The Court of Appeals (CA) has ruled in favor of two senior officials of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) dismissed from their post by former justice secretary Leila de Lima eight years ago.
In its 24-page decision penned by Associate Justice Mary Charlene Hernandez-Azura, the appellate court ordered the reinstatement and payment of back wages of NBI deputy director Reynaldo Esmeralda and lawyer Ruel Masala who has since retired from the service.
“The removal of petitioners was illegal and in violation of their right to due process. Hence, petitioners are entitled (to) the payment of back wages and other benefits due them from the time they were replaced up to their reinstatement to their former position without loss of seniority rights,” the CA ruling stated.
Esmeralda and Masala were promoted as directors in 2006 and 2007 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
On March 13, 2014, then Justice Secretary De Lima ordered their dismissal, replaced by Ricardo Pangan Jr. and Antonio Pagatpat.
Esmeralda and Masala claimed they were sacked by De Lima on suspicions that they prematurely informed Janet Lim Napoles of the issuance of a warrant of arrest against her in connection with a case for illegal detention filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy.
In 2018, then Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ruled that Esmeralda and Masala must possess career executive service (CES) eligibility to be qualified for the position of NBI deputy director, and since they were not CES eligible, they did not qualify for the position, and deemed temporary appointees without security of tenure, regardless of the designation of their appointments.
On December 2018, the Office of the President, through then Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea rendered a decision denying their appeal.
The CA ruled however, that the petitioners need not be accredited and qualified CESO before being considered permanent appointees since the positions held by the officials belong to the closed career system whose inherent job responsibilities are scientific and highly specialized and technical in nature under Career Executive Service Board (CESB) rulings declaring it beyond the coverage of the CES.