CA orders Devanadera to pay P760,000
The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the liability of former Justice Secretary Agnes VST Devanadera for the irregular grant of allowances to herself and her staff when she was the government corporate counsel.
Devanadera was guilty of simple misconduct, simple neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, the CA ruling stated in a decision written by Associate Justice Romeo F. Barza.
However, the CA said that instead of the penalty of suspension of one year without pay, “she (Devanadera) is ordered to pay a fine equivalent to her salary as Government Corporate Counsel for six months.”
“She is ordered to restitute to the Office of the Government Counsel Trust Liability Account the total amount of P760,000.00,” the CA said.
The CA decision granted the petition of Devanadera as it modified the rulings handed down by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2010 and 2012.
Case records showed that the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) which Devanadera used to head entered into an agreement with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to handle the extrajudicial foreclosure of delinquent real estate loans. The agreement stated that the OGCC would get special assessment fees for its work.
The complaint against Devanadera showed that the former justice secretary earned P500,000 from the agreement, while her former executive assistant Rolando Faller got P200,000.
The Office of the Ombudsman found Devanadera, Faller and staff members Jose Ma. Capili and Divina Gracia Cruz guilty of grave misconduct, dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. They were ordered dismissed from the service with accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service.
When the Office of the Ombudsman denied the motion to reconsider the ruling, Devanadera elevated the issue before the CA.
In resolving issue, the CA said that even the Commission on Audit (COA) “thought the petitioner’s actions were permissible under the law,” and that “the records of the case even show that monies received by petitioner and Faller were subjected to taxes before they received the same.”
All these facts, the CA stressed, “entitle petitioner to claim good faith.”
“For misconduct to be considered as grave, there must be willful intent on the part of the public officer to disregard established rules,” it said.