By Benjamin Pulta

(File photo)

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the dismissal from the service of former North Cotabato 2nd District congressman Gregorio Ipong in connection with irregularities in the use of pork barrel funds in 2007.

In a 13-page resolution released online last week, the SC Second Division affirmed the Court of Appeals (CA) which found Ipong administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in the transactions involving PHP4.9 million.

The Court, however, ruled Ipong’s liability as grave misconduct only and deleted the finding of administrative liability.

“Here, since the acts complained of relates to Ipong’s official functions and duties as a member of the House of Representatives and that the same are tainted with the elements of corruption and/or flagrant disregard of an established rule, the Court finds him administratively liable for grave misconduct only,” the SC said.

The SC said grave misconduct is a “grave offense” which is punishable with dismissal from the service, along with accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government service.

“In the event that the penalty of dismissal can no longer be enforced due to petitioner’s separation from the service, the same shall be converted into a fine, equivalent to petitioner’s salary for one year, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman, and may be deductible from petitioner’s accrued leave credits or any receivables from their office,” the SC said.

The administrative case against Ipong was filed following his election as vice governor of North Cotabato in May 2016.

Ipong was forced to vacate his post following the ruling of the Ombudsman dismissing him from the service.

The Department of Budget released Ipong’s Priority Development Assistance Fund to finance and implement his livelihood programs.

Ipong endorsed Aaron Foundation to the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC), the implementing agency of PDAF, as partner for his projects.

The amount was transferred to Aaron Foundation on the sole basis of Ipong’s endorsement without TLRC conducting a public bidding and despite the absence of an appropriation law or ordinance authorizing the foundation as the implementing agency.

Aaron Foundation was a bogus non-government organization, the Ombudsman said.

Investigators also found that the municipalities of Kidapawan and Makilala in North Cotabato did not actually receive any funded livelihood programs.

In September 2022, the Sandiganbayan sentenced Gregorio Ipong and TLRC Chief Accountant Marivic Jover up to 27 years of imprisonment for graft and malversation.

The decision was upheld a month later. (PNA)