RA 7920 Provision on Signing of Technical Documents and Drawings

Is it legal for a Professional Electrical Engineer (PEE) to sign and seal plans (drawings) and designs done by others? In legal terms, the answer to that question is NO.

The Electrical Engineering Law of the Philippines (RA 7920[1]) Section 29(a), states to quote:

Sec. 29. ...It shall be sufficient ground for the revocation of a certificate issued to a person under this Act, and his suspension from the practice of his profession for unprofessional or dishonorable conduct, if:

(a) Being a professional electrical engineer, he has signed and affixed his seal on any plan, design, technical reports, valuation, estimate, specification or other similar document or work not prepared by him or not executed under his immediate supervision;

Lawyers will find many loop holes in this provision of RA 7920. Some situations may be:

(1) I checked the design, so it is as good as I prepared it...

(2) It was prepared by someone under my immediate supervision...

In argument (1), the originator could not be checker at the same time. If the originator is the subordinate of the checker, in this case the PEE, then it will fall under the 2nd argument - immediate supervision. If it is not, then the PEE has committed a mis-conduct against RA 7920.

Almost always this is what is happening. For example, an architect prepares an electrical plan as part of a design package. Then ask a PEE to sign the design to be able to get an Electrical Permit as required by the Philippine Electrical code (PEC).

In argument (2), there will be more loop holes than in (1). What is "immediate supervision"? This is same as "direct supervision" which is defined as:

Direct supervision[2] generally means to be physically present, or within an immediate distance, such as on the same floor, and available to respond to the needs of something or someone. Precise definitions vary by context and governing entity. For example, in the context of employment law, it may involve defining the degree of control over a worker's tasks. Direct supervision on a job may be defined by the degree of supervision by a person overseeing the work of other persons, by which the supervisor has control over and professional knowledge of the work being done.

Direct Supervision or immediate supervision (IMHO) as used in the RA 7920 Law shall mean close contact whereby the supervisor is able to respond quickly to the needs of the subordinate.

In a first world country, a Supreme Court have dismissed the petition of a registered engineer against the investigation by the Board regarding insufficient direct supervision, to summarize:

... The petitioner has not always adequately performed the direct supervision and evaluation as he has claimed as it is not possible for an employee to be supervised by someone from a geographical separate office...

There are many good lawyers in the Philippines. Complaints about the legality of signing of a design by a PEE not having any role in the preparation will never prosper. This loop hole will be abused by foreign EPCM companies doing projects in the Philippines. Most of the times, design will be prepared overseas then will just request a PEE to sign-off on their design. I am not saying that their design is inadequate with respect to Philippine standards but my argument is actually the provision of RA 7920.

Unless there will be strict implementation and monitoring of this law, disrespect to the Electrical Engineering profession in the Philippines will always be rampant.

[1] RA 7920
[2] Direct Supervision