Case Digest: Artificio v. NLRC, et al.

G.R. No. 172988: July 26, 2010

JOSE P. ARTIFICIO, Petitioner, v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, RO GUARDIANS SECURITY AGENCY, INC., JUAN V. VICTOR K. LAURILLA, ALBERTO AGUIRRE, AND ANTONIO A. ANDRES, Respondents.

PEREZ, J.:

FACTS:


Petitioner Jose P. Artificio was employed as security guard by respondent RP Guardians Security Agency, Inc., a corporation duly organized and existing under Philippine Laws and likewise duly licensed to engage in the security agency business.

Sometime in June 2002, Artificio had a heated argument with a fellow security guard, Merlino B. Edu (Edu). On 25 July 2002, Edu submitted a confidential report to Antonio A. Andres (Andres), Administration & Operations Manager, requesting that Artificio be investigated for maliciously machinating Edus hasty relief from his post and for leaving his post during night shift duty to see his girlfriend at a nearby beerhouse.

On29 July 2002, another security guard, Gutierrez Err (Err), sent a report to Andres stating that Artificio arrived at the office of RP Guardians Security Agency, Inc. on25 June 2002, under the influence of liquor.When Artificio learned that no salaries would be given that day, he bad-mouthed the employees of RP Guardians Security Agency, Inc. and threatened to arson their office.

On even date, Andres issued a Memorandum temporarily relieving Artificio from his post and placing him under preventive suspension pending investigation for conduct unbecoming a security guard, such as, abandonment of post during night shift duty, light threats and irregularities in the observance of proper relieving time.He also directed Artificio to report to the office of RP Guardians Security Agency, Inc. and submit his written answer immediately upon receipt of the memorandum.

In another memorandum, Andres informed Artificio that a hearing will be held on12 August 2002.

Without waiting for the hearing to be held, Artificio filed on 5 August 2002, a complaint for illegal dismissal, illegal suspension, non-payment of overtime pay, holiday pay, premium pay for holiday and rest days, 13thmonth pay, and damages.He also prayed for payment of separation pay inlieu of reinstatement.

After hearing, the Labor Arbiter rendered a decision dated 6 October 2003, finding respondents guilty of illegal suspension and dismissal.

On appeal, the NLRC, in a Decision dated31 August 2004, set aside the decision of the Labor Arbiter.

The motion for reconsideration filed by Artificio was denied for lack of merit by the NLRC in a resolution dated 29 October 2004.

Artificio next filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals. On31 March 2006, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision which affirmed the NLRC decision. Artificio filed a motion for reconsideration which the Court of Appeals again denied for lack of merit in a resolution dated1 June 2006, hence, the instant petition.
ISSUES: 
Whether Artificio was illegally suspended since his preventive suspension was for an indefinite period and was imposed without investigation;
Whether he was illegally dismissed because the charges against him were couched in general and broad terms and he was not given any notice requiring him to explain his side.
HELD:

LABOR LAW

Sections 8 and 9 of Rule XXIII, Implementing Book V of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code provides:
SEC. 8. Preventive suspension. The employer may place the worker concerned under preventive suspension if his continued employment poses a serious and imminent threat to the life or property of the employer or of his co-workers.

SEC. 9. Period of suspension. No preventive suspension shall last longer than thirty (30) days.The employer shall thereafter reinstate the worker in his former or in a substantially equivalent position or the employer may extend the period of suspension provided that during the period of extension, he pays the wages and other benefits due to the worker.In such case, the worker shall not be bound to reimburse the amount paid to him during the extension if the employer decides, after completion of the hearing, to dismiss the worker.
As succinctly stated above, preventive suspension is justified where the employee's continued employment poses a serious and imminent threat to the life or property of the employer or of the employees co-workers.Without this kind of threat, preventive suspension is not proper.

In this case, Artificios preventive suspension was justified since he was employed as a security guard tasked precisely to safeguard respondents client.His continued presence in respondents or its clients premises poses a serious threat to respondents, its employees and client in light of the serious allegation of conduct unbecoming a security guard such as abandonment of post during night shift duty, light threats and irregularities in the observance of proper relieving time.

Besides, as the employer, respondent has the right to regulate, according to its discretion and best judgment, all aspects of employment, including work assignment, working methods, processes to be followed, working regulations, transfer of employees, work supervision, lay-off of workers and the discipline, dismissal and recall of workers.Management has the prerogative to discipline its employees and to impose appropriate penalties on erring workers pursuant to company rules and regulations.

LABOR LAW

This Court has upheld a company's management prerogatives so long as they are exercised in good faith for the advancement of the employer's interest and not for the purpose of defeating or circumventing the rights of the employees under special laws or under valid agreements.

This delineation of management prerogatives is relevant to the observation of the NLRC that:

x x x even assuming that one of the fellow guards, PSG Edu had an axe to grind against complainant thats why he wrote the letter asking for the latters investigation on certain violations he has committed, the allegation that complainant committed irregularity on companys policy on relieving time was amply supported by the logbook.In fact, the labor arbiter in her decision even cited that accusation boils [down] to the alleged irregularity of complainant in the observance of relieving of time.Further, onJuly 25, 2002, complainant was again reported for reporting under the influence of liquor and badmouthed respondents employees with threat to arson the respondents office.Such report came from another guard in the name of PSG Gutierrez, who had no axe to grind against complainant.The allegation was also not denied by complainant.Respondents therefore could not be faulted in putting complainant under preventive suspension pending investigation of his alleged acts especially that he was the head guard.

These observations can no longer be disturbed. They are now established facts before us.

Significantly, Artificio regrettably chose not to present his side at the administrative hearing scheduled to look into the factual issues that accompanied the accusation against him.In fact, he avoided the investigation into the charges by filing his illegal dismissal complaint ahead of the scheduled investigation.He, on his own decided that his preventive suspension was in fact illegal dismissal and that he is entitled to backwages and separation pay.Indeed, Artificio would even reject reinstatement revealing his bent to have his own way through his own means.As aptly noted by the NLRC, Artificio preempted the investigation that could have afforded him the due process of which he would then say he was denied.

LABOR LAW

As already mentioned, after Artificio was placed under preventive suspension on 29 July 2002, he forthwith, or on5 August 2002, filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and illegal suspension.From that date until the present, he has insisted on his submission that he was illegally dismissed and that he is not seeking reinstatement as in fact right from the start, his prayer was for separation pay.Having determined that the imposition on Artificio of preventive suspension was proper and that such suspension did not amount to illegal dismissal, we see no basis for the grant of backwages.

Nonetheless, given the attendant circumstances in this case, namely, that Artificio had been working with the company for a period of sixteen (16) years and without any previous derogatory record, the ends of social and compassionate justice would be served if Artificio be given some equitable relief in the form of separation pay.

Artificio is entitled to separation pay considering that while reinstatement is an option, Artificio himself has never, at anytime after the notice of preventive suspension intended to remain in the employ of private respondents.

PARTIALLY GRANTED

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