THE SUPREME Court upheld a 2012 ruling of the Commission on Audit (CoA) that disallowed the travel expenses of the then sitting Panabo City councilors and vice mayor worth P1.4 million used for training programs held that year.
In a 10-page resolution dated Feb. 15 and made public on June 20, the High Court said CoA did not abuse its discretion in disallowing the “irregular, excess, and illegal” expenditures.
“The court finds the approving certifying officers solidarity liable to return the entire disallowed amount,” the tribunal said.
“The court also finds merit in CoA’s argument that the petitioners’ (Panabo City council) failure to submit pertinent documents evidencing that the training programs were bona fide and the double expenses they incurred militate against their claim of good faith.”
Under Philippine law, the vice mayor serves as presiding officer of the local council.
The High Court ordered the petitioners to return the disallowed amounts they had received for the training programs.
The petitioners said their attendance in the training program offered by the Philippine Councilors League-Legislative Academy in 2012 had a legal basis and they relied on “good faith” in the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which organized the training program.
The Court noted that these were not sufficient grounds for an appeal that would warrant a reversal of CoA’s findings.
“Without a doubt, the foregoing reflects the approving and certifying officers’ gross negligence of their duties and responsibilities as members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council), who hold the important role of disbursing public funds,” it said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez