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 and the checker are two different entities. They could not be the same. 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. Say, an architect prepares the electrical plan and 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 daily 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 insuffcient 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 will always be rampant.

References:
[1] RA 7920
[2] Direct Supervision

About the Author

Ver Pangonilo

A Filipino Engineer, Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) – Australia and Professional Electrical Engineer (PEE) – Philippines with extensive experience in concept select, front-end engineering, HV & LV detail design, construction and commissioning of Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Area electrical installations in water and waste water pipeline and pumping facilities, offshore platforms, hydrocarbon process plants and pipelines including related facilities. Hazardous area classification and design certification (UEENEEM015B, UEENEEM016B, UEENEEM017B).

  • ver

    @MB,

    IMHO, the electrical consultant you mentioned is not competent in his practice. The consultant does not know the basics of electrical engineering.

    PEEs signing plans done by other electrical engineers not under his supervision is violating the provisions of RA 7920. However, at the end of the day, who will police these malpractice?

  • MB

    Just have a heated argument with an electrical consultant/ designer who is not a PEE. I am asking that he submitted the short circuit calculations. He said it is not required. The argument drag on until I questioned his qualification to design. I have seen several plans done by other engineers but signed and sealed by a PEE that will not pass the scrutiny of good designers.

  • ver

    @apee
    I strongly agree with you. IIEE does not have the police powers against this practice. PRC may be? But who wants to verify (or dare to do so) that even a dead PEE is still signing plans?

  • apee

    well, yeah it its true that here in the Philippines the reality is that most PEE seals plans prepared by others. But the disturbing fact is that NOBODY CARES (IIEE? not really).

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