[ G.R. No. 212293, June 15, 2020 ]
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN, PETITIONER, VS. P/C SUPT. LUIS L. SALIGUMBA, RESPONDENT.
REYES, J. JR., J.:
Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari are the Decision1 dated October 23, 2013 and Resolution2 dated April 23, 2014 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 127885, exonerating P/C Supt. Luis Saligumba (respondent) from the administrative charges filed against him.
Devoid of the non-essentials, the facts of the case are as follows:
The subject of the controversy is the procurement of three Light Police Operation Helicopters (LPOH) by the Philippine National Police (PNP) as part of its modernization program included in the Annual Procurement Plan (APP) for calendar year (CY) 2008 with the approved budget for a contract (ABC) of P105,000,000.00.3
After several revisions, Resolution No. 2008-2604 (Prescribing the Standard Specification for Light Police Operational Helicopters) was issued by the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM). The following specifications were stated:
|200 HP (minimum)
|100 knots (minimum)
|300 miles (minimum)
|3 hours (minimum)
|Service Ceiling (Min. Height Capability)
|14,000 feet (maximum)
|T/O Gross Weight
|2,600 lbs. (maximum)
|1 pilot + 3 pax (max.)
|Standard to include Directional Gyro Above Horizon with Slip Skid Indicator and Vertical Compass
|STANDARD POLICE EQUIPMENT
|a. Fold Down Monitor Mount;
|b. Digital Recorder;
|c. Searchlight, 15-29 million candlepower;
|d. Dual Audio Controller;
|e. Nine (9) Memory Channel, Cyclic Grip Control;
|f. GPS (Moving Map, Colored);
|g. Transponder with Remote Mode C Altitude Encoder;
|h. PA System and Siren (100 Watts);
|i. Two (2) David Clark H10-13 Headsets;
|j. FSI Ultra 8000 Infrared (10x continuous zoom, In SB Infrared Sensor and 18x continuous zoom, colored TV camera, Gyrostabilised Monitor 10.4 inch, Sunlight Readable Color, LCD Active Matrix TFT);
|k. Expanded Landing Gear;
|l. Bubble Windows, Both Forward Doors;
|m. Transmit and Intercom Floor Switches, Observer Side;
|n. Observer Overheard Light, Foot Activated;
|o. HID Landing Lights;
|p. 130-Ampere Alternator;
|q. Slave System, Searchligh to Nose Gymbal; and
|r. Real Time Transmission Downlink (optional).
On the basis of said specifications, the PNP National Headquarters-Bids and Awards Committee (NHQ-BAC) scheduled a public bidding for the procurement of three LPOHs on August 27, 2008. However, the same was deferred because of the information received by the office that the budget of P105,000,000.00 or P35,000,000.00 for each unit was insufficient as the police equipment and accessories included in the technical specifications were equally expensive.6
To address such problem, the following schemes were adopted: (a) to join together two sets of aircraft that the PNP is scheduled to procure, i.e., three units of rotary aircraft under the second Addendum for APP 2007 with an ABC of P111,000,000.00 and the other three units of LPOHs under the PNP Modernization Program with an ABC of P105,000,000.00 to be bid out as a single lot with a modified ABC of P216,000,000.00; and (b) only three out of six helicopters to be procured would be equipped with police operational equipment as required under NAPOLCOM Resolution No. 2008-260, and the other three to be delivered as basic or bare units.7
A public bidding then ensued. Two bidders, Manila Aerospace and Aerotech Industries, bought their respective bid documents. However, none of them submitted eligibility requirements. Hence, a failure of bidding was declared.8
On March 18, 2009, Hilario de Vera (de Vera) of Manila Aerospace Products Trading (MAPTRA) Sole Proprietorship approached Archibald Po (Po) and Renato M. Sia (Sia) for a possibility of buying Robinsons Helicopters, to which the latter replied that four units, owned by then First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo (FG Arroyo), were immediately available.9 After a series of negotiations, the sale of three helicopters, two of which are pre-owned and one brand new, proceeded.10
On May 8, 2009, the Negotiations Committee of the PNP held negotiations with MAPTRA which proposed to deliver one fully-equipped and two standard helicopters for P105,000,000.00; and Beeline which proposed the delivery of two standard helicopters for P119,000,000.00. However, as the proposals were non-compliant with the PNP's minimum requirement of three equipped LPOHs, the negotiations failed.11
The persistent failed biddings prompted SAF Director Leocadio Santiago, Jr. to request the procurement of at least one equipped LPOH and two standard LPOHs. PDIR Luizo Ticman (Ticman) indorsed said request to the PNP NHQ-BAC. In turn, the latter issued a BAC Resolution No. 2009-22 dated May 29, 2009 which recommended the procurement of at least one equipped and two units of standard LPOH.12
On June 8, 2009, Ticman issued a Request for Quotation (RFQ) stating that the PNP, through its Negotiation Committee, shall procure through negotiated procurement pursuant to Section 53(b) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9184 from legally, technically, and financially competent and PhilGEPS-registered suppliers and manufacturers for the supply and delivery of one fully equipped and two standard LPOHs with an ABC of P105,000,000.0013
In the meantime, a Certificate of Incorporation was issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission in favor of Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corporation (MAPTRA Corporation).14
On June 15, 2009, a scheduled negotiation proceeded, which resulted in the award of the contract to MAPTRA Sole Proprietorship (thereafter referred to as MAPTRA). In Resolution 2009-4, it stated that the proposal of MAPTRA was acceptable because the helicopter that they would deliver were consistent with the approved specifications; the total price quoted was within the ABC; and MAPTRA was a legally, technically and financially capable supplier of helicopters.15
Resolution No. 2009-36 dated July 9, 2009 affirmed the recommendation of the Negotiation Committee to endorse to the PNP Chief the award of the supply contract to MAPTRA. The same was approved by then PNP Chief Jesus Versoza.16
Thus, a Supply Contract was entered into between the PNP and MAPTRA whereby the latter obligated itself to deliver to the former one fully-equipped and two standard LPOHs, while the former obligated itself to pay P104,985,000.00 as consideration therefor. Accordingly, a Certification under Oath, which states among others, that the helicopters subject of the contract are brand new, was executed by de Vera.17
Purchase Order No. 0(M)220909-017 dated September 22, 2009, ordering MAPTRA to deliver two standard and one fully-equipped helicopters, was issued.18
Upon delivery of the two standard helicopters by MAPTRA, the team of inspectors was tasked to examine the same and to determine if they conformed to the specifications of the PNP. On the other hand, the task of accepting procured helicopters belonged to the Inspection and Acceptance Committee (IAC), to which respondent belonged as a member.19
Consequently, Weapons and Tactics and Communications Division (WTCD) Report No. T2009-04A20 was issued. Among those who signed the report was herein respondent. Said Report stated that the method of inspection was through "visual and functional" and the specifications of said helicopters, to wit:
|PNP Specifications for Light Police Operational Helicopter
|Specifications of Robinson 44 Raven 1 Helicopter
|Power Plant: Piston
|Power Rating: 200 hp (minimum)
|Speed: 100 knots (minimum)
|Range: 300 miles (minimum)
|Endurance: 3 hours (minimum)
|No available data
|Service Ceiling (Height Capability): 14,000 feet (maximum)
|T/O Gross Weight: 2,600 lbs (maximum)
|Seating Capacity: 1 Pilot + 3 pax (maximum)
|1 pilot + 3 passengers
|Ventilating System: Air-conditioned
|Aircraft Instruments: Standard to Include Directional Gyro Above Horizon with Slip Skid Indicator and Vertical Compass
|Equipped with Directional Gyro Above Horizon with Slip Skid Indicator and Vertical Compass
|Colors and Markings: White with appropriate markings specified in NAPOLCOM Res No. 99-002 dated January 5, 1999 (Approving the Standard Color and Markings for PNP Motor Vehicles, Seacraft and Aircraft)
|White with appropriate markings as specified in NAPOLCOM Res. No. 99-002
|Warranty: The supplier warrants any defect in material and workmanship within the most advantageous terms and conditions in favor of the government.
|The supplier will warrants (sic) any defect in material and worksmanship within the most advantageous terms and conditions in favor of the government for two (2) years
|Indicated in the contract (To include time-change parts as suggested by DRD Test and Evaluation Board)
On November 11, 2009, the PNP IAC Committee issued Resolution No. IAC-09-045, stating, among others that it found the items to be in conformity with the approved specifications and passed the acceptance criteria.21
After several resolutions approving the sale, MAPTRA Corporation was paid by the PNP in the amount of P49,680,401.80 for the sale of two standard helicopters.22 Thereafter, one fully-equipped helicopter was delivered to the PNP. The same was paid in the amount of P42,312,913.10.23
The purchase of the helicopters, however, prompted the Field Investigation Office to file a Complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) anent several irregularities which surrounded the sale. The Complaint specifically alleged that respondent, et al. committed a violation of Section 3, paragraphs (e) and (g) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019 in relation to R.A. No. 9184, Falsification by Public Officers under Article 171, paragraphs 2 and 4 under the Revised Penal Code and administrative offenses, namely: dishonesty, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.24
In a Resolution25 dated May 30, 2012, the Ombudsman found the respondent, et al. guilty of serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and dismissed them from the service or if not feasible, it imposed the penalty of fine equivalent to their one year salary, among others. The Ombudsman ratiocinated that respondent, together with his co-respondents, conspired with one another to falsify public documents, skirt procedures, circumvent rules, and defraud the government while in the exercise of their respective public duties.
Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was denied in a Resolution dated November 5, 2012.
Seeking relief, respondent elevated the matter to the CA via an appeal. He asserted that the findings as to his administrative liability was bereft of basis for he had no reason to doubt the regularity of the documents there being no derogatory information regarding any defect or infirmity regarding the delivered helicopters, among others.26
In the assailed Decision27 dated October 23, 2013, the CA reversed the decision of the Ombudsman and exonerated respondent from liability. Working on the premise that the main thrust of the complaint against respondent was his failure to determine that the helicopters were not in brand new condition, the CA maintained that respondent cannot be blamed for signing Resolution No. IAC-09-045 when those who were more knowledgeable regarding the helicopters recommended its approval. Thus, respondent cannot be made liable when he assumed that the composite technical inspection team regularly performed their official duty and acted in good faith. The fallo thereof reads:
WHEREFORE, the present petition for review under Rule 43, erroneously denominated as an appeal, is hereby GRANTED. Petitioner P/C Supt. Luis Saligumba is hereby EXONERATED from the administrative charges and ordered REINSTATED to the service.
The Ombudsman, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was denied in a Resolution28 dated April 23, 2014.
Hence, this petition.
Essentially, the Ombudsman, through the OSG, contends that the respondent's act of affixing his signature in an evident and palpable irregular document, which is Resolution No. IAC-09-045 makes him administratively liable for serious dishonesty.29
In his Comment,30 respondent insists on his innocence by reiterating that he acted in good faith when he relied on the recommendation of the experts in dealing with the helicopters.
The Court's Ruling
While only questions of law may be raised in a Petition for Review on Certiorari, a review of the factual issues in this case is proper in view of the conflicting conclusions of the Ombudsman and the CA.
Dishonesty has been defined as the concealment or distortion of truth, which shows lack of integrity or a disposition to defraud, cheat, deceive, or betray, or intent to violate the truth.31
CSC Resolution No. 06-0538 classified dishonesty may be as serious, less serious or simple. Serious misconduct, as charged against herein respondents, requires any of the following circumstances:
(1) The dishonest act caused serious damage and grave prejudice to the Government;
(2) The respondent gravely abused his authority in order to commit the dishonest act;
(3) Where the respondent is an accountable officer, the dishonest act directly involves property, accountable forms or money for which he is directly accountable and the respondent shows an intent to commit material gain, graft and corruption;
(4) The dishonest act exhibits moral depravity on the part of respondent;
(5) The respondent employed fraud and/or falsification of official documents in the commission of the dishonest act related to his/her employment;
(6) The dishonest act was committed several times or in various occasions;
(7) The dishonest act involves a Civil Service examination irregularity or fake Civil Service eligibility such as, but not limited to impersonation, cheating and use of crib sheets;
(8) Other analogous circumstances.
On the other hand, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service deals with a demeanor of a public officer which tarnished the image and integrity of his/her public office.32
Only substantial evidence is required to sustain a finding of administrative liability.33
Contrary to the CA's ruling, the issue in this case does not merely pertain to petitioner's culpability in failing to determine the condition of the purchased helicopters as brand new. It is thus quite perplexing as to how the CA arrived at this conclusion when the May 30, 2012 Joint Resolution was categorical in declaring that respondent's administrative liability hinged on his concurrence that the helicopters passed the standards of the NAPOLCOM after inspection and evaluation when in fact, they did not, to wit:
On the part of respondents Piano, Saligumba, Antonio and Paatan, they stated in their Resolution No. IAC-09-045 that the Inspection Acceptance Committee found the items to be conforming to the specifications approved by NAPOLCOM and that the units passed the acceptance criteria as submitted by the DRD on WTCD Report No. T2009-04A. However, said statement is false because, as already stressed above, there is no showing in the Report that the endurance requirement and ventilation system prescription were conforming to the NAPOLCOM specifications. To stress in the WTCD Report cited, there was no compliance with the air-conditioning requirement and there was no entry at all with respect to the endurance requirement.34
Thus, the determination of petitioner's administrative liability must be examined based on his act of affixing his signature in Resolution No. IAC-09-045, which basically approved the purchase of helicopters which were found non-compliant with the guidelines of the PNP.
It is worth restating that respondent signed the aforementioned resolution in his capacity as the Executive Officer and member of the IAC. His assent thereto served as an "attestation" that the helicopters conformed with the guidelines and specifications set forth by the PNP.
It must be stressed that the IAC plays a vital role in the procurement process of the agency, since it has the responsibility of inspecting the deliveries to make sure that they conform to the quantity and the approved technical specifications in the supply contract and the purchase order and to accept or reject the same.35 Simply put, the IAC is instrumental in the procurement process, without its approval, no consummated purchase of the helicopters could be made.
As previously identified, Resolution No. IAC-09-045 was issued to signify IAC's recommendation that the purchase of the helicopters, which conformed with the requirements set forth by NAPOLCOM, is consistent with the interest of the government:
WHEREAS, in accordance with paragraph 3-10, Chapter 3 of the NAPOLCOM-approved PNP Procurement Manual entitled Inspection and Acceptance Committee, it is stated that the Committee must properly inspect all deliveries of the PNP and must be consistent with the interest of the government.
x x x x
WHEREAS, after inspection and evaluation was conducted, the Committee found the said items to be conforming to the approved NAPOLCOM specifications and passed the acceptance criteria as submitted by DRD on WTCD Resolution No. T2008-04A.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE RESOLVED AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, that the abovementioned items be accepted for use of the PNP. (Emphasis supplied)36
To reiterate, the above-mentioned WTCD Report No. T2009-04A has irregular entries on its face such that two items therein, i.e., endurance and ventilating system, were equivocal as to their conformity with the approved technical specifications. Moreover, the requirement of the helicopters being brand new was nowhere indicated. Still, respondent, together with others, signed the same and confirmed the adherence of said helicopters with the criteria of the PNP despite such blatant irregularities in the Report.
Notably, respondent failed to make further inquiry on the condition of the helicopters. Merely seeking clarification on the remark "No available data" on the endurance and "Not airconditioned" on the Ventilating System does not exculpate him from liability. As member of the approving committee, mandated by law to inspect deliveries to the government and determine compliance therefor, respondent's responsibility does not end by mere attempt of inquiring as to any perceived irregularity of the transaction.
On this note, the Court finds that an expert in aircrafts is not necessary to identify that the facial irregularities of the entries in the aforementioned WTCD Report affects their compliance with the approved technical specifications. Nor can the respondents use the flimsy excuse of relying on his subordinates. Respondent cannot simply feign ignorance on the incongruities surrounding the procurement of the helicopters as the same were apparent, clear, and manifest. A mere cursory reading of the Report evinces one to conclude that the specifications of the helicopters are non-compliant. As in Field Investigation Office v. Piano,37 which involves the same factual milieu, the Court found that WTCD Report No. T-2009-04-A already showed that the LPOHs did not fully conform to the NAPOLCOM standard specifications, and [Piano] and the Committee members [including herein respondent] need not be an expert on helicopters to understand the information written in the Report.
Indeed, the affixing of signatures by the committee members are not mere ceremonial acts but proofs of authenticity and marks of regularity.38 Respondent's attestation that said helicopters "to be conforming to the approved NAPOLCOM specifications and passed the acceptance criteria," thus, is an act of serious dishonesty, a deviation from what is true, regarding a matter when he is in the exercise of his duties. To stress the ruling of the Court in Piano,39 the act of signing Resolution No. IAC-09-045 stating that the two LPOHs conformed to the NAPOLCOM specifications despite the lack of available data on endurance and were not air-conditioned, is a distortion of truth in a matter connected with the performance of his duties.
To be sure, only substantial evidence is required, not overwhelming or preponderant is required in determining a finding of administrative liability.40
Such act of accepting the helicopters, sealed by respondent and his co-respondents' signature, caused serious damage and grave prejudice to the government. Likewise, such act tarnished the image and integrity of the PNP, when it fully paid for helicopters which were subpar.
On this note, the Court stresses that the constitutional portrait that "all government officials and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives"41 is not an empty and meaningless mandate. It must be relentlessly observed by public officers who are tasked and expected to embody this dictum in the performance of their duties. A declaration of a public officers' administrative liability and the consequent disciplinary measure against them is sought for the improvement of the public service and preservation of the public's faith and confidence in the government.42
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision dated October 23, 2013 and the Resolution dated April 23, 2014 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 127885 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The May 30, 2012 Joint Resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman in OMB-C-A-11-0758-L is REINSTATED.
Peralta, C.J. (Chairperson), Lazaro-Javier, and Lopez, JJ., concur.
Caguioa, (Working Chairperson), J., see dissenting opinion.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Magdangal M. De Leon, with Associate Justices Stephen C. Cruz and Myra Garcia-Fernandez, concurring; rollo, pp. 30-64.
2 Id. at 66-69.
3 Id. at 37.
4 Id. at 185.
5 Id. at 9-10.
6 Id. at 39-40.
7 Id. at 40.
12 Id. at 41.
13 Id. at 42.
15 Id. at 43.
16 Id. at 45.
19 Id. at 129.
20 Id. at 237-238.
21 Id. at 50-51.
22 Id. at 51.
23 Id. at 51-52.
24 Id. at 73.
25 Id. at 70-212.
26 Id. at 55.
27 Supra note 2.
28 Supra note 3.
29 Id. at 19.
30 Id. at 241-247.
31 Fajardo v. Corral, G.R. No. 212641, July 5, 2017.
33 Field Investigation Office v. P/Dir. Piano, G.R No. 215042, November 20, 2017.
34 Rollo, p. 164.
35 Field Investigation Office v. P/Dir. Piano, G.R No. 215042, November 20, 2017.
36 Rollo, p. 213.
37 G.R. No. 215402, November 20, 2017.
41 1987 CONSTITUTION, Article XI, Section 1.
42 Government Service Insurance System v. Manalo, G.R. No. 208979, September 21, 2016.
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