THE SUPREME Court (SC) has reversed an appellate court decision that affirmed an Ombudsman investigation convicting a police officer of graft for her alleged involvement in an irregular purchase of secondhand choppers amounting to P105 million in 2009.
In a decision dated Oct. 13 last year and made public on May 31, the High Court said the conclusions of the Court of Appeals (CA) and the Ombudsman were based on speculation.
The SC had also reinstated the police officer with back payment of the salaries she did not receive due to her dismissal from service.
“The Ombudsman theorized that petitioner should have gone beyond performing a routine ocular inspection,” according to a copy of the ruling written by SC Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan.
“These circumstances led the Ombudsman to make a blanket statement that petitioner knowingly conspired with other PNP officials to hide the helicopter units’ secondhand nature,” the High Court said. “We cannot sustain the Ombudsman’s blunt hypothesis.”
Maria Linda A. Padojinog, the petitioner, was previously found guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by the Ombudsman for allowing the purchase of secondhand choppers despite previously inspecting the aircrafts. The police officer was subsequently dismissed from service following the conviction.
She claimed in her counter-affidavit that she was only a member of the bids and awards working group of the PNP, which had no authority to vote on the purchase.
The High Court stressed that the police officer did not have the authority to approve or recommend the purchase and delivery of the helicopters, which does not make her administratively liable for the anomalous purchase.
The SC earlier affirmed the dismissal of a former police director, as it ruled that his approval of the purchase caused an “immense debilitating effect on the government service.”
In April, the High Court ordered the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to drop a graft case against former first gentleman Jose Miguel T. Arroyo due to lack of evidence. — John Victor D. Ordoñez