G.R. No. 198699, October 09, 2013
REXIE A. HORMILLOSA, Petitioner, v. COCA-COLA BOTTLERS PHILS., INC., REPRESENTED BY ITS ILOILO PLANT HUMAN RESOURCE HEAD, ROBERT RICHARD H. DOLAR, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby GRANTED and the Decision and Resolution of public respondent (insofar as to the pronouncements relating to private respondent only) which were respectively promulgated on 26 October 2009 and 15 January 2010 relative to NLRC Case No. V-000528-00(AE-05-09) [SRAB Case No. VI-05050210-99] are NULLIFIED and SET ASIDE. In their stead, a new one is entered declaring private respondent’s dismissal from his employment as valid.
1. As reflected in an invoice, Shirley Jardeleza (Jardeleza) had an outstanding container on loan (COL). Upon verification, however, this account was denied by Jardeleza. According to her, they would always buy in cash and this statement was substantiated by an attached affidavit signed by her;On March 15, 1999, Tiosayco issued another memorandum9 directing Hormillosa to report on March 17, 1999 for a question-and-answer investigation relative to the findings. Hormillosa, however, asked for a deferment which request was granted.
2. Mrs. Feby Panerio, who was previously served by Hormillosa, denied her indebtedness as reflected in her COL account. Mrs. Panerio admitted that she was personally requested by Hormillosa to sign the COL issuance with the promise that he would settle it himself;
3. Hormillosa also issued a temporary credit sale (TCS) and COL in the name of Arnold Store but used the outlet number of Virgie Bucaes (Bucaes) who happened to be not one of Coca-Cola’s authorized credit outlets. Bucaes acknowledged that she received 50 cases but her understanding was that when she received the cases, they were part of her market development program product assistance; and
4. Mrs. Cecilia Palmes (Palmes) denied her indebtedness and complained that her signature was forged as shown in the invoice.chanrob1esvirtualawlibrary
Dear Mr. Hormillosa,In addition to his termination, CBPI also filed several criminal cases against him citing his fraudulent acts.
This is to inform you that effective March 29, 1999, you are hereby terminated from employment with Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc.
The grounds for your termination among others are as follows:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
The decision to terminate you came up after a thorough investigation against you.
- Issuance of fictitious and falsified COL invoices particularly to named outlets or customers namely Shirley Jardeleza, Cecilia Palmes, Feby Panerio, and Virgie Bañares
- Misappropriation of Company Funds
- Violation of Company Rules and Regulations
- Loss of Trust and Confidence
Please be guided accordingly.chanrob1esvirtualawlibrary
If the Labor Arbiter finds no necessity of further hearing after the parties have submitted their position papers and supporting documents, he shall issue an Order to that effect and shall inform the parties, stating the reason therefor. x x x.chanrob1esvirtualawlibraryThe NLRC explained that the above rule was mandatory because of the word “shall.” It found that the LA failed to issue the said order despite the fact that he found no necessity of holding a trial on the merits and that the case would be resolved on the basis of the pleadings. The absence of this order deprived Hormillosa, who could have opted for a trial, his right to due process. Even though the discretion whether to hold a trial was with the LA, the rule should have been observed.
LA Acosta explained that because the witnesses of CBPI did not appear in the hearings as ordered, it had no other alternative but to give Hormillosa the “benefit of the doubt” and decide the case in his favor.
Backwages …………………….... P1,070,963.83 Separation Pay………………..……. P72,300.00 10% Attorney’s Fees……………... P114,326.38 Total……………………………... P1,257,590.11
CBPI moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.
Backwages: 3/29/1999 – 9/30/2009 P6,025.00 x 126 month= P759,150.00 + Separation Pay: 11/1996 – 9/30/2009 P6,025.00 x 13 years = P78,325.00 P837,475.00 10% Attorney’s Fees: x .10 P83,747.50 P837,475.00 + 83,747.50 = P921,222.50
SECTION 14. Contents of Decisions. – The decisions and orders of the Labor Arbiter shall be clear and concise and shall include a brief statement of the: a) facts of the case; b) issues involved; c) applicable laws or rules; d) conclusions and the reasons therefor; and e) specific remedy or relief granted. In cases involving monetary awards, the decision or orders of the Labor Arbiter shall contain the amount awarded.chanrob1esvirtualawlibraryThe CA stated that the NLRC decision did not contain a recital of the facts of the case, applicable laws or rules and the conclusions and reasons therefor. It did not relate how the case started, what the case was all about, and while the decision concluded that Hormillosa had been illegally dismissed, it did not contain any explanation as to why and how the dismissal became invalid or illegal. LA Acosta stated that the case was decided in favor of Hormillosa based on “benefit of the doubt,” but no law, jurisprudence or facts were supplied to justify his conclusion. The CA considered that it was in contravention of Section 14, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution which states that no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it was based.
In the extant case, private respondent’s breach of the trust reposed on him by petitioner is duly proven. The verification and audit conducted by Tiosayco on the accounts handled by private respondent revealed some anomalous transactions which certainly erode the trust and confidence reposed on him by petitioner. Even when the transactions uncovered by Tiosayco were obviously questionable, private respondent did not bother to explain them. On the contrary, he skirted the question and answer investigation and filed a complaint against petitioner instead with the SRAB No. VI.Not in conformity, Hormillosa elevated his complaint to this Court via Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, questioning the following:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
This act of private respondent only reinforced petitioner’s distrust and apprehension on private respondent’s conduct in handling his accounts. The question and answer investigation would have been the right forum for private respondent to explain the accounts he handled, disprove the initial findings of anomalous transactions uncovered by Tiosayco, and clear his name in the process. Regrettably, private respondent carelessly ignored the opportunity.
Public respondent anchored its Decision on the denial of Cecilia Palmes and Feby Panerio of their signatures in the affidavits presented by petitioner and the affidavit of Virgie Bucaes (Bucaes) which stated that she denied the signatures of Sales Invoices Nos. 79872 E and 79873 E because she knew they were the signatures of Arnold Segaya, owner of Arnold Store; she allowed Arnold Store to use her account so that when her stock is fully consumed, she can buy from Arnold Store; and she never signed an affidavit before Hector Teodosio, a notary public.
While Cecilia Palmes and Feby Panerio denied that the signatures appearing in their supposed affidavits were theirs, the other evidence presented by petitioner were not rebutted by private respondent. Although these evidence were not testified to, they are still deemed admissible and worthy of evidentiary value. “Indeed, hearings and resolutions of labor disputes are not governed by the strict and technical rules of evidence and procedure observed in the regular courts of law. Technical rules of procedure are not applicable in labor cases, but may apply only by analogy or in a suppletory character, for instance, when there is a need to attain substantial justice and an expeditious, practical and convenient solution to a labor problem.”
It is undisputed in the present case that private respondent issued sales invoices to Arnold Store using the account number of Bucaes. Private respondent was in bad faith when he booked this account because he made it appear that the account was for Bucaes. Even if Bucaes consented to this transaction, private respondent was aware that this was a prohibited practice. Also undisputed is the fact that Shirley Jardeleza (Jardeleza) categorically denied that she signed the sales invoice purportedly stating that she had an obligation with petitioner in the amount of P810.00. Although the challenged Decision stated that private respondent was able to explain that it was the helper of Jardeleza who signed the sales invoice, there was no showing that Jardeleza authorized the same.
Private respondent likewise did not refute the evidence presented by petitioner regarding the tampering of a sales invoice (Invoice No. 101193) issued to Tadifa Store. The sales invoice and its duplicate copy revealed different amounts when supposedly they should bear the same. He also did not explain why the amount deposited by Pajarillo for the empties was not refunded back to the latter when the empties were already returned. As agreed, private respondent should have already made the refund once the empties were returned. However, private respondent delayed the refund and even paid for it only partially. This is seriously dubious. Paying partially only indicated that private respondent appropriated the deposit for himself in violation of petitioner’s code of conduct.
In sum, these proofs, taken collectively, are more than enough to constitute willful breach by private respondent of the trust reposed on him by petitioner. They undoubtedly create a reasonable ground for petitioner to believe that private respondent could not longer be trusted. Hence, the latter is validly dismissed from his employment. Without finding of illegal dismissal, the monetary awards bestowed on him by the SRAB No. VI and modified by public respondent have no basis.16
Regarding the CA pronouncement that the NLRC decision did not contain the facts of the case, applicable laws or rules and the conclusions and reasons therefor, Hormillosa argues that the decision of LA Acosta substantially complied with the requirements of the NLRC Rules of Procedure. He explains that the NLRC had the occasion to exhaustively go over the records of the case and so it cannot be said that it arbitrarily affirmed the decision of LA Acosta.
- The finding of the Court of Appeals that the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion in affirming the decision of SRAB No. VI despite the alleged fact that the latter did not conform to the guidelines set forth in the 2005 Revised Rules of Procedure of the NLRC; and
- The finding of the Court of Appeals that the NLRC whimsically exercised its judgment when it disregarded the evidence of Coca-Cola which substantially proved the valid dismissal of Hormillosa from work.
Art. 4. Construction in Favor of Labor. - All doubts in the implementation and interpretation of the provisions of this Code, including its implementing rules and regulations shall be resolved in favor of labor.chanrob1esvirtualawlibraryCBPI counters that Hormillosa failed to show that the CA committed any reversible error when it rendered the April 29, 2011 Decision. Such failure is fatal because it is the burden of every party seeking review of any decision of the CA or other lower tribunal to persuade this Court not only of the existence of questions of law fairly and logically arising therefrom, which he must distinctly set forth in his petition for review, but also that those questions are substantial enough to merit consideration, or that there are special and important reasons warranting the review he seeks.17cralawlibrary
Art. 282. Termination by employer. – An employee may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:chanroblesvirtualawlibraryThe rule is that, in labor cases, substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as sufficient to support a conclusion is required.18 The CA was correct when it ruled that Hormillosa’s employment was validly terminated under paragraph (c) of the above provision. There was substantial evidence to justify his dismissal.
(a) Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work; (b) Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties; (c) Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative; (d) Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative; and (e) Other causes analogous to the foregoing.
It is clear that Article 282(c) of the Labor Code allows an employer to terminate the services of an employee for loss of trust and confidence. The right of employers to dismiss employees by reason of loss of trust and confidence is well established in jurisprudence.Hormillosa, being a route salesman, falls under the second class. By selling soft drink products and collecting payments for the same, he was considered an employee who regularly handled significant amounts of money and property in the normal and routine exercise of his functions. The nature of the position of a route salesman was described in Coca Cola Bottlers, Phils. V. Kapisanan ng Malayang Manggagawa sa Coca-Cola-FFW and Florention Ramirez,21 where it was written:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
The first requisite for dismissal on the ground of loss of trust and confidence is that the employee concerned must be one holding a position of trust and confidence. Verily, We must first determine if respondent holds such a position.
There are two (2) classes of positions of trust. The first class consists of managerial employees. They are defined as those vested with the powers or prerogatives to lay down management policies and to hire, transfer suspend, lay-off, recall, discharge, assign or discipline employees or effectively recommend such managerial actions. The second class consists of cashiers, auditors, property custodians, etc. They are defined as those who in the normal and routine exercise of their functions, regularly handle significant amounts of money or property.
x x x
The second requisite is that there must be an act that would justify the loss of trust and confidence. Loss of trust and confidence to be a valid cause for dismissal must be based on a willful breach of trust and founded on clearly established facts. The basis for the dismissal must be clearly and convincingly established but proof beyond reasonable doubt is not necessary.20
We agree that route salesmen are likely individualistic personnel who roam around selling softdrinks, deal with customers and are entrusted with large asset and funds and property of the employer. There is a high degree of trust and confidence reposed on them, and when confidence is breached, the employer may take proper disciplinary action on them. The work of a salesman exposes him to voluminous financial transactions involving his employer’s goods. The life of the soft drinks company depends not so much on the bottling or production of the product since this is primarily done by automatic machines and personnel who are easily supervised but upon mobile and far-ranging salesmen who go from store to store all over the country or region. Salesmen are highly individualistic personnel who have to be trusted and left essentially on their own. A high degree of confidence is reposed on them because they are entrusted with funds or properties of their employer.chanrob1esvirtualawlibraryClearly, Hormillosa occupies a position of trust. As correctly pointed out by the CA, there was a high degree of trust and confidence reposed on him and when this confidence was breached, the employer was justified in taking the appropriate disciplinary action.
The award of separation pay is authorized in the situations dealt with in Article 283 and Art. 284 of the Labor Code, but not in terminations of employment based on instances enumerated in Art. 282.chanrob1esvirtualawlibrary“The only cases when separation pay shall be paid, although the employee was lawfully dismissed, are when the cause of termination was not attributable to the employee’s fault but due to: (1) the installation of labor saving devices, (2) redundancy, (3) retrenchment, (4) cessation of employer’s business, or (5) when the employee is suffering from a disease and his continued employment is prohibited by law or is prejudicial to his health and to the health of his co-employees (Articles 283 and 284, Labor Code.) Other than these cases, an employee who is dismissed for a just and lawful cause is not entitled to separation pay even if the award were to be called by another name.”26cralawlibrary
1Rollo, pp. 26-38. Penned by Associate Justice Pampio A. Abarintos with Associate Justice Gabriel T. Ingles and Associate Justice Victoria Isabel A. Paredes, concurring.cranad
2 Id. at 45-46.cranad
3 Id. at 53-86.cranad
4 Id. at 87-95.cranad
5 Id. at 37.cranad
6 Position Paper of for the Respondent, CA records, p. 42.cranad
8 CA rollo, p. 60.cranad
9 Id. at 61.cranad
10 Id. at 62.cranad
11 Id. at 63.cranad
12 Id. at 138.cranad
13 360 Phil. 670 (1998).cranad
14Rollo, p. 84.cranad
15 Citing Renita del Rosario v. Makati Cinema Square Corp., G.R. No. 170014, July 3, 2009, 591 SCRA 608.cranad
16Rollo, pp. 35-36.cranad
17Chua Giok Ong v. Court of Appeals, 233 Phil. 110, cited in Bersamin, Appeal and Review in the Philippines, page 86, 1999 Ed.cranad
18Crew and Ship Management International Inc. v. Jina T. Soria,.G.R. No. 175491, December 10, 2012; 687 SCRA 491.cranad
19 G.R. No. 167449, December 17, 2008, 574 SCRA 198.cranad
20 Id. at 205-206, citing Garcia v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 113774, April 15, 1998, 351 Phil. 960.cranad
21 492 Phil. 570, 589 (2005) [also cited by the CA].cranad
22 Annex T, Position Paper of Respondent, CA records, p. 74.cranad
23 G.R. No. 83433, November 12, 1992, 215 SCRA 540.cranad
24 CA records, pp. 37-154 (including annexes).cranad
25 G.R. No. 163607, July 14, 2008, citing San Miguel Corporation v. Lao, G.R. Nos. 143136-37, July 11, 2002, 580 Phil. 177 (2008), citing San Miguel Corporation v. Lao, 433 Phil. 890 (2002).cranad
26Eastern Paper Mills, Inc. v. NLRC, 252 Phil.618, 621 (1989).