IFUGAO Representative Teodoro Baguilat Jr. has just been cleared of charges of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty.
In a 16-page decision dated March 19, 2015, the Court of Appeals (CA), through Associate Justice Magdangal De Leon, granted Baguilat's petition to be dismissed from the charges, thus reversing the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman, which ruled Baguilat guilty with a fine equivalent to a one-year salary.
"The petition is granted. The decision date January 16, 2013 of the Office of the Ombudsman is reversed and set aside. Accordingly, the petitioner Teodoro B. Baguilat Jr. is exonerated from the charges of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty," the decision read.
The CA ruled the petition of Baguilat as "meritorious."
"There is a gross neglect of duty when there is want of even slightest care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but wilfully and intentionally," it said.
The respondents, officials of the Ifugao Provincial Board represented by Jose Jordam Gullitiw, Robert Humiwat, Rodolfo Dulnuan, Samson Atluna, Aldrin Guingayan, Jomar Buyuccan and Nora Dinamling, said that Baguilat, during his term as a provincial governor, committed grave misconduct and neglect of duty when he left the country on several occasions without notice to the respondents.
But contrary to these claims, the CA found out Baguilat presented special orders furnished to members of the Provincial Board. The orders informed them about his trips abroad and even designated then Vice Governor Dinamling as the officer-in-charge.
The court noted Baguilat did not intentionally fail to do his duty to inform the respondents.
Disbursement vouchers bearing the signature of Dinamling, who was then acting as the OIC of the Office of the Governor, were also found and they showed he was aware of the then governor's trips.
The CA noted the respondents failed to present substantial evidence supporting the Office of the Ombudsman that indeed Baguilat is guilty of the charges against him.
In the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman, it stressed Baguilat violated Section 46 (a) of the Republic Act 7160 or the provision on certification, approval and disbursement of vouchers.
The CA argued Section 344 of the same law stating the local chief executive himself is required to certify and approve disbursements except in cases of disbursements involving regularly recurring administrative expenses.
"Clearly, a local chief executive may validly delegate the approval of disbursement vouchers for regularly recurring expenses," the court highlighted.
It then decided that there is no doubt the petitioner is liable for the charges.
"Since the petitioner did not commit the imputed offenses, it follows that the penalty of dismissal is without basis," it added.