[Decision]

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; FACTUAL FINDINGS OF ADMINISTRATIVE BODIES, ENTITLED TO GREAT WEIGHT AND RESPECT; EXCEPTION.- A perusal of the records shows that there is a divergence of views between the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC regarding the validity of the dismissal of respondent by petitioner.  Although it is a legal tenet that factual findings of administrative bodies are entitled to great weight and respect, we are constrained to take a second look at the facts before us because of the diversity in the opinions of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC.

2. ID.; ID.; SELF-SERVING STATEMENTS; NO PROBATIVE VALUE IF NOT SUBSTANTIATED BY MEANS OF A DOCUMENT OR AN AFFIDAVIT.- A meticulous perusal of Annex "12" readily shows that the statement "he went into hiding as he was engaged in a trouble with a neighbor" was merely a defense adduced by respondent employee and is tantamount to an alibi.  The said defense only proved to be self-serving as the same had not been fully substantiated by private respondent by means of a document or an affidavit executed to attest to the alleged incidents.

3. LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION; LABOR CODE, MANAGEMENT PREROGATIVE; SCOPE.- This cause for termination includes gross inefficiency, negligence and carelessness.  Such just causes are derived from the right of the employer to select and engage his employees.  For indeed, regulation of manpower by the company clearly falls within the ambit of management prerogative.  This court had defined a valid exercise of management prerogative as one which covers: hiring, work assignment, working methods, time, place and manner of work, tools to be used, processes to be followed, supervision of workers, working regulations, transfer of employees, work supervision, lay-off of workers, and the discipline, dismissal and recall of workers.  Except as provided for, or limited by, special laws, an employer is free to regulate, according to his own discretion and judgment, all aspects of employment.  Moreover, this court has upheld a company's management prerogative so long as they are exercised in good faith for the advancement of the employer's interest and not for the purpose of defeating or circumventing  the rights of the employees under special laws or under valid agreements.

4. ID.; ID.; TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT; COMPANY INFRACTION; IT IS THE TOTALITY, NOT THE COMPARTMENTALIZATION, OF SUCH INFRACTION THAT THE EMPLOYEE HAD CONSISTENTLY COMMITTED WHICH JUSTIFIED HIS PENALTY OF DISMISSAL.- The penchant of private respondent to continually incur authorized absences and/or a violation of petitioner's sick leave policy finally rendered his dismissal as imminently proper.  Private respondent cannot expect compassion from this Court by totally disregarding his numerous previous infractions and take into consideration only the period covering August 2, 1989 to September 19, 1989.  As ruled by this Court in the cases of Mendoza vs. National Labor Relations Commission and National Service Corporation vs. Leogardo, Jr., it is the totality, not the compartmentalization, of such company infractions that private respondent had consistently committed which justified his penalty of dismissal.

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; EMPLOYEE'S HABITUAL ABSENTEEISM WITHOUT LEAVE; SUFFICIENT CAUSE TO JUSTIFY TERMINATION FROM SERVICE.- Habitual absenteeism should not and cannot be tolerated by petitioner herein which is a public utility company engaged in the business of distributing and selling electric energy within its franchise areas and that the maintenance of Meralco's distribution facilities (electric lines) by responding to customer's complaints of power failure, interruptions, line trippings and other line troubles is of paramount importance to the consuming public.  Hence, an employee's habitual absenteeism without leave, which violated company rules and regulations is sufficient cause to justify termination from service.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; REQUIREMENT OF NOTICE AND HEARING; DOES NOT ENTAIL FULL ADVERSIAL PROCEEDINGS.- Notice and hearing in termination cases does not connote full adversial proceedings as elucidated in numerous cases decided by this court.  The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side.  As held in the case of Manggagawa ng Komunikasyon sa Pilipinas vs. NLRC: "xxx Actual adversial proceedings becomes necessary only for clarification or when there is a need to propound searching questions to unclear witnesses.  This is a procedural right which the employee must, however, ask for it is not an inherent right, and summary proceedings may be conducted.  This is to correct the common but mistaken perception that procedural due process entails lengthy oral arguments.  Hearings in administrative proceedings and before quasijudicial agencies are neither oratorical contests nor debating skirmishes where cross examination skills are displayed.  Non-verbal devices such as written explanations, affidavits, position papers or other pleadings can establish just as clearly and concisely aggrieved parties predicament or defense.  What is essential, is ample opportunity to be heard, meaning, every kind of assistance that management must accord the employee to prepare adequately for his defense."  In this case, private respondent was given the opportunity of a hearing as he was able to present his defense to the charge against him.  Unfortunately, petitioner found such defense inexcusable.  In other words, the fact that private respondent was given the chance to air his side of the story already suffices.

7. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; SOCIAL JUSTICE; NOT APPLICABLE TO AN EMPLOYEE DISMISSED DUE TO SERIOUS AND REPEATED COMPANY INFRACTIONS.- Private respondent herein cannot just rely on the social justice provisions of the Constitution and appeal for compassion because he is not entitled to it due to his serious and repeated company infractions which eventually led to his dismissal.

APPEARANCES OF COUNSEL

Atilano S. Guevarra, Jr., Gil S. San Diego and Alfonso Y. Lacap for petitioner.

The Solicitor General  for public respondent.

Teotico R. Quevedo and Luis Y. Del Mundo, Jr., for private respondent.