MANILA -- The Court of Appeals granted the petition for review filed by two high-ranking officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and reversed the earlier decision by the Office of the Ombudsman for their supposed involvement in the PHP100-million anomalous contract with Werfast Documentation Agency Inc. (Werfast), which provided courier services for renewal of firearms licenses.
In a 13-page decision penned by Associate Justice Pablito Perez, the CA's Special Eleventh Division granted the petition for review filed by Supt. Lenbell Fabia, former Assistant Chief of the Firearms Licensing Division-Firearms and Explosives Office (FLD-FEO), and Chief Insp. Sonia Calixto, former chief of Permits and Other Licenses (POL) Section of the FLD.
The CA reversed and set aside the June 25, 2015 consolidated decision of the Ombudsman of substantial evidence against the petitioners for grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.
The CA held that there was no conspiracy on the part of the two, along with the other respondents who have been cleared by the CA, to dupe the government by entering into an anomalous contract with Werfast.
The appellate court gave weight to Fabia and Calixto's claim that their only involvement in the alleged conspiracy to favor Werfast was their designation as members of the FEO-Courier Services Accreditation Board (CSAB).
In resolving this appeal, this Court however does not seek proof of petitioners' guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but only substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind may accept as adequate to support the conclusion that petitioners Fabia and Calixto by their own individual actions had knowingly participated in and made possible the irregular transaction, the CA noted.
From the foregoing, it is evident that there is no substantial evidence to warrant the Ombudsman's findings that petitioners Fabia and Calixto, as members of the FEO-CSAB, participated or gained in the alleged conspiracy that based on the records was perpetrated at the highest levels of the police hierarchy, it added.
The CA said the FEO-CSB merely issued an interim accreditation to Werfast valid for one year only subject to review or revocation, instead of a five-year validity of the memorandum of agreement signed by Estilles and Werfast, and did not provide for mandatory and exclusive service by Werfast as directed by Civil Security Group Director Gil Meneses in his memorandum.
These inconsistencies between the actions of the FEO-CSAB and other involved PNP officials on substantial terms of the accreditation of Werfast do not lead to a conclusion of conspiracy; on the contrary, they indicate serious disagreement or opposition among the parties involved, the CA explained.
The case stemmed from the complaint filed before the Ombudsman by a certain Glenn Gerard Ricafranca accusing former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima - along with other police officials - of entering into a contract with Werfast in 2011 for the delivery of firearms license cards even without proper accreditation.
The fact-finding investigation of the Ombudsman uncovered that the company was incorporated only after the execution of the agreement with a capitalization of PHP65,000 only.
The Ombudsman's consolidated decision also covered other respondents including Purisima, former Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta and former FEO officials Chief Supt. Napoleon Estilles, Senior Supt. Allan ParreAo, Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, Senior Supt. Melchor Reyes, Chief Insp. Nelson Bautista, Chief Insp. Ricardo Zapata Jr., Senior Insp. Ford Tuazon.
The Ombudsman ordered them dismissed from service as well as the forfeiture of their retirement benefits and barred them from being reemployed in government.
Earlier, the CA affirmed the dismissal of Purisima while clearing and ordering the reinstatement of Petrasanta, Bautista, Zapata, Acierto and ParreAo. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency