Case Digest: Sang-An v. Equator Knights

G.R. No. 173189 : February 13, 2013

JONATHAN I. SANG-AN, Petitioner, v. EQUATOR KNIGHTS DETECTIVE AND SECURITY AGENCY, INC.,Respondent.

BRION, J.:

FACTS:


Jonathan was the Assistant Operation Manager of respondent Equator Knights Detective and Security Agency, Inc. (Equator). He was tasked, among others, with the duty of assisting in the operations of the security services. He was also in charge of safekeeping Equators firearms.

On April 21, 2001, Equator discovered that two firearms were missing from its inventory. The investigation revealed that it was Jonathan who might have been responsible for the loss. On April 24, 2001, Jonathan was temporarily suspended from work pending further investigation.

On May 8, 2001, while Jonathan was under suspension, a security guard from Equator was apprehended by policemen for violating the Commission on Elections gun ban rule. The security guard stated in his affidavit that the unlicensed firearm had been issued to him by Jonathan.

On May 24, 2001, Jonathan filed with the NLRC a complaint for illegal suspension with prayer for reinstatement. In his position paper, however, he treated his case as one for illegal dismissal and alleged that he had been denied due process when he was dismissed. Equator, on the other hand, argued that Jonathans dismissal was for a just cause under Article 282 of the Labor Code.

The LA dismissed the complaint holding that no illegal dismissal took place as Jonathans services were terminated pursuant to a just cause. The LA found that Jonathan was dismissed due to the two infractions he committed: (1) the loss of Equators firearms under Jonathans watch, and (2) issuance of an unlicensed firearm to Equators security guard.

Jonathan appealed to the NLRC, contending that no charge had been laid against him; there was no hearing or investigation of any kind; and he was not given any chance or opportunity to defend himself.

The NLRC sustained the findings of the LA. However, it held that Equators letter informing him of his temporary suspension until further notice did not satisfy the requirements of due process for a valid dismissal. Thus, the NLRC modified the LAs decision and ordered Equator to pay Jonathan backwages from April 24, 2001 until the date of the NLRCs decision. Equator moved for reconsideration but the NLRC denied the motion, prompting the filing of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court with the CA.

The CA reinstated the LAs decision dismissing Jonathans complaint. Jonathan filed a motion for reconsideration which the CA denied.

Hence, this petition.

Jonathan contends that when Equator filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, it failed to post a cash or surety bond as required by Article 223 of the Labor Code. Without complying with this condition, the petition for certiorari should have been dismissed outright. Also, Jonathan contends that the CAs findings of fact are contrary to the findings of fact by the NLRC.

ISSUES:

Whether or not the posting of a cash or surety bond is required for the filing of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court with the CA?

Whether or not Jonathan was validly dismissed?


HELD:

The petition is partly meritorious.

LABOR LAW


The requirement of a cash or surety bond as provided under Article 223 of the Labor Code only applies to appeals from the orders of the LA to the NLRC. It does not apply to special civil actions such as a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. In fact, nowhere under Rule 65 does it state that a bond is required for the filing of the petition.

A petition for certiorari is an original and independent action and is not part of the proceedings that resulted in the judgment or order assailed before the CA. It deals with the issue of jurisdiction, and may be directed against an interlocutory order of the lower court or tribunal prior to an appeal from the judgment, or to a final judgment where there is no appeal or any plain, speedy or adequate remedy provided by law or by the rules.

LABOR LAW

In order to validly dismiss an employee, it is fundamental that the employer observe both substantive and procedural due process the termination of employment must be based on a just or authorized cause and the dismissal can only be effected, after due notice and hearing.

The Court finds that Equator complied with the substantive requirements of due process when Jonathan committed the two offenses.

Article 282(A) of the Labor Code provides that an employee may be dismissed on the ground of serious misconduct or willful disobedience of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work. Misconduct is improper or wrongful conduct; it is the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment. The misconduct, to be serious within the meaning of the Labor Code, must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivia or unimportant. It is also important that the misconduct be in connection with the employee's work to constitute just cause for his separation.

By losing two firearms and issuing an unlicensed firearm, Jonathan committed serious misconduct. He did not merely violate a company policy; he violated the law itself, Presidential Decree No. 1866, and placed Equator and its employees at risk of being made legally liable. Thus, Equator had a valid reason that warranted Jonathans dismissal from employment as Assistant Operation Manager.

However, the Court finds that Equator failed to observe the proper procedure in terminating Jonathans services.

Jurisprudence has expounded on the guarantee of due process, requiring the employer to furnish the employee with two written notices before termination of employment can be effected: a first written notice that informs the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which his or her dismissal is sought, and a second written notice which informs the employee of the employer's decision to dismiss him. In considering whether the charge in the first notice is sufficient to warrant dismissal under the second notice, the employer must afford the employee ample opportunity to be heard.

A review of the records shows that Jonathan was not furnished with any written notice that informed him of the acts he committed justifying his dismissal from employment. The notice of suspension given to Jonathan only pertained to the first offense. With respect to his second offense, Jonathan was never given any notice that allowed him to air his side and to avail of the guaranteed opportunity to be heard. That Equator brought the second offense before the LA does not serve as notice because by then, Jonathan had already been dismissed.

In order to validly dismiss an employee, the observance of both substantive and procedural due process by the employer is a condition sine qua non. Procedural due process requires that the employee be given a notice of the charge against him, an ample opportunity to be heard, and a notice of termination.

The decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. The dismissal of the petitioner is valid. Consequently, Equator Knights Detective and Security Agency, Inc. is ordered to pay petitioner Jonathan I. Sang-an P130, 000.00 as nominal damages for its non-compliance with procedural due process.

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