Case Digest: Manila Pavilion Hotel v. Delada

G.R. No. 189947: January 25, 2012

MANILA PAVILION HOTEL, owned and operated by ACESITE (PHILS.) Hotel Corporation, Petitioner, v. HENRY DELADA, Respondent.



Delada was the Union President of the Manila Pavilion Supervisors Association at MPH. He was originally assigned as Head Waiter of Rotisserie, a fine-dining restaurant operated by petitioner. Pursuant to a supervisory personnel reorganization program, MPH reassigned him as Head Waiter of Seasons Coffee Shop, another restaurant operated by petitioner at the same hotel. Respondent declined the inter-outlet transfer and instead asked for a grievance meeting on the matter, pursuant to their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). He also requested his retention as Head Waiter of Rotisserie while the grievance procedure was ongoing.

MPH replied and told respondent to report to his new assignment for the time being, without prejudice to the resolution of the grievance involving the transfer. He adamantly refused to assume his new post at the Seasons Coffee Shop and instead continued to report to his previous assignment. Thus, MPH sent him several memoranda on various dates, requiring him to explain in writing why he should not be penalized for the following offenses: serious misconduct; willful disobedience of the lawful orders of the employer; gross insubordination; gross and habitual neglect of duties; and willful breach of trust.

Meanwhile, the parties failed to reach a settlement. Consequently, Delada lodged a Complaint before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board. While respondents Complaint concerning the validity of his transfer was pending before the Panel of Voluntary Arbitrators (PVA), MPH continued with the disciplinary action against him for his refusal to report to his new post at Seasons Coffee Shop.

The PVA issued a Decision and ruled that the transfer of Delada was a valid exercise of management prerogative. The PVA thus pronounced that Delada had no valid and justifiable reason to refuse or even to delay compliance with the managements directive. The CA affirmed the Decision of the PVA and denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. Hence, this appeal.

ISSUE: Whether MPH retained the authority to continue with the administrative case against Delada for insubordination and willful disobedience of the transfer order.

HELD: Yes. CA Decision modified.

Labor Law

Petitioner argues that it did not lose its authority to discipline Delada notwithstanding the joint submission to the PVA of the issue of the validity of the transfer order. According to petitioner, the specific issue of whether respondent could be held liable for his refusal to assume the new assignment was not raised before the PVA, and that the panels ruling was limited to the validity of the transfer order. Thus, petitioner maintains that it cannot be deemed to have surrendered its authority to impose the penalty of suspension.

In the case of Sime Darby Pilipinas, Inc. v. Deputy Administrator Magsalin, and Ludo & Luym Corporation v. Saornido, the SC held that the voluntary arbitrator had plenary jurisdiction and authority to interpret the agreement to arbitrate and to determine the scope of his own authority subject only, in a proper case, to the certiorari jurisdiction of this Court. It was also ruled that that voluntary arbitrators are generally expected to decide only those questions expressly delineated by the submission agreement; that, nevertheless, they can assume that they have the necessary power to make a final settlement on the related issues, since arbitration is the final resort for the adjudication of disputes.

However, the doctrine in the following cases is inapplicable in the case at bar. In those cases, the voluntary arbitrators did in fact assume jurisdiction over the related issues and made rulings on the matter. In the present case, however, the PVA did not make a ruling on the specific issue of insubordination and willful disobedience of the transfer order. The PVA merely said that its disagreement with the 90-day penalty of suspension stemmed from the fact that the penalty went beyond the 30-day limit for preventive suspension.

But to us, what militates against the validity of Deladas preventive suspension is the fact that it went beyond the 30-day period prescribed by the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code. The preventive suspension of Delada is supposed to expire on 09 June 2007, but without notifying Delada, the MPH proceeded to impose a separate penalty of 90-days suspension to him which took effect only on 18 June 2007, or way beyond the 30-day rule mandated by the Rules.

It can be seen that, unlike in Sime Darby Pilipinas and Ludo & Luym Corporation, the PVA herein did not make a definitive ruling on the merits of the validity of the 90-day suspension. The panel only held that MPH lost its jurisdiction to impose disciplinary action on respondent. Accordingly, we rule in this case that MPH did not lose its authority to discipline respondent for his continued refusal to report to his new assignment. In relation to this point, we recall our Decision in Allied Banking Corporation v. Court of Appeals.

In the said case, the refusal to obey a valid transfer order constitutes willful disobedience of a lawful order of an employer. Employees may object to, negotiate and seek redress against employers for rules or orders that they regard as unjust or illegal. However, until and unless these rules or orders are declared illegal or improper by competent authority, the employees ignore or disobey them at their peril. For Galanidas continued refusal to obey Allied Bank's transfer orders, we hold that the bank dismissed Galanida for just cause in accordance with Article 282(a) of the Labor Code. Galanida is thus not entitled to reinstatement or to separation pay.

Pursuant to Allied Banking, unless the order of MPH is rendered invalid, there is a presumption of the validity of that order. Since the PVA eventually ruled that the transfer order was a valid exercise of management prerogative, we hereby reverse the Decision and the Resolution of the CA affirming the Decision of the PVA in this respect. MPH had the authority to continue with the administrative proceedings for insubordination and willful disobedience against Delada and to impose on him the penalty of suspension. As a consequence, petitioner is not liable to pay back wages and other benefits for the period corresponding to the penalty of 90-day suspension.