Court of Appeals junks raps vs Customs official

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THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed an order of the Office of the Ombudsman that junked an administrative charge of dishonesty against a high-ranking official of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) for her alleged failure, among others, to declare some of her pieces of property in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

The CA’s former Special 9th Division, in the process, denied a motion for reconsideration filed by the Department of Finance-Revenue Integrity Protection Service (DOF-RIPS) against the Ombudsman ruling in the case of Customs Operations Officer V Pier Angeli Senangote Sealtiel.

In a two-page resolution, dated December 8, 2015, penned by Associate Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes and concurred in by Associate Justices Stephen Cruz and Elihu Ybañez, the appellate court affirmed its May 12, 2015 decision on the Sealtiel case.

The CA said there are no new grounds presented by the DOF that warrant reversal of its previous ruling.


“A considered scrutiny of the arguments set forth in the motion for reconsideration, as well as the comment thereto, reveals a finding that there are no new grounds or bases sufficient to compel modification of the assailed decision,” it added.

Sealtiel’s allegedly failing a lifestyle check conducted by DOF-RIPS led to filing of a complaint-affidavit with the anti-graft office.

The Office of the Ombudsman claimed, among others, that the Customs operations officer did not file her SALN for the years 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1995 and 2011.

It was revealed that Sealtiel’s ownership of five vehicles were not sufficiently explained in her SALN.

The Ombudsman on October 21, 2011 ruled that Sealtiel was guilty of dishonesty.

The ruling, however, was reversed on June 28, 2012 after the Customs operations officer filed a motion for reconsideration, which move prompted DOF-RIPS to elevate the case to the appellate court.

In its decision, the CA held that the Ombudsman was right when it dismissed Sealtiel’s case, saying findings of fact of the anti-graft body “are conclusive when supported by substantial evidence and are accorded due respect and weight.”

It said “mere misdeclaration in the SALN does not automatically amount to [dishonesty.]”

JOMAR CANLAS

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