THE SUPREME Court (SC) has upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals reinstating one of the police officers linked to the anomalous purchase of three helicopters by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009 from Manila Aerospace Products Trading (MAPTRA).
In the 18-page decision, the SC ordered the reinstatement of P/Supt. Ermilando O. Villafuerte in his position, “which shall be without loss of seniority rights and with payment of backwages and all benefits which would have accrued as if he had not been illegally dismissed.”
The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of Mr. Villafuerte and several others for Serious Dishonesty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service due to their alleged involvement in what has come to be dubbed as the “chopper scam.”
The Court of Appeals reversed the Ombudsman’s ruling.
The PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed the complaint against Mr. Villafuerte as he made the draft of the contract awarded to MAPTRA.
The SC found “in the negative” the principal issue for resolution, which is whether there is substantial evidence pointing to Mr. Villafuerte’s liability.
The SC ruled that there is an “egregious error” in the PNP-CIDG’s complaint as it cannot judge Mr. Villafuerte’s actions “based on the ending result of the document draft.”
The SC also said that the PNP-CIDG’s insistence of holding Mr. Villafuerte liable is “untenable and simply unfair.”
The Court of Appeal earlier ruled that Mr. Villafuerte’s duties as member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Secretariat “are ministerial in nature.”
The Court also accepted Mr. Villafuerte’s explanation that being just a member of the BAC Secretariat, he had no reason to evaluate MAPTRA’s eligibility while he was drafting the documents.
“All told, the Court is not prepared to punish respondent Villafuerte for merely discharging the ministerial functions of his office as Member of the BAC Secretariat, especially when such acts were made pursuant to the instructions of his superiors,” the high court said.
The “chopper scam” involved the purchase of supposedly three brand new helicopters for the police force, but investigation showed that the supplier delivered second-hand units. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas