Appellate court sets aside suspension ruling vs Coast Guard officials

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2018 07:10 PM | Updated as of Jul 06 2018 11:50 PM

MANILA - The Court of Appeals (CA) has set aside its decision that found several members of the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) Bids and Awards Committee guilty of simple misconduct and ordered them suspended for six months without pay over a P125-million allocation for the procurement of rescue equipment and services.

In a nine-page amended decision on June 6 penned by Associate Justice Maria Elisa Sempio Diy, the appellate court’s Special Former 9th Division dismissed the petition for review filed by Commodore Enrico Evangelista, Commanders Teotimo Borja Jr. and Ramon Lopez, and Captains Noli Casiano, Angelito Gil, Joeven Fabull, and Ramon Reblora due to forum shopping.

The CA noted that the petitioners filed two simultaneous pleadings in their bid for a reversal of the Office of the Ombudsman’s ruling finding evident bad faith and manifest partiality or gross inexcusable negligence against them: one, a motion for reconsideration with the Ombudsman; and two, a petition for review with the CA. 

The CA came to know of the forum shopping when petitioners filed a manifestation informing the court that the anti-graft office reversed its earlier ruling in a December 21, 2016 order exonerating them, partially granting their motions for reconsideration, with the exception of Lopez who was found in violation of Section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“This clearly constitutes forum shopping, which is a ground for dismissal of instant petitions… and also constitutes direct contempt and a cause for administrative sanctions, under Section 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure,” the amended decision stated. 

“For this reason, we cannot countenance petitioners and their counsel’s disregard of the rules and disrespect for this court and the Ombudsman… Thus, on this basis, the instant petition should be dismissed,” it added. 

The appellate court issued a warning for petitioners and their lawyer for their lack of candor on the matter.

“We, therefore, take this opportunity to warn petitioners and their counsel not to abuse the court processes and to observe candor… This court sternly reminds petitioners’ counsel that as lawyers, they have sworn to exert every effort to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice,” the CA said. 

The case stemmed from the Commission on Audit’s (COA) findings that petitioners violated several provisions of the Government Procurement Reform Act covering the disposition of the P125-million fund.

The officials committed the following violations, according to the COA report:

- observers were not invited during the opening of bids for specific transactions
- there was inappropriate posting of the invitation to bid in a tabloid 
- the winning bidder did not meet the profile of a usual business establishment
- petitioners sent letters of invitations to certain suppliers and contractors, giving them prior information on the procurement
- they entered into contracts which were grossly disadvantageous to the government