Case Digest: Galang v. Cityland

G.R. No. 173291 : February 8, 2012




Romeo Galang was employed by Gayren Maintenance Services as a janitor. When his contract with the agency expired, he was absorbed by Cityland Shaw Tower.

Galang alleged that he was absorbed as a janitor by Cityland with a promise of regular employment after the completion of his six-month probation. He claimed that even after the lapse of the period, he continued working for Cityland although he had no idea about his employment status. He did not know his status for certain until he was shown a document on May 21, 2002 informing him that his employment would be terminated effective May 20, 2002. Thus, he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against Cityland and its Building Manager, Virgilio Baldemor.

Cityland countered that they absorbed Galang as a casual employee after the expiration of his contract with Gayren Maintenance Services. They alleged that during his employment with them, they found him to be remiss in the performance of his job and he failed, too, to conduct himself as a good employee.

The respondents further alleged that in the face of Galang negative work attitude and job performance, Cityland charged him with gross insubordination, harassment of his co-employees and conduct unbecoming an employee.

The respondents stressed that Cityland Board of Directors terminated Galang services, for gross insubordination, effective May 20, 2002, after a "comprehensive examination of the accusation against complainant."

In a decision dated September 22, 2003, the Labor Arbiter found that Galang had been illegally dismissed because Cityland failed to present evidence to support Galang dismissal for cause after observance of due process. The LA observed that the alleged board resolution dismissing Galang was unsubstantiated and self-serving, and carries no probative value. The LA also noted that there was no proof that Galang was notified of the charges against him before he was dismissed.

On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) affirmed the labor arbiter findings.

After reaching the CA, the appellate court annulled the NLRC decision and declared that Galang had been dismissed for a just cause. The CA took exception to the conclusion of both the labor arbiter and the NLRC that the respondents failed to discharge the burden of proving that Galang had been dismissed for cause. It pointed out that the records are replete with proof that Galang committed acts justifying the termination of his employment.

The CA stressed that prior to the incidents leading to Galang dismissal, he had already committed serious negligence in his work. It referred to the flooding of the 32nd floor of the condominium where he was assigned, due to his failure to secure tightly the valve filter room. The flooding severely damaged the building elevator, resulting in repair work amounting to P23,952.65. The CA stressed that despite this act of gross negligence, he still remained in employment and it was only "on account of subsequent events x x x that [the respondents] were compelled to dismiss him."

While the CA had no doubt that Galang dismissal was for cause, it nonetheless believed that he was not afforded procedural due process for lack of notice. Consequently, it awarded Galang nominal damages of P30,000.00, pursuant to the Agabon doctrine.

ISSUE: Whether or not there was a just cause for Galang dismissal based on evidence not presented before the labor arbiter and the NLRC.

HELD: Galang petition is unmeritorious.

There was just cause for the dismissal - The CA committed no reversible error and neither did it commit grave abuse of discretion in declaring that Galang had been dismissed for cause. Contrary to Galang submission, there is substantial evidence such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion supporting the CA decision.

The affidavits executed in 2005, simply amplified the evidence Cityland submitted in 2002, including documents, which cited Galang serious negligence in causing the flooding of his assigned condominium floor, which resulted in a costly repair of the buildingselevator. Additionally, there was Tupasmemo to Cityland President which "pertains to the case of Romeo Galang xxx for harassment to co-janitors, insubordination to Supervisor and conduct unbecoming an employee."

Tupas made a report of an incident where Galang took pictures of his co-janitors whom he considered as suspects in the alleged loss of money (P4,000.00) kept in his locker. Tupas called a meeting to investigate the matter. She asked Galang to surrender the pictures, but he refused and harassed the janitors and insulted Tupas in front of everybody. Tupas also reported that on several occasions, Galang disobeyed her orders, often finding fault with his co-employees, and was very hard to deal with. She believed that Galang had been grossly insubordinate and had committed acts of harassment against his co-employees. Thus, he was already a liability to the organization.

In light of the circumstances, the Supreme Court found that Galang had become unfit to continue in employment. The evidence supports the view that he continued to exhibit undesirable traits as an employee and as a person, in relation to both his co-workers and his superiors, particularly Tupas, her immediate supervisor.

On the due process - The finding of a just cause for Galang dismissal notwithstanding, the Court concurs with the CA conclusion that Cityland did not afford Galang the required notice before he was dismissed. As the CA noted, the investigation conference Tupas called to look into the janitorscomplaints against Galang, did not constitute the written notice required by law as he had no clear idea what the charges were. Thus, the CA committed no error in sustaining his dismissal and awarding him nominal damages as indemnity.

As a final point, Galang posits that vis--vis the matter of dismissal for just cause without due process, the CA "was incorrect when it retroactively applied the later ruling of the High Court in Agabon v. NLRC, considering that when this case was filed, the applicable doctrine was Serrano."

The Supreme Court disagrees with this position. As the respondents correctly pointed out, the decision of the NLRC did not attain finality as it was brought to the CA on a petition for certiorari and was overturned. Galang simply did not have the benefit of any final arbiter or NLRC decision to which the Serrano ruling could be applied. When the CA ruled on the case, this Court had abandoned the Serrano doctrine in favor of Agabon. Thus, the CA committed no error in applying Agabon to the case.