Nueva Ecija gov ‘wins’ graft case
MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals (CA) has set aside the Ombudsman’s dismissal of Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali for the mishandling of P15 million in pork barrel funds because of a controversial judicial doctrine that was junked in 2015.
In a 42-page decision dated Oct. 4, the court’s Seventh Division agreed with the Ombudsman that there was substantial evidence showing that Umali diverted pork barrel funds when he was congressman from 2004 to 2007.
But the Ombudsman’s 2016 ruling was set aside because “the administrative misconduct committed by petitioner Aurelio Umali is deemed condoned,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr.
“The essence of the condonation doctrine is the will of the people to forgive the administrative errors and misbehavior of a public officer through their choice of re-electing him,” the CA explained.
“The body politic affected by a public officer’s administrative misbehavior, by keeping him in public office through their majority votes, resolved to forget his previous misconduct,” the ruling read.
The court acknowledged that the 1959 condonation doctrine “is out of touch with the present times” and “irreconcilably inconsistent” with the 1987 Constitution and the Supreme Court also trashed it in 2015.
But the Supreme Court ruling could not be applied to Umali because the cases were committed from 2004 to 2007 and the high court’s 2015 decision was prospective in application.
The CA ruled, however, that the Ombudsman is not prohibited from filing criminal charges on the same case against Umali despite decisions in the administrative case.
The Ombudsman earlier found Umali administratively liable for diverting substantial funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program funds to Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation. Inc. and the Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi, Inc. for his livelihood projects.
The funds were supposed to be for the procurement of agricultural implements but investigation showed that no real purchases was made.
It was also discovered that the liquid fertilizers were sourced from NutriGrowth Philippines, a company owned by pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
The Ombudsman ordered Umali’s dismissal from service and perpetual disqualification from holding public office in 2016, prompting him to go to the CA.
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