SC affirms suspension order on cop in PNP 'rubber boat scam'

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2017 07:23 PM

The Supreme Court (SC) has reversed a decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to uphold a suspension order of the Office of the Ombudsman on a police official implicated in the anomalous purchase of 75 defective rubber boats by the Philippine National Police (PNP) worth P131.5 million in 2009.

The Ombudsman's appeal for a reversal of the CA ruling was granted by the high court's Third Division, which found no error nor grave abuse on the part of the anti-graft office in penalizing Senior Superintendent Luis Saligumba with a 6-month suspension, without pay, for simple neglect of duty.

Saligumba, found guilty by the Ombudsman of said offense on January 9, 2013, was able to get a favorable ruling from the appellate court on December 23, 2014, and again, in March 2015.

"In this case, respondent (Saligumba) evidently neglected to efficiently and effectively discharge his functions and responsibilities. In his counter-affidavit he even admitted that he did not personally inspect the deliveries since a group of experts and selected personnel knowledgable of rubber boats had conducted the inspection for him," the SC said in its decision dated February 22.

"While they are not mandated to exclusively inspect the items delivered, respondent (Saligumba) and other IAC (Inspection and Acceptance Committee) members should not have merely relied on the reports and instead confirmed such findings by personally inspecting the deliveries, especially since there were noted discrepancies from the report," the SC said.

Saligumba was part of the PNP Inspection and Acceptance Committee (IAC), which was tasked to inspect deliveries, accept or reject deliveries, and render inspection and acceptance report to the head of the procuring agency.

The PNP, through negotiated procurement, bought the 75 rubber boats and 18 spare engines or outboard motors intended for use by its Maritime Group in its security and disaster operation efforts.

Upon delivery, however, the PNP Maritime Group, through its Technical Inspection Committee on Watercrafts, discovered various alleged deficiencies in the equipment. It was also found that the boats and engines were not functional when fitted together.

Three other police officials were also suspended for 6 months, without pay, while Chief Superintendent Herold Ubalde and Deputy Director General Benjamin Belarmino Jr. were ordered dismssed from the service by the Ombudsman for gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct.