Benjamin v. Amellar (G.R. No. 183383; April 5, 2010)


FACTS: Respondent hired petitioner Anabel Benjamin (Anabel) who had been the Project Data Controller of its Content Build Up (CBU) Department. Petitioner Renato Consolacion (Consolacion), a supervising data controller in respondents Imus project, directly reported to Anabel.

The municipal assessor of Mabini, Batangas informed the manager of respondent that its real property tax administration database was not "100% complete," contrary to the report of respondents supervising data controller Evangeline Repiano.

Melvin Tandoc (Tandoc), respondents Technology Manager, thus sent Anabel a memorandum ordering her to explain these (Mabini, Batangas and Imus, Cavite) incidents in writing. Anabel thereupon required Consolacion and Evangeline to explain in writing the alleged incidents subject of Tandocs memorandum.

Tandoc, to whom Consolacions explanation was transmitted, sent another memorandum to Anabel indicating that he was not satisfied therewith and accordingly advising her that a formal investigation would be conducted. Anabel thereupon sent Consolacion a memorandum notifying him that a formal investigation would be conducted on the "4th week of April" without any mention therein of the actual date of the formal hearing.

It was only on April 23, 2003 that Tandoc directed Anabel to inform Consolacion and Evangeline that the formal hearing would proceed at1:45 P.M. of said date. Respondent, alleging that Anabel did not inform Consolacion of the hearing, preventively suspended her for three days.

Tandoc then sent Anabel a memo apprising her of: willful breach of trust, gross and habitual neglect of duty, and willful disobedience of lawful orders. Tandoc issued Consolacion a five-page memorandum informing him of his dismissal "for willful breach of trust reposed in him and all related and applicable charges acceptable to the Philippine Labor Code that pertain to the facts of this case." The next day, Tandoc also issued Anabel a Notice on Decision to Dismiss. Thus, Anabel filed a case for illegal dismissal.

The LA ruled that petitioners were illegally dismissed. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the Labor Arbiters decision, prompting respondent to file a petition for certiorari before the CA. The Court of Appeals reversed the NLRC Decision and dismissed petitioners complaints, hence, the present petition.

ISSUE: Did the CA err in ruling that petitioners were not illegally dismissed?

HELD: To terminate the services of an employee for loss of trust and confidence, two requisites must concur: (1) the employee concerned must be holding a position of trust and confidence and (2) there must be an act that would justify the loss of trust and confidence

Consolacion occupied a position imbued with trust and confidence, he being a supervising data controller. It was his primary duty to monitor and report the performance of the data controllers in relation to the scope of work contracted out to respondent. Respondent thus banks heavily on the report of Consolacion to monitor the output quality and quantity of its data controllers. Respondent, however, failed to justify its loss of trust and confidence on Consolacion even as it imputed to him non-compliance with established standards and procedures.

Evidently, the immediately stated acts of non-compliance are too general and can encompass just about any malfeasance. Nowhere in the Notice was there a detailed narration of the facts and circumstances that would serve as bases to terminate Consolacion, thus leaving to surmise what those procedures, standards and orders were.

Respondent was itself not sure of what to charge petitioner Consolacion. It would appear that it was baiting him into admitting whatever malfeasance may be uncovered during the process.

Still, respondent used as its main basis for termination the supposed claim of Consolacion that the Imus project had been completed. Again, nothing is extant in the records to show that Concolacion had in fact reported the completion of the Imus project. It should be recalled that it was another projectthat one in Mabini, Batangaswhich was reported to have been completed. And it was not even by Consolacion but by Evangeline.
In dismissing an employee for gross and habitual neglect of duties, the negligence should not merely be gross. It should also be habitual.

Respecting Anabel who was dismissed for willful breach of trust, gross and habitual neglect of duties, and willful disobedience to lawful orders, she, like Consolacion, occupied a position of trust and confidence, she being the officer-in-charge of the CBU Department.

Respondent, however, failed to prove even a single act ─ basis of its loss of trust and confidence in Anabel. Apart from its self-serving assertions, respondent had not offered any piece of documentary evidence to lend truth to its allegations. It harps on supposed "numerous"complaints it received on their projects, yet only one written complaint on the Mabini project was presented.

Respondent also faults Anabel for gross and habitual neglect of duties for failure to institute existing standards and procedures both written and unwritten and failure to monitor and correct the errors of her subordinates. Despite Anabel's May 14, 2003 letter for particulars, however, respondent never addressed what were the standards and procedures she violated and errors she failed to monitor. Respondent instead sent her a dismissal notice.

There being nothing in the records to identify what specific duties Anabel violated and whether the violations were gross and habitual, any discussion herein is an exercise in futility. GRANTED.

Popular Posts