CA junks Ombudsman case vs Nueva Ecija gov

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    SAYING his case was covered by the “Aguinaldo” or condonation doctrine, the Court of Appeals cleared Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali of administrative liability over the use of his P15 million pork barrel funds in 2005 when he was still the province’s 3rd district representative.

    In a decision dated October 4, the appellate court said Umali was still covered by that doctrine since the abandonment of its application based on the decision issued by the Supreme Court in 2015 was prospective in application. The CA decision was penned by Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr.

    The doctrine states that a public official cannot be removed for administrative misconduct committed during a prior term since his re-election to office operates as a condonation of the officer’s previous misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him.

    The Supreme Court abandoned the doctrine in 2015, saying it lacked basis in the Constitution and law.

    But majority of the magistrates ruled that the application of the abandonment should be prospective.

    The doctrine first appeared in Philippine jurisprudence in a decision rendered by the SC in 1959 in the Arturo Pascual vs the Provincial Board of Nuev Ecija. It was cited by then Cagayan Gov. Rodolfo Aguinaldo in his case in 1989 when he was also suspended by the court.

    Umali’s case stemmed from the November 14, 2016 and September 29, 2017 decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman finding him guilty in administrative cases filed against him over his pork barrel allocation.

    The Ombudsman said Umali was liable for the diversion of his pork barrel allocations to the Masaganing Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation.

    Inc. (MAMFI) and the Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi, Inc. to implement his livelihood projects.

    The Ombudsman said their investigation showed that while the two firms reported the funds were used to procure agricultural implements there were no real purchases as all the liquid fertilizers were supposedly sourced from Nutrigrowth Philippines, a company owned by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

    It ordered Umali’s dismissal from his post and barred him from holding public office.

    But Umali elevated the case to the CA when he was prevented from assuming the gubernatorial post in the province when he won in this year’s election.