Court of Appeals

Court of Appeals reverses Ombudsman order dismissing ex-MIAA officials

Jairo Bolledo

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Court of Appeals reverses Ombudsman order dismissing ex-MIAA officials

FORMER HEAD. In this file photo, Cesar Chiong, then-Manila International Airport Authority General Manager, attends the senate inquiry on the alleged human trafficking at the NAIA, on March 20, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) The appellate court reverses the Office of the Ombudsman's dismissal order against former MIAA head Cesar Chiong and assistant general manager Irene Montalbo for lack of merit

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the dismissal of former Manila International Airport Authority officials who had been sanctioned by the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a 13-page decision dated March 21, the CA overturned the Ombudsman order, which found former MIAA general manager Cesar Chiong and former assistant manager Irene Montalbo guilty of grave misconduct, abuse of authority or oppression, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The Ombudsman order imposed the penalty of dismissal from service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification to reenter government service against Chiong and Montalbo.

“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. 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,” said the decision penned by Associate Justice Eleuterio Bathan, with concurrences from Associate Justice Zenaida Galapate-Laguilles and Associate Justice Alfred Ampuan.

Chiong and Montalbo’s case stemmed from a complaint filed by “anonymous MIAA officials” with the Ombudsman. The complaint was in relation to the reassignment of around 285 MIAA employees within a year, after Chiong’s designation as MIAA chief. The complaint also cited Montalbo’s appointment despite her “unsatisfactory rating in 2020.”

Chiong and Department of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista explained that the reassignment was crucial for the improvement of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (NAIA) operations and finances. 

Must Read

DOTr secretary questions due process in Ombudsman’s suspension of MIAA head

DOTr secretary questions due process in Ombudsman’s suspension of MIAA head

The former MIAA head earlier explained that over 200 reassigned personnel were transferred to the airport police unit to address the security needs of NAIA. He said this was based on the recommendation of the Airport Police Department chief and Assistant General Manager for Security and Emergency Services.

Chiong added that his predecessors “reassigned even larger numbers of personnel without facing any legal repercussion,” citing former MIAA head Jose Angel Honrado who reassigned 646 employees; and Eddie Monreal who reassigned 397 employees.

The Ombudsman, in an order dated April 28, 2023, placed the two officials under preventive suspension, prompting them to file an urgent motion to lift the preventive suspension and their respective counter-affidavits. When the Ombudsman had yet to act on Chiong and Montalbo’s petition after a month, they filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the appellate court.

Certiorari is a legal remedy used to review a decision or order of another body, or grave abuse of discretion. But while the Ombudsman moved for the extension to file its comment on the CA petition, it already issued Chiong and Montalbo’s dismissal.

CA ruling

In their CA petition, Chiong and Montalbo argued that the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over reassignments in the civil service. The appellate court said it sustained and affirmed the petitioner’s position, based on the Supreme Court decision in Reyes Jr. v. Belisario. 

According to the said ruling, “the CSC (Civil Service Commission) has the authority to determine the validity of the appointments and movements of civil service personnel.” The CA said in its decision that there was no definitive ruling from the CSC that the reassignment was not valid “nor at least a referral of the case to the CSC for such prior determination.”

The appellate court also noted that the allegations against the petitioners were acts involving human resource movement in the civil service, so the Ombudsman should have referred the complaint to the CSC. 

“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 resolve to grant the instant petition,” the CA said. 

The CA said the Ombudsman decision finding Chiong and Montalbo guilty lacked factual basis and substantial support in evidence. The appellate court explained that an administrative decision becomes valid if it has “something to support itself,” among others. 

But in the former MIAA officials’ case, the CA said the Ombudsman “merely made a general statement” that the reassignment and designation of MIAA employees “were exercised with clear intent to violate the law, or flagrant disregard of established rules which characterized unlawful behavior and contradicts the very purpose of the reassignment and designation.” 

However, the CA said the basis of the said finding came from four out of the 285 cases of employees reassigned. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Avatar photo


Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.