or in evident bad faith.
Sec. 26. This Act shall not abrogate, abridge, or infringe, or authorize the abrogation, abridgment or infringement of any substantive or procedural right or remedy existing under any other law, rule or regulation.
Sec. 27. A letter to the Counselor from a person held in custody by an agency shall be forwarded immediately, unopened, to the Counselor.
Sec. 28. Any person who, without lawful justification or excuse shall:
(b) refuse or willfully fail to comply with any lawful requirement of the Counselor or any other person in the exercise of his powers under this Act; or
(c) willfully make any false statement to or misleads or attempts to mislead the Counselor or any other person in the exercise of his powers under this Act; shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) or by imprisonment of not more than one (1) year, or by both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court, without prejudice to his liability, criminal or otherwise, under other laws.
Sec. 29. If, for any reason, any section or provision of this Act shall be questioned in any court, and shall be held to be unconstitutional or invalid, no other section or provision of this Act shall be affected thereby.
Sec. 30. To carry out the provisions of this Act, the sum of five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) or so much thereof as may be necessary, is hereby authorized to be appropriated out of the available funds of the National Treasury. Thereafter, such sums as may be needed for the operation and maintenance of the Office of the Citizen's Counselor shall be included in the annual general Appropriations Acts.
Sec. 31. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
Approved, August 4, 1969