Here are selected April 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:
Dismissal; breach of trust and confidence. Petitioner was employed as Assistant Vice-President of the Jewelry Department in respondent bank. His employment was terminated on the ground of willful breach of trust and confidence. Jurisprudence provides for two requisites for dismissal on the ground of loss of trust and confidence; (1) the employee concerned must be holding a position of trust and confidence, and (2) there must be an act that would justify the loss of trust and confidence. Loss of trust and confidence, to be a valid cause for dismissal, must be based on a willful breach of trust and founded on clearly established facts. The basis for the dismissal must be clearly and convincingly established but proof beyond reasonable doubt is not necessary. Furthermore, the burden of establishing facts as bases for an employer’s loss of confidence is on the employer. The court held that the termination of petitioner was without just cause and therefore illegal. Although the first requisite was present, the respondent failed to satisfy the second requisite. Respondent bank was not able to show any concrete proof that petitioner had participated in the approval of the questioned accounts. The invocation by respondent of the loss of trust and confidence as ground for petitioner’s termination has therefore no basis at all. James Ben L. Jerusalem v. Keppel Monte Bank, et al., G.R. No. 169564. April 6, 2011.
Breach of Trust and Confidence; duties of employee. Petitioner was employed as Assistant Vice-President in respondent bank. His employment was terminated on the ground of willful breach of trust and confidence for endorsing VISA card applicants who later turned out to be impostors resulting in financial losses to respondent bank. The court held that petitioner was illegally dismissed. As provided in Article 282 of the Labor Code, an employer may terminate an employee’s employment for fraud or willful breach of trust reposed in him. However, in order to constitute a just cause for dismissal, the act complained of must be ‘work-related’ such as would show the employee concerned to be unfit to continue working for the employer. The act of betrayal of trust, if any, must have been committed by the employee in connection with the performance of his function or position. The court found that the element of ‘work-connection’ was not present in this case since petitioner was assigned under the Jewelry department, and therefore had nothing to do with the approval of VISA Cards, which was under a different department altogether. James Ben L. Jerusalem v. Keppel Monte Bank, et al., G.R. No. 169564. April 6, 2011.
Certiorari under Rule 45; questions of law and exceptions. The Labor Arbiter and the NLRC found that respondent employer neglected to pay petitioner’s sickness allowance. However, on appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed such findings and held that petitioner already received his sickness allowance from respondent. Petitioner questioned the ruling of the Court of Appeals by filing a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. The Supreme Court held that, as a rule, only questions of law, not questions of fact, may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. However, this principle is subject to recognized exceptions. In the labor law setting, the Court will delve into factual issues when conflict of factual findings exists among the labor arbiter, the NLRC, and the Court of Appeals. Considering that in the present case there were differing factual findings on the part of the Court of Appeals, on one hand, and the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC, on the other, the Supreme Court found it necessary to make an independent evaluation of the evidence on record. Wilfredo Y. Antiquina v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation and/or Masterbulk Pte., Ltd., G.R. No. 168922. April 13, 2011.
Rules of Procedure; liberal construction in favor of working class. Petitioner claimed disability benefits under a Collective Bargaining Agreement that the respondent employer entered into with a foreign union. The Court of Appeals refused to admit the evidence of petitioner showing his membership in the union on the ground that it was submitted only with the Motion for Reconsideration. The Supreme Court, in agreeing to examine the evidence belatedly submitted by petitioner, pointed out that technical rules of procedure shall be liberally construed in favor of the working class in accordance with the demands of substantial justice. Rules of procedure and evidence should not be applied in a very rigid and technical sense in labor cases in order that technicalities would not stand in the way of equitably and completely resolving the rights and obligations of the parties. Wilfredo Y. Antiquina v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation and/or Masterbulk Pte., Ltd., G.R. No. 168922. April 13, 2011.
Disability Benefits; entitlement and burden of proof. Petitioner suffered a fractured arm while working on respondent’s vessel. He filed a complaint for permanent disability benefits, among others. Petitioner claims that he is entitled to the higher amount of disability benefits under the Collective Bargaining Agreement which respondent entered into with a union of which petitioner was a member. The Court of Appeals denied the petitioner’s claim. The Supreme Court, in upholding the Court of Appeals, held that the burden of proof rests upon the party who asserts the affirmative of an issue. And in labor cases, the quantum of proof necessary is substantial evidence, or such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. Petitioner had the duty to prove by substantial evidence his own positive assertions. He did not discharge this burden of proof when he submitted photocopied portions of a different CBA with a different union. Wilfredo Y. Antiquina v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation and/or Masterbulk Pte., Ltd., G.R. No. 168922. April 13, 2011.
Public office; casual employees. Respondent was a casual teller who was dismissed from service by petitioner without being formally charged. On appeal, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) upheld the dismissal and reasoned that respondent was a casual employee, and therefore her services may be terminated at any time, without need of a just cause. Upon review, both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court found that respondent was illegally terminated. The Supreme Court recognized its pronouncement in a recent case that “Even a casual or temporary employee enjoys security of tenure and cannot be dismissed except for cause enumerated in Sec. 22, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations and other pertinent laws.” However, the Court also went on to state that, despite this new ruling on casual employees, it is not the intention of the Court to make the status of a casual employee at par with that of a regular employee, who enjoys permanence of employment. The rule is still that casual employment will cease automatically at the end of the period unless renewed. Casual employees may also be terminated anytime though subject to certain conditions or qualifications with reference to the CSC Form No. 001. Thus, they may be laid-off anytime before the expiration of the employment period provided any of the following occurs: (1) when their services are no longer needed; (2) funds are no longer available; (3) the project has already been completed/finished; or (4) their performance are below par. Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Board of Directors and Reynaldo P. Martin v. Marie Jean C. Lapid, G.R. No. 191940. April 12, 2011.
Public office; security of tenure. Respondent was a casual teller who, having been found guilty of ‘Discourtesy in the Course of Official Duties’ and of ‘Grave Misconduct’, was dismissed from service by petitioner. On appeal, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) ruled that despite lapses in procedural due process committed by petitioner employer, the dismissal was proper since respondent belonged to the category of a casual employee which does not enjoy security of tenure. Hence, she may be separated from service at any time, there being no need to show cause. The Court of Appeals disagreed and declared the dismissal illegal. The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Court of Appeals. In doing so, the Court relied on Section 3(2), Article XIII of the Constitution which guarantees the rights of all workers to security of tenure. The Court also recognized its pronouncement in a recent case that “Even a casual or temporary employee enjoys security of tenure and cannot be dismissed except for cause enumerated in Sec. 22, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations and other pertinent laws.” Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Board of Directors and Reynaldo P. Martin v. Marie Jean C. Lapid, G.R. No. 191940. April 12, 2011.
Dismissal; due process. Respondent was dismissed from her post as casual teller. When respondent appealed her dismissal to the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the latter found that respondent was never formally charged for the administrative offenses for which she was dismissed. However, despite finding that procedural due process was not complied with, the CSC nevertheless upheld the dismissal on the ground that being a casual employee, respondent enjoyed no security of tenure and can be dismissed anytime. The Court found that respondent was illegally terminated and ordered her reinstatement. Casual employees are entitled to due process especially if they are to be removed for more serious causes or for causes other than the reasons mentioned in CSC Form No. 001. This is pursuant to Section 2, Article IX(B) of the Constitution. Furthermore, Section 46 of the Civil Service Law provides that “no officer or employee in the Civil Service shall be suspended or dismissed except for cause as provided by law after due process.” The reason for this is that their termination from the service could carry a penalty affecting their rights and future employment in the government. Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Board of Directors and Reynaldo P. Martin v. Marie Jean C. Lapid, G.R. No. 191940. April 12, 2011.
(Leslie thanks Katrina Pearl C. Chua for assisting in the preparation of this post. This post will be updated after the other April 2011 cases become available.)