CA reinstates James Cuenco in council
The Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman finding James Anthony Cuenco guilty of serious dishonesty and grave misconduct and ordered his reinstatement to the Cebu City Council.
Cuenco said he is ready to take back his post but will await the order from the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Councilor Erik Miguel Espina, who was appointed to fill the seat Cuenco vacated, said he will step down as soon as the reinstatement order will be issued.
“Of course, I made my commitment to Councilor Cuenco and I am happy the court cleared any suspicions on the Cuenco name,” Espina told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview yesterday.
The CA decision, promulgated last Oct. 13, stemmed from an administrative case involving the Tony and Tommy (TNT) project funded by the pork barrel funds of then Congressman Antonio Cuenco, James’ father, which provided medicines to indigent patients at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC).
The Field Investigation Office of the Office of the Ombudsman filed the case against the younger Cuenco, after the Commission on Audit found several annomalies, involving ghost patients, falsified prescriptions and ghost purchases charged to the older Cuenco’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The CA said there was no evidence that pointed directly at the younger Cuenco as having falsified prescriptions or was in fact involved in any of the irregularities reported by the COA.
“A circumspect scrutiny of the assailed Decision dated 18 August 2017 shows that the OMB heavily relied on the COA Audit Reports showing the alleged irregularities that plagued the TNT Program. However, an objective and judicial review of these reports failed to indicate the direct involvement and/or participation of petitioner in these alleged irregularities,” the CA decision read.
The CA also noted the admission of the Ombudsman, in its Order dated Nov. 2, 2017, that there was no direct evidence to prove the allegations against the younger Cuenco and that the administrative finding was “based purely on conjectures and suppositions wanting of any evidence and substantiation.”
“By and large, there is no sufficient basis to uphold the administrative finding of guilt against petitioner (Cuenco). While the quantum of proof in administrative cases is lower, the same does not dispense with the requirement of proof altogether,” read a portion of the decision.
At a press conference yesterday, Cuenco expressed delight over the appellate court’s finding.
“We have much work to catch up on, much more to do for the future. We will now get back to the business of making our home city a better place to live in,” Cuenco said.
But Cuenco is not running for reelection, but his father is.
He said he will be helping in the campaign of his father for a seat at the city council’s south district, and also the other members of Barug.
“I have not filed my certificate of candidacy (COC) and nagsabot nami sa akong Papa nga siyay mudagan para nako (My father and I agreed that he would run in my place). And he is older than I am. I still have more years ahead of me, to serve the people of Cebu City some more,” Cuenco said.
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