MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the ruling rendered by Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila M. De Lima in connection with the alleged illegal activities involving several personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) stationed at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga.
In a 12-page ruling dated Jan. 5, 2015, the CA’s Sixth Division through Associate Justice Noel Tijam dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by Heranio B. Manalo, Lucito Mercado, Arlene Mendoza, Jacqueline F. Miranda, Ramon P. Lapid and Misael M. Tayag against De Lima’s resolution finding them guilty of grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, dishonesty and gross neglect of duty.
De Lima’s ruling reversed the earlier memorandum issued by then Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, which ordered the dismissal of the administrative charges against the petitioners.
The DOJ constituted an Investigation Panel on Feb. 15, 2010 composed of members from the National Prosecution Service (NPS), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and BI to investigate the alleged irregularities committed by several immigration personnel in the discharge of their duties, including the possible violation of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, at the DMIA.
It came out in the course of the investigation that Racel Ong, also a BI personnel assigned at DMIA, was criminally charged for violation of RA No. 9208, or the “Anti-Human Trafficking in Persons Act”.
In connection with her case, Ong revealed that the petitioners were involved in illegal activities.
Among others, Ong claimed that the petitioners were engaged in facilitating illegal transactions by allowing passengers to enter and exit the country without E6 visas and other travel documents, including those who have been issued with Hold Departure Orders (HDOs) and Watch List Orders (WLOs).
The Panel recommended the filing of formal administrative charges against them and imposed a preventive suspension of 90 days.
However, on review by Agra of the recommendation, the same was reversed through a memorandum dated June 28, 2010.
Ong’s complaint-affidavit was effectively dismissed on the ground that it was devoid of necessary particulars and unsupported by any document or corroborating testimony, prompting her to seek redress with De Lima, who issued a resolution on May 13, 2011 reversing Agra’s findings.
Alleging grave abuse of discretion, Manalo and other petitioners elevated the case to the CA.
In the ruling written by Associate Justice Tijam, the CA said that De Lima has the power to discipline petitioners “in view of a specific grant of power under Section 47 of the Administrative Code of 1987 to heads of departments, agencies and instrumentalities, provinces and cities.”
“We are inclined to agree with the conclusion of Secretary De Lima, particularly in holding that the testimony of Ong against them is credible since, as a co-co nspirator, she has personal knowledge of illegal activities committed by them at the DMIA,” the CA ruling said.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla and Agnes Reyes-Carpio.