THE Court of Appeals (CA) has exonerated and reinstated a former official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who was found administratively liable by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales along with several others in connection with his involvement in the anomalous procurement of P104-million helicopters.
In a 35-page decision penned by Associate Justice Magdangal de Leon, concurred by Associate Justices Stephen Cruz and Myra Garcia-Fernandez, the Court’s Eleventh Division granted the petition for review, erroneously denominated as an appeal, filed by Police Chief Supt. Luis Saligumba.
“Petitioner [Saligumba] is hereby exonerated from the administrative charges and ordered reinstated to the service,” the ruling reads.
In a May 30, 2012 joint resolution, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found Saligumba guilty for Serious Dishonesty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.
Besides Saligumba, Police Dir. Leocadio Salva Cruz Santiago Jr., Police Supt. Ermilando Villafuerte, Police Supt. Roman Loreto, Police Chief Supt. Herold Ubalde, Police Sr. Supt. Job Nolan Antonio, Police Director George Piano, Police Sr. Supt Edgar Paatan, Police Sr. Supt. Mansue Lukban, Police Chief Insp. Maria Josefina Vidal Reco, Police Sr. Supt. Claudio DS Gaspar Jr., Sr. Police Officer 3 Ma. Linda Padojinog, Police Officer 3 Avensuel Dy, and NUP Ruben Gongona were also meted the penalty of Dismissal from the Service with 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 abovementioned accessory penalties.
The case stemmed from the PNP purchase from Maptra of one fully equipped Robinson R44 Raven II Light Police Operational Helicopter (LPOH) for P42 million) and two standard Robinson R44 Raven I LPOHs for P62 million, or a total amount of P105 million from 2009 to 2010.
The anti-graft office held that 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 Mike Arroyo and Maptra President Hilario de Vera.
This prompted Saligumba to bring his case to the appeals court, which ruled in his favor.
In the ruling, the CA said 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 decision 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.”