The Court of Appeals (CA) has exonerated and reinstated a Philippine National Police (PNP) official who was earlier found administratively liable by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales along with 13 others in connection with the anomalous procurement of helicopters for the PNP.
In a 35-page ruling written Wednesday by Associate Justice Magdangal De Leon and concurred in by Associate Justices Stephen Cruz and Myra Garcia-Fernandez, the CA's 11th Division granted the petition for review filed by Chief Supt. Luis L. Saligumba.
"Petitioner (Saligumba) is hereby exonerated from the administrative charges and ordered reinstated to the service," the CA ruling said.
In a joint resolution on May 30, 2012, Morales found Saligumba guilty for serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Aside from Saligumba, Dir. Leocadio Salva Cruz Santiago Jr., Supt. Ermilando Villafuerte, Supt. Roman E. Loreto, Chief Supt. Herold G. Ubalde, Sr. Supt. Job Nolan D. Antonio, Dir. George Q. Piano Sr., Supt. Edgar B. Paatan, Sr. Supt. Mansue N. Lukban, Chief Insp. Maria Josefina Vidal Reco, Sr. Supt. Claudio DS Gaspar Jr., SPO3 Ma. Linda A. Padojinog, PO3 Avensuel G. Dy, and non-uniformed personnel (NUP) Ruben S. Gongona were also meted the penalty of dismissal from the service.
The ruling included accessory penalties of forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification to hold public office, provided that if the penalty can no longer be served by reason of resignation or retirement, the alternative penalty of fine equivalent to one year salary is imposed in addition to the above-mentioned accessory penalties.
The case arose from the PNP's purchase from MAPTRA of a fully-equipped Robinson R44 Raven II Light Police Operational Helicopter (LPOH) for P42.313 million and two standard Robinson R44 Raven I LPOHs for P62.67 million, or a total amount of P104.985 million from 2009 to 2010.
The Ombudsman said the anomaly could not have been possible without the participation of the respondent public officials and personnel as well as that of respondents former First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo and MAPTRA president Hilario De Vera.
This prompted Saligumba to take his case to the CA, which ruled in his favor.
In the ruling, the CA said that Saligumba should not be faulted for affixing his signature in the Inspection and Acceptance Committee (IAC) report.
"[H]aving no technical or working knowledge about helicopters, petitioner (Saligumba) had every reason to rely on the report prepared by the composite technical inspection team which was in a better position to know what to check in a helicopter and its true condition," the CA ruling said.
"Furthermore, petitioner had no reason to doubt the result of the inspection made by the composite technical inspection team and the recommendation made as a result thereof," it added. (PNA)