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The bane of the courtesy resignation

Shortly after Vice President Jejomar Binay resigned from the Aquino Cabinet, a Malacañang spokesperson said that following Cabinet tradition, his recommendees should also resign from their posts to give their successors a free hand in running the agencies he used to head.

Echoing that call, a member of the administration party called on the presidents of the Home Development Mutual Fund, National Home Mortgage Finance Corp., Home Guaranty Corp., and Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board to tender their courtesy resignation. All these agencies are under the supervision of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) that Binay used to chair.

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The Vice President’s camp described the call as proof of the administration’s putting a “premium on political ties and loyalties rather than on competence and professionalism.”

In the context of Philippine politics, a courtesy resignation (or offer to resign without meaning to) is usually made by government personnel whose right to stay in their jobs is coterminous with the term of the appointing power who has resigned or been dismissed.

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The offer of resignation gives the incoming official the opportunity to appoint his or her own assistants without having to ask or order the holdover staff to vacate their posts.

Even if submitted for ceremonial purposes only, a courtesy resignation has the same force and effect as a voluntary resignation. Once it is accepted, the employment relationship of the employee with the government ceases.

Although a courtesy resignation may have its merits, its advocates should be careful in invoking it as justification to pressure its target into resigning.

If a person recommended by Binay to a rank-and-file or supervisory position in a government office is, after meeting civil service requirements, extended regular (or permanent) appointment, it would be improper to ask or compel him or her to submit his or her courtesy resignation.

In the absence of proof that the appointment is irregular, it is presumed to be valid and the appointee is therefore entitled to all the rights and privileges that go with it.

The identity of the person, if any, who worked on his or her appointment is immaterial. Upon his or her appointment, the employee is entitled to the constitutional protection of security of tenure.

He or she cannot be suspended or dismissed from the service unless for any of the causes provided for by law and after complying with the procedural requirements of due process.

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Anybody who pressures that employee into submitting a courtesy resignation simply because he or she is a Binay recommendee could find himself or herself in legal trouble.

The situation, however, is different for Binay’s recommendees to executive positions in the four offices formerly under his supervision as HUDCC chair.

Although they were endorsed by Binay, the fact that President Aquino appointed them means the latter believed they are qualified to perform the duties and responsibilities of their positions.

No doubt, Malacañang’s search committee vetted Binay’s recommendees before their appointment papers were endorsed to President Aquino for his signature. The President’s approval of their appointment made them his, not Binay’s, responsibility.

Requiring the presidents of the agencies that were once supervised by Binay to submit their courtesy resignation would “politicize” their offices and make them pawns in a political game.

In the first place, these offices are not engaged in dispensing patronage that can be used to build political capital for future use, like the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office or the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Neither are they ad hoc offices or were created by the Aquino administration to attend to a temporary contingency and have outlived their usefulness. They were organized pursuant to law and have been in operation for decades to fulfill a basic human need—decent and affordable housing.

They do not dispense doles or freebies to anyone who comes knocking at their doors. Applicants for housing facilities have to meet certain social and financial criteria to be able to avail themselves of the agencies’ resources.

In other words, there is no free lunch. Housing loans have to be paid. Loan defaults could result in foreclosure or loss of a house and lot. And most importantly, their funds are audited by the Commission on Audit.

If only in recognition of the significance of the work they perform, these agencies deserve to be treated better than other offices whose reason for being is to help keep their benefactors politically secure.

Simply because their heads were recommended to their posts by somebody who is no longer in the good graces of the administration does not justify their being required to submit their courtesy resignation.

The agency heads’ continued stay should depend on their ability to accomplish the goals or objectives of their office, not on the political standing of the person who endorsed them to their position.

If, after a performance audit, it is shown that they failed to accomplish the objectives of their offices for reasons attributable to their fault or negligence, a courtesy resignation need not be awaited or demanded. They should be replaced immediately by someone who can competently do the job. But until then, they should be allowed to do their job without undue interference from outside forces, especially politicians.

Let’s stop romanticizing the courtesy resignation. It has become an excuse to justify the adage “to the victors belong the spoils.”

Raul J. Palabrica ([email protected]) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.

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TAGS: Aquino administration, Cabinet, courtesy resignation, Jejomar Binay, P-Noy
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