Case Digest: Meralco v. Dejan

G.R. No. 194106 : June 18, 2012




Respondent Herminigildo Dejan is employed with the Manila Electric Company as Meralco's branch representative. The security guard on duty at the branch noticed the private electrician, take out from the branch premises 20 pieces of meter sockets which were then loaded into a parked Meralco contracted jeep belonging to one Cesar Reyes. Dejan was asked to explain the incident.

In his letter-explanation, Dejan admitted that he released the meter sockets in question because the deposit fees had already been paid.

Dejan received a letter from Marcelino Rosario, head of Meralco's Investigation-Paralegal Services, charging him with the unauthorized taking of 20 meter sockets, in violation of Section 7, paragraphs 4 and 11 of the Company Code of Employee Discipline, in relation to Article 282 of the Labor Code. Meralco conducted a formal investigation where Dejan admitted issuing the meter sockets without the authorization of the applicants for electric connection. He alleged that he released the items even without authorization as it had been the accepted practice in the office, provided the deposit fee had been paid.

Unconvinced with Dejan's explanation, Meralco served Dejan a letter terminating his employment effective the following day, with forfeiture of all rights and privileges. Dejan filed his complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

Labor Arbiter Antonio R. Macam dismissed the complaint for lack of merit, holding that Dejan "undoubtedly transgressed the company rules on unauthorized taking of the company property[.]" Labor Arbiter Macam declared Dejan's dismissal as a valid exercise of Meralco's management prerogative.

Dejan appealed the labor arbiter's decision to the NLRC. NLRC rendered a decision reversing the labor arbiter. Both Meralco and Dejan moved for reconsideration, but the NLRC denied the motions.

CA affirmed, with modification, the NLRC dispositions. It found no grave abuse of discretion in the NLRC ruling that Dejan is not guilty of unauthorized taking or of stealing of company property. The CA, however, found irregular the NLRC's failure to award Dejan backwages considering that it declared him to have been illegally dismissed. Accordingly, it awarded Dejan backwages from the time he was separated from the service until his actual reinstatement, less the amount corresponding to his one-month suspension for simple negligence.

ISSUE: Whether or not Dejan is liable only for simple negligence?

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is SET ASIDE.


Dejan is liable as charged. More specifically, he is liable for violation of Section 7, paragraphs 4 and 11 of the Company Code of Employee Discipline, constituting serious misconduct, fraud and willful breach of trust of the employer, just causes for termination of employment under the law. The facts and the evidence on record clearly bear this out and we wonder how the CA could have missed the seriousness or gravity of Dejan's transgressions.

There is no dispute about the release of the meter sockets. Also, the persons involved were clearly identified - Dejan; Gozarin or Mang Islao, a private electrician who received the meter sockets; Reyes, the owner of the jeep where the meter sockets were loaded by Gozarin; Duenas, a Meralco field representative; and Depante, another private electrician who purportedly owned the meter sockets.

There is also no question that Dejan released the meter sockets to Gozarin without the written authority or SPA from the customer or customers who applied for electric connection (as a matter of company policy). Dejan released the meter sockets to Gozarin on the mere say-so of Depante, as he claimed, through a call to Duenas' cell phone, and justified his act to be in accord with accepted company practice.

We cannot blame Meralco for losing its trust and confidence in Dejan. He is no ordinary employee. As branch representative, "he was principally charged with the function and responsibility to accept payment of fees required for the installation of electric service and facilitate issuance of meter sockets." The duties of his position require him to always act with the highest degree of honesty, integrity and sincerity, as the company puts it. In light of his fraudulent act, Meralco, an enterprise imbued with public interest, cannot be compelled to continue Dejan's employment, as it would be inimical to its interest. Needless to say, "[t]he law, in protecting the rights of the laborer, authorizes neither oppression nor self-destruction of the employer." For sure, Dejan was validly dismissed for serious misconduct, and loss of trust and confidence.