City scholarship controversy: CA clears Abellanosa
Jean Marvette A. Demecillo (The Freeman) - January 4, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Court of Appeals has reversed and set aside the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman finding Cebu City South District Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa guilty of conflict of interest in the implementation of the city’s scholarship program.

In a decision dated December 21, 2017, Associate Justice Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig pointed out that the “misconduct” Abellanosa was penalized for was committed when he was still a city councilor.

“Contrary to the Ombudsman’s ratiocinations, petitioner’s (Abellanosa) election as Congressman of the South District of Cebu City during the 2013 elections renders the imposition of the administrative offense of grave misconduct moot and academic on the basis of the condonation doctrine,” reads the 10-page decision.

Associate Justices Edgardo Delos Santos and Marilyn Lagura-Yap agreed with Macaraig.

To recall, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found Abellanosa guilty of grave misconduct for conflict of interest.

It was Philip Banguiran who sued Abellanosa for entering into a memorandum of agreement with the city government for the P51 million scholarship program as trustee-president of Asian College of Technology and Asian College of Technology International Educational Foundation Incorporated.

Abellanosa who was then city councilor when the MOA was signed on June 24, 2010, also participated in the accreditation of schools the city scholars could enroll in.

Macaraig said the condonation doctrine, despite the abandonment of Carpio-Morales vs Court of Appeals and Binay, Jr., still applies in Abellanosa’s case as the effect of abandonment was made prospective in application.

Macaraig cited the Giron vs Ochoa case wherein the court recognized that the doctrine can be applied to a public officer who was elected to a different position provided that it is shown that the body politic electing the person to another office is the same.

“Those who elected petitioner (Abellanosa) into office as City Councilor and as Congressman of Cebu City South District were essentially the same. Differently put, the electorate that voted for him for Congresman of Cebu City South District comprises wholly those voting for a Cebu City Councilor. Thus, the condonation doctrine is applicable in this case,” the decision reads.

It added that Abellanosa has established sufficiently his right to remain in his post as he was elected to another elective position in 2013, which operates as a condonation of whatever administrative infraction or misconduct he may have committed in 2010 and 2011.

The Ombudsman dismissed Abellanosa from service but the appellate court said dismissal from office of an elective official will “undeservedly deprive the electorate of the services of the person they have conscientiously chosen and voted into office.”

“This Court is, therefore, precluded from imposing the administrative penalty of dismissal on account of the same people’s decision to elect him again in yet another office,” the order reads.

Abellanosa said he is thankful for the year that passed because it was when the Sandiganbayan also cleared him of crimainal liability in the same case.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Sandiganbayan ruling, as well as the decision of the Court of Appeals.

“The Court of Appeals trashed and ruled against the administrative penalty of the Ombudsman dismissing and disqualifying me from government service,” he said.

The Regional Trial Court recently approved the compromise agreement submitted by the ACT/ACTIEF allowing the city government to pay for its dues to the school so that the transcript of records of the city’s scholars will be released. (FREEMAN)

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