SC affirms conviction of PNP exec over rubber boat scam

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed the decision of Office of the Ombudsman and reversed the ruling of Court of Appeals acquitting a police official implicated in the anomalous purchase of 75 defective rubber boats worth PHP131.5 million in 2009.

”The petition is granted. The assailed and decision and resolution of Court Appeals are reversed and set aside. The decision of Ombudsman dated January 9 is hereby reinstated,” Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., of SC Third Division signed the 16-page decision dated February 22, 2017.

The Jan. 9, 2013 decision of the Ombudsman found Police Senior Superintendent Luis Saligumba guilty of simple neglect of duty and meted him the penalty of six months suspension.

Saligumba took his case to the Court of Appeals that cleared him which prompted the Ombudsman to go to the SC.

The high court said Saligumba evidently neglected to efficiently and effectively discharge his functions and responsibilities when he admitted that he did not inspect the delivered rubber boats.

“While they are not mandated to exclusively inspect the items delivered, respondent and other IAC members should not have merely relied on the reports and instead confirmed such findings by personally inspecting the deliveries, especially since there were noted discrepancies from the report. Prudence dictates that respondent should have brought it upon himself to personally check the said items,” the high court said.

“Simple neglect of duty is classified as a less grave offense punishable by suspension without pay for one month and one day to six months. w Thus the imposition of the penalty of six months suspension by the Ombudsman is proper,” the high court added.

The case is about the negotiated purchase of 75 rubber boats and 18 spare engines or outboard motors by the Philippine National Police (PNP). It was supposed to be for the police’s Maritime Group in its security and disaster operation efforts.

However, upon delivery, the PNP’s Maritime Group through its Technical Inspection Committee on Watercrafts discovered defects in the equipment.

Saligumba was a member of the PNP’s Inspection and Acceptance Committee (IAC) tasked to inspect deliveries, accept or reject deliveries, and render inspection and acceptance report to the head of the procuring agency.

He said he merely relied on the reports of higher ranking officials involved in the procurement when he signed the signature that the deliveries conformed with the government specifications.

The appellate court said the official who recommended the approval for the purchase of the defective rubber boats was meted with only a month suspension and the one who falsified the bidding document was acquitted while Saligumba who only affixed his signature was suspended for six months.