SC orders reinstatement of Napolcom investigator sacked over hidden wealth

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The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the reinstatement of a National Police Commission (Napolcom) special investigator, as it downgraded his administrative offenses in connection with his alleged undeclared wealth.

In a recent 23-page decision, the SC 3rd Division reduced the penalty on 2nd Lt. Gilbert San Diego to seven months’ suspension for four counts of simple negligence and 11 counts of simple misconduct.

Since San Diego was deemed to have already served his suspension, the SC ordered that his reinstatement to his original position without loss of seniority rights, although he would not be paid his back salaries.

The Ombudsman originally dismissed San Diego in its June 30, 2011 decision, finding him guilty of the more serious offenses of 16 counts of grave misconduct and six counts of serious dishonesty. The Court of Appeals (CA) in its October 31, 2013 decision denied the policeman’s appeal, prompting him to go to the SC.

The sanctions for simple negligence arose from San Diego’s non-disclosure of his financial interest in A. Francisco Realty Corporation in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) for 2005, 2006 and 2007.

He was also faulted for failing to declare his ownership of a Pistol Flag .38 caliber and a Machine Pistol Uzi caliber 9 mm firearms, and his conjugal ownership of a condominium unit in Libis, Quezon City, as well as misdeclaring the Nissan Patrol sport utility vehicle (SUV) registered in the corporation’s name.

San Diego cited “mere confusion and honest mistake” in downplaying the omissions in his SALNs. However, the SC pointed out that he was not an ordinary rank-and-file employee and actually held postgraduate degrees in Public Administration and Law.

The SC also rejected his argument that he only held a nominal interest in the corporation and did not need to declare it. It noted that he served as Vice-President and had shares worth P5 million out of the total P56-million paid-up capital.

Still, the SC disagreed with the Ombudsman’s earlier finding that San Diego was guilty of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty because there was “no proof of intent to commit a wrong on his part.” It noted that the source of the supposed unexplained wealth could still be traced to his wife Adalia Francisco.

Similarly, the SC accepted San Diego’s excuse that the non-disclosure of the condominium unit and the misdeclaration of the company car were merely “erroneous.” The SC also downplayed the non-disclosure of the firearms since its omission did not result in San Diego’s wealth being manifestly disproportionate to his income.

Meanwhile, the sanctions for simple misconduct concerned 11 instances in which he failed to secure prior approval for his overseas travels.

The Ombudsman and the CA originally faulted San Diego for serious dishonesty. But, the SC said this was merely simple misconduct, because there was “no substantial evidence… to show that elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules were present on the part of San Diego.”

The SC noted that San Diego did attempt to comply with the rule, but left the country without waiting for the approval of his travels because of the slow pace of processing.

“Be that as it may, San Diego cannot be excused from seeking such prior approval despite being then granted belatedly, because such requirement is still provided for by reasonable rules and regulations,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.

Meanwhile, the SC exonerated San Diego regarding the passport and marriage license applications in which his middle name and his wife’s complete name and birth date were erroneously stated.

The SC found “no substantial evidence to prove deliberate intent to mislead, deceive or defraud which causes such serious damage or grave prejudice to the government.”

It noted that San Diego still submitted his genuine birth certificate and made no effort to conceal his true identity in his passport application.

As for the marriage license application, the SC said there was no substantial evidence that he was the one who supplied the erroneous information.

“Besides, San Diego’s erroneous statement of his middle name in his passport application is not a fact directly relevant to his functions and qualifications to office, or connected with the performance of his duties as police investigator,” read the decision.

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