THE DEPARTMENT of Finance (DoF) said it issued a “three-strikes” system for handling sexual harassment complaints, which will result in dismissal on the third offense at the latest, even if the violations are minor.

Department Order No. 062-2019 published in newspapers on Wednesday, requires DoF officials and employees, even those appointed by the President, that face sexual harassment cases to undergo the administrative hearing.

The administrative offense of sexual harassment, as defined by the Department Order, involves “sexual advance, request or demand for a sexual favor, or other verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature” committed by a DoF official or employee “directly, indirectly, or impliedly.”

DoF saw the “need to devise uniform rules and regulations particularly in the definition of the administrative offense of sexual harassment and the sanctions therefor, and the procedures for the administrative investigation, prosecution and adjudication of sexual harassment cases.”

It said sexual harassment can happen verbally, physically, through malicious touching, overt sexual advances and gestures with lewd insinuations, or through the use of objects, graphics or written notes with sexual undertones.

An official or employee found guilty faces suspension or even dismissal, depending on the gravity of the offense.

It said the DoF Board of Personnel Inquiry and Review will serve as the disciplining authority for such cases filed by or against any DoF officials and employees.

Sexual harassment complaints will be filed with the department’s Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI). CODI will then have to investigate and submit the findings to the disciplining authority. The committee also has to raise awareness of the issue within the department, it said.

The DoF Board of Personnel Inquiry and Review will issue a formal charge three days after the receipt of the report, if a prima facie case was established during the investigation.

It can also order a preventive suspension of the employee if “there are reasons to believe that he or she is probably guilty of the charges which would warrant his or her removal from the service.”

“Any person found guilty of sexual harassment shall, after the investigation, be meted the penalty corresponding to the gravity or seriousness of the offense,” it said.

Persons charged with minor offenses face reprimand on first offense, a fine or suspension of up to 30 days on second offense and dismissal on third offense.

Minor offenses include telling sexist jokes verbally and through text, emails, displaying sexually offensive materials, making offensive hand or body gestures and malicious leering, among others.

For “less grave offenses” such as unwanted touching, derogatory remarks or innuendo and verbal abuse with sexual overtones, the person charged faces a fine or suspension on first offense and dismissal on the second time.

Grave offenses are punishable with outright dismissal.

Grave offenses include sexual assault, unwanted touching of private parts, malicious touching, requests for sexual favors and other such acts, it said.

The rules take effect 15 days after publication, which means they come into force by the end of October. — Beatrice M. Laforga