G.R. No. 190644, June 13, 2016
NDC TAGUM FOUNDATION, INC., ANITA B. SOMOSO, AND LIDA U. NATAVIO, Petitioners, v. EVELYN B. SUMAKOTE, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision1 which affirmed the Resolution2 issued by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dismissing the complaint for illegal dismissal filed by Evelyn B. Sumakote (respondent) against the NDC3 Tagum Foundation; and Anita B. Somoso (Somoso) and Lida U. Natavio (Natavio), its President and Administrator, respectively. The CA, however, modified the NLRC ruling by awarding, in favor of respondent nominal damages in the amount of P30,000 for petitioners' noncompliance with the hearing requirement in dismissal cases.
SECTION 2. Security of tenure - (a) In cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the service of an employee except for just or authorized causes as provided by law, and subject to the requirements of due process.In King of Kings Transport v. Mamac,21 this Court elaborated on the above-quoted procedural requirements as follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
x x x x
(d) In all cases of termination of employment, the following standards of due process shall be substantially observed:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryFor termination of employment based on just causes as defined in Article 282 of the Labor Code:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary(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.In this case, petitioners argue that respondent was given four notices, referring to the letters dated 11 February 2003, 4 September 2003, 15 September 2003, and 17 September 2003. They claim that all these letters afforded her the opportunity to explain her side and, therefore, she was given ample opportunity to be heard.
(2) After serving the first notice, the employers should schedule and conduct a hearing or conference wherein the employees will be given an 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, the 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.22chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In this connection, we feel that it would be best if you would just concentrate working with the University of Mindanao full-time. And we shall highly appreciate it if you can formally advise us of your plans to separate from us so that we will assign somebody in[sic] your position as dean of the College of Nursing.It is settled that a full adversarial hearing or conference is not required.24 All that is required is a fair and reasonable opportunity for the employee to explain the controversy at hand.25cralawred Yet, even if we consider the letter dated 4 September 2003 as the first notice, there would still be a breach of the procedural due process requirement. The breach occurred when petitioners did not call a hearing or conference during which respondent could have presented her defense.26 Instead, they placed her right away under preventive suspension for five (5) days. Then they dismissed her from employment while she was still serving her preventive suspension.
May we hear from you in writing within three (3) days from your receipt of this letter so we can also prepare as what we have to do for the good of school[sic].23chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
1Rollo, pp. 34-50. Decision dated 27 April 2009; penned by Associate Justice Jane Aurora C. Lantion with Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja and Edgardo T. Lloren concurring.
2 CA Rollo, pp. 42-47; Resolution dated 25 July 2005; penned by Presiding Commissioner Salic B. Dumarpa with Commissioners Proculo T. Sarmen and Jovito C. Cagaanan concurring.
3Rollo, p. 15; "NDC" is spelled out as "North Davao College" in paragraph 10.03 of the Petition for Review.
4 Id. at 34-35.
5 CA Rollo, p. 326.
6 Id. at 407-409.
7 Id. at 70.
8 Id. at 67.
9 Id. at 76.
10 Id. at 77.
11 Id. at 79.
12 Id. at 80.
13 Id. at 81.
14 Id. at 64.
15 Id. at 42-47.
16Rollo, pp. 48-50.
17 Id. at 51-61.
18 Id. at 62-64.
19Lopez v. Alturas Group of Companies, 663 Phil. 121 (2011), citing Tirazona v. Court of Appeals 572 Phil. 334 (2008).
20Castillo v. Prudentialife Plans, Inc., G.R. No. 196142, 26 March 2014.
21 553 Phil. 108 (2007).
22 Id. at 115-116.
23 CA Rollo, p. 70.
24Toyota Alabang v. Games, G.R. No. 206612, 17 August 2015.
25cralawred Concepcion v. Minex Import Corp./Minerama Corp., 679 Phil. 491 (2012).
26Agullano v. Christian Publishing, 588 Phil. 43 (2008).
27Rollo, p. 90.
28ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. v. Court of Appeals, 361 Phil. 499 (1999).
29G.J.T. Rebuilders Machine Shop v. Ambos, G.R. No. 174184, 28 January 2015, citing Nacar v. Gallery Frames, G.R. No. 189871, 13 August 2013, 703 SCRA 439, 458.