CA reverses Ombudsman's dismissal order of ex-MIAA execs

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
CA reverses Ombudsman's dismissal order of ex-MIAA execs
This file photo shows the Court of Appeals in Manila.
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the suspension order of the Office of the Ombudsman on former Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) head Cesar Chiong over the reassignment of 285 employees “in a matter of less than a year” of his assumption in office.

In a 13-page decision dated March 21, 2024, the appellate court reversed the suspension order against Chiong and MIAA assistant general manager Irene Montalbo imposed by the Ombudsman which was filed by “anonymous MIAA officials.”

“WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. The 01 August 2023 Decision of the Office of the Ombudsman in OMB-C-A-APR-23-0061 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE,” the CA’s decision read. 

Chiong and Montalbo were ordered suspended by the Ombudsman in August last year after it found the pair guilty of rave misconduct, abuse of authority, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Before the dismissal, the two officials were initially placed under preventive suspension. 

In granting Chiong and Montalbo’s petition, the CA said that it found that the Ombudsman’s decision “lack factual basis and substantial support in evidence.”

“An administrative decision, in order to be valid, should have, among others, ‘something to support itself.’ It must be supported by substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence adequate and acceptable enough for a reasonable mind to justify a conclusion or support a decision, even if other minds equally reasonable might conceivably opine otherwise,” the CA’s decision read. 

“Consequently, when the OMB assumed jurisdiction over the complaint and proceeded to rule on the case without the prior ruling of the CSC, the assailed decision should be struck down for prematurity and lack of factual and legal bases. On this ground alone, We (CA) resolve to grant the instant petition,” it added.

The CA also said that the Ombudsman’s decision to find the petitioners guilty was based on a general statement indicating that the reassignment and designation of MIAA employees were done with the intent to violate the law or with a flagrant disregard for established rules. 

However, this decision only considered four out of 285 cases which were “barely a representative of the allegedly affected employees.”

“Nevertheless, this finding shall in no way preempt or prejudice the proceedings to be filed with or referred to the CSC, should there be any. Hence, We do not find any need to belabor on the other issues raised in consideration of the fatal error before the OMB proceedings,” the CA’s decision read. 

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