THE Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) in Mindanao ordered the dismissal of a special collecting officer of the National Bureau of Investigation Southeastern Mindanao Regional Office (NBI-Semro) after he was found guilty of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty for using the agency's collections for his personal business.

Special Prosecution Officer I Pillar L. Constantino, in a decision dated February 10 and approved by Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman, ordered the dismissal of NBI-Semro Administrative Aide VI Severito A. Castillo, who was designated as Special Collecting Officer.

Constantino found Castillo guilty based on the complaint of the Commission on Audit (COA)-Davao that stemmed from the unsigned letter dated August 9, 2010 by President Benigno Aquino III, Graft and Corruption Movement Mindanao, Davao City addressed to the chairman of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), which was then referred to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

The letter alleged that Castillo committed irregularities in connection with the NBI clearance applications and certificates, including the non-remittance of his collections amounting to P900,000, which was allegedly used for his personal business.

The complaint was then endorsed by lawyer Maria Corazon A. Arancon, Director IV of OMB-Mindanao, to NBI-Semro Acting Regional Director Max Salvador through first endorsement dated August 23, 2011 for the "conduct of a discreet fact-finding investigation."

Salvador, in a letter dated September 19, 2011, then informed the respondent that he will be the subject for an audit and that the "matter was already elevated to their main office."

This was then followed by an investigation conducted by OMB-Mindanao Associate Graft Investigation Officer III Cezar D. Raneses, recommending the request of the audit results from the COA-Davao.

The report from COA showed that based on the December 12, 2008 examination of the cash and accounts of the respondent for the period of December 28, 2007 to December 12, 2008, Castillo was initially found to have incurred a cash shortage of P479,515.

Upon interview, he "confided that he was delayed in submitting his reports of collections and deposits because he has misused some of his collections."

The report also revealed that even after the said cash count, the respondent still had collection transaction up to January 26, 2009. A follow-up cash count was conducted on February 12, 2009 that showed Castillo still had remaining undeposited collections amounting to P171,040 out of P479,515.

In a narrative report by audit team leader Gloria Canete reiterating the results of the evaluation report, she explained that the respondent's undeposited collections amounting to P171,040 as of February 12, 2009 included the equivalent peso value of collection for the 151 pieces of missing official receipts confirmed to have been issued to NBI-Semro.

COA-Davao also included the joint affidavit of the examining auditors dated April 3, 2012 as evidence.

In Castillo's counter-affidavit, dated November 7, 2014, he said that "he had already fully settled his accountabilities in the amount of P153,545 and declared that he had submitted his unused official receipts to the stockroom of the NBI Central Office."

He also denied that he received the official receipts covered with series numbers 24501001 to 25406000.

Both parties were then asked to submit their position papers through an order dated December 8, 2014 wherein the respondent re-submitted his counter-affidavit as his position paper on December 22, 2014.

Constantino said that with the record showing that Castillo "unlawfully and wrongfully used his position to obtain monetary benefit for himself," he was found guilty of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.

However, Constantino found the respondent not guilty of gross neglect of duty for "his delay in submitting his reports of collections and deposits is a mere consequence of his misuse of the funds" and that "there is no definite evidence that the loss of the 151 pieces of official receipts can be attributed to respondent's fault or negligence."

The resolution also ordered that the fine will be converted into the amount of his last salary for one year, if dismissal can no longer be enforced due to his separation from NBI-Semro, which he can pay at the Office of the Ombudsman.

The fine can also be deducted to the respondent's retirement benefits, accrued leave credits or any receivable from the government.

The decision also ordered Regional Director of NBI-Semro lawyer Dante A. Gierran to implement the penalty of dismissal to Castillo 10 days from the receipt of the resolution. (KGL)