Harpoon Marine v. Francisco

G.R. No. 167751, March 2, 2011.




Harpoon Marine Services hired Francisco as a Yard Supervisor. On June 15, 2001, Francisco averred that Harpoon dismissed him from work but promised to pay his separation pay and accrued commissions. He continued reporting for work, but was barred from entering the premises. He thereafter tried to claim his separation pay and commissions, but Harpoon, through its president Rosit, denied payment of his commissions. Refusing to sign a quitclaim, Francisco demanded payment of his commissions, then filed a case before the Labor Arbiter for illegal dismissal. He supported his claim for commissions with two vouchers evincing payments for vessel repairs, arguing that he was paid P10,000 for each vessel he repaired.

Harpoon averred that on June 15, 2001, Rosit merely met with Francisco to warn him regarding his habitual absences and tardiness. When Francisco continued to be absent, Harpoon sent him memoranda informing him of his absences, which were filed with the DOLE on August 15, 2001. Francisco was then terminated on July 30, 2001. With regard to the commissions claimed, Harpoon averred that Francisco was only a regular employee, with a regular salary, and that the supposed "commissions" were merely additional money recognizing Franciscos efforts.

The Labor Arbiter ruled that Francisco was legally dismissed and that due process was served through the several memoranda sent to him. It also ruled that commissions were due Francisco, and gave credence to the vouchers. The NLRC, however, held that Francisco was illegally dismissed, for his timecard for June 2001 only showed three absences, which could hardly be called habitual and therefore cannot be a ground for termination. It upheld the Labor Arbiter with regard to the commissions. The CA affirmed the NLRC, and held that Harpoon president Rosit should be solidarily liable with the company.


1. Whether or not Francisco was illegally dismissed

2. Whether or not he was entitled to his commissions

3. Whether Rosit is solidarily liable with Harpoon


The petition is partly meritorious.

LABOR LAW: Termination of employment; liability of corporate officers.

First issue: The SC held that the termination was illegal. As stated by the NLRC, Franciscos timecard only showed three consecutive absences and no record of tardiness, which hardly constitutes gross or habitual absence/tardiness. Moreso, the reasons for Franciscos three-day absence were not contested by Harpoon before the Labor Arbiter, and no other evidence was presented before the Labor Arbiter to prove such "habitual" tardiness/absence. The argument that Francisco abandoned his work and went AWOL also does not hold water, since Harpoon failed to prove that the two elements of work abandonment existed: namely, that there is absence of failure to report to work for no justifiable reason, and that there is intent to sever the employee-employer relationship. Here, Harpoon failed to prove that it was respondent who voluntarily refused to report back for work by his defiance and refusal to accept the memoranda and the notices of absences sent to him.Harpoon failed to present evidence that they sent these notices to respondents last known address for the purpose of warning him that his continued failure to report would be construed as abandonment of work. Verily, an absence of three days does not constitute habitual absence justifying a termination from work.

Second issue: The SC held that Francisco was not entitled to the commissions. The check vouchers contained very scant details and did not state that they were paid for the construction or repair of a vessel. They did not state the purpose for which the amounts were paid. Moreover, the list of vessels presented with the vouchers does not validate Franciscos monetary claim for it only contains a list of vessels, and nothing more. The vouchers patent vagueness makes them unreliable as a basis for Franciscos claim of commissions. Entitlement to commissions cannot be proved by vouchers which are silent as to the purpose for which they are issued.

Third issue: The SC disagrees with the Labor Arbiter and NLRC in according solidary liability on Rosit and Harpoon for the illegal dismissal. As held in the case ofMAM Realty Development Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission, "obligations incurred by [corporate officers], acting as such corporate agents, are not theirs but the direct accountabilities of the corporation they represent." As such, they should not be generally held jointly and solidarily liable with the corporation. The Court, however, cited circumstances when solidary liabilities may be imposed, as when the officer acted in bad faith or gross negligence in handling corporate affairs. Here, the CA imposed personal liability on Rosit based on bad faith, even though there was no proof that Rosit acted with bad faith or outside of his authority as company president. At most, his acts merely showed the absence of a just or valid cause in terminating the employment of Francisco.


Popular Posts