G.R. No. 199890, August 19, 2013 - JEROME M. DAABAY, Petitioner, v. COCA-COLA BOTTLERS PHILS., INC., Respondent.
G.R. No. 199890, August 19, 2013
JEROME M. DAABAY, Petitioner, v. COCA-COLA BOTTLERS PHILS., INC., Respondent.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the dismissal of complainant Jerome Daabay as illegal, and ordering respondents to pay complainant his backwages in the amount of [P]750,996.00.Dissatisfied, Coca-Cola, Huang, Salvador and Garcia, appealed from ELA Magbanua’s Decision to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). Daabay filed a separate appeal to ask for his reinstatement without loss of seniority rights, the payment of backwages instead of separation pay or retirement benefits, and an award of litigation expenses, moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.
Additionally, respondents are hereby ordered to pay complainant his separation pay at one (1) month for every year of service, or his retirement benefits based on the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement prior to his suspension/termination.
Other claims are hereby ordered dismissed for failure to substantiate.
SO ORDERED.13cralaw virtualaw library
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal of complainant is DENIED for lack of merit, while that of respondent Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. is GRANTED.Coca-Cola’s partial motion for reconsideration to assail the award of retirement benefits was denied by the NLRC in a Resolution19 dated October 30, 2009. The NLRC explained that there was a need “to humanize the severe effects of dismissal”20 and “tilt the scales of justice in favor of labor as a measure of equity and compassionate social justice.”21 Daabay also moved to reconsider, but his motion remained unresolved by the NLRC.22 Undaunted, Coca-Cola appealed to the CA.
Accordingly, the assailed 18 April 2008 Decision of the Executive Labor Arbiter is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and a new judgment is entered DISMISSING the present complaint for want of evidence.
Let, however, this case be REMANDED to the Executive Labor Arbiter or the Regional Arbitration Branch of origin for the computation of complainant’s retirement benefits in accordance with the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement prior to his termination.
SO ORDERED.18cralaw virtualaw library
We are not oblivious of the instances where the Court awarded financial assistance to dismissed employees, even though they were terminated for just causes. Equity and social justice was the vague justification. Quickly realizing the unjustness of these [s]o-called equitable awards, the Supreme Court took the opportunity to curb and rationalize the grant of financial assistance to legally dismissed employees. Thus, in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company v. National Labor Relations Commission, the Supreme Court recognized the harsh realities faced by employees that forced them, despite their good intentions, to violate company policies, for which the employer can rightfully terminate their employment. For these instances, the award of financial assistance was allowed. But, in clear and unmistakable language, the Supreme Court also held that the award of financial assistance should not be given to validly terminated employees, whose offenses are iniquitous or reflective of some depravity in their moral character. x x x.23 (Citation omitted)Thus, the dispositive portion of its Decision dated June 24, 2011 reads:
FOR THESE REASONS, the writ of certiorari is GRANTED; the portion of the Resolution promulgated on 27 August 2009 remanding of the case to the Executive Labor Arbiter or the Regional Arbitration Branch of origin for computation of retirement benefits is DELETED.Daabay’s motion for reconsideration was denied in a Resolution25 dated December 9, 2011; hence, this petition.
SO ORDERED.24cralaw virtualaw library
At the risk of stating the obvious, private respondent was not separated from petitioner’s employ due to mandatory or optional retirement but, rather, by termination of employment for a just cause. Thus, any retirement pay provided by PAL’s “Special Retirement & Separation Program” dated February 15, 1988 or, in the absence or legal inadequacy thereof, by Article 287 of the Labor Code does not operate nor can be made to operate for the benefit of private respondent. Even private respondent’s assertion that, at the time of her lawful dismissal, she was already qualified for retirement does not aid her case because the fact remains that private respondent was already terminated for cause thereby rendering nugatory any entitlement to mandatory or optional retirement pay that she might have previously possessed.32 (Citation omitted and emphasis ours)In ruling against the grant of the retirement benefits, we also take note of the NLRC’s lone justification for the award, to wit:
Where from the facts obtaining, as in this case, there is a need to humanize the severe effects of dismissal and where complainant’s entitlement to retirement benefits are even admitted in [Coca-Cola’s] motion to reduce bond, [w]e can do no less but tilt the scales of justice in favor of labor as a measure of equity and compassionate social justice, taking into consideration the circumstances obtaining in this case.33 (Emphasis ours)Being intended as a mere measure of equity and social justice, the NLRC’s award was then akin to a financial assistance or separation pay that is granted to a dismissed employee notwithstanding the legality of his dismissal. Jurisprudence on such financial assistance and separation pay then equally apply to this case. The Court has ruled, time and again, that financial assistance, or whatever name it is called, as a measure of social justice is allowed only in instances where the employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character.34 We explained in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company v. NLRC35:
[S]eparation pay shall be allowed as a measure of social justice only in those instances where the employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character. Where the reason for the valid dismissal is, for example, habitual intoxication or an offense involving moral turpitude, like theft or illicit sexual relations with a fellow worker, the employer may not be required to give the dismissed employee separation pay, or financial assistance, or whatever other name it is called, on the ground of social justice.Clearly, considering that Daabay was dismissed on the grounds of serious misconduct, breach of trust and loss of confidence, the award based on equity was unwarranted.
A contrary rule would, as the petitioner correctly argues, have the effect, of rewarding rather than punishing the erring employee for his offense. And we do not agree that the punishment is his dismissal only and that the separation pay has nothing to do with the wrong he has committed. Of course it has. Indeed, if the employee who steals from the company is granted separation pay even as he is validly dismissed, it is not unlikely that he will commit a similar offense in his next employment because he thinks he can expect a like leniency if he is again found out. This kind of misplaced compassion is not going to do labor in general any good as it will encourage the infiltration of its ranks by those who do not deserve the protection and concern of the Constitution.36 (Emphasis ours)
In support of its motion to reduce bond, Coca-cola seeks leniency for its failure to include in the posting of the bond the monetary award for [Daabay’s] retirement benefits which, as directed by the Executive Labor Arbiter, should be computed in accordance with the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement prior to his termination. Coca-Cola explains that the amount of the retirement benefits has not been determined and there is a need to compute the same on appeal. x x x.37cralaw virtualaw libraryIt is patent that the statements made by Coca-Cola were in light of ELA Magbanua’s ruling that Daabay was illegally dismissed. Furthermore, any admission was only for the purpose of explaining the non-inclusion of the amount of retirement benefits in the computation of the appeal bond posted with the NLRC. Coca-Cola’s statements should be taken in such context, and could not be deemed to bind the company even after the NLRC had reversed the finding of illegal dismissal. And although retirement benefits, where not mandated by law, may still be granted by agreement of the employees and their employer or as a voluntary act of the employer,38 there is no proof that any of these incidents attends the instant case.
* Acting Member per Special Order No. 1502 dated August 8, 2013.
1Rollo, pp. 3-38.
2 Penned by Associate Justice Edgardo A. Camello, with Associate Justices Abraham B. Borreta and Melchor Quirino C. Sadang, concurring; id. at 39-48.
3 Id. at 49-53.
4 Id. at 41.
5 Id. at 81.
6 Id. at 40.
8 Id. at 40, 54.
9 Id. at 40-41.
11 Id. at 81.
12 Id. at 54-79.
13 Id. at 79.
14 Id. at 80-91.
15 Id. at 89-90.
16 Id. at 86-87.
17 Id. at 88.
18 Id. at 91.
19 Id. at 92-94.
20 Id. at 93.
22 Id. at 11, 42.
23 Id. at 46.
24 Id. at 48.
25 Id. at 49-53.
26 502 Phil. 151 (2005).
27 Id. at 159, citing Policarpio v. CA, 336 Phil. 329, 341 (1997).
28 G.R. No. 186640, February 11, 2010, 612 SCRA 347.
29 Id. at 358.
30Unilever Philippines, Inc. v. Maria Ruby M. Rivera, G.R. No. 201701, June 3, 2013.
31 G.R. No. 123294, October 20, 2010, 634 SCRA 18.
32 Id. at 44-46; See also Aquino v. NLRC, 283 Phil. 118 (1992).
33Rollo, p. 93.
34Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc., and/or Chiongbian v. Sedan, 521 Phil. 61, 71 (2006); San Miguel Corporation v. Lao, 433 Phil. 890, 898-899 (2002); Eastern Paper Mills, Inc. v. NLRC, 252 Phil. 618, 620 (1989).
35 247 Phil. 641 (1988).
36 Id. at 649.
37Rollo, pp. 83-84.
38Aquino v. NLRC, G.R. No. 87653, February 11, 1992, 206 SCRA 118.