Case Digest: Philippine Journalists v. NLRC

G.R. No. 187120 : February 16, 2010




PJI is a corporation engaged in the publication of People's Journal, People's Journal Tonight, People's Journal International, People's Taliba, Women's Journal, and Insider. In December 1978, it employed respondent Eduardo S. Rivera as proof reader. Rivera rose from the ranks over the years, becoming purchasing manager in 1998. His primary duty involved the canvassing and purchase of paper and other materials for PJI's day-to-day operations. He received a monthly salary of P25,000.00, exclusive of allowances and other benefits.

Sometime in November 2002, Women's Journal implemented a calendar insertion project requiring paper-coated materials. Rivera canvassed and purchased 68,500 sheets of C25 120 coated paper, 170 gsm size 23" x 27" from the Nation Paper Products Corporation (NAPPCO) at P6.50 a sheet for the total amount of P445,250.00.

In 2003, PJI's Corporate Secretary and Chief Legal Counsel, Atty. Ruby Ruiz-Bruno, issued a memorandum requiring Rivera to explain in writing why he "should not be terminated from employment for defrauding or attempting to defraud the Company x x x" in the canvassing and purchase of Womens Journals paper requirements. The memo alluded to a "reliable quotation from NAPPCO for 68,000 sheets of this kind of paper with exactly the same specifications, shows a price of only P3.40/sheet." Pending investigation of the matter, PJI placed Rivera under preventive suspension.

Rivera submitted his written explanation, denying that he defrauded or attempted to defraud PJI. In support of his position, he attached a letter from NAPPCO's Vice-President Kenneth Chong to Dela Cruz. Chong denied in his letter giving a quotation of P3.40/sheet for PJI's paper requirement. He explained that NAPPCO quoted a price of P5.80 cash on delivery (COD), but since PJI could not meet its terms, it quoted a price of P6.50 at 30-90 days credit.

Rivera, in a letter dated January 31, 2003 addressed to Dela Cruz, explained the details of the purchase transaction with NAPPCO. As a result of this letter-explanation, Ruiz-Bruno issued a memorandum on the same day to Assistant Purchasing Manager Jean Alvarado, requiring her to explain the difference in the quotation of P6.50 from NAPPCO and P4.26/piece (23x27) and P4.68/piece (25x27) from LAMCO, another supplier.

On the same day, Alvarado submitted her explanation, stating that she signed the canvass sheet as instructed by Rivera, but she was not aware that Rivera included LAMCO. She claimed that the canvass sheet (No. 20800) itself showed that the figures were written by Rivera himself.

Ruiz-Bruno notified Rivera of the termination of his service effective February 8, 2003, "on the ground of loss of confidence" after finding Rivera's "acts and omissions are indicative of fraud and a clear manifestation of your inability as a Manager to protect the Company's interests."

Rivera filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against PJI, Dela Cruz, Executive Vice-President Arnold Banares and Ruiz-Bruno.

Labor Arbiter Fedriel S. Panganiban found that Rivera's dismissal was for cause on the ground that he "committed acts of dishonesty, or has committed fraud." The labor arbiter observed that as purchasing manager a position of trust and confidence Rivera had the duty to canvass and purchase PJIs needed materials in a manner most beneficial to the company. Rivera failed in this regard.

On appeal, the NLRC, reversed the labor arbiter's decision, ruling that Rivera's dismissal was illegal. The NLRC awarded Rivera backwages and separation pay in lieu of reinstatement on the finding that strained relations had resulted from the parties "respective imputations of bad faith against each other."

PJI thus sought relief from the CA via a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. PJI prayed as well for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the NLRC decision.

The CA denied the petition for lack of merit. It fully affirmed the assailed NLRC rulings and lifted the writ of preliminary injunction it issued. PJI now seeks relief from the Court through a petition for review on certiorari pursuant to Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

ISSUE: Whether or notCA seriously erred in failing to recognize that the commission of fraud by an employee is a ground under the law for termination of employment.

HELD: The decision of the Court of Appeals is overruled.


As we look at the total picture, we are convinced that a pattern of concealment and dishonesty marred the purchase of paper materials for the Womens Journals special project, with Rivera playing the principal and most active role. There is no question in our mind that he failed to make a reasonable canvass of the prices of the paper materials required by a companys special project, resulting in substantial losses to the company. As we previously stated, that a rush job was involved, is no excuse as a canvass could be done even in a day's time as shown by the audit departments canvass. That Rivera was responsible for concealment and omissions also appears clear to us; he failed to seasonably disclose to PJI, under dubious circumstances, material information with financial impact on the purchase transaction.

Thus, we cannot but conclude that substantial evidence exists justifying Riveras dismissal for a just cause loss of trust and confidence. For loss of trust and confidence to be a ground for dismissal, the law requires only that there be at least some basis to justify the dismissal. Ramatek Philippines, Inc. v. De Los Reyes, G.R. No. 139526, October 25, 2005

Enough basis exists, as detailed above, to support the PJIs position that Rivera was responsible for acts and omissions that made him unworthy of the trust and confidence PJI reposed on him. To place this conclusion in Riveras own terms, contrary to what he claimed, his dismissal was not on the basis of "mere speculation and conjecture," but on the basis of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion. In legal terms, this is the quantum of proof required in administrative proceedings. The fact that he had been with the company for 25 years cannot erase the conclusion that he had become a liability to the company whose interests he miserably failed to protect.