Aboc v. Metrobank (G.R. Nos. 170542-43; December 13, 2014)


These two cases stemmed from a complaint for illegal dismissal and damages filed by Aboc against Metrobank. Aboc alleged that he started working as a loans clerk. For nine years, he maintained an unblemished employment record until he received an inter-office letter requiring him to explain in writing the charges that he had actively participated in the lending activities of his immediate supervisor, Wynster Y. Chua,the Branch Manager of Metrobank where he was assigned. Aboc wrote a letterto Metrobank explaining that he had no interest whatsoever in the lending business of Chua because it was solely owned by the latter. He admitted, however, that he did some acts for Chua in connection with his lending activity. He did so because he could not say no to Chua because of the latter's influence and ascendancy over him. His participation in the lending activity was limited to ministerial acts such as the preparation of deposit and withdrawal slips and the typing of statement of accounts for some clients of Chua.In fact, Chua wrote a letter to Metrobank absolving him of any responsibility and participation in his lending activities. Despite the same, Metrobank still dismissed him.

Metrobank, on the other hand, replied that sometime in November 1995, Chua, Judith Eva Cabrido (assistant manager), Arthur Arcepi (accountant), and Aboc organized a credit union known as Cebu North Road Investment(CNRI).Said officers and employees used Metrobank's premises, equipment and facilities in their lending business. Apparently, its head office was not informed of the organization of CNRI. Had it been informed of the organization of said credit union, it would not have tolerated or approved of it because the nature of its business would be in conflict, inimical, and in competition with its banking business.Moreover, they did not register CNRI with the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC)and with the Department of Trade and Industry(DTI). The lending and investment business of CNRI was confined not only to the employees of Metrobank but also to outsiders, including clients of the bank. Metrobank also disclosed that on August 13, 1996, Aboc and his companions created another credit union, the First Fund Access(FFA),which opened accounts with Metrobank under fictitious names. Again, it was not informed of the existence of this credit union. During the investigation conducted by Metrobank, it was discovered that Aboc solicited investors including its clients for said credit union. He also induced bank clients to withdraw their accounts and invest them in CNRI. He even signed as one of the signatories in the trust receipts of some bank clients. Metrobank required Aboc to submit a written explanation why he should not be dismissed for cause and attend a conference, in which he was allowed to bring a counsel of his own choice. Aboc submitted his written explanation and attended the conference. Thereafter, Metrobank found that Aboc's actions constituted serious misconduct and a breach of trust and confidence and thereafter, Metrobank terminatedhis services.

The LA rendered her decision finding that Aboc was illegally dismissed. The NLRC set aside the decision of the LA but ordered Metrobank to pay Aboc reinstatement wages. Metrobank challenged the grant of monetary award in a petitionbefore the CA, while Aboc questioned the validity of his dismissal. The CA rendered its decision affirming the decision of the NLRC

ISSUES: [1] Did the Court of Appeals err in ruling that Antonio A. Aboc was validly dismissed by the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company?
[2] Did the Court of Appeals err in ruling that the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company was liable to pay the monetary award claimed by Antonio A. Aboc?

HELD: In termination cases, the burden of proof rests on the employer to show that the dismissal was for a just cause or authorized cause. An employee's dismissal due to serious misconduct and loss oftrust and confidence must be supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is that amount of relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other minds, equally reasonable, might conceivably opine otherwise. In the case at bench, Metrobank's evidence clearly shows that the acts of Aboc in helping Chua organize the CNRI and FFA credit unions and in the operations thereof constituted serious misconduct or breach of trust and confidence. In response to the inter-office letter sent by Metrobank on January 29, 1998, Aboc submitted his Explanation dated February 6, 1998, admitting having committed said acts but claiming that he was only an unwilling participant doing a ministerial job.

Aboc's participation in the lending and investment activities of CNRI and FFA was highly irregular and clearly in conflict with Metrobank's business. The irregularity of his act was evident from the fact that he deliberately failed to inform Metrobank about the existence of CNRI and FFA. Though he expressed apprehension and was not pleased with the way Chua was running the lending business, he never informed or, at least, sought advice from his employer. Instead of doing so, he actively participated in the business of Chua which competed against that of Metrobank. Moreover, Aboc knew about the subject credit unions non-registration with the Central Bank or any proper government institution. Being an experienced banker, he should have known that the lending activities of the subject credit unions were questionable, if not, illegal, due to its non-registration. Again, Aboc chose not to inform his employer about this and, instead, participated in the operations of the subject credit unions. The fact that Aboc opened accounts for the subject credit unions under fictitious names can only mean that the group had something to hide.
The monetary award granted to Aboc was warranted under the law and jurisprudence. Article 223of the Labor Code reads, in part: In any event, the decision of the Labor Arbiter reinstating a dismissed or separated employee, insofar as the reinstatement aspect is concerned, shall immediately be executory, pending appeal. The employee shall either be admitted back to work under the same terms and conditions prevailing prior to his dismissal or separation or, at the option of the employer, merely reinstated in the payroll. The posting of a bond by the employer shall not stay the execution for reinstatement provided herein.

In the case at bench, it cannot be denied that Metrobank opted to reinstate Aboc in its payroll. Since Metrobank chose payroll reinstatement for Aboc, he then became a reinstated regular employee.This means that he was restored to his previous position as a regular employee without loss of seniority rights and other privileges appurtenant thereto. His payroll reinstatement put him on equal footing with the other regular Metrobank employees insofar as entitlement to the benefits given under the Collective Bargaining Agreement is concerned. The fact that the decision of the LA was reversed on appeal has no controlling significance. The rule is that even if the order of reinstatement of the LA is reversed on appeal, it is obligatory on the part of the employer toreinstateandpay the wages of the dismissed employee during the period of appeal until final reversal by the higher court. DENIED.

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