Duterte bans travel junkets

March 22, 2019
Rodrigo R. Duterte
Rodrigo R. Duterte

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has banned travel junkets and team building activities abroad of government officials and employees, according to an order released by Malacañang yesterday.

Duterte on March 15 signed Executive Order 77 which updates the rules and regulations and rates and allowances for official local and foreign trips of government personnel.

Covered by the order, which is effective  immediately, are personnel of national government agencies, including state universities and colleges, government-owned or -controlled corporations, government financial institutions, Congress, judiciary, constitutional commissions, Office of the Ombudsman and local government units.

“All forms of travel junkets shall be strictly prohibited. The conduct of strategic planning workshops or team building activities abroad shall not be allowed,” the order read.

“The taking of a personal leave immediately before or after the official activity is highly discouraged. If travel circumstances, such as the nature of activity, purpose and itinerary, indicate that the trip is mainly intended for personal purposes, no part thereof shall be considered official.”

Duterte had repeatedly expressed his disdain for unnecessary or excessive foreign trips.

The EO calls for full disclosure of official foreign trips partially or fully sponsored by private corporations or individuals.

It said official or personal travels must not be sponsored by private individuals, including suppliers or contractors, with pending request or application or future dealings with any branch or office of government.

This prohibition applies to invitations purportedly to undertake study or assessment of the proponents’ capabilities.

It also said that personnel must secure permission for local or foreign trips from the approving authorities.

Official local or foreign travels must meet the following criteria:

— it is essential to the effective performance of an official or employee’s mandates or functions

—  it is required to meet the needs of the department, agency, bureau or office or there is substantial benefit to be derived by the state

— the presence of the official or employee is critical to the outcome of the meeting, conference, seminar, consultation or any official activity to be attended

— the projected expenses are not excessive or involve minimum expenditure

Not entitled to government funding for such trips are private individuals, consultants and those engaged by way of contract of service by government agencies except in highly meritorious circumstances, and spouses or children of government officials except when diplomatic protocol or established international practices provide otherwise.

The EO also sets the allowable travel expenses and encourages government officials and personnel to patronize accommodations accredited by the Department of Tourism to ensure availment of adequate but reasonably-priced services and amenities.

The order allows department secretaries, undersecretaries, and assistant secretaries and those of equivalent ranks to fly business class, subject to the approval of the Office of the President, for long-haul trips, described as flights exceeding four hours excluding lay-overs.

In case the officials and employees authorized to travel abroad will not be provided with transportation by the host country or sponsoring organization, they shall be allowed to take economy flights. This does not include premium economy class.

Every personnel authorized to travel must submit reports on the conferences or seminars attended, examinations or investigations conducted, or missions he or she joined within 30 days after his or her return.

For Filipino delegations that will represent the country at international conferences or conventions, they are also required to submit a report to the Office of the President through the department secretary, copy furnished the Foreign Affairs Secretary, 30 days after the closing of the event.

Failure to comply with the reportorial requirements shall subject the officials or employees concerned to disciplinary action, according to the order.