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CA reverses MIAA execs’ dismissal

MANILA, Philippines —  The Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed the charges filed against former executives of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) who initiated the reassignment of more than 200 employees.

In a ruling dated March 21, the CA’s 13th Division reversed and set aside the decision made by the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss former MIAA executives Cesar Chiong and Irene Montalbo.

“Accordingly, the complaint for grave abuse of authority, misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service is dismissed for lack of merit,” the ruling read.

Chiong used to serve as the general manager of MIAA, the agency overseeing the operations of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Chiong led the MIAA together with Montalbo, then an assistant general manager for the agency.

The two were booted out of MIAA as a result of an anonymous complaint submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman. Chiong was charged with grave abuse of authority for one of his reforms in NAIA: the reassignment of at least 285 employees of MIAA from July 2022 to April 2023.

Apart from this, Chiong was questioned for assigning Montalbo as his second-in-command, with the complainants claiming that the latter underperformed in her previous roles.

Initially, the ombudsman placed Chiong and Montalbo under preventive suspension, but later ordered their dismissal for grave abuse of authority.

In response, Chiong and Montalbo lodged with the CA a petition for review and prohibition to challenge the decision made by the ombudsman.

The CA said that if there is one agency that can decide the legality of the reassignments initiated by Chiong, it is the Civil Service Commission (CSC), not the ombudsman.

In turn, the CA noted that the CSC must rule on the issue first before the ombudsman can consider the reorganization as a form of harassment.

The CSC has yet to receive a referral of the complaint for its prior determination. The CA said that at the least, the ombudsman should have relayed the case to the CSC instead of assuming jurisdiction over it.