AMA COMPUTER COLLEGE, INC., AMABLE R. AGUILUZ V, and CARMELITA R. CONDENUEVO,
- versus -
G.R. No. 162468
QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,
VELASCO, JR., JJ.
ZENAIDA R. GARAY,
January 23, 2007
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The instant petition seeks to annul the August 21, 2003 Decision and the January
16, 2004 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP
No. 59689, which affirmed the February 11, 2000 Resolution of the National
Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in NLRC CA No. 020193-99. The NLRC had affirmed
Computer College, Inc. (AMACC) hired Zenaida R. Garay as a College Instructor in
P47,299.34 to the comfort room of the high school. While inside,
she placed the envelope on top of the toilet bowl tank. After she left the room,
she realized the envelope was left behind, hence she returned to the comfort
room, but the envelope was already gone. Pechardo
reported the incident to petitioner Carmelita R. Condenuevo and told her that
the only person she recalled entering the comfort room after her was Garay.
Condenuevo immediately ordered the investigation of Pechardo and Garay. Garay was
subjected to physical inspection and her office was searched. But the
petitioners did not find the envelope. Thereafter, Garay was brought to the
barangay office and the incident was entered in its blotter. On
Petitioners served on
respondent several notices enjoining her to appear during the hearings and to
submit her written explanation. Garay complied but the hearings were
always cancelled. On
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring as illegal the termination of complainant. Respondents are ordered to immediately reinstate her to her former or substantially equal position and pay her backwages computed as of August 31, 1998 in the amount of P300,000.00 (7/1/96 to 12/31/98 = 30 mos. P10,000.00 x 30 mos. = P300,000.00). (Said computation is subject to further adjustment until complainants physical or payroll reinstatement).
Respondents are further ordered to pay complainant the amounts of P100,000.00 and P50,000.00 by way of moral and exemplary damages, respectively.
petitioners appealed to the NLRC, which affirmed the challenged decision, with
the modification that the backwages shall include 13th month pay and
five days service incentive leave pay. The decretal part of the decision,
WHEREFORE, the appeal of respondents-appellants is dismissed for lack of merit and the decision being impugned is AFFIRMED subject only to the modification on the computation of backwages to include 13th month pay and five days service incentive leave pay.
The NLRC was convinced that the dismissal did not rest on solid grounds. It noted that initially, Garay was suspected of having taken the money. But when the investigation revealed that there was no evidence that would show her responsibility for the loss, she was charged of having refused to extend her utmost cooperation in the investigation, resulting in the loss of trust and confidence vested on her by the petitioners. The NLRC concluded that aside from their bare assertions, the petitioners did not present evidence to support said loss. Thus, the loss of trust and confidence as the ground for dismissal was not established.
Petitioners elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, which denied their petition for certiorari and their motion for reconsideration. The petitioners then filed the instant petition for review predicated on the following issues:
A. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED ERRORS OF LAW WHICH SHOULD BE CORRECTED BY WAY OF PETITION FOR REVIEW ON CERTIORARI?
B. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS MISAPPREHENDED THE FACTUAL FINDINGS OF THE PRESENT CASE?
C. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN RENDERING THE ASSAILED ORDER AND RESOLUTION?
The threshold issue is whether AMACCs loss of trust and confidence in Garay is founded on facts established by substantial and competent evidence.
At the outset, it is pertinent to note that the petitioners are fundamentally raising a question of fact regarding the appellate courts finding that the loss of trust and confidence was not substantially proved. Thus, petitioners would have us sift through the evidence on record and pass upon whether there is valid ground to dismiss Garay. This clearly involves a factual inquiry, the determination of which is the statutory function of the NLRC, and outside the normal terrain of a petition for review.
Deeply embedded in our jurisprudence is the rule that factual findings of quasi-judicial bodies like the NLRC, particularly when they coincide with those of the Labor Arbiter and if supported by substantial evidence, are accorded respect and even finality by this Court. Here, we find no basis to deviate from the aforestated doctrine without any clear showing that the findings of the labor arbiter, as affirmed by the NLRC and the Court of Appeals, are bereft of sufficient substantiation. It bears stressing that these tribunals all have the same findings that Garays termination was without valid legal cause.
To be a valid ground for dismissal, loss of trust and confidence must be based on a willful breach of trust and founded on clearly established facts. A breach is willful if it is done intentionally, knowingly and purposely, without justifiable excuse, as distinguished from an act done carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently. It must rest on substantial grounds and not on the employers arbitrariness, whims, caprices or suspicion; otherwise, the employee would eternally remain at the mercy of the employer. Such ground of dismissal has never been intended to afford an occasion for abuse because of its subjective nature.
What cannot escape the Courts attention is the circumstance that Garay was initially investigated as one of the primary
suspects for the loss of the
P47,299.34. When it became
clear that she was not liable for it, the petitioners changed their charge and
accused her of exhibiting a belligerent and hostile attitude during the
investigation. The records, however, reveal that Garay cooperated in the
investigation process. In fact, no less than the petitioners admitted that
Garay voluntarily complied with the written notices requiring her to file her written
explanation and to appear at the hearings. She may have shown
her exasperation through her written explanation and her lawyers demand letter
but we do not find this sufficient for the petitioners to lose their trust and
confidence in her. The sudden shift made by the petitioners on the ground for
terminating Garay only reinforces the Courts conviction that there was no
basis in the first place to hold Garay suspect of any infraction. She could not in any credible way be
connected with the loss of an envelope with cash left in the comfort room by
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
DANTE O. TINGA
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
 Rollo, pp. 34-39. Penned by Associate Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, with Associate Justices Eugenio S. Labitoria, and Edgardo F. Sundiam, concurring.
 CA rollo, pp. 22-30.
 Rollo, pp. 241-242.
 P.J. Lhuillier, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 158758, April 29, 2005, 457 SCRA 784, 795.
 Tres Reyes v. Maxims Tea House,
G.R. No. 140853,
 P.J. Lhuillier, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, supra.
 Fujitsu Computer Products Corporation of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 158232, March 31, 2005, 454 SCRA 737, 760.
 Brent Hospital, Inc. v. NLRC, G.R.
 CA rollo, p. 6.