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Dismissal of former MIAA GM Chiong reversed by CA

Cesar Chiong
Former MIAA general manager Cesar Chiong

THE Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the earlier decision of the Office of the Ombudsman dismissing former Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Cesar Chiong, which stemmed from the reassignment of 285 airport employees.

The CA, in a 13-page decision which was promulgated on March 21, 2024, reversed the August 2023 decision of the Ombudsman which found Chiong guilty of grave abuse of authority, misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Also named respondent and dismissed due to the case filed by anonymous complainants was then assistant general manager Irene Montalbo, whose designation as OIC was hit due to an unsatisfactory rating in the 2020 Office Performance Commitment and Review of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1, the office which she headed.

In May 2023, both of them were placed under preventive suspension and three months later, the Ombudsman ordered their dismissal, prompting them to elevate their case to the CA.

The CA ruled that there was neither a definitive ruling from the Civil Service Commission that the reassignment of the MIAA employees was invalid, nor at least a referral of the case to the CSC for such prior determination, adding that at he very least, the Ombudsman should have referred the complaint to the CSC.

“Consequently, when the Office of the Ombudsman 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 basis,” the CA ruling said.

It added: “Granting that the Office of the Ombudsman made an independent examination of the reassignments from the perspective of grave abuse of authority or oppression, we find the decision to lack factual basis and substantial support in evidence.”

The CA also said that an administrative decision should have “something to support itself” such as substantial evidence or enough relevant evidence that is adequate for a reasonable mind to justify a conclusion or support a decision.

The Ombudsman, it added, merely made a general statement that the “reassignment and designation of MIAA employees” were exercised with clear intent to violate the law, or clear disregard of established rules which contradicts the basic purpose of reassignment and designation.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Eleuterio Bathan with Associate Justices Zenaida Galapate-Laguilles and Alfredo Ampuan concurring with it.

Chiong was appointed as acting general manager and member of the board of directors of MIAA on July 19, 2022 and assumed the positions on July 20, 2022.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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