MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) ruled that the dismissal of Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala as deputy directors of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) under the time of former president Noynoy Aquino is illegal.
The 24-page decision penned by Associate Justice Mary Charlene Hernandez-Azurao of the appeals court’s Special Fourteenth Division reversed the prior orders, which affirmed the dismissal of the two former NBI officials. The CA ruling reversed the Office of the President’s (OP) orders issued on December 12, 2018 and January 27, 2021.
“Petitioners dedicated and devoted service with respondent NBI was carried out with no other intention but to serve the public. In return, the government, including this Court, cannot fail them,” the court said.
“The entire civil service will not benefit on the policy among officials, especially those belonging to the closed career system as the petitioners, who, after having honed their skills in their respective fields of service or expertise and after gaining sufficient experience, will be removed from their position based on an inexistent requirement imposed upon them.”
Aside from reversing the order, the CA also directed the OP and the NBI to reinstate Esmeralda to his former position, NBI Deputy Director III, “without loss of seniority right and without gap in the continuity of government service as if he was not removed.”
Meanwhile, since Lasala had already retired, the court ruled: “immediate payment of his full back wages, salaries, incentives, benefits, and other monetary privileges and emoluments at the current rate from the time of his actual dismissal from government service until he reached the compulsory age of retirement, including all the retirement and leave privileges that are due him as a retiring employee.”
In dismissing the two NBI officials, the OP said the deputy director position is considered a third level post, which requires a Career Executive Service (CES) eligibility. The OP also earlier argued that only employees with CES and appointed to appropriate CES rank can attain security of tenure.
Since Esmeralda and Lasala are not CES eligible, they cannot enjoy security of tenure, the OP explained.
However, in its decision, the CA said the position in question was not covered by the CES.
“Petitioner’s contested position of NBI Director III or Deputy Director definitely was not covered by the CES,” the CA said.
“The NBI directorial positions belonging to the closed career system whose inherent job responsibilities are scientific and highly specialized and technical in nature were recognized as one of the premises or bases for the issuance of CESB Resolution No. 1560 dated 15 October 2015, which eventually declared the NBI director’s position as beyond the coverage of the CES, thereby expressly repealing Resolution No. 1409 dated 12 July 2018,” it added.
The appeals court added that the two were qualified to their positions for serving for a long time under the bureau.
In 2014, then-justice secretary Leila de Lima issued an order, which ordered Esmeralda and Lasala to relinquish their affairs to then newly appointed NBI deputy directors Ricardo Pangan Jr. and Antonio Pagatpat.
Because of this, they elevated their complaint to the OP and claimed that their removal from their post could be considered as dismissal since no delegations were given to them. Esmeralda and Lasala accused De Lima of committing grave abuse of discretion and violating their right to due process.
They also claimed they were removed because De Lima was “morally convinced” that they were the ones who prematurely informed pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles about the issuance of a warrant. – Rappler.com