Cuenco was allegedly involved in the questionable implementation of a P3.4 million medicine assistance program using the pork barrel funds of his father, former congressman Antonio Cuenco.
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Court of Appeals clears Cuenco
Mylen P. Manto (The Freeman) - October 22, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Court of Appeals in Manila has ordered that James Anthony Cuenco be reinstated as councilor of Cebu City.

The Office of the Ombudsman dismissed Cuenco from service last year for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty for allegedly using falsified documents in the disbursement of public funds.

Cuenco was allegedly involved in the questionable implementation of a P3.4 million medicine assistance program using the pork barrel funds of his father, former congressman Antonio Cuenco.

But Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez of CA’s Third Division reversed the Ombudsman’s ruling owing to lack of evidence.

"In this case, the records are bereft of evidence that will unmistakably establish petitioner's disposition to lie, cheat or fraud. His act of signing the referral slips without proof that he had actual knowledge of the attending irregularities will not suffice to prove his conscious effort to distort the truth or to defraud the government," reads the decision promulgated on October 18, 2018.

The CA also ordered the Department of Interior and Local Government to reinstate Cuenco into office.

"There is no sufficient basis to uphold the administrative finding of guilt against petitioner (Cuenco).

While the quantum of proof in administrative cases is lower, the same does not dispensed with the requirement of proof altogether. To reiterate, there must be substantial evidence to sustain a finding of administrative culpability. Absent such evidence, as in this case, the innocence of petitioner must be upheld," the CA said.

In his petition, Cuenco claimed he was not the project director of the TNT program but merely the designated signatory of the referral slip, thus, he had no hand in the actual implementation of the program.

He said there was no proof that he participated in the alleged falsification of referral slips.

Cuenco’s lawyer, Rey Gealon, said truth finally prevailed.

"At the onset, we were confident of a reversal upon scrutiny by the Honorable Court of Appeals, considering that there was really nothing on record to show that Councilor James Cuenco committed falsification or used falsified documents for the "Tom & Tony" health program in question - in fact, the Honorable Office of the Ombudsman categorically declared that it has no proof to that effect in the first place," he said.

Gealon added that the CA "was clear and categorical in pronouncing that there was neither serious dishonesty nor grave misconduct, or any dishonesty or misconduct for that matter, that Councilor Cuenco committed."

"Consequently, the people of the City of Cebu, especially the 119,608 of them who voted him to office, will no longer be disenfranchised attendant to that loss of Cuenco in the Sangguian,” he said. (FREEMAN)

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