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Ex-SAF chief liable in 2009 helicopter deal – SC

Nillicent Bautista - The Philippine Star
Ex-SAF chief liable in 2009 helicopter deal � SC
In a 14-page notice published on Wednesday, the SC’s First Division granted the petition of the Office of the Ombudsman, which challenged the 2014 CA ruling that acquitted Santiago.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) reversed the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) that cleared former Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) chief Leocadio Santiago Jr. over the purchase of three helicopters in 2009.

In a 14-page notice published on Wednesday, the SC’s First Division granted the petition of the Office of the Ombudsman, which challenged the 2014 CA ruling that acquitted Santiago.

The case stemmed from 2008 when the PNP planned to purchase three helicopters through public bidding.
However, after three unsuccessful biddings, the PNP decided to forego public bidding and instead negotiate with potential sellers.

Two competitors – Manila Aerospace Products and Training  (MAPTRA) and BEELINE – offered their proposals. However, the two negotiations collapsed as both fell short of the PNP’s requirements for three fully equipped helicopters.

This prompted the former PNP-SAF director to issue a memorandum requesting for the immediate procurement of three helicopters.

Following the approval of the PNP chief, the contract of sale was awarded to MAPTRA in 2009.

However, after the purchase, it was discovered that two of the three helicopters delivered were not brand new.

It was also later revealed that MAPTRA was “not legally, technically and financially qualified” as a helicopter supplier for the PNP.

In 2012, the ombudsman found Santiago administratively liable for serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.
Santiago subsequently filed a petition before the CA, which ruled in his favor.

In clearing Santiago, the CA reasoned that he was not responsible for verifying the technical and financial capabilities of the supplier.

This prompted the ombudsman to file a petition before the High Court.
In finding the former PNP-SAF director administratively liable, the SC said it is convinced that there is substantial evidence to show that Santiago is guilty of serious dishonesty.

“His liability for serious dishonesty is based on his attestation that MAPTRA was a legally, technically and financially capable supplier of helicopters,” the decision read.
The SC said it is also “fully convinced” that Santiago’s actions tarnished the image and integrity of the public office he occupied.

“His flimsy defense that he merely relied on the representations of the other committees and his superiors reflects the unacceptable standard that was applied to his public office,” the decision read.

“To the Court, there is no basis to hold public officers to such a low standard when no less than the Constitution commands that public officers ‘must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice and lead modest lives,” the SC added.

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