How do I file a complaint against a barangay official?
A barangay is the smallest unit of local government in the Philippines. It is headed by the Punong Barangay or Barangay Chairperson, or more colloquially known as the Barangay Captain or Kapitan. Aiding in their governance is the Sangguniang Barangay or the Barangay Council, composed of elected council members or Barangay Kagawad, including the chairman of the Sangguniang Kabataan. The barangay also has its own justice system through the Katarungang Pambarangay, which is handled by the Lupon Tagapamayapa. This is also usually headed by the Barangay Captain, with around ten (10) to twenty (20) other members. Essentially, these comprise the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the barangay level. The powers and functions of the Punong Barangay, Sangguniang Barangay, and the Katarungang Pambarangay are all laid out in Title I, Book III of Republic Act No. 7160 (“R.A. No. 7160”), or the Local Government Code of 1991. Presently, over 42,000 barangays form part of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas or the League of Barangays in the Philippines.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT HIERARCHY
Local government in the Philippines is divided into provinces and independent cities, component cities, and the barangays. These local governments units (“LGUs”) enjoy local autonomy, with the President merely exercising general supervision over the LGUs. These local government units are specifically under the control and supervision of the Department of Interior and Local Government (“DILG”).
In the hierarchy of local governments in the Philippines, barangays are grouped into either cities or municipalities, which in turn form provinces. Each unit of local government has their own local chief executive – the mayor or the governor – with its own legislative body – either the sanggunian bayan, sanggunian panlungsod, or sanggunian panlalawigan. This hierarchy becomes relevant particularly in the filing of disciplinary actions against elected officials.
FILING DISCPLINARY ACTIONS
It is possible to file complaints against barangay officials for grounds specified under the law. Under Section 60 of R.A. No. 7160, an elective barangay official may be disciplined, suspended, or removed from office for any of the following reasons:
a) Disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines;
b) Culpable violation of the Constitution;
c) Dishonesty, oppression, misconduct in office, gross negligence, or dereliction of duty;
d) Commission of any offense involving moral turpitude or an offense punishable by at least prision mayor;
e) Abuse of authority;
f) Unauthorized absence for fifteen (15) consecutive working days, except in the case of members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod, sangguniang bayan, and sangguniang barangay;
g) Application for, or acquisition of, foreign citizenship or residence or the status of an immigrant of another country; and
h) Such other grounds as may be provided in this Code and other laws.
The manner of filing a complaint against any elective barangay official is through a verified complaint filed before the sangguniang panlungsod or sangguniang bayan concerned.
In case preventive suspension is necessary when the evidence of guilt is strong, or given the gravity of the offense, or if there is great probability that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence, the city or municipal mayor may impose such measure.
ENFORCEMENT OF DECISIONS
Within thirty (30) days after the end of the investigation, the sanggunian concerned shall render a decision. Afterwards, the decision of the sangguniang panlungsod or sangguniang bayan concerned– following the hierarchy – may be appealed to the sangguniang panlalawigan. The decisions of the latter may be appealed at the Office of President, whose decision shall be final and executory.
It is important to note, however, that only the proper judicial court may affect the removal of an elective official. In other words, the highest form of penalty that can be imposed by the local council is suspension as removal from one’s elective position rests solely within the powers of the judiciary. Should the sanggunian deem it necessary to remove the erring barangay official from office, it may resolve to file the appropriate complaint in court.