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Unlicensed Librarians and R.A. 9246

A discussion on the violation of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 9246 (pdf; R.A. 9246), specifically the continued employment of unlicensed librarians in the Philippines, is now on its third week at the Filipino Librarians Googlegroup (1 2 3 4). Some have suggested that there are certain situations where violating the law is justified, but the appointment of non-librarians to head a library, despite the presence of qualified, licensed librarians, is indefensible. And then there are the unlicensed librarians who have been "OICs," supposedly a temporary designation, for almost two decades.

It is not clear, however, whether these emails are being read by those can do something about the concerns raised. But it is also important to remember that it is not just somebody else's responsibility to make sure the law is followed; it is also our responsibility. Why do I say this? Zarah Gagatiga has already pointed out that, "The librarian MUST have a license. The employer MUST hire a licensed librarian." But what if they DON'T? Do we just wait for the powers-that-be to put things right? Below are the relevant sections of R.A. 9246 and my comments, followed by suggestions on what licensed librarians can do to uphold the law:

SECTION 26. Illegal Practice of Librarianship. – A person who does not have a valid Certificate of Registration and Professional Identification Card or a temporary/ special permit from the Commission shall not practice or offer to practice librarianship in the Philippines or assume any position, which involve performing the function of a librarian as provided under Section 5 of this Act.
The "person" referred to in Section 26 is, in essence, someone who is working as a librarian illegally. Note, too, that there are no exceptions granted for certain kinds of librarians (e.g., special librarians). Everyone working as a librarian in the Philippines is covered by this law. The only exceptions, I suppose, are those whose employers are not covered by Philippine laws, like some international agencies.
SECTION 31. Employment of Librarians. – Only qualified and licensed librarians shall be employed as librarians in all government libraries. Local government units shall be given a period of three (3) years from the approval of this Act to comply with this provision.
The emphasis in Section 31 on government libraries does not imply that the law applies only to librarians working for the government. All this is means is that the government, as the single, largest employer of librarians, was singled out for special attention.
SECTION 32. Penal Provisions. – Any person who practices or offers to practice any function of a librarian as provided for under Section 5 of this Act who is not registered and has not been issued by the Commission a Certificate of Registration and Professional Identification Card, or a temporary license/permit or who violates any of the provisions of this Act, its Implementing Rules and Regulations, shall, upon conviction, be penalized by a fine of not less than Thirty thousand pesos (P30,000.00) nor more than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00), or imprisonment of not less than one (1) month nor more than three (3) years at the discretion of the court.
The most important phrase here is, to me, "upon conviction." Thus, a case has to be filed against the librarian. But I do wonder why the employer goes unpunished. Shouldn't the employer be liable as well?

There are, of course, certain realities that must be acknowledged, such as the fact that no one is really enforcing the law. Academic and school librarians are in a better position because accrediting agencies mark down universities and schools for non-compliance with the law, but all other kinds of libraries, including the public libraries funded by local governments, can ignore R.A. 9246 if they so desire. Have cases been filed against unlicensed librarians? Have any been convicted? If so, please let me know.

The following are my suggestions for those who wish to see R.A. 9246 implemented properly:
  1. Verify whether someone working as a librarian is licensed or unlicensed. The Board for Librarians, the National Library, the Civil Service Commission, and the Philippine Librarians Association are supposed to have "up-to-date, complete and properly organized" lists of all licensed librarians in the Philippines.
  2. Write a letter to the person, with copies to the person's employer, the Board for Librarians and the Philippine Librarians Association (and, if applicable, the National Library and/or the Civil Service Commission), indicating all the pertinent details and exactly how the provisions of R.A. 9246 have been violated, pointing out that the person's continued employment is punishable by law. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence, and ask recipients to sign for any letters you give them.
  3. If your letters are ignored or you are discriminated against or fired (because the person was your boss, for instance), file a case against the person at all appropriate agencies.
  4. If filing a case, or even writing letters to the person or agencies concerned, is not an option, send letters to local and national newspapers laying out how the law is being violated. While this may be done anonymously, it is perhaps best that you identify yourself.
All these are, of course, easier said than done. But all we really need is one, high-profile case, preferably involving a well-known employer, that can then be used to show others who are violating the law that librarians are serious about policing their ranks.

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