Case Digest: Yabut v. Meralco

G.R. No. 190436 : January 16, 2012




This case stems from a complaint for illegal dismissal and monetary claims filed by herein petitioner Norman Yabut (Yabut) against respondents Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and Meralco officer Manuel M. Lopez (Lopez).

The petitioner had worked with Meralco from February 1989 until his dismissal from employment on February 5, 2004. Meralco's Inspection Office issued a memorandum informing it of an illegal service connection at the petitioner's residence. Given this report, Meralco's Head of Investigation-Litigation Office issued to the petitioner a notice of investigation.

Meralcos Litigation Investigation Office summarized the results of Meralco's findings in a memorandum which indicated that Yabuts electric service was disconnected for account delinquency. Notwithstanding the disconnection and the fact that Meralcos service had not been reconnected, Yabut's meter registered electric consumption. In view of these findings, respondent Meralco, issued a notice of dismissaladdressed to the petitioner. The notice cites violation of Section 7, paragraph 3 of Meralco's Company Code on Employee Discipline and Article 282 (a), (c), (d) and (e) of the Labor Code of the Philippines as bases for the dismissal.

Aggrieved by the decision of the management, Yabut filed with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) a complaintfor illegal dismissal and money claims against Meralco and Lopez.

Labor Arbiter Antonio R. Macam rendered his Decision,declaring the petitioner illegally dismissed from the service and hence, entitled to reinstatement plus backwages and attorney's fees.

NLRC rendered its Resolutiondismissing the herein respondents' appeal for lack of merit.

CA rendered the now assailed Decisionreversing the rulings of the NLRC. In finding the petitioner's dismissal lawful, the appellate court attributed unto Yabut authorship of the meter tampering and illegal use of electricity acts which it regarded as serious misconduct.

ISSUE: Whether or not petitioners dismissal is illegal?

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is sustained.


Article 279 of the Labor Code of the Philippines provides that (i)n cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when authorized by this Title. x x x The just causes are enumerated in Article 282, which provides:
Article 282.Termination by employer. - An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes: 
(a) Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work; 
(b) Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties; 
(c) Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative; 
(d) Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative; and 
(e) Other causes analogous to the foregoing.
Significantly, tampering with electric meters or metering installations of the Company or the installation of any device, with the purpose of defrauding the Company is classified as an act of dishonesty from Meralco employees, expressly prohibited under company rules. It is reasonable that its commission is classified as a severe act of dishonesty, punishable by dismissal even on its first commission, given the nature and gravity of the offense and the fact that it is a grave wrong directed against their employer.

Article 282 (a) provides that an employer may terminate an employment because of an employee's serious misconduct, a cause that was present in this case in view of the petitioner's violation of his employer's code of conduct. Misconduct is defined as 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 in judgment. For serious misconduct to justify dismissal, the following requisites must be present:
(a) it must be serious;
(b) it must relate to the performance of the employee's duties; and
(c) it must show that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer.
The dismissal is also justified as the act imputed upon the petitioner qualifies as fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative under Article 282 (c) of the Labor Code. While the petitioner contests this ground by denying that his position is one of trust and confidence, it is undisputed that at the time of his dismissal, he was holding a supervisory position after he rose from the ranks since commencement of his employment with Meralco. As a supervisor with duty and power that included testing of service meters and investigation of violations of contract of customers, his position can be treated as one of trust and confidence, requiring a high degree of honesty as compared with ordinary rank-and-file employees.

We emphasize that dismissal of a dishonest employee is to the best interest not only of the management but also of labor. As a measure of self-protection against acts inimical to its interest, a company has the right to dismiss its erring employees. An employer cannot be compelled to continue employing an employee guilty of acts inimical to the employer's interest, justifying loss of confidence in him.