Philippine Coast Guard

Former PH Coast Guard officer wins dismissal case
Former PH Coast Guard officer wins dismissal case

HIGHEST COURT. File photo of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.


The Supreme Court also reverses a Sandiganbayan resolution which found two Navy officers guilty of graft

MANILA, Philippines – A former commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has won his five-year-old dismissal case, following the latest decision of the Supreme Court (SC) on June 6. 

In its decision, the SC said they did not find former PCG commander John Esplana administratively liable for the irregular release of P689.6-million worth of cash advances in 2014. The highest court ruled that “there is no reasonable ground to believe that Esplana is responsible for the irregularities complained of.”   

“In this case, there is a dearth of evidence to prove the Esplana unlawfully and wrongfully used his position to procure some benefit for himself or for another person. There is no clear and convincing evidence that Esplana affixed his signature in the DVs which paved the way for the release of the SCAs to the SDOs for personal or selfish ends,” the Supreme Court said.  

In 2017, the Ombudsman ordered the suspension of 25 PCG officers, including Esplana, for alleged procurement irregularities. Later on, the Ombudsman found Esplana liable for the irregular use of the said cash advances. 

By clearing Esplana, the SC reversed Ombudsman and Court of Appeals decisions against the former PCG officer. The CA, in 2018, upheld the Ombudsman’s decision. 

In its latest decision, the SC added that it was not proven that there was a “willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules.” 

“It was not proven either that there was a willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules. As fully explained above, Esplana acted assiduously  making sure that the documents were complete prior to signing the DVs,” it added.   

Aside from reversing the Ombudsman and CA’s decision, the SC also ordered Esplana’s reinstatement with “full payment of back salaries.” 

“Accordingly, the administrative complaint against petitioner Cdr. John B. Esplana is dismissed. Petitioner is hereby reinstated to his former government position without loss of seniority rights, with full payment of back salaries and other accrued benefits from the date of his dismissal up to his actual reinstatement,” the highest court said. 

The SC’s decision came after Esplana filed a petition for review and explained that his duties did not include auditing. Esplana contended that he did not have the power to approve, authorize, or recommend disbursements, which includes cash advances.   

Two ex-Navy officers also cleared 

In another decision, the SC also set aside the resolution issued by the Sandiganbayan, which found two high-ranking officers of the Philippine Navy guilty of graft. The SC reversed the decision of the Sandiganbayan issued on January 12, 2017, which stated that Philippine Navy Commodore Francisco Tolin and Commander Manuel Tuason were guilty of graft for illegal purchase of medicines worth P1.83 million from 1991 to 1992.   

The SC said Tolin and Tuason, who were sentenced to imprisonment of six to 10 years, should be acquitted due to the failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.    

“As already explained, the prosecution did not establish any deceitful intent and motivation behind the procurement of the subject medicines from PMS Commercial. There was insufficient  evidence showing that petitioners were animated by fraudulent and devious motives,” the SC said.  

The SC added that there was no proof of overpricing in the purchase of the said medicines.  

“The foregoing instances cast doubt on the culpability of petitioners for the crime charged,” the SC noted. –