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SC reinstates cop in dubious chopper deal

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The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday ordered the reinstatement of a police official allegedly involved in the anomalous helicopter deal between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Manila Aerospace Products Trading (MAPTRA) in 2009.

In the 18-page decision released Monday, the SC en banc affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) that reversed the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman dismissing Supt. Emilando Villafuerte.

The decision, penned by Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, also ordered Villafuerte reinstated to his former position without loss of seniority rights and payment of back wages and benefits under Sec. 58 of the 2017 Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.

The SC said the decision shall be immediately executory as it found no merit to hold the police official administratively liable over the controversy on the purchase of the PNP helicopters from MAPTRA.

In 2012, the Ombudsman had ordered the dismissal of Villafuerte and several others, directing the forfeiture of their retirement benefits as well as their disqualification from holding any public office.

The Ombudsman stressed that the police officers were found guilty of serious dishonesty as they engaged in conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for their role in the procurement of three second-hand helicopters for the PNP.

The PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) had ascribed liability to Villafuerte and said the award of the contract to MAPTRA was made through documents that he drafted.

But Villafuerte explained that his duties and functions as a member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) secretariat were merely administrative and ministerial in nature and that he was merely following the instructions of his superiors.

He said the Technical Working Group of the NHQ-BAC has the duty and responsibility to verify whether a proponent is indeed technically, legally and financially capable to enter into a contract with the PNP.

The imputation of the PNP-CIDG was called an “egregious error” by the SC, stressing that “petitioner cannot judge accused Villafuerte’s actions based on the end result of the document draft.

“Based on the foregoing, petitioner miserably failed to establish a nexus between the ministerial act of drafting the said documents and a scheme to defraud the government,” the SC said.

Likewise, it found “untenable and simply unfair” the insistence of the PNP-CIDG of holding Villafuerte liable even if it does not contest the CA’s finding that the latter’s duties as member of the BAC Secretariat are ministerial in nature.

“All told, the Court is not prepared to punish respondent Villafuerte for merely discharging the ministerial functions of his office as Member of the BAC Secretariat, especially when such acts were made pursuant to the instructions of his superiors,” the SC said.

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