Case Digest: PAGCOR v. Marquez

G.R. No. 191877 : June 18, 2013

PHILIPPINE AMUSEMENT and GAMING CORPORATION (PAGCOR), Petitioner, v. ARIEL R. MARQUEZ, Respondent.

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G.R. No. 192287 : June 18, 2013

IRENEO M. VERDILLO, Petitioner, v. PHILIPPINE AMUSEMENT and GAMING CORPORATION (PAGCOR), Respondent.

VILLARAMA, JR.,J.:


FACTS:

Ariel R. Marquez and Ireneo M. Vedillo were both employed as dealers in the game of Craps at PAGCOR at the Casino Filipino Heritage. The game of Craps is initiated when a player, called a "shooter," rolls a pair of dice that should pass a demarcation line set across the table. As a rule, at least one of the two dice must come in contact with the rubber wall at the end of the table. When these conditions are met, the dealer known as a stickman considers the throw a "good dice" and the pay-off dealer pays the winner. Otherwise, the throw is invalidated, and the stickman must announce "no dice." On November 26, 2006, Mr. Johnny Chengbegan playing at Craps Table No. 30 with Verdillo as stickman and Marquez as the pay-off dealer. While doing her rounds, Acting Pit Supervisor Eulalia Yang noticed that on several occasions Verdillo made a "good dice" call even though not one of the dice from the players throw hit the tables rubber wall.

Thereafter, Mr. Ariston Tangalin, the Acting Casino Shift Manager, requested to review the CCTV footage of the incident. After watching the footage, the members of the Casino Management and the investigators from the Corporate Investigation Unit were convinced that several void throws were declared as "good dice" in Table No. 30 while the same was being manned by Marquez and Verdillo. Senior Branch Surveillance Officer Wilbur U. Isabelo also submitted a report to the Surveillance Unit, stating that Based on video footage, there were 8 occasions when the dices did not touch the rubber wall.

Dealer Pay-off may overrule the decision of the stickman. However, during the game on eight (8) occasions, Dealer Marquez did not become observant considering that Dealer Verdillo is not good in craps nor did not insist on calling his attention for the bad calls.

In his Sinumpaang Salaysay, Marquez admitted that he was aware of several erroneous calls made by Verdillo on the dice throws, but he still paid out winnings to Cheng. Meanwhile, Verdillo also submitted a written explanation, denying the accusations against him. On December 13, 2006, they were invited by the Branch Management Panel (BMP) to a hearing to explain their side of the controversy

Though it was only in November 26, 2006 that the anomaly was discovered, the information and revelations pronounced by PM Senatinsince August 2005 and the proof from the footages, are strong evidence to prove that there is something going on with craps.

The BMPs recommendation was adopted by the Adjudication Committee and its findings were then forwarded to PAGCORs Board of Directors for final approval. Senior Managing Head of the Human Resource and Development Department, Visitacion F. Mendoza, later sent a Memorandum to Marquez and Verdillo informing them that the Board had approved the Adjudication Committees recommendation to dismiss them from the service due to "Dishonesty, Grave violation of company rules and regulations, Conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the company, and Loss of trust and confidence" for conspiring with a co-dealer and a customer in defrauding the house on numerous occasions on November 27, 2006.

Aggrieved, they appealed their dismissal from the service to the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

The CSC held that it has reasonable ground to believe that Marquez and Verdillo were involved in a conspiracy to manipulate the game of Craps on November 27, 2006.

Not satisfied, Marquez filed a petition for review with the CA arguing that he was not accorded his right to due process and that there was no substantial evidence to support a finding of his guilt in the administrative charge.

The CA held that there is no administrative charge of conspiracy under the Uniform Rules of Administrative Cases in the Civil Service. It found Marquezs Sinumpaang Salaysay credible and ruled that there was no dishonesty on his part, much less a conspiracy with Verdillo and Cheng to defraud PAGCOR. The CA observed that the fact that as stated in his sworn statement, Marquez called Verdillos attention to his erroneous call only on the second time that Verdillo made an erroneous call, cannot be interpreted that he was dishonest or engaged in a conspiracy. Rather, it shows that he was negligent in the performance of his duties.

Meanwhile, Verdillo filed with the CA a separate petition for review which was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 106961. He argued that PAGCORs Decision was not supported by the evidence on record. He also averred that he was denied due process of law.

The CA, however, denied Verdillos petition

In that case, the CA found that Verdillo did not judiciously perform all the acts expected of him as a dealer-stickman and all acts necessary to protect PAGCORs interest. The CA found that there exists substantial evidence to support the conclusion that Verdillo is guilty of the offense of violation of office rules and regulations and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Unsatisfied, PAGCOR filed before this Court a petition for review on certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 191877, arguing that the CA erred in finding that the notice of charges against Marquez was not in accordance with the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases.

On the other hand, Marquez maintains that there was no substantial evidence to support the findings of the CSC. In this case, there was no unity of purpose in the execution of the fraudulent acts since he called Verdillos attention whenever he made bad calls. Marquez claims that the charges against him are based mainly on suspicions and are not supported by facts.

For his part, Verdillo also filed before this Court a petition for review on certiorari docketed as G.R. No. 192287. He argues that PAGCOR failed to present substantial evidence to justify his dismissal from service.

ISSUE: Whether or not Marquez and Verdillo are guilty of dishonesty, violation of office rules and regulations and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service to justify their dismissal from service.

HELD: The Court of Appeals decision in G.R. No. 191877 as regard Marquez is reversed and set aside. The Civil Service Commission decision dismissing Marquez from service are reinstated.

As regards Verdillo, the Court of Appeals decision dismissing him is affirmed

POLITICAL LAW: substantial evidence rule

The circumstances in this case all point to the conclusion that Verdillo conspired with Marquez and Cheng. Verdillo declared several dice throws of Cheng as "good dice" even if they were void. Marquez then paid Cheng his winnings in huge amounts. Whenever a customer or employee would pass the Craps table, Cheng would change his dice throws and would even comment "may multo" when Acting Pit Supervisor Yang would approach the craps table. These anomalous transactions were not only witnessed by Acting Pit Supervisor Yang, but were also confirmed by the CCTV footage.

Dishonesty is defined as the concealment or distortion of truth in a matter of fact relevant to ones office or connected with the performance of his duty. Under the Civil Service Rules, dishonesty is a grave offense punishable by dismissal, which carries the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits except leave credits, and disqualification from reemployment in the government service.

Administrative proceedings are governed by the "substantial evidence rule." A finding of guilt in an administrative case would have to be sustained for as long as it is supported by substantial evidence that the respondent has committed the acts stated in the complaint or formal charge. As defined, substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind may accept as adequate to support a conclusion.We find that Marquez and Verdillo failed to present any cogent reason for the Court to deviate from the rule that factual findings of administrative agencies are generally held to be binding and final so long as they are supported by substantial evidence in the record of the case.

All told, we find that there was substantial evidence for the charges against Marquez and Verdillo, warranting their dismissal from service.

Petition for review on certiorari by Marquez is GRANTED, while the petition for review on certiorari by Verdillo is DENIED.

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