CA upholds Ombudsman ruling on fertilizer scam

By on February 21, 2015

Department of Agriculture (Facebook photo)
Department of Agriculture (Facebook photo)

MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed the petition filed by an official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) who was penalized for his involvement in the controversial fertilizer scam.

In a ruling written by Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam and released on Friday, the CA’s Fifth Division denied the petition filed by Dr. Hector M. Sales, designated as Officer-in-Charge Regional Executive Director (OIC-RED) of the DA Regional Field Officer No. 5 (DA-RFU).

“Wherefore, the petition is dismissed. The Ombudsman’s decision, dated November 25, 2009 and the order, dated September 29, 2010 are hereby affirmed,” the CA ruling said.

Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Mario V. Lopez and Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez.

The Task Force Abono (fertilizer) discovered the fertilizer scam based on the paper trail of vouchers, receipts, reports and actual canvass of the price of foliar fertilizer.

The Ombudsman for Luzon rendered a decision against Sales, Accountant III Evangelina Ruth D. Poloyapoy and Chief of Finance Division Nelia A. Sumayao when it found them guilty of grave misconduct and meted the penalty of dismissal from the service with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service.

When they filed their respective motions for reconsideration (MRs), the Ombudsman modified the decision as it lowered the penalty against Poloyapoy and Sumayao from dismissal to one year suspension of office without pay while Sales’ was denied.

This prompted Sales to elevate his case to the CA.

The CA turned down Sales’ argument that he should not be faulted for signing the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) despite of the non-government organizations’ (NGOs) non-compliance of certain requirements.

Sales argued that he should not be held liable by virtue of the Arias Doctrine, a ruling on a criminal case that exonerated the accused for the acts made by his subordinates.

However, the CA said that the Arias Doctrine is not applicable to Sales’ case.

“Arias is a criminal case whereas the instance case is an administrative case,” the CA said.

The CA said that jurisprudence clearly shows that the said doctrine only finds application to criminal cases.

“We also agree with the OMB and the OSG that petitioner is administratively liable for grave misconduct,” the CA added.

“What is clear is that petitioner merely signed the MOA and left the task of scrutinizing the details of and the implementation of the MOA to his subordinates. Now, petitioner throws the blame to his subordinates claiming that he relied on their representations,” the CA said.

“Petitioner’s willful intent to disregard the pertinent COA rules and regulations and the provision of the MOA demonstrates his being inefficient and inimical to the government service, particularly to his designated position,” the CA added.