SC reverses decision sending ex-UP officials to jail

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

(Updated) TWO former officials of the University of the Philippines (UP) will no longer be imprisoned for alleged illegal appointment made in 1995 in relation to the establishment of a center offering graduate programs in technology management and innovation.

Reversing its July decision which upheld the Sandiganbayan verdict, the Supreme Court (SC) Third Division found Drs. Roger Posadas and Rolando Dayco, former chancellor and former vice-chancellor of UP Diliman, not guilty of graft and corrupt practices and unethical behavior.

“The Court resolves to grant the motion for reconsideration of the petitioners and to vacate their conviction on the ground of the failure of the State to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the decision read.

They were supposed to spend nine to 12 years in jail and return P336,000 in salaries and consultancy fees paid to Posadas for serving as project director and consultant of the Technology Management Center (TMC) for one year.

The appointments were made on November 7, 1995 by Dayco, whom Posadas designated as officer-in-charge while he was on an official trip to China. The appointments, which were not sanctioned by the UP Board of Regents, had a retroactive effect or when the project began on September 18, 1995.

The UP BOR, the national university’s highest policy-making body, suspended the two in 1998 for one year because of it. UP also barred them from holding any administrative function and initiated charges before the Office of the Ombudsman, which eventually reached the Sandiganbayan.

The Sandiganbayan found them guilty on June 28, 2005 but the two took the legal battle to the SC.

Associate Justice Martin Villarama, who penned the previous ruling affirming the verdict, said Posadas and Dayco failed to live up to the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust.

“These constitutionally enshrined principles, oft-repeated in our case law, are not mere rhetorical flourishes or idealistic sentiments. They should be taken as working standards by all in the public service,” the SC said.

But after taking a second look at the case, the SC said on November 27 that the former UP officials acted in good faith and had no intention to cause injury to the government through “unwarranted benefits.”

“All indications are they acted in good faith. They were scientists, not lawyers, hence unfamiliar with Civil Service rules and regulations. The world of academe is usually preoccupied with studies, researches and lectures. Thus, those appointments appear to have been taken for granted at UP,” the decision stated.

It also denied the prosecution’s claim that Posadas’ P30,000-monthly payment as TMC project director caused actual injury to the government. Records show, however, that the P247,500-payment that the Commission on Audit (COA) resident auditor disallowed was slashed from his terminal leave benefits.

Dayco did not give “unwarranted advantage” to Posadas as well since there is no evidence that “he did not discharge the additional responsibilities that such appointments entailed.”

“The prosecution presented no evidence whatsoever, that others, more qualified than Dr. Posadas, deserve the two related appointments. The fact is that he was the best qualified for the work,” the SC said, citing Posadas' technical management expertise.

TMC was Posadas’ brainchild and he even arranged funding for the project.

The SC felt the two had been victims of university politics since they were staunch critics of then UP President Emil Javier, who constituted an Administrative Disciplinary Tribunal (ADT) to hear and decide the complaint that he himself filed against the two.

Javier’s action came even if then UP chief legal officer Marichu Lambino cleared Posada and Dayco of any wrongdoing. Javier sympathized with UP Library Administrative Officer Ofelia del Mundo, who was investigated by Posadas for grave abuse of authority, neglect of duty and other infractions.

The ADT recommended the dismissal of Posadas and Dayco from the service but the UP BOR modified it to one-year suspension provided they render a public apology for their actions. Both did not contest the UP BOR’s decision.

“Apparently, the Office of the Ombudsman played into the intense mutual hatred and rivalry that enlarged what was a simple administrative misstep,” the Court said.

Associate Justice Roberto Abad wrote the decision concurred in by Justices Lucas Bersamin and Bienvenido Reyes. Bersamin and Reyes earlier sided with the July ruling. Opposed to new decision were Villarama and Associate Justice Jose Mendoza. (Sunnex)

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