MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the dismissal of a Bureau of Immigration (BI) official in connection with irregularities in the issuance of special study permits (SSP) for foreign students.
In a 10-page decision by Associate Justice Nina Antonio-Valenzuel issued last Jan. 22, the CA’s Eleventh Division dismissed the petition filed by BI-Baguio Acting Alien Control Officer Antonio Prieto.
Prieto had sought the reversal of the Ombudsman ruling issued on July 18, 2011, which found him guilty of dishonesty and ordered him removed from office.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Ricardo Rosario and Perpetua Atal-Paño.
The CA modified the Ombudsman’s findings and found the petitioner guilty of gross neglect of duty and not dishonesty.
“Due to the petitioner Prieto’s reliance on the work of his subordinates, the petitioner Prieto did not notice the irregularities in the Special Study Permits, indicating the re-use of the official receipts. The petitioner Prieto’s acts showed a thoughtless disregard of his duty as the issuing officer and ranking officer of BI-Baguio, and the lack of even the slightest care in the issuance of the Special Study Permits,” the ruling stated.
Under Rule 10, Section 50 of the Civil Procedure, gross neglect of duty is categorized as a grave offense punishable by dismissal from the service.
Jose Yu Jr. filed the complaint against Prieto and his subordinates Myra Santiago and Verna Soriano as he accused them of repeatedly re-using the same official receipts as supporting documents for applications from SSP at the BI and pocketing the money actually paid by foreign students.
Prieto admitted signing the permits after payments were made but maintained that he did not have direct participation in the preparation of the SSP and did not collect payments for it.
Prieto added that his only participation was merely affixing his signature on the SSP and that he relied on Santiago and Soriano that the permits presented to him for signature were in order.
The Ombudsman subsequently found Prieto and Santiago guilty of the offense and ordered their dismissal from the service.
“A head of office who did not prepare an official document, but merely signed based on the recommendation of his subordinates, which official document turned out to be containing false information, is liable for gross neglect of duty,” the CA ruled. (PNA)