CA nullifies De Lima’s order dismissing DOJ aide for extortion

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the reinstatement of a Department of Justice (DOJ) aide accused of extortion, as it nullified her dismissal by former Secretary and now-Senator Leila de Lima in 2015.

In a recent 15-page decision, the CA 6th Division partially granted the petition of Administrative Assistant III Mutya Santiago and declared De Lima’s March 12, 2015 resolution null and void for being issued in violation of her right to due process.

The CA also set aside the Civil Service Commission’s (CSC) May 11, 2017 decision that affirmed De Lima’s order finding Santiago guilty of grave misconduct, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Santiago, who worked in the office of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Severino Gaña, was accused of demanding P300,000 from Nuriza Abeja in July 2012 in exchange for the favorable resolution of the adultery case against her.

De Lima issued the formal charge against Santiago without a preliminary investigation. She argued that there was no need because the aide was caught in the act during an entrapment operation.

The court disagreed, saying preliminary investigations are mandatory even for indictments in flagranti.

“In this case, petitioner [Santiago] was denied due process because she was not given the opportunity to air out her side before the disciplining authority filed a formal charge against her,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio Santos.

But, the reversal of De Lima’s charge came without prejudice to the proper administrative proceedings that may be held by the CSC.

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