Prayers answered for Col. Rainier Espina

October 16, 2018

IT’S really an early Christmas in October for a good cop-friend named Senior Superintendent Rainier Espina after the Supreme Court, noting his length of service, unblemished record, and numerous awards received during his 29 years in active service decided to order his reinstatement at the Philippine National Police with his full rank.

Veteran journalist Rey Panaligan of Manila Bulletin made a scoop when he reported the other day that the High Tribunal has modified its 2017 decision that affirmed the dismissal of Espina, a younger brother of former PNP Officer-in-Charge, Deputy Director General Leonardo ‘Dindo’ Espina and ordered his reinstatement to his rank at the PNP. It was really God’s answer to all the prayers of the entire Espina family who have long been wishing that Rainier will get the vindication he deserves.

To quote Panaligan’s report:  “But the SC said that while Espina’s reinstatement is “without loss of seniority rights and all rights appurtenant thereto,” he is not entitled to back salaries. The ruling was contained in a “per curiam” resolution that granted Espina’s motion to reconsider the March 15, 2017 SC decision that reversed the Court of Appeals (CA) and affirmed his dismissal from the service ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2012.

Marking his 54th birthday this coming January 14, Espina was the acting chief and head of the Management Division of the PNP Directorate for Comptrollership when he, along with some senior PNP officials and men as well as some PNP Non-Uniformed Personnel, was charged criminally and administratively in connection with an alleged anomalous P400 million contract involving the supply of materials and repair of combat vehicles.

After a lengthy investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman found Espina administratively liable for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty and was ordered dismissed from government service. However, while the Ombudsman dropped the charges against Espina and the other PNP officers for violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act in July 2013, it affirmed their dismissal for their administrative liability.

Undaunted, Espina, a member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Hinirang’ Class of 1987 elevated his case before the Court of Appeals which ruled in his favor in a decision issued on February 27, 2014. As Panaligan reported, “the CA found Espina guilty of simple misconduct and “there being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance,” it imposed on him a three-month suspension reckoned from the time he was actually dismissed from service.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman elevated the case to the Supreme Court until the High Tribunal on March 5,2017 reversed the CA decision as it found Espina guilty of gross neglect of duty and ordered his dismissal from the service.  In turn, Espina filed a motion asking the SC to reconsider its decision and pleaded for the reduction of penalty by considering the mitigating circumstances such as first offense, length of service and the awards and commendations he has received.

In his motion, the former San Juan City police chief also denied having failed to exercise due diligence when he signed the inspection report forms (IRFs) covering “ghost deliveries” subject of the case against him. His prayers were answered when the SC granted his motion for reconsideration.

Part of the SC ruling said :  “Be that as it may, the presence of mitigating circumstances should be appreciated in favor of Espina, meriting the reduction of the penalty to be imposed on him. Section 48, Rule X of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service9 (RRACCS) grants the disciplining authority the discretion to consider mitigating circumstances in the imposition of the proper penalty.”

“Hence, in several cases, the Court has reduced the imposable penalty of dismissal from service for humanitarian reasons in view, among others of respondent’s length of service, unblemished record in the past, and numerous awards.” It also considered the fact that it was Espina’s 1st offense in his 29 straight years of active service in the Armed Forces—actually the now defunct Philippine Constabulary—and the PNP where he received numerous awards and service commendations.

The High Tribunal also noted that ‘the untainted reputation in his career as a police officer that was not disputed, the Court is equally impelled to remove him from the severe consequences of the penalty of dismissal from service, following jurisprudential precedents and pursuant to the discretion granted by the RRACCS.”

The SC decision reduced the penalty imposed on Espina to one-year suspension from service without pay, reckoned from the time of the implementation of the Ombudsman order on December 19, 2012.  “Thus, the period within which Espina was preventively suspended prior to the promulgation of this Decision shall be credited in his favor, and he may now be reinstated to his former rank as Police Senior Superintendent without loss of seniority rights and all rights appurtenant thereto,” it added.

Truly, a good service reputation will always play a part in one policeman’s life. I was told by a mistah of Rainier that apart from his family and brothers, special mention must go to one of his female cousins who did not leave him in the darkest hours of his life. I am excited to see Rainier Espina wearing his police uniform soon.