MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the dismissal of Aklan’s provincial engineer for gross negligence.
The SC’s second division, in a decision penned by Justice Antonio Carpio recently, affirmed the rulings of the Court of Appeals and the Office of the Ombudsman, which found Victory Fernandez along with the members of the Pre-Qualification Bids and Awards Committee (PBAC) guilty of gross negligence for the award of construction projects to Jireh Construction and Supply (Jireh Construction), despite its unsatisfactory performance.
The Court also upheld the penalty of dismissal imposed on Fernandez.
In a statement, the SC said there is gross negligence in cases involving public officials, when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable.
The SC said Fernandez was found remiss in his duties when he failed to give a complete and truthful report to the PBAC of Jireh Construction’s abandonment of a prior government project.
The high tribunal said Fernandez should have immediately reported the poor performance of the construction firm to the governor since it was only given 45 to 90 days to complete the project.
The provincial engineer should have also recommended the termination of the contracts to prevent the loss of funds, the SC added.
The SC dismissed Fernandez’s defense that the project was not completed because Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores issued a memorandum, which ordered its suspension, and not because Jireh Construction abandoned it.
The SC, citing a report of the Commission on Audit (COA), however, noted that the memorandum was issued after the projects were supposed to have been completed.
Thus, even before the issuance of the said memorandum, all five projects of Jireh Construction were still unfinished and in various stages of completion to the detriment of the province of Aklan, the high court said.
“Gross negligence in the performance of duty is classified as a grave offense which merits the penalty of dismissal, carrying with it the cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits and disqualification from re-employment in government service, all of which the Court thus meted on Fernandez,” the SC said.
SC records show that in November 1994, Aklan entered into a contract with Jireh Construction for the construction of the Alibagon-Baybay Bridge in Makato, Aklan.
On Feb. 14, 1995 or 11 days before the completion date, Jireh Construction, through the endorsement of Fernandez, requested for a 30-day extension which was granted by then governor Corazon Cabagnot.
Public bidding was held for the construction of four other infrastructure projects, all of which were awarded by the PBAC to Jireh Construction.
After the local elections in the same year, Miraflores issued a memorandum ordering the inventory of the financial condition of the local government and suspending the implementation of pending infrastructure projects.
COA found that the five projects awarded to Jireh Construction were all unaccomplished and recommended the filing of a case of neglect of duty against the officers of PBAC.