Court affirms dismissal of Palawan officials in Malampaya Fund mess

THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the dismissal of 18 officials and employees of the Provincial Government of Palawan involved in the anomalous use of the province’s share in the Malampaya Fund amounting to P2.57 billion.

The CA’s Special 17th Division denied the petition filed by officials and employees seeking the reversal of the Ombudsman’s decision issued on November 21, 2014, which found them administratively liable and dismissed from the service.

The Ombudsman also ordered the cancellation of their eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office and bar them from taking civil-service examinations.

Covered by the Ombudsman’s ruling were: Renato Abrina, engineer IV; Rolando Bonoan Jr., Sangguniang Panlalawigan member; Bayani Buenaventura, engineer III; Manuela Cabiguen, assistant provincial engineer-administration/inspectorate team leader; Orlando Colobong, provincial accountant; Ronelo del Socorro, senior technical audit specialist; Ferdinand Dilig, provincial general; Pedro Gatinga Jr., engineer IV; Edwin Iglesia, state auditor II; Romeo Llacuna, Engineer III; Samuel Madamba II, former provincial planning and development coordinator; Luis Marcaida, provincial budget officer; Alfredo Padua, engineer IV/chief quality control division, Tommy Panes, engineer II; Rosario Pascual-Abacial, engineer II; Pepe Martinez Patacsil, engineer IV; Federico Rubio Jr., assistant provincial engineer-operation/inspectorate team leader; Bernard Zambales, engineer III and Elena Rodriguez, former provincial legal officer.

In a 33-page decision penned by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez, the CA upheld the Ombudsman’s ruling against all the respondents except for Rodriguez.

The CA held that the Ombudsman’s November 21, 2014, consolidated decision exonerating Rodriguez from administrative accountability is final and “unappealable” due to the failure of complainant Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan to appeal the dismissal of the charges.

“Given the finality of the consolidated decision with respect to Elena, the September 13, 2016, order reversing the decision and penalizing Elena [Rodriguez] for grave misconduct, serious dishonest and gross neglect of duty is erroneous,” the CA said.

The appellate court did not give merit to the claim of respondents that the investigation of the Ombudsman was premature since under COA’s Rules and Regulation on Settlement of Accounts, an audit report should be followed by notices of disallowances (NDs), which may be appealed within six months.

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A UST journalism graduate, has been working as a reporter for more than 20 years.