CA affirms Ombudsman dismissal of 2 DSWD execs

MANILA -- The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the Office of the Ombudsman's ruling on the dismissal of two officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for their involvement in the anomalous release and use of PHP10 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Quezon City 1st District Rep. Vincent Bingbong Crisologo in 2009.

In a 20-page resolution dated May 31, penned by Associate Justice Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla and concurred by Associate Justices Ramon Cruz and Amy Lazaro-Javier, the CA's Special 5th Division modified the Ombudsman's ruling dated June 19, 2017, which found Mateo G. MontaAo, DSWD Undersecretary for General Administration and Support Services Group, and Pacita Sarino, Protective Services Bureau Assistant Director, guilty of grave misconduct.

Instead, the CA found MontaAo and Sarino guilty of gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The CA did not give weight to the petitioners' claim that the release of Crisologo's PDAF to the Kalookan Assistance Council, Inc. (KACI) was compliant with the internal rules of the DSWD and that the project submitted by KACI received favorable reviews from concerned DSWD offices.

Accordingly, they are dismissed from government service with all the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits, and disqualification for re-employment in the government service, the CA ruled.

Furthermore, the CA said the petitioners failed to show proof that KACI underwent the procedure for availment, release and use of funds under Commission on Audit Circular No. 2007-001.

In the case at bar, there is no showing that KACI underwent the above procedure. There was no bidding or any other selection process conducted, the CA pointed out.

Contrary to the claim of MontaAo and Sarino, the CA noted that three officials of the DSWD actually did not give a favorable recommendation for the proposed projects of KACI, such as medical/hospitalization assistance, transportation, calamity, death, burial, educational expenses, small-scale livelihood, socio-cultural expenses, small-scale infrastructure assistance, and values training.

Contrary to petitioners' argument that the procedure they followed was the prevailing practice at that time, the approval of the disbursement of funds in favor of KACI violated Section 75 of the General Appropriations Act, the CA ruled.

The CA said KACI merely submitted project proposals that were immediately approved by Crisologo and other individuals concerned, with MontaAo signing as witness to the memorandum of agreement.

The acts of petitioners were in clear violation of the rules and regulations of the COA and the General Appropriations Act. Moreover, a simple review of the documents presented by KACI would have revealed the irregularities found by PACPO (Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Office). Hence, their actions are tantamount to gross neglect of duty, the court said.

In the case of KACI, the CA noted that the group had existing unliquidated cash advances at the time it proposed the projects.

Thus, it was not qualified for fund transfer. Despite this fact, petitioners approved the disbursement of funds in favor of KACI, said the court. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency