THE Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the preventive suspension of Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) General Manager Steve Dicdican.

In the order dated December 16, 2020, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said Dicdican should be placed under preventive suspension for six months without pay pending investigation on the charges filed against him by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

The NBI, represented by its Anti-Fraud Division chief Palmer Mallari, filed a complaint against Dicdican last December 14 for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service with prayer for the issuance of a preventive suspension.

The case is anchored on the complaint filed by Larry Iguidez against the MCIAA general manager for allegedly allowing and collaborating with foreign nationals to manage and operate the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).

One of the foreign nationals cited by Iguidez in his complaint is Andrew Acquaah-Harrison, the Ghanaian chief executive officer of GMCAC.

"Acquaah-Harrison, with Dicdican's knowledge and consent, performs managerial and executive functions at MCIA, such as managing business affairs, initiates and develops corporate policies, implements operational policies of GMCAC and represents GMCAC at functions and proceedings," he said.

He added that Dicdican also allowed Indian Ravishankar Saravu, GMCAC's chief commercial advisor, and Irish national Michael Lenane, chief operations officer of GMCAC, to exercise managerial functions at the airport.

"Instead of reporting these irregularities to the MCIA Board, Dicdican turned a blind eye and knowingly aided, assisted and/or abetted these foreign officers/employees of GMCAC in the perpetration of the acts penalized by the Anti-Dummy Law," the complaint, cited in the Ombudsman order, stated.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and MCIAA awarded the airport's management and operations to GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC) in April 2014 under a 25-year concession after it won the bid for P14.4 billion. GMCAC is a consortium between Megawide Corporation and India's GMR Group.

The Ombudsman said Dicdican's acts also constitute a violation of the Anti-Graft Law, "since he gave unwarranted benefit to these foreign nationals and effectively caused undue injury to the government."

"Considering his position as general manager of MCIAA, and in order to prevent any possible tampering of evidence, harassment of witnesses, interference or exercise of influence by Dicdican, and/or withholding or concealment of pertinent records or documents, this Office finds justification to place respondent under preventive suspension pending investigation of this complaint," said the Ombudsman.

It said the prosecution must be given the opportunity to gather and prepare the facts for trial under conditions that would ensure non-intervention and non-interference from Dicdican's camp.

The Ombudsman also said that while investigation is ongoing, Dicdican is not allowed to enter his office at the MCIAA.

Copy of the order was furnished to DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade for its immediate implementation.

Asked for comment, Dicdican said he has not yet received a copy of the order.

"Sorry, I have not been furnished any pleading or order yet from the Ombudsman. It would be contrary to due process to suspend me without giving me a chance to answer the allegations. I have not even officially received a copy of the complaint yet," he told SunStar Cebu in a text message. (Laureen Mondoñedo-Ynot/With Johanna Marie Bajenting)