G.R. No. 190486, November 26, 2014
STANLEY FINE FURNITURE, ELENA AND CARLOS WANG, Petitioners, v. VICTOR T. GALLANO AND ENRIQUITO SIAREZ, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Also, Stanley Fine was forced to declare them dismissed due to their failure to report back to work for a considerable length of time and also, due to the filing of an unmeritorious labor case against it by the two complainants. . . .
. . . .
The main claim of the complainants is their allegation that they were dismissed. They were NOT DISMISSED.13 (Emphasis in the original)
In fact, the admission that complainants were dismissed due to the filing of a case against them by complainants is a blatant transgression of the Labor Code that no retaliatory measure shall be levelled against an employee by reason of an action commenced against an employer. This is virtually a confession of judgment and a death [k]nell to the cause of respondents. It actually lends credence to the fact that complainants were dismissed upon respondents’ knowledge of the complaint before the NLRC as attested by the fact that four days after the filing of the complaint, the same was amended to include illegal dismissal.14
Finding malice, and ill-will in the dismissal of complainants, which exhibits arrogance and defiance of labor laws on the part of respondents, moral and exemplary damages for P50,000 and P30,000 respectively for each of the complainants are hereby granted.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondents are hereby declared guilty of illegal dismissal. As a consequence, they are ORDERED to reinstate complainant to their former position and pay jointly and severally complainants’ full backwages from date of dismissal until actual reinstatement[.]15
Contrary to the findings of the Labor Arbiter below . . . respondents-appellants’ allegations in paragraph 5 of their position paper is not an admission that they dismissed complainants-appellees moreso [sic], in retaliation for complainants-appellees’ filing a complaint against them. Had the Labor Arbiter been more circumspect analyzing the facts brought before him by the herein parties pleadings, he could have easily discerned that complainants-appellees were merely required to explain their unauthorized absences they committed for the month of May 2005 alone. Complainants-appellees did not deny knowledge of the memoranda issued to them on May 23, 25 and 27, 2005 for complainant-appellee Siarez and June 1, 2005 memo for Gallano. That they simply refused receipt of them cannot extricate themselves from its legal effects as the last of which clearly show that it was sent to them thru the mails.
. . . .
The same holds true with the findings of the Labor Arbiter below that respondents-appellants’ evidence, Annexes “7” to “74” “cannot be admissible in evidence” for being mere xerox copies and “are easily subjected to interpolation and tampering.”
Suffice it to state that these pieces of evidence were adduced during the arbitral proceedings below, where complainants-appellees were afforded the opportunity to controvert and deny its truthfulness and veracity that complainants-appellees never objected thereto or deny its authenticity, certainly did not render said documents tampered or interpolated.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision appealed from is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondents-appellants are however ordered to reinstate complainants-appellees to their former position without loss of seniority rights and benefits appurtenant thereto, without backwages.
An admission against interest is the best evidence which affords the greatest certainty of the facts in dispute since no man would declare anything against himself unless such declaration is true. Thus, an admission against interest binds the person who makes the same, and absent any showing that this was made thru palpable mistake, no amount of rationalization can offset it.25
Notably, private respondents’ claim of payment is again belied by their own admission in their position paper that they failed to pay petitioners their ECOLA and to ask for exemption from payment of said benefits to their employees. In any event, private respondents’ allegation of payment of money claims is not supported by substantial evidence. The Labor Arbiter found that the documents presented by private respondents were mere photocopies, with no appropriate signatures of petitioners and could be easily subjected to interpolation and tampering.27
WHEREFORE, the assailed Resolutions dated June 18, 2007 and August 15, 2007 of public respondent NLRC are set aside and the Labor Arbiter’s Decision dated August 2, 2006 is reinstated.
A sole proprietorship does not possess a juridical personality separate and distinct from the personality of the owner of the enterprise. The law merely recognizes the existence of a sole proprietorship as a form of business organization conducted for profit by a single individual and requires its proprietor or owner to secure licenses and permits, register its business name, and pay taxes to the national government. The law does not vest a separate legal personality on the sole proprietorship or empower it to file or defend an action in court.55 (Emphasis supplied)
[I]n a Rule 45 review (of the CA decision rendered under Rule 65), the question of law that confronts the Court is the legal correctness of the CA decision – i.e., whether the CA correctly determined the presence or absence of grave abuse of discretion in the NLRC decision before it, and not on the basis of whether the NLRC decision on the merits of the case was correct. . . .
Specifically, in reviewing a CA labor ruling under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the Court’s review is limited to:
(1) Ascertaining the correctness of the CA’s decision in finding the presence or absence of a grave abuse of discretion. This is done by examining, on the basis of the parties’ presentations, whether the CA correctly determined that at the NLRC level, all the adduced pieces of evidence were considered; no evidence which should not have been considered was considered; and the evidence presented supports the NLRC findings; and
(2) Deciding any other jurisdictional error that attended the CA’s interpretation or application of the law.60 (Citation omitted)
ARTICLE 282. Termination by employer. - An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:
(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 representatives; and
(e) Other causes analogous to the foregoing.
- Failure to report for work or absence without valid or justifiable reason; and
- A clear intention to sever the employer-employee relationship.65
Absence must be accompanied by overt acts unerringly pointing to the fact that the employee simply does not want to work anymore. And the burden of proof to show that there was unjustified refusal to go back to work rests on the employer.67
Long standing is the rule that the filing of the complaint for illegal dismissal negates the allegation of abandonment. Human experience dictates that no employee in his right mind would go through the trouble of filing a case unless the employer had indeed terminated the services of the employee.69
5. Also, Stanley Fine was forced to declare them dismissed due to their failure to report back to work for a considerable length of time and also, due to the filing of an unmeritorious labor case against it by the two complainants. . . . (Emphasis supplied)
. . . .
8. The main claim of the complainants is their allegation that they were dismissed. They were NOT DISMISSED. Management was [sic] has only instructed them to submit a written explanation for their absence before they would be allowed back to work. . . .72 (Underscoring in the original)
6. The words “Nag complain pa kayo sa Labor ha, tanggal na kayo” were clear, unequivocal and categorical. These circumstances were sufficient to create the impression in the mind of complainants – and correctly so – that their services were being terminated. The acts of respondents were indicative of their intention to dismiss complainants from their employment.79
An admission against interest is the best evidence which affords the greatest certainty of the facts in dispute since no man would declare anything against himself unless such declaration is true. Thus, an admission against interest binds the person who makes the same, and absent any showing that this was made thru palpable mistake, no amount of rationalization can offset it.82
It is however, an oft-repeated ruling that the negligence and mistakes of counsel bind the client. A departure from this rule would bring about never-ending suits, so long as lawyers could allege their own fault or negligence to support the client’s case and obtain remedies and reliefs already lost by operation of law. The only exception would be, where the lawyer’s gross negligence would result in the grave injustice of depriving his client of the due process of law.84 (Citations omitted)
ARTICLE 277. Miscellaneous provisions. –
. . . .
(b) Subject to the constitutional right of workers to security of tenure and their right to be protected against dismissal except for a just and authorized cause and without prejudice to the requirement of notice under Article 283 of this Code, the employer shall furnish the worker whose employment is sought to be terminated a written notice containing a statement of the causes for termination and shall afford the latter ample opportunity to be heard and to defend himself with the assistance of his representative if he so desires in accordance with company rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to guidelines set by the Department of Labor and Employment. Any decision taken by the employer shall be without prejudice to the right of the worker to contest the validity or legality of his dismissal by filing a complaint with the regional branch of the National Labor Relations Commission. The burden of proving that the termination was for a valid or authorized cause shall rest on the employer[.]
Section 2. Security of tenure. . . .
. . . .
(d) In all cases of termination of employment, the following standards of due process shall be substantially observed:
For termination of employment based on just causes as defined in Article 282 of the Code:
(i) A written notice served on the employee specifying the ground or grounds for termination, and giving said employee reasonable opportunity within which to explain his side.
(ii) A hearing or conference during which the employee concerned, with the assistance of counsel if he so desires is given opportunity to respond to the charge, present his evidence, or rebut the evidence presented against him.
(iii) A written notice of termination served on the employee, indicating that upon due consideration of all the circumstances, grounds have been established to justify his termination.
(1) The first written notice to be served on the employees should contain the specific causes or grounds for termination against them, and a directive that the employees are given the opportunity to submit their written explanation within a reasonable period. “Reasonable opportunity” under the Omnibus Rules means every kind of assistance that management must accord to the employees to enable them to prepare adequately for their defense. This should be construed as a period of at least five (5) calendar days from receipt of the notice to give the employees an opportunity to study the accusation against them, consult a union official or lawyer, gather data and evidence, and decide on the defenses they will raise against the complaint. Moreover, in order to enable the employees to intelligently prepare their explanation and defenses, the notice should contain a detailed narration of the facts and circumstances that will serve as basis for the charge against the employees. A general description of the charge will not suffice. Lastly, the notice should specifically mention which company rules, if any, are violated and/or which among the grounds under Art. 282 is being charged against the employees.
(2) After serving the first notice, the employers should schedule and conduct a hearing or conference wherein the employees will be given the opportunity to: (1) explain and clarify their defenses to the charge against them; (2) present evidence in support of their defenses; and (3) rebut the evidence presented against them by the management. During the hearing or conference, the employees are given the chance to defend themselves personally, with the assistance of a representative or counsel of their choice. Moreover, this conference or hearing could be used by the parties as an opportunity to come to an amicable settlement.
(3) After determining that termination of employment is justified, the employers shall serve the employees a written notice of termination indicating that: (1) all circumstances involving the charge against the employees have been considered; and (2) grounds have been established to justify the severance of their employment.90 (Emphasis in the original, citation omitted)
Before we discuss the substance of private respondent’s motion, we note that attached to it were mere photocopies of the supporting documents and not “certified true copies of documents or papers involved therein” as required by the Rules of Court. However, given that the motion was verified and petitioners, who were given a chance to oppose or comment on it, made no objection thereto, we brush aside the defect in form and proceed to discuss the merits of the motion.94 (Citation omitted)
With respect to Annexes 7 to 74 to prove compliance of labor standards, the same cannot be admissible in evidence because they are mere Xerox copies which are easily subjected to interpolation and tampering.
Besides, Annex 69 which purports to be payment of 13th month pay for 2004 of complainant Gallano but no amount is indicated. Again, Annex 71 states 13th month pay for P4,500.00 for complainant Gallano yet there is no signature of Gallano acknowledging receipt thereof. If one document is tainted with fraud, all other Xerox documents are fraudulent.105
* Designated Acting Member per Special Order No. 1881 dated November 25, 2014.
1Rollo, pp. 7–35.
2 Id. at 3, 7, 9, 270 and 89. The motion for extension of time to file petition for review on certiorari was filed by Stanley Fine Furniture, Elena and Carlos Wang. The petition for review was filed by Elena Briones. In the statement of facts, Elena alleged that she “is the registered owner/proprietress of the business operation doing business under the name and style ‘Stanley Fine Furniture.” The Department of Trade and Industry certification attached to the reply states that Stanley Fine Furniture is a sole proprietorship owned by Elena Briones Yam-Wang. In the amended complaint, filed at the National Labor Relations Commission, complainants Victor Gallano and Enriquito Siarez indicated ‘Stanley Fine Furniture, Elena Briones Wang as owner & Carlos Wang’ as the respondents. Thus, Elena Briones, Elena Briones Wang, and Elena Briones Yam-Wang refer to the same person. For this decision, we refer to petitioner as Elena Briones.
3 Id. at 38–47. The decision was penned by Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta and concurred in by Associate Justices Andres B. Reyes, Jr. (Chair) and Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr.
4 Id. at 46.
5 Id. at 39.
6 Id. at 88.
8 Id. at 89.
10 Id. at 39.
12 Id. at 161–166.
13 Id. at 162–164.
14 Id. at 164.
15 Id. at 165.
16 Id. at 71–77.
17 Id. at 73 and 75.
18 Id. at 75–76.
19 Id. at 78–84.
20 Id. at 86–87.
21 Id. at 43.
25 Id. at 44, citing Mattel, Inc. v. Francisco, et al., 582 Phil. 492, 500 (2008) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Third Division] and Heirs of Miguel Franco v. Court of Appeals, 463 Phil. 417, 428 (2003) [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].
26Rollo, p. 44.
27 Id. at 45.
28 Id. at 46.
30 Id. at 50–55.
31 Id. at 49.
32 Id. at 3–4.
33 Id. at 7.
34 Id. at 9.
35 Id. at 27.
36 Id. at 162.
37 Id. at 28.
38 Id. at 24.
39 Id. at 31.
40 Id. at 32.
41 Id. at 178.
42 Id. at 189–205.
43 Id. at 190.
44 Id. at 194.
45 Id. at 191.
46 Id. at 262–269.
47 Id. at 263.
48 Id. at 271.
49 Id. at 270.
50 Id. at 190–191.
51 Id. at 263.
52 Id. at 262.
53 Id. at 89.
54 598 Phil. 94 (2009) [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].
55 Id. at 101, citing Mangila v. Court of Appeals, 435 Phil. 870, 886 (2002) [Per J. Carpio, Third Division].
56Rollo, p. 24.
60 J. Brion, dissenting opinion in Abbot Laboratories, Phils., v. Pearlie Ann F. Alcaraz, G.R. No. 192571, April 22, 2014 [Per J. Perlas-Bernabe, En Banc].
61Rollo, p. 43.
62 Id. at 27.
63 Pres. Decree No. 442 (1974), as amended by Pres. Decree Nos. 570-A, 626, 643, 823, 849, 850, 865-A, 891, 1083, 1367, 1368, 1391, 1412, 1641, 1691, 1692, 1693, 1920, 1921, and 2018; Batas Blg. 32, 70, 130, and 227; Exec. Order Nos. 74, 111, 126, 180, 203, 247, 251, 292, and 797; Rep. Act Nos. 6715, 6725, 6727, 7610, 7641, 7655, 7658, 7700, 7730, 7796, 7877, 8042, and 9177, arts. 282, 283, 284, and 285.
64Galang v. Malasugui, G.R. No. 174173, March 7, 2012, 667 SCRA 622, 633 [Per J. Perez, Second Division].
65Josan, JPS, Santiago Cargo Movers v. Aduna, G.R. No. 190794, February 22, 2012, 666 SCRA 679, 686 [Per J. Sereno (now C.J.), Second Division]. See also E.G. & I. Construction Corporation v. Sato, G.R. No. 182070, February 16, 2011, 643 SCRA 492, 499–500 [Per J. Nachura, Second Division]; and Dimagan v. Dacworks United, Incorporated, G.R. No. 191053, November 28, 2011, 661 SCRA 438, 447 [Per J. Perlas-Bernabe, Third Division].
66 491 Phil. 434 (2005) [Per J. Sandoval-Gutierrez, Third Division].
67 Id. at 439, citing Samarca v. Arc-Men Industries, Inc., 459 Phil. 506, 515 (2003) [Per J. Sandoval-Gutierrez, Third Division].
68Rollo, p. 44.
70 Id. at 43.
71 Samar-Med Distribution v. NLRC, G.R. No. 162385, July 15, 2013, 701 SCRA 148, 160 [Per J. Bersamin, First Division].
72Rollo, p. 99.
73 Id. at 28.
74 Id. at 266.
75 Id. at 90–97.
76 Id. at 90.
77 Id. at 91.
78 Id. at 146–148.
79 Id. at 147.
80 Id. at 74.
81 Id. at 75.
82 Id. at 44, citing Mattel, Inc. v. Francisco, et al., 582 Phil. 492, 500 (2008) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Third Division] and Heirs of Miguel Franco v. Court of Appeals, 463 Phil. 417, 428 (2003) [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].
83 G.R. No. 198357, December 10, 2012, 687 SCRA 643 [Per J. Peralta, Third Division].
84 Id. at 648.
85 Rollo, p. 27.
86 Id. at 29.
87 Id. at 30.
89 553 Phil. 108 (2007) [Per J. Velasco, Jr., Second Division].
90 Id. at 115–116.
91Rollo, p. 31.
92 496 Phil. 421 (2005) [Per J. Corona, Third Division].
93 Rollo, p. 31.
94Lee v. Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Br. 85, 496 Phil. 421, 426–427 (2005) [Per J. Corona, Third Division].
95 Id. at 425–426.
96Rollo, p. 45.
97 Id. at 103–107.
98 Id. at 104.
99 Id. at 105.
100 Id. at 106.
101 Id. at 107.
102 Id. at 89. This is the date of dismissal written in the complaint form.
103 Id. at 103.
104 In the Labor Arbiter’s decision, the following monetary awards were granted: backwages, 13th month pay, service incentive leave pay, ECOLA, moral damages, and exemplary damages.
105Rollo, p. 46.
106 Id. at 201.
107 Id. at 45.
109 Id. at 109–143.
110 Id. at 32.