Monday, June 1, 2009

Philippines Pasay trial court junks TRO plea of ranking CAAP exec

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Pasay City has junked the temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction sought by the suspended Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) deputy chief, Daniel Dimagiba, for his failure to prove that his suspension would cause him grave and irreparable damage.

Dimagiba filed the petition for TRO against his superior, CAAP Director General Ruben Ciron, who earlier accused him of eight counts of grave misconduct.

Dimagiba, who was assistant secretary of the abolished Air Transportation Office (ATO), was also accused of issuing a certificate to operate without authority to an airline company, whose aircraft operated in other countries. He remains under preventive suspension and investigation by a Special Hearing and Adjudication Board (SHAB).

In a three-page order, Judge Racquelen Abary-Vasquez of Branch 116 of the RTC in Pasay City said, that at this time, the suspension imposed against Dimagiba pending investigation is not a penalty.

“It [suspension] is simply a measure to enable the disciplining authority to investigate charges against Dimagiba by preventing him from intimidating or, in any way, influencing witnesses against him,” Vasquez said.

The order was based on the petition for injunction and damages with prayer for the issuance of a TRO filed by Dimagiba against Ciron, asking the court to restrain the latter from implementing the 90-day preventive suspension issued against him on May 6.

Records show that the suspension order was issued and implemented against Dimagiba on May 8, 2009, following reports of his alleged involvement in several irregularities and anomalies, particularly on the alleged unauthorized issuance of Air Carrier Operating Certificate (ACOC) to One Sky Services Inc.

Dimagiba also allegedly signed pilot licenses without the required medical certificate issued by CAAP medical officers, putting aviation safety at risk.

In his petition, Dimagiba claimed that Ciron has no authority to order his suspension and investigation, and no due process accorded to him.

Dimagiba further alleged that the SHAB is a “kangaroo body,” and Ciron is set to get rid of him “at all cost.”

The suspended CAAP official said the court should issue a TRO against Ciron since his preventive suspension and the conduct of investigation on his alleged anomalies will result in “grave and irreparable injury” to him.

Vasquez, however, explained that there is nothing more to enjoin since the preventive suspension against Dimagiba was already implemented before he sought for a TRO and injunctive relief.

“At this point, it is immaterial whether the plaintiff recognizes the suspension or refuses to abide by the questioned order or both. The established principle is that when the event sought to be prevented by injunction or prohibition has already happened, nothing more could be done in reference thereto,” Vasquez added.

The court also stressed that the TRO was denied because Dimagiba failed to present sufficient and convincing evidence establishing that the implementation of the assailed preventive suspension order and the conduct of investigation will result in grave and irreparable damage.

“In the main, plaintiff Dimagiba’s testimony is speculative, self-serving and unsupported by independent corroborative evidence. If and when his preventive suspension may be found to be without legal basis, he can be reinstated to his former position with back pay,” the judge added.

The court further explained that to order the defendant to refrain from performing acts relative to the investigation of the alleged anomalies committed by Dimagiba is to prejudge the case even before trial on the merits has started.

When the ATO was abolished and replaced by the CAAP last year, Ciron recommended Dimagiba to be one of his two deputies to the agency’s board of directors.

Meanwhile, the CAAP will summon Dimagiba to appear before the SHAB to answer the allegations against him.           

The SHAB will determine Dimagiba’s culpability if any. Its findings will be forwarded to the CAAP board of directors for final decision, since it was also the same body that approved his appointment to his present post.

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