SC affirms reinstatement of CHED exec Vitriolo, says Ombudsman appealed too late

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The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) decision to reinstate Commission on Higher Education (CHED) executive director Julito Vitriolo because dismissing him for his failure to respond to request letters would be too harsh.

In a recent 8-page resolution, the SC 2nd Division denied the Ombudsman’s petition seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals’ (CA) August 17, 2017 decision to downgrade Vitriolo’s penalty to 30 days’ suspension.

The SC said it was too late for the Ombudsman to challenge the CA decision, because the office only filed a motion for intervention on September 28, 2017, a month after the ruling was issued.

Vitriolo, CHED’s highest-ranked career executive, had not impleaded the Ombudsman as a respondent, causing it to intervene belatedly.

But, the SC said the case did not meet any of the exceptions to the rule against interventions before the rendition of judgments. Such exceptions include: higher interest of justice, right to be heard, avoidance of grave injury, and settlement of substantive issues.

“Consequently, the present petition must be denied, and since intervention has been disallowed, there is no more need to delve into the merits of the substantive arguments raised by the Ombudsman,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

The case arose from the complaint of Oliver Felix, a former faculty member of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), that Vitriolo in 2010 ignored his demand to investigate the alleged “diploma mill” operations at the city government-run university.

The Ombudsman in its December 29, 2016 resolution ordered Vitriolo’s dismissal for violation of Section 5(a) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. The harsh penalty was because this was not his first offense.

The CA found the penalty “too harsh and disproportionate” to his offense.

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