SC downgrades ex-PNP chief’s dismissal to suspension sans pay

The Supreme Court has partially granted the appeal of the disgraced former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima who was ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2015 for grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.

In a decision made public June 15, 2022, the Court ordered that instead of dismissal from the service, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, the penalty imposed on Purisima was reduced to a one-year suspension without pay.

The Court, through Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting, ruled to restore all Purisima’s “rights, emoluments, benefits, and privileges removed by, and forfeited in, the assailed Ombudsman Consolidated Decision dated June 25, 2015.”

Purisima’s dismissal stemmed from the PNP’s implementation of the P100 million courier service contract signed in 2011 with Werfast Documentation Agency, Inc. (Werfast) for the delivery of firearms licenses.

Besides dismissal from the service, the Ombudsman also ordered the forfeiture of Purisima’s retirement benefits, cancellation of eligibility, bar from taking civil service examinations and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in government service.

This prompted Purisima to file an appeal before the appellate court seeking to overturn the anti-graft body’s ruling. However, the CA, in a decision dated May 12, 2017, dismissed his petition. He then filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The Court still found Purisima guilty of gross neglect of duty, however.

Court records showed that on May 25, 2011, Werfast proposed to the PNP an online computerized renewal system and courier delivery service of firearms licenses. The letter proposal with a copy of a draft memorandum of agreement (MOA) was addressed to then PNP Chief General Raul M. Bacalzo.

On Aug. 24, 2011, Bacalzo approved the signing of the MOA.

Two months after Purisima was designated PNP acting chief, he received a memorandum dated Feb. 12, 2013 from Director Gil Meneses of the Civil Security Group (CSG) on the delivery of renewed firearms licenses.

The Meneses memorandum stated that upon implementation of “Oplan Katok” (PNP’s house-to-house visitation to check firearms licenses), licensees visited were found to be unknown and/or not living in the addresses listed in the PNP’s management information system.

Thus, the memorandum recommended the mandatory delivery of firearms licenses to the registered addresses through Werfast. The memorandum was approved by Purisima on Feb. 17, 2013.

But the PNP received numerous complaints against Werfast. An anonymous complaint alleged that Purisima, his friends and cohorts siphoned millions of pesos from the mandatory delivery fees paid by gun owners by entering into a MOA with Werfast on May 25, 2011 despite the latter being incorporated only on Aug. 10, 2011.

In March 2014, the PNP terminated its contract with Werfast for gross inefficiency.

On April 16, 2014, complainant Glenn Gerard C. Ricafranca filed an affidavit before the OMB. He alleged that the MOA with Werfast was entered into without public bidding, that Werfast had not yet been issued its Certificate of Incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and that Werfast was not authorized by the Department of Transportation and Communication to deliver mails or parcels to the public.

Ricafranca also alleged that numerous firearms licensees complained of delay in the delivery, lack of official receipts, inaccessibility ofthe Werfast website, useless tracking option, and service fees which were more expensive that those charged by other courier service firms.

Based on FFIB-MOLEO’s probe and recommendation, the OMB, on June 25, 2015, found Purisima guilty and was ordered dismissed from the service with accessory penalties.

In affirming with modification the CA’s decision, the SC said that Purisima could have suspended the contract with Werfast “when it became apparent that Werfast was incapable of properly handling the delivery of firearm licenses.”

“Instead, he allowed the problems to persist for another eight months before he terminated the contract with Werfast on the ground of gross inefficiency,” the Court said.

“From the foregoing, the Court rules that petitioner is liable for Gross Neglect of Duty or Gross Negligence. Gross Neglect of Duty or Gross Negligence refers to negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected,” it said.

The court also noted that while gross neglect of duty or gross negligence is considered a grave offense punishable by dismissal on the first offense, this is not automatically imposed.

In several cases, the Court appreciated various mitigating circumstances, such as length of service, unblemished record, among other things, and thus, imposed a lower penalty on the erring public official or employee.

It clarified, however, that in the case of Purisima, “reinstatement is no longer possible because petitioner already resigned as PNP Chief during the pendency of his preventive suspension case” before the Court of Appeals.

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