SC reinstates dismissed police official in 2009 PNP helicopter scam
The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the reinstatement of a police official involved in the alleged anomalous purchase of three helicopters by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009 from the Manila Aerospace Products Trading (MAPTRA).
In an 18-page decision, the SC en banc has affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) reversing a resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman, which dismissed Supt. Emilando Villafuerte. The high court directed Villafuerte’s restoration his former position without loss of seniority rights and payment of back wages and benefits.
In ordering the reinstatement of Villafuerte, the SC found no merit to hold the police official administratively liable over the controversy on the purchase of the PNP helicopters from MAPTRA in 2009.
Court found the principal issue for resolution “in the negative” on whether there is substantial evidence to find Villafuerte administratively liable.
In 2012, the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of Villafuerte and several others; and directed the forfeiture of their retirement benefits as well as their disqualification from holding any public office.
The Ombudsman said the police officials were guilty of serious dishonesty as they engaged in conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for their role in the procurement of three second-hand helicopters for the PNP.
The PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) is ascribing liability to Villafuerte on the fact that the award of the contract to MAPTRA was made through the documents that he drafted.
But Villafuerte explained that his duties and functions as a member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Secretariat were merely administrative and ministerial in nature and that he was merely following the instructions of his superiors.
The SC called the PNP-CIDG’s imputation an “egregious error,” saying the PNP-CIDG “cannot judge Villafuerte’s actions based on the end result of the document draft.” It also noted the PNP-CIDG failed to establish a connection between the drafting of said documents and a scheme to defraud the government.
Moreover, the SC said Villafuerte’s explanation clarified that as a mere member of the BAC Secretariat, he had no compelling reason to evaluate MAPTRA’s eligibility while drafting the pertinent documents, especially since this is not even a part of his duties.
“All told, the Court is not prepared to punish respondent Villafuerte for merely discharging the ministerial functions of his office as Member of the BAC Secretariat, especially when such acts were made pursuant to the instructions of his superiors,” the high court’s decision read.
Justice Marvic Leonen was the only dissenter in the decision. In his opinion, he said that Villafuerte should be held liable because having administrative or ministerial functions does not strip a lawyer of his ethical duties since Villafuerte was a member of the bar.
“Respondents is a high-ranking police officer and a lawyer. At its barest minimum, he is no stranger to the law….He cannot claim good faith in relying on the documents, unaware of an irregularity on its face, when he had foreknowledge of MAPTRA’s ineligibility,” Leonen wrote. /kga
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