• Dismissal of DA official in fertilizer scam upheld

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    THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed an Ombudsman decision dismissing a ranking officer of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for serious dishonesty in connection with the fertilizer scam in 2004.

    In a 17-page decision penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam and concurred in by Associate Justices Francisco Acosta and Eduardo Peralta Jr., the CA’s Fourth Division dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by Joel S. Rudinas, Director III of the DA-Regional Field Unit (DA-RFU-X).

    Records of the case showed that on February 3, 2004, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued to the Office of the DA Secretary a Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) amounting to P728 million, from where a Sub-Allotment Advise (SAA) allocating P5 million for the implementation of the Farm Inputs/Farm Implements Programs in the province of Lanao del Norte was approved and eventually released by DA Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante.

    The Commission on Audit (COA), however, found out that there was no acquisition and distribution of fertilizers in the province in the year 2004 notwithstanding the allocation and release of the P5-million fertilizer fund under the program.

    On April 30, 2012, the Ombudsman found Rudinas and Isabela G. Luna VI guilty of serious dishonesty, dismissing them from the government service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, excluding accrued leave credits, with prejudice to reemployment in public service, including government-owned and -controlled corporations.

    The anti-graft office junked Rudinas’ motion for reconsideration, prompting him to seek redress with the CA.

    In its August 24, 2015, the appellate tribunal held that “the Office of the Ombudsman’s stance is correct that Rudinas cannot evade administrative liability premised on is act of approving the disbursement voucher.

    “As it has been clearly established, he signed the same with the anomalous, irregular and inadequate supporting documents resulting [in]the loss of government funds amounting to P5 million,” the CA pointed out.

    “We must confine ourselves within the ambit of this limited jurisdiction, lest we ourselves commit grave abuse of discretion.”

    According to the CA, “the penalty of dismissal from government service meted against [Rudinas by the Ombudsman] is justified by his flagrant disregard of the rules taken from a collective consideration of the circumstances of the case.”

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