CA upholds ruling that led to dismissal of ex-DSWD officials

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By Dane Angelo M. Enerio

The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed a June 19, 2017 decision by the Office of the Ombudsman which dismissed two officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for their involvement in the illegal disbursement of government funds amounting to P8 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Quezon City Congressman Vincent P. Crisologo.

In her 20-page resolution decision dated May 31, CA Special Fifth Division Associate Justice Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla upheld the Ombudsman’s ruling against DSWD Undersecretary for General Administration and Support Service Group Mateo G. Montaño and DSWD Protective Services Bureau Assistant Director Pacita D. Sarino but ruled they were guilty of gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service instead of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.

The CA was not persuaded by the petitioners’s claim that the release of Mr. Crisologo’s PDAF to non-government organization Kaloocan Assistance Council, Inc. (KACI) was compliant with the internal rules of the DSWD as three officials of the department had already given them unfavorable reviews.

According to the decision, KACI intended to use the funds in implementing projects “consisting of provisions and assistance for medical/hospitalization, transporatation, calamity, death, burial, educational expenses, small-scale livelihood, socio-cultural expenses, small-scale infrastructure assistance as well as other similar financial expenses and projects.”

However, the original Ombudsman investigation discovered KACI falsified documents such as receipts and that some of the financial beneficiaries were political supporters of Mr. Crisologo.

The petitioners were found guilty of gross neglect of duty as they “were in clear violations of the rules and regulations of the COA (Commission on Audit) and the General Appropriations Act.”

Meanwhile, they were found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service “for having shown, at the very least, an appearance of corruption in the government service, as well as a lack of knowledge of law and proper procedure.”

The CA also noted that their “fault lies merely in approving the disbursement of funds based on… falsified and fictitious documents.”

“[I]t is an uncontested fact that KACI had existing unliquidated cash advances at the time it proposed the projects. Thus, it was not qualified for fund transfer. Despite this fact, petitioners… approved the disbursement of funds in favor of KACI,” the court said.

“Accordingly, they are dismissed from government service with all the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits, and disqualification for re-employment in the government service,” the CA ruled.

The other respondents in the Ombudsman decision were former DSWD Secretary Esperanza A. Icasas-Cabral, officials Lualhati Pablo, Leonila Hayaha, and Vilma Cabrera as well as KACI President Cenon Mayor.