The Supreme Court has affirmed the dismissal order of the Ombudsman against high-ranking officers of the Philippine National Police involved in the controversial purchase of secondhand helicopters in 2009, according to a statement released by the Ombudsman.
In a decision received by the Ombudsman on January 15, 2018, the SC reinstated the 2012 Ombudsman resolution dismissing from the service Police Directors Leocadio Santiago, Jr. and George Piano; P/Senior Superintendents Job Nolan Antonio, Edgar Paatan, Mansue Lukban and Claudio Gaspar, Jr.; Police Chief Superintendents Herold Ubalde and Luis Saligumba; Police Superintendents Ermilando Villafuerte and Roman Loreto; P/Chief Inspector Maria Josefina Recometa; SPO3 Ma. Linda Padojinog, PO3 Avensuel Dy and Non-uniformed Personnel Ruben Gongona.
In its 2012 resolution, the Office of the Ombudsman found the officials guilty of serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in connection with the 2009 purchase of two secondhand choppers owned by former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.
The SC decision comes after the Ombudsman appealed the Court of Appeals decision which exonerated Piano who filed a petition for review of the Ombudsman’s dismissal order.
The Office of the Ombudsman said that the SC stated in its decision that the CA committed an error in exonerating Piano who affixed his signature confirming that the choppers were brand-new.
"Respondent [Piano] is the Chairman of the PNP Inspection and Acceptance Committee (IAC). The IAC plays a very important role in the procurement process of the agency, since it has the responsibility of inspecting the deliveries to make sure they conform to the quantity and approved technical specifications in the supply contract and the purchase order and to accept or reject the same. Notably, only after the IAC’s final acceptance of the items delivered can be supplier be paid by the PNP,” the SC decision said.
The SC also said that Piano’s signature meant that there was a “distortion of truth” as the PNP’s Weapons Tactics and Communications Division submitted a report disclosing the non-conformity of the delivered helicopters to the approved technical specifications.
The SC also said that “the 1987 Constitution itself underscores that public office is a public trust and that public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people. This imposes upon the SC the responsibility of holding public officers accountable for their blatant disregard of the high standard of ethics, competence, and accountability demanded of them."
"Those in public service, such as herein respondent P/Director Piano, are thus, cautioned to act in full accordance with this constitutional standard, for this Court will not shirk from its duty of upholding administrative sanctions against erring public servants."