MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) has turned down the appeal of a labor arbiter who was dismissed from the service for his role in an extortion attempt by his cousin who works at the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a decision dated February 20 released on Tuesday, the CA’s Special 8th Division upheld the Ombudsman’s ruling dated Jan. 8, 2018 against Isagani Laurence Nicolas, an arbiter from the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
Nicolas and his cousin Leonardo Nicolas, an associate graft investigator, were found guilty by the Ombudsman of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty and imposed upon them the penalty of dismissal from service following the administrative complaint filed by then Pangasinan 5th District Rep. Amado Espino Jr., and provincial accountant Arturo Soriano.
Espino and Soriano claimed the two tried to extort PHP3 million from them in exchange for favorable rulings in pending cases.
In dismissing the appeal, the CA said there is sufficient and substantial evidence to prove the petitioner’s administrative liability “since he knowingly and willingly participated in the illicit act of demanding or soliciting money” from Espino in exchange for the dismissal of alleged Ombudsman cases filed against him and his son Jumel, then Bugallon town mayor.
“Petitioner’s participation was evident when he facilitated the meeting between Leonardo Nicolas and respondent Arturo Soriano,” the CA said.
Espino claimed that sometime in 2017, he was informed by lawyer Geraldine Ubana-Baniqued, the provincial legal officer of Pangasinan, that Leonardo contacted her regarding a pending Ombudsman case against Jumel.
Leonardo, Baniqued said, introduced himself as an Ombudsman lawyer and offered to help in the dismissal of the case against the mayor along with another case against Amado.
In June 2017, Leonardo sent a text message to Baniqued about alleged new cases filed before the Ombudsman against the mayor.
Meanwhile, Soriano said he received a text message from a person who introduced himself as labor arbiter Isagani Nicolas.
Isagani then met with Soriano and introduced him to Leonardo.
Leonardo showed several documents pertaining to three complaints filed against the Espinos and said he can facilitate the dismissal of the cases in exchange for PHP3 million.
An entrapment operation with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was launched against Leonardo in a resort.
During the entrapment, Leonardo handed to Soriano an evaluation report recommending the closure and termination of the complaint against Espino supposedly in exchange for the sum.
Isagani, however, claimed that he should not be held liable for merely introducing his cousin to the other parties.
The CA argued Isagani’s administrative liability for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty warranted his dismissal from the service even for the first offense.
“(W)e find that the Office of the Ombudsman correctly imposed the penalty of dismissal and the corresponding administrative disabilities of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office and bar from taking civil service examinations,” the court said. (PNA)