The Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed a ruling by the Office of the Ombudsman dismissing actor and Quezon City Councilor Roderick Paulate and several others from the service.
The Office of the Ombudsman had earlier found Paulate, 1st District Rep. Francisco Calalay Jr. and liaison officers Flordeliza Alvarez and Vicente Bajamunde guilty of falsifying government documents and hiring ghost employees, perpetually disqualifying them from holding public office.
But in a 17-page decision penned by Associate Justice Stephen Cruz, the CA's Fifth Division granted the defendants' petition for review.
It said that while the public officials signed and issued certifications pertaining to the alleged "ghost" employees, the Ombudsman failed to prove any link between them and the alleged offense.
"[T]hey merely relied in good faith on their subordinates. Further, there was no substantial evidence to prove that petitioners planned and conspired to defraud the government and benefit therefrom," the decision read.
Paulate and Calalay allegedly hired 60 ghost contractual employees who received P5,000 to P10,000 monthly salaries in 2010. The said employees were listed as field inspectors, district coordinators and office aides.
The Ombudsman's investigation revealed that there were no records of the employees' birth certificates and NBI records. Only the endorsement letters and personal data sheets were submitted by the two public officials.
The employees' signatures on the monthly payroll were also inconsistent, and barangay officials testified that the names on the list of job order were non-existent.
Paulate and Calalay said that they "relied on the endorsement of their staff and coordinators" because they did not have time to interview the applicants.