MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has acquitted and reversed the Sandiganbayan conviction of a Philippine Aerospace Development Corp. (PADC) official over his failure to liquidate his cash advances for his foreign trip in 2006.
In a recently published decision, the SC’s 1t Division granted the petition of Antonio M. Suba, former acting vice president for maintenance, repair, and overhaul service of the PADC, an attached agency of the then Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
“While Suba clearly erred in pushing through with the foreign travel despite not having a written travel authority, errors or mistakes are not by themselves indicative of bad faith. So the prosecution must prove the existence of factual circumstances that point to fraudulent intent,” the High Court said in granting Suba’s petition.
“Mistakes committed by public officials, no matter how patently clear, are not actionable absent any clear showing that they were motived by malice or gross negligence amounting to bad faith,” it added.
The court noted that Suba maintained that he merely obeyed his superior’s orders and relied on then PADC president and chief executive officer Roberto R. Navida’s assurance that their attendance at the Beijing conference has been approved by then DOTC secretary Leandro Mendoza and allowed by the PADC Board of Directors.
In a letter dated Sept. 15, 2006, Navida requested Mendoza for authority to travel in connection with Navida and Suba’s participation in the 4th Biennial International Aircraft Conversion and Maintenance Conference in Beijing, China from Oct. 10 to 14, 2006.
In a letter dated Sept. 19, 2006, then DOTC assistant secretary Emmanuel Noel A. Cruz denied Navida’s request citing Administrative Order 103, which suspended all foreign travels at the time.
He also noted that the letter request lacked supporting papers.
On Oct. 6 and 9, 2006, Suba requested cash advances in the amount of PHP217,000, PHP1,500, and USD458.40, for their travel and incidental expenses, which Navida approved.
Disbursement vouchers and checks were consequently prepared and issued under Suba’s name.
On Oct. 10, 2006, Suba and Navida flew from Manila to Beijing and attended the conference. They returned on Oct. 14, 2006.
In a 17-page resolution in October 2019, the Sandiganbayan said Suba failed to raise any argument in his motion for reconsideration that would warrant the reversal of its July 31, 2019 decision finding him guilty of failure to render accounts under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code.
The case particularly stemmed from Suba’s receipt of cash advances amounting to PHP132,978 for the Beijing trip.
The Ombudsman said Suba failed to liquidate his cash advances within two months after his trip, in violation of Executive Order 298 and Commission on Audit Circular 96-004.
In convicting Suba, the anti-graft court’s 6xth Division said the travel itself was questionable, thus, the liquidation of his cash advances was even more pressing.
In September 2017, the Sandiganbayan separately sentenced Suba to six to 10 years in prison for the unauthorized trip to Beijing and perpetually disqualified him from holding public office. (PNA)